Thomas MacaulaySenior reporter
Thomas is a senior reporter at TNW. He covers European tech, with a focus on deeptech, startups, and government policy. Thomas is a senior reporter at TNW. He covers European tech, with a focus on deeptech, startups, and government policy.
A Berlin-based scientist has unveiled a novel solution for Europe’s tumbling birth rates: “the world’s first artificial womb facility.”
Dubbed EctoLife, the concept is the brainchild of Hashem Al-Ghaili, a Yemen-born biotechnologist and science communicator. His invention comprises 75 separate labs, each of which accommodates up to 400 adorable “growth pods,” which replicate the conditions of a mother’s womb. Al-Ghaili claims a single building can incubate 30,000 babies a year.
It’s the future that your unborn child deserves. Just peruse all the amenities that the designer fetus will enjoy.
Upon insertion in the pod, the embryo is monitored by sensors, which track vital signs, physical features, and cries for help. All the developmental progress is sent directly to the parents’ phones. They can also use the mobile app to view high-resolution images of the tethered tyke, talk to it through the pod’s internal speakers, or don a haptic vest to feel its tortured kicks.
Another feature caters to a niche customer segment: people who’d rather be a fetus than have one. If you’re among them, just strap on a VR headset and watch 360-degree camera footage from the terrified tot’s perspective.
All this fun makes it easy to forget that your unborn-child needs to eat. But don’t worry: all the sprog’s sustenance and excretion needs are managed by two bioreactors. One pumps nutrients and oxygen into an artificial umbilical cord, while the second ingests the waste products.
To ensure the sprog is contributing to sustainability, the discharge is then recycled into a fresh batch of delicious nourishment. It’s a bit like turning chicken shit into chicken salad, or regurgitating your own vomit.
Once your bun is ready to pop out the oven, all you need to do is press a button. Then remove the bambino from the pod, and enjoy the fruits of EctoLife’s labor.
Naturally, the system also incorporates AI, renewable energy, and, err, eugenics.
Customers who purchase the “elite package,” can genetically engineer their embryo before implantation. Thanks to the CRISPR-Cas 9 system, they can customize their offspring’s height, intelligence, and even skin tone. What could possibly go wrong?
Unfortunately, there is one tiny issue with the facility: it doesn’t yet exist. But in Silicon Valley, plans are afoot to turn the fantasy a reality.
Big brains unite
Improving birth rates is one of Elon Musk’s countless pet projects. When he’s not trampling over workers’ rights, massacring animals, or getting booed at comedy shows, the world’s richest edgelord is fretting about population collapse.
Musk is terrified that there won’t be enough kids to labor on his future Martian colony. To avoid this tragic fate, the tycoon has sent a clarion call out to his millions of followers.
We should be much more worried about population collapse
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 18, 2022
Tech savants quickly responded to the warning from their liege.
“We should be investing in technology that makes having kids much faster/easier/cheaper/more accessible. Synthetic wombs, etc,” tweeted Sahil Lavingia, the CEO of Gumroad, an e-commerce startup.
“Disparities in economic success between men and women are far larger once marriage+children enter the picture,” added Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin. “Synthetic wombs would remove the high burden of pregnancy, significantly reducing the inequality.”
Disparities in economic success between men and women are far larger once marriage+children enter the picture. Synthetic wombs would remove the high burden of pregnancy, significantly reducing the inequality.https://t.co/Zpin8tTlR6
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) January 18, 2022
Al-Ghaili has now given the tech bros a vision of their dreams. The haters may denigrate the concept as dystopian, but it’s way more innovative than, say, affordable childcare or workplace flexibility.
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