Sunday, April 23, 2006

Liam Lynch Clones

Last week Liam Lynch announced the sad news that Frankie Forcefield, his most faithful feline companion, was hit by a car and killed. Undaunted, he collected the freshly corpsified cat and rushed it to the vet. Not because he believed there could be any hope of saving Frankie - but to collect the samples necessary for the generation of Frankie's yet to be (yet already named) clone - Finnegan.

For the mere cost of a mid-sized automobile Genetic Savings & Clone is currently producing kitty clones for the most discriminating of cat savvy consumers. Fortunately for Liam (or unfortunately, depending on your personal outlook on this sort of thing) enough fresh cellular material was collected from Frankie to ensure the viability of the new ‘Frankiestein.’

Laim was quick to point out that he doesn’t believe Finnegan will be the same cat Frankie was, but simply another cat with a better than average chance of inheriting Frankies’s best qualities. He also expressed his hope that by patronizing businesses like Genetic Saving’s & Clone he’s supporting further research into the technologies that will enable the cataloguing, cloning, and genetic preservation of many other animals - especially animals that might otherwise face extinction.

“The future has already arrived. It's just not evenly distributed yet.” ~William Gibson

I can’t help but wonder about what will happen next, and whether or not we’re ready for it. Cloning housecats doesn’t bother me at all, except perhaps in the generally wasteful and overly self-indulgent consumer sense. We’ve been prognosticating about the ethical implications of these sorts of things since at least 1817, when Mary Shelley wrote her masterpiece. Yet I can’t help but wonder if all these contemplations fly out the window the moment money meets means. Considering the scientific breakthroughs that are sure to follow, is it possible to have an advance game-plan for further developments? Or are we doomed to fall into a ‘make it up as we go along’ scenario, always adapting to the whims of a lowest-common-denominator?

I'm not against cloning, or against Liam’s choice to clone specifically - quite the contrary. Liam’s a sci-fi junkie just like me, and I think he’s as much enamored with the idea of connecting to some cutting-edge science as the notion of getting another great pet. (You can check out his video-podcast #5 for the full scoop in his own words.) I guess I’d just like to know that scientific development, as well as consumer availability, is progressing along an established path - one previously defined by the consensus of experts after due consideration. Yet I already know it can never be quite that simple.

I also can’t help but consider in the wake of South Korea’s recent scientific scandal that perhaps organizations like GS&C are selling little more than hype. If you gave me thousands of dollars plus some pictures of your dearly departed cat, after a few months of pet-shopping I could certainly produce a clone of my own - and you can keep the biological samples to yourself.


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