[ExI] moral guidance please: was Anders on io9

spike spike66 at att.net
Sat Feb 8 01:35:53 UTC 2014



>… On Behalf Of Anders Sandberg

>…I like a smart audience…  Anders



Me too, and I like an ethically advanced audience.  I need some guidance on a sin I haven’t committed yet, but oh my, the temptation is overwhelming me.


A few months ago I posted a question about what I should do when a cousin on 23andMe contacted me and asked me about some family history information which she was seeking.  She didn’t know who her father was, but with only a name, Facebook, classmates.com, Spokeo, and her genetic profile, I was able to figure it out very easily in less than an hour.  But then I didn’t know what to do, recognizing I had the potential to do harm just by telling what I found.  So I kinda punted on it.  I don’t know how that ever worked out, for I didn’t keep in contact, intentionally.  But I did figure out one of my mother’s uncles was failing to keep his pants zipped while he was in boot camp in the early days of WW2.  Two decades later, his illegitimate son grew up and fathered a son who grew up and is the undocumented father of this young lady.  I didn’t out her father, but I explained how the young lady could find the info herself.  I still don’t know if I did the right thing.


OK then.


You have heard of Candid Camera from the old days, and the more modern, edgier version of the same idea, Punk’d.  They play some pretty cruel gags, ja?  Hilarious, but they are mean bahstids at times.


I thought of a gag that would be so funny, I crack me up.  But it is on the ragged edge of the old ethical cliff.  Here’s the nefarious plan:


I get a female volunteer who is not on 23andMe and has no interest in that, nor any plans to ever study it.  I get a spit kit, register it anonymously, collect a sample from her.  Once she has spit into the tube, the volunteer is done, and I am ready to perpetrate my hilariously evil deed.


Eight to ten weeks later, I get a list of 1000 of her genetically closest cousins who have also done 23andMe.  They don’t know who she is, since the kit was registered anonymously.  To each of the 1000 cousins, I send the following post in 23mail:


Dear cousin,


Perhaps you can help me.  My name is Prudence Prufrock Throckmorton, daughter of Purity Prufrock Throckmorton and Percival Poindexter Throckmorton VI, who is the son of Sir Percival Poindexter Throckmorton V.  Our lineage is well documented for centuries, all the way back to the barbarian savages.  


I am most puzzled by my 23andMe results.  About half the cousins I find there are easy to explain using my extensive professionally-researched pedigree.  I am finding all the Prufrock relatives easily.  But the Throckmorton cousins appear to be missing, all of them.  About half of the cousins, including you, are completely mysterious to me, with no apparent connection to the family.  Even more mysterious, most of the unexplainable cousins are from the USA, rather than right here around Kensington&Chelsea, where all my family resided for generations.  


Perhaps you can help solve this puzzling mystery.  I am so very much at a loss for any explanation, mystified.  






If we were to write one that is that over-the-top, so cluelessly blue-blood-ish, many if not most of the participants would likely realize they are being had.  But some might fall for it.  If so, we could classify the responses: 


-          Some genuinely nice cousins who want to help but don’t want to tell Prudence that her she needs to have a little chat with her mother.

-          On the other end of the spectrum some who almost seem to delight in inflicting harm, making comments such as “Perhaps your mother’s nickname should be Impurity.”

-          Those who get it and have a sense of humor, responding with:  Good one, cuz, you are a riot, wish I had thought of it heeeeeheheheheheheeeeee… 

-          Punters, who would say things like “Well, this is a new technology… Doesn’t always work right…Perhaps the guy who handled the sample in Mountain View California sneezed right when he opened the test tube and two different DNA strands were mixed… etc.”

-          Rope givers, which is almost what I was with the young lady who contacted me.  I didn’t give her the information on her father, but I gave her the techniques to dig out the information on her own if she really wanted it.  I wouldn’t hang her myself, but I would give her the rope to hang herself if she really wanted to do it.

-          The truly clueless crowd who would have no idea, but wish her well

-          The conspiracy crowd, who might suggest it was all part of a government plot to blackmail her family into cooperation

-          There might be phonies who try to schmooze up to someone who apparently has a ton of pounds, perhaps hoping for gifts and favors, etc.

-          There might be male respondents who schmooze up for the usual reason.  We could perhaps enhance that effect, baiting the hook with a photo of that drop-dead gorgeous Obama-Care website woman on the profile page.  Hell even I might fall for that one, just in case it is genuine, and I’m not even a lonely heart.  (Note to women: testosterone makes us stupid.)


What other categories could we think of?  Although the cousins have no way of finding out who the volunteer spitter is, the volunteer could figure out who most of the respondents are, so she could find out who are the nice cousins, who are the mean bahstids, who are the punters, the rope-givers, the clueless, the schmoozers, the hornies, etc.


And if we intend to let the victims in on the gag afterwards, would that be a sin?  And if so, would it be funny enough to be worth satan getting my soul?  I laugh just thinking of how wickedly funny it could be.  I consider myself heat tolerant enough to endure an eternity of hell for it.


Ethical hipsters, guidance please?








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