Google Ventures CEO Bill Maris holds nothing back while discussing the potential for DNA testing to lead to better healthcare and longer human lives.
Fighting to protect the privacy of your genetic data is only getting in the way of medical and technological breakthroughs, according to Google Ventures CEO Bill Maris. In fact, at the Wall Street Journal tech conference in California on Tuesday (October 20), he declared, “If we each keep our genetic information secret, then we’re all going to die.” Good to know.
Genetic testing sites like Ancestry and 23andMe have taken a lot of heat lately given the concerns about ethics and privacy issues surrounding the sites. Police have been accessing these private DNA databases to help solve crimes, but the controversial method can often make innocent people look like the perpetrator if the DNA samples are similar enough.
However, Maris thinks that sharing our genetic data can only lead to advancement in society, plus, he says that we leave our DNA virtually everywhere we go anyway. Whether it’s fingerprints, strands of hair, or remnants of saliva on a cup of coffee, it’s not like you’re making your way around the world undetected. Anybody determined to track down your DNA trails would most likely succeed, so Maris asks skeptics, “What are you worried about? Your genome isn’t really secret.”
Maris also happens to be the founder of Calico, a biotech company that is working to hack the DNA code of life and combat the effects of aging. So it’s not surprising he’s pushing for a wider spread of genetic data — the success of Calico and other biotech companies depends on it. Not to mention, Google Ventures is an investor in 23andMe and their $99 spit kit, an easy take-home way for people to send in their genetic information to be tested.
“The reality is, the technology exists now to extend life and have people live healthier, happier lives," Maris stresses. When asked about the research currently being done at Google Ventures, Maris gave a “conservative estimate” that it could potentially extend the human lifespan to 500 years. But do we even want to live that long? By multiplying our lifespans, an array of further issues arises.
How would we produce enough food for everyone to survive? And if people were living hundreds of years, how would the job industry ever turnover for younger generations? Still, Maris urges people to embrace the idea of immortality instead of being afraid of it. In an interview with The Verge, he says that most people are iffy when asked if they’d want to live to 200, but if they were going to die tomorrow and got the chance to extend their lives, most people would take it.
Maris thinks that using genetic data to make advancements in the field of biotechnology is much more important than other technological endeavors, like the desire to build flying cars, reports Popular Science.
His ideas are certainly innovative and radical, but despite his opinion that people shouldn’t care about what their genetic data is being used for, they still have a right to. Will biotechnology lead to longer and better lives? Perhaps. But the process should uphold everybody’s right to privacy and their own opinion, staying sensitive to the fact that some people simply don’t want to live hundreds of extra years.