Do you think of clones as androids?

One of the central tenets of the ‘Android’ universe is that Jinteki’s clones and HB’s bioroids are competing types of androids. And yet… as someone who grew up on sci-fi, I never thought of clones as androids. Both Android and Robot have been used to mean a variety of things (the first use of the word ‘robot’ was actually from a play about artificial humans similar to clones), but when I think of androids I typically think of Blade Runner, the androids in Alien, etc.

Similarly, it’s a bit far fetched that anyone would question that clones deserve human rights. I did a quick google search for clones and androids and immediately found a thread with people saying that androids don’t need human rights but clones do. You don’t hear anyone today questioning whether people born from in vitro fertilization are inhuman, so it seems like a leap to think that a technology that’s only slightly different from that would cause people to question that. There were times in the past when people didn’t need much of an excuse to enslave other people, but I feel like more explanation is needed for how the human race would arrive at that place again.

This is the only part of the Android universe that’s struck me as a bit ‘off’ as a sci-fi fan, so I was wondering if anyone else thinks the same way…


we are already clones - of our parents’ DNA

This largely depends on your definition of “Human”.

“Human” is surprisingly hard to define, however. One of the major themes in Android is transhumanism. The argument is this:
A person has bad eyesight, so we give them glasses. Are they still human? Of course.
Their eyes go so bad they require cybernetic eyes. Are they still human? Yes.
They then require cybernetic legs to walk, so they get those. Are they still human? yes.
Then we replace their lungs, heart, arms, legs… we even upload their consciousness into a bioroid brain. At what point does a person “stop” being human?

Simply put, do we define a “human” as a physical trait (in which case a clone IS, and our disabled person ISN’T), or a question of origin (in which case a clone ISN’T, and our disabled person IS). You could also define “Human” as a mental trait, as “a being capable of self-evaluation and self-awareness”, but in this case we’d have to treat Bioroids as humans as well.

It’s a highly philosophical question you’re asking, and one which attracts me to the cyberpunk genre in general.


I think a good example of how clones ended up with reduced rights lie with the Tenma line.

From what I infer Jinteki rarely does cloning-on-demand. It seems very expensive to the average ANR citizen and mostly reserved for the wealthy. What they do though, is mass produce a certain clone, like the Tenma’s or Turtlebacks. for very specific use. Mass cloning has been hardly touched on in Scifi outside of an army sense. The day-to-day life with mass cloning being a thing is never talked about pragmatically.

So Jinteki has Mr. Tenma’s DNA data, and it’s been groomed to the max. After all, fleets of “them” live in cities where the taxi line thrives. Entire apartment blocks of Mr. Tenma, maybe spread across the city, and for their own legal safety and the ANR citizens, Jinteki knows everything about the lifespan of Mr. Tenma. They know he likes his coffee that way, he enjoys this media, has these mannerisms, thinks a certain way, and needs to be retired at a certain age. Ken is an anomaly and that’s why he’s special. But Ken also shows how rare it is for a clone to break out of its habitual life cycle.

Now here’s the part where I was going: say you are a regular Joe Schmoe in the ANR universe, and for whatever reason your political views clash with Mr. Tenma. Despite all of his genetic conditioning he will often view the world a certain way, and you the other.

Is it fair that people can solicit votes from all the Mr. Tenma’s across your city, district, state, nation, or whatever ANR has? There could be hundreds of thousands maybe millions of Tenma taxi drivers across Earth at any second, and some campaigner could appeal precisely to him and get votes every time. Jinteki made them to drive taxis, nothing more, and governments didn’t want them to sway votes when a large groups of them were implanted into their cities. The very concept of cloning throws a huge wrench into democracy, and a ‘fair’ system would remove voting rights from all clones, even the wealthy one-of legacy clones and what not, because it could exploit the political system; even if these clones are people nonetheless.


The mechanical argument:
It appears from the lore that clones have the neural structure of their brains ‘taped’ in an analogous way to a bioroid.

Each has a mirror set of memories and skills that only diverge over their operational life, and it could be argued that a clone fresh out the vat is effectively a biorobot rather than possessing personhood.

The cultural argument:
You get to the situation of the Android Universe via creeping incrementalism: Jinteki makes turtlebacks; leathery things that never leave their suits and people buy that they are not human. Jinteki then makes brains in vats for server functions, people buy they’re not human. Jinteki then makes specialists who don’t look human and sit in factories all day and people buy that they are not human. Jinteki make a waste worker with toughened skin and no nose and people buy that they are not human and so on.

Clones blur the line on humanity and jinteki is pushing from the outside in. Couple that with natural born humans having a vested interest (emotional and economic) in being distinct and clones being unpersons makes sense.


because of my background of other scifi things, i never thought of clones as androids either until i read the Worlds ofAndroid book. from that point on, it was easy for me to just recognise that, in this particular world, clones and bioroids are both called androids

as for bioroids vs clones, i think that that’s another cultural argument that people can kind of do now as a thought exercise or explore in movies, tv, or other media, such as games, as in the case of Android, where they do explore that people often do feel different towards robots/androids/etc., brain-in-a-vat, digital consciousness (what kind of rights would APEX have?), virtual copies of human intelligence/personality (which is what bioroids essentially are), or in this universe: bioroids and clones / androids, and explore how that might play out in real life.

i agree with @pang4. it’s one of the things that attracts me to the cyberpunk genre

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I think the more we advance in biological computing the more the opinion can shift. We are likely headed toward a cultural debate where society has to re-understand “living”/“alive” vs. consciousness, how we determine the difference in an organism, and how we treat either.

The Worlds of Android book discusses this in some detail. Jinteki splice nonhuman DNA into their clones’ genomes to yield certain desirable traits. I think that contributes to the idea that “Clones Are Not People” – it would be easier, culturally, to see a clone as subhuman if you know that they’re “part” dog/horse.

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People are making really good points left and right in this thread, but I think this is the most important reason. Clones in the Android Universe aren’t like clones as we think of them. They’re more like Blade Runner’s replicants. Their brains are engineered in weird ways and conditioned by direct electrical stimulation to match a desired template. They’re definitely more like robots that happen to be made out of meat than in vitro n-tuplets. (Of course, one can then ask whether that’s even a meaningful distinction.) Here’s Dan Clark:

[quote]Clones have mostly human DNA and have bodies very similar to ours, but their brains are different. Additionally, their conditioning makes them surprisingly alien in manner and thinking. In some ways, a clone may have more in common with a dog than with a human being.
Bioroids have bodies that only vaguely resemble a human beings, but their artificial brains are lovingly-crafted copies of the real thing.
Here we have questions: Which is more human, the clone or the bioroid? And how human-like do either of these androids have to be before we find ourselves observing a distinction with no real difference? [/quote]


Given the fact that plenty of people still think denying human rights based on skin color is acceptable (e.g. something like 10% of Americans still disapprove of interracial marriages - I’ll avoid mentioning a certain presidential candidate’s views on human rights, which apparently some 40% of Americans at least nominally support), I don’t find it terribly far-fetched at all.


Don’t get me wrong, humans can be awful, but normally there’s some kind of foreshadowing first. Before the human race reached ‘peak racism’ with the European enslavement of Africans, for instance, there has still been racism practiced by ancient Greeks, ancient Chinese, etc. It was a bad thing taken to its logical extreme. On the other hand, there is currently no discrimination against identical twins or people born to in vitro fertilization. Given that a clone is a combination of those two things, it’s hard to imagine how we would get from our current culture to that.

I think it would be more believable if clones were indentured servants who had to work for a certain number of years to pay Jinteki back for the costs of raising them. I could buy American society becoming so capitalist that we thought that was a reasonable thing for a corporation to do.

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No idea how about twins, but for in vitro people, at least partly this is only because it is hard to single them out so you have no idea who to discriminate. In my country (and likely in all other countries where majority are Roman Catholics) lots of people are strongly against in vitro (on grounds that multiple embryos are created with plan that some of them will never be born). In fact our recently elected conservative government has cancelled the state sponsored in vitro treatment program, so, while in vitro fertilization is not banned, you need lots of money for this and the number of children born this way will definitely go down.

Hope I didn’t go too far into RSP territory :wink:

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Identical twins? Imagine if the FedEx delivery drivers were all Ken Tenma. Then UPS’s, then eventually the USPS itself. That goes beyond “identical twins,” I should think.

I can imagine a scenario where a lot of people start out sympathetic to clones…and then more and more and more clones from the same line are popping up all over the place, with the same features and in the same uniforms, and over time sympathy gradually evaporates. When you periodically see identical twins making FedEx deliveries, it’s an oddity; when almost all deliveries are made by the same set of 100 identical twins, that becomes the new normal.


Don’t take this the wrong way, but this is seriously anachronistic reasoning. I’m going to try to avoid a tl;dr post here, but I’m probably going to fail – I just gave a 90 minute lecture to my undergrads about this the other day. Yes, human beings have a long history of identifying differences amongst themselves and using those differences to manage and justify various divisions of political and economic power, but that doesn’t mean that these historical arrangements functioned akin to our (post)modern conceptions of “race” (and certainly not to the thoroughly modern concept of “racism”). Without even drifting back to the ancient world, consider the differences between the Early Modern understanding of race under much of Spanish colonialism – where race was viewed as mutable and one could (and, indeed, it was desirable to) “breed out” the “impurities” of Indians over the course of generations* – with the kind of racial reasoning that would be needed to support the aforementioned opposition to interracial marriage, which generally requires a view of racial groups as both fixed and discrete – where “blacks” and “whites” are two wholly separate categories of people. (Which is an idea largely formed, at least in the Euro-American context, in relation to the infamous “one drop” policies during the 18th and 19th centuries.) Yes, they both have roughly to do with recognizing difference in phenotype (mostly skin color, in these cases), but they represent radically different beliefs about what that difference means, where it comes from, and how it should govern human behavior. As a brief aside, I’ll also point out here that what constitutes phenotypical “difference” is far from fixed, also – this is entirely too complex to unpack here (google “Irish racialization,” though, and you might get some sense of what I mean), but I mention it because it’s pertinent to your question about whether or not we currently recognize a difference between in vitro and “naturally” conceived peoples.

As a rough analogy to premodern notions of race and those of our own moment, we might think about the fact that Medieval Europeans also had a conception of “art” that, at first glance, might look like it bears a lot of comparison to the contemporary understanding of the term (both involved displays of skill, music was one of the “Seven Arts,” etc.). On the other hand, given the fact that the Seven Arts also included geometry, arithmetic, and logic, we should be keyed in to the fact that this was a fundamentally different way to categorize and organize human knowledge/effort than our own. In both cases (race and art), comparing the pre-modern to the modern is a bit like comparing algae to a redwood: sure, looking at them side-by-side might be useful to garner an understanding of some underlying fundamentals (they both have mitochondria, they both use proteins, etc.), but suggesting that they’re the same thing or that the redwood is an inevitable result of algae is surely a fool’s errand. When Medievals write about “art,” they aren’t writing about what you and I think of as art; likewise, when the Classical Greeks or Shang Dynasty Chinese write about “race,” they aren’t talking about race as we understand the term today. This is what I mean by anachronistic thinking – suggesting that Classical Greeks were “racist” is like suggesting that St. Francis of Assisi was an “artist.”

In any event, there is a bit of a chicken-and-egg argument among historians about the relationship between racism as an ideology and the economic formations that developed under European colonialism (esp. slavery). Marxists/materialists will tell you that it is the distribution of material power during the period that led to the creation of racism as a means to explain/justify that distribution, while intellectual historians would suggest that existing ideas about phenotypical difference (stigmas about dark skin w/in European society, etc.) created an environment in which material exploitation and degradation could thrive. But apart from the serious hardliners in each camp, most of us agree that rather than tackling the question of “which came first,” the critical element here is that the two forces were mutually constitutive: racism as a set of ideas and beliefs developed alongside colonialism and racial slavery, and each fed into the other.

All of which means that, to bring us back to the original question: no, I don’t find it difficult to believe that if there were significant material and political fortunes at stake in the question of whether or not to grant clones human rights, human beings might develop a system of thought which strips them of said rights. Since you mentioned the Classical period, I’ll point out that many Roman and Greek slaves, stripped of human rights, shared the same ethnic ancestry and genetic background as their owners (or those of their owners’ peers), and any visibly discernible difference between the two was largely the result of social, cultural, and economic forces (e.g. who was better fed, prohibitions on wearing particular kinds of clothes, branding, etc.). And yet, these societies were perfectly capable of rationalizing away the humanity of their enslaved subjects.

(As a complete and total aside, I’m also inclined to mention that most science fiction, cyberpunk included, isn’t really intended as predictive as much as it is descriptive of the contemporary society of its authors/audience. That is, questions about how SanSan citizens treat clones in this fictional universe might be better read as commentary on how the present world treats the disfranchised portions of its population, much as War of the Worlds is pretty terrible guess about Martian first contact, but a pretty accurate metaphor for British contact with India. From accomplished SF author Ursula LeGuin:
“Fortunately, though extrapolation is an element in science fiction, it isn’t the name of the game by any
means…This book [Left Hand of Darkness] is not extrapolative. If you like you can read it, and a lot of other science fiction, as a thought experiment… Let’s say (says Mary Shelley) that a young doctor creates a human being in his laboratory; let’s say (says Philip K. Dick) that the Allies lost the second world war; let’s say this or that is such and so, and see what happens…. The purpose of a thought-experiment, as the term was used by Schrodinger and other physicists, is not to predict the future… but to describe reality, the present world. Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.”)

*Just to be super, duper clear: I’m not endorsing these Early Modern views or attempting to suggest that they are “better than” the racial ideologies that developed in the 17th-19th centuries: I’m only pointing out that they operated in a radically different fashion.


Another detail from the Worlds of Android book that I think might help explain how otherwise ostensibly egalitarian societies came to be cool with clone slavery is the fact that HB started producing androids before Jinteki did. The existence of bioroids (and perhaps weak AI before that) might have allowed the concept of “human-like things that aren’t actually people” to saturate the public consciousness in a way that it otherwise wouldn’t have. And once you’re okay with bioroid slavery, it’s easy enough to start including other braintaped (or even simply manufactured) workers in the category of “whom it’s okay to subjugate.” One wonders whether things might have gone differently if clones had been the first androids to walk off the assembly lines.

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It’s easier to imagine people being prejudiced towards clones when you think of all the socio-political aspects of cloning in the Android world. People are looking for a way to leap forward into the future this very day, and a little thing like ethics isn’t going to stop progress, it’s just going to stagger it for generations until people are more susceptible to whatever stimulus brings about the age of clones/androids. People NOW are up in arms about stem cell research, but given enough time, and the right circumstances, it might be the thing that allows corporations in the future to help people on such a scale that governments can’t help but legalize it. Then it becomes the norm, and then people start taking it for granted, and then we are back to where we started, with people being overly racist, and hackers opposing corporations for control of the net. Except it’ll be real. REAL I SAY!

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I find it really weird how people are excited to have slave labour back, be it clones or bioroids.

See, I always started and stopped this question at the etymology. The word “android” comes from “andros”, meaning human, and “eidos”, roughly meaning “in the form of”. So anything sufficiently anthropomorphic which is not human is an android, strictly speaking. So clones are either humans or androids.

The word “droid” is much newer - only about sixty or so years old - and stems from that. I just think we naturally associate droids with robots (different things, and different etymologies - robot is from Czech), and equate droids with androids, and that’s where the confusion comes from.

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Slave labor is what is going to make America Great Again Bobby, don’t talk back now.

But on some real levels, cheap labor is what tends to bring society forward. Economically speaking of course

A labor force of entities that lack consciousness lift humanity from that which is necessary to that which is possible. It would be viewed as freeing the human race from its own yoke. Whether you would agree with that, or even if it’s true, it is what it is.