In no small measure inspired by BBC America's Canadian-produced tricky and fun new series Orphan Black, which centers heavily on cloning what-ifs, I came back to this simmering question (thanks, TV!) -- why not cloning? And the question inevitably becomes -- why hasn't it happened yet? It seems that no measure of debate or prohibition will ever sway humans from doing the thing they aren't supposed to do on "moral grounds." Some day, probably soon, somebody somewhere will make a human clone.
But what will it really mean if there was a clone of you out there? Somehow it's the most fun to imagine that a clone will not only look like you, but will somehow be connected to you in an almost telepathic way, as if a metaphysical extension of you. As if there is now more of you! Now that you have clones, you can be doing many more things and essentially getting more out of life.
The truth is, of course, that this clone, while genetically identical, will be an independent person, with own thoughts and will, shaped by his or her own experiences. But the clone will look like you. So while looking with suspicion and wonder at yourself doubling, you can ponder -- how much kinship can you really feel through your DNA? You will conclude that the other person is just not you. And all your exotic fears will start fading away. Even if the fears are many and spectacular. What if you had sex with your clone? What kind of children would clones have? What about the cloning of famous people? Wouldn't a clone of a certain famous couple's kid become a hot commodity on the black market? Is this whole thing going to doom the human race?
There are many questions but most are resolvable through common sense answers, avoiding hysterics and employing the power of law as it should apply to any individual human being, whether he shares characteristics with anyone or not. So it's just not a big deal. Relax, everybody. Cloning is no problem.
I wish it was that easy. A part of me wishes there were clones out there already. I wish there were the long overdue flying cars too. I wish there were dinosaurs (thanks, cloning!) I wish there were reasonably well-intentioned creatures from other planets who already sent us a tweet. I wish life from the imagined future was here and now. And certainly not all of it will be so peacefully reasoned out. Some of what we can do and will do too hastily will become a real disaster. We are torn between desire and curiosity for any kind of future and sheer stagnation in trying to protect the way things are. On either side of this is possible annihilation as a species. A situation not all too unfamiliar from our history.
Now that I've achieved such rhetorical heights, it's time to clone me. I will go into my special chamber where I've been keeping a spare cloned body of mine (mostly free of the wear and tear) and into the head of this clone I will upload all my current experiences, minus some unhelpful traumas. As the clone gains consciousness, he will assume my place in the world, while this old body will be decommissioned somehow or be free to attempt wildly different life experiences which can later be uploaded into the master clone's brain. You know, the one who gathers all the experiences from my many clones to produce the person who will represent Paul within higher society, justifiably utilizing the royal "we." He will be likely identified as Paul 1.
Isn't that the glaring detail, you ask -- "this old body will be decommissioned somehow"? Will we be inhuman to our clones? I don't know but it's very possible that our relationship to our bodies and our DNA will change fundamentally as clones and cloning technology will become an expected part of our life. We will have a different conception of what it means to be human. But we have a different, better conception of humanity now, you argue. This one right now is really the best one ever. At no other time in history did humans think that they had it all figured out like we do now. The kind of ideas we are having right now are the best ones and the human from 2013 is the best human that can ever be.
And you'd be right.