Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cloning vs. conservation

Suppose you knew the rain forests would be totally destroyed in 20 years, no matter what. But you also knew that if you took certain steps now, some future technology could miraculously reconstruct every living thing in the forests on demand. Would you then be willing to take those steps and pave over the forests tomorrow in the name of faster human progress? Recently, an economist publicly floated a version of that proposal, hypothesizing that cloning might offer a technological solution to environmental crises. It’s an idea that I imagine could sound ingeniously appealing to certain people with some overly optimistic views about the environment or technology (paging Bjorn Lomborg and Ray Kurzweil!). And perhaps it’s one that deserves some real consideration — though probably not for quite the reasons its author had in mind. Casey B. Mulligan, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, raised the idea in “Species Protection and Technology,” a post on The New York Times Economix blog...more

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