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Please note: If you came here using a search engine and are interested in ethical questions regarding cloning, the article in the free encyclopedia Wikipedia called 'human cloning' is quite comprehensive and up to date. The article below is primarily here for personal reference purposes, although I do take credit for being among the first authors to actually speculate about the issues surrounding cloning.

Problems of Cloning and Possible Solutions
Copyright © by Erik Möller

Version 1.1, Apr 8 1997

Summary: How cloning can affect our society in negative ways and how these problems could be avoided.

Keywords: Cloning, Society, Ethics, Children, Parental Rights

Cloning humans no longer remains a fantasy of Science-Fiction authors. Cloning adult mammals is possible now and cloning humans is in the reach of science. It has become obvious once more how technological progress can force us to review our ethics again.

While no human has officially been cloned yet and some governments agreed to totally ban cloning of humans, many people like the idea of cloning themselves or "reviving" dead personalities. The process of cloning is often misunderstood due to insufficient scientific knowledge. Therefore the real problems of cloning are often forgotten and useful discussion does not result. See Anders Sandberg's article "Cloning - What It Is And Isn't" for details.

Cloning is by no means a technology without danger. But we have become so used to being threatened by mass destruction weapons that smaller dangers are often ignored. People are afraid of armies or whole planets of clones, like described in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" (external link, homepage dedicated to A. Huxley). While they are not impossible, these scenarios are very unlikely simply because of the expense of cloning. The problems of cloning are clearly less important than problems like unemployment, impoverishment and hunger. But they must not be forgotten on the way into the future.

Preface: Ethical implications of cloning humans, restrictions

Many groups have expressed their concern about the new ethical implications arisen from the possibility to clone humans. Some countries have proposed or already passed total bans to human cloning. But are these bans really total bans or do they just monopolize the knowledge? Large enterprises are rarely threatened by such laws, but smaller research groups will have problems with them. Therefore, the state or the industry lobbying it, depending on one's point of view of politics, limit human cloning to those who can get around the laws: themselves.

It is clear that such possible monopolization of knowledge is not desirable, especially as it would require most of the activities regarding cloning to take place secretly. But is a total legalization of cloning desirable? Normal parents usually want their children to grow up healthy. They will register them with the local authorities and the born children are protected by the state from then on.

But a cloned human might be harmed by its own creator.

Violence against children by their own parents is often ignored, but the problem could become much worse with clones. Although violence is generally useless, private scientists might clone humans and treat them like guinea pigs.

Some kind of restriction is needed to prevent the loss of human rights for clones. The best way is probably not a total ban, but a limitation to certain purposes for cloning humans. For the treatment of cloned humans is determined by the purpose for which they have been cloned.

This article tries show the dangers connected to certain ways of cloning and to provide alternatives and long-time solutions. It only deals with dangers for the near future, a future in which cloning of humans is possible, but very expensive and therefore not a a widely spread technology.

Many of the problems can be avoided if there is better information about cloning (a new "enlightenment") and cloning has become a commonly used technology. Generally one thing should be pointed out: Restrictions are only a way to stop people from acting uninformedly. If everyone had the same ethical views and the same knowledge, certain mistakes would not be made. Therefore education is a good way to complement and maybe finally replace restrictions.

The following table is supposed to be an overview. The colors of the rows indicate the degree of the dangers. Click on the possibility to see a more extensive explanation of its dangers and the alternatives.

Possibilities Problems and Dangers Alternatives
I. Asexual reproduction for infertile or same-sex couples If the donator of the genome lives near the child or meets it later: Upbringing of the cloned child is much more difficult than upbringing of a "normal" child, social isolation of the child, psychical damage, identity crisis. Adoption, In-vitro fertilization
II. Immortality, Smart Kids Real immortality is not achieved, child's personality develops much different from donator. Genome doesn't necessarily transport the desired talent. Parental expectations are probably disappointed, child grows up in isolation. Normally born children with sufficient education, mind uploading, cryonics (for later uploading or longevity after restoration), knowledge preservation
III. Physical/Biological research: Quantum Effects, growth , DNA etc. Ethical rules for scientific research might be considered as unnecessary for clones. Volunteers (grown-up clones, twins)
IV. Sociological projects, Communities Clones are used as test persons from the beginning of their lives, may develop totally desolate personality, high psychical damage and social isolation. The end is open. Computer simulations/internet scenarios, roleplaying, extrapolations from current knowledge, anthropology
V. "Funcloning": cloning humans for personal or public entertainment Both: Mutations are created for more "fun". Personal: Risks for the child to live isolated or to grow up without loving parents are extremely high, risk of death/suicide. Public: Clones are used for "entertaining" (maybe even deadly) gameshows. Virtual housepets, computer games
VI. Medical experiments, effects of radiation, chemical substances, biological weapons Humans are just guinea pigs, life loses its value.Possible next steps: disabled persons are used for medical "research", humans are valued and sorted into those who may exist and those who must not.Clones are generally considered as not lifeworthy. Computer simulations, tests on animals or organic structures, total stop of research in certain areas

I. Asexual reproduction for infertile or gender-identical pairs


1. If the donator of the clone's genome lives near the child:

The child is regularly confronted with a version of itself that is older, more developed and has a certain personality. The child might learn to handle this if the reasons are explained early and clearly, but it might cause serious identity problems later. The child will know its later outlook and some personal characteristics it has not discovered in itself yet.

2. If the donator of the clone's genome also brings up the child:

The problem in I./1. is bigger, as when seeing its further-developed biological counterpart regularly the child is also able to watch its development. If the donator dies, this might cause heavy psychical damages.

In addition, it may be more difficult for the child to find friends, because cloning will probably remain an expensive and not widely used technique and potential friends will be frightened by it.

3. If the clone is confronted with its donator long after its birth and does not know that it is a clone / what a clone is:

The child is suddenly confronted with an older version of itself it was never prepared for. This can cause very big psychical damage.

4. If the clone is confronted with its donator later and was told that it is a clone in its youth:

Probably the best way to bring up a cloned child. It is unlikely that it will suffer from social isolation or psychcal damage.

5. If multiple clones of the same age live together (with or without the donator):

Probably the most dangerous way to bring up clones. 2 cloned children living without their donator may grow up like twins, but the social problems will rise with the number of clones. Twins have always been some kind of "attraction" and are likely to have social problems especially in their early childhood. For one of the oldest laws of humanity does still count: Those that look "alien" are treated like aliens.

Much enlightenment about cloning is necessary before such clonings should be allowed.


1. Adoption:

The easiest way of getting children for gender-identical or infertile pairs. Collides with the idea of many parents to transport parts of themselves to their children (although it is doubtful that transporting biology is more important than transporting ideas, which is possible with adopted children, too). There are lots of poor children in the world who have to grow up without parents and adoption is therefore not only an ethical alternative to cloning but also an ethical alternative to natural reproduction.

2. In-Vitro Fertilization:

(Short explanation: The mature egg cells of a human female are fertilized with male sperm outside the body and then inserted into the uterus of the same or another human female for normal gestation.)

A good alternative to cloning that works for many pairs, especially since eggs, sperm and even embryos can be frozen for later implantation.

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II. Immortality, Smart Kids


This idea follows an entirely wrong concept which would require the genome to transport not only biological data but also knowledge and experience which is actually obtained in the lifetime. Based on this wrong prerequisite some potential donators would like to clone themselves in order to prolong "their" lives, to create a new version of themselves.

Another concept is that certain talents are transported with the genome, like the ability to play musical instruments or "intelligence", whereas the concept of intelligence itself is misunderstood by many. There may be certain talents which are transported with the genome, but most are achieved with training. And intelligence alone, no matter which definition one uses, is not only useless but can also be dangerous. It is the knowledge that makes us what we are, and this knowledge has nothing to do with the biological data.

Clones which are brought up in the expectation to fulfill the donators' desire for immortality or intelligence will most likely disappoint them and might therefore grow up in social isolation, not loved by their "parent" and supposed to differ from the "average humans" they are expected to excel.


The best ways currently known in order to achieve real physical immortality or at least longevity are mind uploading and cryonics (perhaps for later uploading). Both are extensively discussed in >Hx and not usable yet. "Real" immortality cannot be achieved yet, neither with nor without cloning. But informing oneself about uploading and cryonics is certainly more realistic than hoping to become immortal by cloning.

But there is another possibility which requires a new definition of self. Are two people having exactly the same knowledge not actually the same? They will probably make the same decisions, at least while their knowledge base is still identical. So if a human chooses to collect all knowledge important to him, to sort and to process it and to transport this knowledge to one or multiple other persons, he also transports parts of himself to the person who receives the knowledge. This knowledge preservation is a cheap way for any human to clone not his body but his mind.

One might argue that a clone would be better suitable for transferring knowledge. This is untrue, as the cloned child's brain structure doesn't differ from the structure of any other child of the same age in the beginning. But the child would probably revolt against his donator's ideas because few people want to be a copy of another person.

A sexually born child can easily change its outlook. But a clone will not only be expected to know what its donator knows, but also to behave and to look like him. Even if it is not expected to do so, it is always reminded by its donator's and educator's presence that it's just a biological copy of another person and shall now become a copy of his mind, too. Being expected to become such an exact copy is probably to much for most clones. Therefore the clone might develop exactly the opposite positions of its donator.

If there is no desire to clone oneself but only to have "smart kids", a human might also choose to provide very good education to his children. He could even improve his own knowledge at the same time. This possibility is probably the most progressive one, especially if the thereby educated child decides to do the same with his children and the knowledge base of each child is better than that of its parent(s).

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III. Physical and Biological Research


Clones will, with high certainty, remain something special for a very long time. They are a minority, but they differ from the minorities of the past. In a way, any larger number of clones from a single donator is a minority. The donator therefore is the only "advocate" of the created minority. Considering the fact that cloning will remain a privilege of the rich for a long period, these rich people can decide the ethics for cloning.

Funded physical and biological research to explore growth, quantum effects, DNA code and similar phenomena therefore only follows the ethics of the funder, regardless of politicians which can easily be lobbied into taking a different position or media which might be even possessed by the same persons. As most businessmen follow the ethics of maximum profit, they might ignore the human rights of created clones.

They might argue that this physical and biological research does not damage the clones. While this may be true, it is likely that once the human rights of a single cloned individual have been neglected without public protest the possibilities that they are neglected again increases.

This might even be the case if the clones are voluntaries. Once they are used for scientific experiments, the discussion about the rights of clones might rise again.


If suitable for the experiments, volunatry twins will probably be the better alternative to using clones for non-dangerous scientific experiments because of their different social status and their lower likeliness to be discriminated as a minority.

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IV. Sociological projects, Communities


"How about buying this small island and putting 500 male clones on it, let's see how they develop without the possibility to reproduce." This kind of science may provide interesting results, but the dangers to involuntarily participating human clones are very big. First, the results are unpredictable. In the example given above, the clones might manage to establish a peaceful communities, while on the other hand, they might kill each other. Their decision to do so is not free but influenced by a given environment.

The scientists doing these experiments are often only interested in the results, not in the participators. Cloned humans might therefore be ignored or passed to "clone communities" after the projects. As the clones have been test persons all their lifetime, the psychical damage would probably be immense.

While the experiments might be basically interesting, they are to dangerous to be executed without being examined by "ethical investigators" first. Especially the occupation of the clones after the project has ended must be secured.

The danger of the ethical rights for clones to be "discussed" and decreased remains much larger than in III, though.


There are a lot of useful (and cheap) alternatives to the use of clones in sociological projects. The most interesting one is probably the use of computers in order to obtain the desired knowledge.

The Internet is a kind of "realtime society". While it lacks some attributes of normal societies and cannot be used as a research base without modifications, scenarios can easily be set up in it. They range from simple written mail-simulations, where the "players" are real humans who describe the development in the virtual world, over complex rolelpaying games with exactly set rules to perfect computer simulations programmed with the use of data from real sociological research.

But before doing such experiments it is useful to examine the available data, regardless of their origins. In many cases, the behavior of humans can be predicted with the help of this data, but only if it is carefully sorted and processed. A general sociological archive set up by anyone working in the area might be helpful to avoid duplicated research or violations of human rights.

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V. "Funcloning"


A very alarming but realistic idea is that of cloning humans for personal or public entertainment.

1. Personal Entertainment

Some people might decide to clone themselves "just to see how I am". Children cloned just for this kind of "fun" are unlikely to be loved and will probably be highly psychically damaged, if they survive (suicide and starvation are major danger). One might argue that a donator would not punish his own image like that, but it is very probably that someone who clones himself just for fun will lose this fun very soon, as the clone does not develop the way he/she wants it to. The donator would become bored and discard the clone like a damaged toy. An expensive toy that might be announced like this:

Et cetera. Most clones would lose their human rights, no one would really care about them.

2. Public Entertainment

TV shows have got more sensational in the past few years. Modern entertainment searches for the best ways to give the consumers a "kick", like a drug does. Modern gameshows will be more brutal, and clones are a perfect, not too expensive possibility to create a sensational action-gameshow without having to face serious ethical concerns. Modern gladiators, some kind of Running Man, would be the most famous among these. It is clear that the clones used would not be asked for their kind permission.

Culturally, humans have changed a lot in the last 300 years. Biologically, they have stayed the same. The same mechanism that made a hunter feel proud and happy when he has brought down some deer thousands of years ago is applied when gameshows like the one described are broadcast. Any regular way of entertainment will not be able to compete with that.

Restrictions are necessary, not only for this kind of entertainment, but for many kinds of future entertainment, in order to prevent the majority of humanity from becoming a horde of mindless zombies.


Of course it must be considered if alternatives are wanted at all. But if someone looks for entertainment, he/she should better use computer games or virtual housepets like those described in "Creatures". Some are educative, some aren't, so it is necessary to inform oneself about the software available first.

VR 3D action games are quite useless, but still better than entertainment damaging humans (clones) physically.

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VI. Medical Experiments (tests of the effects of ABC-weapons etc.)


The worst scenario possible is probably that of cloned humans being used as guinea pigs for questionable pseudo-scientific experiments. This military research, which is often blamed on the government but actually an interest of large enterprises and banks, is rarely used to perfectionize the ways to protect humans (although it is called "medical research"), but in order to perfectionize the weapons used to kill them.

Therefore one cannot argue that clonetests, even those on clones brought up without brains (which is something most people wouldn't like, because the reactions are supposed to be tested, too), would reduce the number of killed people. In many cases the opposite would be the case.

But the possibility is not that unlikely. During World War II, the Japanese did similar tests on the Chinese, but this was covered up by the US in order to use the research results. That makes it assumable that the governments would love to do such tests, but they are afraid of a bad public image. Clones could change all that.

Again, the danger doesn't only lie in the actions but also in their moral consequences. If brainless clones can be killed, why not do it with stupid clones? If stupid clones can be killed, why not do it with normal clones? If normal clones, why not do it with disabled persons? If disabled persons can be killed, why not do it with Jews, Serbs, Muslims, Russians... The tendency is fascist and racist, and thus are its origins fascist and racist, too.


The best alternative is, of course, to stop developing "better" weapons. But for real medical research used to improve people's health, organic structures and computer simulations are usually sufficient. If they aren't, tests on animals could give the last bit of certainty.

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