SFWRITER.COM > Futurism > 2020 Vision > Genetics
Gillian Deacon introduces Robert J. Sawyer as a man in the Year 2020, who is looking for a job, but is having a tough time of it.
Gillian: How did your latest interview go?
Rob: They thought I was qualified . . . but I failed the medical.
Rob: That's right; everyone has to have a medical before they get hired, for just about any job. Companies don't want to be stuck with employees who will get sick or whose performance will suffer as they get older.
Gillian: And they can tell all that?
Rob: Oh, yes. They've identified the genes for almost every human trait now. Take me obviously, I've got the gene for male-pattern baldness. That's no big deal, but I've also got the gene for Alzheimer's disease and they still don't have a cure for that. I'm not sure they did me any favour, letting me know about that. Every time I forget something, I keep wondering if it's the disease kicking in.
Gillian: That's terrible.
Rob: It may not be the worst of it. I'm also going to get colon cancer, sometime between my sixty-sixth and sixty-eighth birthday.
Gillian: I'm sorry to hear that. Still, those are diseases of old age. Won't you be retired by then? Why should your employer care?
Rob: Well, I've also got the gene for adult-onset diabetes I suspected as much from family history, but today's medical confirmed that. That'll have an impact on my productivity and the number of sick-days I take. And my provincial health plan won't cover it.
Gillian: Why not? Doesn't Canada still have socialized medicine in the year 2020?
Rob: It does, but the provincial plans now only cover things you can't help. When I do get Alzheimer's, I'll be able to get treatments for it for free; there's nothing I can do to avoid that disease. But if I get diabetes, well, they'll say I should have kept my weight down or eaten different foods, and that it's my fault.
Gillian: So you have to compete for a job against people who, by sheer luck, just happened to get better genes?
Rob: Yes. But that's nothing compared with the problem we're about to face, with the young people coming up. There have been designer babies since 2005; the first of those kids are already in university.
Gillian: In university! If its 2020, surely they're only fifteen years old!
Rob: They are, but they're brighter than normal children. It's hard enough competing with a fresh-faced kid just out of business school; it's almost impossible when that kid's IQ is twenty points higher than yours, and he can get by on four hours' sleep a night.
Gillian: Surely it costs a lot to have a designer baby?
Rob: No the government pays for that. Canada is looking for ways to cut its health-care costs. What's better for that than producing a generation of people who won't get heart disease or breast cancer or cataracts . . . or Alzheimer's? People like me people born in the 20th century we're a burden on the system.
Gillian: That seems harsh.
Rob: Maybe. Maybe it's just evolution in action survival of the fittest; we did everything we could to avoid that issue throughout the 20th century, to level out the playing field for everyone. But it's not a level field, not unless you, too, had the benefit of being the product of genetic research. Anyway, I've got to go knock on some more doors. Maybe I can get a short-term job somewhere . . .
More Good Reading
Rob's novel about genetics, Frameshift
Other "2020 Vision" scenarios