Retrospect: Here kitty kitty kitty

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PublicOrgTheory is one month shy of its 5th birthday.  The blog has had three designs, two domain names, two blogging platforms, and an indeterminate number of posts.  During the transition to WordPress, I wasn’t able to migrate the prior posts and ended up bringing a lot my favorite ones over manually.  With hundreds of posts that didn’t make the migration, I occasionally stumble onto some gems.  I’m going to post a few from 2004 over the coming weeks as a look back at how this all evolved.  I hope you like them.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Here kitty kitty kitty

File under “Ethically Ambiguous Business Models”: Genetic Savings and Clone, based in Sausalito CA, has announced its “Nine Lives Extravaganza”, a program in which a biopsy from your cat is used to create a genetic replica (such low-brow publications as Maxim magazine might make vulgar jokes about “more pussy” here, but we’re taking the high road). GS&C claims to be the first pet cloning service available, but copycats are sure to follow.

The company’s site wisely confronts ethical questions head-on, offering a special section on its site to frequently asked questions and interactive discussions about cloning’s ethical implications:

The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “The Sixth Day” featured a pet cloning company called RePet. That fictional company promised pet owners: “Should accident, illness or age end your pet’s natural life, our proven genetic technology can have him or her back the same day, in perfect health, with zero defects, GUARANTEED.”

Consequently, Genetic Savings & Clone must routinely correct the misconception that a cloned pet will enter the world full-grown and equipped with the memories and precise personality of its genetic predecessor. It won’t! The cloned pet will be a unique, newborn animal that will share genes and probably behavioral tendencies, but not memories, with its genetic predecessor.

GS&C has all the appearances of a normal company: organizational structure, a CEO and officers, mission statement, and the like. What is most interesting is the company’s relationship to that mission; being an organization whose existence is predicated upon an ethically (and public perception-wise) questionable proposition raises its own questions. For example, how would the company preserve itself if animal cloning were outlawed? Or if public opinion turned against the practice? What might the company be willing to do to ensure that it continues to be able to deliver on its mission? Given that the company will begin offering dog cloning in 2005, how do its leaders define the limits of their mission? If the technology were available, would they clone horses? Chimpanzees? Would the company consider combining species?

What GS&C is doing–perhaps inadvertently–is forcing the question of whether human cloning is ethical or desirable. This is an object lesson in how organizations foment the definition of public perceptions at the boundaries of science.

And they thought they were just making cats.

posted by joseph logan at 5:20 PM

One response to “Retrospect: Here kitty kitty kitty

  1. Pingback: Week in Public Organizations, 18May2009 « PublicOrgTheory

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