Sophie was the best dog. When she died, her owner Rick, who didn’t have anyone really, was devastated. People who knew Rick didn’t tell him to get another dog. They told him they’d suggest he get another dog, except the dog could never be as good as Sophie was.
Rick knew they were right, so he didn’t get another dog, he got the same dog again. He got talking to this geneticist at Starbucks a couple of months after Sophie died, and she said her lab was doing cloning experiments, trying to work out the kinks that led to accelerated cellular degeneration, and a dog would be perfect if Rick was interested, so Rick went to his car and pulled out a bagful of Sophie’s fur from the back seat and gave it to the geneticist and Sophie got cloned.
The new Sophie was healthy. She actually lived nine months longer than the first Sophie had, and she was, if possible, an even better dog, and when she died, Rick had her cloned again, even though he had to pay for it and it wiped out his savings.
The third Sophie became a news story and a rich guy named Spiro got the idea to buy the rights to the DNA sequences of famous people so he could sell embryo clones of them.
A suit was brought against Spiro, and in a landmark 5-4 ruling, the US Supreme Court declared he could sell his clones as embryos, but there was a limit of one of each person per life cycle.
Spiro lobbied to have the law changed to allow him to sell multiples of his clones, but he wasn’t successful. He made billions of dollars on the project anyway, and other people decided to buy the rights to other DNA sequences, and within a hundred years, nobody bothered with getting pregnant the old-fashioned way anymore.
Thanks to the court’s ruling, there was a good diversity of people. Not everyone wanted famous people for their children anyway, and some companies marketed embryos that were “nice” or “good listeners” or even “easy children.” Famous people were overrepresented, obviously, but most of the people out there hadn’t ever been anybody.
This new practice of having children who had already existed created the kind of competitive ethos that the Industrial Revolution could only have dreamed of. Everyone wanted to have good offspring, and the better the offspring the more they cost, but more than that, each new version of a person had to outdo the previous generation of himself. Jimmy Carter had to serve two terms; Richard Nixon had to go to jail; Hillary Clinton had to be president before Bill; Margaret Thatcher had to reintroduce poorhouses; Ronald Reagan had to use indentured labour to tear down the Great Wall of China.
Einstein created a theory of absolutivity; Putin actually became tsar; Father Bergolio actually reformed the Catholic Church; and Ai Weiwei actually sparked a liberalization of China.
The competition didn’t end there. Leslie from Cardiff was such a good listener that she went sixty-two years listening to people’s problems without breaking, except to sleep six hours a night, and she didn’t interject once in all that time.
Samir from Toronto was so nice that in ninety-six years not a single bad word was said about him, not even in the schoolyard when he was a kid. Not even behind his back in high school when Rohan, who was really quite a dick, had a crush on Samir’s girlfriend.
Humanity made advances everywhere, and it did so without creating a super race, or imposing uniformity of thought, and it did so without creating a creepy dystopia or an unrealistic utopia, and it happened because every single human being discovered the joy and power of competing with themselves instead of with each other.
At least it seemed like everyone had bought in, until this weird human-interest story about Ayn Rand on Salon.com. The reporter wanted to know what Ayn Rand was up to. Nobody had heard much from her, even her parents, a couple from Japan, and the reporter assumed she must be working on writing the longest work of fiction ever composed, and he thought maybe he could get an advance peek at what it was about.
The reporter tracked Ayn Rand down to a small plot of land in a valley in the Andes. The reporter asked Ayn Rand what she was working on, and she asked what he meant. He said what was she writing, and she said she wasn’t. He asked, was that because her vision had been realized and there was nothing left to say? Ayn Rand said it wasn’t her vision, it was the vision of a dead woman who just happened to have the same DNA as her, and she had hens to feed.