Posted by: movieotaku | April 24, 2007


You’ve seen the episode: group of ne’er-do-wells take a sample of the hero’s DNA, put it in a machine and presto! A fully-grown copy of the hero complete with full memories, exact duplicate of the personality (except modified to be loyal to the ne’er-do-wells) and sometimes even a nifty suit of clothing to go with it. Uh-huh. Now that we really have cloning, let me explain how the Dolly team did it. The cloning team took a tissue sample of the subject; in this case, a piece of mammary tissue from an ewe who had recently given birth. Working under a microscope, the team stuck a long, thin needle into the nucleus of the cell and sucked out the chromosomes. Taking a sheep egg cell, the researchers inserted the donor chromosomes into the egg and zapped the new cell with a milliampere current to cajole the cell to divide. Then they placed it into a surrogate mother for gestation. Repeat about two hundred times until it works!!

Recent efforts have claimed success in as few as a dozen attempts (the Japanese cow cloning team), but either way you cut it, it’s pretty hard to clone someone with our current technology. Also, once you’ve cloned someone, it’s just a new born child. No memory, personality (maybe not [1]) or skills. They grow up at the same rate and are a blank slate. Memory, personality and experience are not genetic traits. They are gained the same way we do: living a full life.

[1] Several people wrote in to point out that being a clone isn’t a complete blank slate. There is some evidence for genes contributing to your personality, but it’s not like all your life experiences are encoded in your DNA.


  1. Some good points here.

    I bet they could probably acchieve a “Xerox-style” clone using some kind of molecular assembler, though. I suppose we won’t know for sure until somebody comes up with a real one.

  2. A japanese manga I don’t remember the name of treated this issue very interestingly.

    A group of researchers were sent to a distant star. Their grown up clones and a database containing all their memories and personality traits was left behind on earth.

    When one of the researches was killed in an accident, her clone was sent to the star as a replacement.

    Now imagine this clone arriving to its destination – it has all the memories and personality traits of the dead scientist, as they were recorded when she left earth. But much has happened since then. Relationships developed, people changed. The conflict between the new born scientist and her colleges was the pivot of that particular story.

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