Monday, 22 November 2010

The Trouble with Clones


How do clones work?

Well clearly the concept is a simple one, but maybe not some of the EVE fiction written around it.
A genetic duplicate is constructed and stored in some way until it needs to be "activated".

Memories are transferred at some point so when activated it is a duplicate of the original (minus any physical wear and tear the original had suffered e.g scarring, injuries etc.).
So delving further in, lets think about the technologies required:
  • Human cloning (to a large degree already possible, though not at the accelerated growth rate clearly required).
  • Reading, copying and impressing memory (we are still in the realms of sci-fi here, at least for the moment).
  • Assorted other technologies that are not the focus of this article and don't create too big an issue, such as data transfer over distance (clone activation and memory transferral) and clone storage (conciousness suppression and life support).
So the issue starts to appear when we give some thought regarding to the fiction around it and the game mechanics. Apparently you can have only one clone active at a time (although one EVE novel had someone who could control multiple active clones. Apparently they didn't last long and caused mentral strain to the controller).

Why?


It's a copy, it's not linked in anyway to any central controller or other clones. A genetic copy with the up-to-date memories imprinted on it.

This is when other thoughts start to appear, it's not the same life-form as its predecessor and even if you believe in a soul (which I don't), clearly there's no way our technology is linked with such spiritual concepts. One life form dies, another, or potentially any number of duplicates, begins.

So what if it was linked to some central digital consciousness contoller, controlling a host of automatons but only capable of keeping one active at any time? Again, why would it need to be centralised? Memory space? Surely the clone doesn't constantly access a central memory bank just to work, it's a stand alone replica.


If it did however, the a central digital device would surely be capable of maintaining many active clones at once, also not forgetting that if that were the case then humans wouldn't be necessary at all, other than being drones of centralised computing functions.

So we have to return to sentient, fully autonomous, genetic duplicates. Why aren't there loads of copies wandering around in New Eden? Only if humanity purposely did not allow copies, but unless it was uniformly adhered to by all, which sounds improbable, this would rapidly be forgotten in an arms race of mass clone production.

Further thoughts to explore:


Do capsuleers age? Surely not, they can pick the age of their next clone and memory transfer away. If so, never dying, sanity, sociopathic tendencies and total memory storage capable by the unassisted human brain start becoming interesting topics of their own.

I know it's sci-fi and good fiction relies on suspension of disbelief, but the thing about sci-fi is, its a window into potential futures and where our technology will take us. In short sci-fi by it's very nature is often thought-provoking fiction.

It's not important, but once I started thinking about it, it had holes in it and it niggled me :-)


By Greenbeard

7 comments:

  1. Well, the way I've always thought about it is similar to the "Organlegging" concept in the Larry Niven universe (and others, I am sure).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organlegging

    I would find it a cheap cop-out to say that the society in New Eden is what dictates only one active clone. But, then again, they also dictate that I cannot explode your ship in Dodixie without justifiable reason to.

    But that may be all it is. Considering the future, and with the present ideas and information included, it may be the result of things like China's over-population and America's lazy-legislation that leads to that "option" for people.

    Then, also, it may be that the elite Capsuleers are the ones with the clones, only. (Then, we get into conversations about the "helper" people on your Dominix that go boom when you lose to that Rifter...)

    What tends to get me thinking is things like the FTL travel that is required when I die in Jita, but my clone is in far off in the Everyshore region, somewhere. Maybe one could think that is part of the reason we have the possibility to lose skill points. The more to transfer into the clone, the more bandwidth it takes, and therefore the more expensive it is to maintain that clone?

    We already have FTL travel with warp gates, etc.

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  2. Being something of a tech-head myself I've done a little reading into this. "The Capsule and the Clone" chronicle pretty firmly establishes that the brainscan required to copy an active mind is only avaliable to capsuleers; so those thousands of crew aboard the average Raven silly enough to shoot the ninja in Dodixie are all going to die.
    Capsule technology essentially presupposes a human neural/digital interface technology. As such, what's to stop us as pod pilots from dumping 'unneeded' memories into a hard drive when we don't need them? Isn't that essentially what Skillbooks are; digital memories and learning?

    As a side note, the concept of mass-cloning came up in an amusing little webcomic called Schlock Mercenary; wherein, through a mishap with multiple stargates, blue-haired guiness-drinking engineers named "Gav" became the largest single human demographic in the galaxy. :)

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  3. What makes you you? I expect it's a clear time line of events on your memory. With multiple instances, there would no longer be a clear, singular time line of events and I imagine that would be pretty challenging for the human psyche to deal with.

    The fiction is pretty clear that the brain scan destroys the brain in the process -- therefore, it's only really feasible if you no longer care about that clone. Jump clones kind of screw up that bit of fiction.

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  4. Seems like if you wanted to have multiple linked clones then there would need to be an aspect of personality missing from the clones. Otherwise what complete cognitive entity would be willing to subject itself to the "control" of an outside entity? Even if it were the parent clone.

    I've always theorised that the instant a clone is activated it is no longer a copy, as its new environment and experiences will immediately distance it from the original. Having multiple consciousness with this in mind would probably give you a giant headache, at the very least. Similar to what Paritybit's is suggesting.

    Just in case you haven't already seen it, the movie "Moon" does a pretty good job of exploring the clone theme. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1182345)

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  5. So I can accept the brain is destroyed during scanning, a bit weak but feasible.  However once copied, what's to stop it being implanted in multiple clones and starting many new fully independant lives?

    Also I'm not sure that only capsuleers being able to access cloning technology makes sense, history shows us technological secrets only stay secret for a brief while (e.g. the atom bomb), so prohibitive resources or cost (all roads usually lead to financial clout) tend to be the real limiting factor.  So in that case senior politicians and corp execs would also have access to clones.

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  6. I've never quite been able to grasp the whole transfer of consciousness thing. I've always had hypothetical concerns that the Star Trek transporter system just disintegrates the original lifeform and creates a perfect copy elsewhere.

    With capsuleer consciousness transfers I suppose it could be argued that the 'focus of the individual' (read spirit/soul/brainwaves) is being physically transmitted in a manner not that different from the movement of electrons along a synaptic pathway and is therefore a continuation of the same being.

    Maybe in that way, it would not allow itself to be copied in the same way that you cannot concentrate on more than one thing at a time.

    With regard to Greenbeard's "So in that case senior politicians and corp execs would also have access to clones." statement. You have played EVE haven't you. Capsuleers ARE the politicians and corp execs and they are the capsuleers. Not all capsuleers are players. At least that's my understanding of it.

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  7. Seismic, I think you've misunderstood how neural networks work, "not allowed itself to be copied...", I'll bore you with it when I next see you (:P), but in short it's just a complex biological storage device that attaches a probability against decisions based on experience, it doesn't "allow", it just exists and if it could be read and understood then it would have no more control of what happened to it than a copy of a hard disk. Have enough empty genetic duplicates and voila, mass copies of the original :-)

    As for the capsuleer comment, fair point.

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