For Boomers and the World War II generation, Aldous Huxley's 1932 Brave New World is the touchstone tale of a techno-utopian nightmare created by reproductive and biological engineering. Those in Gen X and Gen Y who ponder the prospect of a repro-genetic dystopia think of Gattaca.
Last week's release of a collector's edition of the 1997 film unavoidably prompts us to measure ourselves against its "not-too-distant future" of genetic castes and DNA-based discrimination. Has our world become more like Gattaca than it was a decade ago?
In Gattaca world, nonenhanced babies are born only to the poor and the sexually reckless. Those who can possibly afford it consult with a genetic technician before initiating a pregnancy, and select their future child's traits for optimum success: sex, life expectancy, intelligence, appearance.
Children with high-caliber preselected genes are classified at birth as "Valids." They're the ruling elite, eligible for top careers and entitled to high social status. "In-Valids" labor at menial jobs with no way up or out. In one memorable scene, a team of In-Valid janitors in prisoner-like jumpsuits is...