Send in the Clones | That Magazine

Eh, a quick, 800-word rant which could have easily been blown out to many, many more words and justifiers, but word limits are word limits son, and thanks to That I was able to gloss over the full implications – but it’s funny :P

There’s nothing more sexy to investor and finance types than a really good “fad”, something which brings mom and pop investors, corporations and super-rich countries like Taiwan out of the woodwork to lay down their savings into sure-fire schemes like electric cars, internet banner advertising, South-East Asian currencies and yo-yos. Always eager to stay one step ahead of Korean manufacturing, but 15 years behind Japan and US invention, Taiwan is currently pitching a bull-run in biotechnology – a word with the same number of letters as ‘semiconductor’, but which lands a bigger score if you played it in Scrabble.

On top of a direct investment by the Taiwanese government of around US$1.5 billion, some of Taiwan’s biggest firms are expected to kick-in a further US$3 billion dollars of expected investment in biotech over the next five years. The aim, of course, is to make even more money, but some of the spin-offs of this moneymaking venture include large strides in human genomics and bioinformatics, giving rise to advances in pharmaceuticals (medicine), biopolymers, and the current public relations winners for sex appeal – cloning and stem-cell research. Taiwan’s President Group, who make icecream, cakes and cookies, are tipped to be one of the biggest investors in Taiwan’s biotech bull-run. May we then soon see a new flavor in President’s range of peaches’n’cream or rum’n’raisin, this time in the form of little identical human babies?

Attack of the Clones?

Peter is a tall, bearded Canadian, who on this particular night is staring ponderously into his beer in a Hong Kong bar. “You know, I just hit 35 years of age. I believe that everything happens in seven-year cycles. Everyone should take stock of their situation every seven years and think about what they are doing, what they want to do with their lives. This year is the start of my sixth cycle. And for some strange reason, I need to see the other me.”

“Mmmm,” is all I have to say, starting to look for a way out the door and away from this freak. “Mmmm, I hear you, man. I’m a Gemini too.”

“No, you don’t understand. I have an identical twin. A real one. And I need to see him now! It’s time.”

These things are true: I am a Gemini ­ some astrological, zodiacal-sign mumbo jumbo which is given to me as I was born between May 22nd and June 21st – and Peter does have an identical twin. While birth records actually show that Peter has an older brother named Richard, by a full three minutes, I’ve always found it hard to explain the dual personalities, the competitiveness with other Geminis, the media-junkie and communicative lifestyle of my supposed birthright – all usual outpourings of the Gemini character that so often arise in me and which are well documented in daily newspaper columns penned by someone’s crazy aunt, complete with big, bad hair.

Peter, on the other hand, is at ease discussing exact synergies he feels with his brother, thousands of miles away, every day. How, for instance, hitting 35 recently, he cancelled a long-planned stay in China to venture instead to see his brother, who was also compelled at the same time by some strange seven-annual cyclical force, to discuss their next moves.

In both mine and Peter’s instances, the influence of ‘a twin’ somehow drives us on some higher level. A logical progression always of the biotech buzz and cloning conundrum does raise questions of how a sharing of same DNA, same parent, same birth date and quite possibly, as forebode in much 19th and 20th century fiction, cloned and nature/nurtured armies or ‘master races’. When all is said and done, argued ethically and manufactured scientifically, the innate perceptions of people reproduced through shared DNA will be interesting to watch, just as the naturally-occurring kind – like the perceptions of Peter and Richard, Adam and Adam – are more than well documented throughout history as operating on some strange perceptual level. Better or worse for us all is yet to be seen. But an uber-race of Canadian identical twins jackbooting through Toronto I’ve not yet seen.

It’s Money, Baby.

All of this is a little quasi-mystical and damn oversimplified at this point of the story. Biotechnology is not fundamentally a science with the exacting goals of promoting and providing clone armies of genetically and statistically-engineered races of plants and animals. Its immediate aims are to unlock the powers of biology and investigate how we can leverage the natural processes which evolved to make cool tricks like glowing fish, tasty corn and acrobatic monkeys useful for the cure of bad-ass disease and the betterment of, hopefully, the majority of all plants and animals. Oh, and a little bit of cash on the side too.

As Taiwan’s, and the world’s, scientists sit down at their microscopes in the coming few years, all eyes and ears must tune-in to the deeds of these doctors, the emotions of the ethicists, and the pop-psychology of your elected or dictatorial politicians. We must make a stand where we see fit, because each medical advance could well be an erosion in any diversity which we enjoy, but then again, it could also help Christopher Reeves, AKA Superman, fly again. Peter and Richard, our Canadian identical twins, may be cosmically attached across the Pacific, but Richard doesn’t have a beard, something Peter mentioned very early in our discussion over that beer that night. I don’t want everyone to have beards either, so let’s hope Taiwan gets the statistics right on that one when the time comes.