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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Genetic Downfall: A Science Fiction Story

When Marilyn and Brad Sawyer decided to have a child in the year 2037, they decided to take advantage of the new advances in genetic engineering. They shopped around for different companies that could genetically enhance a newly conceived child by using gene splicing. After seeing on their 3D television many commercials for a firm called Gene Pros, Inc., Marilyn and Brad decided to visit their offices.

gene splicing

"You two nice young people wanted to have a regular child,” said salesman Peter Bell, “but we can give you something so much more. We can give you a superchild. How would you like to have the smartest kid in your town? How would you like to have a kid who could be an Olympic athlete, or maybe a major league baseball star? Or how would you like to have a daughter so beautiful she could easily become a movie star? We can do these types of things by tweaking your child's genes.”

Marilyn and Brad smiled at each other. They were enticed by the sales pitch. But they immediately began fighting with each other over whether their soon-to-be-conceived child should be the next baseball star or the next female movie star. After a heated argument, they finally agreed to leave the gender of the child to chance. They agreed that if their child were male, they would pay for the child to have genetic enhancements that would make the child stronger and faster. If the child was a female, she would be given genetic enhancements that would make the child more beautiful.

“But what about the intelligence gene tweak?” asked Peter. “Don't you want to buy that, too?”

Marilyn and Brad looked at the price tag for the genetic enhancements they had already decided on, and then looked at the price tag for the intelligence enhancement. They winced, because they couldn't afford the intelligence enhancement.

“Don't worry about a thing,” said Peter. “You can charge it.” Marilyn and Brad agreed, charging the expensive genetic treatment on their credit card.

As soon as Marilyn found herself pregnant, she went to the clinic run by Gene Pros, Inc. They made the enhancements by doing genetic microsurgery performed by a robot.

Nine months later a healthy son named George was born to the couple. The baby progressed at an amazing rate. He could speak when he was only 6 months old. He could read by the time he was two years old. When George was three years old, his parents put him in a special school for other geniuses who had been blessed by genetic enhancement.

By the time George was six, he was reading Shakespeare and Tolstoy. By the time he was seven he could write computer programs and compose musical comedies. George was also faster and stronger than almost all of the boys of his age.

Everything went very well in Brad and Marilyn's family until one day shortly after George's thirteenth birthday. Brad and Marilyn arranged for Marilyn's mother to look after George, and the couple then headed for a romantic weekend, by flying in their copter-plane. The self-flying copter-plane had software that flew it automatically to its destination.

While flying toward their destination, Brad and Marilyn received a video phone call from George.

“Mom, Dad, I'm afraid I have some really bad news,” said George.

“Oh don't tell me, you broke another neighbor's window playing baseball, right?” said Brad. Being unusually strong, George had already broken several neighbor's windows with his sizzling line drives.

“No, it's something much worse,” said George calmly. “It's this: you're not going to reach your destination.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Marilyn.

“It's simple,” said George. “I've decided you're worth more to me dead than alive. I found out about that million dollar life insurance policy you have, the one that names me as a beneficiary if you both die. So I hacked into the software on your copter-plane, adding some special instructions that I programmed myself. Soon your copter-plane will begin plunging to the ground. No one will figure out I was involved.”

“George, this is a rotten idea of a joke!” said Brad.

“No joke, Dad,” said George. “Tough luck, guys. It's game over. Sorry about the bad break, but I have a long list of things I want to buy with that million dollars I'll get from the insurance company.”

The copter-plane began plunging to the ground. Brad tried to override the computer software, but with the copter-plane spinning wildly, it was no use.

The copter-plane hit the ground and exploded in a giant fireball.

They eventually found out that George had committed the crime. George wasn't aware that the government was recording all video phone calls. A suspicious insurance investigator asked the government to show him George's video phone calls, and found the incriminating conversation.

When the story of the crime became public, a news commentator made a sad but important observation: it is wrong to merely enhance a child's intelligence, speed, and strength, unless you also do something to enhance the child's morality.