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Tag: evolution

November 2 2001

Some people fear the idea of some form of artificial intelligence taking over the world and killing everyone. While this is probably the most extreme outcome, it is generally our worst fears that motivate us most. If we were to create a true kind of artificial intelligence that was actually able to think for itself and then reproduce itself, we would have done something amazing. But, the natural processes of evolution have already done that. You and I are here because of it. That intelligence probably would not have existed without our intervention, but we would not have come to exist had it not been for the evolution of plant life. They filled the atmosphere with the oxygen that we are breathing at this and every moment. So what if we create something that is more capable than us? Wouldn’t that be incredible?

But then there’s the fear of being taken over, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t think this is likely, but I would be stupid not to acknowledge the possibility. Even Steven Hawking is thinking seriously about it. He suggests we bolster our understanding of genetic engineering as a way of keeping artificial intelligence in check. “Computers double their performance every 18 months. So the danger is real that they could develop intelligence and take over the world (Newsweek, 2001).”

May 4 2001

Whether you like it or not, human cloning is on it’s way. In fact, it is so much on it’s way that it is quite possible that at the time of this writing, a human being may now be growing up as a direct result of being cloned. These ethical implications and moral questions are the only hurdles that keep this technology from becoming a reality. Once these problems are addressed and solved, clones may become a fact of life and part of everyday medicine.

One major concern many people have is whether cloning will be used for purposes that are either unethical or immoral. The potential is there for cloning to be misused, but there is unlimited potential that it will be used for the betterment of many people’s lives. A family that is unable to have children the “natural” way will find that through cloning their basic role in life can be fulfilled.

Cloning not only gives us the power to create life, but recreate it as well. The sudden and unexpected loss of a baby is a very difficult thing to endure. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (or SIDS) claims the life of many children before they even reach their first birthday. Imagine what it must be like to be told that your infant has died. Then imagine those same doctors telling you that there is hope to bring your child back. According to the rules of cloning, this can be done.

The problem with any scientific breakthrough this powerful is its possibility to be misused. Some people may choose to clone people unnecessarily without regard to the impact it could have upon society. In Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World, there is a race of engineered beings that are made to be retarded and subservient to the other “higher” races. Huxley portrays a world where there are three classes of people. The top class rules the lower classes and the lowest class are created to benefit those in control of them. This is a grim, unlikely tale, but one that is a possibility and therefore an issue on many peoples minds.

While it may not be in everyone best interest to clone a human, it can hardly be considered harmful to humankind. Restricting scientific progress of any kind has been a way in the past for certain groups or communities to control other people. When a government or other faction hinders such progress, it can only be considered a handicap on humanity.

If it is to be debated whether or not it is ethical to clone is like saying that it was unethical to discover the splitting of the atom. While it is true that nuclear weapons pose a major threat to the world, nuclear power could set the world free of environment-damaging fossil fuels. Had the atom never been split, such understandings of how this awesome power works would never have been discovered.

Cloning is an awesome, godlike power but we (humans) cannot let that kind of power go to our collective heads. Laws now govern our use of the atom. They provide strict regulations for the development and use of this alteration of nature. The wisdom we acquired in dealing with nuclear power will certainly be applied to cloning. It implies a disturbing lack of faith in humanity that is a hindrance to the technological progress of our species.

Forget what you might think of cloning a human being. Remove from your head the pictures of an army of men that might resemble Adolph Hitler. Resist the temptation to imagine how angry God would be if His power was questioned. Try not to ponder the complexities of engineering “perfect” children. Forget all of these things. Now, imagine you are in a hospital and a doctor has just told you and your spouse that your newborn baby died due to complications. When a young child is taken away from its parents, it is a truly crushing situation. Many happily married couples in the world are incapable of having children. The procedures involved in cloning make this a problem already solved.

It could be that the major concern many people have is the idea of altering nature’s path. We have done so since the beginning of our species with mixed results. Clean, abundant, powerful energy is available with nuclear power plants. But Hiroshima and Nagasaki are two vivid reminders of the dangerous side effects of controlling nature. Fortunately, we are learning that knowledge is more important than power. It is not okay to do something simply because it becomes possible.

Cloning is slowly becoming one of “those” terms. Terms like abortion, ozone layer, gun control, or anything with the word nuclear in it. These topics often incite passionate or even fierce conversations at their very mention. While it is very true that everyone is entitled to their own opinion unfortunately, many people do not truly form an educated opinion of their own.

Biased views that we develop for whatever reason tend to slant the very way we take in new information. Our grasp on “reality” is based on how our constantly active minds process new information and compare it to our continuously expanding knowledge base. The problem is when our previous experiences or stigmas prevent us from being open-minded to change or new ideas. By keeping an open mind and carefully considering the facts, perhaps more people will be able to form a more informed opinion over such an important issue.

That said, I believe cloning is a powerful and potentially dangerous beast that should be kept on a tight leash. However, this “leash” must not restrict the growth or development of this magnificent creature. The two worst things that could happen to cloning are that it will be over-used or under-used. At the very least, we need know the possibilities and limitations of cloning technology.

The human race is no longer in its infancy. We are evolving and developing new understandings of our world every day. But we are still young, and cloning is just another step in the natural evolution of humanity. If we find out that cloning truly is as dangerous as some claim, at least we will be aware of the full possibilities and better able to deal with its consequences.

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