“Know thyself,” advised the ancient Greek oracle at Delphi, whose Delphic prophecies sometimes misled those seeking guidance and destroyed them.
Today, self-knowledge comes in a box from companies such as Ancestry.com or 23andMe. Send them a bit of saliva from swabbing the inside of your cheek, and they will discern from your DNA, your genetic blueprint, your ancestral past and – coming soon – your health future.
I received such a test kit as an early holiday gift, but thus far I have not decided whether to bare my personal DNA to this modern oracle. Peter J. Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, recently offered five reasons not to let curiosity lure us into taking such tests:
1. Test results are often inaccurate. Such tests can be fairly good at revealing someone’s ethnic lineage, but they can be “notoriously unreliable” at giving accurate results about whether someone has a “dangerous genetic mutation.”
Our genes are remarkably complex, especially when influenced by the transformative factors of epigenetics. One scientist discovered a gene mutation associated with dying from heart attack around age 40. He then, at age 40, discovered that his own DNA carried this mutation. He spent a year worrying himself almost to death before colleagues told him his prediction was right – but only when this mutation was accompanied by two other mutations, neither of which his DNA had.
2. Hackers can rob commercial databases even more easily than they can loot bank accounts. Thieves can steal your valuable DNA information – which, unlike a credit card number or password, can never be changed.
3. Your DNA information could be sold to the highest bidder by companies that have lucrative data-sharing contracts with pharmaceutical giants. “23andMe has a $300 million deal with GlaxoSmithKline,” writes Pitts, “And the biggest buyer of Ancestry’s data is Calico Life Sciences, a biotech company bankrolled by Silicon Valley billionaires.”
4. Your genetic information is not anonymous, warns Pitts. Even though it would be shared without your name attached, it carries enough information to make figuring out who you are potentially easy.
5. Your genetic data can be used against you. Insurance companies might charge you much more if your genes pointed to the risk of death or illness at a young age. A potential employer might reject hiring you for the same reason.
With Harvard University discriminating against Asian-American student applicants, could DNA be used to give reality to the artificial construct we call “race” in school admission and job hiring quotas? (A concocted DNA identity could replace today’s tendency to let people choose their own racial, gender, and other identity factors.)
Big Brother also wants your genes, according to Investor’s Business Daily. The new “All of Us” research program at the National Institutes of Health is building a data bank of DNA from more than a million Americans.
And once your DNA is data-banked – whether by a private corporation or government – it becomes simple for law enforcement and spy agencies to acquire your genetic blueprint. Such agencies have in recent years become politicized and might use such data in partisan ways.
In the movie “Minority Report,” Delphic psychics identified, and police arrested, those guilty of committing “future crime” that had not yet happened.
What happens when the oracles of DNA declare that certain mutations mark those likely to become mentally unstable and commit violent crimes in the future? Would such people be denied their freedom, or their right to keep and bear arms?
Police in some cities already have tried to obtain DNA samples from those stopped for crimes as minor as speeding – demanding DNA not from those convicted of a crime, but merely from those charged.
It may soon become routine to take a DNA sample from every baby at birth, to remain part of its lifelong record. Thus Baby Johnny’s DNA could be detected at the scene of a crime 50 years from now. Such criminals would be more easily identified and jailed.
Identifying “anti-social” DNA mutations that prompt people to question authority and seek freedom might give future Progressive governments, like China’s, the power to spot, track, and eliminate future rebels like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.
Approximately 12 million Americans have thus far spent more than $99 million on such DNA tests. That spending is expected to rise to $310 million in 2022.
The sale price of such testing has lately fallen by half, to around $50. But soon such tests might be virtually free, and soon thereafter they will be made mandatory.
Lowell Ponte is a former Reader’s Digest Roving Editor. His latest book co-authored with Craig R. Smith, “Money, Morality & the Machine,” reveals how bad money drives good morals out of society and how you can protect your family from the future of “Star Trekonomics.” For a free, postpaid copy, call toll-free 800-630-1492.