Why I Did a DNA Test With 23andMe

I just finished listening in to a genomics briefing run by the Science Media Centre here in New Zealand. I also participated a bit at the end, as someone who has done a personal DNA test, in my case at 23andme. I had been asked to say a few words about why I did the test. I thought I’d share some thoughts about that, as one of my Writer’s Log entries.

First and foremost, I did the DNA test because I wanted to find out more about my body and what makes it tick.

Secondly, I had a professional interest in doing the test. Because I see genomics as one of the next big frontiers in computing. Here’s why…

I started blogging in 2002 and over the next 10 years I chronicled – on the blog I founded, ReadWriteWeb – how Internet technology became an ever more important part of society. It went from a small group of acronym-loving geeks blogging about RSS in 2002, to one billion people updating their Facebook status in 2012. In short, Internet technology is now everywhere and used by almost everyone.

So what’s next? Well, people are currently fascinated by the smart phone, plus non-PC devices like the iPad and the Internet TV device Boxee. ReadWrite, as the blog is now called, continues to explore those and other Internet technology trends.

As for me, having completed my journey with ReadWriteWeb, I’m now thinking beyond the iPhone and other such devices. I’ve come to think of the body itself as a computer – an incredibly complex and powerful one.

If your body is a computer, then your genome is the software that powers it. So I want to find out more about how the body is programmed (i.e. how to ‘read’ it) and how one might be able to program it in the future (i.e. ‘write’ to it).

I also have a personal connection to health technology and the genome. Five years ago to this month, I was diagnosed with diabetes type 1. It’s an autoimmune disease and it’s relatively rare to get it in your mid-30s, as I was back then. To this day I still don’t know what caused it, since there was no known history of diabetes in my family. Over the past five years I’ve done a lot of research into diabetes type 1 and over the past year or so I’ve noticed that genomics is playing an ever more important part in diabetes research. It may eventually play a part in treating it too, perhaps even finding a cure. So that was another motivating factor in why I took the 23andme test.

I’ll discuss what I learned from my 23andme results in a separate Writer’s Log entry tomorrow.

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