We are living in the DNAge

DNA, genetics and the human genome are everywhere: from CSI style TV dramas, DNA based beauty products and the ‘Its your baby’ finger point of Jeremy Kyle, to Nano-Gene-Tech features in WIRED magazine and Nicole Kidman’s Photograph 51 on the London stage.

We’ve got DNA solving the local regicide history puzzle of Richard III’s final resting place from some bones in a Leicester car park. And of course we have the paradigm shifting medical breakthroughs around the breast cancer gene BRCA and the controversial gene editing science of CRISPR filling our news feeds.

And in our hyper-connected digital world, where we can benefit from connecting everything from our heart rate and skin temperature to step count and calories to a smart phone app and our social network, just imagine what we can do with the precious data of our DNA.

Our ability to accelerate and multiply how we can unlock and use the highly personal data in our genome to beneficial effect, both individually and collectively, could change the face of health care for ever, going from the one size-fits-all ‘cure it when it happens’ model we have now to one providing a highly personalised preventative health care culture and service. The impact could be remarkable and far-reaching.

But not everyone is quite so convinced by this brave new world filled with wonderful self-actualizing people where everything is connected and everything is shared. And that got us to thinking:

Given that you are the generation that will ultimately embrace or reject the idea of an ‘open data shared everything’ world – and more importantly be the ones who will inherit the health service we shape and engineer now, we wanted to know what you think.

And in the spirit of the Yes/No, Stay/Leave, Love/Hate times we live in, we asked a couple of our VERGE writers to pick a ‘side’.

Are you FOR or AGAINST the idea of a hyper connected and wholly integrated world where we can both control and reap the rewards of opening ourselves and our most precious DNA data up to everyone from the health service to pharmaceutical companies to big brands with a highly personalised offer to sell.

Check out what our two VERGE Voices had to say: and then we’d really like to know what YOU think

Is it a #DNageYES  or #DNAgeNO for you?

Tweet your take on this using either the #DNAgeYES or #DNAgeNO hashtags.

Even better – either find our VERGE VOICE crew at London Campus or Manchester Campus or sign up for one of our DNAge Yes/No debates.


Laura Fitzpatrick, 21,

Yes, I believe the DNAge will mostly bring life changing benefits to most everyone it touches if we embrace it in a positive and respectful way.

Knowing about genomes will better the NHS, seemingly placing it at the forefront of the world’s healthcare, in which all NHS patients will benefit vastly from genomic medicine as part of routine care. But that’s not the point. As much as mainstream media would like us all to believe, it’s not all about the NHS at this point: It shouldn’t just be about how genome knowledge can be institutionalised, it can unlock more than just a better healthcare system – it’s about how it can revolutionise our lives.

Take the example of an unknown or undiagnosed condition, and the everyday battle to find out what’s going on in your body. Usually it goes like this – you might have a condition, you get a test, and you know whether or not you have it. But if it’s undiagnosed and unknown, it can feel like being a little kid lost in the supermarket. The narrative’s taken a turn now though because with your genome, it’s possible to unlock the keys of any genetic condition, where you’re instantly exposed to more support.

And the support comes from the genetic information too, where treatment’s involved. As over 80% of rare diseases have a genetic cause, a stronger knowledge, through genome collection, will undoubtedly aid in developing new treatments (and knowing which existing ones will be most successful) for those who, previously, may not have had many options.

But suppose someone in a lab somewhere has all your genetic data, you’re probably questioning privacy – but your mind should be at ease.Your data would be de-identified so even the slightest tell tale of who you are is stripped away. And what’s more, with hundreds of thousands of genomes, you’re not alone.


Ben Foreman, 20yrs

The DNAger’s argument for submitting our DNA to Scientists in a bid to increase human understanding of health and medicine is an unsettling one.

We live in a world that most of us can only dream of understanding: A world of technology beyond the wildest dreams of even our parents, a brilliant but often scary world.

The world of DNA perfectly epitomizes this new world. The concept is still relatively new to science, but even general understanding is limited beyond the white walls of research clinics and laboratories – Joe Bloggs may have heard of DNA but do they get the impact and turbulence opening it up might bring. But Joe knows does know his DNA is special, unique, precious.

The combination of our miniscule understanding of DNA, and the daunting world in which we all live is a terrifying one.

When DNA becomes separated from the human beings to whom it belongs, de-personalized, commoditized, are we not in danger of allowing the scientists to do with DNA what the financial instrument makers did when they separated mortgage debt from the houses and people to which they belonged in the pursuit of creating  debt bundles?

Can we see a new generation of identity fraud that transcends money and reaches new heights of privacy invasion, that taps in to the deepest, most private and personal parts of our identity?

Are we opening ourselves up to exploration and discovery or exploitation?

Being able to access and manipulate our inner the internal workings of our entire bodies?

Open the door to DNA usage, even just for the sole use of health care, and you’re opening up a whole new level of personal vulnerability and potential data abuses.

Surely this isn’t a “brave new world”, but a worrying one.


Is it a #DNageYES  or #DNAgeNO for you?

Tweet your take on this using either the #DNAgeYES or #DNAgeNO hashtags.

Even better – either find our VERGE VOICE crew at London Campus or Manchester Campus or sign up for one of our DNAge Yes/No debates.

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