The End of Race, The Beginning of True Individualism?


From the AP via the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Scientists have mapped patterns of tiny DNA differences that distinguish one person from another—an achievement that will help researchers find genes linked to heart disease, diabetes and other common illnesses.

The map represents "a real sea change in how we study the genetics of disease," Dr. David Altshuler, a leader of the project, said yesterday during a major conference on gene research in Salt Lake City.

Hyper-individualized disease treatments won't be available for five to 10 years, say the doctors, but they are definitely just down the pike.

The wider social implications of this sort of biomedical technology are pretty staggering, I think, and will almost certainly lead to significant shifts in how we perceive already-fluid group identities such as race and ethnicity. One way to read the broadly defined modern period–from the Enlightenment on, say–is as a large shift away from the group toward the individual: the classical liberal world was one which allowed individuals of all types to make more decisions about their lives, whether in politics, culture, or economics. One brutal irony, among many, is that Enlightenment political and economic discourses helped emancipate people from traditional tribal and group affiliations even as it attempted to codify racial differences with an appeal to science, genetics, etc.

Hyper-individualized genetics won't mean that people won't share commonalities, but it seems likely that they will cut across the traditional ways that we identify with others, especially if we all become effectively our own individual races.

Whole thing here.