It could be you — you know, one of those people who are sweating the genealogical DNA fishing trips police are using to close out cold cases?
The number of people who think they literally got away with murder long ago is dwindling. You might be parked in a nursing home somewhere and — voila — the cops come calling with a murder warrant.
Police send decades-old DNA samples to genealogical labs, where they’re compared to millions of people who voluntarily surrendered their genetic footprint, gradually narrowing the pool of suspects to just a few people.
If the match puts them in the right neighborhood, it’s only a matter of following the suspects around, gathering up something containing DNA that is thrown away, and eventually forcing you to explain how your DNA came to be on/in the body of a murder victim.
The mere notion of being able to track down criminals genetically would have been laughed at when I was a teenager. But things have gotten a lot more sophisticated, and they’re going to continue to improve.
There may come a day when science will be able to place you in a room exactly 35 years, eight months, 15 days, and two hours ago just because you sneezed while you were in it.
Sounds impossible, I know. But given that most of the dust in a home comes from human epidermis (skin flakes), it’s likely that we’re all leaving tracks that science eventually will be able to read once the right technology is developed.
There are lots of arguments against such fantastical possibilities, but remember that people once believed the same about DNA. Now criminals are thinking of ways around incriminating themselves through spit on a sidewalk. Will it ever be possible to “mask” your DNA?
Brigham Young thought so. On Dec. 5, 1855, he spoke on the matter of Jewish blood changing to regular blood upon true conversion.
“We have men among us who were Jews, and become converted from Judaism. For instance, here is Brother Neibaur. Do I believe there is one particle of the blood of Judah in his veins? No, not so much as could be seen upon the point of the finest cambric needle, through a microscope with a magnifying power of 2 millions.”
Science might be able to un-Irish my blood someday, but I’m betting not until I’m dead for at least a trillion years.
Royal blood used to mean something. Not so much anymore. Judging from history, there are a lot of “brothel sprouts” in certain lineages. Thanks to science, blood has long since become less royal and more disloyal.
Indeed, the entire world is becoming a lot more un-private. Computers, cameras, drones, genetics, cellphones, digital archives and other forms of rummaging around in someone’s past/present are rapidly increasing.
It won’t be long before people will be afraid to go to the bathroom because the government can trace their exact whereabouts via micro-sewage monitors.
I wouldn’t want to live in a world like that. Fortunately, I won’t have to. By the time science is able to prove that a bowling ball found inside the nostril of a Mount Rushmore president once belonged to Sonny and me, we’ll be long gone to a place from which there is no extradition.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.