An Interview with Gold Cross
by Jim Davie
HTML conversion by Michael P. Owen, March 2000
In ADQ's ongoing campaign to bring current news and issues to the attention of today's informed duelist, ADQ correspondent Jim Davie travels to Van Nuys, California, the home of Gold Cross, for a personal interview with the corporation's president and co-founder, Jonathan P. Goldstein, M.D.
When asked to conduct an interview over vidphone for the latest news on the immortality frontier, Goldstein demurred, stating that vidphones made him "feel damned uncomfortable. Anything worth doing is done in person. I like to see who I'm dealing with." He admits his habit of doing everything personally -- from establishing new Gold Cross centers to interviewing new employees -- is a bit archaic in the age of telecommunications, but he attributes his success in Gold Cross to his "hands-on" approach.
Despite his shyness for public
appearances, people who know Goldstein agree that he has a
definite "Midas touch" when it comes to dealing with
people and coworkers. Our ADQ correspondent concurs.
ADQ: How did Gold Cross get its start from your days at Amalgamated Meditech, Ltd.?
Goldstein: Now, that is a long, long
story. I'll try to cover the high points. Do you remember when
Richard Sardusky was jailed for using TAMU techniques to
fast-grow his clone into an adult? I was AML's marketing director
in 2015, and it didn't take too much pondering to realize that
Sardusky's work at Berkeley meant a fortune for any company that
could use it legally for medical purposes -- such as transplants.
But any plans for adult cloning needed both Sardusky and legal
sanction, so I set about getting both. I used AML's
then-considerable resources to generate the Supreme Court test
case of '17 that established a mental standard for human
existence over a mere biological standard. The case
decision of "zero rights for blank clones" turned out to be a twist of the old legislation that permits euthanasia of brain-dead individuals. After that, it was easy to get Richard out of jail and convince him to work for Amalgamated in Bethesda -- especially when I showed him the profits available in the heart transplant market alone.
ADQ: When did you first get the idea of growing today's replacement clones?
Goldstein: That was a classic moment. I
think it was Richard and myself and a couple of lab techs down at
Walley's Bar in downtown Bethesda, polishing off a few pitchers
on a payday Friday. We were a bit out of it, you know, but I
remember mentioning to Richard a geriatrics patient who needed
almost all his organs replaced, and, hey, wouldn't it be cheaper
to transplant the patient into his clone than the clone into the
patient? I must have laughed for ten minutes before I looked up
and saw this preoccupied look on Richard's face -- a look that I
knew meant that we were going to spend the entire weekend in the
labs. He was thinking of sensory transfer, of course, and after
two months of feasibility experiments we left Amalgamated with a
few of the better techs to form Gold Cross. We needed access to
Silicon Valley know-how for the
memory transfer problem, so we decided on a California location and never looked back. It was pretty tough, quitting a six-figure job for something that could end up as smoke, but we had a dream of immortality -- in the financial, historical, and literal sense of the word.
ADQ: How successful was Gold Cross right off the bat?
Goldstein: We weren't the overnight
success that people make us out to be. Richard and I had sunk
every dollar we had towards building the facilities, and it still
wasn't enough. Richard was operating on the trickle of government
grant money left over from our days at AML, and I was out
convincing hard-hearted investment firms to loan money to what
seemed a bad credit risk at the time. Squeezing blood from a rock
is simple in comparison.
ADQ: They thought an immortality service to be a bad credit risk?
Goldstein: You have to realize that a
high-overhead company like Gold Cross was founded at the worst
possible time -- right at the beginning of the ten-year economic
depression that followed the Food Riots of 2016. I had to
interest some of those bank executives in free clones to obtain
the loans we needed. However, once Richard and the boys had the
facilities finished, with our first clones earning money in the
hibemaculum, I had more freedom to do what I do best --
marketing. That's when I headed for Hollywood and sought out old
entertainers who were more
than happy to pay cash for a bit of extra lifetime. Since this was the time before the MMSD [mechanical memory storage device], out-of-state customers were pretty rare; only a few government officials like President McClellis of Texas -- whom I still know quite well, by the way -- had the time and money to visit California every month to "remind" their clones.
When autodueling became popular five
years later in '23, I saw another entire market for Gold Cross
services. Associating "Gold Cross" with
"autodueling" in the public eye became my new dream. It
was still a depression economy, of course, and a lot of our staff
thought that attacking a new market on our limited budget was a
suicidal idea. Looking over the spreadsheets, I saw that they
were right -- if the company remained private.
ADQ: Is that when you decided to let Gold Cross go public?
Goldstein: Yes. And believe me when I
say that selling Gold Cross to stockholders to raise money was
one of the hardest decisions that Richard and I made as business
partners. It was like selling your offspring into slavery, but we
needed the money to open a full-sized satellite facility in
Austin, Texas -- right at the heart of the autoduelling world.
With the recession on the wane and competitors sprouting like
weeds, it was a matter of survival of the quickest, and I'd say
it was the autodueling market that gave us the financial boost
necessary to establish our continent-wide presence. Had
autodueling come about five years later than it did, chances are
that Gold Cross would have lost its fight for survival. We owe a
lot to the duellists.
ADQ: Would you say that you have a monopoly?
Goldstein: [laughs] Almost. Many large
organizations like NorAm Chemical have sufficient personnel to
make their own on-site clone facility feasible, but after
figuring maintenance, supplies and medical personnel expenses,
the savings over Gold Cross are usually minor. The military
forces keep their own facilities to safeguard their command
personnel during wartime. Many commercial clone banks exist, and
some even offer substantial discount rates, but it is my
experience that customers of these facilities often pay the price
in terms of poor memory-transfer, clone flaws, or inferior
security against sabotage and assault. They follow the minimum
guidelines set by law, but then who wants to pay for the minimum?
ADQ: Ian Houseman, leader of the Fundamental Morality activist group, has spoken against Gold Cross, saying that it "promotes the decline of autodueling through single-handedly supporting the murderous sport of autodueling." What is your response to this?
Goldstein: Forgive me for saying so, but
if the Fundamental Moralists were not just a pseudo-religious
puppet organization of EDSEL, I'd be inclined to pay them a
little more attention. As it is, their statements ignore basic
historical truths that any college student knows cold.
Autodueling was the product of an endangered society trying to
deal with the antisocial environment of mobs, gangs and bikers
that followed on the heels of the Food Riots. Can you ignore the
speed at which dueling spread across the continent after its
introduction in '23? If it hadn't been for autodueling, rural
shipping routes would have remained closed, and the national
economies might have remained depressed for another fifty years.
Autodueling is not a cause of today's lawlessness -- it's part of
the cure. As far as Gold Cross "single-handedly supporting
the murderous sport of autodueling," I'm flattered by the compliment but I think our impact on autodueling is greatly exaggerated.
ADQ: What percentage of duelists are Gold Cross customers?
Goldstein: Offhand, I'd say that about
12 percent of professional autoduellists have enough room in
their budgets to pay our fees, with the great majority of these
being corporate-sponsored competitors. After all, corporations
like to protect their investments. We have our own sponsored
duelists out there -- there's no better way to advertise. David
Kitchener is one of our more famous duellists, although
considering the way he wipes up the field, there's really not
much reason for him to take advantage of our sponsorship. Now,
that's the pro circuit. In the civilian world, the percentage of
Gold Cross clients drops down to about half a percent -- one out
of two hundred people who drive their own car. Considering that
most people don't have the $36,000 a year it takes to maintain a
clone, that's not surprising. The majority of these clients are
either very wealthy individuals or government and business
officials in positions that are important enough to be slightly
hazardous. You know the kind of hazard I mean.
ADQ: Assassination, of course. While we're on the subject, how many times have you been assassinated?
Goldstein: Thankfully, none. Apparently,
the public knowledge that I have clones in storage is sufficient
deterrent to any competitors willing to make the attempt.
Regardless of clones, I'm still afraid of dying, as anyone should
be. Sure, a clone with my memories would be activated to legally
take my place, but that doesn't make the original me any less
dead. That's the slight bitterness of having a clone -- being
able to continue in name but not in spirit.
ADQ: There have been rumors circulating in popular science journals that cloning does not provide full immortality against aging as we have been led to believe. Can you shed some light on the matter?
Goldstein: Well, I'm no scientist, but I
know that the studies that support these allegations are just
that -- studies. No hard evidence yet. However, to give the
question credit, I will state that it is our experience that
cells from our older clients -- over 90, say -- have a slightly
lower cloning success rate than those of our normal clients. Of
course, in any case of failure, we simply take another sample of
lymphocytes from the client's blood and try again. That's a far
cry from complete failure. I can't think of a time that we've had
to repeat the cloning attempt twice in a row.
ADQ: Could this higher rate of cloning failure be due to cumulative genetic damage over the customer's lifetime?
Goldstein: That's always a possibility.
Considering ninety year's worth of random mutations from chemical
and radiation sources, it would be reasonable to assume that
client DNA slowly degrades with time. Since all the DNA in a
particular cell is necessary to clone a human, any serious
genetic error would cause a cloning failure. And most cells, such
as the lymphocytes we use for cloning, only read ten percent of
their genetic material. Mutations in the unused ninety percent --
codes for things a lymphocyte doesn't need -- remain hidden until
they are activated by the cloning process.
ADQ: What about the young clone of this ninety-year-old?
Goldstein: Good point. The
twenty-year-old clone of a ninety-year-old would look twenty, but
his DNA, being original material, would still be ninety years old
and would continue taking additional damage during a second
lifetime of seventy years. Whether a client with 160-year-old
genetic material can be cloned or not remains speculation.
Cloning has only been around twenty years. You might say that the
problem with immortality is that it takes forever to thoroughly
ADQ: Does Gold Cross have any new developments on the drawing board?
Goldstein: The cloning scene will stay
the same, although we do expect a small price drop as we upgrade
our current facilities. The hot area right now is in
computer-based artificial intelligence. Most of our R&D staff
is busy designing Masaki coprocessor-based MMSD systems that can
not only store human engrams but run them as well. Once we get
these systems on line, Gold Cross should be able to translate
clients directly into software, if everything runs according to
ADQ: Sounds like the computer gunner is already obsolete.
Goldstein: Not quite. It still takes an incredible amount of equipment to store a single human engram, and I don't see our current half-ton MMSD mainframes shrinking to ten-pound portables anytime soon. I would say more about our current developments, but there's some info I'm supposed to keep secret for the annual stockholder's meeting. What I can say is this: Gold Cross will continue to provide its customers with the cutting edge in life-extension technology.