But let's not get ahead of ourselves. After all, there are still some obstacles standing between us and that long-imagined paradise where fleets of mammoths roam the plains and pull our mighty warships. Some of these obstacles are scientific in naturelike how to properly harness a swimming mammothand others are ethical, which is to say, religious people will probably get all pissy about it.
But to my mind, another, graver challenge has been presented to us: which animals to clone back into existence, and which to leave in their well-deserved graves. After all, at ten mil a pop, we cant afford to revive ALL the species we humans may have nudged into extinction.
Well need to make our selections carefully, cloning only animals that will fit into a current ecological niche, can sustain themselves without human aid, and can be easily trained for circus performance. We have the power to retroactively decide which species live and which die. Think of it like a time-traveling Noahs Ark, which, incidentally, is the premise of a screenplay Ive been tinkering with (Im talking to you, Soderbergh).
But by what rules can we decide which animals to un-kill? Clearly, survival of the fittest is out. When pandas, an animal that reproduces only once a year and subsists entirely on a plant that is low in nutrition and poisonous, can outlast the saber-tooth tiger, something has gone horribly awry. That something was us, letting the noble sabre-tooth slide into extinction while spending millions of dollars to protect the panda for the sole reason that we find them adorable and like to show them porno of themselves.
And now that weve put the evolutionary system so far out of whack, theres no real way to even determine which species are fitter, short of pitting them all against each other in some kind of animal battle arena (Im telling you Soderbergh, this script is gold).
It is for these reasons that Ive developed a list of criteria I think should be used to determine which species we clone back into life. The criteria are based on the observation that the animals with the best survival rating are those who are somehow pleasant or useful to humans. Take a hint, California Condor.
Using these guidelines, Ive selected the five animals we should start cloning right away. Take note, science.
Dodos: Dodos have the benefit of being the first extinct animal people think of after dinosaurs. That level of public consciousness is impressive. Sadly, their image is pretty irretrievably one of intense, unrelenting stupidity. If Dodos were alive again, I think wed almost want them to go extinct if only to prove to ourselves that it was, in fact, their own idiocy that did them in the first time around. On the other hand, until the day the last one chokes to death on its own tongue, wed have a viable alternative to Thanksgiving turkey.
Quagga: Not many people know the name Quagga. The last time I thought I heard someone say it it turned out she was choking on a bagel. But damn near everyone is familiar with what the Quagga look like, which is basically a half-zebra half-horse, or Zorse. I say bring em on, if only because it would basically eliminate the need for zebras and horses. Replace them with the more efficient Zorse, give it a better name (I suggest Hebra), and youre basically killing two birds with one stone. Except instead of birds, its horses and zebras, and instead of stones, it's poison gas.
Irish Elk: Theres nothing that looks nicer over a fireplace than a rack of deer antlers. Well, imagine if that rack of antlers were twelve feet long. Youd have chicks naked on your bearskin rug, like, all the nights of the week. Youd be a party guy, for real. Of course there is the question of the threat these giant deer could pose to humans. Bambis mother may have gone down without a fight, but these guys are used to being kings of the forest, and might not take kindly to awakening to a world under new management. I say clone them, but only for the specific purpose of big game hunting. I dont want to risk releasing them into the wild. And if environmentalists get all bent out of shape about it, just donate all the Irish Elk meat to an orphanage or something.
Megatherium: The Megatherium is a twenty-foot tall, five-ton sloth. Im wary about cloning any giant creature, but the name sloth tends to put one at ease. Being associated with a deadly sin isnt going to help its image, but its ability to sit upright and playfully stick out its long tongue just might. Its also vegetarian, which limits our liability to being accidentally crushed or mistaken for shrubbery. But for the small price of a few (probably stupid) humans, we get back one of earths largest land mammals and enough meat to feed the poor of the world and still have some left over for sloth jerky.
Neanderthals: Dare we revive our own ancestors? The cloning of a Neanderthal could provide a window into the physiognomy, behavior, and thought processes of early man. On the other hand, they might want rights or some bullshit. I say clone them, but give them ivory tusks to help make it worth our while.
When not writing for Cracked, Michael is developing clone laser technology as head writer and co-founder of Those Aren't Muskets!