Chris Kelty at Savage Minds directs our attention to an excellent discussion on commercial genome-reading hosted by the National Humanities Center’s On the Human project. An excellent post by Ian Hacking on genome reading services offered by companies like 23andMe, receives commentary from Paul Rabinow, Gisli Palsson, Norton Wise and others. There is also a follow-up post by Hacking. Hacking’s post continues some of the arguments he developed in his 2006 Daedalus article, “Genetics, biosocial groups & the future of identity” (available for free download), chiefly the question of “Are the direct-to-consumer online genome services forging a new technology of the self?”
The On the Human project itself and its website are also quite interesting. The project is devoted to interdisciplinary explorations “dedicated to improving our understanding of persons and the quasi-persons who surround us.” By quasi-persons they mean animals and machines; so this project is very much situated in contemporary discussions about human/non-human distinctions in the context of novel biotechnologies. In addition to the blog/forum, the website includes an open-access undergraduate course, some teaching resources, and videos of lectures from a series of conferences which addressed these issues.