Wednesday, December 18, 2013

More 23 and Me

The US Federal Drug Administration has greatly restricted the activities of the genetic testing corporation, 23andMe. Via CIP,  what Scott Aaronson said:

Among medical experts, a common attitude seems to be something like this: sure, getting access to your own genetic data is harmless fun, as long as you’re an overeducated nerd who just wants to satisfy his or her intellectual curiosity (or perhaps narcissism).  But 23andMe crossed a crucial line when it started marketing its service to the hoi polloi, as something that could genuinely tell them about health risks.  Most people don’t understand probability, and are incapable of parsing “based on certain gene variants we found, your chances of developing diabetes are about 6 times higher than the baseline” as anything other than “you will develop diabetes.”  Nor, just as worryingly, are they able to parse “your chances are lower than the baseline” as anything other than “you won’t develop diabetes.”
I understand this argument.  Nevertheless, I find it completely inconsistent with a free society.

Read the comments too.