Microchips and clones
Technology will make your life better.
It is easy to become a little suspect of this favorite mantra of the future.
Your home computer displays a grim box declaring a fatal error instead of your sons report on insects.
Popcorn comes out of your microwave either singed or incinerated, even though the location of the button of the same name escapes you.
And that darn 12:00 on your VCR is still flashing and you bought your VCR in 1989.
But none of these compare to the ethical questions looming on the horizon.
Consider the growing use of microchip implants in pets (Baker City Herald, Tuesday, Jan. 30).
The purpose is admirable. While a collar tag can be lost or removed the microchip can provide reliable information about an animal and its owners, in effect speaking for the lost animal.
This assists not only dog impounds, but medical laboratories, which have to guard against purchasing stolen animals for use in medical research.
However, the technology could have other applications.
Consider a protective parent, concerned that their child could become lost or kidnapped. The same microchip that helps find Fido could be implanted in the child. That way, despite a kidnappers best efforts to change the childs appearance or the passage of time, police could accurately identify the youth.
Is that reasonable? The microchip is roughly the size of a grain of rice. It wouldnt allow the individual implanted to be tracked by a sattelite or some other diabolically Big Brother-ish scheme. But it could thwart that childs future self from gaining anonymity through a name change or other means.
That seems to violate some sacred sense of personal liberty, and the American promise of personal reinvention.
So does the announcement that an American fertility expert will participate in international efforts to clone a human being.
Panos Zavos, a professor of reproductive physiology at the University of Kentucky, said he will take part in an Italian scientists effort to clone a human being within the next 12 to 24 months.
The procedure will create a genetic twin from a single cell of an adult.
Zavos argues that it is best that the procedure be accomplished by professionals, working in the open, rather than by renegade scientists.
And it is not yet clear whether this announcement will be more than a publicity stunt like the one orchestrated in 1998 by Richard Seed, a Chicago-area physicist who said he would clone a person.
The question of balancing the usefulness of microchip implants to parents with the rights of their future adult child is staggering.
The cloning of a human being defies reasoning.
Would the resulting embryo be brought to term, implanted in a host mothers womb?
If so, would the child belong to the mother or to the lab where the child was cloned?
Or worse would early attempts at cloning result in numerous aborted fetuses?
And just as adopted children can search for their birth parents, could a cloned child, upon reaching adulthood, elect to search out the person from whom he or she was cloned?
Laws have cropped up around technology like automobiles and the Internet to govern their effective and ethical use.
Were not so sure it will be as easy with technologies that cross boundaries of individual freedom by ursurping that freedom from a child or, in the case of cloning, calling into question whether the individual is truly an individual at all.