[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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2020 Vision

Resurrecting Mammoths

(Rehearsal Transcript)

First aired 27 February 1998

What is 2020 Vision?

Jay Ingram introduces Robert J. Sawyer as an entrepreneur in the year 2020 — he's not a scientist, but rather is a cunning businessperson.

Jay: Hello, Mr. Sawyer. I understand you're a rich man in the year 2020.

Rob: That's right, Mr. Ingram — rich and, if I do say so myself, powerful. What my company Lazarus, Inc., is doing used to be solely the province of the gods. We bring things back from death.

Jay: Like a 21st-century Frankenstein? You're not reanimating dead matter, are you?

Rob: No — but that's a good thought; remind me to get some of my staff working on that. No, what we're doing is only slightly less fantastic. In fact, make a note: you're invited to the big banquet we're having tonight in honour of our success.

Jay (wryly): I'll put it on my calendar. (beat) What sort of banquet?

Rob: A very special one. We're serving, for the first time in close to ten thousand years, fresh mammoth meat!

Jay: You've cloned mammoths?

Rob: Not exactly. Rather, I financed an expedition to Siberia to locate a frozen male mammoth with testes and sperm still intact. We finally found one, and we used that sperm to impregnate a modern elephant. By inbreeding the offspring, we were able to concentrate the mammoth genes; we've now got what's essentially almost all mammoth.

Jay (disgusted): And now you're going to eat it?

Rob: Only one; we've produced a whole herd. But, yes, we're going to eat one — it's a five-thousand-dollar-a-plate dinner. A century ago, there was a banquet in Russia where they served frozen ancient meat from a recovered mammoth carcass. That strikes me as disgusting; what we're doing is just animal husbandry. (a beat) I created these animals, Mr. Ingram; they're my property to do with what I please.

Jay (dubiously): I suppose. What's next for Lazarus, Inc.?

Rob: Dodos are on the agenda, of course. And blue whales. But even more interestingly, we've got a team that thinks it can recover genetic material from Homo habilis.

Jay: Homo habilis! But they've been extinct for almost twenty times as long as mammoths.

Rob: Exactly. But when we bring them back to life — well, the name Homo habilis does mean "handy man," Mr. Ingram. They didn't have much brains, but they could use and make tools. And, well, there are all sorts of jobs that no modern human wants to do, but . . .

Jay: So what are you going to do? Manufacture and sell primitive humans?

Rob: "Human" is such a loaded term, Mr. Ingram. Besides, it's just a thought. But the bottom line — which is the thing that always interests me the most — is this: we have the power to bring extinct animals back to life. Of course, we can't do dinosaurs yet — but maybe, someday, even that will be possible. Anyway, I really must get going. I've got to change for dinner.

Jay: Don't save a place for me. (To camera) That was Robert J. Sawyer, a 21st century biotechnology entrepreneur. When we come back, Robert J. Sawyer, the 20th-century science-fiction writer, and our "2020 Vision" panel . . .

More Good Reading

Other "2020 Vision" scenarios
Rob's CBC Radio Science FACTion columns
"2020 Vision" press release
Rob on TV — with lots of stills!
Media backgrounder on Rob Sawyer
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