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Facial fixation betrays a fear of what genetic detail unmasks

来源:FT中文网    2017-10-10 06:24

        The book of life, spelt out in our DNA, is becoming a modern Book of Revelations. Craig Venter, the entrepreneur who helped to sequence the human genome, published a paper recently claiming that his company could work out what someone looked like simply by analysing their genetic data.        由我们的DNA书写的生命之书,正成为现代版的《启示录》(Book of Revelations)。曾帮助完成人类基因组排序的企业家克雷格•文特尔(Craig Venter)最近发表了一篇论文,声称他的公司可以单纯通过分析某个人的基因数据而绘制出其长相。
        Using a database of around a thousand people of different ages, ethnicity and gender, scientists at Human Longevity Inc, where Mr Venter is head of scientific strategy, searched for associations between small DNA sequences and facial characteristics. They found that the sequences could be used, supposedly, to pick out their owner with an accuracy of 74 per cent.        Human Longevity公司(HLI)——文特尔是这家公司科学战略方面的负责人——的科学家们利用包含不同年龄、不同种族和不同性别的1000个人的数据组,探寻了DNA小序列和面部特征之间的关联。他们发现,理论上可以根据这些DNA序列挑出对应的DNA所有者,准确率达74%。
        The research raised obvious questions of genetic privacy: imagine the ethical and legal implications if a drop of blood, left at a crime scene or a street protest, could be used to print a face.        该研究提出了有关基因隐私的显而易见的问题:想象一下,如果犯罪现场或街头抗议现场留下的一滴血,可以被用来绘制出其主人的面容,这在伦理和法律上会产生何种影响。
        This fast-moving field already divides opinion; last week, one British professor urged people to make their genomes freely available, because of the potential of such data to transform medicine.        这个快速发展的领域已经导致了意见分歧;不久前一名英国教授敦促人们允许外界自由使用他们的基因组,因为此类数据可能彻底改变医学面貌。
        But the launch of the iPhone X was dominated by concerns over the use of facial recognition ID to replace fingerprint unlocking (Apple points out that facial recognition can be disabled). Amid these cultural conversations, the claim that genes could unmask appearance was bound to turn heads.        但是,人们对苹果(Apple)新推出的iPhone X的主要担忧,就是用面部识别ID取代指纹解锁(苹果指出,面部识别可被禁用)。在这些文化讨论的背景下,这种声称基因可以透露人类长相的说法必然会引起人们关注。
        Except that the claim has now been questioned. One computational biologist claimed that an accuracy of 75 per cent could be achieved with HLI’s data set simply by weeding out faces on the basis of gender, age and ethnicity. HLI rejects the critique, insisting that its algorithms are more discriminating than a purely demographic edit.        只不过,这一说法如今受到了质疑。一名计算生物学家称,只要根据性别、年龄和种族排除部分长相,就可以在HLI的数据集中实现75%的准确率。该公司否定了这种说法,坚持称其算法拥有更强大的识别力,并非单纯根据人口统计学特征来筛选能达到的。
        It has also emerged that the journal Science had previously rejected HLI’s paper. The company’s position on genetic privacy, meanwhile, looks rather like self-interest: while hinting that the issue is wider and deeper than previously thought, HLI, which is privately owned, is trying to build the world’s largest genetic database.        另外有消息称,此前《科学》(Science)杂志曾拒绝发表HLI的论文。与此同时,该公司在基因隐私方面的立场似乎受一己之利驱使:在暗示该问题比之前想象的更广更深的同时,这家私有公司正试图建立全世界最大的基因数据库。
        Whether or not this paper stands, your genome really does have the potential to be revelatory in unexpected ways. We know that clues to disease are written within, and one day it will indeed tell us about cheekbone contours and jawlines, as well as elements of personality.        无论这篇论文的立场如何,你的基因组确实可能以你意想不到的方式发挥它的“启示”作用。我们知道,疾病的线索就存在于基因组中,终有一天,我们将真的能够从基金组中得知一个人的颧骨轮廓、下颚线条、以及性格特征是怎样的。
        So, genomic science challenges us to think about what we hold dear. Should we regard our unique strings of DNA as sacrosanct sequences, as deserving of protection as our credit card numbers and social security identifiers? Or is it a civic duty to donate our genome to the noble cause of medicine? In reality, it might be nonsensical to fret over privacy, given the DNA-rich trail that we shed in our wake, in the form of spit, hair, waste and other discarded cells.        因此,基因科学迫使我们思索我们所珍视的东西。我们是应该把自己独有的DNA序列视为神圣不可侵犯、值得我们像保护信用卡卡号和社保标识一样保护,还是应该把捐献自己的基因组给高尚的医学事业视为公民应尽的义务?事实上,考虑到我们无时无刻不在身后留下富含DNA的痕迹——无论是唾液、毛发、排泄物和其他从身体上脱落的细胞,为隐私困扰或许是毫无意义的。
        But I suspect this research also unsettles because it concerns the face, our frontispiece to the world. The ethics of face transplants, for example, centres mostly on questions of recipient identity. While Apple uses faces to unlock phones, the ancient Greeks believed that faces could unlock the secrets of the soul. Pythagoras felt that the moral essence of potential pupils could be distilled from their facial features. The Victorians were similarly bewitched by the pseudoscience of physiognomy; matching the shapes of noses and browlines to character suited that era’s penchant for classification and categorisation.        但我认为该研究之所以令人不安,还因为它事关人脸——这是我们向这个世界展示的“门面”。例如,关于面部移植的伦理问题大部分集中在接受者的身份问题上。苹果是利用人脸解锁手机,古希腊人则认为人脸可以解开灵魂的秘密。毕达哥拉斯(Pythagoras)认为,潜在学生的道德本质可以通过面部特征看出。维多利亚时代的人们同样为面相学这种伪科学而着迷;把鼻型和眉形与性格挂钩,符合该时代对分门别类的嗜好。
        The practice is discredited but we still fixate on faces. Alexander Todorov, professor of psychology at Princeton University, in his book Face Value        这种学说是不可信的,但如今我们仍执着于拿面相做文章。普林斯顿大学(Princeton University)的心理学教授亚历山大•托多罗夫(Alexander Todorov)在他的著作《“面”值》(Face Value)中形容人类为“天真的相面者”。其他人认为,长相可以透露一个人的政治倾向和性倾向。或许这就是我们无法赞同利用基因来绘制长相的原因:为基因组绘制出一张脸,感觉就像毫无保留地袒露我们深藏的每一个秘密。
        describes humans as “naive physiognomists”. Others believe that faces betray political and sexual leanings. Perhaps that is why we cannot countenance using genes to sketch likenesses: adding a face to a genome feels as if we are laying bare our every last secret.        本文作者为科学评论作家
        The writer is a science commentator        译者/马柯斯

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