The Interview

The immigration officer was quite bored when a took a nicotine gum from its package in order to put it in his mouth. He had interviewed more than two dozens of prospective immigrants that day and it was already late. Nevertheless he was not yet able to leave his office as there was one applicant left to be interviewed. While he was chewing the immigration officer asked the man sitting on the opposite side of his desk:

“Mr. Veldman, why do you think you will able to provide a meaningful contribution to Elysian society? Might I remind you that you aren’t the only genetic engineer who desires to leave this planet for Langrangia.”

The other man managed not to display his disappointment that his profession was not sufficient to secure him an immigration visa to Elysia, the most prominent of the Lagrangian settlements. Instead the man called Veldman calmly answered the question he was asked.

“Well,” the prospective immigrant said, “I have been working on a new technique to breed cattle.” The immigration was shaking his head but he refrained from commenting. “The fundamental problem with traditional cattle breeding is that fifty percent of all newborn calves are males. But as you know bulls are not very useful as they don’t give milk and hence many young bulls are slaughtered within weeks after their birth.

“Also if you have two supercows, in terms of milk quantity, you can’t breed them directly. You need to identify either a brother, who has most likely already been slaughtered, or the father of one the cows. However, this is highly inefficiently.” “Let me guess,” the immigration officer remarked, “you are working on a procedure which enables to cows to get calves together without any involvement of bulls.”

“Exactly,” Mr. Veldman replied. “We can turn skin cells into sperm and use that to fertilize an egg cell. There’s no need for a bull, cow skin cells work fine. And since the offspring conceived this way are always female, we have also solved to problem of excessive bulls.”

“Interesting,” the civil servant said as he made a few notes on his computer. “I assume this method will also work with humans.” “It would work with any mammal,” Veldman replied. “It’s only a matter of ethics and law.” “Are you sure this method is safe? I mean that offspring conceived this way is as healthy as normally conceived individuals?” “All research I have conducted of the last few years have not demonstrated any significant negative effect.”

“I guess you have published your research?” “Yes, I have published three articles, two in Nature and one in The Lancet. If you want I could send your office electronic copies of these articles.”

The immigration officer made a few further notes. Then the bureaucrat said:

“Though your research is quite interesting, I am not sure whether it will be of great use up in space. You should know, Mr. Veldman, we, Elysians, have progressed beyond the need of livestock. We grow muscle tissue in petri-dishes to supply our meat consumption and we use genetically engineered yeast cells to make milk. I know these techniques are controversial here on Earth and both the lobby of farmers and several uninformed consumer groups has pushed for legislation which virtually prohibits these methods on this very planet.”

“Yeah,” Veldman said, “it’s this very neo-luddite, anti-science sentiment which motivates me to leave this world. You can hardly know how much death threats I receive every day. It’s quite astonishing to see that even some staunch atheists accuse me of playing god. You can’t believe this, can you?”

The immigration officer smiled but he did not reply to Veldman’s final remark. A few more notes were added to his file.

“Opposition to science and technological progress are one of the foremost reasons for founding the Republic of Elysia,” the civil servant said. “So it’s not surprising many scientists are seeking to immigrate to our country. Actually we receive so many applications, we are unable to grant them all. You need to understand this.” “Yes, I do,” Mr. Veldman said.

“Therefore I can’t tell you at this moment you’ll be allowed to immigrate to our country. I will forward your file the federal immigration service and they’ll make the final decision. It might take up to three months before you’ll receive this decision. For now I wish you a nice day. Goodbye.” “Goodbye.”

Veldman rose from his chair and silently left the office. The immigration officer did not believe this particular applicant had any chance to get approved for immigration.

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