Clone Acceptance Markets

As a proud step-parent, I find it increasingly odd how many of you insist on the [standard kids-via-sex] “fifty percent solution.”  Ew!  What if [your kid] — heaven forbid — looks like you?  What if you’re both economists named Keynes?  But there’s more: the rest of your daughter looks just like the woman you chose to marry?  Yuck!!!!!  And so on.  Maybe you all think that fifty percent is great but one hundred percent is unacceptable, when it comes to the genes.  …  And I bet most of you don’t find it repugnant if a father wants a son rather than a daughter, but similarity of gender is pretty important too. …

[Notice] how quickly smart people will side with their Darwinian intuitions, and attack another smart person with intolerance, just because something feels icky to them.  It’s not so different from how some people find gay people, and also “what they do,” to be disgusting.

That is Tyler defending Bryan‘s desire to raise a clone of himself.   My initial reaction agrees with Tyler and Bryan.  On one side, the usual arguments for preferring to raise a genetically-related kid would seem to endorse clones as even better.   On the other side are the “ew, icky” feelings in many.   I don’t have those feelings, but I still accept that others having such feelings is relevant evidence.  So if I’m not going just assume my inarticulate feelings are wiser than those of others, how can I decide what to think here?  Bryan suggests a way out:

My prediction: Once a few thousand cloned humans are walking the earth, sneering at clones and people who want them will become as gauche as sneering at IVF babies and people who want them.

If Bryan’s prediction is true, that seems strong support for his case.  So I’ll strongly support creating a prediction market on this topic, and will agree with Bryan if market prices support him.

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  • Dave

    Speaking as an adoptive parent, I am continually surprised at otherwise rational and intelligent people who indicate that they would never pursue the option, in spite of wanting to raise children. The best I’ve managed in an argument about this is to get someone to eventually concede that his motives were nothing more than irrational brute darwinian wiring, and had no sensible justification whatsoever, but that he wasn’t going to change them even slightly. This is in spite of there being no noticable “ick” factor to adoptive parenting (at least as far as I have been able to discern).

    It is always astounding what people will convince themselves to believe if their paycheck or genetic inheritance depend on it.

  • Steve Z

    I don’t know how much mileage you can get out of the claim that the desire not to raise adoptive children is the result of “brute Darwinian wiring.” Isn’t the desire to raise children, in the first instance, also a result of this wiring? If the desire is to be altruistic, in general: isn’t that also attributable to “brute Darwinian wiring”?

    Declining to do something, or doing it, on the basis of “brute Darwinian wiring” seem to me to be equally acceptable.

    • Dave

      “brute Darwinian wiring” was actually the term used by my best friend, admitting to it. Wanting to raise children or not may be “brute darwinian wiring” or not. One can imagine many other motives, and it’s not all that difficult to find people who profess them. OTOH, wishing to raise your own genetic children but not wishing to adopt doesn’t admit many other motives other than darwinian wiring, and I’ve never found anyone who could defend the distinction rationally.

      Yes, there are costs and risks to adoption, but there are also costs and risks to pregnancy. In both cases the costs and risks are frankly small for those who have the luxury to make the decision, and have been getting smaller rapidly over the last century. Barring particularly unusual utility functions, I can usually argue people into conceding that the costs and risks are basically a wash between the two, except for some who calculate the risks of pregnancy to unambiguously greater than the risks of adoption. Even in those cases, pregnancy is favored.

      We are, at this level, crazy sexy turing machines.

  • Bock

    I’ll leave the same comment here I did on MR:

    Caplan’s paragraph really had little to do with the issue of cloning. I believe the main ick factor was caused by this statement: “I would love to be raised by me.” He’s talking about some Twilight Zone universe here, not about a world with cloning. The kid won’t be HIM. It’s as if he doesn’t get that.

    Or did Caplan say that in order to bias the audience with an extra-Ick factor?

    • Grant

      Caplan’s clone will be more like him than a naturally conceived child would be. If he believes he would love to be raised by himself I see no reason that isn’t strong evidence that his clone would enjoy being raised by himself more than a naturally conceived child would be.

      • Prolorn

        @Grant: Caplan’s clone is more likely to resemble Caplan than a naturally conceived child, but is the genetic influence on personality anywhere near strong enough to justify Caplan’s confidence that his clone will be just like him?

        I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally. Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to meet. Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son. Seriously. I want to experience the sublime bond I’m sure we’d share. I’m confident that he’d be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me. I’m not pushing others to clone themselves. I’m not asking anyone else to pay for my dream. I just want government to leave me and the cloning business alone. Is that too much to ask?

        I agree that the idea of raising a genetic clone sounds interesting (mildly less so than sharing a genetic twin), but I would never deceive myself that such a clone would be me.

        Caplan’s response to cloning suggests, as did his response to cryonics, that he possesses confused notions of personal selfhood.

      • Peter Twieg

        That’s presumably why Caplan is “confident” that his son would be happy to be raised by him, not “100% super-duper sure”.

        I think people who are reading this paragraph as Bryan believing that his clone would *be* him are misreading him – he’s saying that he would personally have probably liked to have been raised by himself, and that this would probably hold true for a clone of his simply due to their likely similarity.

        Perhaps this is something that Bryan should clarify, because I can see it being a real source of misunderstanding.

      • gwern

        Prolorn: well, how similar are identical twins? From what I’ve heard, *very* similar.

        Caplan and his son-clone would have different upbringings, and so I would expect them to be not as similar as identical twins.

        But the benefit of the son-clone and not twin-clone is that the original can reflect on their upbringing and try to do it better the second time. He can front-load all the things he loved, without the wasted time.

        (Just on medical grounds alone, a son-clone might be better than a son-mutt. What’s even better than a thorough family medical history? A medical history of an identical twin who is 30 years older.)

  • paquibena

    Excuse me if I am wrong, but I though genetic twins were already clones. If so, we certainly have more thant a few thousands.

    By the way, the biggest problem of cloning for me, other than feelings, it is making Manking more vulnerable to epidemics which could wipe out more easily millions, as many of them would have the same inmune system.

  • dWj

    My identical twin brother and I have been wondering for several years now whether there’s a higher acceptance of human cloning among our sort than in the population in general. I don’t suppose you know of any relevant survey data.

  • PeterW

    My prediction: Once a few thousand cloned humans are walking the earth, sneering at clones and people who want them will become as gauche as sneering at IVF babies and people who want them.

    But this reaction is just as emotional and illogical, piggybacking off primitive tribalism (accepting clones as similar enough to be “one of us.”) In this case anyone who wants to do anything unethical, reproduction-wise, should not stop to think but rush ahead to produce something that humans can empathize with immediately. Impetuosity is rewarded by the masses’ emotional acceptance of the fait accompli.

    • Newerspeak

      The masses will only accept sympathetic faits accomplis

      Anti-cloning attitudes are cheap to maintain now, when they mainly entail opposition to certain research programs.

      But cloned children will be indistinguishable from other children, and will get the same protective sympathy from the public that ordinary children would get if people tried to discriminate against them for reasons beyond their understanding or control.

  • Kris Chickey

    Speaking as a step-child coerced into adoption by a mismatched adoptive step-parent, I have long desired the opportunity to raise my own clone. I know my primary reason is to prove that I would be a better parent than my step-father. Having a stranger enter into our family, for me, was the ultimate ick factor. I do acknowledge that bias.

    Also repugnant is the idea of adding to our already immense population. There are so many things to be done to make this world more livable that it seems premature to increase population. There still exist fundamental questions of philosophy, education, manufacturing, and ‘social justice’ that need to be resolved. Adoption seems a much more humane option until space migration opens new habitats.

    When friends announce pregnancies, I give them appropriate congratulations. However, at the same time I am silently making predictions whether their child (and each descendant) will have an influence better or worse than that of the typical member population. Judgmental, yes. But I am not the one who made the selfish decision to increase society’s burden.

    If the goal of reproduction is to perpetuate your genes, then cloning seems to be the clear choice. With expected advances in genetic therapies, one may even be able to selectively continue individual genes.

    Instinctively I feel that cloning removes ethical consideration of experimenting on others. Of course this is not true, but in this situation we are being encouraged to listen to our feelings.

    When memory duplication and transfer becomes available cloning becomes more than just a reproductive strategy. I hope my clones will be ready for that.

    • Newerspeak

      Couples having children are “[making] the selfish decision to increase society’s burden,” but you would like to raise a clone of yourself.

      Saying these things in public is not a good strategy if you want to see cloning become legal and practical.

  • kebko

    I would agree with your prediction about clones becoming accepted once they are roaming around in large numbers.

    But, then again, today there are adoptive parents & children running around by the millions, supporting & bonding to each other just as strongly as genetic families, and otherwise intelligent people continue to toss off “the usual arguments” for preferring genetic offspring.

    I would especially expect you to see the self-fullfilling prophecy at work with that viewpoint, and the status seeking issues that would feed that viewpoint in the absence of firm evidence. Isn’t the difference between committed adoptive parents & biological parents who can’t imagine adopting just one of different priors? The notion that genetics are a prime motivational factor is just a post-hoc rationalization of the priors of the biological parents.

    If suddenly nobody was able to biologically reproduce, but we had means to create unrelated children for families that wanted them, would the core characteristics of families really change? I would suggest that there would initially be a difficult transition for people with the pro-genetics priors, but once they discarded those priors, the world would continue with little or no change from how families exist today.

  • Chris Hallquist

    Wow, I’m surprised this thread managed to go more than three comments without someone mentioning Matt Ridley’s The Red Queen. The short of it: it’s puzzling why, from an evolutionary point of view, we haven’t already evolved to reproduce by clonning, and a very plausible hypothesis is that it’s important to mix up the genes in our immune system periodically to protect ourselves from parasites. I expect that if I raised a clone of myself, he’d do slightly worse against parasites in childhood, and therefore end up slightly less healthy, less intelligent, and perhaps less physically attractive than I. Therefore, if I want smart babies (which I do), reproducing with someone as smart as me seems a distinctly superior option to clonning, if Ridley’s hypothesis is correct.

  • Halvorson

    I encourage outliers like Caplan to make clones of themselves, if only for the reason that would make normal 50/50 children seem much more romantic and special for the rest of us. I don’t think people fully appreciate just how awesome sexual reproduction is (the reproduction part mostly): how two people’s personalities and looks are fused together. I don’t have any kind of instinctive aversion to cloning but it only really seems practical if you want to be a single parent. How is Bryan going to explain to his wife that he doesn’t want his child tainted by her genes?

  • tom

    Not many conservatives here.

    1. Parenting can require a huge investment. It can require the sacrifice of one’s own future for a child’s (for example, if I didn’t have to pay college tuitions, I’d be able to retire 10 years earlier). It’s hard enough for people to do that for their own genetic children. I believe it’s much harder for people to do it for other people’s genetic children. As Steve Sailer pointed out on his site, Bryan has not said what his wife wants.

    2. Cloning is different from IVF because IVF is mainly a way for two people to have a kid. The fertilization process is different, and people still don’t know if there are long-term health differences, but the result is two parents each of whom has an equal genetic investment in the child. In this way, cloning is more like lesbian or gay couples who use a third party’s sperm or egg with the egg or sperm from one member of the couple. Both cloned children and children of gay lesbian couples have the ‘Bryan’s wife’ problem.

    3. Tyler is using his step parenthood as an argument. Arguing by personal anecdote is not especially useful, and it makes it hard to question Tyler’s argument without questioning his relationship to his wife and daughter. But I’d say: it’s very hard to parent a baby, who is helpless, it’s very hard to pay for private school for a kid, it’s very hard to deal with a kid’s delinquency/drug problems, it’s very hard to pay for a car for a kid, it’s hard to pay for a kid to go through private college, it’s very hard to decide between your kids when you have limited resources or aren’t sure if you will in the future. I have no way of knowing how many of these things Tyler has gone through. But it’s very possible that his situation has been atypically easy, and it’s possible that he knew it would be atyplically easy going in (i.e., he knew his daughter before she became his daughter). So maybe his required investment was atypically low. But that’s very different from supporting a new system (cloning) that may create thousands and thousands of new single parents or step-parents from infancy.

    4. To argue by absurd example, I’m sure it’s been a sci-fi story that a very rich guy clones himself 1,000 times and gets rights to raise each clone as his child. Not ‘Boys from Brazil’ but similar. Today, Larry Ellison could afford to do this as soon as the technology is reliable (and I wouldn’t be completely stunned to find that he already is doing it). He could hire a small army of Indian wombs for rent and have ‘classes’ of a hundred kids each. Each would come to the US to be raised by him, with some at an Ellison academy and others at top private schools. As the groups grew older and were tested, he could select which were duds and which were the winners who would carry on for him and inherit the bulk of his estate. And he could probably set up a foundation to keep doing this. It’s not immortality, but it is a lot of Larry Ellisons. And it’s different from him having a twin brother, or from him having babies using lots of different eggs.

    I have a hunch that Bryan would say that ‘many Ellisons’ is none of our business, that people who can afford to do something like that should be able to. But I don’t think it’s what other people in society will think they’ve signed up for. There’s something different about a combination of two people.

    That said, am I right to guess that Ellison could do this legally starting today if the technology is here?

    • Floodplain

      1. Isn’t that just like fathers who find out in a paternity test that the baby isn’t his, but still choose to raise it anyways?

    • Peter Twieg

      The point of Tyler bringing up his step-daughter was to illustrate that many of the arguments being leveled against Bryan for wanting a 100%-similar offspring could also be leveled to a lesser extent to those who have preferences for 50%-similar offspring.

  • Jeffrey Soreff

    Hmm – you want to use a market to evaluate the popular acceptance
    of a technology that hasn’t been debugged yet (current artificial
    mammalian clones tend to be unhealthy), which might never be
    applied to humans (if ems/uploads happened first, will there be much
    interest in biological human clones?), and which could have a great
    deal of heterogenity in the popular reaction? That could make
    commodity futures look rock solid by comparison… The hypothesis
    that having a thousand artificial clones (to distinguish from identical
    twins) walking around might make them widely accepted might well
    be true – but it could easily depend on umpteen details (how low can
    the birth defect rate be pushed?, what is the gender ratio of the
    people opting for cloning? are families with cloned kids more stable
    or less stable than traditional ones?) – none of which we’ll know, or the
    general populace will know, till the technology is actually deployed.

    • gwern

      Jeffrey: you’re unduly pessimistic about how hard this is.

      The Dolly approach of taking an adult cell, etc. etc. etc. is about the hardest way to do it. There are much easier ways to do it.

      For example, here’s how we could be doing it right now: take an egg, fertilize it in a tube IVF-style, split the blastocyst in twain; if implanted, this would probably become a twin, but our mad scientist instead freezes one half, and implants the other. That implanted blastocyst grows up, and 30 years later, has the frozen one implanted into a surrogate/his wife. The delayed one pops out, a genetic replica of the original.

      No issues about health, aside from the deep-freezing. No aging issues. Straightforward current consumer-level technology. Its only downside compared to the Dolly approach is that it requires considerable foresight and time investment. But the result is the same: one infant with DNA xyz, one adult with DNA xyz.

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        Good point! Yes that would be a nice, simple way to get healthy
        clones. As you said, this requires considerable foresight. Also, the
        foresight must be on the part of the parents of the child who may later
        grow up to want a clone of themselves. This would get rid of the
        uncertainty about whether human cloning could be made to work
        reasonably successfully, and reduces the market question to a
        question of just predicting the popular reaction – and, in that case,
        I can believe that there is enough expertise around to make putting
        the question to the market reasonable.

        On another note: tom wrote of there being relatively few conservatives
        here. Note that cloning is fundamentally a conservative action. If 10%
        of the next generation were clones of their parents, instead of the
        product of sexual reproduction, then 5%-10% _less_ genetic change
        has happened between generations than usual.

        (Full disclosure: I’m childfree, and have no personal interest in cloning)

  • kebko

    Tom, in your point #3, you’re just assuming that it is harder for the step parent. There are lots of intact families that have a mixture of biological & adopted kids, who are fully committed as family members. Do those parents report that given the same problem, it’s harder for them to work through it with one of their adopted kids than it is with their biological kids?

    I think most people who have cared for a child from infancy, as one of their own, as a committed parent, generally forget the distinction. They know who is adopted & who isn’t, consciously. But, the kids are all just their children. They don’t address them, subconsciously, going “This is the adopted one.” and “This is the real one.” There may be some people who adopt kids without fully committing to them. But, for people who consider themselves fully parents, they simply aren’t making the distinction. Their brains are filled with years of experiences & commitments to all of the kids, and those experiences are what create their bond, not some Darwinian longing for genetic survival.
    I will suggest that people who don’t approach it that way are simply acting out of prejudice born of a pseudo-rational, conscious notion which is blocking them from allowing all of the other social biases to work which we naturally use to form families & communities. Those biases are the factors that are actually at work to bond families, whether they are genetically related or not.

  • Grant

    FWIW, I find the concept of someone wanting to raise their own clone “icky”. However I wouldn’t favor any restrictions on doing so. I don’t believe I would pay any money to prevent anyone from raising their own clone, so my “icky” feeling is probably there as cheap signaling.

    I find cloning to be fascinating. Can we get complete DNA from long-dead people? Could we clone Isaac Newton? Einstein? Tesla?

  • Swordfish

    Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son. Seriously. I want to experience the sublime bond I’m sure we’d share.

    The icky part is not the cloning, but how lonely and sad Caplan comes off.

  • Grunt2

    And when Dr. Caplan has his Min-Me, can world domination be far behind….?

  • Eric Falkenstein

    If your wife had a clone, there’s a good chance you would be sexually attracted to her daughter in 20 years. After all, you liked her clone at that age, and while your loving spouse’s optimal hip-to-waist ratio has increased, her clone’s is in the optimal zone (~0.7), so the daughter would be attractive to the ‘dad’. I would say this untested reproduction strategy would not be good for long-term pair bonding for this reason.

    Of course, you might not care about that because you didn’t consider your spouse would want to clone herself.

  • Robin Hanson

    Peter, so do you think we made a mistake accepting IVF kids?

    Eric, people claim not to be attracted to their spouse’s identical twin. And of course your argument prefers adoption to kids who are half like you.

  • Jack (LW)

    Eric, people claim not to be attracted to their spouse’s identical twin.

    Is there a cite? This sounds like people being diplomatic rather than honest. My counter evidence is just anecdotal though.

  • Robert Wiblin

    You could look at history and see how many technologies were considered icky then accepted, versus how many were considered icky and always remained so.

    You are not only lining up your inarticulate intuitions against the inarticulate intuitions of others. You are also lining up your articulate arguments against their articulate arguments and winning.

    In general I am very skeptical of Darwinian intuitions that cannot be articulately justified. The world is a very different place today than from the ancestral environment; the intuitions we inherited then are not necessarily relevant to today.

  • tom

    I’m pretty sure that the uninformed intuition about the importance of genetic parenthood is the anecdotal ‘we can all love everyone equally’. I can’t remember if it was Robert Wright or Steven Pinker, but one of them had a review of studies in one of their books showing measurably different parental investment in non-biological children.

    All I could find quickly was a study on stepkids:

    I think this single-invested parent issue is a huge problem for cloning. It has no similarity to IVF, and no similarity to twins. Best case, it’s like gay/lesbian couples having a baby that is the gnetic child of only one of them. Maybe you avoid it at the beginning because only the superwealthy do it and can say they have the resources to do it (like Murphy Brown as the face of single motherhood). But then it gets strange.

    • Robert Wiblin

      But the one parent would have an especially good reason to invest heavily in them.

    • Peter Twieg

      So should we one day worry about the incentives of single parents who choose to reproduce in ways other than cloning, and thus have sub-optimal genetic incentives to raise their children well?

      • tom

        Peter, we already worry about kids of single parents and whether the other parent invests enough/anything

        I’d guess that about 95% of single parenthood today is medium-low income women raising their kid/s alone and without having planned it that way from the beginning.

        If you’re asking whether the idea of a Caplanesque single guy with a lot of money raising his clone with a great education and lots of attention is better than that prototype single parent, I’d probably say yes. But it’s a Murphy Brown-type comparison. The real comparison should be between the Caplanesque clone dad and a married Caplan having normal 50-50 children with his wife.

      • Puma

        Tom: “The real comparison should be between the Caplanesque clone dad and a married Caplan having normal 50-50 children with his wife.”

        Tom you make a good point. However if Paul McCarthy, John Cleese, Phil Collins, divorces etc are any guide … a disasterous divorce would be much more devastating to the “Caplan Genotype” (including the original…the Dad) than possibel shortcomings of being raised by a single parent. Given that divorce has a 50% probability, perhaps it’s better for Caplan to go it alone from Day 1.

  • tom

    Robert, I agree. But it’s still unprecedented.

    And to bring it back to an example, what if Bryan’s wife said “I’m interested in that. But let’s have it be me cloned, not you.” Based on Bryan’s comments about his clone boy, he’d be less than enthused.

    That also brings up the male/female question. If you believe at all that traditional gender roles are hard-wired (they are), it’s disconcerting to think of making boys without mothers. And my guess would be that many more men than women would want this particular type of legacy.

    • Robert Wiblin

      “it’s disconcerting to think of making boys without mothers

      I think I’m missing your chain of argument. Why?

  • Matt

    Frankly, I just find it a bit hard to understand why you wouldn’t want to gamble on making a better person than yourself. If you had no other good DNA sources other than yourself that you had access to, then fine. But otherwise, why would you want a “good enough” copy when you can take a risk and make something better?

    One thing I find interesting about Caplan’s statement is that it seems to be based in part on going to lengths to avoid the issue that children ultimately do not consent to or choose their creation, and cannot consent to or chose their creation, by adopting a reasoning that the clone is sufficiently the same person as Caplan himself that this is not an issue (or that this is reduced relative to biological children and therefore a more optimal choice). This seems to me to display a weird edge case of Libertarian thinking.

  • Tim Tyler

    Re: “the usual arguments for preferring to raise a genetically-related kid would seem to endorse clones as even better.”

    Except among biologists – most of whom tend to think that sexual recombination is advantageous in the short term – and that raising a clone exposes it to costly risks of infection by pathogens that have already tuned into its parent’s genome.

  • bruce

    Jack Horner is trying to backbreed a dinosaur from a chicken. Since KFC can absorb his mistakes, we’ll probably get that first.

  • Michael Kirkland

    If genetic offspring are good, but clones better, wouldn’t that imply that inbreeding is desirable?