It's hard to believe that we who embrace McDonald's, television spin-offs and The Gap could have a problem with cloning.
But this society, which prefers uniformity in everything from its tacos to its tract housing, is scared of clones, so much so that several states already have drafted laws against human cloning. We view the Xeroxing of humans as the opening for a scary Hitlerian Ã¼ber-race that would march to world domination on the grave of diversity. Why we fear freaky, like-minded replicants even as we watch fraternities, beauty pageants and conservative Republicans flourish is a poser, but just go try to figure people out. You'll end up on Paxil, I swear to God.
People also fear cloning because they think only the rich will have access to it, and thereby be capable of creating undeserving progeny who eventually will run the country. There are some who think this already has happened. Anyway, technology always trickles down. Sixty years ago no one could have imagined Joe Shmoe having access to computers, boob jobs and movies at home, but here we all are, sitting in front of our PCs, breasts the size of soccer balls, ordering porn DVDs online. Things change.
A double take
Cloning's image is changing, too. It's being seen in a new light, one that's more amber. We're told, for example, that a cloned human couldn't possibly be a duplicate of its predecessor, since it would be raised in a different time under different influences. Also, sentiment has now entered the picture. Infertile and gay couples might look to cloning to start a family; people seeking a donor to save their offspring from illness might clone that offspring. Then there's the story, reported in the New York Times Magazine, of a couple so devastated by the death of their child that they have their hearts set on cloning to, in effect, bring that child back to life. The fact that they've joined forces with a UFO cult called the Raëlians, "a science-loving alien-fixated sect ... for whom cloning is a central tenet," is the icing on the cake. It's like merging the Lifetime Channel and the Sci-Fi Channel. It's riveting. And it's for real.
Cloning may be the best thing to come along since plants, if only for the fact that, due to stories like that one, the newspapers will start to look as if Ray Bradbury wrote them. And there are good reasons why, if you fight this inevitable technology, you'll end up sounding like your granny who still refers to the telephone as "the devil box."
Cloning will double the supply of sanity. The question "Why are we here?" troubles anyone with a brain bigger than a Skittle. The search for a meaning to our existence drives people to depression, anxiety and on-stage poetry reading. It's bad.
Clones will never suffer from this tiresome navel-gazing. How lucky to wonder, "Why am I here?" and have a ready-made answer, even if it's "Because your sister needed some bone marrow. Now put the tap in and get squeezin'." It may not be glamorous, but it's an answer.
Without any tedious existential fretting, clones will be cooler. As they proliferate, self-help books will dwindle, leaving more room in Borders for Harry Potter, fashion magazines and CDs. Every-one will lighten up.
Cloning will eliminate genetic grab bags. One of the worst things about people is that they are unpredictable without being original. This won't happen with clones -- they won't pop out as strangers. Control freaks such as myself, who can't bear the idea of birthing the equivalent of a blind date, will enjoy the option of choosing who they want to bring up.
There still will be people who want kids the old-fashioned way, by blending their genes willy-nilly and being surprised at the results. These are the same people who go to the salon, say, "Do whatever you want!" and end up wearing a hat for three weeks.
Since cloning is done in a lab, sex and reproduction will be separated, like they should have been all along. Wanting to get laid is the exact opposite of wanting to change a diaper, and the fact that one leads to the other has never made any sense. Also, the family dynamic will change, and it's about time, too, since it's as stale as the bread from the Last Supper. What will happen when people are raising themselves? In the celebrity-cloning category, what parent will have the 'nads to put Abraham Lincoln in time-out?
Finally, there's the worry that only egomaniacs will want to be cloned. Not true. I'm an egomaniac. Doing this world once is enough for me, and one of me is enough for it.