DNA is the key

Abdel Abdellaoui
5 min readSep 9, 2021

“That route is long and dangerous dad. And those smugglers couldn’t care less about your wellbeing. It’s not worth risking everything, I beg you…” He realized he may never see his father again.

“I used to be on top of the world. My business is still thriving, yet last year our maid made more money than me!” his father said.

“Always with that maid… Her genes predicted that she would never be able to hold down a job, but look at her now, she’s never missed a day of work for more than a decade. She really earned that raise.”

“It’s not just the maid..” his father grumbled. “This new system has gone too far. Even the Olympics are now split up by genetic potential. Isn’t effort also supposed to be heritable? Surely, all behaviour should be heritable to some extent?

“They do take that into account dad” he tried to reason. “Look, the incentive is clearly more effective this way, most people try to maximize their potential. It’s been studied, and it works. Our country has never been more productive. I know it’s hard to swallow, but maybe it’s time we just accept this system and show some more effort!”

“More effort? Intelligence, creativity, wit, personality, that’s what makes us human, that’s what made us conquer the world, not just brute effort. We’re not just farm animals to be pushed around!” The line went dead as he hung up the phone.

“Dad..?” His father was gone, on his way to make the crossing to the Old World. On his way to a fleet of anxious, and highly talented, refugees scheduled to leave at 1 AM. It was a dark and misty summer night. The coast was deserted, the only light coming from the nervous flashlights of the passengers as they prepared to depart on their illegal journey. The destination was Europe, which was still running on the old capitalist system and eager to receive and reward talented immigrants.

Two decades earlier, a portable and cheap DNA sequencer known as the BoltArray was introduced to society. It could read out an entire human genome on the spot, including the measurement of epigenetic markers. The dynamic nature of epigenetic markers made it possible to distinguish even identical twins, which served as an extra safety measure against identity theft. Inspired by an obscure science-fiction story published on Medium, an anonymous hackers collective introduced BoltCoin, a new cryptocurrency that could form the backbone of a new socio-economic system when combined with the BoltArray. This cryptocurrency relied on a combination of one’s DNA and epigenetics profile as part of the “private key” to unlock transactions and confirm the authenticity of the owner of the cryptocurrency being sent or received. The decentralized nature of the cryptocurrency ensured maximum privacy and made it nearly impossible to exploit the system. It didn’t take long for enough people to adopt BoltCoin, which eventually made the dollar obsolete. The big promise of cryptocurrency had finally come true, ushering in a new era through a massive redistribution of wealth.

The sea was loud as the waves crashed against the boats. The passengers were silent. They felt the anxiety of their impending departure rise as the boats were getting ready to leave. There were between forty and fifty boats filled with passengers that brought, as instructed, only their backpacks with bare necessities. As the boats pulled away from the shore, the captain broke the silence like a general rallying his troops before a battle. “This ain’t my first crossing fellas,” he called out. “I’ll get you back safely to being appreciated again for your talent. Your greatness is of no less value because it was predicted by some algorithm. A world where greatness is not appreciated is doomed to mediocrity!”

Two weeks later, a professor and one of her students were staring intently at a series of graphs on their screens titled breeding values of socio-economic outcomes. The student turned to the professor and said: “Professor, I don’t understand. The genetic scores keep getting weaker… if it were just statistical fluctuations, as you said, why does it only go downwards? Could the environmental influences be changing some way? You always taught us that the stronger the environment, the weaker the effects of the genes, right?” She smiled hopefully expecting a nod of agreement, but she got the opposite.

The professor was in charge of research with a direct impact on the distribution of BoltCoin. She knew that human behaviour was a complex interplay between many thousands of genes, each with miniscule effects, and environmental influences. Thanks to the decentralized blockchain system of BoltCoin, everyone’s DNA sequence and all of their socio-economic activities were recorded, which meant that the effect of every individual DNA variant on any of the recorded activities could be estimated using data from all citizens in the system. These genetic effects were dynamic, dependent on environmental circumstances and on the rest of human activity, so they were constantly changing and constantly updated. They were used to estimate someone’s genetic potential for success in the socio-economic system. Financial rewards were weighted based on that potential, in order to mitigate the advantage of being fortunate enough to be born with the right genes. This made effort more valuable than talent.

“I need to make a phone call” the professor said with a heavy sigh. She retreated into a huge office and closed the door. “Hello General, sir,” she said as the call connected. “I have some concerning news. I saw another dip in average genetic scores today. It’s consistent with a growing number of individuals with higher genetic potential leaving the dataset. These dips seem to be getting .. well .. more frequent. They’re still very small, but so consistent, even my student is starting to notice. She hasn’t considered the idea of a brain drain as an explanation yet though. She’s blaming the environment.”

“Hello professor. Thank you and yes we know. Another fleet tried to leave two weeks ago. This was a big one, but rest assured, we took care of it. We cannot have any more talent leak out to Europe. Listen, we’ve been compiling quite the database of attempted escapees. If I were to give you a list of their IDs, could you look into this… Could we use those to predict the genetic risk for attempted escape?”



Abdel Abdellaoui

Dr. Abdel Abdellaoui is a geneticist from Amsterdam studying the relationship between DNA and human behaviour.