Tag Archives: Cloning

Poochie 2.0

Heard a story on the radio this morning that touched a bit of a nerve. Apparently, for $100,000 a lab in South Korea can clone your dog for you. NPR did a profile of a couple in Louisiana who did this with their dog Melvin, twice.

There are a number of troubling things about this, and to NPR’s credit they did a good job of touching on them. For starters the eggs for these clones need to be harvested from female dogs and placed into surrogate mothers. The procedure is often unsuccessful and requires multiple attempts to produce a viable clone. And most clones have defects that can cause them to be sickly.

But as all science fiction writers have a tendency to do, let’s set aside all of the medical complications and consider the question from a more ethical perspective, assuming eventually the technology will get better.

The US Humane Society estimates the owned dog population (in 2013) to be about 80 million. Another 6-8 million dogs wind up in shelters, with approximately 2.7 million not adopted each year. That’s 1 dog for every ten people in the United States. Clones don’t appreciably affect this population (NPR reported the particular lab has only produced 600 or so cloned dogs), but there are still many dogs out there who are alive and need a home.

Okay, dog over population is bad, it’s why Bob Barker always told us to get our pets spayed and neutered (and not because of his amusing last name). But again, not my point.

We lost our first dog, Simon, about a year and a half ago*. Like the family in the radio piece, it took two dogs to replace him, our beagle-boxer Riley (who we adopted from a shelter 3 days after we put Simon to sleep) and Murphy, a beagle like Simon who we adopted a few months ago. Simon was a great dog, very chill, but always greeted me when I got home. Those last days with him were hard as a tumor in his brain caused seizures, but he still was able to enjoy walks, and even a Five Guys Burger.

Losing a pet is hard. It took us a while to grieve for Simon and every now and then Murphy gives us a look that reminds us of our dog when he was younger (though we’re doing a better job at keeping Murphy thin). Riley and Murphy are very different dogs. Riley is playful, energetic, a lot taller even though he can curl up surprisingly small and isn’t much of a snuggler, though he has his moments. Murphy is a lap dog (at least he thinks he is) who I suspect would explode if he wasn’t on a human for more than an hour.

Cloning Simon, I would have missed out on the new experience of my dogs now. And cloning anything, a pet or even a loved one is trying to deny a fundamental part of our nature.

Things end. People and pets pass away. It’s sad, and it can be hard to deal with sometimes. But I can’t help but feel like cloning a pet is denying that truth, trying to set aside grief, to cheat death. But it’s a trick. A dog might be a genetic duplicate, but that is not everything that made it who it was. Even a cloned animal is still a different being than the one that preceded it. Part of life is about letting go, and letting others into our lives. Simon had a happy full life with us, and we’re trying to do the same for Riley and Murphy.

$100,000 could help hundreds of dogs. You could pay the adoption fee for the whole Franklin County Animal Shelter with that kind of money, and let families who might balk at the upfront money still provide a loving home. You could pay for medical expenses for older dogs and help them live a little longer with their owners. You could buy free bags of dog food for needy families who otherwise would have to give up their pet.

I understand this Louisiana family’s choice. But I can’t help but think of it as selfish, offensive, and ultimately self-defeating.

* My wife has had other dogs, but this was the first one she adopted herself. I came along a couple of years later so he predated me.

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Copy Center “Two For The Price Of One”

Wrote this back in 2009. Think of it like one of Bob Newhart’s telephone routines. Enjoy!

“Copy Center Support Hotline.  If your problems are double, we’ll fix ’em no trouble.  Your call may be monitored for training and quality purposes.  How may I help you today?”

“Yes, this is the Copy Center that makes clones.”

“No, sir, it’s not a silly question.  Sometimes the phone books aren’t always clear about the listings and put us in with office supply chains.  It’s actually helped me to learn a lot more about paper than I ever wanted to know.”

“Yes, it really is common.  It’s kind of ironic though, since our founder once worked as a copy machine repair man before he got into this business.  Guess it sort of inspired him, you know.  Anyway what can I help you with today?”

“You’d like to place a complaint.”

“Yes, you have reached the right department.  What is the nature of your complaint sir?  We aim to provide you with every satisfaction.”

“Really, I’m sorry about the wait sir.  Most of our callers are directed right on through.  An hour is quite a while to be on the phone.  I’ll have to speak with my…”

“Oh, I’m sorry on your lunch hour…”

“What would have been your lunch hour.  I’m not sure I quite catch your meaning.”

“Oh, I see, you lost your job, I’m sorry to hear that sir.  This recession has been tough on all of us.  I’m really sorry about the wait.  We’ve been increasing our call staff.”

“Well the usual way, sir, we’ve got about a hundred mes, I’m Mandy 75 by the way.”

“You’ll need the number if you’d like to comment on my service to you later.”

“Yes I wouldn’t want to keep you any longer.  What is it you were concerned about sir?”

“Your job, yes you did tell me you lost it.  I’m afraid we do all our hiring from within.  Our sales staff are copied of our founder, Harold Emmett.”

“I’m sorry I thought you might be calling about a job vacancy, since the company is expanding every day.  How did you lose your job?”

“A clone we made for you?  Would you hang on a minute sir while I pull up the details of your case.  By the way sir, what is your name?”

“Alright, I’m looking that up now.  Yes there you are.  You had Monday’s Harold Emmett correct?”

“There’s one for every day of the week.  I just wanted to make sure I had the details of this sale correct.  Now it says here you purchased one of our technical models.  I presume you bought this for the purpose of replacing you at work?”

“I’m sorry that was poorly phrased.  I meant to say so that you could spend more time away from the office.”

“Well as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing wrong with a little vacation, or even a long one.  After all our main sales staff is only here one day of the week, and I myself only work half days three times a week.”

“So you did use the clone at work.  It says here on the sales receipt you chose the basic social skills package, opting out of our premium package.”

“We believe it is worth any extra expense, especially in cases like yours.  Was your clone rude to your boss?”

“Promoted?  Well our technical models are very focused in their work, though with the social package you purchased he wouldn’t have made very good company on dates.”

“Well I don’t suppose you were planning on having him replace you in those areas sir.  Some of our married clients like to have someone to help out with the romance part of their lives, if they have work they’d rather accomplish.  But that doesn’t sound like you.  Maybe you’d better explain what happened when you had the clone stand in for you.”

“How did your boss find out it wasn’t you?”

“I’m sure you were careful to tell the clone everything he needed to know on the days you were in, and we guarantee the memory of our clones, so you should have received an accurate account.”

“Had a little snafu with the scheduling, I see.  So you both went to work on the same day.”

“Yeah, I’ve slept through my share of alarms before.  Did the clone go in to cover for you?”

“Well his heart was in the right place.  You didn’t find any kind of a note?”

“Well I don’t suppose it would be as helpful to find it when you got home.  Still you must have had some way of realizing your clone had gone to work before your boss saw you.  Did the clone usually stay at home when you were out?”

“No, I understand it can be a little boring sitting around the house all day.  Still it sounds like the clone was acting in your best interest, after all he is you.”

“I am not making light sir, I’m just saying these things can happen without the proper planning.  What happened when you got to work?”

“You were late for a presentation, and you walked in on your clone already giving it.  Was this in front of your boss?”

“And the shareholders.”

“No, you’re right, that sounds pretty embarrassing.  My boss probably wouldn’t be pleased either.”

“Well I’m just saying if there were only one of me to begin with.”

“No I’m afraid you can’t return him for a refund.  We have a strict no returns policy, given that we’re actually talking about real human beings.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way.  How did you try to explain him?”

“You tried to pass him off as your twin brother?”

“Yes sir, we’ve actually heard of a lot of people trying that, though they don’t tend to weigh and look exactly the same in real life.”

“Well he should be very good at finishing your sentences at least.”

“You have to admit it was a bit of a long shot sir.  I mean if your brother was standing in for your presentation, why would you bother to come in at all, and for that matter wouldn’t he have his own work to be doing?”

“Your boss said all that, and what else?”

“Well I think calling you that was a little out of line too.  After all, clones are becoming an accepted part of society now.  I am sorry to hear about all of this but I don’t see what we…”

“That’s not the worst part…”

“Well tell me sir, what is?”

“He liked the presentation?  We do take pride in our work sir.”

“So because of the presentation your clone got promoted.”

“For half pay?  That does seem a bit drastic.”

“Yes we do design our clones to work off fusion based sources of energy.  It’s part of our program to prevent over population, or at least some of the problems associated with it.  Our clones should only need to eat once every couple of months or so.  And any emissions are very green.”

“Well I guess you wouldn’t need as much money if you weren’t buying any food.”

“I understand you still need to eat.  Have you thought about trying to get yourself hired as your assistant?”

“Hello, sir?”

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Copy Center “The Dance”

The following is a story I wrote about ten years ago. A girl I liked couldn’t decide whether to go with me or someone else to the valentine’s dance. Feeling frustrated, but wanting to put that frustration to good use, I wrote this. While I have changed a word or two here and there, I swear the ending is as I wrote it 10 years ago:

Monday’s Harold Emmet sat behind the glass wall of his office awaiting his next customer. There were actually five Harold Emmets, one for each day of the week, and this happened to be Harold’s day at the office instead of being home with his extended family. This Harold actually enjoyed being at the office more than the chaos of home. He sometimes filled in for other Harold’s simply to experience the joy of seeing his name printed on the glass of his office in big blue letters.

His next customer was a pretty blonde, tall and thin, a carbon copy of the world’s current image of beauty. The year before his largest clientele had been brunettes but he didn’t care enough to argue about taste. It took all kinds to make a world, and he had a certain variety for himself.

The girl seemed to have built up the courage to knock on his door, and he pushed the button that slid it aside in a large friendly gesture. He indicated the seat in front of his desk, and the blonde slid into it neatly. He made the mental observation to himself that a blonde might be a nice change a pace, and began his pitch.

“Hello, and welcome to our little copy center. I hope the people out front were friendly.” Harold said, extending a hand “Sometimes they can be a little prying with the forms.”

The blonde shook her head. “No, everything was fine.”

“Good, just a few more routine questions and we can have you on your way, Miss…?”

“Bansom. Rebecca Bansom.”

“Ah… good. We like to make sure that you’re the original and not a copy trying to do a second burn.” Harold tapped another control which brought a thin image screen into position on his desk. Scanning the information displayed, he commented. “First timer, eh? The boys out front like to send you to me cause they say I’ve got a friendly looking face. I think that’s rather nice of them, but a little complicated when you consider there are four more of me running around.”

“You seem like a very nice man, Mr. Emmet.”

“Call me, Harold. So why have you decided to come to us Miss Bansom? I know it’s not always easy that first time.” Harold leaned back sympathetically in his chair.

“Well…I need it…I mean her,” Rebecca said shyly “to go to a dance with me.”

Harold tried to conceal a frown. He hoped this wouldn’t be one of those cases. Some people have a rather unusual love of themselves, that thanks to the miracle of technology, can take on a new extreme. Rebecca seemed to sense this attitude and responded quickly. “It’s nothing obscene or anything like that. I just need her to help me solve a problem.”

“What sort of problem?”

“Well…I’m not sure you could guess this Harold, but I’m the sort of girl who attracts well, numerous suitors.” Bansom was reddening a little at this point, but she also seemed pleased at the thought as well.

“I could imagine,” Harold smiled, “How are you planning on using your copy to solve the problem?”

“Well, I think it would be obvious. There are two guys who are really great, Seth and Gene, both intelligent, handsome, and both have madly declared their love for me. Trouble is, I can’t choose between them. I don’t want to hurt either of them and I really want to go to the dance with both of them. So I will.”

Harold was bemused by this elegant solution, “So you’ll dance with one, and your copy will dance with the other. Which one will it be for you?”

“Both.”

“Rebecca, I work in duplicated people, but I can’t actually make you be in two places at once.”

“I know that, Harold. I’ll dance with both of them and so will she.”

“Wouldn’t it be sort of hard to hold a conversation with these guys if you’re switching back and forth?”

“It’s not about the talking, silly, just the dancing. Seth and Gene will be too busy noticing how beautiful we are to notice what we say. Besides, if she’s a copy of me won’t she think in the same patterns?”

“Well yes, but it wouldn’t duplicate actual words. You wouldn’t even know what the other guy said. In fact your clone might have just as much trouble choosing…” Harold caught himself when he thought of his commission. “Well, I suppose it would be alright. Just don’t do anything you wouldn’t do, as we like to say around here.”

Rebecca laughed and got out her credit card. “It isn’t too expensive is it?”

Harold shook his head forward as he passed the final forms across the table for her to sign. “Equipment’s pretty cheap these days, and our initial investment has paid off very well, so we’re able to do better on our per customer rate.”

Rebecca slid the card over to Harold. “You’ve been very nice, Mr. Emmet. Maybe I should clone myself for you too.”

“No thanks, Miss Bansom.” Harold said sliding the card back across the desk. “Things are confusing enough at home as it is. We collected your DNA from your chair, and with our advanced metabolic growth process, your copy should be ready in about fifteen minutes. You have a pleasant afternoon, and a fun dance.”

Rebecca smiled as she slid out the door, and Harold pushed it shut again. He lit up another cigar and leaned back chuckling to himself. ‘Maybe a blonde wouldn’t be such a good idea.’ He pondered thoughtfully. ‘Guess I’ll stick to redheads.’

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Competitive Edge

UPDATE 01/06/15: You can download an eBook version of this story for FREE on the Internet Archive. Enjoy!

NOTE:

I’ll explain more tomorrow, but for now please enjoy. Please feel free to leave any comments\questions below.

Competitive Edge

Yao Hang-Shien sat in his concrete walled office about to light a cigar when Chang burst in. His younger subordinate was always coming into his office unannounced, but Shien chose to accept it since nothing he’d said had changed Chang’s habits. His only form of objection was to continue lighting his cigar without looking up, taking several short puffs before fixing his gaze upward.

Chang was in his late thirties and thin. Despite his supervisory position, he almost never wore a tie or long sleeves to work, and often kept the top two buttons of his shirt unbuttoned. It was deathly hot in the factory, even back in the offices, so again Shien accepted this behavior without comment. Privately he thought it was doubtful Chang would move up in the company if he kept dressing that way, but that was not his problem.

In contrast, Shien sported a glossy black tie, polished leather shoes, a clean and pressed white shirt, and creased dress pants. His suit jacket was draped over the back of his chair, but he could toss it on in a practiced motion should the need arise. The concrete walled room was just one level above the main factory floor and was his day to day office. When customers flew in to meet with him he used the nicer office three flights up. The desk was nearly twice the size of the one he sat behind now, made from mahogany, with leather chairs on either side. There was a full bar, couch, and wall to wall windows with a sweeping view of Shenzhen.

That was the proper place for Shien to be enjoying a cigar, rather than this windowless cold room with plastic chairs, but the necessities of his job meant some sacrifices.

“Yes, Chang?” He asked, not particularly interested.

“It’s about the Amy’s, sir.”

It was always about the Amy’s.

“What is it this time?”

Chang wiped his brow nervously, his dark black hair, only now showing the slightest touches of gray, matting from sweat. Shien, though only ten years Chang’s senior, suffered from male pattern baldness, with only a few thin stands crossing the divide between the sides of his head.

“We lost four more of them last night.” Chang, despite his urgency, seemed reluctant to speak.

Shien’s eyebrows raised, “Lost?”

“They jumped, sir.”

“We have the nets for that sort of thing,” Shien said, his voice maintaining a steady calm.

Chang nodded, “Yes I know. They were working for a while.” His hands didn’t quite seem to know where to rest in his lap. He placed them on his knees, then clasped them back in front of his chest. Shien had rarely seen the younger man so nervous before, and he was enjoying it.

“Yes?” He spoke softly, allowing a hint of menace into his voice.

Once Chang found the words, they poured out of him, “The nets catch them alright, but then one jumps on top of the last one. We put the nets too low. They can build up enough force if they land just right…”

Shien raised a hand, “I get the idea. Presumably there was a fifth Amy who survived.”

“Yes,” Chang nodded, “we have her in isolation for now. Do you want to see her?”

Shien shook his head, “Talking to one Amy is pretty much like talking to another. You can put her to sleep. It’s not kind to keep an animal caged for long.”

He took another long puff of his cigar and tapped the ashes onto his desk. The surface was faux wood plastic, and was tinged gray in the spot where he had ashed his cigars for many years.

“We need more variety in the herd,” Chang said, his voice growing more confident.

Shien raised a tired hand again, “I’ve explained this to you before, Chang. The Amy’s are bred from the very best stock. They are detail-oriented but submissive, and they can work for hours without rest. They are competitive enough to keep up our quotas but not enough to foster aggression. And since they are all the same it makes it that much harder for one of them to be dominant. If we introduced new breeds into the herd it would hurt the integrity we’ve worked so hard to maintain.”

“But they’re burning out faster than before,” Chang said pulling out a small tablet computer. With a couple of flicks of his finger he brought up a chart and laid it on Shien’s desk. “They only last about eighteen months now before needing to be put to sleep. By the end their hands are so ruined they can’t even pick up a tool. It’s getting more expensive to replace them.”

“The basic building blocks are still very cheap to acquire, and we have an ample supply. Every Amy carries thousands of spare parts for her future offspring,” Shien said, half looking at the graph. “That’s why we use the Amy’s in the first place.”

“But we could build machines…”

“Machines are expensive and difficult to replace. It would take months of engineering to build what we can train Amy to do in a day. Machines need regular servicing, whereas the Amy’s require minimal care, and are cheap to replace. All of this you know, Chang,” Shien tapped his cigar again, the ashes collecting on the surface of Chang’s tablet. The gesture was deliberate and dismissive, but Chang ignored it, brushing the ashes aside and putting the tablet back in his lap.

“Have you been to the dormitories lately? They’re becoming more crowded. These last couple of orders have forced us to increase our workforce by twenty percent.”

Shien’s eyes narrowed, “There are ten beds in each of those dormitories, and ten Amy’s in each room?”

“Yes,” Chang said.

Shien mentally shook his head at the younger man’s ignorance, “There’s room for two in each of those beds. If they sleep with their heads at opposite ends we can double our workforce before needing to expand.”

The lights flickered as he spoke, and moments later an alarm sounded. Shien stamped out his cigar angrily on the desk and threw on his jacket, bursting past Chang and out his double doors. The upper level was square, with his office comprising one side. The hallway was lined with metal railings painted white, looking down over the vast open space of the lobby. The stairway was normally retracted so nothing on the ground level could get up to the second level without a supervisor’s permission. Shien pushed a button on the railing to lower the stairs, beginning to walk down even before they had fully deployed. He jumped the last couple of feet and started running toward the end of the lobby, the younger Chang breathing heavily to keep up with him.

The doors that led to the long factory floor were sealed. Two small windows afforded the only view of the thousands of work benches that lay beyond. Shien ignored these, pulling out an access card from his jacket pocket and swiping it in a card reader to unseal the doors. He grabbed both metal handles of the doors and flung them wide open.

A frightened technician was huddled in a corner near the alarm button, and Shien strode over to him without a moment’s hesitation. He shoved the man aside and punched the button off savagely. The room was silent. This distraction dealt with, Shien turned to assess the source of the alarm.

The room was silent. The factory floor was always silent. At every work bench an Amy would be soldering a chip to a circuit board, or assembling a case for a cell phone. This room in particular had been working on motherboards for tablet computers like the one Chang used, This silence was different, more permanent than the usual enforced silence.

One-thousand and twenty-four Amy’s lay slumped over their benches, their throats slit from ear to ear. They were naked, none of the Amy’s ever wore clothing. All of the Amy’s were the same, after all, they were clones.

Shien lifted the closest Amy’s head and thrust it violently backward so that her body fell in a lump on the hard cement floor. Her eyes were half-open, looking in the direction of the door as Chang entered. The younger man was stunned to silence for the first time in his life, something that Shien found useful at this particular moment.

He picked up the circuit board the Amy’s had been working on and flinched as the edge of the board nicked his fingers. The green was tinged in the dark red of blood.

“Damn engineers!” He cursed, “they had to make those tablets thinner. These boards are as sharp as a knife edge. It was only a matter of time before the Amy’s figured it out.”

He tossed the board back on the workbench. Chang’s eyes never left the fallen Amy. Her body was thirteen, though in actuality she was probably only a couple of months old. Her black hair was like straw and cut short. Her eyes were black and lifeless. The hint of breasts just starting to develop were stained with blood from the six inch gash across her neck.

Shien put a hand on the younger man’s shoulder, “It’s alright. They probably only ruined 5% of the boards. The rest can be cleaned. All circuit boards have a little bit of blood and sweat on them.”

Chang nodded, though was still unable to speak. Shien continued.

“It’s gonna give us a devil of a time meeting the Christmas rush though, but scarcity does drive up value and we’ll still be able to make the secondary quotas. This could actually solve a number of our problems.”

Chang nodded again. He looked at Shien, his eyes wide and his breathing heavy but Shien’s face remained the vision of calm.

“I’ll take you to lunch, Chang.” Shien said, grabbing the man’s tablet. “Somewhere new. That’ll do your nerves some good.” With a couple of taps Shien brought up the dinner spinner app, gave the tablet a shake, then nodded with approval at the result.

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