GATTACA AS A LENS ON CONTEMPORARY GENETICS Marking 25 years into the film’s “not-too-distant” future

C. Brandon Ogbunu, Michael D. Edge

The 1997 film Gattaca has emerged as a canonical pop culture reference used to discuss modern controversies in genetics and bioethics. It appeared in theaters a few years prior to the announcement of the “completion” of the human genome (2000), as the science of human genetics was developing a renewed sense of its social implications. The story is set in a near-future world in which parents can, with technological assistance, influence the genetic composition of their offspring on the basis of predicted life outcomes. This moment—25 years after the film’s release—offers an opportunity to reflect on where so- ciety currently stands with respect to the ideas explored in Gattaca. Here, we review and discuss several active areas of genetic research—genetic prediction, embryo selection, forensic genetics, and others–that interface directly with scenes and concepts in the film. On its silver anniversary, we argue that Gattaca remains an important reflection of society’s expectations and fears with respect to the ways that genetic science has manifested in the real world. In an accompanying appendix, we offer some thought questions to guide group discussions inside and outside of the classroom.

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