Human cloning is too close for comfort. But then, so was the atom bomb we dropped on Hiroshima a while back. The cold war was not comfortable for many of us, and the effort, time, energy and billions spent may or may not have been better invested in health and education. Science, technology, and profit motive marches on, and we will eventually clone people.
With all of human history, when the time comes, for better or for worse, people do stuff in line with their motives. Whether it is beneficial, or horrendous, is dependent upon your perspective. We may never know whether the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, appreciated her short life, or whether she felt it was miserable. Nor shall we know how all the participants, both human and animal, felt about the entire process. When humans tinker with nature, and we always will, we are experimenting. The idea of creating lab grown meat, for example may reduce suffering for some creatures, but ramifications beyond that would have to be experienced to be judged, again, by subjective viewpoints. Factory farmed hogs squeal, “Yes, Go (lab) meat!”
Another point that must be made is that nature invented cloning when she invented identical twins. Rare, but still natural, identical twins exist, and unless they blink in 100% synchronicity, and occupy the exact same newborn sized shape in space and time in the universe, they are not identical. Our environment shapes us as much as our genetics, so cloning, in the sense of having an entire new “you” could not exist without time travel, and technology far beyond what we have so far.
A third point to examine is that there is no such thing as an individual on earth anyway. You are a collection of trillions of cells, nerve endings, bacteria, microbes, fungi, water, minerals, food you ate today, and even the oxygen you breathe. In most science fiction scenarios this is not what we think of when we envision a clone. We are more likely to imagine a unit made, as a computer would be, with the exact specifications as the unit churned out just before it. Even where the contours of our skin end, we are not alone. We need the biodiversity, the minerals, the sun and the moon to survive. We are “US”, not “I.” We share DNA with all living things. Do we really need more of ourselves than this?
Biological life is complex. We are dynamic, we move, we ingest, we ambulate, we excrete, we are exposed to nutrients, toxins, thoughts, religion, and much, much more. In essence, we cannot ever be cloned, because we can create others that are similar to ourselves, but each “unit” will always have its own extremely complex and unique features. Think of something as small as a polio virus and think of how just this one teensy particulate affected the middle of the twentieth century when FDR, became FDR, at least in part, due to an invisible virus. Also consider whether Sir Arthur C, Clarke who first envisioned the satellite, or Neil Young, who gave us spectacular guitar rifts, would be, had this seemingly insignificantly tiny detail (a polio virus) not occurred in their lives and world history. Without satellites you would not be reading this, and without Cinnamon Girl would the world ever have given us Kurt Cobain and Nirvana? Polio is at best gone, we assume, but we don’t know everything that adversity teaches and what it affects.
Cloning for the purpose of growing spare parts has been proposed, and in the situation where couples are either infertile, or have lost their only child. In these situations, it seems likely some version of cloning will eventually be embraced by society. But, for the shape the world is in today, with well over six billion people clamoring for clean air, water, food, and energy, it seems ridiculous to be investing a lot of our technology, innovations, and billions of dollars into cloning people. Still stranger things have happened, and the dubious skeptics among us could be wrong. Maybe the next FDR, Canadian Grunge gramma, and 4001 a Space Odyssey author is already biding her time in a Petri dish, somewhere on a mystical and mythical island of Serendib.