[ExI] 23andme again

spike spike at rainier66.com
Fri Jun 28 15:39:13 UTC 2013

>... On Behalf Of Mike Dougherty
Subject: Re: [ExI] 23andme again

On Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 3:52 PM, spike <spike at rainier66.com> wrote:
>>... It is clear to me now what I should have pondered a bit more to start
> 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... spike

>...Thank you for sharing your buyer's remorse.  I have no doubt my DNA may
have been extracted from the blood work I had for a cholesterol test.  At
least the nefarious & stealthy sampling isn't connected to nearly public
databases.  I'm sure the rest of my information profile is a business asset
too.  I'd be as willing to spend $99 to keep my DNA/id out of databases as
you were to add it into one (likely
several)... Mike

Buyer's remorse: well, it isn't quite that simple.  We can argue that
stealth DNA sampling  is available to various institutions.  23andMe is an
example, the only one I know of, where my DNA signature is available to me.
I do have partial buyer's remorse: I would likely do 23 again, but good
chance I wouldn't put my name on it, even a nickname, or identify myself in
any way.  One of the options with 23andMe is to set up an email address with
no personal identification (or even use someone else's where you have
access) then use a non-identifying payment system such as give an
open-minded friend 99 bucks and put the charge in her card.  So if you do it
correctly, 23andMe has no way of knowing who you are.  But theoretically,
that DNA can be used for profit: yours.  Do follow me please.

Early in my career I worked with an engineer who got his start in the late
1950s as the aerospace industry was cranking up in the Los Angeles area.  He
had a home in the burbs in the Anaheim area which was ideally located for
everything, good schools, Disneyland had opened up only a couple miles away,
the kids loved it, he could walk to his office when the weather was good,
which was most of the time in the LA basin.  In 1969, the aerospace industry
went into a slump, and his small company suffered some contract losses.  He
and a number of others were laid off.  Some left the area, others tried to
find other employment hoping the work would come back.  My colleague had two
elementary school aged kids and a stay-at-home wife who had no job skills or
experience.  He chose to sell real estate, but that failed after a few
months.  He was desperate to try to hold onto that house in Anaheim, so he
went into selling life insurance and catastrophic health insurance door to
door, along with three other guys from his engineering company.

The way this system worked in those days was they could sell the insurance
policies, then the policies would go up for resale to a group of
underwriters, who would study the characteristics of the client and make
bids for the policies in an auction.  The four engineering lads soon
discovered which policies were worth a lot of money and which were not.  The
underwriters would not share the formula they used to determine how much
they would bid for the policies, that being their proprietary info, but the
engineers, being mathematical types, figured it out, at least the big

Right about that time a law was passed which forbade insurance companies
from using race as a factor in insurance sales or pricing.  The insurance
majors were disallowed from what amounted to racial discrimination.  That
law created an industry, for suddenly the insurance majors could not legally
do what the door-to-door guys could: they could look at the potential
client, the house, the yard, the various big factors such as the presence or
absence of ash trays in the home, then make a determination: what kind of
insurance to offer, if any.  They went into neighborhoods and did
cherry-picking of the lowest risk people, who were paradoxically the highest
probability of keeping up insurance payments for the longest time.  They
resold the policies to underwriters.

Right after that anti-discrimination law passed in early 1970, those four
guys made money hand over fist because the value of the cherry-picked
policies went way up (the new law made insurance available to more people
but drove up the price of the policies for everyone.)  I was with this
colleague when he got his earnings statements for 1988, long after he had
returned to engineering.  His children had grown and left home, and his wife
had taken up a 9 to 5.  He told me of all this as he looked over his tax
statement, and mused that 1988 was the first time his combined earnings with
his wife exceeded what he made himself working part time in 1970, not even
compensating for inflation which was huge in the late 70s.

The point of that story: the availability of 23andMe and DNA sampling in
general is creating a huge opportunity in the insurance business.  Insurance
companies will find end runs around any conceivable law and figure out ways
to make money from knowing how to evaluate longevity vs certain DNA markers.
With the DNA in hand, the insurance companies need only two more pieces of
information, both of which can be easily determined: body mass index and
smoking.  They don't really even need to know smoking: just write the policy
to disqualify smokers specifically, and write it in such a way that the
policy does not demand an autopsy to determine if the corpse took up
smoking, which might have contributed to early death, in which case the
insurance company wouldn't pay.

Note to cryonicists: if you have a life insurance policy to pay for your
preservation, do verify that payment is not dependent on an autopsy, which
could spoil the purpose of your having to policy to start with.

The availability of DNA mapping will create enormous potential profit in the
insurance business.  If you have access to that info, you too can profit
enormously.  But you need to know how to use it.  Insurance companies will
go out of their way to prevent your learning how to use it.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list