[ExI] 23andme again

spike spike at rainier66.com
Thu Jun 27 19:52:09 UTC 2013

>... On Behalf Of Eugen Leitl
Subject: Re: [ExI] 23andme again

On Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 12:03:56PM -0600, Michael LaTorra wrote:

>>...DNA + 23andMe + NSA = WTF?!

>...You actually expected your DNA fingerprint wouldn't wind up in a
government database when you mailed in your buffer tube?
(It's okay, I always wear my bunnysuit in a clean room, and wipe down
anything anyway).  Eugen

Michael and Eugen, I do confess I never thought about it, but your comments
have given me an epiphany.  Do forgive me for hammering on this topic, for I
think I am at my posting limit for the day.  But this is important.  Let me
make a running start please.

Before the last election cycle, our current president's campaign started a
meme called "Life of Julia."


If you find references to Life of Julia now, most of them are parodies, but
the above is (I think) the original.  Note that there is never any mention
of a male partner anywhere in Julia's raising a child.  It is assumed from
the start that there is no man anywhere in the picture, without question.
The message in unmistakable for young women: don't worry about men being
there for you, just pick your favorite pair of testicles and get on with it;
Uncle Sam is here, we will take care of you.  The whole notion was wildly
popular with the young and fertile crowd, and was a hugely successful
campaign tool.

OK fine, but nowhere does it say what happens if Uncle is broke, or cannot
come up with the funds for all this.  It is easy enough to foresee: the fed
pushes the responsibilities back down to the state level.  States are much
freer to impose conditions on all those social services the fed promised to
the young mother Julia.  This is as it should be: states should have powers.
That is what states are for.  If you don't like your state, you have 49
others to choose from, no visa or paperwork required, just a moving van.

OK fine then, one of the things states are free to impose on young mothers
currently is that they supply any knowledge of the father of the children,
so that the state makes sure he is either destitute or is making the
appropriate child support payments.  Or making payments until he is
destitute.  Consequence: young mothers never know who those fathers are,
even if they have had only one partner ever.  The state doesn't require her
to know, only to reveal what she does know, and no repercussions if she
doesn't know.

Is it so hard to extrapolate that state governments will require a DNA
sample for any child it is supporting?  And is it so hard to foresee that
the state will hire people to take that DNA sample from a dependent child
and figure out whose testicles it came from?

Oh my, this could even be made into an online game.  An informal open online
group of competitors could be given a scenario, with a challenge as follows:

Hortense Hoerkheimer looks and acts a little different from her siblings,
but the parents get most annoyed at any suggestion of foul play.  Hortense
was born in Hackensack New Jersey; her mother's maiden name is Florence
Dunkelmeister-Smith.  This is Hortense's DNA profile.  First to find
Hortense's bio-father wins 500 dollars, GO!

In the spirit of competition, several hundred amateur internet sleuths go to
work, never worrying a minute about the ethical consequences of what they
are doing.  Game on!  We are carried away by the human instinct for loving
competition, any competition.  We accept that there are injuries to the
participants and sometimes to bystanders.  Governments can arrange such
contests, and put up the prize money, for anyone who applies for government
assistance in any way related to their children.  

So how long will it take for this to spread and grow like a phase change
throughout our society?  Even if 23andMe is shut down tomorrow and all its
records destroyed, there is already enough data out there in the public
domain to reveal every secret.  State governments are going to want their
money, collected from Julia's reproductive partner, regardless of the fact
that he is never mentioned in the federal government's vision of her life
and that of her child.

One of our posters has a tagline that reads "POWERS ARE NOT RIGHTS" but as
someone else pointed out, powers don't care if they are rights.  Even that
is an understatement: powers would rather not be rights, for rights carry
responsibilities.  Powers free from responsibility, which is why they always
lead to abuse and corruption.  Powers don't want to be rights, they prefer
being just powers.  

It is clear to me now what I should have pondered a bit more to start with:
23andMe empowers people and governments.  This can be either a good thing or
a bad thing, or both.  I am fascinated and appalled at the same time, which
is an odd emotion indeed.


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