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Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Believe the Mammoths are Our Future

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 4:11 PM

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Here's the premise: The year is 2009 and the world is ready to realize the best of its sci-fi potential. Black American President? Check. On the verge of pure artificial intelligence (aka "the singularity")? Check. Sub-orbital global flight? Check. Now this from the Times:

Scientists are talking for the first time about the old idea of resurrecting extinct species as if this staple of science fiction is a realistic possibility, saying that a living mammoth could perhaps be regenerated for as little as $10 million.

Sci-fi future? Mission accomplished! And for only $10 Million? Hell, I think they spent that much to make Jurassic Park.

At any rate, I call on our government to take a bit of that $700 billion dollars they want to give to, like, anything that is decidedly uncool and unfuturistic, and use it to help stimulate the genetics industry.

If the genome of an extinct species can be reconstructed, biologists can work out the exact DNA differences with the genome of its nearest living relative. There are talks on how to modify the DNA in an elephant's egg so that after each round of changes it would progressively resemble the DNA in a mammoth egg. The final-stage egg could then be brought to term in an elephant mother, and mammoths might once again roam the Siberian steppes.

How awesome would that be? This could change everything. Instead of trading in stocks, we could trade in mammoths! A mammoth could feed a family for at least a month and then they could make a house out of its hide and bones! Mammoths could save us all!

Or conversely, they could run amok, causing untold damage and loss of human life. But oh, what a sight it would be to behold a mammoth amok.

While all this is great news, there is a dark side to the NYT story:

The full genome of the Neanderthal, an ancient human species probably driven to extinction by the first modern humans that entered Europe some 45,000 years ago, is expected to be recovered shortly. If the mammoth can be resurrected, the same would be technically possible for Neanderthals.

Look, I've seen Encino Man about 20 times and I can tell you that no good will ever come of this. First, we'd have to clone a bunch of Pauly Shores to keep the Neanderthals in line. Second, those insurance cavemen guys would be even worse off. Third, republicans would get jealous that someone was cramping their style.

Don't believe me? Here are two minutes that will likely convince you of the whole Neanderthal/Pauly Shore thing. Complete with racial stereotypes (oddly, not from the neanderthal).

To recap: Mammoths equal future, neanderthals equal bad things. That is all.

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