Is DNA the Next Social Media-Like Juggernaut Destined to Fill Us with Regret?

As technology pushes DNA to extremes, unintended consequences are inevitable.

I’m old enough to remember Facebook emerging in Silicon Valley in the 2000s.

I’m a Silicon Valley marketer, and social media was the promise of something great: a way to establish “relationships” with our customers. And it was free! Imagine my clients and their dream of cheap marketing. Guy Kawasaki was a social media monster, writing The Art of Social Media in 2014 and setting insane expectations for the marketing people who had to clean up after his enthusiasm.

Fast forward to 2021, and we’re all realizing this elixir has a high rate of toxicity. From amplification algorithms that reward vitriol, controversy, and gossip, to the threat against our democracy as bad actors who use it to tell lies and bully others, we are in trouble. This exploitation includes our paid civil servants responsible for writing and enforcing laws.

Social media is a juggernaut that cries out for regulation. But remember how our financial system was “too big to fail” in 2008? It seems we’re at the same point with social media, perhaps for different reasons, but the result is the same. Joanna Stern explains why stopping this hot mess isn’t likely to happen.

But at the heart of it all, this is still a gigantic technology problem: Computers are in charge of what we see and they’re operating without transparency. > read article

The point is, we unleashed the Kraken without genuinely understanding what could happen as technology evolved, the world continued to change. Bad actors seized the opportunity to exploit the tool for evil.

DNA today is roughly Facebook in 2014. Everyone is excited and jumping in with both feet.

I have a horse in this race. DNA convicted the man who killed my dad and stepmother. The sample matched came from inside my stepmom’s body. It was a 100% match. Over 40 years, DNA first connected him to a series of murders in southern California and then to a series of rapes in Northern California. With each connection, I rested assured he was DNA-guilty if we ever caught the sucker. As the story concluded, I was right.

Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to our story. Journalist Paul Detrick explains in his reporting for ReasonTV. While I am relieved DeAngelo has confessed to both felony charges for murder, rape, and kidnapping and dozens of rapes uncharged due to the statute of limitations, I’m frustrated it came at a cost: a violation of personal privacy.

We fail to remember that with every discovery and innovation, we don’t know what we don’t know.

On Mother’s Day, my 12-year-old nephew told me he loved the show Lucifer. I was slightly shocked. Lucifer is a great show, but it’s super sexy and has, let’s say sexually creative content. No biggie for adults. But, I wondered, how the heck was my nephew understanding what he was seeing? He assured me he understood — everything — and spent a great deal of our conversation trying to convince me.

I realized I couldn’t out-argue him, so I switched it up with this question, “Can you imagine there are things you don’t know yet that could change your understanding?” Of course, at 12, his answer was no. But it did give him pause.

And that’s where we are with DNA.

We couldn’t imagine power-hungry kleptocrats would use social media to undermine elections, reward donors, and misinform the public. If they coopted social media in this way, imagine what they can do with our DNA? And now imagine what you can’t imagine.

The technological, biological, and scientific advancements in DNA are moving faster than we can understand. Ownership of DNA material we’ve unwittingly provided to corporations thinking it was in our best interest can be bought and sold as intellectual property and then used in ways that seem unimaginable. And don’t assume the American company you did business with will remain owned by Americans.

I laugh when people are worried about being microchipped. Finding you is easy. But what you don’t know is that your third cousin Ann is into Ancestry.com and has given them her DNA. Your family’s DNA.

Children who haven’t yet been born are already indexed and cataloged.

Soon, artificial intelligence could decide people with green eyes, A+ blood, and the chromosome that makes cilantro taste bitter should not get auto insurance. It found a high correlation between those factors and barfing while driving — thereby making you an increased risk — you begin to understand how things can rapidly go south. I know this is a dumb example, but ethnic cleansing is happening today.

We need to forge ahead with our eyes wide open. There will be bad actors who use DNA to control others. There will be people in power who find ways to use DNA to retain their power. We need to ask our leaders for legislation that aligns with the fourth amendment.

The Constitution, through the Fourth Amendment, protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. However, the Fourth Amendment is not a guarantee against all searches and seizures, but only those that are deemed unreasonable under the law.

It is one of our most precious rights, and if we move too quickly and allow innovation to move forward without guardrails, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

With a master’s in Strategic Communication, I’ve helped more companies in Silicon Valley than a cat has lives! More https://www.linkedin.com/in/jcarole.

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