Economist: Tuib Mursuky, your paper entitled An Assured Future Selyn Worker Supply was presented here at the Fifth Annual Demographics Conference at the Zelerod Memorial Institute this afternoon. This sounds very optimistic. Can you tell us about your work?
Tuib Mursuky: I'd be delighted. My work was funded by the Tecton, so first I'd like to thank them for the grant that enabled me to pursue this fascinating research topic for my dissertation. The Tecton is, of course, concerned about its staffing well into the future. While there are many Gens, who, given adequate motivation, can be trained as Donors for lower order channels, all the training in the world won't make a channel out of a renSime, or a Donor who can serve a First out of some ordinary Gen like me.
Economist: Tell our readers why you think there will be plenty of channeling staff for the future even though with longer life expectancies and more successful pregnancies the population of Nivet is steadily growing.
Tuib Mursuky: Well, my field of study, statistics and in particular, demographics, has been given an aura of mystery because it allegedly can predict the future. Of course, it doesn't do that any more than you are a prophet because you can predict that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that by this time next year you will be a year older. We can predict the number of future channels in a number of ways. For one, if a child has a parent who is a channel or a high-order Donor, the odds are improved that the child will take after the selyn worker parent. If both parents are selyn workers, the odds increase yet again. So if we know how many such children there are, the larity of their parents, and on average how much their parentage has increased their likelihood of changing over as channels we can estimate how many new channels and Gens with a special aptitude for Donor work will be reaching adulthood in the future.
Economist: How did you collect all this data?
Tuib Mursuky: Well, the simplest idea would be ask the Tecton to have all its selyn workers fill out a questionnaire about their children and the children's other parent, but if you calculate the amount of paper involved, it would take so much time and effort to process that the information would be obsolete by the time I finished and I'd never get my thesis written! But statisticians do something called sampling -- we obtain data from a selected group that accurately represents the whole, and then we can generalize from the data we have to what the data from every selyn worker would be like. So with the assistance of my thesis advisor, Professor Dilshad ambrov Imil, I developed a method of selecting representative Districts in each Region. Instead of obtaining data from each channel or Donor, I requested that the Tecton ask the selected District Offices to send me the data for each selyn worker in the District on forms we provided. Not only did this shift some of the burden of summarizing onto the data providers, but it assured privacy and confidentiality since this abstracted data does not have names attached.
Economist: That must still have been a massive amount of paper. How did you manage to process it?
Tuib Mursuky: I had a lot of help. I went home to Varan for a few months and taught some classes in science and mathematics to the children of my House while I worked on it. Several of them became very excited at the idea that I was doing 'real research' and were very eager to help me. We spent many evenings around a refectory table working together. I'd like to thank all of them, my mother Violet ambrov Varan who provided an unending supply of oatmeal cookies and trin for my helpers, and most especially Holrith ambrov Varan, who was a child at the time, for inventing an ingenious method of coding the data with a system of holes and notches on the margins of cards that let us sort and select by various criteria merely by sticking a long pin through a stack of cards. I can't describe how much manual work this saved. There are a lot of correlations that would have been so laborious to perform that I probably wouldn't have attempted them that could be done in a few minutes by using her system. The House has patented the invention, and I think it will revolutionize data extraction not only for research workers like myself but for commercial and governmental organizations as well.
Economist: They always say that pure research will yield more practical applications than applied research will, but here's applied research yielding an unrelated application! So tell us more about the results -- what did you find out?
Tuib Mursuky: Well, the first thing we noticed was that the selyn workers were having a surprising number of children compared to historical records from the Householdings. I talked to the medical people at my House, and asked them to contact some of their colleagues in other Houses. The general opinion was that there had been a definite decrease in infertility, miscarriages, stillbirths and infant mortality in channel and Donor pregnancies when the child's other parent was from outside the House. This was a very interesting finding and one of my colleagues will be following up on it in another project.
Economist: Is there an explanation for this?
Tuib Mursuky: As you know, the Householdings have always tried to produce as many selyn workers as possible, and channels in particular tend to have low effective fertility. Unfortunately, due to the small number of selyn workers in most Houses, and the difficulties of travel in the times before Unity, most of the channel families tend to be somewhat lacking in genetic diversity, despite efforts to ameliorate this by exchange of staff with other Houses. Since Unity, things have changed radically. Tecton rotations have enabled selyn workers of child-bearing age from Householdings all over Nivet to meet and work together. It's inevitable that pregnancies would result, and the unusual success rate of these pregnancies and the health of the resulting children have encouraged many women to actively seek out partners from areas far from their homes as fathers for their children.
Economist: So what you're saying is that the Householding channel lines were inbred enough to impair fertility, and the Tecton has encouraged massive outbreeding to rejuvenate these lines?
Tuib Mursuky: I doubt the Tecton had this effect in mind, but it's certainly a very promising side effect of its personnel policies. There are definitely a lot more, and more healthy children in the Householdings now with selyn worker potential than there were before Unity. Very few have changed over yet, but the next ten years or so will be very interesting to observe. We've suggested to the Tecton that they may have to expand their training facilities soon to accommodate this new generation.
Economist: What else did you discover?
Tuib Mursuky: Well, another very interesting item was that there was a correlation between rating and fertility in male selyn workers, particularly channels, and that the male parent of a selyn worker's child was usually of at least equal, or more commonly higher, rating than the female parent.
Economist: Hmmm. Do you think the bigger nagers of higher rated channels and Donors were enabling them to seduce more women?
Tuib Mursuky: No, I think on the contrary, the women were purposely selecting higher rated men to father their children, in hopes that those children would outrate their mothers when they reached adulthood.
Economist: So the women were grading up their own lines!
Tuib Mursuky: Oh, yes. One can regard a well-staffed Sime Center as a sort of genetic cafeteria, with a choice of prime bloodlines from centuries-old Householding breeding programs from across Nivet.
Economist: That's remarkable. So in the next generation or two we will see the lesser Householdings producing channels of the stature of those of the oldest, most respected Houses like Imil and Zeor?
Tuib Mursuky: Definitely. While the older Houses benefit from the reduction in the effects of inbreeding, the newer, smaller and less prestigious Houses have the opportunity to bring in genetic material never accessible to them before and in a few generations could upgrade their channels and Companions to the level of the very best. My Sectuib is a high Second, but our next could be a high First, something that lesser Houses like ours have seldom had.
Economist: I'm trying to imagine every Sime Center with a Farris channel on staff.
Tuib Mursuky: Oh, I wouldn't go that far! When I noticed this pattern, and wondered if I was interpreting it correctly, I went and sat around the staff cafeterias of some of the larger Sime Centers, and chatted with a number of female Householders. While this tendency to 'upgrade' is real, and acknowledged or even encouraged by the Sectuibs, there's considerable caution about the Farris mutation. For one thing, there's a great deal of risk to a woman who carries a Farris child. Indeed, one of the Donors told me that her Sectuib had related a quote from the founder of her House, let me see if I can recall this correctly -- "for a bunch of nonjuncts, the Farris men had killed an awful lot of women with the thirteenth tentacle."
Economist: Oh, my! Which House was that?
Tuib Mursuky: Some small Householding down near Konawa somewhere. But of course there are other problems with bringing the Farris mutation into a House. On the practical level, Farrises are pretty high maintenance with all their allergies and other medical problems, and it's hard to find adequate Donors for them. One Donor told me that her Sectuib had told her that if she had a Farris child she would have to spend most of her pregnancy at the father's House and leave her child there. She said that Sectuib asked her if she wanted to see him on his knees before the likes of Muryin Farris or the Sectuib in Sat'htine, begging for her life. He pointed out that Muryin herself had killed her mother in childbirth, despite attendance by one of the best channels in the world, her father Klyd.
Economist: That would put a damper on the most idealistic young woman's ambitions.
Tuib Mursuky: Of course, there's the political implications too. A Farris channel will out-sec the Sectuib and hijack the Sectuib line. Not every House wants to be run by Farrises. Note that Imil, Frihill and Zeor have been exchanging selyn workers with each other since time immemorial, but only Zeor is a Farris House. I don't think this is just because none of Klyd's ancestors could bear to trade any of Muryin's to Imil in exchange for a dozen talented fashion designers!
Economist: But you are convinced that the effect is real?
Tuib Mursuky: Oh, most definitely. I wrote to my sister at Varan and asked her what was happening in our own House, and she wrote back to tell me that if I would take my nose out of the math books, I'd have noticed that our second cousin, a Third Order Donor, had had two children by the QN-2 grandson of the former Sectuib in Imil. Not only was she going for the good channeling genes, but she's one of those people with fish belly white skin and she didn't want her kids to have to miss all the outdoor fun to avoid getting severe sunburns like she did. You know the Imil Sectuib line is famous for its dark skin, and our cousin's children's father is apparently almost as walnut-hull brown as his grandfather. Her kids are a nice healthy color and don't sunburn.
Economist: So she found what she wanted at the genetic cafeteria!
Tuib Mursuky: I guess she did.
Economist: It's been a pleasure talking to you, Tuib Mursuky. When I was assigned to report on this conference I thought I'd have a hard time making all those dry numbers interesting to our readers, but you've provided me with a lot of human interest material.
Tuib Mursuky: Uh, I hope you'll edit it so nobody gets offended. I am hoping for an academic appointment now that I've almost completed my graduate degree. I can trust you not to compromise that, can't I?
Economist: You don't have to worry about that, Tuib. Do you think your naztehr Holrith would be willing to talk to one of our business reporters about her data management system? I think our readers would be very interested.
Tuib Mursuky: Uh, sure. Just write to her care of the Householding. Or you can send her a telegram. We've got a telegraph station at the Householding now.