Thursday, December 28, 2006

DNA and MP3

Scott Adams speculated about the "intellectual property of human DNA," and posed this question:

If you were a supermodel who had snorted away all of your money and you were now too old to model, and some billionaire offered you a hundred million dollars for your DNA, would you sell it? Assume you know in advance that the billionaire is a disgusting pig who will be raising your clone to be a brainwashed sex slave.

Assume also that your clone won’t be forced to do anything against her will. She will simply be raised to believe the billionaire is a godlike creature and the rest will happen naturally. No laws will be broken. And she will live like a princess except for the part about being a clone whore to an old, rich fat guy. In other words, the quality of her life will be in the top 10% of the planet if you consider the wretchedness the average human’s life around the world.

Would you sell your DNA for $100,000,000?

This is an entertaining question, but Scott has gotten the economics of the situation backwards. Nobody would pay $100,000,000 for your DNA, when all they have to do is fish one of your used coffee cups out of the trash and extract a DNA sample from there. Instead, it would cost you a large amount of money and inconvenience in order to prevent people from stealing your DNA and doing whatever they wanted with it.

You might be able to sue someone who used your DNA without permission, but that requires you to know about it in the first place, and prove it. I suspect that in the future the "unauthorized" use of DNA will be extremely common, like pirated MP3s today. Both are sequences of information that people can claim ownership of.


Peter said...

There are always these wild swings in a new technology's projected economics. Yours, I think, is closer to the truth.

Starbuck said...

That's certainly made my brain ache, Tom.

Much like Adams' 80s text adventures.

(This is the same Scott Adams I guess?)

Tom said...

I looked it up, and Scott Adams the cartoonist is not the same guy who wrote those early text adventures. They do both have a sense of humor, though.

Giles Bowkett said...

This is a really neat idea, except who would go to the trouble? Even the clone whore idea assumes a great deal of money and a great deal of patience. It's highly unlikely that cloning hot rich chicks and then waiting two decades would ever become more economical for the depraved billionaire than hiring a hot poor chick today, especially for values of poor that a depraved billionaire could consider. Anybody with that much time and that much planning would probably find a better alternative.