This Dutch documentary features a young generation of scientists in genomics research. What if we could identify the genes for human intelligence? Would a brave new world of improved human beings be waiting for us?
Screened as part of NZIFF 2014
The head of BGI, a leading genomics research institute in China, looks forward to a future when genome sequencing can be carried out on all living beings. Contrary to rumour, one colleague jokes, this is not a Chinese government project, so they can’t force everyone to provide a sample… unfortunately. On the other hand, ‘in China, regulations are very relaxed’ and BGI provides a vital testing ground for scientists hampered by legislation in Europe and the US. Filmmaker Bregtje van der Haak amply implies the ascendancy of pure science and a corresponding lack of ethical framework to BGI’s agenda by putting two eager young scientists at the centre of her documentary. Eighteen-year-old Zhao Bowen heads a vast research project to find the genetic basis of intelligence by analysing the DNA of 2,000 highly gifted children. At Ark Bio, BGI’s cloning lab, 25-year-old Lin Lin produces pigs in all shapes and sizes. She feels ‘like a mother’ to the piglets conceived under her microscope. Born, like all of us, before the best humans have been produced, she and her super-intelligent colleagues have already had their genes preserved, ready for whatever upgrades BGI might engineer.