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A: The Clone Ranger February 9, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in business, death, ideas, sci-fi, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, serial fiction, writing.
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Q: What goes hi ho, Silver, Silver, Silver?

My dreams tend to be pretty worthless for thinking up plots or characters. A while back when I had trouble sleeping, I tried melatonin. This worked wonderfully well getting me to sleep but it gave me the most vivid–and boring–dreams ever. The vibrant colors came through unmatched by any other dream, but the sequence itself tended to be unthrilling, boring stuff like waiting in line at the supermarket. That was it. Just standing in line.

Recently I had a bout of dreams about clones. Who knows why? Something about the dream theme set my conscious brain to thinking in terms of sf stories (none of this was in the dream itself–that all came later). The variants on Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” are obvious but the moral considerations (and legal ramifications) are what boiled up in my head.

If you have sex with your own clone, is this masturbation? If you kill your own clone, is that suicide? (The truly scary ending on The Prestige is a take on this) If clones are considered separate entities, what does this do to DNA solutions for crimes? How do you prove it wasn’t you but your clone that did the crime? Could a clever criminal use his clone as an alibi for actually committing a crime? If you create your own clone for the express purpose of a sex crime (on the clone), who is the victim and who is the perpetrator? Is this even a crime? Could therapy for a serial killer be killing his own clones rather than other people? What are the ethics involved of trying risky medical treatments on clones to find the proper one for the “original?”

Cloning certainly eliminates the need for estate planning. Just will your clone your fortune. Skip a few hundred years into the future. Would all the wealth be consolidated in the hands of a few clones?

I need to get to work on a science fiction book. Not dealing with clones, not exactly (could a clone be used as a surrogate to serve a prison sentence?)


1. D Gary Grady - February 10, 2014

Interesting speculations! A clone in the current sense is a distinct individual the same way an identical twin is distinct — more so, in fact, since identical twins have the same mitochondrial DNA while cloning as currently practiced duplicates only nuclear DNA. Clones are also different ages and have different life experiences from the originals.

There was an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, I think it was, in which identical twins accused each other of a crime and though DNA proved that one of them indeed had committed it, there was no way to know which, so the perpetrator escaped justice.

The distinct mitochondrial DNA might allow distinguishing between clones, however.

Of course, all this assumes cloning is achieved by something like the way farm animals are cloned, inserting nuclear DNA into an egg cell. If somatic cells can be turned into the equivalent of a fertilized ovum, which is at least theoretically possible, then clones would be much more like identical twins, except for their ages. And in sf one can imagine some sort of accelerated development so the clone could end up the same biological age, and some sort of mind scan copy-and-paste could give them the same experiences.

That’s of course the sort of cloning found in John Varley’s Eight Worlds stories such as “The Phantom of Kansas” and “The Ophiuchi Hotline.” Varley also envisioned sex changes as routine in his story universe, which adds other complications.

All fascinating stuff!

Glad you’re back to blogging regularly, by the way.

bobv451 - February 12, 2014

Agreement. This is a vast legal morass when it comes to humans. Just growing organs in a clone for harvesting was kinda addressed in Cordwainer Smith stories (though he used convicts rather than clones). What constitutes a legal entity is a wonderful room to wander around in stfnally.

Blogging fell by the wayside for a lot of reasons. My eyes are much better, making it easier to blog again. Triage on blog vs work is not a decision that came easily.

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