- Partridge, Emily et al. – 2017 – An extra-uterine system to physiologically support the extreme premature lamb
Here we report 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. We show that fetal lambs that are developmentally equivalent to the extreme premature human infant can be physiologically supported in this extra-uterine device for up to 4 weeks. Lambs on support maintain stable haemodynamics, have normal blood gas and oxygenation parameters and maintain patency of the fetal circulation. With appropriate nutritional support, lambs on the system demonstrate normal somatic growth, lung maturation and brain growth and myelination.
This is really cool.
The immediate benefits, which the authors cite, are a reduction in infant mortality caused by extreme prematurity. This is good, though not that big of a deal, since it is very low in First World countries anyway, while poorer countries will probably not be able to afford the technology anyway.
The real promise is in its eugenic potential.
It is common knowledge that the well-educated reproduce less than the poorly educated, and that has resulted in decades of dysgenic decline throughout the developed world. This dysgenic effect has overtaken the Flynn effect. One of the reasons the well-educated, and especially well-educated women, have few or zero children is because it is bad for their career prospects. There are also some women who are just uncomfortable with the idea of pregnancy and childbirth.
There are essentially just a few solutions to this problem:
(1) Do nothing, deny heritability of IQ. Import Afro-Muslims to breed the next generation of doctors and engineers.
(2) Do nothing, hope for a literal deus ex machina solution, such as Musk’s neural lace or superintelligence.
(3) The Alt Right solution: Send the women back to the kitchen.
Ethical considerations aside, there’s also the matter of practicality – you’d have to be really hardcore at enforcing your “White Sharia” to make any substantive difference. Even most conservative Muslim societies, where female labor participation is very low, have seen plummeting fertility rates. And, needless to say, it does nothing about the dysgenic aspect of modern fertility patterns, which are a significantly bigger problem than falling fertility rates anyway.
(4) Develop artificial wombs.
This is a good idea from all sorts of ideological perspectives.
Everyone: Immediate higher fertility rates in the countries that develop them, especially amongst well-educated women. This might cancel out dysgenic decline at a single stroke.
Liberals: Alternate option for women who don’t want to undergo pregnancy/childbirth for whatever reason. No more market for surrogate mothers – an end to a particularly icky form of Third World exploitation.
Libertarians: People with the means to pay – that is, millionaires and especially billionaires – will no longer be bounded in their reproductive capacity by the biology of their female partner or by the culture of their society (generally, no polygamy). Since wealth is moderately correlated with IQ, this will be eugenic. That said, this might strike some as dystopian. Maybe one could start taxing additional artificial womb-grown offspring past the first five or ten? Then you’d get “offshore hatcheries.” Okay, I suppose that’s even more dystopian.
Zensunnis: I suppose cultures that really dislike women can just gradually start making do without them by replacing them with the equivalent of Axlotl tanks. Conversely, (almost) all female “Amazonian” societies will also become possible. Let’s make sci-fi tropes real.
Futurists: Combining artificial wombs with CRISPR gene-editing for IQ on a mass scale pretty much directly leads to a biosingularity.
As I pointed out, a biosingularity may be preferable to one born of machine superintelligence because it bypasses the AI alignment problem and doesn’t risk the end of conscious experience.