Monday, November 16, 2009

Gattaca Tells us Nothing About Genetics

Every now and then, genetic testing advances a little bit, and people mutter darkly about an apocalyptic, Gattaca-like world. "You gotta check out this movie!" they say. "They start genetic screening for all sorts of jobs, and put in a genetic caste-like system!" Health insurance will break down, eugenics, etc. etc.

The perils and promises of genetic testing and experimentation remain to be seen. But Gattaca is a horrible way to make his point. I mean, [spoiler] the guy was prepping for a long-distance space flight, and hiding a pre-existing heart condition was deeply irresponsible and selfish. This is why we already screen astronauts; and I hope they do so in the future on genetic grounds as well. I'm sure this guy could have made it just fine as a banker; but noooo, he just had to get out there in space, and the costs in terms of mission success and the safety of his fellow crewmen just weren't his problem. Asshole.

The movie does raise an interesting point about the survival of humans during manned expeditions. In a trip to Mars, for instance, getting the astronauts back is the real challenge. This seems somewhat taboo to mention, but space exploration would be a lot easier if it were one-way. It does seem odd to spend so much money retrieving astronauts, when there are so many people willing to take the one-way ticket, and millions continue to die for want of a few dollars in health costs.

Incidentally, it looks like they're thinking of making a police procedural based on Gattaca's world. Hopefully the bioethics will be a little less butchered here.

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