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For many sci-fi enthusiasts, and I am among them, Blade Runner is arguably the greatest and most powerfully prophetic sci-fi film of all time. When Ridley Scott’s masterpiece first appeared in 1982, the year 2019 was 37 years in the future and nobody was talking about human genetic engineering—except sci-fi enthusiasts perhaps. But today, in 2013, we’re just 6 years away, and practically every popular science magazine has at least one article dedicated to the subject of genetic manipulation in each issue. Rarely has a film been so prescient. For those unfamiliar with Ridley Scott’s epic, the Blade Runner story, which is loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is fairly straightforward. Set in 2019 Los Angeles, the film revolves around Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), a Blade Runner (member of a police special operations unit), who must hunt and retire (read: kill) replicants (genetically engineered beings virtually identical to humans). In short: cop hunts and kills super-humans. For me Blade Runner was much more than a simple prediction of the future. At the movie’s core is the question of what it means to be human, although this question is never explicitly asked in the film. The idea of genetically enhanced humanity is played out between Deckard and the replicants, especially Roy Batty, the alpha replicant. One of the most thought-provoking themes explored in the movie is that these replicants, created for the use of humans, could override their own limitations and develop humanity, as evidenced in the film’s final scene when Batty saves Deckard from certain death. Then there is the idea of providing the replicants with memories.
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Among the medical products their work made possible are synthetic insulin for those with diabetes, a clot-dissolving agent for heart-attack victims, and a growth hormone for underdeveloped children.
The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international scientific research project with the goal of determining the sequence of chemical base pairs that make up human DNA,and of identifying and mapping the approximately 20,000–25,000 genes of the human genome.The project began in October 1990 and was declared complete in April 2003, when a complete version of the genome was announced (although some heterochromatic areas remain unsequenced). More detailed analysis continues to be published.
SNPs (pronounced “snips”) are the most common type of genetic variation between people. A SNP is a difference in a single nucleotide (DNA building block) in the genome between members of the same biological species (in this case, humans). SNPs occur throughout a person’s DNA about once every 300 nucleotides, meaning there are about 10 million SNPs in the human genome. SNPs are useful because they help scientists locate genes associated with diseases such as malaria.
Sickle cell anemia is caused by an abnormal type of hemoglobin (a protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen). The hemoglobin inside the blood of those suffering from sickle cell anemia changes the shape of red blood cells, which become sickle shaped. Because of their shape, the fragile, sickle-shaped cells deliver less oxygen, which decreases the amount of oxygen flowing to body tissues.
The Voight-Kampff, polygraph-like, machine is used by blade runners to detect whether an individual is a replicant. It measures bodily functions such as respiration, heart rate, and eye movement in response to 20–30 cross-referenced emotionally provocative questions. The machine is analogous to (and may have been partly inspired by) Alan Turing’s work, which conceived of an artificial intelligence test—the Turing test—to see whether a computer could convince a human that it was another human.
- Human Genetic Engineering
- Springer Berlin Heidelberg
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