I would never have met Harriett were it not for our mutual friend, Linda. I’m a physician in Northern California; Harriett’s a communications executive in New York City. Linda co-founded an online personal genomics company, to which Harriett and I each sent our genetic information for analysis.
Linda introduced us after she saw that Harriett and I had something in common: a rare type of mitochondrial DNA, which meant we were distantly related. It turns out that we also share that genealogy with a prehistoric celebrity: Ötzi the Iceman, whose 5,300-year-old frozen corpse was discovered in the Alps in 1991. For fun, I even started a Facebook group for people with the same DNA variant as Ötzi and Harriett and me.
I tell this story to make a point. Harriett and I met over a feat of biomedical science—mass-market, low-cost gene analysis—that once was unimaginable and now is commonplace. The convergence of digital technologies and social platforms made it possible for us to learn our genotypes and share what we found out with the online universe.