The United States or Nea So Copros?
April 12, 2017 § 4 Comments
In Cloud Atlas’s fifth story, “The Orison of Somni-451,” the government designs and produces fabricants, a type of clone used to supply massive amount of labor to work the country’s unpleasant menial jobs. Fabricants are intellectually manipulated to severely reduce consciousness; their daily lives follow the same monotonous routine intended to serve the desires and needs of the “purebloods,” the naturally born citizens in Nea So Copros. The fabricants’ work amounts to a modern form of slavery, as they have no choice but to work for and obey their pureblood superiors with little to no compensation. The Nea So Copros government is fully responsible for the creation, manipulation, and slavery of fabricants in Cloud Atlas. The story raises questions about the role of government in scientific practices, such as cloning, and their implementation in the real world. These questions remain relevant for the United States government as well.
In 1997, scientists successfully cloned the first mammal in history, Dolly the sheep, triggering worldwide fascination, but also immediate widespread fear of the consequences of such a scientific discovery. Immediately, one central question concerned not only the scientific community, but also the average man: if scientists could successfully clone sheep, when would they clone a human being? Legislators in the United States reacted almost immediately to this scientific breakthrough by drafting bills that sought to prohibit the practice of human cloning. Representative Vernon Ehlers introduced the first bill prohibiting human cloning in March 1997—just days after scientists’ revealed Dolly to the masses. The bill sought to make it “unlawful for any person to use a human somatic cell for the process of producing a human clone,” proposing an immediate end to all potentially beneficial scientific research related to human cloning. In subsequent proposals, opinions on cloning generally differed along party lines; Democrats wished to allow the development of cloned human embryos for the explicit purpose of research, while Republicans sought to prohibit the practice altogether. In 2001, legislators, while reacting to their constituents’ profound fear (and their own, reflected a deep societal misunderstanding of the practice of cloning.
Legislators immediately reacted to the prospect of human cloning without knowledge of the potential benefits of the practice. Benefits include the potential to eliminate defective genes, improvements in reproductive technology, improve injury recovery, eliminate infertility, and much more, plus any beneficial advances not yet known due to human cloning’s inhibited growth since the birth of Dolly the sheep in 1997. As the members of our society selected to represent the concerns of all citizens, this misunderstanding and lack of knowledge is extremely problematic. Their actions, based in these misconceptions, do not reflect the interest and welfare of their constituents. And if public officials are capable of reacting so poorly for so long to a surely beneficial scientific breakthrough, chances are they react similarly to other major topics of public interest.
While human cloning is now legal for the explicit purpose of research, the ignorance of representatives and legislators remains even today, twenty years after Dolly the sheep’s introduction to the scientific community that understood her and the average citizen that did not. Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential Campaign platform opposed both embryonic stem cell research and the practice of human cloning for research purposes, while severely reducing funds for scientific research overall. If Trump’s administration is indeed informed about the potential benefits of human cloning research, then I argue it is choosing to ignore them, reflecting extremely poor representation of the concerns and welfare of the common American citizen who can benefit from further research into the practice of human cloning.
This comparison between the United States and the Nea So Copros government admittedly has significant implications. Should the government remove all restrictions for the practice, allowing the cloning of humans without regulation? Should the government control this practice, as in Cloud Atlas, and produce clones for its own purposes? Is it better to be informed about human cloning and utilize it in a harmful manner or ignore the technology altogether? Yes, the practice of human cloning requires regulation to ensure the safety and legality of the practice in question. However, I argue that there is a middle ground somewhere between the United State and Nea So Copros—one that encourages the development of human cloning technology for the benefit of humanity without abusing the practice via slavery, abuse, or other unethical treatment.