This sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, and yet I bet the human race is going to face legal and moral issues concerning cloning within another decade or two. Cloning of animals is available to you right now at admittedly high prices. Those prices will drop, and I suspect that cloning of humans isn't that far behind. In fact, it may be possible someday to clone your ancestors or other relatives.
First, start with the movie called "The 6th Day," which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger a few years back. Perhaps you don't recall that movie. After all, it was rather forgettable. The story involved a "re-pet" cloning service to get your dog back if you ever lost the animal. The "service" simply cloned the missing animal.
Fiction became fact: a US biotech company announced on Wednesday that it will auction off the right for five dog owners to have their furry best friend cloned, with bidding starting at $100,000. This is not a joke.
The Best Friends Again program, sponsored by BioArts International, is a limited commercial dog-cloning program. BioArts is auctioning off five dog-cloning service slots to the general public via a worldwide online auction. The bidding starts at $100,000.
Further details about this auction can be found at http://www.bestfriendsagain.com.
OK, what's next? The FriendsAgain web site says that "dogs are arguably the most difficult mammal to clone." I suspect that everyone who reads that will immediately think, "What about humans?" I have no idea if cloning a human is possible with today's technology, but I have no doubt that it will become possible within a few years. Will some company do that?
NOTE: The Raëlian Church claims to have cloned a human already but has offered no proof. The claim seems doubtful. More information may be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clonaid .
Whether or not cloning has already occurred, it seems inevitable that it will happen eventually. How will we, the human race, react? Will we accept these new humans as having full rights? Will they be allowed to vote? to marry? to have children? Or will they be relegated to the status of circus freaks? If they look like us and act like us, I don't think they will be very interesting freaks.
To be sure, all of this creates interesting moral and legal issues. I won't discuss those issues in detail as they are already being debated in thousands of other venues worldwide. However, I am intrigued by one more question that I have not yet seen addressed in the printed or online media: who will be cloned?
I am sure that the scientists will first want to clone Olympic-caliber athletes or individuals with high IQs or some important historical figures. Did anyone ever save Albert Einstein's DNA material? How about George Washington?
Gee, I hope they don't clone Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Sooner or later, as the costs drop, some wealthy individuals will begin to think about cloning deceased loved ones. This is bound to happen. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Egyptian multi-billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed think about cloning his son Dodi Al-Fayed. You will recall that Dodi Al-Fayed was killed in the same automobile crash that claimed the life of Princess Diana. In this case, the father certainly has the financial resources to clone his beloved son.
Perhaps someone will clone Princess Diana! Can you imagine the articles in future gossip magazines?
Assuming that all of this is technically possible and is allowed to take place by the laws of the various countries, I can envision prices dropping. Sooner or later, the price will drop to $100,000, the price of today's dog-cloning service. Perhaps the prices will drop even further, to $10,000 or even less. After all, the prices of other technologies have dropped 90% and sometimes even 99% within a couple of decades. What happens when cloning becomes financially reasonable for millions of people?
Who will be cloned? Assuming that we can afford the charges, most of us will not think about cloning athletes or scientists or mathematicians or former presidents. I suspect that most of us will think of our departed loved ones, especially if we have a lock of hair or some other material that can be used for cloning purposes. It might be parents or a sibling or a deceased spouse. Some years ago I lost a 15-year-old son, and I can tell you that I would pay any amount of money to "get him back." I suspect that millions of other people would do the same for their departed loved ones.
My guess is that we will face these issues within the lifetimes of most of us. It's not a matter of "if," I think it is simply a question of "when." In fact, if the technology doesn't progress that far within my lifetime, it certainly will do so within my daughter's lifetime. Will she ever think about cloning ME and bringing me back to life?
Do I even want to cloned?
How about you? Do you want "immortality" by coming back to life as a cloned copy of yourself?
There are great moral and legal issues to be addressed. It seems almost humorous to ask, "How will genealogists track cloned individuals in their databases?" While this seems like a minor issue in comparison to the other questions, I suspect that all these will be very real questions within a few decades.
This should be interesting!