clones + cloning

clones + cloning
  ---- by Richard J. Lane
  At first cloning appears to be the end: the end of totality (clones are built from parts, which contain all of an individual's genetic code); the end of sexual difference (since clones do not need male and female parents); the end of psychoanalytical theories of developmental stages, such as Freud's Oedipal stage, or Lacan's mirror stage (since both rely on relationships with one's now absent parents). Cloning becomes a final solution to an enduring human fantasy: the desire for immortality. The cloned individual will live forever in the endlessly reproduced copies of his or herself. Is this liberation (from death and disease) or nightmare? The clue lies in Baudrillard's main analogy for the process of cloning: the metastasis of cancerous cells. The clone, then, is like one of those cancerous cells, endlessly proliferating, and in the process going beyond what it currently means to be human. Human beings have long dreamt of entities similar to clones: witness the tradition of the double, which Baudrillard calls an 'imaginary figure' (SS) just like the soul, the shadow or the mirror image. But all of these entities are phantasmatic, merely having power via the imagination and its dreams and fantasies. We might think that these entities are like the clone, but in fact Baudrillard argues that the material reality of the clone exorcises them - they belong to a prior age, one in which humanist and transcendental notions held sway. Along with this exorcising of metaphysical ghosts goes the banishment of one's parents and of the Other. A clone is not a double: it is the iterative reproduction of the same. Baudrillard also points out that the construction of a vast information network that is currently underway in western society is like the cloning of the entire world. He concentrates, however, on the monstrous and frightening cloning of the individual. What replaces our parents? For Baudrillard, they are replaced by the matrix - or - the code (here, more specifically, genetic code). Cloning in this sense is not productive: it produces nothing extra or additional so to speak, it merely reproduces itself; the genetic code thus precedes and takes priority over the body. With reference to Benjamin (2008) Baudrillard suggests that with cloning an analogous situation occurs: we witness a shift from the external technologies of the industrial age (the exotechnical), to the soft technologies of the information age (the esotechnical) (SS). This shift is not celebrated by Baudrillard; rather he perceives the new technologies that facilitate cloning as being a form of 'revenge' on mortal beings. In other words, the new cybernetic technologies which are often portrayed in the media as a revolutionary progression (in science, technology, rationality) are regarded here as an 'involution', which nullifies difference and differentiation. This 'involution' is a return to a primitive state of 'incest' and 'entropy' (VI). Banishing death, one's parents, the Other and even sexual difference (or at least the reproductive functionality of sexual difference), the clone lives an 'undifferentiated' life of 'non-individuated existence'. Maybe future clones will need to pay for simulated acts of sexual difference or even of 'dying'? Baudrillard ponders future 'cyberdeath' or the luxury of simulated mortality. Cloning can be thought of as a vast test whereby we attempt to discover if there is some human essence or remnant that survives the 'artificialisation' of all human beings, that is something that escapes or exceeds the technologies of genetic code manipulation. But what if we fail this test? What if there is no essence, no remnant, after the Final Solution of cloning? Perhaps what the test will reveal is that all along human beings were already their own simulations. But surely social and cultural achievements are a permanent marker of humanity? Perhaps this once was the case, but in our information age Baudrillard takes the pessimistic view that social and cultural systems are code-driven, and that the dumbing down of society proceeds via the very realms that should liberate us. Thus education, the media and other cultural forms all produce 'monothought' (VI), in other words they prepare us for cloning, or they are the very grounds for the technological process of cloning and the concomitant desire for revenge on the mortal. If we fail the cloning test by becoming the non-human, the immortal or infinite series of clones, then what do we care that we were already our own simulations?
   § body
   § code
   § double
   § simulation

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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