A look at a 'total genomic information' world

Razib Khan has an essay out in National Review drawing attention to some current trends in genomic technology and some of their implications: “Dime-store genomics”.

The 2010s was the decade when “consumer genomics” became a term that reflected something in reality. The 2020s have the potential to be the decade when genomics becomes so ordinary and ubiquitous as to be unworthy of mention or note. We will be entering the “total genomic information” world.

Standing at the intersection of many streets, the view down some of them is obvious. Yes, many people have genealogical surprises in store, and there will be no ducking the subject. Old crime scene evidence will take on new meaning.

Still, the alleys and side-streets have more action, and may be less apparent. We live in a world where we are tracked everywhere, every click, and our phones are listening. The resulting data have no use to most of us, but they are already shaping our perceptual worlds because of the immense money to be made on the tiny margins of our attention.

Hardly any of the information in our genomes is actionable to us as individuals. The genetic basis of most traits is distributed across hundreds and hundreds of genes, each with a miniscule effect. Prediction of traits on an individual basis is so imprecise that simply looking at family members does a better job for most traits.

The question is what money is to be made on the tiny margins of genomic information across millions of people.