If Then

Cosmetic Gene Editing Gone Awry

Exploring a future where you can give yourself purple eyes, bat wings, and malware.

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Episode Notes

Host Shannon Palus explores a future in which high school girls stay atop the social hierarchy by editing their genes, giving themselves purple eyes and glittery skin. That’s what fiction author E. Lily Yu imagines 2060 is like in her short story, “Zero in Babel,” which was published on Slate as part of the Future Tense Fiction series. Shannon and producer Cameron Drews read an excerpt from the story, and then Shannon speaks with Yu about her creative process.

After the interview, Aaron Mak joins the show for this week’s edition of “Don’t Close My Tabs.”

Stories discussed on the show: 
Zero in Babel
• “The Future Will Grind On” (a response essay to “Zero in Babel”)

Shannon’s tab: Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey Into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand, by Julie Rehmeyer

How to Assess Internet Cures Without Falling for Dangerous Pseudoscience

Aaron’s tab:You Guys, Chris Hansen Needs Our Help

Podcast production by Camera Drews, with help from Phil Surkis.

If you have a question or comment, you can email us at ifthen@slate.com.

If Then is presented by Slate and Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.


About the Show

If Then is a show about technology, society, and power. Each week, the hosts take you on a lively tour of the tech news that actually matters, from fake news in your Facebook feed to the algorithms that want your job to the Uber drivers who want a job with benefits. With news-making interviews of key tech-industry figures, fascinating academics, and top tech journalists, we explore not only how the technology that’s shaping our world works, but the ideas, ideologies, incentives, and biases that underlie it.

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