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Brace for Disappointment

Personal genome analysis often offers to uncover hidden insights about what makes people who they are, but Quartz's Philip Ball writes that that's not quite true and argues that the rhetoric is actually harmful.

Such claims, he says, perpetuate the idea that genes are destiny. Instead, Ball notes that a person's genome is "at best a rough sketch of potential yous, shaped and modified by outside influences."

Ball notes that science writer Carl Zimmer had jumped at the chance to have his genome analyzed, only to find that it is "boring." NBC News' Nancy Snyderman likewise reported in 2013 that her genome wasn't that exciting, which she noted was a good thing. Ball adds that many traits that people are interested in learning about like height and intelligence are influenced by a number of different genes that each has a small effect, while others might increase a person's risk of disease by a particular percentage.

"Apart from a few well-known cases, most genetic information has only a very mild effect on the person," Javier Herrero from University College London tells Ball.

But, Ball says, the more people who seek such testing and are let down, the more the myth of genetic predeterminism will be shattered.