One step closer to dystopia
In a previous essay I explored emerging technologies for birthing babies in artificial wombs and genetically selecting embryos for superior intelligence and other characteristics.
A design concept called “EctoLife” is proposing just that and much more. I have put the link for the 8-minute video at the bottom of this post. Although still a concept, the video reveals how our tech prophets see the future of childbirth—and how they want us to see it too.
According to the press release, each EctoLife facility will be able to incubate up to 30,000 babies per year, each one grown in an artificial womb or “pod” like big glassy Kinder Surprises.
And not only that:
The pods are equipped with a screen that displays real-time data on the developmental progress of your baby. These data are sent directly to your phone so you can track your baby’s health from the comfort of your home…
The growth pods feature internal speakers that play a wide range of words and music to your baby. Through the app, you can choose the playlist that your baby listens to.
It gets worse. The factory-birthing system will include a virtual reality feature:
Using a wireless haptic suit connected to your baby’s growth pod, you will be able to sense their kicks in the womb and share this experience [with] your friends and family members. Thanks to a 360 camera that’s fitted inside your baby’s growth pod, you can use your virtual reality headset to explore what it is like to be in your baby’s place.
And, as in any manufacturing process, customer satisfaction is guaranteed, by allowing parents to create a top-quality embryo through its “Elite” package:
Thanks to CRISPR-Cas 9 gene editing tool, you can edit any trait of your baby through a wide range of over 300 genes…to customize your baby’s eye color, hair color, skin tone, physical strength, height, and level of intelligence.
And finally, everything is convenient, as any consumer experience should be:
EctoLife provides you a safe, pain-free alternative that helps you deliver your baby without stress…with just a push of a button. After discharging the amniotic fluid from the artificial womb, you will be able to easily remove your baby from the growth pod.
A narrative of convenience—and crisis
The tone of the EctoLife press release is meant to reassure us this is a good thing—even a cool thing. The narrative is essential. The scientific advances of the fiat—the fourth industrial age technologies—are so radical, and pose such a serious threat to what it means to be human, that a powerful narrative is needed to convince society that the technologies are necessary.
A central part of this narrative is apocalypse, or a story that triggers a sense of crisis and fear in society, often on a global scale, and the urgent need for a solution. In this case, the crisis includes population decline, which is mentioned in the video and described in a recent article about EctoLife:
Currently, the World Health Organization estimates that 15% of reproductive-aged couples worldwide are affected by infertility. Indeed, over the last 70 years, fertility rates worldwide have decreased by a staggering 50%. Reasons for this decline include (among other things) women’s increased education, increases in employment, the high cost of raising children, and a drop in global sperm count.
Other fear-based elements of the narrative (also mentioned in the video) include reminders that normal childbirth comes with the risk of genetic disease, pregnancy complications, birth pains, and parental stress.
All these fears are, of course, genuine realities. The goal of an apocalyptic narrative, however, is to vigorously amplify such concerns, while providing a comforting solution through tech.
In the coming years, as the birthing technologies come closer to reality, these fears will be exaggerated in media and social media, to the point that it will seem only natural that society welcomes the technologies with relief rather than horror.
The EctoLife video is a slick production, pulsating with techno-music and passionate optimism, when the more likely reality will be a hellish future that turns babies into corporate products and parents into project managers and consumer narcissists.
The potential implications include:
- The abortion of unwanted embryos and fetuses that do not meet genetic expectations.
- Babies may be partly or wholly owned by the state or corporation that funds the artificial birthing technology.
- Eugenics will be normalized, resulting in a two-tiered society—the genetically optimized versus the genetically inferior.
- Many children may not develop normally due to the artificial nature of the technology, resulting in physical, emotional, or cognitive abnormalities. Given the financial stakes for the corporations and interests behind the technology, the prevalence rates for these abnormalities will likely be minimized to prevent a loss of confidence in the narrative, and a loss of profit.
As some of you know, the subject of birthing and artificial wombs is at the core of my dystopian novel Exogenesis, to be published by Ignatius Press and slated for release in the fall of 2023. For an excerpt of the novel, see my earlier post.
We are still years away from a real EctoLife, but birth-tech research is progressing. A few months ago scientists created synthetic mouse embryos from stem cells—without the need for sperm, egg or womb—which may in turn lay the foundation for creating synthetic human embryos.
The near-term goal would be to grow tissues for human transplantation, such as bone marrow stem cells to treat leukemia, but what about the wider implications? Here, as in the EctoLife project, there are major ethical questions, and yet ethics will completely miss the point unless we grasp the bigger picture.
The belief of the fiat age is that life is a biological machine, and nothing else. The belief that we should seek to engineer human beings from conception invites us to embrace the ultimate of inversions, a faith that we can replace the Creator who made us.
We have the power to reject a machine-based faith. That does not mean giving up all technology, but it might mean giving up some of it. Most of all it means centering our faith in its spiritual Source, and placing everything, including tech, within that context.
Below is a link to the EctoLife video. But I will leave the last words to a monk who could foresee the nihilism of such a vision, and where it may lead us:
Nihilist “organization”—the total transformation of the earth and society by machines, modern architecture and design, and the inhuman philosophy of “human engineering” that accompanies them—is a consequence of the unqualified acceptance of…industrialism and technology…as bearers of a worldliness that, if unchecked, must end in tyranny.
- Fr Seraphim Rose, Nihilism: The Root of Revolution of the Modern Age