Bright Futures

A hypothetical risk scenario

Using CRISPR gene editing to give your children a head-start in life

You are the founder and chief scientist of a startup called “Bright Futures” that offers parents the chance to predetermine the genetic makeup of their children, using cutting edge gene editing. You are based in a developing country where there is less regulatory oversight of the use of gene editing technologies in humans, but serve clients from around the world who fly in to use your services. Your technology uses the latest in genetic science to edit embryonic DNA in ways that increase the chances of certain traits developing in the resulting child. And while you clearly state that you cannot claim with certainty that your procedures will lead to specific traits and abilities, you have a long list of wealthy parents who are willing to take a chance. Specific characteristics that you claim your procedures may help increase the chances of developing include intelligence, athleticism, attractiveness, competitiveness, and creativity.

While you fully recognize that you are operating in an ethical, legal, and regulatory gray area, you firmly believe that your services improve the lives of your clients and their children, and that they are based on sound science. And while your services are only accessible to the very wealthy, you argue that by pioneering them, you are opening the way to similar services becoming less expensive and more accessible.

Critical Risk Dimensions

  • Ethics
  • Social Justice & Equity
  • Social Trends
  • Worldview
  • Black Swan Events
  • Co-opted Tech
  • Health & Environment
  • Intergenerational Impacts
  • Loss of Agency
  • Bad Actors
  • Geopolitics
  • Governance & Regulation
  • Reputation & Trust

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Key questions for identifying orphan risks


How might ethical concerns affect your ability to grow and succeed as a company?


How might the religious, social and political perspectives and beliefs of investors, clients, and influential stakeholders affect your future business?


How might heritable traits associated with your technology affect the business?


What are some of the low probability but potentially high impact future risks associated with your service?


How might future national and global regulations affect you?

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