Would you clone yourself if you have the opportunity to do so? I sometimes think it would be strange to clone myself (the scifi kind of cloning, where clones are literal, full-grown copies). What kind of strange conversations would we have? Would we each develop differently over time so that the only resemblance between us was physical?
Science fiction writers have asked these questions for decades. Why? I don’t know. Maybe we’re secretly narcissists? Or maybe there’s just something fascinating about the idea that humanity is duplicable. After all, if science fiction is, as many suggest, a genre deeply concerned with the human condition, then cloning is merely a “new” avenue through which we can interrogate what it is
that makes us human. Cloning rests alongside intelligent robots, aliens, androids, and all manner of intelligent non-humans to remind us that whatever it is that makes us human and unique is hard to pinpoint. If our minds and bodies can be duplicated, then what makes you “you” and me “me”?
This is why I find narratives about cloning, androids, aliens, and so on compelling. Dawn by Octavia Butler, for example, considers whether humanity still exists when its genetics have been tampered with by an alien race (even for its own good). Butler’s narrative is rife with deep questions about human existence: Is there something inherently wrong with humanity on a genetic level? Do we cease to be human if we fix those genetic errors and mix ourselves with other species? Does humanity deserve to exist if its genetics lead it toward self-destruction?
Or there are books like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Marseguro by Edward Willett, or Tobias Buckell’s Xenowealth Saga. Each interrogates the human condition in unique and vibrant ways, from questioning our compulsion towards enslavement and extermination (Dick) to the place of genetic modification in the human spectrum (Willett) to the integration of humans with machines and computers (Buckell). Science fiction loves these sorts of questions. It thrives on them, more so now than ever before — because we’re already asking ourselves these questions in real life. If you clone a person or modify their genetics, are they still human? Why or why not? When we create artificial lifeforms with free will, do we have to rethink our legal framework? If so, how do we change it? If we’re not already asking ourselves these questions today, we will have to sooner or later. Humanity will have to change as we “play God.”
And so I have to ask myself what I’d think if I met a clone of myself. Would I react with violence, as so many humans in SF narratives have done, or would I react with philosophical confusion and curiosity? I don’t know. What about you?