Back in 1999, Keanu Reeves starred in one of his most memorable movies outside of the Bill & Ted franchise, The Matrix. In it, there is a pivotal scene in which Keanu’s character, Thomas A. Anderson (who is later known as Neo), “wakes up” from “The Matrix.” After composing himself, Thomas realizes he just emerged from a pod filled with some sort of suspension fluid. What is even more debilitating is that as far as he can see, millions of other people trapped in the Matrix are imprisoned in their own pods. Later on in the movie, viewers learn the pods are actually artificial wombs.
Such a vision, which probably had its beginnings in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World with Central Hatcheries, would remain delegated to fiction for most people. The fact of the matter is artificial wombs are now a reality. Babies are now being developed outside of mothers.
According to articles by Disclose and Genetic Literacy Project, the combination of different technologies with speeding trajectories in human reproductive medicine are responsible for such technology. These include neonatology (study of gestation), fetal surgery, assisted reproduction, and genetics. It should be noted all four are fairly new, thus artificial wombs and motherless births are an interesting byproduct from the partnership of all four. It should also be noted that such a new endeavor has raised potent ethical questions that have instilled fear into the inventors of this technology as they worry about its direction.
Despite the strides in artificial wombs and motherless births, it still cannot fully mimic the traditional, natural way of how a baby is formed. Most of the “ex vivo” (out of body) advancements center around the development of uterus environments along with artificial amniotic fluid. It is the care of fetus in the “ex vivo” state that has limitations. Right now, scientists can only conduct the initial stages (test tube babies) or the final stages (neonatal care) of an embryo’s development. Until scientists find a way to combine the two without any issues, the concept envisioned by Aldous Huxley will only exist in the pages of his most famous novel.
The most prominent hindrance of said technology has nothing to do with its development directly, but of societal implications. It is believed the aforementioned technology will make it far easier for male gay couples to have babies. Presently, they are able to “have babies” through the assistance of surrogate mothers, as reported by the New York Times back in 2005. However, Genetic Literacy Project reports motherless births through artificial wombs will replace surrogate mothers. All the gay couple needs is an egg donor. This method will also be available to transgender people wanting to have children.
Now that you know that motherless births through artificial wombs are on the brink of happening, what are your views? Do you see this as a progressive step for humanity or one more puzzle piece set for the fake utopia novelists like Aldous Huxley envisioned?
[Featured Image via Screen Capture of The Matrix, Post Image via Bing]