Ditto

In an irony so great that it may never be duplicated -- even if the cloning of humor becomes possible -- the welter of essays that held forth on the sanctity of individuality in the face of the successful cloning of a sheep did so in ways so similar, so predictable, that they might as well have been written by . . . well, clones. Perhaps we have more to fear from the nation's journalism schools than from the geneticist's laboratory.Most essays staged a bifurcated discussion detailing the twin threats of the new technology: cloning memorable individuals known for their unique contribution to history (altruistic or nefarious) and cloning average citizens to serve as sources for spare parts. Given the wide range of famous (and infamous) humans who have graced the globe, we might expect our nation's thinkers to come up with more original -- or at least more varied -- choices for replication. We would be mistaken. While Hitler was the overwhelming choice for villainous cloning (Newsweek's Sharon Begley earns points for originality for substituting Pol Pot), Einstein popped into most commentators' heads when they considered whom benevolent scientists might want to duplicate. Jeffrey Kluger, writing in Time, insisted that "Even the most ardent egalitarians would find it hard to object to an Einstein appearing every 50 years or a Chopin every century. It would be better still if we could be guaranteed not just an Einstein but the Einstein."The experts Kluger spoke with had Einstein on the brain as well; Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a professor of biology and biblical law at New York City's Yeshiva University, gleaned this bit of wisdom from his two areas of expertise: "I can make myself an Albert Einstein, and he may turn out to be a drug addict." Although he doesn't put the father of quantum mechanics on the pipe, Charles Krauthammer (in the same issue of Time) also placed Einstein at the head of his list of clonables. "Oh, the temptation . . . to produce an Einstein, a Dr. King, for every generation. Or to raise a Jefferson in a clearing, a cross between Jurassic Park and Williamsburg, an artificial environment re-creating 18th century Virginia."Strangely, although Einstein was everyone's cloning favorite, many writers expressed fear that replicant Alberts might not behave. Stephen Grebe, associate professor of biology at American University in Washington, shared Rabbi Tendler's worry that a cloned Einstein could disappoint scientists when he posed this question for CNN: "Do we want necessarily Einsteins and are we willing to accept the costs of so-called bad copies?" Even Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly and whose pragmatic nature has for the most part limited his comments to the agricultural and biomedical uses of cloning in livestock, has finally succumbed to the Einstein bug. Claiming that a clone would not be treated as an individual, Wilmut recently explained that "If you made a copy of Einstein, and the kid failed in his homework, you'd say 'You're not supposed to fail your homework.'" It would be hard to find a better example of the inability of scientists to fathom the ramifications of their discoveries than Wilmut's less than helpful observation.Mother Teresa, Michael Jordan and Elvis round out the list of most-mentioned clonables, which, with few exceptions, ignores artists in favor of do-gooders, big thinkers and athletes. The cloning conversation reveals more than the paucity of writers' mental rolodexes and our culture's preference for science, sports and altruism over art. Cloning's twin threats -- the replication of geniuses or tyrants, and the creation of donor clones -- reflect two divergent models of human identity: humans as unique individuals with unique characteristics and idiosyncratic perspectives, and humans as a conglomeration of interchangeable parts.The two models of humanity inherent in the critique of cloning adhere to what design and technology commentator Phil Patton calls the "two great ideals" of American design: "the perfect model" and "the kit of parts." Patton points out that the automotive industry has embodied both ideals: "Henry Ford's uniform Model T" and General Motors' made-to-order variations on basic models. Clone critics were quick to make comparisons to the assembly line. A number of articles referred to Ford himself, the fiftieth anniversary of whose death on April 7 provided a fitting coda to the weeks of opining, almost every single instance of which bemoaned the possibility that cloning could bring to human reproduction the manufacturing innovation that has become synonymous with Ford -- the mechanized mass-production of identical products. Even more prevalent were allusions to Brave New World, Aldous Huxley's satirical novel in which a genetically-engineered, mechanistic and multi-caste society has replaced the Lord with Ford as the subject of devotion.While essayists act as though analogies between human identity and industrial production have only become prevalent with the advent of cloning, Patton's paradigm -- which has informed American conceptions of design at least since the beginning of the 19th century -- suggests otherwise. The application of principles of manufacturing to human reproduction and self-hood came long before cloning; the new technology simply gives us one more analogy through which to express our long-held conception of human identity in terms of industrial design and production.This, finally, is the point of Brave New World, overlooked by most commentators on cloning: you don't need genetic engineering for a culture of rigid social hierarchies and sterile personal lives. Long before the discovery of DNA, scientific principles of management turned workers into interchangeable robotic drones, akin to the machinery they operated. We've already created a society of chronic haves and have-nots, in which those at the bottom suffer indignities far greater than being chided for not doing their homework. Indeed, as wages and the quality of health care for American workers continue to erode, the benefits package enjoyed by Huxley's Epsilon Semi-morons -- regular holidays, a daily Soma ration, uniforms -- is beginning to look pretty generous.

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