Food For Thought: Direct-To-Consumer Genetics

question mark“With the genome no less than with the Internet, information wants to be free, and I doubt that paternalistic measures can stifle the industry for long (but then, I have a libertarian temperament). For better or for worse, people will want to know about their genomes. The human mind is prone to essentialism — the intuition that living things house some hidden substance that gives them their form and determines their powers. Over the past century, this essence has become increasingly concrete. Growing out of the early, vague idea that traits are “in the blood,” the essence became identified with the abstractions discovered by Gregor Mendel called genes, and then with the iconic double helix of DNA. But DNA has long been an invisible molecule accessible only to a white-coated priesthood. Today, for the price of a flat-screen TV, people can read their essence as a printout detailing their very own A’s, C’s, T’s and G’s.

A firsthand familiarity with the code of life is bound to confront us with the emotional, moral and political baggage associated with the idea of our essential nature. People have long been familiar with tests for heritable diseases, and the use of genetics to trace ancestry — the new “Roots” — is becoming familiar as well. But we are only beginning to recognize that our genome also contains information about our temperaments and abilities. Affordable genotyping may offer new kinds of answers to the question “Who am I?” — to ruminations about our ancestry, our vulnerabilities, our character and our choices in life.”

-Dr. Steven Pinker, My Genome, My Self.  Read more here.  His genome is available for viewing as part of the Personal Genome Project here.

One Response to “Food For Thought: Direct-To-Consumer Genetics”

  1. onefatrunner says:

    Consumers if they are willing to pay for should be able to access their own genome without going through their doctors or insurance companies. However to some people knowing too much about themselves will adversely affect them. At this point individuals have to understand that we don’t know enough about genes to predict what exactly will happen to them; we can only give probabilities. However knowing one’s genome can help them in the long-run if they take the information they have gained and positively implement into their lives. However they can’t go overboard like Vincent’s parents did in Gattaca otherwise you limit yourself based on probabilities. Humanity itself is built off defying the odds and to limit the potential of oneself is not the point of learning one’s genome. In order for “consumers” to get the most out of learning their genome they have to understand that one’s genome does not define their lives. They are too many outside factors that are intangible. In the long run I feel that learning one’s genome though will lead to a more prosperous life if one can avoid coming to the conclusion that one’s genome defines their life.

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