sutton (Chuck Dibb; cdibb@mind.net)"> Fool.com: Bequeath to Your Genes (Fribble) July 14, 2000

Fribble Bequeath to Your Genes

By sutton (Chuck Dibb; cdibb@mind.net)
July 14, 2000

The biggest problem with investing for the long-term is that it's long-term. If you invest $10,000 for 20 years, you'll still be 20 years older when you can enjoy it. Forty years? Not a lot of time left to play with it, or to change the world. The choices at that point are which charities — run by strangers — to endow, what type of retirement community to enter, or how to divide it among the grandchildren.

Now, my grandchildren probably won't be a lot like me. They only have a quarter of my genes, after all. By the time they have grandchildren — 50 or so years later — no one out there is more than 10% me! As they say, it only takes one generation to erase a man.

So, the question is: How do you become wealthy but still have the time left to enjoy and to use that wealth?

One time-honored way to be wealthy and young is to inherit. Certainly, enough time can do that. If Abraham Lincoln had been my great-great-great grandfather, and if he'd left me $10,000 at 8% back in 1865, I'd have more than $300 million. In one more generation, it would be a billion dollars. Three generations after that, and I'd be the richest man in the world.

Which leads me to the subject of this Fribble: genetic engineering and inheritance. It may be too late for me to be young and rich, but it isn't for my eighth-generation descendant.

Suppose I endow all my worldly goods to that person, born within two years of July 8, 2250, who is genetically most like me.

If I start with investing half a million dollars, set aside half of it for administrative costs and legal challenges over the years, the remaining $250,000 at a piddling 5% would grow to almost $50 billion by that date.

How would this inheritor be chosen? By the eighth generation, with the random assortment of genes we've all become used to over the last half a million years, my natural descendants will, on average, be 0.3% more like me than someone picked at random from the population. That's a small difference to hang $50 billion on.

Still, forget the charities — leave the money to your own, personal, unique DNA. If the sociobiologists are right — that our greatest goal is to pass along our genes — then to expect all people to continue to allow themselves to be inexorably diluted into oblivion, and to ignore this new technology, is naive.

I think it will take legislation. As I'm the first to have pointed it out, I feel that the least you could do is name it after me.

Call it Sutton's Law.