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Genetic-ancestry tests are having a moment. Look no further than Spotify: On Thursday, the music-streaming service—as in, the service used to fill tedious workdays and DJ parties—launched a collaboration with AncestryDNA. The partnership creates custom playlists for users based on DNA results they input: Oumou Sangaré for Mali, for example, and Ed Sheeran for England.

And last May, after the U.S. men’s soccer team had embarrassingly missed the World Cup, 23andMe also saw a marketing opportunity. “What is a soccer nut to do?” the company asked in a blog post. “Here’s an idea—why not pick a team based on your genetic ancestry?”

There’s an Ancestry ad where a man trades his lederhosen for a kilt. And another where a woman traces her ancestry to the matriarchal Akan people of Ghana to conclude, “When I found you in my DNA, I learned where my strength comes from.” And yet another where a man bonds with his Irish neighbor after finding out his own DNA is 15 percent Irish.

DNA, these marketing campaigns imply, reveals something essential...

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