Whether you believe that virtual identities are fraudulent, self indulgent, fronts cultivated via the anonymous nature of the interent, or you are of the opinion that online identities are artificial extensions of our true selves precipitated by our detachment from physical constraints, one thing is certain, the internet has changed the way we live. We are continually finding new ways to host ourselves online, from social networks to the infamous cloud; nearly every facet of our lives has a virtual home. OK, so we are still physically tied to the real world but 23andme.com have produced an online service that really does start to blur the boundaries. The service allows people to offer up their DNA to be analysed and stored online. They provide a number of features, which affords the user a closer understanding of their DNA.
“linking you to your genetic data. It is our job to present it with as much context as we can and offer tools to help you explore. Since it is your data, we give you the option to share with other 23andMe members at basic or extended levels or opt-out of sharing entirely.”
(Anon, 23andme. Available at: https://www.23andme.com/about/values/.)
Its an interesting proposition, if the government decided they wanted to know everything about everyone in the UK in terms of their likes, dislikes, sexual preferences, where they go at the weekend and who they meet with, there would probably be a public out cry. Facebook enters the scene and poses the same interest but frames it differently and now they have a billion active users monthly, voluntarily giving this information away. Now, if the government asked for everyone’s DNA to be sent to a centralised agency to analysed and stored in an online database, what do you think the public would say? The perceived value attached to Facebook membership is how billions of users validate handing vast amounts of data about themselves; I wonder, will 23andme have the same allure.
Doug Rushkoff in his book “Program or be Programmed” argues that for the internet to be truly useful we need to be ourselves. Google obviously agree s with him as they have attempted many a time to get users to register with their real names. What would the internet look like if instead of anonymity, or even being linked to our real life persona through our names, are every move on the internet was imprinted with our DNA?