San Francisco startup company Microbial Associates has a modest proposal for HR departments in the technology industry. Instead of trolling for Ivy League grads, why not just hire from the planet’s largest candidate pool — bacteria?

That’s the latest pitch from conceptual artist and “experimental philosopher” Jonathon Keats, whose ideas and previous projects tend to dance giddily on that increasingly blurry line between science and art.

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Microbial Associates isn’t an actual startup company, strictly speaking. It’s an art installation slated to launch October 21 at San Francisco’s Modernism Gallery. The event will feature the official certification of approximately 100 billion bacteria in areas including product development and finance. Microbial Associates bills itself as “the only corporate consultancy in the world fostering successful business relationships between humans and prokaryotes.”

Keats is only halfway kidding, and sees the project as a way to shed some light on what he sees as the tech industry’s slide into corporate monoculture. “Living in San Francisco, I’m constantly hearing that big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Apple can’t find enough good hires,” Keats told Discovery News. “Of course, the reason is that they’re all competing over the same small pool of Ivy League graduates — Stanford MBAs hiring Stanford MBAs.”

Companies truly committed to diversity in the workplace could learn a lot from bacteria, Keats said. “Microbes are an obvious corporate resource, and not only because they take up so little real estate .Far more important from the standpoint of a megacorporation or startup, bacteria are the most enterprising organisms around. They’ve been making a success of themselves for eons longer than Homo sapiens, and have shaped the world far more fundamentally than we’ve ever managed.”

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The Microbial Associates “offices” in the art gallery will feature Pyrex classrooms using chemotactic and galvanotactic techniques to train the bacteria, which can be hired for as little as one billionth of a cent per hour. “By modulating the flow of chemicals and electricity in vitro, we can demonstrate essential principles such as supply-and-demand and strategic planning,” Keats said.

A special launch event for Microbial Associates will be held in San Francisco on Tuesday, October 21st from 5:30 to 8:00 at Modernism Gallery, 685 Market St. Interested companies can also call ahead for individual consultation, available by appointment through December.

Credit: Jonathon Keats