Sentences to ponder

Consumer DNA testing — and the mountain of data it has generated — has become pervasive enough that it’s possible to identify about six of every 10 people in the U.S. who are of European descent, even if they’ve never given a sample.

That is from Kristen V. Brown at Bloomberg.  And when will that hit 90 percent?


"it’s possible to identify about six of every 10 people in the U.S. who are of European descent": in what sense "identify"? Do you mean that if they left DNA at a crime scene they could be identified by that?

Still, this indirect approach might prove useful if applied to Elizabeth Warren, eh?

Like, if you commit a crime and leave DNA behind, they will probably find you.

They mean in the sense of what happened to the Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker (the guy switched modus operandi every few years, and got a new name from the press).

That is, if you leave any DNA evidence behind, they will find a relative or two of yours in some DNA database, and will know exactly how related you are from the sample, and will then be able to track you down by using public records and by asking for additional samples from the relatives of the person who was in the 23andme database.

Yes, that's exactly what they mean. And in a few years it will certainly hit 90% for the whole population.

Will this cause the elucidation rate of violent crimes (murder, rape, etc.) to increase significantly? I have no idea of the proportions of such crimes for which we are able to find usable DNA sample, but if it is high, then surely yes, more crimes will be elucidated and this will result in more conviction and more incarceration. Now to elucidate a crime is a good thing, but remember that the incarceration rate in this country is already absurdly high. The obvious solution is to reduce greatly the severity of the sentences, including for violent crimes.

Sorry, that was an answer to Dearieme (first comment).

"the incarceration rate in this country is already absurdly high": in what sense absurd? If you are a nation with large numbers of violent criminals isn't it wise to lock 'em up? Preferably the right people of course. And preferably starting with those cowardly policemen who seem to murder people quite freely and then get off with a slap on the wrist.

And while I'm on the subject, why has the loudest public noise often been made about the killing of criminals where it's pretty obvious that it wasn't murder?

You think that achieving a target incarceration rate should be a priority when determining the sentence for rape and murder? Explain.

Well, the easiest explanation would be that's not what Joel actually thinks.

No, I think Jwill has it right. It seems Joel wants to lessen sentences because we have too many people in jail. I would hope DNA and better methods would allow fewer innocent people in jail, but proven violent criminals should get their fair sentence no matter what the prisoner count is.

Less violent prisoners I'm OK with easing sentences on. I'm believe more in 'no harm, no foul.'

+!. Only thing I'd add is there are some pretty old guys that have been in jail for decades for a violent crime committed in their 20s. If he's 70 now, is he really a danger to society? I'm talking about the guy who shot some other guy in a fight etc. Those folks could probably be paroled. Maybe there aren't that many cases like that I haven't exactly studied it.

Meant +1 , oops

I don’t disagree, but I think it’s unrelated to an optimal incarceration rate. If someone has paid their debt, is no longer a risk, etc. then release them for that reason. Not because it makes the stats look better.

DNA testing will only get cheaper over time. We never remove people from these databases, we only ever add new people.

Over time, I fully expect that the vast majority of people will be traceable based on systems like this.

I just want to state for the record that my twin brother is such a criminal that he is, statistically speaking, probably responsible for any crimes I may be implicated in.

And that clone I'm building in the basement... nasty fellow.

Of course, if the Judge thinks hereditary is destiny he might throw all of us into the clink. You for making a clone and me for aiding and abetting since they have photographic evidence of someone who looks exactly like my criminal brother entering and leaving my home.

This will be the end of our republic one day.

In 30 years, it will be easy for the NSA to blackmail the majority of the population, but most importantly, members of congress and other legislatures, from all of the data they are collecting now. Think if Kavanaugh's incident happened to today and the text and location data trail it would leave behind.

Now layer on that the ability to plant DNA where the NSA wanted.

There is no need to actually “plant” the DNA evidence, it can just be digitally manufactured, from whole cloth as it were, by editing the great database in the sky. Whose to say what, if anything, was actually collected at the crime scene.

One may recall Dan Rather’s failed attempt to promote clearly faked hard copy records to attack George Bush. When the records are just a database entry, how robust is the audit trail?

Good points. Sad indeed.

This is where a Bitcoin sidechain will come in handy. Once the DNA data is added to the sidechain it will be timestamped and immutable - in theory at least.

This is why it is vital to legalize marriage to snapping turtles now so in the future having downloading 4 terabytes of Brazilian toucan porn when you were younger will look pretty innocent.

And you call yourself a “pastor”...

(But, is there something special about Brazilian toucan porn? Asking for a friend.)

I am willing to marry anyone to a snapping turtle -- provided the pope says it's okay. That's a perfectly reasonable position to hold.

It's not like I'm that crazy Bishop of Toowoomba who said he would ordain women if the Pope was okay with it. But he's sacked now, so I'm sure that will never be an issue again.

And yes, Brazilian toucan porn is pretty special, but I'm not the person you should be asking.

Paging Thiago!

Brazil has the finest toucans and toucan porn in the world. Why the great Brazilian zoologist and musician Paulo Vanzolini ( composed a world famous samba, "Rhonda," that is frequently used as background music in Brazilian toucan porn (

It was annoying as heck at the time, but possibly one of the most prescient calls ever:

Scott McNealy is best known for his role as cofounder and long-serving CEO at Sun Microsystems, but some remember him even better for a few choice comments he made about privacy back in 1999.

Consumer privacy issues are a “red herring,” McNealy told a group of reporters that year. “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”

FWIW I think this mess of decentralized data does make things harder to fake. So somebody plants some DNA. Is Google really going to let them update your location tracking as well? All the private webcams you happened past?

Did an Apple Watch really record its owners murder?

Time of death only. Proved instrumental in solving the case as I recall.

If there is an embarrassing picture or quote about you on the internet in 2018 that is a problem, in about 10 years it will be trivial to have some company blast out thousands of fakes of thousands of people with similarly embarrassing pictures or quotes - there is no chain of accuracy on the public internet, and the privately held databases will never have a chance at being considered more accurate than the public database. You will be able to say the fakes are fake and your embarrassing internet problem is fake too.

Yes I realize that comment was not exactly on point. Let me start again. You know all those stories from a few months ago about "air force" pilots astounded at seeing "UFO-type" air craft crossing the sky within their field of vision? Jet stream, focused ******* propulsion .... today is 2028 for the rich and connected, in most technologies. Those of us who are not rich and connected do not know that we live in 2018 surrounded by 2028 technology.

Yes I realize I am still not on point. One more try. The detection of crime sometimes advances quicker than criminals imagine it does. The 90 percent threshold discussed in this post was crossed about 18 months ago, is my best guess, for everyone - no matter what their descent - who is not the only child of a pair of only children.

That should make things easy for unfriendly AI

you are right.

the real "good war" will be the fight against unfriendly AI .

well, to the extent any war is a good war ....

free data book :

Comments for this post are closed