Will services like Ancestry.com significantly change our society?

Some of you may remember THIS thread I posted over a year ago. Long story short, after 50 years my sister-in-law discovered, via Ancestry. com, her dad is not her biological father. Her mother had an affair in the late 60’s resulting in her. Through an amazing amount of detective work she found out who her biological father was (he’s deceased) and has recently met with her newly learned about half-siblings.

My poor brother has said their home has been a madhouse since his wife has been devastated by all this. She’s become depressed, sought therapy, joined special groups, etc… Since meeting her new half siblings she has found some peace, but it has been a rough road.

Which brings me to a conversation we had this weekend. Is it possible that services like Ancestry, 23 and me, etc., will cause an actual change in society, or at least in individual actions. No more are the days where a woman can fool around, get pregnant, and just let her husband think the child is his. No more are the days that a guy can screw around with a married woman and if he knocks her up just let her husband believe the child is his.

Thanks to these new services the truth will eventually come out, possibly destroying families, marriages, devastating people, and so on. Finding out the truth is now easily available and very inexpensive.

Knowing this, will there be a shift in the actions of cheating spouses? Will greater precautions be taken. Will there be other noticeable changes in our culture due to this technology?

I’m not sure it will necessarily have that effect. To use your example, the key to a cheating wife passing off her son as her husband’s is for her husband to never suspect in the first place. If he really did suspect something awry, things would already be halfway awry. The more expensive DNA paternity tests have already existed for a long time. Something like Ancestry.com only makes it marginally easier.

If a woman is able to get pregnant by another man and in such away that the resulting child is reasonably biologically similar to what would be expected of such a couple (i.e., a Hispanic wife cheats on her husband but both husband and lover are Hispanic, then the resulting child would look Hispanic) - and if the timing of the pregnancy relative to when the wife and husband would be having sex makes the pregnancy timing plausible, then it’s well likely the husband will never suspect infidelity his whole life long.

But then at 16 that child, just out of curiosity of his ancestry, takes a dna test and finds he has half siblings somewhere and confronts his parents about it. That’s how the ancestry test works. It tells you about dna matches with other people. There is no more hiding a bastard child. My sister-in-law never suspected. She took the test just to see how much polish ancestry she had. When it came up zip is when she discovered her mothers affair.

True, it will make such revelations easier to come by. However I would suspect that when a woman has an extramarital fling, she isn’t exactly making detailed analysis/calculations about the future consequences - i.e., “Well, we shouldn’t have sex because a decade or two from now, Ancestry. com is going to be a big thing in society…”

But that’s my question for debate. As more and more of these things get revealed, the Proverbial “you can’t get away with anything, anymore”, will it change our culture that a majority of people WILL think about consequences. Consequences that in years past never had to be suffered.

Remember, this is just the beginning of this dna thing. As more and more people do it, more and more secrets are going to be discovered.

I think there should be a movie with the plot twist that such services are just a way to get everyone’s DNA in a huge database. Where they test for a bunch more things than they reveal to the user. Things they haven’t revealed to us that can be decoded and that define us and our futures. And they keep the sample viable and are able to run any new test that the future should produce.

You laugh, but that could be one of the huge changes that could happen to our society. And it’s one of the things I’m asking about. This is truly a new frontier!

Firstly as has been pointed out (even in your thread) that these tests unless specifically testing aren’t that reliable and are fairly subjective. In your case IIRC, doubts as to paternity already existed.

Secondly, like LSLGuy stated in that thread , sometimes it’s better to let what’s buried remain that way. A lot of the time no good can come from it. Which is why Courts have traditionally been reluctant to permit fishing expeditions testing…for a paternity test you need very strong prima facie evidence and saying “looks different” is not enough. I worry that these organizations will subvert this.

As an aside, I recently learnt on another forum of a case opposite of yours. Basically a Mom had a lover whom it was believed had sired her youngest child. This caused lots of repercussions, she got estranged from everyone, the lover ran off, she had to raise the kid alone in a different state. Never divorced her husband and he had never disclaimed officially disclaimed paternity, though he had never met the kid and she had left while pregnant. When he died suddenly years later without a will, (he was quite rich), she who was trying to repair her relationship with her older children disclaimed her share. A DNA test was ordered on the now teenage son, despite her statements that her husband was not the father. Of course the tests came back that he was.

More bitterness ensued.

Thirdly, women are not good at guessing who the father is.

My brothers wife did not have doubts about her paternity prior to taking the ancestry test. She only thought she looked way more like her mom than her dad.

But a lot of people aren’t going to let it go, regardless of what you or anyone else thinks they should do. In the case of my sister in law she felt like she was robbed of her identity. Nothing anyone could say to her made it better. And to poo poo it made it all the more worse. Finding out that your dad is not your dad can be very devastating to some people and to tell them to just let it go is tantamount to kicking someone while they are down. I can only imagine what’s been going on at their house behind closed doors, but I have seen a serious change in my brothers wifes demeanor.

I think some of you are ignorant of how this ancestry stuff works. People are taking these tests to see how much German, English, Polish, etc they have in them. Some people then get matches for people they never heard of saying the dna match means they are cousins, siblings, half siblings, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, etc… The service includes these things. It has nothing to do with paternity tests. My S.I.L. only did a paternity test on her dad because in her shock she was hopping it would prove the ancestry test was wrong. It wasn’t.

I’m thinking that within the decade there are going to be a significant number of people learning that they are calling the wrong guy daddy. And they’ll only find out because they were trying to see how much of what ethnicity they had in them. Imagine the disarray in families when secrets like this are revealed. Imagine grandparents finding out their daughter in-law cheated on their son. Imagine the destruction of marriages. Imagine finding these things out by accident only because you wanted to find out if you had any native American in you ancestry. All things that wouldn’t have happened before because this technology wasn’t readily available.

The debate is, how will that change us as a people?

What they are doing is analyzing the positions of specific apparently-active non-coding gene sequences (garbage code that actually seems to do something). The patterns reflect a geographic distribution and when their orientation is applied to their physical location and all the alignments are averaged, they converge on R’lyeh.

It’s not just DNA technology that’s changing us.
It’s all of modern digital technology: the internet, and the cell phone, and GPS locators on cars, and baby monitors that allow remote viewing, and body cameras, and Google Glass (if it ever returns to the market.)
These all are part of our life now, and they all encourage and enable spying.

Your cell phone maintains a log, right? So how do you call your secret lover?
Lots of vehicles have GPS tracking, so how do you drive to the motel?
An innocent-looking stuffed animal on the shelf can easily record everthing in the room.
Etc, etc.

Yes, DNA tech may lead a few people to unpleasant surprises about their family’s secrets from past decades.
But I suspect that our current tech has caused more than a few people to already have had unpleasant surprises about their family members’ secrets—not in the future, but right now.

And I would think that it is far more hurtful to catch your spouse in a motel room with someone else today, than to discover that your mother went to a motel room with someone else 45 years ago.

And yet, somehow life goes on…

This. Literally everything you do is spied on by SOMEBODY now, be they corporation, government, private or public security cameras, or other. If having an affair is a big deal, then somebody has that dirt on literally anyone who’s had an affair in the last 10 years or so. But it’s not blowing up the world, because it’s not actually that big a deal, and most of the big players involved have no incentive to reveal such things.

Also, just because she wants to be a drama queen and make a big deal about it doesn’t mean it’s objectively a big deal - I guarantee for literally EVERYONE, if you go back far enough there is infidelity in the family tree. And for a lot of people, you don’t have to go back very far at all. We’re mixed promiscuous / monogamous apes, and we sleep around (in the aggregate) a lot, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Did they outlaw abortion while I wasn’t looking?

It’s not what a mother did in a motel room 45 years ago that’s so much the problem as the forty five years of lying about it. I can understand why pkbites’ sister in law is so upset. What she learned has overturned the certainties of her identity and her relationship with her parents. I hope she can come to terms with it in time.

I think there is one thing that has changed already, and that is the end of completely false accusations of paternity. It used to be possible for a woman with malicious motives to claim that a man had fathered her child even if they had never slept together, or had never slept together during the relevant time period. This type of accusation, once perpetrated against wealthy men and celebrities, doesn’t make sense any more. You can disrupt someone’s life for a short while by making the claim, but as soon as the child is born, a paternity test is going to end the matter.

I do believe that over time the ease of determining your genetic makeup will cause many more people to discover that their paternity is not what they thought it was. I think the end result will be to normalize alternate paternity situations. I don’t believe it will have much impact on cheaters, who are notorious for not considering the consequences of their behavior.

DNA testing became available in the 1960’s and has steadily improved in reliability and speed ever since.

To discuss the more general trend, rather than the DNA-test subset, I think the general trend is going to result in a calcification of social mores.

Part of the way that society evolves is that the younger generation gets away with stuff and establishes its own social rules and then, gradually, those become the norm. This is greatly facilitated by mobility and independence, which is part of the reason that the explosion of global wealth started around the Industrial Revolution has resulted in such sweeping social changes compared to, say, living in small villages where everyone knows you and your parents and any misstep will reflect badly on your family for decades.

The modern panopticon is going to make it like our lives are lived in the silos of little villages where everyone knows whats going on, but more so. People still had affairs in small villages, because although there are lots of prying eyes, even the prying eyes sleep. But the cameras and trackers never do.

One way to think about the current culture war is that the increased visibility into other people’s lives has raised the stakes. Everyone is trying to be the dominant culture that gets cemented into place once we all know what everyone is doing around us.

I am not optimistic about this trend. I don’t think humanity is enlightened enough to accept a diverse and varied cultural future, or forgive ourselves for our weakness.

I don’t think that the increasing availability of DNA tests is going to lead to a normalization of alternate paternity any more than the increasing availability of security cameras led to a normalization of minor property crimes. I think it will make things worse.

I think a good thought experiment is to imagine some other period in history with, let’s say, even more restrictive or inhumane social standards that somehow got ahold of this technology.

Would the American South in the 1800s become less racist if they had cheap DNA tests and could easily see that lots of “white” people were passing, and that many slaves were related to their owners by blood?

Increased surveillance is going to make it much harder to be someone who lives outside of the norm of mainstream morality to get by without becoming a target.

And the reverse - men that claim it’s not their child when it is. Which is what my brother did circa 1989. Claimed it wasn’t his. Got a bunch of his friends to say they slept with her too, etc. DNA test resolved the issue.

And in both cases, that’s good.

Mind you, in my brother’s case, he ended up getting his boss to lie about his income so he shorted the kid on child support. I don’t think much of him.

Perhaps the way forward is mandatory paternity testing?

I don’t think so. Maybe opt-out paternity testing, but not mandatory. People have a right not to test if they don’t want to. Both for philosophical reasons and because it will cost money that someone will have to pay.