Gattaca (1997) is an American science fiction film written and directed by Andrew Niccol. In Gattaca’s world, the majority of the population is conceived through genetic manipulation to ensure they possess the best hereditary traits of their parents, which means to make them as perfect as possible. Vincent Freeman, the main character of the film, was conceived outside the eugenics program and struggles to overcome genetic discrimination to realise his dream of travelling into space.
The main consequence in a world ruled by the biologic perfection is the segregation between perfects (called valid) and imperfects (called in-valid); the best specimens take the important positions in the society, they have a positive social mark who make them different from the rest, whereas the others are considered as inferiors and they can just serve as cheap labour, without aspiring to anything else. As Vincent says: “I belong to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the colour of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science.”(19:00)
In Gattaca, who born “son of nature” cannot exceed that limit and who try to do it is just a de-genered, someone who refuses to accept what it is. On the other hand, those perfect subjects have an extra pressure in their lives. It is supposed they have everything to become successful, so that is what is expected from them, in the same way that it is expected from the invalid to conform to their social roles. This way, in this society there exist an obsession for define constantly the identity, which is associated directly with the idea of genetics; what defines the individual is its genetic profile, the only thing that matters. We can appreciate this at the moment that Vincent arrives at his work interview and after a blood analysis, he asks his interlocutor: “what about the interview?” And then the answer is: “that was the interview”. (34:08).
Nowadays, basically exist two opposite visions about human enhancement. For some people, ethics in this issue must be based on natural rights. This philosophical view holds that there is a universal human nature on which rights should organise human ends and goods. From this standpoint, genetic engineering and all other forms of enhancement would be rejected because it threatens human essence, and hence, human sanctity. (Hogle, 2005).
An opposing view is held by transhumanists, whose goal it is to promulgate the improvement of human life through technology. Transhumanists believe that human nature is a work in progress, changing in relation to varying social and temporal conditions. In this view, attachment to personal identity or something called human essence is not a priority. Genetic engineering through this lens is seen as an opportunity for new experiences and human growth. (Hogle, 2005).
Therefore, Gattaca would be a clear example of the application of the second vision about human enhancement, and the consequences that this can bring. In this case, the development of the scientific knowledge and the pursuit of a high productivity didn’t bring a fairer or egalitarian world, nor helped to eradicate the problems of society, but quite the contrary. That is why we need to make a big effort to establish a correct ethic in these aspects.
Hogle, L. (2005). ENHANCEMENT TECHNOLOGIES AND THE BODY. Annual Review Of Anthropology, 34(1), 695-716. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.33.070203.144020
Niccol, Andrew (Director). (1997). Gattaca [Film]. United States: Jersey/Columbia Films.