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What happens when designer babies enter the workplace?

#8 | A scientist named – He Jianku claims to have created the world’s first genetically edited babies. Shortly after the announcement was made, He Jianku disappeared to parts unknown. (Insert dramatic music here.) If what He claims is true, not only is this a major scientific breakthrough disrupting the scientific community – forever; its also a major headache for the HR department. Tune in to this episode to find out why. Please support my Starbucks habit (and support this podcast) by dropping a tip in my virtual jar. Thank you in advance. 


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The Jim Stroud Podcast explores the future of life itself by examining emerging technology,  the changing world of work, cultural trends and everything in between.

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Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in sourcing and recruiting strategy, public speaking, lead generation, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, online community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens, Bernard Hodes Group and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the recruitment headaches of their clients worldwide as their Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy. His career highlights can be viewed on his website at www.JimStroud.com.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

On Nov. 28, He Jianku — a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford — announced to hundreds of scientists, colleagues and journalists that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies: twin girls with the pseudonyms Lulu and Nana whose DNA he claims to have altered to make them HIV-resistant. Though not verified, He’s work has been met with international outcry. Many consider such work to be an unethical violation of scientific norms and, amid conflicting reports about his current whereabouts, He Jianku (john-koo) has not been heard from since he made that announcement. (At least, not at the point of this recording.) I find all of this fascinating. Not only do I see the scientific community and society at large, changed irrevocably by this technological breakthrough, I foresee major headaches for the HR department. Why? I’ll let you know after this special message.

Ring-ring.

JIM: Oh! Sorry, everyone. One second… Jim Stroud.

CALLER: Hey Jim, I have to postpone our lunch meeting. I’m searching for the perfect candidate and my ATS is not making it easy.

JIM: Well, that doesn’t sound like fun. What about your CRM?

CALLER: Don’t get me started.

JIM: How many times have you had the perfect resume in hand and wished you could find more people just like them?

CALLER: Everyday.

JIM: You know what you need, right? You need a system that learns from you and suggests the right candidates at the right time.

CALLER: It doesn’t exist.

JIM: Oh, yes it does, and its name is HiringSolved.

CALLER: HiringSolved?

JIM: Yes, HiringSolvedHiringSolved is a tool that uses AI and Machine Learning to automate candidate matching, increase diversity, reduce time to fill, analyze the social web, and unlock the power of your ATS, CRM, and HRIS data.

CALLER: Interesting. Can you tell me more?

JIM: I would like to but, I’m about to do a podcast. I tell you what, check out their website at www.hiringsolved.com

CALLER: www.h-i-r-i-n-g-s-o-l-v-e-d.com

JIM: That’s right! www.HiringSolved.com. Go look at it now and I’ll call you back after the podcast.

CALLER: Okay, bye.

JIM: Sorry about that guys. Now, where was I?

Have you seen the movie Gattaca? It was out in the late 90’s, here’s a clip…. (Play the first few seconds of the movie trailer, maybe up to 1:23) In the movie Gattaca  Vincent Freeman (played by Ethan Hawke) has always fantasized about traveling into outer space, but is grounded by his genetically inferior  status. He decides to fight his fate by purchasing the genes of Jerome Morrow (Jude Law),  who has been determined to be genetically superior. Viincent assumes Jerome’s DNA identity and joins the Gattaca space program, where he falls in love with Irene (played by Uma Thurman). An investigation into the death of a Gattaca officer complicates Vincent’s plans. It’s a good movie with lots of suspense and intrigue. I recommend it.

As I said earlier, He Jianku’s research is not verified so, nobody knows for sure if he really did create the world’s first genetically edited babies resistant to HIV; but, I don’t think its too far-fetched to believe. In 2017, scientists in the United States successfully corrected a disease causing mutation by altering the genetic structure of a human embryo. Which mean, genes that carry certain diseases would not be passed on to “newborns.”

Now if you do a search on “designer babies” you will find a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of articles discussing the ethics of the science. Some people say that designing babies is a good thing while others poo-poo the idea. Here is a breakdown of the pros and the cons. First, the pros…

Designing babies would mean that you not only reduce the risk of genetic diseases but you also stop diseases from being passed on to future generations. Because you can enhance intelligence through this process (at least, from what I’ve read), there’s a better chance the child will succeed in life. One could also give their child genes that neither of the parents carry; for example… musical and dance giftings. Your child could be the next Beyonce; despite the fact that you and your spouse struggle with karaoke. And the biggest plus to designing children, I suppose, would be a better understanding of how genetics increase life span. Does that mean immortality? I doubt it. But it might mean that the average person may one day live to be 100 years old.

And now, the arguments against designing children…

As heartless as it may sound to some, I can foresee many pregnancies terminated simply because the genetic recipe was flawed in some way. The hair isn’t blonde enough. The IQ is not high enough and it must be optimum if the child is to compete in modern society.  Geneticists are not perfect. Maybe getting rid of one disease, sparks the genesis of another one that is even more deadly and because its so new, there is no way to treat it. Before you know it, we are surrounded by zombies from “The Walking Dead” and I’m only way halfway kidding.

In the rush to make perfect children, I can see us forgetting the children who have no say in how their genes are manipulated. Maybe they discover they have talents that they do not desire and decide to rebel against their parents and in the case of being a musical genius, refuse to sing; no matter how much their parents implore them. Maybe they would feel the loss of individuality and be stuck in a sort of limbo; somewhere between discovering what they want to do with their lives and what their parents designed them to be.

And if that is not enough, there are the issues the Human Resources department will have to face.

What are the ramifications of employing adults who were once designer babies? On the plus side, companies that focus on hiring “designer babies” can brag that they offer exorbitant healthcare benefits because it is unlikely certain diseases and conditions would even occur with designer babies; since those conditions were likely screened out at birth. Designer babies would tend to have IQs higher than the national average due to their genetic enhancements so companies who hire them would likely be more efficient, productive and innovative. Designer babies would be better educated and have lots of business contacts as they tend to come from wealthy families that can afford designer baby enhancements. With all of these advantages, its no wonder companies hire as many designer babies as they can find and do all they can to retain them. But isn’t that discriminatory to natural born humans?

What happens when natural born humans figure out why they are not being considered for high-paying jobs, at the same rate, as these designer babies?  Will they protest and file lawsuits against the company? If they do, how will that affect the employer brand of the company? As expensive as it would be, at least in the onset, to have designer children, most of the hiring population would be natural born humans. This means that no matter how many designer babies you hire, its likely the majority of the people you hire will be natural born and they won’t want to work for a company who denies them upward mobility.

As such, HR department, you have a massive recruiting problem which in turn, is a massive bottom line problem because if your employment brand is bad, it only stands to reason that the consumer side will follow. 

So, for the record, I am against genetic manipulation for the sake of making “perfect” children. I think the ethics prohibit us from going down this path and would encourage things like killing offspring with Down Syndrome; they do that in Iceland, you know.  And who can say how all of the genetic manipulation will affect future offspring? What happens when a designer baby mates with another designer baby? What happens when a designer baby mates with a natural human? What happens when two people have children naturally but one of them or both, have a designer baby in their lineage? Nobody knows now, but thanks to scientists like, He Jianku, we will in the future, for better or worse.

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