03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Spitting Into The Future

It's been said that the future will be much like the present, only longer. But knowing the future would change your life. If you knew the exact location of your death you might avoid that place and buy a few more years. ("No, I can't go to the Teacups ride at Disneyland ever again and I can't tell you why.")

A time machine is one option, and there are instructions for building one to be found on the web. In fact, experts like Dr. J. Richard Gott of Princeton University say that we already know how to travel into the future. All you have to do is travel really fast. "If you accelerated to 99.995 percent the speed of light five hundred light years away and then come back at the same speed, the Earth will be a thousand years older, but you've only aged 10 years," says the doctor. Easy enough.

Richard Branson is working on a spaceship for space tourists - maybe I'll hitch a ride with him. The price of a ticket is only $200,000.

There's a cheaper way to know the future and it involves popping a little bit of your spit in the mail. That's right - you send in $399 along with a spit sample to a company called 23andMe. They analyze your DNA and tell you your genetic predisposition to certain diseases. You'd know whether you're at risk for breast cancer or prostate cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, Crohn's Disease, Parkinson's, Restless Legs Syndrome, Macular Degeneration - 118 diseases in all. You might even find out some fun stuff from your past, like the guy you call Dad is not really your father.

Oh, the folks at 23andMe could make a mistake. Genetic testing is not infallible. You can get false positives. Genetic testing is also not a death sentence. Just because you have a predisposition to a disease doesn't mean you'll get it. Diet, lifestyle, environment - lots of factors to consider. Since scientists are still learning more about DNA the results of your test could be re-interpreted at a later date.

("Honey, great news - the doctor said I should eat more deep-fried Twinkies!") The 23andMe folks even have a sense of humor about it all, with a blog titled The Spittoon, and a blog subtitle of "more than you've come to expectorate."

I'm laughing, until I start thinking. What if everyone did this? Who gets access? Insurance companies could check out your pre-existing conditions even before they existed and find new ways to deny you coverage. Marriages would end before they started. Schools could deny scholarships because they wouldn't want to waste money on you. ("But Van Gogh died at 37! I have plenty of time to paint a masterpiece.")

Not knowing the future might, paradoxically, give us more power over what's next in our lives. I think I'd rather take my chances with destiny's roulette wheel.