The Washington Times - October 20, 2008, 12:19PM

It’s a new age — or it soon will be.

A group of 10 volunteers has elected to make their genetic information available to the public.


The purpose of this exercise is to speed up medical research without regard to concerns about privacy. The more genetic information researchers have about certain diseases, the faster they can develop cures, or so the logic goes.

Businesses and health insurers already are barred from discriminating against people based on their genetic profile, so there aren’t any problems foreseen there. (Prosecutor: “Did you know Mr. Simmons was a narcoleptic before you hired him as a long-distance truck driver?” Defendant: “Oh, yes. But we aren’t allowed to discriminate. And he was qualified in every other way. He had a license.”)

But it does make one wonder what would happen if all of our genetic data were in the public domain.

People like to compare themselves to one another and compete with each other. The same would happen would genetic information.

Casual conversations would turn medical. (“So, Bill, I see you have a 13 percent likelihood of hyperthyroidism. I have only a 7 percent likelihood. Pretty good, huh? What are you going to do with that stapler?”)

Couples would use the information against each other in arguments. (She: “I never should have married a man with a genetic predisposition for watching sports 24 hours a day!” He: “Yeah? Well, maybe if I married a woman who has the cooking gene, we’d both be happy!)

Pickup lines would change. (Today: “What’s your favorite band?” Tomorrow: “What’s your favorite genome?”)

Dating sites would update their advertising pitches: (“At, we guarantee to find you someone so compatible to your genome profile, you’ll swear that you are related.”)

TV executives would develop new game shows. (Question: “This celebrity has a predisposition for excessive alcohol consumption, is allergic to hard work, tests low in most measures of general aptitudes and has a genetic marker for narcissism. Who is it?” Contestant: “Can you be more specific?”)

And a reality TV show based on genetic information? I can’t imagine it. (“Next on ‘Chromosome Island,’ the two contestants most likely to experience vertigo and squeamishness will battle each other with chainsaws on the high wire. After these commercial messages.”)