23andMe personal DNA analysis service review (Part 1)

I got myself a genotyping kit from 23andMe for my birthday. Part of my commitment to stop buying physical “stuff”, and instead buy intangible/digital gifts. I thought it would be fun and possibly useful. I mentioned this to my friend Steven who convinced me to share my experience on my blog.

First of all, I’d like to say that the packaging is very good. Almost Apple-ish. These genotyping kits make excellent gifts for friends and family members ($999 per kit though). You can even ship them internationally and have them be used by non-U.S. residents.

I have a few pictures below but the most interesting part to me was to read the Consent and Legal Agreement & Waiver. It was the first time I’ve read one in a long time, and this one contained unusual and interesting comments:

You may learn information about yourself that you do not anticipate. This information may evoke strong emotions and has the potential to alter your life and worldview. You may discover things about yourself that trouble you and that you may not have the ability to control or change (e.g. your father is not genetically your father, surprising facts related to your ancestry, or that someone with your genotype may have a higher than average chance of developing a specific condition or disease. These outcomes may have social, legal, or economic implications

and a little further down:

Genetic data you share with others could be used against your interests. You should be careful about sharing your genetic information with others. Currently, very few businesses or insurance companies request genetic information, but this could change in the future. If an employer or insurance company obtained your genetic information through your sharing of it or by legally binding requirements, they could use your genetic data to deny your employment or coverage. Some but not all jurisdictions have laws that protect individuals from this kind of conduct.

Anyway, here are the pictures:
Kit, documents and original shipping box

The saliva container

I’m going to fill the container up this WE and in 4-6 weeks I will get my results and will  post Part 2 of this post. Stay tuned!

Thoughts on some 24C3 sessions

24C3 is the 24th Chaos Communication Congress, a 4-day conference I got to know reading this post at the always awesome We make money not art. All sessions were videotaped and are available to download.

Things are changing faster than we can die I can count every star in the heavens above but I have no heart I can't fall in love…

I absolutely recommend the presentation given by Drew Endy on DNA programming. In a nutshell, Drew views DNA as an evolved program in some poorly documented machine language and shares his experience reverse-engineering this program, synthesizing DNA and uploading it to a cell i.e. “hacking biology”.

The session Paparazzi – The free autopilot is about how anyone can build a cheap version of the $1M UAV/drones monitoring everyone of us 24/7. Quite interesting for anyone with an interest in aviation. The cool thing is that the drone is literally remotely controlled via an open source software you can find here. You can assign a flight plan to the drone and it will follow it. The platform is packed with sensors that allow remote control and capture of data (videos, pictures). I hope these guys talk with the OpenStreetMap people: how could would it be to use this platform to capture views from the sky at a much higher resolution than satellites can provide.

I also watched the session Hacking ideologies, part 2: Open Source, a capitalist movement. There were a few shocking comments in there, but I was glad to get a refresher on the nature of capitalism from the very sharp Dmytri Kleiner:

“Capitalism is not so much about creating money or wealth. What creates wealth is work. Capitalism is about making money from other’s people work. It isn’t about money creation but about money extraction. […] The kind of information that capitalism is interested about is information that increased productive capacity. More productivity is more money to extract. The kind of information that capitalism is not interested about is information that is not about increased productivity or information that questions the system or information about the nature of capitalism. […] P2P offers no point of mediation where value can be captured, but at the same time p2p has to be financed by some wealth accumulation.”

This last point particularly resonated with me since I’m a big believer of decentralized social networks. I’m curious to see how a promising project like the DiSo project will resolve this chicken/egg problem: to finance a decentralized system, you need accumulated wealth, but to attract accumulated wealth you need a point of mediation where you can extract value, which you don’t have in a decentralized system.

One way may simply be some form of public funding. After all, if we didn’t have ARPA, we would probably all be surfing AOLNet or MSNNet these days.

Anyway, this conference is clearly politically incorrect in many ways but is awesome and I recommend everyone to watch some of these sessions!