Personal Genome Project
October 20, 2008 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Volunteers from the general public working together with researchers to advance personal genomics. 10 volunteers, among them noted author and cognitive psychologist Stephen Pinker, have open sourced (so to speak) their genetic information.

The belief is that current privacy issues surrounding genetic information is leading to a decline in research. With a hoped for 100,000 participants the idea is to give a boost to medical research involving the human genome. Pinker and the 9 other volunteers have posted up their medical history, and will add information such as tastes and preferences, ethnic backgrounds. Future volunteers will do the same, along with photographs, allergies- even television habits.

Want to join?
posted by thatbrunette (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was so going to make a post on this, but I was going to wait until some of the data was available. I thought that was supposed to happen today.
posted by grouse at 6:33 PM on October 20, 2008

I have subscribed to their newsletter.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:37 PM on October 20, 2008

This is a big blow to the Intelligent Design argument. An intelligent designer would've released the source and not just the binaries.
posted by mullingitover at 6:39 PM on October 20, 2008

Thank you for open sourcing your biometrics. Your wealth will be re-distributed momentarily. Please procede to the Darwin Award booth waiting line in the P.T. Barnum wing. All Hail The Singularity!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:46 PM on October 20, 2008

The self-selection bias in this study ensures that although scientists will learn a lot about the genomes of people who are interested in genomics, they will never learn that a predisposition toward creationism is caused by having DNA made out of rosary beads.
posted by painquale at 7:10 PM on October 20, 2008

This is a project that I would really like to join, but I'm a little wary of negative consequences in the health insurance realm.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:34 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

HapMap phase 3:
* SNP genotype data generated from 1184 samples, collected using two platforms: the Illumina Human1M (by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute) and the Affymetrix SNP 6.0 (by the Broad Institute). Data from the two platforms have been merged for this release.
* PCR-based resequencing data (by Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center) across ten 100-kb regions (collectively referred to as "ENCODE 3") in 712 samples.

There are also tens of thousands of individuals who have been genotyped on lesser (but still quite detailed) platforms, mostly for specific disease association studies. The avalanche of genomic data continues to overwhelm biostatistical research.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:36 PM on October 20, 2008

Great! I eagerly await the first monsters released under the GPL.
posted by JHarris at 7:42 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Apparently they require an understanding of genetics to Msc degree level as a pre-screen. I guess to prevent people who don't understand the consequences from doing it.
posted by atrazine at 12:33 AM on October 21, 2008

First came the obsessive diaries, not just what I was doing, but why I had done it. Started young. Pushed into text format as soon as it became feasible. The one thing I could never write down the why for was ... why was I doing it? Just an itch, really, an inkling. Then on to blogs and checks to make sure they made the Wayback Machine. Then trying to explain to a lawyer provisions for holding a domain and hosting data forever. They've heard stranger things, I suppose.

When the chance to be one of the first to have their genome sequenced, I leapt at it, pulling strings, signing waivers until my fingers ached. The first ones would be the most widely disseminated. Six billion bits of me, give or take, scattered like dandelion seeds, in genomic databases sitting at universities everywhere. It still wasn't enough.

Antioxidants, reservatrol, cholesterol dialysis, anything to scavenge just a few hundredth of a percent more lifetime. These things add up when I'm waiting, waiting, waiting, watching computer engineering PhDs I've mentored, now younger than me, tell me about their exciting projects. It's funny when open source kids want to work for the military, but ambition and cash make strange bedfellows, especially when one wants to make the first bush robot, the second wants a way to get a human mind in a cockpit, without all of the sloshing of blood that causes poor decision making when turning at several Gs. Still a secret, still a little monstrous ... but those first samples will be at high fidelity and propagated at a later date. If Theo de Raadt can piss off the military while funding is still there, I'm sure a computer scentist will manage it long after. Will they even care about little holographic cubes containing no strategic information whatsoever, just endless mappings of neurons to synapses?

When they start cranking out bodies from tissue printers and look around for a mind to drop in, I'll be waiting, freeze-dried. The perfect, tasty choice for compatibility. I just hope that I am one of the first. Cranking out thousands of copies of kludgy dumb Mark I humans will be great fun, I don't envy those guys for when whatever passes for people decides that gladiators will be fun all over again.

If they're still like people at all, they will.
posted by adipocere at 2:43 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ha ha! Not to name drop but I was chatting to Matt Ridley and I asked him what he thought Stephen Pinker was about, publicly declaring that he had decided not to reproduce. Stephen Pinker said he was some sort of monster or changeling, from a Darwinian point of view, for having made such a decision. Now he has made his genome open source we will, at least, have the data if we wish to reproduce Pinker in the future. As someone once said, Nature finds a way.
posted by Tarn at 7:24 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stephen Pinker has a non-biologist's grasp of genetics. I will never forget this idiotic talk he gave, on the genetic superiority of Ashkenazi Jews. Basically, he recycles the Murray/Herrnstein 'Bell Curve' hypothesis, except that instead of saying 'Black People are stupid because of the environment that evolved them,' he says 'Jews are smart because of the environment that evolved them.'

It doesn't sound racist and eugenicist at first listen, since he's not attacking anyone, but it's the identical argument. Of course, the idea that a few hundred years of a tiny slice of the Jewish population doing accounting work somehow evolved them super-brains is absurd. And that's leaving aside the fantasy of Jewish racial purity that underlies any such claims.

Pinker is a walking example of how smart people can still be chickenheads when they drift out of their area of expertise. (I should add that I say all of this as a social scientist, equally out of my area of expertise!)
posted by jackbrown at 9:59 AM on October 21, 2008

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