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 check.
 

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 theory.
 

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.


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