16 – Designer Baby Sale!

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Parents: “Hi. We’re interested in the designer baby sale?”

Genetic Scientist: “Great! What did you have in mind?” 

Parents: “Well, we first wanted to get more information. How does it work exactly?” 

Scientist: “Oh, there are many options! Before we get started, though, I must ask you a few questions. It appears that you’re a male and female? Is that correct?” 

Parents: “Well, yes. Why would you ask such an obvious question?” 

Scientist: “Haha. Things are not so obvious these days. And do you wish to use your own sperm and eggs?” 

Parents: “You mean there are other ways?” 

Scientist: “Of course! We sell eggs and sperm from all sorts of people: athletes, rock stars, titans of industry, scientific geniuses, movie stars, you name it!” 

Parents: “I see. Well, we’d prefer to use our own genetic material. Is that still allowed?” 

Scientist: “Hmm. It’s highly unusual, but it can be done.”

Parents: “Unusual? Wow, this is more confusing than we thought.”

Scientist: “Well, most people are trying to upgrade their own genetics for a better model.” 

Parents: “What do you mean?” 

Scientist: “Nothing personal, but most people that come to us are regular folks. They’re looking for superstar babies. They want to raise someone special. World class athlete. Movie star. Genius scientist…”

Parents: “Isn’t every baby special? We want to use our own genetic material.”

Scientist: “I see. But please understand, this severely limits your options. If you really insist on using your own genes, then at the very least you should analyze the embryos using polygenic screening techniques.”

Parents: “Embryos? We’re having twins? And what is polygenic screening?” 

Scientist: “Haha. No twins. By using in vitro fertilization, we can create a multitude of embryos. We usually start with a half dozen. Then, we screen them by scanning their genomes. Thanks to modern technology, we can use supercomputers to analyze thousands of genetic combinations to determine which ones lead to certain traits. High IQ, athletic talent, height, even facial characteristics!”

Parents: “Is genomic research really that advanced? You can reliably tell exactly which genes affect each feature? I thought there were thousands of genes involved.”

Scientist: “Well, yes. That’s why we call it polygenic screening. Thanks to advanced statistical analysis, supercomputers, and artificial intelligence, we can correlate these thousands of genes with certain characteristics.” 

Parents: “But aren’t the combinations almost infinite? And how do you tell which genes are most important? Surely, they don’t all have the same effect.”

Scientist: “Well, it’s all very complicated. Difficult to explain to a layperson. Trust me. It works quite effectively. Besides, we have a money back guarantee!” 

Parents: “What? How does that work?” 

Scientist: “Well, you have ten years to return the product for a store credit. No cash refunds, though.” 

Parents: “You mean to tell us that you’re offering to take back our child if we wanted a math whiz and he’s flunking algebra? What kind of a sick parent would do that?” 

Scientist: “Oh, it’s quite common these days! Although most parents don’t wait for the ten-year mark. The majority of our returns are in the two to three year range. Haha, you know those terrible twos, eh?”

Parents: “And what happens to the children who are abandoned?”

Scientist: “No problem! They go into our Giant Discount Warehouse. We have this huge playground. The kids love it! Prospective buyers come in and observe their interactions. Which ones are difficult, which are athletic, which seem more intelligent, etc. We offer great discounts! It’s a very popular place to shop!” 

Parents: “This is beyond disgusting. Now, can we please return to your description of child selection? So, you use this polygenic screening method to identify behavioral traits? Does it really work? Based on everything that we’ve read, the claim that polygenic screening can accurately identify behavioral traits is very questionable. Sounds like you are over-promising a bit.”

Science: “Well, as I said, it’s very complicated. Hard to explain to a layperson. It involves sophisticated statistical analysis using artificial intelligence with machine learning. We analyze millions of genetic interactions to determine which affect various behavioral characteristics. Trust me. It works. After all, I’m a scientist. How could I be wrong?” 

Parents: “Indeed. You scientists are always right. Just like the robotic housekeeper that was promised to our grandparents over 50 years ago? I wonder if they’ve lost our order? At any rate, if we understand you correctly, there are six embryos that you analyze?” 

Scientist: “Correct. We use in vitro techniques to combine your sperm and eggs to create six embryos. Then, we employ polygenic screening on the genome of each embryo, using whatever selection criteria you request. So, what exactly are you looking for? Athletic superstar? Genius IQ? Persuasive politician? Research scientist? Master of the Universe? Haha. That last one’s a joke.”

Parents: “And once you identify this golden child out of our six embryos, what happens to the other five?” 

Scientist: “They’re disposed of.” 

Parents: “What? So you destroy the other five embryos?” 

Scientist: “Correct. Look, sorry to rush things along, but it’s getting late. We have other customers waiting. So, what type of child are you looking for exactly?” 

Parents: “Well, we’re hoping for a kind, gentle, and decent-hearted child. One who respects the viewpoints of others. Who is trustworthy, and has a soft, gentle demeanor.” 

Scientist: “Are you serious? We don’t have anything in our database like that! How do you expect your child to get ahead in life with such a weak set of behavioral traits? What kind of parents are you? Don’t you want your child to have a leg up in life?”

Parents: (sigh) “I think we’d better get going.” 

Scientist: “Hey, wait! Did you forget about our Designer Baby Sale today? Ten percent off!” 

Parents: “Thanks, but we’ve seen enough. We’ll take our chances the natural way, and hope that our child will thrive and be happy.”

Scientist: “Hmph. Not with those characteristics!”

Parents: “Well, we’ll take our chances. Hopefully the Good Lord will look over our child.” 

Scientist: “What? The Good Lord? Please! We’re scientists here! There’s no need to insult us with religious mumbo-jumbo! Have a good day.”

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