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Time considered as a helix of infinite possibilities


This article explores the temporal implications of genomics through the lens of a classic science fiction story by Samuel R Delany, ‘Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones’. Delany’s futuristic vision of ‘hologramic information storage’, which allows the interplanetary Special Services to discover and predict everything a suspect has done or will be doing at any time in the past, present or future resembles ‘genome time’, the illusion that data encoded in your DNA can reveal your entire life—not only where you came from but what you will become—and that it is knowable from a single test in the present. The temporal implications of genomics are compared with ‘queer time’ and contrasted with the temporal implications of nanoscience and climate change in order to clarify what is distinctive about genome time. In conclusion, some practical consequences of genome time are discussed.

  • queer theory
  • genetics
  • literature
  • literary theory

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