The big question about the cloning of Dolly the sheep must surely be: how can anyone tell? Since one sheep looks very much like another, it seems to me we're being asked to take an awful lot on trust.
Let's assume, though, that the scientists in question are not perpetrating a vast and rather Teutonic practical joke. In that case, what can the PC community add to the debate about the ethics of cloning?
The answer is a surprising amount. After all, we have almost 15 years of cloning to look back on.
The first point to recall is that the momentum to build clones arose from the unexpected success of the original. Even IBM, the Prime Mover, was surprised by the achievement of its creation.
But the first PC lookalikes were not identical to the IBM original, genetically or otherwise. The system software was sufficiently different for queues to form outside the doors of Lotus, WordStar and others as manufacturers sought to have key applications ported to their machines. You couldn't tell the difference just by looking at a machine. It's as if Dolly were to start barking.
When genuine clones appeared there were several consequences. Chief among them was the impact on prices. It could be argued that cloning cheapened personal computing. People selling anything tend to dislike the word "cheap"; they prefer "inexpensive" or "value-for-money". At the same time, buyers became "price-sensitive". PC prices headed downwards as the market became crowded.
The PC clones were largely characterless. This could simply have been a faithful reflection of the original. But the contrast provided by the main alternatives to the PC way of doing things was striking. Amstrad's PCW series and Apple's Macintosh had loads of personality.
There was a further consequence: a rash of headlines along the lines of "send in the clones". This alone is a strong argument for banning all further cloning research.
Eventually, price erosion took its toll on the Prime Mover's market position.
The story takes a Nietzschean turn at this stage. Dismayed by the sight of colourless drones colonising its market, IBM attempted to create a Super PC. Moreover, with OS/2 and MicroChannel Architecture, it intended to make its new creation resistant to cloning. It failed. The clones, strongly abetted by Windows, took over.
And that is more or less where we are now. Thanks to Windows, PCs are less colourless than they were, but the imitation of the Mac's personality is unconvincing and rather patronising. The network computer idea promises a return to simpler times, but if you think of it as a brain-dead PCW8256 with networking it sounds overpriced.
So how much does any of this have to do with the cloning debate as it regards mammals? Not much, you might think - the parallels between IBM and a Supreme Being are a little forced, and no-one would want to suggest that Bill Gates is in fact a clone.
But the cloning of the PC has had a very considerable impact on mammals.
By ensuring that prices continued to fall and performance to rise, it has made the PC the dominant cultural artefact of the late 20th century.
The technology has become so pervasive that few business operations and transactions take place without it. It has enabled organisations to change their shape and the way they work.
The result for their staff is not an unmitigated boon. Insecurity and overwork are features of employment. It might be said that the demands of the technostructure are effectively turning the majority of working people into clones.
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