Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tracing Roots

The idea of tracing back one's ancestors to 60,000 years ago is a fascinating one. This is a research in progress at National Geographic. To participate the first step involves purchasing a kit that allows the participant to send back a check swab for DNA analysis. Your anonymity is guaranteed. The success of the project clearly depends on the size and diversity of the database and it seems with a kit priced at $100 + that may be the biggest obstacle on the way to success.

In the exhaustive list of FAQs, I did not find one that asks how this project could be viable if the only way to get data were to be people willing and able to spend $100 to trace their ancestry. I would imagine there is large amounts of existing data - collected at low or no cost to the participant.

Now that it exists, this the monetization opportunity by appealing to the curiosity of the those who don't mind paying as much as they would need to in order to satiate it. This is a lot like paying for a seat on a space-craft though the price tags are orders of magnitude apart. It may not be too long before DIY DNA Analyzers become affordable enough for a lot of people - that combined with public databases could do make the business of ancestry tracing far more egalitarian and in the process more accurate.

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