#104 April 1997
Section 18.104.22.168.104.of the Artemis Data Book
by Thomas Heidel, LRS
It is the "popular (read 'Lemming') wisdom" of the day to be "horrified" at the prospect of cloning humans. There is so much disinformation - based on totally fallacious assumptions - all passed on via the path of least resistance, the gospel of "they say".
If you are one of the few who have a some open nooks and crannies in your World View, you might want to forget all you heard about "clones" and start a new file, labeled "belated identical twins". Such twins are a phenomenon of nature with which we are all long familiar and quite comfortable.
Consider, then, the alternative gospel of the church [small c] of "Latter Day Twins". In the so-called cloning process, another individual, sharing the exact same set of genes, is "produced". To call it a "clone" is to coin a new word when an existing word is completely and precisely appropriate: "identical twin". The hidden message in the use of a new word is a lie. "Clones" are not duplicate persons or even duplicate personalities, any more than identical twins are - and for the same reasons. Despite their identical genetic makeup, differing environments (starting in the womb!) take those same raw talents and aptitudes, temperaments and propensities, and produce differing personalities and unique self-identities. Tell an identical twin that he or she can be dismissed as a copy of his or her twin and you are likely to get a black eye - deservedly.
Much disinformation comes from hackneyed science fiction fare in which "clones" are "produced" as instant adults. But no known process can produce an instant adult. The "clone" has to start off as an embryo-fetus-infant-toddler-child-adolescent etc. with no telescoping of the generation-long time frame possible. Consider that the "clone" lags behind in birth time anywhere from moments (forced identical twin embryo produced just after original conception) to possibly years, even millennia later.
If the "cloning" takes place much later, and the resulting infant grows up in a "world" somewhat different from that of its DNA-mate, differences in personality are likely to proportionately greater. Granted, their raw talents and abilities, dispositions and temperaments, will be quite the same. But the pyramid of happenstance-tempered habits, actual-ized abilities, memories and learning experiences, and resulting interpersonal reactions may be quite different. The "latter day identical twin" will be no second-class person, but as much an individual as the "original" with his or her own "soul" and aspirations for meaning, achievement, happiness.
So the past has (a) misdefined "clone", and (b) misassumed that clones could be produced as instant adults. It has also (c) misconcentrated exclusively on possible misuses of clones, e.g. for the begetting of generations of "supermen" etc. to gain national or ethnic advantage and hegemony, perpetuating a self-proclaimed elite's idea of what makes an ideal person or specimen. Unfortunately, science fiction has been a medium popular with horror story tellers. That real live Nazis were obsessed with super race prospects would seem to justify our dismissal of "human cloning" without further inspection. But tell me, what sense does it make to leave to one's enemies the definition of the potential of any proposed tool? Let's say it like it is - harsh though it may seem - Clonophobes are unwitting Nazi dupes.
But the fault lies not only with those who would use such new conception techniques for ill purpose, it also lies with those timorous and intellectually lazy people who neglect to examine more reasonable and social benign roles for "belated identical twins". This essay makes no attempt to be thorough in examining positive roles for clones. My interest is that of a would-be space frontiersman.
"How might human clones (belated identical twins) help open the space frontier?"
Most of us got interested in space, hoping that we could participate in the opening of the space frontier, or at least live to see the day when ordinary people with whom we could identify would routinely work and live beyond Earth orbit. But for many of us, the actual pace of events has brought with it a cruel realization that we may not personally live to see the day, much less get to personally participate.
What if we were offered the real chance to "virtually participate" - not via computer hookup, but by genetic hookup, via a belated identical twin of ourselves, someone individually distinct, but with whom we could radically identify? What would that chance be worth? Would it be worth a hefty investment? That's up to you. Some, well-off enough to consider the prospect, might find the prospect very attractive. Before you scoff, consider how much parents are willing to sacrifice to give their own offspring an edge. Children are seen as our personal proxies into a future that continues after our turn on the stage has passed. How much more satisfying if our personal stand-in is a belated identical twin, with our very own talents, abilities, propensities?
Enough already! What has this to do with reality? In the short term, perhaps not much. One could arrange, with enough green grease, to have a surrogate mother bring to term a real honest to goodness "Junior", then raise the tyke ourselves to share our aspirations for space. It would be better to allow the new individual to find him or her own self, even at the probably leser risk (in comparison to any 'natural' offspring) that space would not be an equal priority. The idea would be that someone really and radically like you, but still him/herself, would get to do what you have apparently been born too early to experience for yourself. It is not likely that many will go through this expense, nor seriously entertain the thought!
Much further down the road, well over our sight horizons, but still within our declared aspirations, is travel or migration beyond the solar system to the stars. "Ad Astra!" is our call. While brainstorming of technologically feasible unmanned probes to or past nearby stars continues to mature, brainstorming of human interstellar travel is still the exclusive turf of science fiction writers, or those whose privileged inner faith allows them to ignore the laws of relativity. Quasi-religious dogmatics aside, the energies involved in sending even comatose "frozen" crews to the stars in suspended animation are so large that no foreseeable civilization will be able to manage, much less afford such missions. And to maintain "generation ships" of fully awake personnel for durations beyond their personal life expectancies would be even more prohibitive, as well as even more socially horrendous.
One alternative is to send microships with seed, spores, and frozen just-conceived embryos, and the equipment (artificial wombs, robotic nannies) to transform such a high potency cargo into plants, animals, and humans - should a fertile world be reached. The attractiveness of this alternative is that no lives of fully self-realized individuals will be sacrificed for the slim possibility of finding such fruitful new turf. Nor will it matter how long a noah-ark drifts through interstellar reaches before coming across a suitable nesting spot, if ever. With the new cloning technology, we need not even be talking about conceived embryos, just the DNA and surrogate eggs needed to begin the process.
How can such an endeavor benefit from having its genetic locker filled with latter day identical twins, as opposed to a collection of random naturally produced gene sets? Via the latter, we can only hope that the brand new human population out there will produce enough people with leadership talent and other desirable qualities to give some faint hope of a successful start of a viable out-pocket of humanity. With cloning technology, however, we can select a genetic pool more likely to succeed.
No, we are not talking about a super race as usually conceived, not about people who are intellectually or physically superior by someone's criteria. We are talking about latter day identical twins of those who have already,
In other words, by using latter day identical twins of people whose virtues have proven not to be hamstrung by any tragic faults, we could optimize success. It is enough to scatter seed over an area with few hopefully fertile nooks and crannies. To further decimate the odds of success by sending ark-crews of uncertain caliber, makes such an interstellar out-settlement initiative seem even more wildly foolish. And if each ark-ship was endowed with identical unproven embryonic teams, unsuspected fatal flaws and combinations could ruin every attempt.
Back to our own time and place. Would some billionaire pay to add his own latter day identical twin(s) to future pioneer ship manifests? Would it be worth enough to anyone to bankroll a whole mission?
The desire for such virtual immortality might be strong enough to motivate some - it's a highly individual thing. We all verbally prioritize space, but when it comes down to checkbook-budgeting our all too finite individual revenues, the real pie slice we give to the realization of the space frontier is often embarrassingly minor. It may never happen, but the possibility of cloning oneself, siring an identical twin to reach adulthood a generation latter, may someday loosen the purse strings of someone's overample holdings to finance say a settlement expedition to Mars. - It's twenty years off at best anyhow.
Cloning could also insure a supply of future von Brauns, Ehrickes, Tsiolkofskys, Forwards, etc. But natural random genetics in a gene pool as large as the present human population ensures that we will always have enough of equivalent talent - there is no need to hedge the bet by producing belated identical twins. The real present catch-breaker could be the personally powerful incentive to restructure one's own financial planning. Just as individuals now "buy" a stained glass window or a pew in a new church, individuals might pay for one occupied seat on a pioneer ship, provided it be filled with someone with whom they know (not always the case with one's natural children) they can radically identify. Even if they themselves die before departure date, they would have the comfort of knowing that their virtual alter ego was "scheduled" for a frontier departure (we say scheduled, because, of course, in this vale of tears, nothing, nothing, can be guaranteed.)
I don't know how many years ago, I saw a play entitled "Five Characters in Search of an Author" (the author's name did not stick in this waxen brain). The play consisted in a number of acts in which the same set of characters started off in the same situation and ended up differently - demonstrating the uncertainties that flow from ambiguities in each of us, uncertainties that are reduced by a playwright author. In real life, experience and environment play playwright to our genetic talents and dispositions.
It will be so with "belated identical twins". Send in the clones. Let's fear them not.
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