28 August 2014

South Africa: A Womb With a View - Ectogenesis Is Coming


It's almost here, the technology that will enable babies, once and for all, to be grown in artificial wombs. It's already promising to be a legal and ethical minefield, with scientists, religious leaders and philosophers alike jumping on the bandwagon to throw in their two cents on the implications. But, asks MARELISE VAN DER MERWE, what about the most important stakeholders of all - our kids themselves?

Ectogenesis: from the Greek 'ecto' (meaning 'outer') and the more obvious 'genesis' (beginning/origin). It's a sci-fi fantasy first coined by British scientist J.B.S. Haldane in 1924 to describe an idea so outlandish that there was, then, no word for it: the artificial womb.

Not too outlandish for too long, though. It's an idea that surfaced in popular culture soon enough. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and The Matrix spring to mind, for example. And as journalist Soraya Chemaly has noted, the technology for ectogenesis has been in development for over a decade - since 2001, in fact, according to the Daily Mail; strict legislation, however, has meant there are limits on how far it can go.

Two of the best-known projects in progress are cited by futurist Zoltan Istvan on Motherboard. The first...

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