In the future, we might be able to worry about one less thing: extinction. This goes for species whose numbers are currently low, but also for those which no longer walk the earth.
Advances made now allow scientists to clone animals without even having an intact cell from that species to work from. I can’t explain the process in depth, but one method is mentioned here as “using genetic material to create hybrid cells to clone from a closely related species.”
Through this method, embryos have been created for a recently-extinct Australian frog. In another instance, an extinct species of ibex was re-birthed from a surrogate mother of a related species. Unfortunately, the process has come with difficulties. None of the embryos survived, and the infant ibex had lung deformities so survived just seven minutes.
Creating life just to have it suffer and die is unsettling. I can understand people’s distaste for this “playing God”. In the end, though, I believe cloning will be perfected and become a regular part of humanity’s technological repertoire.
If so, think about the consequences. Being alive to see the day when a woolly mammoth or saber-tooth tiger is walking before your eyes won’t be referring to going back in time, but something to look ahead to. But besides seeing animals from the ice age, a huge benefit of this technology is that we won’t necessarily have to pay for our mistakes should we over-fish or hunt a particular species.
The flip side here is that this ability will enable humans to act recklessly. If there’s a way to resurrect a species, why worry about it going extinct? But a give and take comes with every new technology. Social media allows us to connect with more people while enabling us to never leave our homes. The Internet allows people to collaborate in ways never before possible to create and produce whether good or bad. Calculators have enabled people’s math skills to suffer.
In all, despite the potential negatives and unanswered questions, I’m looking at the possibilities of how this technology can help our world.
Check out this site from National Geographic that offers a ton of content on this topic. It’s the cover story of their April issue:
Along with photos of potential species to resurrect and a pro v. con argument, there’s a video breaking down another method to bring back the passenger pigeon.
What are your thoughts on cloning and so-called de-extinction?