GENES, PRIVACY, AND FACES
Updated: May 27, 2020
If you're reading this blog, you probably know that ASKlabs strives to explore the intersection of science and art. We aim to document stories of creativity at the art/science interface to inspire global audiences of all ages. We have a blast interviewing brilliant hybrid folk and hanging around with our cameras while they're at work exploring, building, inventing.
However, since our September 2013 Nerd Nite talks, the arrival of the $1000 genome, and the rise of consumer genomics, a number of big ideas have been swirling around ASKlabs. First off, facial morphology is an indication of how genetic syndromes present and there are often behaviors associated with the syndrome as well. Second, while many people are getting their genomes sequenced affordably now, there still isn't much information understood about which genes do what. Deciphering the human genome will be the work of molecular biologists, and bioinformaticians over the next few decades. Third, these are exciting times for genomics so we are developing a documentary exploring genetic privacy and the complex issues surrounding it.
We all see from family resemblances and identical twins that our faces are genetically-determined. However scientists do not yet know which genes do what. What if someone were to quantify a huge amount of facial data? Could we then link facial features directly to disease and behavior, forgoing the need for genetic data? We know that this is a big, impossible, and totally wacky idea but we think it could be an interesting dataset to add to the personal genomics mix. After all, if we don't ask, and if we don't measure, then we'll never have the data, and we'll never know the answer, right?
In short, we are getting obsessed with the idea of exploring the connections between genes and faces. There are a couple of big challenges we will need to figure out first such as: how will we acquire a large amount of facial data? How accurately can we measure human faces?
Watch this space for news and updates on the face project. Check out Facetopo's website.