One Small Step for Clone-kind

By on May 20th, 2013 in Ethics, Societal Impact, Topics

A Wall Street Journal article May 16, 2013 reports (including informative an video) on work lead by the Oregon Health and Science University in which human embryonic stem cells have been created from skin cells — which means matching a specific individual DNA.  It is a technology targeted at facilitating organ repair/replacement, but is also one step closer to  human cloning.  Interested parties are quick to point out that there are still major steps to be taken before even primate cloning is viable, that human cloning is illegal in some jurisdictions and unethical in some communities or just plain wrong.

Will we see human clones in the next few decades? My answer is “sure”. First there are cultures and jurisdictions where this would not be unethical or illegal. There are significant kudos to be gained by the successful team (even if they are denied the Nobel prize.) There are ‘fat cats’ (wealthy egotistical folks) who would delight in the possibility of a “mini-me”, or in a compatible organ donor. (Societies with different values are likely to accept some variances along these lines). Some of the ‘fat cats’ will be folks with significant, or total political power sufficient to overcome whatever objections you are sure might exist to the implied above uses-abuses.  Give me, say a dozen clones, some for parts, some to :”raise right” as a successor, and maybe a few to see if brain transplants can work, or other form of memory/personality transfer.

Sounds like bad science fiction? Sure, but these plots did not emerge from alien planets and unlikely science. These are IMHO a logical extrapolation of human nature as revealed over the last few hundred years of science, totalitarianism and ego-mania.   Pretending that we are now that much different than those running the world in 1940, or a few other recent periods of time is a type of denial.

So, I’m taking bets … when will we see the first viable human clone? And a second prize for identifying the correct country in which that breakthrough will occur? I’m betting on “before 2030” and “the country will have a logogram appearing written language”.  What’s your best guess?