September 30, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

NYT asks which sci-fi work is most prescient today: I think GATTACA

GATTACAThe New York Times recently asked 6 people what sci-fi movie or novel is most prescient today; in my view it’s GATTACA.

The responses ran the gamut: Fahrenheit 451, The Martian, The Fifth Season, The Body Snatchers, Book of the New Sun, and Use of Weapons.

To me of those 6, the best case can be made for Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury, who was very good at looking into a crystal ball and being right. The other 5 works, not so much.

My answer would have been GATTACA.

In our CRISPR-ified new world, human genetic modification seems more a question of if and why rather than when. Assisted reproduction and human embryo selection by preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) are being further turbo-charged by more specific genetic selection procedures. These new iterations of genetic embryo selection are likely to evolve to the point where parents are given the choice of embryos ranked by something akin to “overall genetic fitness”. There certainly is a feeling of us being on the cusp of a new eugenics. There’s a definite GATTACA feel to all of these real trends.

A tipping factor for governmental and corporate intrusion into our genetics may turn out to be a push for lower healthcare costs. It seems inevitable that both our personal and professional lives are going to be impacted in profound ways by genomic DNA.

Ironically, some commentators on CRISPR’s potential use on humans get particularly grumpy if anyone brings up GATTACA or Brave New World. You can read more about my sense of literature’s links to our CRISPR world in my new book, GMO Sapiens. For 6 more days you can get 30% off there on the book by entering the code WS15XMAS30.

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