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By Abigail O’Rourke
Imagine a future where humanity has nearly or completely died out. Could human civilization be reborn? What would it take?
Or consider some other scenarios. A busy couple want a baby of their own but for one reason or another cannot have a natural pregnancy. A single, professional woman wants a child of her own but does not want to deal with the issues associated with pregnancy and birth. A single man wants to be a father without the involvement of a “mother”.
What can solve ALL of these situations?
In simple terms, exogenesis describes creating a viable, full-term pregnancy in a completely artificial womb. What are the potential ramifications of this type of science? For starters, anyone who cannot or does not want to be pregnant can still have a child. That is great news! And that is just the simple side of it. This opens up a lot of opportunities for celibates, same sex couples, busy women, or individuals with health issues.
From an environmental angle, imagine taking stored reproductive ingredients from animals that have gone extinct or are critically endangered and bringing them back from the brink! On the downside, the lack of one-on-one parenting in a natural environment could make it exceptionally hard to introduce these animals back into the wild.
Saving the Future
Let’s now go back to our opening example. What would it take to repopulate Earth with few or no adults left to do so? Answer: a fully equipped exogenesis lab, ample sophisticated AI, educational programs and stored eggs and sperm.
Now imagine a dying humanity entrusting key scientists with setting into motion an enormous solar-powered laboratory run entirely but self-sufficient, human-like AI with enough stored reproductive resources to create one million or more successful, artificially-hosted pregnancies. Follow that up with all the software needed to teach these tiny humans how to be good, environmentally- and socially- conscious adults. If everything were timed correctly, humanity need not die out.
But could there be negative effects? Absolutely! Not being carried and given birth to in a natural way can cause severe lack of bonding and stunt emotional development. Being raised by robots, no matter how sophisticated, would aggravate the lack of physical and emotional connection. This would make it increasingly difficult for these children to create natural romantic relationships and repopulate through normal pregnancy.
Additionally, what if there was a breakdown in the educational software or a key lack or psychological flaw in the curriculum. What kind of primal or brainwashed adults would we be creating? Would we have inadvertently created the perfect environment for advanced AI to breed humans at their discretion for their own purposes?
How Close Are We?
This may cause you to wonder how close we are to developing this kind of technology. Very close. Many doctors specializing in the field think we are within 15 years of complete exogenesis. Currently we are able to sustain 25 week premature babies in artificial wombs. However, these tiny babies are capable of taking in nutrients and oxygen through their lungs, stomachs, kidneys and other organs. We do not as of yet have the technology to support smaller babies who still rely solely on blood flow form their mothers for nutrition and oxygen. Doctors, though, are determined to develop this next step for the many positive sides of the equation. Including but not limited to, abortion alternatives, salvageing misscarriages and so much more.
Is science headed in the right direction? Or are we taking it too far? What do you think?