The film Ice Age
had a production budget of 59 million dollars. A number of well-known geneticists are now seriously talking about
being able to clone a mammoth, and any other creature that went extinct within the last 60,000 years, for as little as ten million dollars. That means the principle cast of Ice Age
could have been live action for less than the film’s budget, and given Ray Romano one more reason to disappear entirely. Needless to say, I'm all for it.
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 nature—like how to properly harness a swimming mammoth—and 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 can’t afford to revive ALL the species we humans may have “nudged” into extinction.
We’ll 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 Noah’s Ark, which, incidentally, is the premise of a screenplay I’ve been tinkering with (I’m 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 we’ve put the evolutionary system so far out of whack, there’s no real way to even