In Gattaca, Director Andrew Niccol explores the potential horrors of genetic engineering. Set in an unspecified near future, genetic engineering has altered the course of society by instituting a surveillance society where people’s opportunities rely on their genetic pedigree. In the movie, genetic engineering is used to remove all major “defects” when conceiving, and depending on their parent’s choice of using genetic engineering, one is given an identity of “valid” or “in-valid.” Areas that the film illustrates include genetic surveillance, social discrimination, and resistance within a surveillance society.
The idea of surveillance, as seen in Gattaca is much more relevant now than when it was released in 1997. In class, we continually debate the trade-offs between public safety and personal privacy. This debate is being carried out on a large scale across the world. For example, an article in the New York Times discusses the fact that a “privacy group filed a class-action lawsuit…against the National Security Agency, President Bush and other officials, seeking to halt what it describes as illegal surveillance of Americans’ telephone and Internet traffic” (Agency 1). Obviously, the balance between privacy and security already upsets some groups. Therefore, the idea that a state would start using genetic technology, when it is available, for surveillance is not outlandish. The U.S. is already using biometrics, as we have learned in class lectures, with fingerprinting. In addition, as is seen by the research that goes on in campuses just like UT, the technology surrounding our personal genetic code is right around the corner that will give insurance companies information on predilections we have toward certain diseases. This relationship between genes and identity raises the question: Is all of a man’s identity in Gattaca simply the sum of his genes? That is why the technology used in Gattaca for surveillance is so disturbingly close to being reality....
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