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Large Corporations and Governments are the Real Clients for 23andMe

January 26, 2019 24 comments

Over the past 3-4 years, many of you must have seen tons of advertisements (both in traditional and new media) for DNA testing services such as 23andMe, ancestry.com and many others who offer seemingly reasonably priced DNA testing services to help you find your “real heritage” and other liberal-idiot friendly bullshit. These ads usually contain some actor, often of mixed-ancestry, touting how he or she was able to find his or her “real roots” by taking a “simple DNA test” to the accompaniment of new-agey music and other bullshit advertising tropes. So.. what is going on? Why are these sociopathic entities (corporations which offer DNA testing services) interested in helping you “find your real ancestral roots” at apparently reasonable prices.

Think about it, a bit. What is in it for them? Also, how can so many business which offer the same or very similar services able to afford their extensive advertising campaigns and offer relatively inexpensive tests- and all of this while ostensibly operating under operating principle of making ever-increasing profit. Doesn’t smell right, does it? Now ask yourself, which other corporations have a similar business model. Let us start by talking about other corporations which offer “free” services to their average user such as Google, FakeBook, Twitter etc. How do they make their profits. Well.. by collecting and selling data about their users to corporations who want to extract more money from them via advertising or otherwise scamming them or those who want to surveil them for purpose of abuse and discrimination- in other words, various governmental agencies.

And this brings us the next logical question- what exactly has the so-called “genomic revolution” of past 20 odd years achieved? What I am about to tell you is not going to please idiots who believe in the fairly tale of technological progress. Long story short, the “genomic revolution” of past two decades has been a costly and hilarious failure- as far as delivery of original promises is concerned. See.. I am old enough to remember what was being promised in very-late 1990s, when I was in my early 20s. At the time, human (and other organism) genome sequencing was touted as to the magic key which would help us identify genes for common diseases, protein targets for new drugs, targeted cancer therapy, develop super crops and all sorts of other futuristic nonsense- not unlike what you hear for “artificial intelligence” today.

Things did not turn out that way.. to put it mildly. After a few years in early-2000s, it became painfully obvious that finding genes for common diseases such as various types of Heart Disease, Diabetes, Alzheimers etc was a fool’s errand. Even worse, the results cast doubt on what many so-called “experts” claimed to know about those diseases. At best, genomics helped us better understand and sub-classify rare single-gene diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis etc. Even the area in which genomics is most often touted to have “improved” disease management, namely anti-cancer therapy, has not seen worthwhile improvement in outcome for majority of patients. And oh.. vast majority of drug targets identified by genomics have proven to be totally worthless.

The point I am trying to make is that entire fields such as genomics, bioinformatics etc have not delivered even a small fraction of what was confidently promised in 1999. And ya.. I think we are going to see something similar happen to current DNA-editing technologies such as CRISPR and other hyped scam such as Gene Drive etc. Turns out that getting something to work properly and reproducibly in non-model systems outside the laboratory is a real bitch. Here is another insight.. technologies that were not hyped during their initial and often rocky development such as the modern computers and the internet, monoclonal antibody drugs, better use of existing drugs etc usually have a much larger impact than those hawked as (next) ticket to riches and utopia.

So why would large corporations and governmental agencies be interested in genomic data? Isn’t it almost completely useless? They can’t be that stupid.. right? Well.. let us start with the “are they that stupid” part. The answer to that question, sadly, is a resounding YES. The leaders and underlings of large corporations, you see, have to pretend that they are doing something useful while robbing those corporations. The simplest way to give the appearance of real work and making important decisions involves them promoting any shiny scam which is currently making rounds of the corporate circuit. This is why for example, corporate executives are always touting the newest management techniques, employing consultants, promoting mindfulness, talking about corporate responsibility, “making the world a better place” and all that BS.

Also, the vast majority of people who end up in the leadership of, or other high positions, in large institutions are very likely to be bad at anything other than lying, kissing ass, backstabbing and self-promotion. Look at how easily a CONartist such as Elizabeth Holmes was able to extract money, validation and support out of allegedly experienced and seasoned top ex-bureaucrats and CEOs. It never ceases to amuse me when I hear libertarian idiots (usually white guys who also believe in other scams such as “IQ”) try to explain their hilariously reverential mental image of corporations and other supposedly “meritocratic” institutions. The situation inside large institutions (private and public) has far more in common with the movie ‘Office Space‘ than the toilet-paper dispenser known as ‘Atlas Shrugged’.

But what does this have to do with not using DNA testing services to find your “real roots” . Well.. think of these services as corporate- and government- funded fronts for collecting your genomic metadata. But what harm could come from providing DNA samples, especially since genomics has turned out be a very expensive damp squib. As it turns out- a lot! The pretense of knowledge has, historically, caused much more problems than real insight into problems. In case of genomic metadata, this would translate into denial of “healthcare” insurance coverage in the third-world country of USA. Then there is the certainty of discrimination when applying for jobs, getting loans and many other interactions with corporations. Remember that their decisions and “algorithms” don’t have to be based in reality as long as they have more lawyers and money than you.

The abuse of genomic metadata by Governments will take a different direction. Don’t be surprised if the DNA of non-violent “troublemakers” starts to appear at the site of various unrelated violent crimes. Or government bureaucrats come up with some cockamamie scheme of classifying people based on bullshit data analysis performed by using “deep learning” techniques. In case you are wondering, police in USA still regularly plant fake evidence to imprison and convict black men and governments in the past have based large-scale policies (eugenics, the final solution, residential redlining and most rule/ laws passed in USA before 1965) on bullshit beliefs such as “inherent” superiority of some racial groups over others. In summary, there is no upside to getting your DNA tested to find you “real roots” or “true ancestry”. There are however many downsides to letting corporations and governments collect your genomic metadata.

What do you think? Comments?