Richard Powers in Sequence

The latest issue of GQ has a feature by novelist Richard Powers, who agreed to have his entire genome sequenced to a) learn more about the process and b) see if he’s at serious risk for any diseases. As for a), it’s clear that getting our entire genomes mapped is becoming cheaper and faster, privacy issues be damned. As for b), if you can tolerate GQ‘s clunky web site, which breaks out the story onto 21 pages, the whole thing is worth your time. A sample:

I ask [George Church, director of the Lipper Center for Computational Genetics at Harvard Medical School] if genomicists will ever be able to look at a person’s alleles and deduce something about his or her temperament. I have in mind the novelist’s territory, those mysterious components—warmth, spontaneity, humor—that, however uncomfortable it makes us to admit, seem to be somewhat to largely heritable. Will a genetic signature ever help us understand the origin of high-level behavioral traits? Church gazes off into the distance, with that look of pure experimental pleasure. “Well, I don’t think there’s a huge difference between high-level behavioral traits, low-level behavioral traits, and physical traits,” he says. “They’re all physical, in some sense.”

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