What makes you you? Ask your genome

By Dan Jones If you are looking for deeper self-knowledge, forget introspection and put your faith in science. Not only will it tell you about your health, it can also reveal secrets about your ancestry, personality, sexuality, attitudes, perceptions and intelligence. In this special report, New Scientist gives you the latest developments in the study of individuality, starting with what promises to be the richest ever source of self-knowledge – your own genome. This should be available to you in a few years, but what will it tell you about yourself, wonders Dan Jones CRAIG VENTER can make a unique claim. “To my knowledge I am the only person on the planet to have their genome decoded,” he says with a hint of satisfaction. He is the driving force behind the commercial effort to sequence the human genome, so it is perhaps not surprising he was the first to attain this level of self-knowledge. He hopes he will not be alone for long. The J. Craig Venter Science Foundation is sponsoring a $10 million prize for anyone who can get the cost of sequencing an individual’s genome down to $1000. Venter predicts it will be scooped within a decade. At this price, plenty of people will be able to unravel their personal genetic story. “That’s when we’re going to see a massive shift in the study of human genetic variation and our own personal genetic make-up,” he says. Venter believes that once geneticists can compare thousands or even millions of individual genomes, they will get a better handle on why, as individuals,
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