Gattaca: What Does it Mean to Be a Human

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New Zealand writer, producer and director Andrew Niccol is amazing! His first film, Gattaca, written and directed in 1997, was a work of genius. Story description of gene determinism of biological science and technology by leaps and bounds after the order for the future of the world and prejudice of depicting all let people immediately think of Huxley’s Brave New World (Andrew Niccol were said to be written ‘beautiful new world’ of the script, directed by Ridley Scott, the big screen in 2011), but the Brave New World, it seems, are still further, especially in the science of weight; But what’s even more frightening is that the horror world of genetic discrimination depicted in this 1997 film turns out to be anything but a fantasy.

Genetic engineering has made breakthroughs since 1973, when American biologists Stanley n. Cohen and Herbert w. Boyer broke down and reassembled DNA, and marked a new era with the 1990 human genome project in the United States. Biotechnology today not only can clone, transgene, and even innovate species. The development of genetic technology has led to eugenics. A us doctor’s Manhattan and Los Angeles clinics have helped thousands of couples choose the sex of their children and announced that in the coming months they will be able to choose the eyes, hair colour and skin tone of their offspring.

In the world of Gattaca, founded by Andrew Niccol, such clinics have become so prevalent that, in effect, only the poor, who cannot afford to pay, choose ‘inferior’ natural births because the genetically enhanced fertilised eggs produced in the clinics are ‘miracles that cannot be achieved in a thousand natural pregnancies’. When parents questioned the idea, the doctor responded sweetly: ‘don’t worry, the child is still your own genetic child, but the best one.’

Once the whole society is producing such ‘optimal crystallization’, the structure of the whole human society has undergone profound changes. Race, region, gender and other factors are no longer important, because comparing ‘optimal crystallization’, ‘sub-optimal crystallization’ or ‘natural crystallization’ is obviously a defective product of the system, rejected and despised by systematic discrimination. And the key to the existence of this new type of genetic discrimination, I think, on the one hand is the result of natural competition in society, but more importantly, is genetic determinism.

Genetic determinism holds that a person’s behavior, personality and appearance are solely determined by his or her genes. Nazi Germany used genetic determinism to reinforce the ‘higher’ status of the blond, blue-eyed, and fair Aryan race as an argument for the holocaust. Biologists Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose and Leon Kamin sum up the theory of genetic determinism in this way:

‘Biological determinists are really looking at what makes us human and what makes us human. They believe that human life and behavior are the result of the biochemical properties that make up human cells; And these traits are uniquely determined by the genetic make-up of the human body. Ultimately, all human behavior — that is, all human society — is determined by a set of factors, from genes to individuals to the sum total of human behavior.’

But in essence, the development of modern genetic engineering technology cannot draw any conclusive conclusions. Genetic sequencing, for example, can predict a person’s risk of developing alzheimer’s, which is currently only about 5 percent. Even in the genetically advanced society of the future in the movie Gattaca, the odds of various diseases and life expectancy are not 100%. But people often confuse probability with actual occurrence. Probability is the percentage of probability that something is repeated statistically; As a unique individual, the probability can only represent one possibility — a 30% chance of having a heart attack does not predict that the person will have a heart attack in the future, and there is a 70% chance that he or she will not have a heart attack at all.

Gene determinism is still in biology is the theme of the debate, there are many famous scholars support genetic determinism, in 1998, for example, biochemical laboratory of the national cancer institute genetic structure and specification, chairman of the biologist Dean Hamer in his book ‘the symbiosis with gene,’ he said everyone’s ‘core character’ is ‘since birth was etched into the body, like their eye color, is the gift of parents’ genes’. ‘Our fate is determined by our genes,’ said James Watson, director of the cold spring harbor laboratory in New York state and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.

The existence of genetic determinism makes genetic discrimination an inevitable result. Back in 1982, the journal of the American bar association published an article pointing out that at least half a dozen well-known chemical plants routinely tested their employees’ blood to determine who was more susceptible to the chemicals, though two of them, dupont and dow, denied using the results to determine what workers needed. The biggest difference between genetic discrimination and discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, nationality, etc., is that it is not discrimination based on actual events, but speculative discrimination based on the probability that something will happen in the future, while completely ignoring the probability that it will not happen at all. This kind of speculative discrimination makes it very difficult to fight it, because it is difficult to prove in law that some kind of discrimination is based on speculation. So although America’s historic anti-genetic discrimination act was finally passed on May 21st 2008, its effectiveness remains to be seen.

Genetic discrimination by employees is also illegal in the Gattaca world, but ‘no one takes it seriously.’ Employers can go to all sorts of lengths to get hold of candidates’ genes-teacups, hand wipes, accidentally dropped hair-and the idea of genetic privacy is an impossible one. There are also cheap street-level genetic testing stations where a girl who has just kissed can rub a cotton swab in her mouth and find out all the genetic information about her partner — IQ, risk of various diseases, life expectancy and so on. When Ethan Hawke (Ethan Hawke) knocks down a policeman guarding the back door of the nightclub and runs away, the detective orders the policeman who falls to the ground and groans: ‘don’t touch anything, don’t swallow saliva’, and then quickly USES a cotton swab to get Vincent’s genes on the policeman before he gets up.

I see this, and it’s funny and creepy. If all humans can through genetic analysis and determine the conclusion, if our joys and sorrow, our love and pain, one day to be able to become a cold chemical formula, if each of us can use symbols instead of, can be unlimited replication, including defining the reason we are ‘my’ special thoughts and memories, how it would be a terrible last days! On that day, ‘I’ will no longer exist, and all that remains are ‘organisms’ and ‘perfect crystals’ of the same appearance, just like when you turn on the TV today, all you see on the screen are artificial beauties who have been whittled, enlarged, snuff-lined, padded and chinned for thousands of times — how far are we from Gattaca’s world?

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In 2008, Dr. John Bargh, a psychology professor at Yale university in the United States, conducted an experiment with an assistant in which 41 volunteers were asked to describe their first impression of a stranger. All saw the same pictures of the stranger as they were told about him, but before giving their impressions, the lab assistant inadvertently asked the volunteer to hold his cup, which was either hot or iced. The results showed that volunteers given hot coffee were significantly more impressed with the same strangers than those given iced coffee. A similar experiment was repeated with 53 volunteers, who were asked to rate a physiotherapy heat pad as a reward, followed by a small gift or gift certificate. The results showed that when assessed, the hot ones chose a gift certificate, while the cold ones chose a gift. When NPR broadcast the news, the reporter couldn’t help but comment: how many ‘our thoughts’ are really our own? I can’t help but think of the classic marriage joke that the secret of a successful wife is to make her husband think that all her thoughts are his, well, ‘his’.

A more interesting example is Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, a neurologist at Harvard University, who had a stroke in 1996 that ruptured the left side of her brain. Dr Taylor described how she felt after the stroke: ‘I lost my balance and fell against the bathroom wall. I looked down at my arms and saw that I couldn’t feel the boundaries of my body — I didn’t know where I started and where I ended, because the molecules that made up my arms were all mixed up with the molecules on the walls. I can only feel the energy…. At first I was a little scared, but soon I was attracted by the tremendous energy around me. I can no longer define the boundaries of my body. I feel huge and open, as if I have become one with the energy around me. It’s wonderful.’ This wonderful, calm, peaceful and spiritual experience of integration with the world is very similar to Buddhism’s ‘unity of heaven and man’, ‘nirvana’ and ‘detachment’. Dr Taylor, a neurologist, has a simple explanation: the right side of the brain is in charge of sensory processing, while the left side is in charge of logical processing. When the left side of the brain, which is responsible for logical thinking, stops functioning because of a ruptured blood vessel, the ‘I’ disappears, leaving the raw information unprocessed. That’s why she can’t tell her arm from the wall. This is why she only felt the flow of energy, felt herself in nature, infinitely peaceful and wonderful.

It turns out that the transcendent realm that Taoist meditation aims to reach, and the spiritual nirvana of Buddhism, can be achieved by self-training to suppress the logical thinking of the left brain. No wonder so many people take hormones that inhibit the left side of the brain from producing orgasms. In the 2006 film ‘blind man’, long-term use of a future drug ‘D pill’ will cause damage to the left brain, resulting in contradictions between the right and the left brain.

‘Nature and nurture are not really that different,’ time magazine commentator Michael Kinsley wrote in May 2008. Maybe your parents gave you good genes, or they gave you millions, or they were noble people who taught you the virtues of thrift and hard work. Even with this last example, why do you deserve these good values? What’s the difference between inheriting a good pair of genes?’

Perhaps, in the face of genetic determinism, we should not be so alarmed that the inequalities created by birth were, are, and will not disappear. The opposition to genetic determinism is not to hinder the development of genetic technology, not because of fear and give up the search for the truth of life; On the contrary, in the face of too many unknowns, scientists should be given more freedom and more space to contend and get closer to the truth. What’s more important when it comes to genetic discrimination is how we recognize genetic determinism. Former Harvard University President Lawrence summers, released in 2006, women lack of mathematics and other sciences to had to resign after a speech, he published a speech occasions, of course, very appropriate, clearly not fit he is the headmaster’s identity – but on the other hand, I also regret his departure, after all, from the standpoint of the pure science, why don’t we study a lot of women have an advantage in terms of language, for agency yao black jumping and running ability so prominent, why are the Asian students operation skills students ahead of the United States? The conclusion is not necessarily genetic – and I believe that genes are only one factor, far from being the determining factor – but a relaxed research environment and a rigorous legislative enforcement system should complement each other. The most important thing, specific to each of us, is our attitude towards discrimination.

SONY before the release in October 1997 Gattaca specially organized a preview of the scene of mammalian cell biologists have learned, at the end of the film, the Einstein, Lincoln, and America’s most famous female athletes Jackie Joyner Kersee – photos, and with the subtitles: if any major gene engineering and experimental facts, all of these celebrities will then not born, they respectively with dyslexia, marfan’s syndrome and asthma. The final caption reads: ‘of course, the other person who would never have been born is you.’ The previews were generally well received by scientists, but SONY decided to remove the final subtitles and images for fear of offending viewers.

I think it’s a shame that SONY’s conservative decision missed the opportunity to make the film more controversial. The final images convey a crucial message: by optimizing our genes, we also remove one of the most important elements of human motivation — pain, problems, flaws, and inadequacies. Perfection is a blessing and a curse. In the film, the most perfect Jerome is the most unable to face disappointment, while Vincent, who is regarded as inferior, always tries his best to pursue his ideal without reservation. This kind of unreasonable risk, the fight against the fear of death, is the human spirit, is the hope at the bottom of Pandora’s box, is the biggest impossibility that cannot be concluded and deduced from the genetic elements independently disassembled. This is the spirit that allows us to recognize the gaps in statistical probability, that allows us to risk our lives for imaginary love and ideals, that allows us to glimpse the hidden dawn behind the limits, that allows us to finally become ‘I’ and become a person.

Genetic optimization aside, although I don’t want to believe that science and technology will one day be able to fully understand the human brain, I still have to consider, if genetic determinism is proved, if ‘I’ will eventually be solved into a pile of elements: chemicals, bioelectricity, hormones, is life still meaningful? If, from birth, our destinies were as defined by probabilities as they were in the Gattaca world, and even Vincent’s rebellious spirit could have been interpreted and predicted, would we still have a need to live?

Throughout the history of human development, in fact, the definition of ‘meaning of life’ in different stages is not invariable. Before the information revolution, we emphasized the difference between human and animal, which lies in human’s creativity, social thinking and logical reasoning ability. After the information revolution, computers have become more and more powerful in simulating human brains, and we begin to emphasize the non-logical emotional elements of human thinking, and emphasize ‘heart’. The 2009 film terminator salvation ended with the declaration that ‘human minds cannot be programmed.’ But whether the emphasis is on ‘brain’ or ‘heart’, it seems that ‘meaning of life’ cannot be separated from the definition of people, which emphasizes the difference between us and this or that form of existence. Every time a new technology or new discovery blurs the boundaries of the original human beings, we have to panic for a while. It seems that life is meaningless without proving the superiority of ‘man’ and maintaining his unique position in the universe. And such ‘exclusive’ class concept, and human society within the various discrimination how different?

The perfect Jerome in Gattaca chose to end his life because he was genetically programmed to be good but not first, and his accidental disability allowed him to feel life but not create it — he lost interest in life itself and died. But doesn’t the experience itself, which Jerome neglected, make sense? Creation and implementation of the possible is to motivate people go forward, but as there are no two identical leaves in the world, from the scenery and life details for everyone is unique, is irreplaceable, even if be broken up into chemicals, bioelectricity, hormones, such as environmental impact factors independently, also have comprehensive implementation by themselves. The experience of learning and growing is the work that you do most of your life, and the final achievement is the secondary element of icing on the cake.

In Gattaca, Vincent’s relentless struggle to prove that ‘the soul has no genes’ should not only refer to the fact that genetic determinism ultimately cannot predict people’s future and cannot explain people’s emotions. What’s more, even if genetic technology could one day determine our ‘core character’ and computer programs could explain our subtle emotions, the meaning of life would still be there: to feel, to experience, to learn, it would still have to be realized by living entities, not replaced. And in addition to struggle for the ideal, in addition to the realization of the goal, the meaning of life, but also lies in the three meals a day, feet on the ground, is to raise a side of pure heart, is to be constantly beaten by reality but still bear the flame of search. The meaning of life, as Russell summed it up, is the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind — that is the true human soul, not a formula, not a sign, not a copy, not a graft, not a fit, not a gene.

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