Re: Should I clone myself?

Hal Finney (
Fri, 29 Aug 1997 21:30:26 -0700

Kris Ganjam writes:
> In my plans for immortality, I am trying to assess the viablilty of brain
> transplantation. Within a few months, if not already, I will be able to make
> clones of myself from, say, an epithelial cell.

This sounds likely in a few years if not a few months.

> I can pay some, or many women
> in any of many nations to bear and rear my son(s).

No doubt.

> [Dying of cancer]
> But, say I were able to track down one of those 20 year old clones growing up
> in South America.
> All a brain really needs to keep functioning is a good blood supply? Surely
> it is within today's surgical technique to be able to route a few of my son's
> arteries to those going to my brain? Nerve grafts don't sound as easy, but
> really aren't necessary. I would be willing to keep my brain activity going,
> albeit in some monstous pit of hell without senses, to be able to hold out
> another 50 years until a cure for my disease or a new host can be found.

Of course we don't know what would happen to a brain if you cut off all
external nerves for 50 years, but kept it supplied with blood. It's easy
to assume that total insanity would result, but we really don't know.
Conceivably you might fall into a coma and remain unchanged after a
short while. The real question from your point of view is whether the
memories and personality could be preserved or restored. Certainly the
odds would be better than with death and burial, but it's not clear how
they would compare with cryonics.

Actually if you're going to transplant the whole head, presumably you
could keep your eyes, ears, nose and mouth active. You could even
speak using mechanical assistance. So you don't have to assume that
you'll be without senses. It could be a life not much worse than a
paraplegic today.

The procedure would require some considerable reconfiguration of your
son's circulatory system. As I recall, the head uses a surprisingly
high percentage of the fuel/oxygen consumption of your body. So the
circulatory system alterations would not necessarily be trivial.

Brain tissue ages just like any other; your neurons will suffer decreased
functionality, gunk building up, DNA damage, etc. The circulatory system
and other tissues may fail as well. So just keeping a good blood supply
won't guarantee metabolic survival. You may also be more vulnerable to
misfortune or even attack as a head stuck on someone else's shoulders
than you would as a suspendee deep in a vault full of liquid nitrogen.

> I
> imagine it as a sort of Zaphod-Beeblebrox arrangement, but my head would
> probably be hanging limp while my son's head appeared normal. As long as I
> wasn't dying from a brain disease, my son's blood, et al should keep me alive
> without worries of rejection, etc. Although, might my cancer be contagious to
> a clone?

If the cancer has metastasized, it is conceivable that some cells might be
lodged within your head, and could eventually float into your son's body.
Perhaps he could undergo some chemotherapy to help prevent this.

> OK, so assuming the the medical technique is practical, what will it take to
> get my son to agree to the surgery? We would be family, but a monetary
> incentive might be necessary.

Yes, especially if he's been raised remotely, I would assume that he would
require some compensation to carry your limp head around on his shoulders
for 50 years. It hardly sounds like an attractive proposition from his
POV. If you are wealthy enough, though, probably almost anything could be

> What about the legal issues involved here? What
> would be a good nation for my son to have citizenship in? (yes,
> diversification would be a good idea).

Legally, there seem to be two issues. One is whether your son is truly
consenting to the procedure. Let's suppose that can be dealt with. Then
there may be general ethical prohibitions by society which prevent this
kind of "unnatural" treatment. For that purpose you'd want a country
which is open-minded about this kind of thing. Perhaps Russia, with its
atheistic background, will evolve into an anything-goes society in the
next few years.

> What about if I made a clone of myself,
> made it sign a contract, then gave it a lobotomy so it couldn't back out?

Giving your clone a lobotomy without its permission would be illegal,
and wrong. I think you will do better to stick to consensual arrangements.

> Screw ethics when its my longevity at stake.

Ethics can represent rules of thumb for success. The better ethical
grounds you can find for your arrangements, the more likely you are to
carry them off.

> Anybody know of any good cloning labs?

The Raelian movement is a religious cult which has embraced the idea of
human cloning. You might contact them and see whether they have done
anything to implement their plans.