I think that the ability to cultivate “good” genes would be a terrible thing. In the movie GATTACA, they portray how this would be terrible. Vincent Freeman is barred from pursuing his dreams because he is considered “genetically inferior”, as he was a “faith baby” and underwent a natural birth with no genetic modification. It’s not enough that discrimination based on genetics has become illegal, because the “good” jobs use genotype testing to ensure they only employ “good” people, whereas the rest are left to the menial labor and low income occupations. On top of this, genetic modification is portrayed as a bad thing as opposed to natural birth; Jerome Morrow explains that he threw himself in front of a car because he was expected to be perfect as a result of his genetics. He won second place in the Olympics, causing him to have an existential crisis: if he is scientifically made to be perfect, how could he possibly not be?. Overall, it would be a terrible reality to live in, and not a net positive for society.
People would not necessarily be healthier or stronger. One of the reasons that Vincent is discriminated against is the fact that his heart condition predicted a shorter lifespan. However, young and healthy people die all the time. Accidents, disease, murder, and much more are always threats, even to the most able people on the planet. On that note, non-lethal but debilitating accidents happen all the time. Jerome is handicapped, but genetically perfect, because he was in a motor accident. On the other hand, some people are portrayed to be genetically Valid but still have a capacity for disability, such as Irene with her heart condition. Even aside from accidents or surprise conditions, there are two scenes where Vincent saves Anton from drowning— despite the fact that Anton is “genetically superior”. Beyond the fact that genetic modification of human beings would not be effective in terms of ability or strength, there is no evidence that it would help people be less criminal or more capable of dealing with the challenges of modern life. First of all, criminality is not determined biologically. There is no correlation between genetics and criminality. Nobody is inherently criminal due to their genetics. Criminality is a moral failure, or an act of desperation, and therefore access to “good genes” would not eradicate or even slow it. Second of all, the challenges of modern life are things that can be faced by anyone regardless of genetics. In the movie, Vincent makes it to space. He exceeds society’s expectation of him, he gets a dream job and achieves his greatest desire. He does all of this as someone who is “genetically inferior”. The only things that hold him back in this process are genetic discrimination. In summary, genetic modification would not improve the human experience. It would only drive us apart.
If I were alive in the world of GATTACA, I would rather be a “faith baby”. I know that my life would be harder, that I would face discrimination, and that I would suffer for it. However, I also can recognize that in the world we live in, I also am subject to discrimination and struggle. I am disabled, and the world is difficult to access. As a wheelchair user, I have been left on the top floor of a burning building. I have had to crawl my way up and down stairs in crutches or in a boot. I have had to forsake surgery in consideration of my family’s financial situation. If I were to be born again, I would hope to be an “invalid” just as I exist today, in this world. I would not want to give up or erase any part of myself just to be accepted in a world that refuses to accept me, or people like me, or people who have it worse. However, I don’t think that I would go to the lengths Vincent did in the film. The primary reason is that I have never been as ambitious as him, and I am content living on enough money to sustain myself and help out my family. I don’t think that I would ever go to space, or work for Google, or work some office job pulling in 6 figures a year. I will be glad if I end up in a situation like that, but I am also realistic enough to acknowledge that it's something I don’t want too badly, and that it is very unlikely I will find myself in that situation. On top of that, in the world of GATTACA, it would be very risky. I don’t think I would risk prison and the consequences of breaking the law for any job, but that’s just me.
I think that the film has a very clear cut connection to the topics of eugenics and discrimination. The film is about discrimination based on who is considered “genetically superior” versus “genetically inferior”. Eugenics is the belief that some people are genetically superior, or more evolved, and therefore are better than everyone else. This has been largely applied through white supremacy, where the Aryan race of blonde blue-eyed people are more evolved than people of color and Jewish people, and therefore racial and ethnic minorities are closer in proximity to animals than human beings. It has also been applied through ableism, where disabled people are forced into sterilization, so that they may never reproduce and bring more disabled people into the world, or have been historically “euthanized” so that they would be “put out of their misery”. Regardless of how it is applied, eugenics has always meant violence and even death against different minority groups. On that note, discrimination is the unjust treatment founded on someone’s identity. This exists in the film through genetic discrimination, but I think genetic discrimination goes hand in hand with racial and disabled discrimination. After all, whose genes are “good”? Whose genes are “bad”? In GATTACA, they take more of a disabled route, with those that have chronic illnesses, disabilities, or disorders all being treated as genetically inferior, impure, and invalid. In the real world, the “genetically inferior” have been Black people, Asian people, Latine people, Indigenous people, disabled people, Jewish people, Romani people, etc. Every single one of these groups has had violence against them justified with “They are inferior.” The Nazis considered these groups less than human, and less than animals. Under white supremacist and ableist institutions, all of these groups face discrimination based in genetics. This is why the film raises questions echoing justification for discrimination and eugenics. It is because one must debate whether or not GATTACA is a dystopia or a utopia, and the conversations surrounding that fundamental question are really answering how they feel about discrimination rooted in eugenics.