In this weekly newsletter, I discuss the infiltration, promotion, and/or criticism of Transhumanist philosophy in popular culture.

A pontificating pimp “Slick Charles” (Jaime Fox), “Yo-yo”, a stripper turned heart-of-gold super spy (Teyonah Parris), and “Fontaine” a ghetto gangster with the arc of a cowboy anti-hero (John Boyega), play the starring roles in the stylish 70’s inspired urban conspiracy: “They Cloned Tyrone”. Part mystery, part comedy, all retro Blaxploitation, director Juel Taylor takes a half- serious, half-tongue-in-cheek look at the endemic medical fears of Black America. These fears are well-founded when we look at the infamous real-life tragic treatment of Henrietta Lacks or the “Tuskegee Study” (only two examples of numerous unethical medical and military experiments conducted on the American population).

In this age of exploding biotechnology, one has to ask if more unethical experiments will be conducted on the human population? Without getting into the specifics of futuristic mind control technologies (could Nueralink be used for such a purpose?) or human cloning (we currently have the technology to clone animals, such as “Dolly the Sheep” could there be countries or corporations cloning humans as we speak?), whether currently possible or not, these anxieties play themselves out in the film in a tightly choreographed and darkly humorous way.

The premise of the film (spoilers ahead) is that a government operation is intent on controlling “The Glen” (a fictional ghetto neighborhood) by perpetuating crime, poverty, and violence.

By cloning some of the key inhabitants like Fontaine, they are able to use these key figures to exert influence over the others (the ecosystem a drug dealer creates as an apex predator is seen here as essential to the ghetto as wolves were to the rehabilitation of Yellowstone Park). Mind control is additionally exerted through the poisoning of food distributed in fast-food restaurants. Meanwhile, underground in a hidden tunnel system, the cloning experiments and scientific observations of everything happening in “The Glen” are noted, observed, and controlled by a surprising key figure: the original version of Fontaine himself! Scientist-Fontaine argues that: ““Assimilation is better than annihilation”, and his devoted himself to wiping out the Black race using cloning in the service of eugenics (eventually, Scientist-Fontaine expects to introduce white genes into the clones until “The Glen” resembles an average white American neighborhood).

In “They Clone Tyrone”, the echoes of Aldous Huxley’s “A Brave New World”, where cloning and eugenics go hand in hand in the creation of a fictional transhumanist utopia, where 4 classes of humans are created and thousands upon thousands of clones populate futuristic smart cities, cannot be denied. I would go so far as to ask: is “They Cloned Tyrone” a modern adaptation of a “A Brave New World”? Is it a warning and call to action to stop this evil transhumanist plan to eradicate natural reproduction and the uniqueness of every human being? That’s one plot-point of the film, I won’t spoil for you.

Ultimately, “They Cloned Tyrone” is a well-produced, entertaining, and darkly humorous take on emerging biotechnologies. It’s currently airing on Netflix.

– Shaista Justin