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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sky Marsen on future identities

One of the articles in the current issue of The Global Spiral is Sky Marsen's "Conceptualizing Future Identities", which would be worth reading solely for its interesting reinterpretation of the movie GATTACA, usually taken as a dire warning about the use of advanced genetic technology.

While the dystopian ambitions of GATTACA are obvious, there are other points that can be made. Since GATTACA is a favourite text for senior high school students, it would be nice if they were directed to Sky's discussion, which concludes as follows:

The film shows what might happen with technological advancement, if other factors (especially discursive and conceptual factors) are not updated to keep up with this advancement. It does this through the textual strategy of constructing a society where genetic engineering has progressed considerably since the late 20th century, but where everything else seems to be lagging. For example, the definition of "physically fit" remains exactly the same as the one used in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Vincent is barred from his desired profession because he is deemed to be not physically fit. Yet, after a while one begins to wonder why he needs perfect vision and a strong heart for the kinds of tasks his job requires. The fact that he succeeds in them, despite his "defects," shows that the definition of the agent does not match the actions of the agent. It is also interesting that "keeping fit" is still imaged as running on a treadmill, which suggests that concepts and metaphors of physicality have not changed. So, another valuable lesson of the story is the importance of the ways people think and talk about things (as manifest in concepts, definitions, metaphors, and other discursive strategies), in enabling new forms of identity to emerge.

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