Monday, April 28, 2008

Staving off Gattaca

"My father was right. It didn't matter how much I lied on my resume. My real resume was in my cells. Why should anybody invest all that money to train me when there were a thousand other applicants with a far cleaner profile? Of course, it's illegal to discriminate, 'genoism' it's called. But no one takes the law seriously. If you refuse to disclose, they can always take a sample from a door handle or a handshake, even the saliva on your application form. If in doubt, a legal drug test can just as easily become an illegal peek at your future in the company." - Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), Gattaca, 1997

In a surprisingly lucid move, the US Senate is pushing through laws to prevent insurance companies and employers from discriminating against people based on their genetic makeup. So maybe the future depicted in the terrific Gattaca isn't quite on the horizon.

Hang on though, in that movie genetic discrimination was illegal but it happened anyway. I suspect that, eventually, it will happen in reality at some level or the other.

And while I generally abhor the notion, a part of me does wonder whether it might not be logical in some situations, such as working in particular environments or fields. But then, where would one possibly draw the cutoff lines for eligibility? And what of people like the character of Vincent in the film, who wish to do something with every ounce of their being and could perhaps do it better than someone who was genetically more acceptable?

It's a messy question, but I think it's one of those situations where ethics ought to trump cold logic.

*Edited to add the quote & clarity (proofreading is your friend!)


Darwin said...

Yeah it's a slippery slope and it's best not to go down it, because drawing the line becomes impossible when it's not black or white but just grey.

BTW, 'Gattaca' is one of my favourite movies and the soundtrack by Michael Nyman is amazing.

Antimatter said...

Agreed. It's a slippery slope, but I get the feeling it is inevitable because at the end of the day the choice would boil down to economics, which seems to trump ethics more often than not.

I love Gattaca, it's thought provoking and just a really unique film. And yeah, that soundtrack was, well... haunting.