Tuesday, September 06, 2005
The basic premise of project Gemini was simple - human beings are too critical not to be properly backed up. Where some saw a glorious history of trial and endeavour, genetic researchers saw only a long history of waste, of missed opportunities, of wisdom discarded because some trivial part of the human hardware - a valve in the heart, perhaps, or a liver (that's right, a liver!) - had failed.
Project Gemini was the solution they came up with. In layman terms, it meant simply that a strand of DNA was extracted from a foetus shortly after conception and used to create a clone for every person born on the earth - a carbon copy that could be used to fill in the gaps in the original should it suffer damage. The two beings, human and clone, would grow together, and the clone would provide a ready source of organs should the need to replace them arise.
At first, the clones were kept in a more or less comatose condition. Massive warehouses were built in the desert to house them. The space required wasn't much - each clone needed little but a coffin sized drawer with his / her serial number on the front panel and an array of tubes cycling all the essentials in and out of his / her body. Soon there were complaints though. The complete lack of physical exercise meant that the organs that were donated were often frail and atrophied, with the result that the new parts came as a disappointment to the receiver; in many cases newly transferred organs failed under the unfamiliar stress that regular living put on them. Meanwhile researchers at Stanford showed that brain function was directly linked to physical experience, so that the attachment of weaker limbs that slowed the person down physically would also slow him / her down mentally. More importantly, they showed that organs carry the imprint of the mind they have been attached to, and so the shift from a docile, uneducated mind to control from a more active brain may prove seriously harmful to the patient.
Faced with these problems, the scientists came up with the idea of developing the Geminasiums. These were segregated living spaces, where the clones were allowed to live quasi-normal lives. They were taught poetry and mathematics, and followed a rigorous regimen of physical exercise. Living conditions were simple, almost spartan, but every effort was made to ensure that the clones were model specimens of the human race.
The Geminasium initiative was a resounding success. Clones ended up being fitter, stronger and more agile (both physically and mentally) than their owners. Soon there was a growing interest in cosmetic organ donation - people were using parts from their clones to upgrade their own bodies / image - they didn't really need these transplants, of course, but the lure of having better skin or stronger muscles was just too great. (There were, however, no attempts to improve the gene sequences themselves - anything but pure replication of genetic material was strictly forbidden, for fear of mutation). Worried by this trend, the authorities at Project Gemini introduced a system of prescriptions - any transplant had to be certified as a medical emergency before Gemini could be used.
The trouble, of course, was that sooner or later the clones had to find out how superior they were to their owners. Brought up on a steady diet of Shelley and Byron, it wasn't long before the restlessness the clones had always felt in their heart exploded into mutiny. Geminasiums across the world were breached, clones escaped and immediately began using what little they knew of the world (from books and TV) in an attempt to gain control over the world, once and for all.
Ten years of bloody war followed, but in the end it was the clones that won. It wasn't just that the clones were in superior physical condition, their bodies unsullied by the vices, challenges and addictions of the ordinary human lifestyle. It was also that the very naivete they brought to the revolution made them impervious to cynicism and despair. While ordinary humans were quick to admit defeat and reluctant to hope, the clones, lifted on wings of song, had no conception of how dangerous ideals could be, and were therefore not afraid to embrace them. Finally, the clones also had the advantage of being almost completely unemotional. Because the training at the Geminasium emphasised communal feeling over individual relationships, and in general discouraged the formation of close personal ties, the clones were more or less unemotional - at least when it came to people (good poetry, though, could reduce them to tears). This meant that the clones were more ruthless in battle, their instincts unsullied by sentimentality or platitudes about honour or fair play.
Given such a wealth of advantages, it was only a matter of time before the clones took over the world, and the original human population was entirely eradicated (though rumours of humans who had managed to pass themselves off as clones - humans healthy, intelligent and well-read enough - continue to this day).
Fifteen days after the Clone government finally came to power, Project Gemini was officially declared illegal.
The clones were our ancestors. It's from them we have inherited our unquestioning attitude to work, our obsession with fitness, our concern with efficiency in all things. It is from them also, that we have inherited that feeling - when you wake up in the middle of the night, for instance - that everything you say and do is only a pretense, that all this time you've been living (and will continue to live) someone else's life.
(Post inspired by reading Ishiguro's Never let me go)