The SXSW Sense of Connection Brings Possible Cousins Together
There are many thousands of people in Austin, Texas this week or there will be over the next two weeks before everyone leaves after attending the Education, Interactive, Film and Music programming. It’s hard to explain what is so magical about this conference. Yet there is the SXSW sense of connection that folks expect and anticipate. Just listen to what happened today while I was working the Film lounge. One of many random people who asked me questions about where to find this or that place became a fast friend. Before 10 minutes had passed, she and I decided to go to lunch together. No one introduced us.
Once we arrived at the Thai restaurant, there was one table left. With permission, we joined a single male and all rapidly fell into conversation as if we’d known each other before. Lunch passed quickly and before the bill came, he excused himself, paid the tab and that was that. Turns out he is a pretty significant person in his work life, someone I’d probably not have been able to call and get an immediate call back. But this is the sort of thing that happens at SXSW.
That tendency to connect, the desire to be open and the goal to connect is in high evidence at SXSW. I think that attendees come anticipating the SXSW sense of connection. Then 23andme, the genetic and health powerhouse, wrote an article suggesting there may be a scientific reason for this. They went so far as to claim that our genetic network is the new social network. The articles stated, “Any two people attending the SXSW conference is connected through just one or two or three other individuals.” And that this connection is genetic, not social.
They arrived at this conclusion starting with claim that every one of the 30,000 attendees may have as many as 35 first cousins. To paraphrase, this means that we all share one grandparent. On average everyone here has between one or two second cousins, meaning that [we] each share the same great grandparent.
Anne Wojcicki the co-founder of 23andme will speak on 3/9. Maybe you remember this is the company that the FDA issued an injunction against to stop it from providing low cost genetic tests to the public because it felt the public was making health decisions based on information received from health results of 23andme tests. I am of the school that this company is bringing personalized medicine to the public. In light of a clear cultural move to put the responsibility of medical care into each patient’s hands, why not allow us to have our own genetic and health information.
It is an exciting time in the history of genetic studies and human connection. Since I took this test in October, I have received numerous messages from 5th cousins that I have yet to connect with but realize I may be surprised to learn what relative we share.
Let’s see what Wojcicki has to say on Sunday.