Thursday, January 30, 2014

[Movie] Gatacca

Julia is slowly exposing me to more mainstream dramatic movies and classics, and I in turn, am slowly showing her the greatest that genre fiction has to offer.  I chose Gatacca because I believe it is one of those 'will happen' rather than 'might happen' type of films.  Of course, it isn't as clean as Her, in the sense that all of the potential decisions on which way the future might go are deliberately skewed in the direction of a society that values genetics above all.  To be clear, it is a possible future, but it is at one end of an entire spectrum of futures on this issue.

In the world of Gattaca, your genome matters above all.  It is clearly at least two generations ahead, which can indeed be enough for an entire cultural transformation.  Racism still exists, but it is nowhere acceptable in society at large, at least 'officially.'  Even organizations that might arguably be described as racist do not outright make racist claims.  Their behavior might be prejudiced, but they themselves do not use its language.  So too is discrimination against 'primitives' or 'god babies' in theory illegal, but still rampant.  It is also pathetically easy to collect a genetic sample.  Indeed, the discrediting of the drug war, just 20 years after the film was made, is already taking us against elements of oppression used in the film.

Vincent, a god baby, conceived the regular way, lives life next to his younger brother, a genetically selected individual.  His brother is genetically superior, and Vincent has a raft of mental and physical problems, which he has to learn to overcome.  Vincent's greatest dream is to go into space....but at first he is only able to work as a janitor.  After finally accepting that he will never rise to the ranks of an astronaut, he makes an arrangement with Jerome, a genetically pure sample, who is so obsessed with his perfection that his life falls apart when he only wins an Olympic silver medal.  In his depression, he ends up paralyzed, and so he provides genetic samples to allow Vincent to pursue his dream.

There is a complication and several twists.  I won't spoil the story suffice to say that it is a good one, and takes up about 70% of the movie's screen time.  It also involves a romance with a woman who falls in love with Vincent/Jerome and the complications that arise thereof.  Vincent's plans come close to failure many times, but through a combination of luck and moxie he is able to accomplish a lot, though sometimes he isn't as clever as he thinks he is.

I like this movie and highly recommend it.  It asks important questions that need answering.  If humanity is to catch up to our innovation, we must either accept a life of leisure or upgrade.  The demands of increased skillsets are exceeding what our ham handed educational systems are currently able to teach.  One solution to that is to increase our intelligence, but there are problems with this. Is it elective?  What of those who will not adapt?  Adapt or die?  Adapt or forever be a janitor?

And upgrading our children makes them involuntary participants in such a future.  Great intelligence almost always comes with great cost in one form or another.  Who are we to say that they should pay it?

Questions, not all of which I have the answers for, but Gattaca shows one extreme example of a path we can, but probably should not, go down.

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