Experimental Man Redux
“I love fool’s experiments. I am always making them.”
- Charles Darwin, 1887
In 2009, I set out to answer a simple question in my book, Experimental Man: What one man’s body reveals about his future, your health, and our toxic world - what can cutting-edge high tech tests in biomedicine tell me about myself?
In the prologue to the book I wrote:
In essence, I hope to answer two questions: how healthy am I, and what can the seemingly endless profusion of new high-tech tests for various diseases and traits tell me about my health in the present and for the future?”
This wasn’t literally about me, but “me” standing in as a kind of everyman to tell a story as a journalist, and as a human guinea pig. The idea was to humanize a lot of complex science that often glazes the eyes of nonscientists - to explain through a real person the potential of an epoch of unprecedented biological discovery.
It’s not just about genetics. One’s DNA is just the beginning of what happens inside our bodies, and what can be tested to provide insight into ourselves. The Experimental Man Project is divided into four key areas: genetics, environment, brain and body, with body being the key component that integrates the rest into a profile of a whole person.
I have had my entire genome sequenced, hundreds of environmental toxins measured inside my body, and hundreds of scans taken of my brain and other body parts. I’ve had some great bio-computational minds and leading-edge companies analyze my data and attempt to predict my health future. I have worked with scientists around the world in my effort to test drive tests and write about them.
Have the results changed my life?
Yes and no. Most of the data collected remains raw and the interpretations and analysis is crude. For instance, I have had over 21,000 genetic traits identified - everything from my risk for heart attack and rare neurological disorders to whether I have blue eyes or will experience a side effect when taking a drug. Yet, most of this data has yet to be fully tested and verified for individuals like me or like you.
On this special website, Technology Review will be featuring some highlights from the Experimental Man tests, including my latest, which combines two promising technologies - stem cells and genomics - to determine if they are useful for predicting a person’s future disease, and the impact of various drugs that are known to have side effects in certain people.
Read the article, check out the videos, and let us know what you would do if you had access to this technology - which is likely to happen in a few years.
For more information on the Experimental Man Project, go to http://www.experimentalman.com. And check for more blogs coming in the next few days on this site!
Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build
“I have suddenly switched my views on whether these things are going to be more intelligent than us.”
ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it
The narrative around cheating students doesn’t tell the whole story. Meet the teachers who think generative AI could actually make learning better.
Meet the people who use Notion to plan their whole lives
The workplace tool’s appeal extends far beyond organizing work projects. Many users find it’s just as useful for managing their free time.
Learning to code isn’t enough
Historically, learn-to-code efforts have provided opportunities for the few, but new efforts are aiming to be inclusive.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.