Gattaca, a story of human enhancement

gattaca

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.

 

Bibliography

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.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charlotte-fitzek/bad-dna-not-a-problem-for_b_7288690.html

The ultimate plastic surgery: Photoshop

Daily, we are bombarded by the appearance of “flawless” celebrities in television, advertisements and commercials. Photoshop has made society believe that it is normal to be flawless and to have perfect proportions, and that’s not true. While the vast majority of images of women are being digitally altered, so are our perceptions of normal, healthy, beautiful and attainable.

Commercials and magazines don’t sell just products, they also sell values, images and concepts about love, sex and success. But most important, they sell an image of normality; they told us what it’s supposed to be normal and what we should be.

The constant publicity to which we are exposed every day shows sculptural and unreal bodies as a synonym of success, happiness and health. This socio-cultural pressure indoctrinates people about the benefits of the appearance and the “perfect body”. This way, the first thing we learn from commercial campaigns is the ideal of feminine beauty. Women learn that they have to invest a lot of time, energy and money in order to reach this ideal and feel ashamed if they cannot. However, it is impossible, as the beauty we learn as normal is based on perfection; women in commercials don’t have wrinkles, expression lines, scars or grains. In fact, they don’t have even pores (Lavanguardia, 2016).

Of course, an image of a perfect male body is sold to men too (mainly the obsession of having big muscles), but it seems to me that all this issue is bigger around women, because they are subjected to more social pressure than men in this aspect.

This video shows the whole process to which a model is submitted; makeup, hairstyle, and finally, Photoshop. The comparison between before the process and after it is just ridiculous, it doesn’t look the same person.

Then, this false perception of a perfect body, which is unreal and inaccessible, is the framework of reference for a lot of women, what produces unhappiness to them (Salazar, 2007). The will of reaching that level of unreal “perfection” can provoke that some women try to make plastic surgeries in order to be similar to that people. For example, In Singapore, the latest craze is for the Western nose. In Eastern Europe, thin has become a requisite for the Young wishing to enter a global culture. In South Korea, 50 percent of teenage girls have the double eyelid slit operation to Westernise the look of the eyelid (Orbrach, 2011). So cosmetic surgery has become a significant industry. As well, the obsession of trying to look exactly as the celebrities in the magazines can trigger eating disorders and diseases as bulimia or anorexia.

In conclusion, all of us are being manipulated to interiorize a stereotype of beauty that actually doesn’t exist, so we must be careful and aware of it because it can create unhappiness and dissatisfaction with our own bodies.

 

News articles referenced

http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshopping-altering-images-and-our-minds/

¿Realidad o ficción? El negocio del Photoshop en las revistas de moda (2016). La vanguardia. Available at: http://www.lavanguardia.com/de-moda/moda/20160229/4098805276/escandalos-photoshop-revistas-moda.html

Academic references

Orbach, S. (2011). Losing Bodies. Social Research, 78(2), 387-394. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23347182

Salazar Mora, Z. (2007). Imagen corporal femenina y publicidad en revistas. Revista de Ciencias Sociales (vol. II, núm. 116,  pp. 71-85.) Retrieved from http://www.redalyc.org/pdf/153/15311605.pdf

Machines everywhere?

Technology is something that makes people’s life easier. This way, companies and service providers can save money and time by using robots to replace staff. The introduction of robotic baristas at San Francisco’s Cafe X is an example of this. Customers visiting Café X are able to order espresso drinks involving milk and flavourings from on-site kiosks and a dedicated app. Then, the robot prepares it for every person. So, this form of attending is characterised by a limited personalization and customizability and by a lack of human interaction.

Introducing automation and robotics into food service could reduce costs and increase efficiency. Companies looking into such solutions, however, must remain mindful of the wishes of their customers. Some may prefer a personal experience to an efficient one, or a customised product, whereas others that just want to take their order quickly and go out will be glad about this novelty in serving.

Traditionally, robots have been used primarily in manufacturing. But other industries as well of food service including healthcare, shipping and logistics, retail, hospitality, and more are starting to also use robots. For example, hospitals are using robots to assist in surgery, retail stores are testing robots to take inventory, and warehouses are using robots help sort packages.

If this turns into something common and technology keeps with its development on, machines will take control and there will be more and more specific jobs that will disappear. As a consequence, this will mean that people who used to do that jobs would need to find another kind of job doesn’t do by robots yet. (Ford, M., 2015). Artificial intelligence is already on track to make many jobs obsolete: legal assistants, journalists, clerks and even programmers are about to be replaced by robots and smart software. The result could be massive unemployment and greater inequality, as well as the implosion of the consumer economy itself.

News articles referenced

Cafe X opens in San Francisco, bringing robots to the coffee shop

http://uk.businessinsider.com/cafe-x-robots-serve-coffee-2017-2?r=US&IR=T

http://www.vix.com/es/tecnologia/176072/este-robot-barista-esta-ganando-terreno-en-san-francisco-sera-el-futuro-para-las-cafeterias

 

Academic references

Ford, M. (2015). The rise of the robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, Basic Books.

 

 

 

 

Transgenic food

alimentos-transgenicos
Image from: https://www.cuidavida.com/alimentacion/que-es-un-alimento-transgenico

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. One of the common use of GMO is to produce genetically modified foods, defined as a “transgenic organism.” This is an organism whose genetic makeup has been altered by the addition of genetic material from an unrelated organism.

Thanks to biotechnology and to DNA recombination, a gen can be transferred from one organism to another one in order to give it one particularity that it does not own. As well, the time of a conventional breeding to eliminate undesirable genes has been reduced. This way, transgenic plants can survive to plagues, herbicides or droughts.

Initially, transgenic food revolutionised the alimentation industry and it was believed that they could be a tool to finish with famine around the world. Nonetheless, it never happened.

Industrial agriculture is defined as “the practice of farming with artificial fertilisers and agrochemicals, such as herbicides, fungicides and pesticides”. (Rees, 2006, pp. 3). Industrial agriculture was introduced to the developing countries in the 1960s, with the ostensible aim of increasing food production.  This was known as the Green Revolution. Then, yields did increase for a while, but far from helping the poor, wealth and land were concentrated into the hands of wealthier farmers, who could afford the expensive inputs and drove thousands of subsistence farmers into debt or off the land.

Agriculture was transformed from subsistence farming into agribusiness, so opening it up to agrocorporations and their products. Then, the hunger that the Green Revolution was meant to eradicate has remained stubbornly intransigent, with the number facing hunger and malnutrition worldwide remaining at 800 million. (Rees, 2006, pp. 11).

As investigation and agricultural development are nowadays basically supported by invest from the private sector, I think that scientific companies need to establish concessional prices in the countries with low-income countries so those poor farmers can also benefit from new GM products. As well, maybe big companies should share their knowledge with public institutions of investigation and create societies in order to work in crops and agricultural problems that nowadays have not a high interest for the main transnational markets.

 

 

News articles referenced

http://www.muyinteresante.es/innovacion/articulo/ique-son-los-alimentos-transgenicos

https://www.cuidavida.com/alimentacion/que-es-un-alimento-transgenico

http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech-info/articles/spanish/desarrollo.html

 

Academic references

REES, A. (2006). A Last Word. In Genetically Modified Food: A Short Guide For the Confused (pp. 3-20). Pluto Books. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt18fs73x.15

Wohlers, A. (2010). Regulating genetically modified food: Policy trajectories, political culture, and risk perceptions in the U.S., Canada, and EU. Politics and the Life Sciences, 29(2), (pp. 17-39). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41417929