How much can we change? How much should we change?

In “Cracking the Code,” words such as instruction book, blueprint, and manual are used in order to describe a DNA molecule.  The program repeatedly states that the DNA can be “read,” as if it is some sort of book.  One bioethist, George Annas, refers to the DNA molecule as a future diary because the information it holds about the individual’s future life is so private.   

When the program cuts to the movie “Gattaca” and the nurse already knows the child’s exact cause and time of death along with many of the disorders that the child will struggle with, it makes me wonder whether this would be such a great thing.  If we all knew the approximate moment that each of us would leave this planet, how would we arrange our lives?  If schools, employers, and family all knew the different blueprints of our lives how would that affect the way we are perceived by our community?  Would only those with favorable DNA be picked for jobs?  If we could change the way our future children would look, should we? If we could give our future children advantageous physical characteristics of height, health, and intellect. 

On a personal level, if I knew the exact cause and time of my death, how would I interact with life differently?  Isn’t facing the unknown mental and physical tribulations an important part of life?  How much can or should we change before it becomes “dehumanizing?”  I have come to the conclusion that I would want to know the blueprint of my life so I can build the best life I can around it, however, I am undecided on whether or not I would want to change it.

Saba Getaneh

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~ by Saba Getaneh on January 12, 2014.

2 Responses to “How much can we change? How much should we change?”

  1. I like to think knowing what diseases you are at risk of developing and your supposed time of death could be beneficial. If someone knows at birth he has an 80% chance of developing a heart condition, proper precautions can be taken to avoid this condition. The initial nurse prediction, as I like to look at them, will ideally decrease overtime. The child can ‘extend’ their life by taking proactive steps he otherwise may not have known to take. If projects similar to the human genome project make this possible there can, I believe, be some positive outcomes.

    James

  2. To play devil’s advocate, I think that people should always be living their lives to the fullest. Knowing your expected time of death may motivate you to spend more now (rather than save for a future that won’t exist) or do more with no threat of a failed future. But, what is life without the unexpected? I could never imagine living under the threat of death: constantly wondering if this is the day I die, or if the last thing I said was too harsh or too flippant. I think part of what makes us human is the unpredictability of our lives, our selfishness, our faults (which is not to cast shade on the positives). And to get rid of uncertainty can often bring out the extremes in our personalities, which is another discussion in itself. Personally, I don’t want to know my future–it just gives me a chance to shape it for myself.

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