Dragon burns down house

GeneTech's new fantasy pets set the world on fire

It was a scene out of some fantasy epic that greeted Reginald Dobbs as he arrived home last night. His house was on fire and a dragon was perched on the roof, belching flames. It looked embarrassed.

“It’s my fault,” said Dobbs. “He gets lonely when I’m away too long and misbehaves.”

This is one of a new breed of fantasy pets created by GeneTech based on mythological creatures. The Green Dragon is the first to breathe fire.

Other owners have reported similar behavioral problems, but are unwilling to give up their pets as they are such a marvel of genetic engineering – and the envy of all their friends.

Not so amused are the neighbors who have launched a class action suit against Dobbs and GeneTech, citing the dragon as ‘a danger to society’.

Donald North, spokesman for GeneTech, had this to say: “All we’re doing is bringing fantasies to life. It’s what our customers want. Where’s the harm in that?” Then he rode off on his unicorn to a polo game.

Fantasy pets are all the rage and a billion-dollar business. It seems not even the threat of lawsuits can reverse the trend toward ever-increasing genetic meddling. Would you like your next cat to fly?

ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be

Genetic evolution, spurred on by biotech advances, has resulted in massive changes to agriculture and health-care. However, at the same time, a fair amount of energy has been expended towards the incredibly personal needs of individuals over and above the needs of society. From test-tube babies to cloned pets, life-style genetics is a popular business. What happens as our ability to customize genetics goes even further?

1970s-80s: The Gene World
In 1978 baby Louise becomes the world’s first test tube baby. An entire industry follows from surrogate mothers, to testing the sex of fertilized eggs.

In the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty, the United States Supreme Court rules that a “live, human-made micro-organism is patentable material.” Exxon is herewith allowed to patent an oil-eating microbe. This 1980 ruling opens the door for significant new research and the development of novel organisms. Investors now know that they can protect their costly new inventions.

In 1982 the US Food and Drug Administration approves the first biotech drug: human insulin produced in genetically modified bacteria. In 1985 Ralph Brinster introduces the first transgenic livestock: pigs that produce human growth hormone.

1990s: Politics comes to Genetics
In July of 1996 Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell, Scottish scientists, produce the first organism ever to be cloned from adult cells – Dolly the sheep. They follow up with Polly in 1997, a Poll Dorset lamb cloned from cells grown in a lab and genetically altered to contain a human gene.

On 4 March 1997 President Bill Clinton proposes a five-year moratorium on federal and privately funded human cloning research. The US Food and Drug Administration announces that transgenic foods are ‘not inherently dangerous’ and do not require special regulation.

By the end of the decade numerous companies have been set up to produce cloned pets and other customized genetic solutions.

2000-2005: The genetics of choice
In 2002 San Francisco-based Tosk, a biotech company, announces that they have developed a cheap and rapid method of introducing genes into living mammals. Their method is to use transposons (so-called “jumping genes”). DNA on transposons is simply injected into the subject’s bloodstream and is absorbed into the cells over a period of time.

In May 2003 the UK Court of Appeal gives its permission to Raj and Shahana Hashmi to proceed with in-vitro fertilization treatment with embryo tissue typing in order to attempt to have a child who could save their existing son, Zain. Zain has thalassaemia, an inherited blood condition, which might be able to be cured by a transplant of umbilical cord blood stem cells from a sibling with matching tissue.

In late 2003 Glofish hits the toy stores. It is the first biotech pet and is specially bred to detect water pollutants. The fish glows red under a black light following the addition of a gene for fluorescence.

In 2004 the first cloned pet, a kitten, is delivered to its new owner.

2006-2015: Transgenic breakthrough
In 2008 British geneticists working at Cambridge University announce that a massive database detailing complete genetic codes is available for commercial use. Transposons have been created that encode more than 4,000 different purpose-driven genes. These may be purchased off-the-shelf and used to encode common characteristics. A new feature is that the genes have a special marker which allows them to be disabled after ‘installation’.

The costs are high and the first customers are farmers wishing to improve the quality of their stud herds.

In 2015 the Cambridge scientists sell off their project to outside investors for an astonishing US$ 25 billion. The new company is called GeneTech. Stores are overwhelmed before Christmas as customers demand the latest must-have pet: cats, with no allergens, that come when you call.

2016-2025: Fantasy pets
In 2016, Josh Bartlett, a developer at GeneTech, starts combining characteristics of his favorite fantasy creatures. He collects the genes for the horn of a narwhal and combines it with a white horse to produce a unicorn. When the animal appears in the hit movie ‘Fantastica Returns’ the company is deluged with thousands of requests for similar animals.

Further work combining characteristics of lizards and bats leads to the creation of creatures which appear dragon-like. The first ‘dragons’ cannot breathe fire.

A US congressional panel recommends that any fantasy combinations involving humans must be outlawed. The UN passes an international declaration making it illegal to develop fantasy humans.

The law doesn’t stop numerous people purchasing new characteristics for themselves. 2020’s most popular add-on among teenagers is a gene to produce a set of devil’s horns out of their foreheads.

2021 sees a new breakthrough. There are numerous chemicals which burst into flame on contact with air. The new Green Dragon, if fed the right diet, will collect these chemicals in special cheek pouches and be able to release small bursts of flame at will.

Scorched carpets and curtains result.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

Despite appearances to the contrary, Futureworld cannot and does not predict the future. Our Mindbullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright Futureworld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer.