Thursday, June 23, 2011

Test-tube conceived, In vitro breed

Even back in the 1500s it was well-recognised that self-cloning doesn't work because the mini-Mes will turn on you and you have to drive them away with a wooden stick.
Note that cloning technology was not perfect at the time which is why a couple of the mini-Mes have ended up with variations on the basic silly moustache.

In the hands of a quality writer like Gene Wolfe, the clone-technology tropes of science fiction can be appropriated and turned into a parable about the sterility and emptiness of a solipsistic existence where self-absorption has shut the door on stimulation from the outside world.* Sadly, there are libertarians who dislike the normal method of propagation because any offspring has only 50% of one's own genetic material blended with 50% from some freeloading parasite; they read Wolfe's novella and think "Wow! Bringing up a clone of myself sounds like a really good idea!"** -- missing the "ending badly with psychopathy and murder" component of the plot.
This manner of misreading must be very depressing for Wolfe and is of course the reason I have chosen not to become a talented and well-respected author.

At the other extreme from Gene Wolfe we find John Varley, who imagines sex with one's own clone as the pinnacle of orgasmic self-actualisation and a realisation of an age-old dream, almost as old as the dream of extinguishing the sun. Just saying, if Bryan Caplan's cloned home-schooled son ends up killing him, it would be irresponsible not to speculate about the abusive environment.

* See also Thomas Disch, "Genetic Coda".

** H/t Brad Reed.

4 comments:

H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

c.f. Divisionists in Burroughs' Naked Lunch

"And citizens are forever putting the hex on someone else's replica cultures. Cries of: "Hex my culture will you, Biddy Blair!" followed by sound effects of mayhem, continually ring through the quarter...."

Or a typical Saturday night at The Old Entomologist?

Substance McGravitas said...

self-cloning doesn't work because the mini-Mes will turn on you

Children are different?

Another Kiwi said...

Subby, they are taller

Smut Clyde said...

c.f. Divisionists in Burroughs' Naked Lunch

Burroughs was on the case of the transhumanists right from the start:
They would like to jump down their stomachs, digest the food, and shovel the shit out

If that doesn't describe the nanotech boys -- with their conviction that our current cellular machinery is horribly messy and inefficient, and that they can design something rational that works better than anything 3 billion years of evolution might have designed -- than I don't know what does.

I have a particular hate reserved for Drexler and his nanotech acolytes, owing to their eagerness to describe the capabilities of molecular machinery operating at scales shorter than light wavelengths. You would think they would reflect that the only way a molecular-scale automaton can tell the nature of the molecule it has encountered is by reacting with it. But no, they never allowed any conception of the realities of molecular scales to inhibit their vision of what their creations could accomplish.

Nasty messy cell metabolism was going to be replaced by something controlled, and that was more important than questions of practicality.