New Delhi: What if someone told you that they could give your child’s future career a boost by subjecting them to a DNA test? It may sound bizarre, but that’s exactly what Genleap, a new edtech startup, is claiming it can do, with a little help from psychometric tests and the “science” of astrology too.
Experts have panned the startup’s claims as “unscientific”, flagging the “devastating” effects the exercise in question can have on children. Genetics, they say, have a big role in deciding a lot of things, but “cannot tell us with any certainty how our lives will play out”.
Even so, Genleap, which describes itself as the “world’s first DNA based self-discovery, upskilling and employability platform”, claims its work is backed by “scientific evidence and research”.
The company said Tuesday that it has already raised Rs 60 crore from marquee investors in its seed round.
Speaking to ThePrint, Genleap co-founder and CEO Nimish Gupta said the platform aims to not only predict career choices for children, but also help adults upgrade their careers.
“The genomics will give a person’s inner strength — what they are capable of, psychometric analysis will give you their state of mind, and cognitive astromancy will take into account stellar calculations to predict the correct career choices for a child or an adult,” Gupta added.
A Rs 10,000 ‘evaluation’ for career success
After enrolling on the platform, users will undergo three types of evaluation. First, a saliva sample will be taken for DNA extraction. This will be followed by psychometric testing and astrological calculations based on one’s date and time of birth. On the basis of these three data points, the platform will come up with the top 10 career choices for the child or adult.
“The idea is to identify the competence, interest, and potential of a person in the most effective manner. Most of the time people are confused about their career choices and land up in the wrong profession, often because of pressure from friends or family. With this platform, we hope to conduct a 360-degree evaluation of a person’s personality,” Gupta said.
Genleap will be launched for the public in January 2022 and the programme will cost consumers Rs 10,000 initially, Gupta told ThePrint.
A statement released by the startup claimed that some prominent educational institutions are looking forward to utilising Genleap.
Experts question validity of claims
Experts in the fields of genomics and psychology are more than sceptical about the startup’s assertions and suggest that people should exercise due caution before signing up.
“A lot of psychometric tests can be used as statistical markers within a group but it’s not a good basis for making predictions about future potential,” Anusnigdha, an assistant professor of psychology at the Andhra Pradesh-based Krea University, told ThePrint.
“If used correctly, psychometrics can be helpful. But used in this broad way, the claims that the company is making are unscientific. The effects can be devastating on the child depending on how old they are.”
According to her, the way the company has described its capabilities brings to mind the generic hit-or-miss predictions of astrology — which is a part of the Genleap package. It is worth noting here that the scientific community generally regards astrology as a pseudoscience despite the widespread belief in it.
About the DNA testing, Anusnigdha said that genetic determinism — the idea that genes determine our destiny above and beyond environmental and cultural factors — is reminiscent of eugenics and inherently racist.
A genetics researcher at a leading government institute, who did not wish to be identified, said that there is limited scientific basis for making predictions based on genetics. Our genome, which is the sum total of our genetic material, does play a role in everything from our physical appearance, to behavioural traits, to the diseases we develop, but it cannot tell us with any certainty how our lives will play out.
The researcher explained that “heritability” is a parameter that measures how differences in our genes account for differences in our traits. “Most traits have low heritability, which is why genes cannot reliably predict our predispositions and actions,” the researcher said.
Asked about the experts’ misgivings, Genleap co-founder Nimish Gupta insisted that the company’s claims were based on “scientific evidence and research”.
“We rely on three sciences to cross-validate the personality, behaviour, and aptitudes of a person. Genomics gives inborn traits, psychometrics gives acquired strengths, and astromancy gives natal strengths. There is enough scientific evidence and research that backs the work that we are doing and this is an evolving area.”
(Edited by Asavari Singh)