Briefly, the movie depicts a time in "the not-too-distant future", when eugenics is common. A genetic registry database uses biometrics to classify those so created as "valids," while those conceived by traditional means and thus more susceptible to genetic disorders are known as "in-valids". Genetic discrimination is illegal, but in practice genotype profiling is used to identify valids and qualify them for professional employment while in-valids are relegated to menial jobs.
After I watched Gattaca, 20 years ago, I knew that all I had to do is sit back and wait, and past would become prologue.
On April 6, 2017, I received an email from 23andMe announcing that: "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted 23andMe authorization to offer ten genetic health risk reports including late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, celiac disease, and a condition associated with harmful blood clots."
The email also noted: "23andMe is now the only company authorized by the FDA to provide personal genetic health risk reports without a prescription."
I wasn't the only one to be alarmed. By April 7, Popular Science published an article titled "Getting your genetic disease risks from 23andme is probably a terrible idea." I quote from this article at length below:
"If you could know whether you were going to develop a debilitating, inevitable, untreatable disease at age 50, would you want to? 23andMe is offering you that opportunity—but they’re not going to ask you that question.
The central problem is this: 23andMe aims to give you all the information you want about your genetic background, but they don’t want to be responsible if that knowledge actually impacts you. Are you upset by results that indicate you’re likely to spend the last years of your life dependent on a caretaker, shaking uncontrollably, and losing the ability to speak? Talk to someone else. You’re not 23andMe’s problem anymore.
You can’t unring that bell. [emphasis mine]
And if a company is going to sell customers their right to know, they should have to provide help when that knowledge hurts."
It gets scarier:
"23andme's ultimate business plan product isn’t really a kit, [it's] YOU [emphasis mine]. With a massive database of genetic information, the company can turn around and sell that data to other companies...23andMe assures customers that all their information is completely anonymized. Of course they would never, ever break that rule. Except that even if they don’t, it turns out you can find out a man’s last name using only the short repeats on his Y chromosome and access to a genealogy database. Oh, and then you can identify his age and which state he lives in using publicly accessible resources."
Full circle back to Gattaca.
It only took 20 years.