Re: Cloning is Here

Anders Sandberg (
Sun, 23 Feb 1997 22:09:32 +0100 (MET)

On Sun, 23 Feb 1997, Hal Finney wrote:

> I'm not sure how beneficial this will be to us as individuals.
> The ability to make clones in itself will not allow individuals to
> improve their own genetics. No doubt the technique will allow new
> research directions which will shed useful light on various diseases
> and genetic problems, but if we focus on human cloning itself I don't
> see many direct benefits.

I agree completely. Cloning per se is not a useful way to enhance one's
own life, except in some applications.

> There are serious problems raised as well. Let us suppose that it
> becomes relatively common for people to choose to give birth to a
> clone of an existing person rather than a new individual with randomly
> chosen genetics. You can get a sure thing rather than a crap shoot.
> Of course the sure thing may lack any of the parents' genes, but the
> experience of people who adopt children suggests that this may not be
> much of a barrier. You can have a child who is virtually guaranteed to
> be a genius, or have marvelous atheletic or musical talent, or to be a
> physical beauty, simply by cloning an adult with these characteristics.

Beware of genetic determinism! While it is certainly quite possible to
give birth to children that have good preconditions for becoming athletes
or musical, much more than that is required. I seriously doubt Beethoven
would have become the great composer he became if he grew up in a middle
class american family. Some studies implies that geniuses while
intelligent, almost always excelled mainly because of early and through
training (due to good teachers or personality). Giving your cloned child
the right upbringing is even harder than bringing up a child in general,
since you try to nurture traits you believe it has big potential in.

> Or people may choose to clone themselves, Mommy's little girl and Daddy's
> little boy. Everyone who ever secretly wanted a twin sibling can now
> get their wish, albeit gratification delayed. You can raise your clone
> just the way you would have wanted to be raised.

I have a friend who would like to try this, placing clones of himself in
a variety of families and creating a group of versions of himself as he
could be.

> At the same time there are obvious problems with such a society. A
> child who grows up as a clone is going to be facing an unusual set of
> expectations. Hopefully his innate talents will be in close accordance
> with his pre-programmed career goals, so that the Michael Jordan clones
> will take to basketball as soon as they can walk.

This is also a problem with genetic improvements and actively
trying to bring up children into geniuses. It is worth studying how to
deal with it, both in terms of how to help the child and how to deal with
the often unrealistic expectations of the parents.

> Ownership of genetic code is an interesting problem with a lot of
> similarities to today's debate about intellectual property.

Hmm, shouldn't it be possible to copyright one's genome? That means
replication of it without permission is not allowed.

> Should a person be able to control how and when
> new clones of himself are made? If so, how about second-generation copies?

Sound reasonable. But once the clone is accepted as a person, he can
justly claim the ownership of his own genome and making any clones of
himself is his decision, not the original clone (hmm, I have to watch
Multiplicity, I think).

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y