Nature is imperfect. And this imperfection is the greatest testimony that it originated from an imperfect originator – or a perfect originator who doesn’t give a damn about perfection. A religious person may want to disagree, but every time I think of what a human female has to go through in order to have a meaningful life on this earth I see an imperfect designer. A perfect designer would not have allowed a beloved female human to undergo painful monthly menstrual cycles. As one woman ones put it, “women are punished every time they refuse to get pregnant”. Saying yes to pregnancy is not any better either. The nine months pregnancy punishment is beyond me to describe. And that’s why after the birth of my first son I have refused to make my wife pregnant again. But thank god, as always, science is here to make things better; it is almost time for science to eradicate pregnancy through Artificial Wombs.
In addition to making humans cyborgs so as to enable humanity merge with AI when AI acquires sentience, an important goal for transhumanists is to make humans manufacture babies in baby factories. A few years ago, just the mere thought that a new human life could be reproduced outside of a human body amounted to treason against God. Remember the human cloning debate towards the turn of 21st century? But years have past (about 17), and today science is already experimenting with human embryonic stem cells thanks to advancement in gene modification technique popularly known as CRISPR (pronounced crisper).
CRISPR or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat alongside Artificial Wombs will enable scientists to totally and completely control the process of baby making, right from conception, to pregnancy, to child rearing. Not only will CRISPR allow for artificial baby conception, but the gene editing technology will also allow parents to decide on what type of a baby they would like to bear. Do they want a super intelligent being? A super athletic? The most beautiful model? Or maybe all these attributes won’t matter as all babies of the future will have equal attributes, and the differentiator would be environmental factors that influence upbringing.
Advancements in CRISPR technology are already bearing fruit. Actually, the first successful CRISPR test on human embryo was performed by Chinese scientists early this year. The Chinese scientists were able to correct genetic mutations in at least some of the cells in three normal human embryos. As application of CRISPR gene editing techniques mature in humans, the first working Artificial Womb has been announced.
Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) published a paper in Nature titled An extra-uterine system to physiologically support the extreme premature lamb. In the paper, the researchers reported “the development of a system that incorporates a pumpless oxygenator circuit connected to the fetus of a lamb via an umbilical cord interface that is maintained within a closed ‘amniotic fluid’ circuit that closely reproduces the environment of the womb”. In layman terms, the researchers were able to create an artificial environment that closely resembles the womb of a sheep in which they were able to grow premature lambs to maturity for four weeks.
The artificial wombs created by CHOP researchers were dubbed Biobags, and are made of a plastic bag in which are filled with electrolyte solution that closely mimic the amniotic fluid. A device that replenishes the lambs with oxygen and nutrients is connected to the lamb’s umbilical cord. Although the Biobags have been tested on the sheep for now, the technique could be applied on premature human babies and not in so a distant future.
As much as the goal of transhumanists is to get rid of pregnancy altogether, the lead author of the artificial wombs paper Alan Flake, fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, warns, “It’s complete science fiction to think that you can take an embryo and get it through the early developmental process and put it on our machine without the mother being the critical element there”.
Of course as at right now the machines can only support premature lambs, let alone human babies. But Alan Flake throwing the entire artificial pregnancy into the realm of science fiction is rather pessimistic. Medical researchers are known to be pessimistic anyway. This is clearly seen in the field of artificial intelligence where the Silicon Valley tech gurus predict that mind uploading tech should be true in the next 15 to 45 years, whereas neuroscientists are of the opinion that humans will never decode the human brain into the 0s and 1s to allow for mind uploading.
The reason you should be optimistic on artificial wombs that take care of human babies right from conception to birth is the story of the Star Trek Tricorder. In Star Trek franchise, a Tricorder is a general-purpose device used primarily to scout unfamiliar areas, make detailed examination of living things, and record and review technical data. According to Wikipedia, a tricorder can be used by a medical practitioner “to help diagnose diseases and collect bodily information about a patient”. The pessimists envisioned that such a device, even on its rudimentary form, would materialise some 200 years from the year 2000. Shock on them, a functional tricorder is already available, not in the year 2200, but today – right now – in the year 2017. Actually, the creator of tricorder claims that his device is better than the Star Trek version. I’ll let you be the judge.
Google’s Deepmind also beat Go Champion way too early. And these two are not the only futuristic tech that materialized before their due date. The fourth industrial revolution that is already turning things upside down in Germany is filled with miraculous tech some of you would not like to believe. A few weeks ago a robot successfully performed heart surgery on a human prototype. The list is endless. The trend therefore indicates that human viable artificial wombs that take care of the entire pregnancy process will be here sooner than later.
Once the artificial wombs arrive, CRISPR will enable humans to tailor humans that do not need to get pregnant. Female humans without ovaries, without wombs. Female humans who do not have to undergo monthly menstrual pains, or put on hold their career paths and ambitions because they need to take a few months off to give birth and rear a new born. Artificial wombs will be the greatest step towards man-woman equality.