Clone Me

Ian Jones

Anyone want a clone? In Baudrillard and Biology, Lora Schwartz argues the unlikelyhood of people wanting to clone themselves given the "easier, less expensive" traditional mode of sexual reproduction. This is not the case. Although distasteful in many of its implications, cloning can and may replace sexual reproduction in some instances.

Cloning fails to destroy the meaning of the individual as Baudrillard suggests. Cloning can not succeed where therapy, drugs, and religion have failed before, it can not create smarter, better-in-every-way me's. What it can create, are individuals based on my own code, which was my parents and grandparents before me, that can carry out their own lives. While they may be called by my name, talk like me, and have my bone structure, my DNA, and my ass, they are most definitely not me. They would be my children.

I do not think cloning can ever be used to manufacture designer humans, programmed to a specific purpose (our machines of media and culture already program us more efficiently than any tinkering of genes could). Cloning represents the most extreme extension of the individual as tool metaphor. Underlying the current drive to perfect the technology of genetics is a desire for the ability to perfect genetically existing prototypes of human functions. With the production of Dolly, technology is such that domesticated animals, already tools of food and clothing production, can now be replicated and distilled to be most efficient. The cloning of sheep and other domesticated animals can be utilized successfully, because people understand what we need and want from the animals. The sheep is reduced to machine for food and wool, so we can tinker with the coded DNA sprockets of the sheep until the ideal food and wool device is produced.

As Baudrillard discusses, cloning "enshrines the reiteration of the same: 1+1+1+1, etc." On the surface level of appearance upon which he is looking, that is the case. As a process of creating identically coded repeats, in which "each cell of the American CEO can produce a new CEO," cloning is imperfect. A CEO, I assume, must possess specific traits to be successful: A certain cunning, a way of synthesizing economic and cultural trends, and most importantly, an unpredictability so as to stay ahead of competitors. Even if we could distill such traits to the genetic level, which is highly unlikely, the unpredictability would have to come from the environment of the specific model's development rather than its genes. This argument, rather than provoke fear of the technology of cloning and its potential to produce human redundancy, serves to highlight the importance of each individual's sense of self and developmental nurturing regardless of genetic coding. Cloning the CEO does not produce more CEO's, it produces a bunch of people who look like the CEO and perhaps are coded in some sort of way that predisposes them to be controlling, power-hungry and ambitious.

[To other discussions of Baudrillard by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]

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