What if you could know when and how you were going to die? Would you choose to remain ignorant, or would you prefer to confront the facticity of your own mortality directly? This question has engaged philosophers for millennia. Until recently, the question was merely a matter for personal speculation, eliciting intuitions about mortality, self-determination, and free-will. This has all changed. At least, so it seems.
A new industry has emerged, as a result of the last decade’s exponential technological advances in the field of bioinformatics. Now, a glimpse of our most likely personal Reaper is less than 100 dollars away (just two years ago the glimpse was ten times the distance and ten times more blurry). Gene sequencing companies have sprung up everywhere, like mushrooms after a rain. For a modest price, each of us can have our DNA analyzed, and receive a report of our personal predisposition to acquire a variety of potentially debilitating or terminal diseases. Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, lung cancer, breast cancer, obesity, and multiple sclerosis are but a few of the many worrisome conditions targeted by such DNA analysis.