Today’s episode is about proof, identity and DNA. What are you looking for, when you look for your heritage? What can DNA really tell you? And who decides which forms of proof are required when?
To answer this question, we spoke with Dr. Alondra Nelson, president of the Social Science Research Council and Harold F. Linder Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study and author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome.
Advice For And From The Future is written, edited and performed by Rose Eveleth. The theme music is by Also, Also, Also. The logo is by Frank Okay. Additional music this episode provided by Blue Dot Sessions.
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〰️〰️〰️ TRANSCRIPT 〰️〰️〰️
(by Emily White of The Wordary)
Advice For And From The Future
S1E5: “Should I get my DNA sequenced?”
[store bell jingle]
[Advice For and from the Future theme kicks in: low, long synths under a steady, crunchy rhythm]
Hi again. Welcome back. I’m so glad you could join us. I know our door is a little bit hard to find, nestled between the time traveler simulator and the burned-down robot factory, but here you are. Got a question about tomorrow? Well, you are in the right place. Welcome to your friendly neighborhood futurology shop, where you can get the answers to tomorrow’s questions… today.
On today’s trip to and from the future, we are considering questions of identity, science, and certainty.
[theme fades out]
Listener Danielle wrote in with this question, which goes like this. I will read it to you now.
Hi, Rose. I know you’ve talked a lot about the privacy concerns around getting your DNA sequenced. I get it. But I also really want to know where I’m from. According to my family, our ancestors were shipped to the United States during the slave trade, but I don’t know anything more, and nobody wants to talk about it with me. I feel like the only way I can get concrete answers is by doing a DNA test. Is it worth it? Should I do it?
To help answer this question, I called Dr. Alondra Nelson, president of the Social Science Research Council at the Institute for Advanced Study, and author of the book The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome. And if I sound nervous at all in the interview, that’s because I have been a huge fan of Dr. Nelson’s for many, many years, and I was sort of freaking out through a lot of it, especially the beginning of our conversation. So, here we go.
ROSE (on call):
Dr. Nelson, thank you for coming on the show. I’m very excited. I get this question a lot. I bet you get this question more than I get this question, [laughs] about whether someone should get their DNA sequenced. So when people ask you this, how do you approach this question? Where do you begin when someone asks you, “Hey, should I sequence my DNA?”
DR. ALONDRA NELSON:
Well, I begin with understanding that it’s their question and that it’s about their aspirations. I use a phrase in my work called ‘genealogical aspirations’. But understanding that the question really emerges out of whatever their genealogical aspirations are, and those are varied and multifaceted. They could be about trying to resolve something related to adoption; it could be general curiosity about someone’s ancestry. In the case of many of the people that I’ve spent time with in my research, it’s both those things sometimes, but also these bigger historical issues around racial inequality. And so, I have spent more time than your average bear thinking about these things, and so I do understand that I have some insight to offer. But I certainly cannot provide an answer; I can provide some insight and some things to ponder as one is thinking about making that decision.
Yeah, what questions should someone ask themselves before they decide yes or no on this?
I think they should be clear about what they’re trying to find out. Some of my interviews with people, it’s not until after they’ve taken a certain test experience that they realize that the test result was not what they wanted to hear. So for example, there used to be… I think this is no longer in operation, a project called the Genographic Project, which was a kind of citizen science endeavor to map human migration and haplotype groups using genetic markers over space and time.
And you know, some of the people I would interview would get those results – and I write about one of them but this happened on numerous occasions – they got a result that said, “Your haplotype group, we infer that we can situate it in Ethiopia plus or minus 50,000 years ago.” So, this is the Ethiopia of the Old Testament; this is old Ethiopia. And this was an African American person who effectively said, “Well, I could’ve told you that and I didn’t need the test to tell you that.”
So one of the things is: What do you really want to know? And then: Who do you want to know it from? Does it matter to you that it’s a big company or a small company? Does it matter to you that the company offers you the ability to easily make your genealogical data, your genetic data, interoperable with conventional genealogical data? That might point to one company or service over another.
And these are also some consumer decisions. Do you want to pay once, and get information, and get data? Do you want a subscription model? The companies want you to have a subscription model in which you pay again and again to get new information as they have bigger data sets, and different algorithms, and all of that. I think people need to be really clear about their genealogical aspirations, and that helps to inform the decisions about what service they might use.
Do you have your DNA sequenced with any of these companies?
I did one test with a company called African Ancestry, which is a company that I studied closely. That was an early company in the US market that still exists. It started in about 2003. And I did it because… you know, not because I was interested, actually. Not terribly interested. But because by the time I was finishing my research there was quite a lot of interest by other people, like you, about whether or not I had done the test. And it became an issue of, not quite credibility, but like, “Do you know the thing about which you’re speaking?”
I did it in a public reveal, so I was also interested in my work and the ways in which companies try to generate interest. One of the things I want us to remember as we get close to the 20th anniversary of the first direct-to-consumer genetic testing in the US is that this was a startup. It was not a foregone conclusion that this would succeed. So, the genealogical aspiration, the consumer desire, existed in other ways before. People had been interested in genealogy for a very long time, but it really needed to be drummed up by the companies over time. And one of the ways that was done was through these reveals, and now of course through these genealogy television shows.
One thing that’s interesting to me in tracking the tech business side of this, is that subscriptions are dropping, interest is dropping, they’re not making nearly as much money as they used to be. And there is a big, sort of, question within these companies; a little bit of a freak out happening right now that, like, this might actually not be sustainable. It might have been a fad. People might lose interest in these questions.
And these big companies might have to find other revenue streams, which of course, that is another question around privacy, and where your data goes, and pharmaceutical companies working with 23andMe, etc., etc. Which opens up a whole other piece of this question, which is, do you know where your data is then going after you give it to said company? Which is often very opaque and very hard to find out; you don’t necessarily know.
I did not know… I learned from your book that African Ancestry began before 23andMe and it was one of the very, very early ones. I did not know that. I thought that was really interesting.
Yes. I would say, to your point, there were lots of companies that began before 23andMe, and some around the same time. Most of them do not exist. And to your earlier point, like, where is that data? Some, in the political economy of it, you can follow that one company was acquired by another, and you assume that the data went there. But in other cases, we actually have no idea. One thing I would suggest that people should be thinking is, “What will I do if X company that I use goes out of business and I don’t know where that data is? And did I read the 50-page, the 100-page terms and conditions? Am I clear about what my rights are and what my role is, should the company go out of business or be sold?”
What are some misconceptions that you think are out there that people might have around what they could be getting from these tests? They might have a question that, in fact, these tests can’t answer. What are some of those, maybe, non-answerable questions?
I think most of the questions are… This is the answer of a sociologist; let me say that. I think most of the questions are fundamentally unanswerable by the technology, frankly, because what people are after with these aspirations are meaning, and connection, and filling in pieces of a puzzle of their life narrative or their family’s life narrative. So, getting a data point that fills that in, as I say in my work again and again, is actually just the beginning. So I think there’s an expectation that the datapoint, an inference about something about you, based on data from you in most cases, it’s going to fill it all in, and it’ll just be like… I’m picturing like a jigsaw puzzle, it’s all black and white, and then you have that one missing piece, and you put it in, and then the puzzle’s complete, and then it becomes multicolor, technicolor, you know?
That’s not what happens. It might put the piece there, but all of that other stuff is sociality, sociology, and politics. So in my work, which is primarily with people of African descent, you know, I think there’s an awareness of this, more than I think in the general population. Because, you know, people know that when you fill in that puzzle piece about an inferred great-great-great-grandparent, that what’s not going to happen necessarily is this technicolor dream in which this person’s family or that part of your family embraces you. That knowledge or information can be confirming of something you suspected, but the confirmation might be traumatic; that there was sexual violence, for example, in a family a few generations back in the context of racial slavery.
There are certainly instances again and again in which people on platforms that allow you to do the genetic research and then maybe use that to find people on a family tree who are living “relatives,” those are not always happy family reunions. There have certainly been lots of instances in which people say, “I’ve been blocked from having access to this person’s family tree that would allow me to continue to fill in the puzzle pieces of the story that I’m trying to tell.”
So, the experiences can be… They still require this negotiation that’s well beyond the genetic test. The cases I most write about are about the experience of African Americans, but it’s certainly true for adoptees. It’s true for donor-conceived children. The thing that people are actually wanting is, typically, not just information but connection, and the test really only gets you part of the way there.
Right. It’s like a certain way to think about history, but it is not a complete relationship to the past. Although, you know, Ancestry.com has done a lot of work to try to convince you that that is the case; those advertisements.
I love them. Kyle is my favorite. [laughs] Kyle, who goes from… He goes from lederhosen and then switches to the kilt. I mean, come on. It’s fantastic. The sartorial, meets the genealogical, meets the genetic.
I like to imagine that Kyle now only wears kilts. Like, that is it. That is his only outfit; he’s fully committed at this point. In my head he’s walking around in a kilt somewhere. [laughs]
So, another thing I get asked, and you probably get asked too, is that… as you mentioned, some of these sites allow you to then interface with an ancestry portal of some kind, including things like GEDmatch, which also then potentially can be used for things like policing and things like that. I’m curious how you talk people through those decisions. It’s one thing to decide that you want to know some amount of information about yourself. It’s another thing to then make a decision around opening that data up to a broader swath of users… points of access? How do you talk to people about those questions?
So, the first thing I try to remind people of is the fact that it feels like a very… So much of this is in a very US, American frame, and it feels like a very individual decision. Like, the “ultimate American” pioneer decision, like, “I’m going to find out who I am!” And in this case, the frontier, with all of its problematic implications, is this personal data; the ultimate, intimate data. But of course, genetic information is never only about you. It’s about countless known and unknown people, some of them whom we consider nuclear family, some who may be nuclear family that you do not know. So, even in making a purchase decision as an individual, you’re actually making a decision with collective community implications. That’s always the case.
And taking that a step further, participating in something like GEDmatch, which had been initially imagined as, you know, a pretty interesting third-party application, a citizen science application, people could get access to their data. I think one of the important things to note is that it wasn’t clear, I think, in the early days of the industry that individuals would be that interested in their data. So, it became the case that people wanted their data, and then they needed something to do with it. GEDmatch and similar services fulfilled a pretty important service. But of course, we know that GEDmatch came to be used in the criminal justice system without the people’s use, so this is the kind of unintended uses and unintended consequences of this. And you know, it’s deeply problematic.
One of the ways I try to explain this to people… because it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around. There’s just been a conviction in the Golden State Killer case, which is a notorious serial killer case. When you hear a case like that, you just think, like, “Whatever it takes to get this person off the street. This is horrifying. It’s the worst kind of criminal, pathological behavior.” But then I remind people that, you know, what if all of your DNA and the DNA of relatives of yours that you had uploaded into GEDmatch was trawled through by criminal justice authorities in the course of finding the killer? What if you were a suspect and you didn’t know? What if someone had your family tree on a wall and they were trying to draw connections, and in the end it was a dead end, but what if all of this was being known about you without your knowledge?
I think that changes it. For every notorious serial killer that we get evidence about, there are likely hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of personal DNA profiles that are trawled through without a subpoena and without the permission of the people whose evidence is looked at. So, I try to juxtapose what sounds like feel-good criminal justice stories with the process that that requires, and the infringement on people’s privacy, and anything like informed consent in the process of doing that. It’s not just about you as the individual, or you as the ego in a genealogical pedigree chart. It’s really about social obligations and your obligations to other people. For me, when people are asking me whether or not they should do genetic genealogy, I’m increasingly trying to get them to understand that this is about an individual decision, but it’s also about community and communal ethics.
Another way, I think, to drive the point home is to say: Does your sister, your brother, your paternal uncle (if you’re doing Y chromosome testing), want to know that there might be a disease that runs in your family? Or something they don’t know about? What are you going to do about that? And how are you going to think about that? These are things that people should think through before making the decision.
So, in The Social Life of DNA, you talk a lot about how… Well, I thought it was really interesting that you talk about how you changed your mind a bit about this. You sort of came in being like, “Don’t do this. This is not useful. This can’t give you the information,” and then you, kind of, I think, understood a little bit more about why people might do it even if it’s still not your favorite method. But you talk a lot in the book about the ways that this can begin a conversation but cannot be the means by which we talk about the work around reconciliation, and reparations, or anything like that. So I’m curious, let’s say somebody does the test and they want this to be the beginning. What would you say should be the next step once you have this information in hand? What happens next?
The subtitle of my book includes reparations and reconciliation, so to be in a moment in 2020 in which we as a society are yet again really trying to reckon with these things, I think is fascinating. I think what I was capturing in my book – as you said, I wasn’t a big fan of this but found myself deeply empathetic and sympathetic by the time that I was finished – was that individuals, in their own way, trying to grapple with the history of racial slavery in this country. And our lack of, in some cases, interest as a nation… I mean, obviously, lots of people are interested in this, and doing anything about it, and taking any action, and being forthright about this history and its implications for people’s lived experience. So for me, the reconciliation projects, these genealogical aspirations that become these projects of seeking and discovery, were about people’s individual, familial community base playing out of a refusal again and again to really reckon with that history.
What I came to appreciate about direct-to-consumer testing is that it became a vehicle for conversation; it became a way for me to say to you, “Hey, Rose. I found this thing out. And the thing that I found out about my family was only two generations ago, three generations ago.” This narrative that we’ve been fed about the history of racial slavery, and of people being in bondage, being so, so far away, so, so distant, is actually closer in time than we can imagine. And I think, you know, temporality is a tricky thing, but I think we understand the temporality of grandparents, right? We understand that one’s great-great-grandparent was born to parents who were enslaved, even if they were children when they were enslaved. But to have, you know, a different way of telling that story, and then for me to be your neighbor or your social media friend, to tell that to you means that, for all of us, it is not something that’s distal. It is proximate. It is living, and it is real in the world.
So, I think that the testing offers that. It can get closer, it can be more visceral, it can be more proximate. But fundamentally, as we’re seeing now, the work of dismantling structural, systemic, multigenerational, genealogical racism, takes much, much more. And you know, I also end the book with a meditation on ignorance and on deliberate ignorance around, you know, even if these are the “facts of the case,” a society, and community has to decide that these are the facts that they’re going to run with and reckon with. And so, you know, fundamentally I’m deeply sympathetic about the endeavor, but I also understand it occurs in a context of deep historical amnesia that right now we’re living in a refusal to live in that amnesia.
Right. So much of your book is grappling with the need for proof, the need to prove that you actually came from these people specifically in order to even have the conversation around reparations. Do you feel as though there has been a shift in this question of, like, proof, and proving who you are in this way when it comes to Black Americans in the US? Has this changed at all? Will there be less of an appetite for these kinds of tests, do you think? Or are we still kind of in the same place?
That’s a great question. What I’d say right now, and it might change in a week – things are very dynamic in this moment – is that right now we’ve kind of stepped away from the proof conversation, because the proof conversation was a red herring. It was about the agnotology, it was about the, sort of, deliberate ignorance. “If you can’t demonstrate it to me, I refuse to see it. I refuse to admit or even deign to consider that this could be true.”
I think that with the coronavirus pandemic, that had already snapped us all to attention, that had kept us both captured – many of us who had the privilege of doing so – had captured and captivated us around forms of media about what was happening with the coronavirus in the US and abroad. And that immediately drew our attention to forms of inequality in the infection and death rates and also drew our attention immediately to the fact that these were because of structural issues. So, I do think it really matters that we were all paying attention because we didn’t have anything else to do. And that part of what we were paying attention to is that disparity in death and infection rates. I think that enough really important work had been done that we could move to a place of really understanding the systemic ecology that creates racial health disparities and disparate outcomes.
And then we had Breonna Taylor killed, George Floyd killed, and I think the priming of a sense of connection that we didn’t have… Not that the outcomes of the pandemic are the same by any stretch of the imagination for all of us, but you know, I think we can go there, kind of, 5 or 10% with, like, “This shows that we’re all interrelated and we’re all in it together.” The rest of the 90%, we need to leave it alone because there’s too much differentiation in the experience.
So, I think all of those together brought us to a place where the granular proof of a genetic test matters less than the proof of the lived experience. The disparate outcomes of the pandemic become a kind of proof, a kind of powerful proof that is fatal, that shows the disparate life chances. And so I think there will still be, for a long time, trying to unravel the relationship between the economic crisis, the pandemic crisis, and you know, what I hope is a successful endeavor at real racial reconciliation in the United States. But I think that it both gave overwhelming proof and then sidestepped the other proof conversation, which was, as I said, a bit of a red herring.
Well, thank you so much for joining us on the show. This has been so fun.
Great to talk to you.
I’m so glad we finally got to connect.
Me too. My pleasure.
Do you have a question about the future? Some conundrum you’re facing now, or one that you think we might face in the future? Send it in! You can send a voice memo to Advice@FFwdPresents.com, or call (347) 927-1425 and leave a voice message.
And now, a quick break. When we come back, I’m going to try and sell you something.
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I want to talk about proof. As a journalist, I care a lot about it. Last episode, we talked about how to gather it, how to find proof that something is real or fake. Proof is sort of a cousin of Truth, or maybe Proof is Truth’s bouncer or bodyguard. Proof is the lynchpin, the thing you can wave around if you have it. The thing that gives you authority, and bragging rights, and power. But it’s not that simple, right? Proof to one person might not be proof to another. Certain forms of proof are valued and certain forms aren’t. Sometimes you need proof, and sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes the proof you can provide isn’t enough, even if everybody knows that you’re right. Proof can look like a singular recording of one unit of police brutality; 8 minutes and 47 seconds of video. But proof is not action.
In the early 2000s, a series of lawsuits started popping up around the country. The details of each were slightly different, but the basic gist was the same: Ancestors of slaves wanted damages for the suffering they and their families incurred. Reparations. Companies that had made millions of dollars on the slave trade were continuing to profit, and those whose ancestors built that wealth as slaves wanted some of that money.
[clip of interview]
And what drives you?
DEADRIA FARMER-PAELLMANN (class action lawsuit plaintiff):
Justice. I’d like to see that the truth is told and that these corporations that committed horrendous acts against my ancestors pay restitution. They should not be able to keep assets they acquired stealing people and stealing labor.
RICHARD BARBER (lawsuit member):
If our ancestors – and they did – created that wealth, then it seems to me in a very logical way that their descendants should benefit from that wealth.
In 2002, one of these cases went before a judge.
[clip of oral arguments in slave reparations case]
ROGER WAREHAM (attorney):
Contrary to Judge Norgle’s version of history that he put out in his order, the end of chattel slavery, the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, did not produce a land of milk and honey for formerly enslaved Africans. Judge Norgle’s version of history upon which he predicates his decision to deny us equitable tolling, ignores the issues of lynchings, ignores the reality of sharecropping, of Jim Crow, of the Ku Klux Klan which reigned supreme for almost 100 years following the end of chattel slavery.
… and how that support equitable tolling, because this wrong, the slave trade and exploitations by businesses, this has been known for a long time. This is not something that was suddenly discovered three years ago.
What was discovered was the particularity of who the defendants were, and that is why equitable tolling is proper in this case.
But if you think you’ve been wronged, and you don’t know who the tortfeasor is, but you know there’s been some wrong, you’ve been injured by something, then you have to investigate.
[end of clip]
The judge rejected the argument because, “The plaintiffs did not demonstrate a precise connection to former slaves, and thus could not sue for injury as their descendants.”
In other words, the judge wanted specific proof that these specific people were direct descendants of former slaves that had specifically helped the companies named in the lawsuit make money. A very particular type of proof. And to get that proof, some of those defendants turned to DNA. They proved links to specific plantations and slave owners. But of course, that didn’t work either. Why not? What kind of proof would be required?
And here we reach the impossible question. The infinite Gordian knot of the human mind. Proof is not action. Proof, this slippery and ever-changing thing, is only powerful if you want it to be. When we are not deeply attached to a worldview, when we want to change our minds, the slightest whiff of proof can be enough.
[clip from Ancestry.com advertisement]
Growing up, we were German. We danced in a German dance group. I wore lederhosen. When I first got on Ancestry, I was really surprised that I wasn’t finding all of these Germans in my tree. I decided to have my DNA tested through AncestryDNA. The big surprise was, we’re not German at all. 52% of my DNA comes from Scotland and Ireland. So, I traded in my lederhosen for a kilt.
Ancestry has many paths to discovering your story. Get started for free at Ancestry.com.
[end of clip]
But when proof challenges more deeply held assumptions, structures, power, people, then suddenly there is never enough of it, or the right kind of it. You can drown in a sea of proof and never change your mind, if you try hard enough. You can watch an infinite number of videos of police brutality and still resist the idea that the police are a problem. There will never be a proof stronger than the human will to resist it.
Proof is a red herring, a tempting evil spirit, an irrational faith. It is so appealing to believe that if you simply rearrange the deck chairs on the S.S. Proof, you will finally show people the way. Consider the political chaos of the United States. Every day, it seems, every time some member of the administration flops, botches an interview, gets caught in a lie, admits to rolling back pandemic measures so that more people in blue states die, there is this idea that finally this will be the piece of proof that pushes the nation over the edge; the proof that pulls the emergency brake. That this time, the bouncer that is Proof will finally break up the fight and restore order. But proof is not action. Proof is only as powerful as people want it to be.
So what does DNA prove, then? What power can it have over us, and within us? It’s a funny thing to say that the substance that writes every single instruction that makes up every piece of your most inner workings means nothing. That it proves nothing. And yet, what does DNA prove, exactly? Your family line. Your building blocks. But it cannot prove to a court that it should take you seriously. It cannot prove to a system that you deserve care and protection. In the words of Audre Lorde, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
And perhaps there is a silver lining here. If we allow DNA to be the proof of our entire value of who we are, and who we have been, and who we will ever be, we give in to a certain kind of sad quantification of the human. A world where, rather than listening, we purely count. Finding yourself and your place in space, and time, and history is hard, and painful, and confusing. DNA offers a soothing window into a quantified world of provability and conclusion. But it’s a scam. And speaking of scams, here’s one for you now:
FICTION SKETCH BEGINS
What’s the appropriate gift to get for people you just found out were your siblings, thanks to a DNA test?
Oh my goodness! Okay, we’re back. And today we’re talking gifts. Okay, Dolly, I don’t know about you but I find it really hard sometimes to shop for gifts for my family.
Oh my god. So hard.
Do you have a relative that’s the hardest to shop for?
My dad, hands down. He never wants anything!
And if he wants something, he just buys it for himself, huh?
Yes! How did you know?
He’s a dad! I’m sure all the viewers out there have someone in their life just like that. For me, it’s my uncle. Absolutely impossible to shop for! But you know what has made it so much easier for me?
Three words: D N A.
I had a feeling you’d say that!
You know I’m all about it!
I do. So, tell the viewers who might not know what you mean.
My pleasure! So you all know what DNA is, I’m sure. Thank you high school biology. But what does it have to do with gifts? Well, what if I told you that we were doing a special offer to help you use your DNA to match you with the perfect presents?
I’d say, sign me up!
It’s incredible, right? So, you might think that DNA simply tells you about your heritage, maybe your biology, disease risk, yadda yadda. But there is so much more information coded in that genetic information of yours.
And with our special package, which is called the Base Pair Program – isn’t that clever? – we’ll pair your genes with the perfect set of gifts. All you do is send in a sample, and you’ll get a personalized gift catalog tailored exclusively for you.
Yes! And the amazing thing about this is that the more complete your genetic family tree, the better your gift catalog is. So if you add your dad, your brother, your mom to your profile, that catalog is going to suggest gifts for them too!
It’s truly like nothing else out there.
I had no idea what to get my dad. So I sent in his spit from a leftover napkin, and boom. Suggestions! His specific DNA said that he’d like… You’re truly never going to guess it.
I won’t because I don’t know his DNA!
A pocket knife!
What?! A pocket knife?
I know. I’d never have thought to get my dad that.
Okay, I think we’re getting a phone call right now, actually, from a customer. Darcy Noelle Apgar, is that you?
It’s me! I’m here!
Darcy, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me!
Okay, Darcy. Tell us about your Base Pair experience. I want all the details.
Oh. My. Goodness. Base Pair has taken all the pain out of my holiday shopping, let me tell you. I gathered up samples from my whole family while they were sleeping, which was no small feat, let me tell ya. And I sent them all in, and the catalog was perfect.
No more worrying about whether Christmas morning was going to go well?
Nope. None of that. And I’m so glad I got a sample from my mother before she died, so I could stock her funeral with all the right mementos!
Darcy, tell us. Was there a gift that went over even better than you expected?
Oh, good question. Yes, I can think of one. My son. All he ever wants to do is play video games, all day, all the time. And he asked for more video games, but of course I’m not going to get him more video games.
Of course not!
But the catalog identified that he has flexible lips – something I admit I would never have known – and suggested a harmonica. And let me tell you, he loves it. And he’s so good at it! And I would never have known!
A secret talent!
Thank you, Darcy, for calling in.
Base Pairs is really changing the game when it comes to gifts. I’m telling you! And now, for just one incredibly low payment of $234.88, you can get a five-year subscription to the personalized catalog.
A real steal! But really priceless for always getting the best possible gifts.
What do we always say?
The DNA never lies!
So call now and get your perfect presents sorted, forever!
FICTION SKETCH END
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Advice For and From the Future is written, edited, and performed by me, Rose Eveleth.
The theme music is by Also, Also, Also, who has a new album out called The Good Grief, which you can get on Bandcamp.
Thanks to Danielle for your question, and to Dr. Alondra Nelson for joining me to talk about DNA. Thanks to Donia for asking about gifts for new relatives. The voice actors you just heard selling a scammy DNA service are Shara Kirby, Ashley Kellem, and Henry Alexander Kelly. You can learn more about all of them and their projects by following the links in the show notes. Additional music provided by Blue Dot Sessions.
If you are interested in hearing more about the connections between genetics and race, specifically for Black Americans, there is a great podcast called In Those Genes that is all about that, so go check that out.
If you want to ask a question for or from the future, send a voice memo to Advice@FFwdPresents.com.
Advice For and From the Future is part of the Flash Forward Presents network. Go to FFwdPresents.com for more about that.
Until next time…
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