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SciFly NYC // 100 // Doubled Speculations

Weekly Events 10/28 - 11/3

Hey SciFly Readers!

This week I want to quickly talk about a great 'speculative' show I just finished watching on Netflix, "Living with Yourself" starring Paul Rudd and created by Timothy Greenberg.

Living with Yourself is the story of a man who goes to a wellness spa to get a 'total life makeover' type of treatment, and ends up replaced by a cloned and genetically improved version of himself. It was a great little adventure, and as many news sites and reviews will tell you, an interesting reflection on depression, struggling with life, and play on the idea of wanting to be the 'best version of yourself'.

However, I think it was a bit more than that. It was probably one of the best speculative/science fiction shows I've seen recently. While many wouldn't classify this as sci-fi from the get-go - it really plays as a comedy/drama - it does a wonderful job of exploring some of the everyday complications that could arise from advances in cloning and genetic enhancement.

Granted, it isn't likely we will be able to soon clone, quick-age, and implant memories into humans, but what if we could? What might happen legally, morally, emotionally if suddenly there were two of you? What if your clone really was a 'better version of you' with cleaned up DNA, unaffected by all of the shit you've put your body through over the years?

I've read a lot of different narratives about cloning, uploading, and even teleportation that ask the question "If you were to destroy my body, but copy my mind (to a computer or a clone) would I still be me?" This question always gnaws at me as I read about advances in longevity or science fiction about cloning and scanning, especially the part of me that would want to try it in the future if it existed. What scares me the most is, how would I really know if I were me? What even makes up 'you' as you would understand it? How would it 'feel like' to go to sleep, get transferred, and wake up?

This show answers the question head-on, but in exactly the way I hope it doesn't work. The original of the cloned character is supposed to be killed, but something goes wrong and he wakes up and gets back to his normal life, only to find his clone has taken over. The clone has no idea who this scruffy stranger is, as far as he knows, he went to sleep at a spa and woke up feeling amazing, if a little weird/high. How terrifying. I could be a clone right now and never know it.

As you can imagine, lots of other interesting situations and relationship issues come up as both the original and clone try to live their lives, but the most poignant thing for me was how depressed the clone was to be 'shut out' of his life. As far as he knew, he was the original, since the memories had been ported over. To then find out you were a clone and had no right to the life that felt like yours is extremely provocative. It made me start to think about what clone rights would look like, and all the interesting questions we may have to answer:
  • What sorts of cases and issues would arise if a clone and original person were both alive?
  • 'Would you 'own' your clone, or would they be an independent person?
  • Is it morally right to 'own' another living thing, even if it is clone of yourself that you paid for and had made? 
  • Can you kill your clone whenever you want? Would that be wrong?
  • Who would have a 'right' to your timeline, e.g. if you signed off to be cloned, killed, and the better 'you' take over, but you didn't die, do you still get to have your life?
  • How would paternity/maternity work in this case? What if you had a clone/fixed clone for fertility reasons?
The list goes on and on. That is what makes this such a great piece of speculative fiction. Instead of setting the story far in the future, in another society, or in space, this story takes a technology that we already do have and gives it a little push (and some handwaving) and it set's it in the world of today, allowing the series to explore some of these hard-questions in an eerily familiar and relatable way.

Side-note, when reading an interview with the creator, I was delighted to see that he was inspired by "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" another amazing science fiction movie that many wouldn't think of that does this exact sort of thing super well too.

If you have some time, definitely check out Living With Yourself. It's funny, light-hearted, but also very introspective, and as I mentioned, a great way to think about the very soon to come challenges of cloning and genetic enhancements.

Read on for this week's great speculative events!

"The future is here, now let's distribute it." 

Doc Martens

SciFly is a design studio dedicated to leveraging speculative design and science fiction to imagine and prototype alternative futures enabled by today's emerging technology.


Monday | 10/28

Tuesday | 10/29

Wednesday | 10/30

Thursday | 10/31 🎃

Friday | 11/1

Saturday | 11/2

Sunday | 11/3

OnGoing [classes, exhibits, shows etc.]


What I'm Reading

Here is a quick snapshot of my favorite books, podcasts, and articles this week.

Living with Yourself 
on Netflix

Speculative Fiction and Black Feminist Thought
by Jennifer Neal

Here’s How 20 Years of Office Work Will Disfigure the Human Body
By Kristin Houser

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