• Ingenious : Siddhartha Mukherjee - Issue 43 : Heroes

    Siddhartha Mukherjee feels his science deeply. As much as any contemporary science writer, he reminds us that the actors, subjects, and interpreters of science are human beings. His most recent book, The Gene: An Intimate History, is nominally about the modern science of genetics. “But of course,” he explains, “that book is about identity.” The identity of normal and abnormal, of fate and chance, and of the family—particularly Mukherjee’s own family, which has been plagued with hereditary mental illness.Deeper still, it’s about how society sees itself. The gene, Mukherjee claims, is a destabilizing idea because of the extraordinary new powers it grants us over ourselves and each other. When does it break down, he wonders, and what happens when it does? “What happens when the idea of the gene (...)

    • the one word that I find very troubling, but also exciting and provocative, is the word “previvor.” The word “previvor” [describes] a survivor of a disease that you haven’t yet had. As we move forward in a more and more deeply genetically-annotated era, where individual genomes are going to be scanned and deciphered for future propensities—like a report card given in, as I said, in statistical propensity—we will begin to enter a weird age of previvors. That is a destabilizing idea in our culture.