So, this is for a "space drama" that is set in the not too distant future.

The world is running out of resources, but has developed an rudimentary interplanetary travel capability. Several planets have been discovered that contain the resources that the population wants to exploit, but the environmental conditions on those planets cause a physiological reaction in humans that result in a drastically higher probability of catastrophic death.

Furthermore, the catastrophic death risk is reliably transmitted to the descendants of the grandparents of every worker, and their descendants, when they return to Earth. The effect is amplified in future children. Mathematically, this doesn't have an effect on the population, because the number of workers required is rather small compared to the size of the population.

How would a corporation or government motivate workers to take the job when they know it causes this inheritable condition?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Aug 3 '18 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ Catastrophic death, so they explode? Or something of that nature $\endgroup$ – Garret Gang Aug 3 '18 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Abdul Ahad If the space drama is set in the near future, all the planets likely to be reachable and exploitable will be the planets and other bodies in our own solar system - unless a faster than light space drive is invented very soon - with surface conditions hostile to human life. Thus the workers will have to live in buildings with sealed enclosed Earth like environments and wear spacesuits when outside, so the surface conditions won't affect them. Anyway, the problem seems more like a mystical curse on the families of the workers than like any scientifically possible problem. $\endgroup$ – M. A. Golding Aug 11 '18 at 17:54

I can think of a few ways. I guess it depends on how evil the company is willing to be, or at least how evil their recruiting department is willing to be.

  • Kidnap the worker's family.
  • Kidnap the worker and force him to work.
  • Find homeless people or jobless ex criminals to take the work.
  • Offer a pardon to currently incarcerated criminals who take the work.
  • Pay an outrageously high salary for the work, or give an incredible benefits package (for example, a free, massive whole life insurance policy to feed your family for a few generations after you're gone... and maybe a scholarship for your kids).
  • Lie about the danger, and ensure no workers ever return to tell about it.
  • Scare the population of the world into thinking that they desperately need the resources, (even if it's true), and send a broad message to the whole world asking for volunteers. Someone is bound to join.
  • Gather orphans and raise them for it.
  • Send clones.
  • Hire recent immigrants who don't know that better jobs exist for them.
  • Work out a deal with the government to send the military.
  • Spread propaganda inciting hatred against some arbitrary group of people, colonize/conquer their country, (if they are from another country), and send their entire people group to do the work.
  • Spread propaganda portraying the distant planets as, perhaps somewhat dangerous, but specifically an adventure. Praise the workers publicly on their way out, and then don't talk about the people who die.

Hope this helps!

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    $\begingroup$ Apart from condemning an innocent family to a horrible death, sure! Just because a person in incarcerated, an orphan or homeless doesn't mean they don't have siblings, cousins or children! Some of these are immoral, unethical or both. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 2 '18 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ Homeless people... After a while some government doctor would figure out that random people were dying catastrophically and trace the problem genetically back to the appropriated homeless worker. Ugh. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 3 '18 at 0:46
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    $\begingroup$ The question didn't ask for ethical methods, just methods. ;) $\endgroup$ – boxcartenant Aug 3 '18 at 2:14

People do horribly risky thing all the time, there are three major reasons.

fame, duty, and family

Fame, people will take huge risks to be famous, make these people famous and you will have lots volunteers.

Duty, being a soldier, police officer, firefighter, ect. is risky, but people do it out of a sense of duty or patriotism, helps if you add some form of public recognition. Make these people heros.

Family, if you said X will kill you but if you do it your family will be taken care of for life, you will have more volunteers than you can possibly use. In a way this is money but the people that will do it have family they need to provide for.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, so the issue is that the families of the workers are affected negatively $\endgroup$ – Abdul Ahad Aug 2 '18 at 21:13
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    $\begingroup$ there is no reason it has to affect the families, just require vasectomies. And a government could easily take care of the families, probably cheaper than insurance on the workers, likewise they could easily exalt the people as heroes. $\endgroup$ – John Aug 2 '18 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ I edited the comment, you may be responding to a slightly different comment. Yeah, that would work, but I don't think they would go along with it $\endgroup$ – Abdul Ahad Aug 2 '18 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ Just weed out any volunteers whose parents, aunts & uncles, children & cousins are still living. In other words, you need to recruit "onlies": only children of only children of only children or whose antecedent generations have no living & biologically related children. There's got to be a few of those around! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 2 '18 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas, that's the only practical solution. The only people who wouldn't be killed by their own families to stop the decision to take the contract would be those who had no families who could be infected. Worse than orphans (and more rare), and often too old. Those few "James Bond" types where their entire extended family died in a horrible volcanic accident while visiting Iceland, leaving them alone at a marketable age. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 3 '18 at 0:44

Edit: The OP has clarified that this sickness is transmitted reliably to the descendants of the grandparents of the workers. This transmission does not require physical closeness between the worker and their relatives; the worker doesn't even need to return to the homeworld. Thus, I would consider the death sickness as something more akin to a "curse" of some kind rather than any sort of genetic malady, since genes simply don't work that way at all. That being said, my answer still doesn't change too much. Here are some primary reasons why people would volunteer for this work despite the risks:

Dangerous, lucrative work requires a lucrative paycheck.

  • Even if the labor itself does not require specialized skills or education (which you haven't specified in your question), if it's sufficiently dangerous, lucrative, or important, it could be that the company in charge pays top dollar for people to do it. And if the homeland is suffering from resource exhaustion, it could be one of the only jobs around. How many people actually want to be a coal miner, or work in a Industrial Revolution era factory? But if the pay is good or there's no other work to be found, there will be people who accept the risk. If the pay is sufficient, perhaps it's possible to pay for treatment of the sickness through comprehensive family health insurance. Without more details from OP about how exactly people die from this, I won't speculate further on that point.

It doesn't matter to the workers being recruited.

  • The corporation does its recruitment from poor, mostly single men with no other future. OP says the world is suffering from lack of resources; unemployed single men are a common sight in historical times of economic depression, and if they don't expect to have kids anyways they aren't going to be overly concerned. If they don't have any known relatives, or the entire family is starving, they might all go since they're dying either way. If it's a choice between starving on the street, or risking your life working at the Outer Planets... you'd get plenty of people choosing the latter.

People simply didn't realize the consequences until it's too late.

  • No one might have known about the generational sickness when exploitation began. Like Nuclear power, or people dying from cancer after working near asbestos. The early deaths could be dismissed as a mundane result of a hazardous workplace environment, and bad luck among the family members back home. It might be 20-40 years before the public starts connecting the dots on the increased rates of death among children and children's children of the original workers, since OP says the affect is amplified for future generations.

I have another question about this scenario, though. Once the general public realizes that entire families of the workers become cursed with some sort of deathly sickness, wouldn't the governments of this world start regulating or banning further volunteers? After all, it's one thing to introduce genetic disease into your own bloodline because your profession gives you something like a reproductive mutation. It's another thing entirely to knowingly condemn other currently living people to a sickness with a high mortality rate. There should be massive public outcry about this, and many jurisdictions would consider it illegal.

  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't that mean the sickness is transmitted to the workers' ancestors, then back down the genetic chain from there? - yes $\endgroup$ – Abdul Ahad Aug 2 '18 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ @AbdulAhad There is no plausible way to transmit genetic diseases to your ancestors. $\endgroup$ – walrus Aug 2 '18 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ @walrus - so this is a "space drama" set in the future - it's not necessarily genetic, it could be an alien life form, nanobots, could be anything. I'll figure out the mechanism later. $\endgroup$ – Abdul Ahad Aug 2 '18 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ @AbdulAhad It's hard for us to provide a meaningful answer to your question when we don't know how the central plot mechanic works. $\endgroup$ – AugustDay Aug 2 '18 at 23:04
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    $\begingroup$ How would you keep the innocent victims of your dangerous decision from suing you (and winning, every time) for every penny of your lucrative contract? $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 3 '18 at 0:41

I am going to accept this retrograde grandparents transmission thing as a sort of weird absurdist metaphor. When I return from my stint off planet, my cousins and siblings will be prone to the creeping crud, somehow.

The answer is to not return.

Workers who are contaminated with the crud will reside on an offworld colony designed for them. Maybe it is just an orbiting hotel. This will be as nice as the company can afford to make it. Your work force can go there for some R&R, then deploy again for another tour on the work planet. When they retire, they retire to the workers colony to live out their lives.

There are lots of people around the world who go to work in far off lands, sending home a paycheck to their families. They want to come home someday; some do and some don't. So too your workers - they get a chance to make big bucks off world in exchange for never coming home. Some people would take it.

Modified after comment: the crud is unavoidable. You don't need to come back. You get it and then your cousin across space gets it too.

Solution: bring cousin with. Family groups would go and work together. All descendants of given grandparents would come work as a team. All would incur the risk and all would reap the benefits. This would be more practicable for some families than others. I might go with my dad, my brother and his daughters, and my very cute first cousin once removed. That is all of us. We will work as a family team - all now with the crud but all going home rich.

If you can't get your whole family to go then you don't get to go.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, I wasn't thinking of crud, perhaps some kind of alien biological vector. This is a solution, but it "dodges the question". It is possible that you have some fascination with crud that is unrelated to this post. Assume that transmission occurs whether or not they return, perhaps on the ship carrying the resources. Still, how to motivate them if the negative consequences are "unavoidable". $\endgroup$ – Abdul Ahad Aug 2 '18 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ @AbdulAhad "Crud" is a kind of catch-all term for any kind unknown ailment, malady, illness, syndrome or whatever. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 2 '18 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ Also very possible he is correct about my fascination with crud unrelated to this post. $\endgroup$ – Willk Aug 3 '18 at 0:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk -- oh, is that so? Well, I sit corrected! I had no idea you are so possibly fascinated by crud! Kindly excuse & ignore my comment above! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 3 '18 at 6:34

The affliction described by Abdul Ahad seems more like a mystical, supernatural curse than any scientifically possible affliction. But fantasy stories are on topic as well as science fiction stories, as are mixes of genres.


One way to recruit workers and tell them the truth about the mystical curse that seems to afflict the families of workers, and still get them to agree to work, is to recruit orphans. Preferably orphans who live in orphanages because they have no extended families to take care of them, no grandparents, older siblings, uncles, aunts, first cousins, etc.

And it is possible that the organization might arrange to produce a lot of orphans without close biological relatives to ensure a steady supply of workers. But considering the vast population of the world, over 7,600,000,000 people in 2018, it seems unlikely that there won't be enough natural orphans.

It is perfectly possible for a man with no living parents, siblings, nieces or nephews, etc., to marry or have an affair with a woman with no living parents, siblings, nieces or nephews, etc., and to have one or more children and then both die, leaving the baby with no living grandparents or living descendants of those grandparents.

Of course orphans might have been raised by foster parents or adoptive parents who they may love as much or as little, it varies a lot, as people love their biological parents who raise them. So these orphans might demand proof that the curse only affects biological relatives and not adoptive relatives.


What about the possible desire of those workers to someday have children of their own who will be descendants of the grandparents of the workers and thus subject to the curse? Maybe only orphans who don't want to have children will be recruited. Maybe the workers will be sterilized so they can't have any children in the future to be cursed.


Possibly the workers will be recruited from people who might have close living relatives but don't know who they are. Some such people wouldn't want to inflict a terrible curse on people they don't know, but other, less ethical people, will be comfortable with cursing anyone who they don't already know and like.

For example, the children of prostitutes might not have the slightest idea who their biological fathers are. And their mothers might not tell them about their own families before dying, or might say that they became prostitutes because they are orphans without close relatives.

And there are foundlings, babies left on the doorsteps of institutions without any identification of their parents. Thomas O. Moonlight (1833-1899), Union army colonel and governor of Wyoming Territory, came from a Scottish family allegedly named because an ancestor was a foundling found in the moon light.


Or maybe the workers will be recruited from people who hate their families and don't care what horrible curse they unleash upon them. People who have wanted to kill their relatives and almost tried doing so. People who think that the curse won't be bad enough for what their relatives deserve.


As for the danger to the workers themselves, back in the old days when most people were poor and desperate, it was easy to recruit people for dangerous jobs. During the Age of Discovery, a long sea voyage, even to peacefully trade in a place that was already discovered and known, could result in half the crew dying during the voyage.

in modern times people in developed first world countries are not so desperate, but that still leaves billions of people in third world countries who will be desperate enough to take highly dangerous jobs in the near future, even if the organization honestly tells them how dangerous it is instead of lying.

  • $\begingroup$ this was already addressed in a previous comments, "that dodges the question, but it would work. The question becomes if there are enough people that fit that description. If not, you'd still need to motivate people who have extended families" $\endgroup$ – Abdul Ahad Aug 13 '18 at 2:30

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