What seems small and insignificant today can change the world tomorrow.
Rsid: rs3094315, chromosome 1, position 742429, genotype GG. What is it? Right, this is a fragment from a genome, from my genome. I had it sequenced at a US company. Now it is stored in the cloud.
You register on a website and a few days later you get a tube with a liquid that you spit into. The tube is shaken, packaged and shipped back to the US. Supposedly anonymous, the genome is sequenced in a lab and then routed to the genetic analysis provider. So, when it comes to data protection, you can’t be one of the timid ones. You are warned, of course, that you might learn things that you might find difficult to deal with. Perhaps also completely surprisingly relations are discovered, or relations believed as secured could dissolve into nothing. Two weeks later, I received a username and password by mail and was able to surf through my genome on the website. What for?
Healthier with artificial intelligence?
Well, I now know all the predispositions for all known diseases – even those I had never heard of. Anyway, I know the genetic part of my predisposition, in percentage and compared to the population average. In addition, there is a confidence indicator for each specification. If a result is based on only one study, it receives only one asterisk. However, if the stated predisposition is based on many studies, five asterisks are emblazoned there. There are detailed explanations, cross-references, and source references for each potential condition. It all gave me a whole new, an IT-based understanding of my health. I now know, based on data and a certain “artificial intelligence”, what I should pay attention to and what I should avoid.
Power shift at the patient table
Armed with this background knowledge, I created a PDF from this profile and emailed it to my primary care physician, adding, “I’d love to talk to you about that.” Perhaps you can imagine how the balance of power has changed at my doctor’s patient table. Such experiences are in store for countless consulting professions in the future, when algorithms and machines not only have “Big Data”, but can also process the whole thing artificially intelligently and even creatively into factual advice. Hardly anyone today can quite imagine that the tax consultant, lawyer or marketing consultant will one day have to share the throne of the value-creating population with computers. History repeats itself. A few decades ago, many decision-makers did not have much confidence in information technology either.
Since numbers and letters are easily comparable, the database of genomes identifies such people around the globe who have major parts of my genome in common with me. I am offered a list of my relatives. It’ll say, mutatis mutandis, “This is your ninth cousin, he lives in Winnipeg, do you want to network with him?” The whole thing is reminiscent of a kind of kinship-based Facebook. I have spoken and written with some of them. Very exciting. We also exchanged photos. Well, not with the ninth cousin, with common ancestors over 200 years ago, it is less interesting. If I wanted to, I could discuss with my “new” relatives how they deal with genetic quirks and their allergy-compatible dietary approach, and have the best specialists in the world recommended to me.
Genetics could prevent wars
From my name, people know that my roots are in the Balkans. The peoples there practically all have the same attitude: we are the good guys, the others are the bad guys, we have always won in war and lost in peace. I took a look at which of these peoples I am related to. The result is: with all! Presumably, this is true for almost all people in the Balkans. I believe that we would not have 150,000 dead in the last Balkan wars if people were more aware of this fact.
A seed of new markets
What seems small and insignificant today, like this simple genetic analysis opportunity, can change the world tomorrow. Little noticed by the public, a scientific innovation has become marketable. Despite all the justified admonitions and doubts, this innovation in personal genome sequencing, which at first glance seems small, opens up fascinating and sometimes frightening possibilities. If the opportunities are the light, the risks are the shadow. Opportunities identified early always carry the greatest risks. The risk is simply the price of participating in the emerging markets of the future.
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Have a bright future!