So it goes
So it goes
So it goes
So it goes
But where it’s goin’ no one knows.
– And So It Goes by Nick Lowe (1976)
Nearly ten years ago I wrote a DNA Exchange piece, “GeeKnowType – The Unique Gene Boutique,” an absurdist skewering of some of the DNA test offerings of direct-to-consumer labs. My online emporium offered imaginary testing for characteristics such as the clearly hereditary but mirror-obvious like eye color as well as traits that would be best described as “genetic,” such as sexual preference. I used dark humor to illustrate important points about the misuse and misunderstanding of genetic information. By the way, I know that nowadays we are supposed to call it “consumer-initiated testing” but it’s hard decide who really initiates testing when consumers are bombarded with over-hyped targeted advertising based on their viewing history or after watching disarmingly charming television commercials filled with story-telling about the power of genetic testing. “Personal, powerful, and perfectly priced,” as one website describes it. And if you believe that advertising does not influence your spending choices, well then that’s just proof of how well it works. Any con man will tell you that the easiest people to con are those who believe they are too clever to be duped.
Alas, I must report that fact has now robbed my fiction of its falsehood. All the absurd tests, or reasonable facsimiles of them, that I conjured up at the beginning of the decade are now commercially available at the end of the decade. Below I’ve reproduced part of my original posting along with links to vendors that now offer a real version of my imaginary tests.
M-eye Color©: Everyone thinks your eyes are brown, but you swear they are hazel. Who’s right? Only your eye color genes know for sure.
Update: Eye color is now often included as part of a package, so you really don’t have much choice about whether you actually want the information. And this “harmless” test has entered the creepy realm – preimplantation genetic testing can be used to choose an embryo that has the most desirable eye color. God help us.
SwitchHitter©: Am I right-handed or left-handed? Do I have situs inversus or just a poor sense of direction? With the powerful awareness of your genetic handedness, your cilia will always beat in the right direction.
Update: Not offered directly by vendors that I am aware of, but SNPs for handedness are available and could potentially be accessed by downloading raw DNA results to a third party interpreter.
MyGeneColor©: What is your favorite color? Cerulean? Or is it really a cool shade of pinky-purple? Busy people don’t have time to recall these details. No worry – MyGeneColor will find out for you. You will never again be at a loss, whether you are painting your walls or painting your nails.
Update: This site makes the claim, among others, that DNA ancestry testing indicated that “African heritage generated rich, warm color palettes.” An extraordinarily genetically and culturally complex continent reduced to a few stereotypical hues. Oy.
GeneSequins©: How chic is your fashion sense? The Human Genome Project has proven that your Hip Quotient is genetically determined. We recommend that GeneSequins be run along with our RightWeigh and MyGeneColor products to give you a complete picture of your personal style.
Update: See the same site mentioned in above discussion about color preferences. British ancestry or an aptitude for math (!) suggested a preference for a plaid print crossed with geometric lines. Or read about it in the International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology.
RightWeigh©: Your scale says you are overweight, but you know you cannot weigh that much. In fact, research has shown that scales tell us more about our parentage than our eating habits. With your true genetic weight, you will no longer be a slave to unreliable scales that invariably add pounds to your real weight. Say good riddance to diet and exercise!
Update: You can choose between a more “authoritative” test from a reputable lab or from your basic shop-for-it-all site. Or even discover your “true” waist size. There’s clearly something unscientific about how clothing manufacturers are measuring so-called slim waists.
WhichWay©: Not sure if your sexual preference runs to men, women, or both? Ask your genes and they will tell.
Update: As thoughtfully critiqued on The DNA Exchange by genetic counselor Austin McKittrick, there’s an app for that, called 122 Shades of Gray.
WellRead©: How do you know which authors you like? More importantly, which ones do you actually understand? Should you be reading The New Yorker or People, James Bond or James Joyce? Let us read your genes so you can read genetically appropriate literature – and save money on unnecessary magazine subscriptions.
Update: Okay, not exactly the same thing but this site claims it is possible to predict your genetic “word reading ability.”
Now don’t misread me, unless of course you have “inferior” word reading ability. It’s not that I am a stuck-in-the-2oth-century old school genetic counselor who thinks that DTC testing is the Eleventh Plague to scourge mankind (well, to be honest, most of the time I’m not that curmudgeonly). DTC offers the potential for a wide range of people who could benefit from genetic testing that has real clinical value. But when all tests, regardless of validity, carry the imprimatur of DNA, how are consumers supposed to distinguish the sensible from the nonsense?
In a parting note, less than 2 years ago I posted another satirical piece called “Sour Grapes: A Tragicomic Dystopia in The Consumer Genomics Counseling Space,” about an imaginary near future in which virtual home assistants arrange genomic testing and then offer to sell consumer and medical products based on DNA analysis. Well, sad to say, in a Moore’s Law type of “progress,” the gap between my predictions and their actualization has shortened to less than 2 years. 23Mofang, a Chinese DTC company, now offers specific skin care products based on a genetic predilection to saggy skin. I am starting to understand why seers and prophets are often portrayed as tragically shunned characters. I think I am going to get out of the predictive satire business.
5 responses to “Sometimes I Wish I Wasn’t Right, Especially When I Am Being Ridiculous”
Once again, you nailed it.
Hilarious, Bob, but prophetically scary
Sounds like you are a perfect fit for a product development role actually 😉
Made my day. Please, if you ever retire keep the blog going. One of the few things that makes me smile these days.
I almost had my coffee end up on my computer monitor I was laughing so hard. I forgot about that post. Hilarious Bob. Please keep blogging. This made me think of someone else with satire regret; an NPR piece recently featured a group of writers who set out to write the worst let’s just call it a “novel” in history and it ended up being a best seller. One of the authors was simply disappointed in America, he thought that Americans were better than that, that they shouldn’t be fooled. Funny enough, some of the best “news” today comes from late night comedians and Saturday Night Live is less funny because our reality is so absurd.
In a capitalist society, people love to be fooled! Who wants to work hard when the easy button costs only $49.99 and comes with free shipping. We will always have remedies and potions and lotions to cure things; why should genetic information as a “product” be any different ? Buyer beware. One of my favorite Andy Griffith episodes is the one where Aunt Bea buys some “medicine” (aka ETOH) from a nice visitor offering to cure all ailments, and an interesting choir practice was had in Mayberry that day. But the odd thing is, Aunt Bea never really looked that happy again. Perhaps Andy should not have made the salesman leave town.
So don’t despair Bob, consumers will be perfectly happy to have their RightWeigh© and eat it too!