September 20, 2012
The future of sex
Imagine a woman being able to convert her own eggs into “pseudo-sperm” to fertilize herself – or perhaps instead an artificial womb that will carry the pregnancy to term while she continues her uninterrupted climb up the career ladder. Picture an older woman harvesting eggs from her own bone marrow to beat her ticking biological clock. Lifelong fertility, artificial wombs, “pseudo-sperm” – it sounds like the stuff of dystopian sci-fi, but a new book suggests it’s an inevitable reality. In “Like a Virgin: How Science Is Redefining the Rules of Sex,” author Aarathi Prasad writes, “This would be the great biological and social equalizer, a truly new way of thinking about sex. The question is not if it will happen, but when.” It isn’t just women who stand to benefit, either: Artificial wombs will actually give men “more potential than women to make a baby without the opposite sex,” says Prasad, a biologist and science writer. The takeaway is that “male plus female equals baby will no longer be our only path forward.”
The potential social implications of such advances are fascinating, but Prasad leaves those imaginings to the likes of Aldous Huxley. She’s more concerned with reviewing how our reproductive knowledge developed and what technologies are being developed — but in a relatively digestible way (more Jared Diamond than Jonah Lehrer). That said, Prasad cautions against future-panic, arguing that these developments could actually improve on current ethical quandaries around reproduction. For example, which is less morally fraught: stem cell eggs and artificial wombs, or paying a poor woman in a third-world country as an egg donor or surrogate mother?
Posted by Azra Raza at 06:59 AM | Permalink