- Education and Science
Pregnancy Will Appear Barbaric in 100 Years
"We're always going to have to do this"
For millennia, mankind ran after his food, chasing beasts of the wild around with sharpened sticks, finally catching a meal for his family or tribe- or not, then starving to death. This was a way of life, and it governed every waking hour of our existence from sunup to sundown. Hunting for food decided where we would live, and what we would do with our time. Then, one day, everything changed (well, one century, perhaps). People began to plant grains that would grow, and we were suddenly able to survive without running after wild animals so much. We didn't die if we didn't catch the beast of the wild. We could hunker down and stay in one place if we wanted to.
Things can change. Even things that seem immutable, like facts of life. Humanity's way of life was irrevocably improved by the agricultural revolution around 10,000 years ago, and it changed every bit as profoundly with the advent of the industrial revolution between 300 and 500 years ago. It is changing again today with the information age thrust upon us, and one of the areas to benefit the most is the medical industry. This will affect everything from the way we give birth to the way we die (or, rather, don't die).
The organic womb
What happens to the mother during birth
In natural childbirth, the mother often has some pretty messed up things done to her. Here are just a few of the more common ones:
- Cesarean section (C-section), wherein the woman is sliced open from belly button to just above the vagina
- Foreceps inside to open the vagina and extract the baby's head
- Bladder emptied with a catheter
- Infection can often result from bleeding
- Hemorrhage can result in death (and often does, especially in the third world)
Pregnancy: a scary proposition
Childbirth is currently the key to the human race's continued existence- at least until consciousness uploading becomes a reality. For millennia, giving birth frequently resulted in the death of the mother as frequently as one in ten births. Fortunately, medical science has continued to reduce this statistic so that only a handful of women per 100,000 die giving birth today, but that doesn't mean it's a pleasant or easy process by any stretch of the imagination. Childbirth still results in prolonged labor, premature birth and the ensuing psychological trauma, abnormal presentation, tremendous pain and trauma, and, ultimately, frequent operations to help get the baby out.
Additionally, pregnancy itself, long before the birth of the child, results in everything from morning sickness to violent mood swings (if you don't think the mood swings can be violent, you haven't been around enough pregnant women). The expectant mother's systems are stretched to their maximum capacity, as more and more energy is devoted to developing the embryo and fetus into a new living being. This can lead to unexpected extra bleeding, early contractions in the third trimester, persistent headaches and severe nausea, and much more unexpected illness and malaise.
Artificial wombs are already under development, with a great deal of promise from the "law of accelerating returns", as futurist Ray Kurzweil calls it. As information technology improves at an ever-accelerating rate, so every field that relies upon this phenomenon improves its rate of innovation. As we begin to understand how a developing embryo grows better and better at the cellular level, we are also getting to the point where medical imaging technology is constantly improving so that we can see exactly what's going on in there. Similarly, we can give the developing embryo exactly what it needs to grow, and eventually, to become a fetus.
Neonatal intensive care units already offer a very common answer to premature births, and scientists have been growing cells in labs for decades, including "test tube babies" (first one was back in 1977, just two years after I was born). It's now just a matter of closing the gap in between fertilization and early cell growth, and the intensive care units, and it's only a matter of time- and, judging by the acceleration of technology, not much time.
Would you consider bringing your child to term outside of a human womb?
Given that pregnancy represents 9 months of terrible, life altering, experience, and childbirth itself offers a chance for death for both the mother and the child, along with a plethora of other terrible maladies, why not carry a child to term under the absolute best environment possible, with 24 hour monitoring and instant access to medical attention?
Paradigms that have been with us forever are going to change who we are as a species over the coming decades. We're already seeing the prolonging of human life (more than double over the last 150 years), and that trend is certainly accelerating now. We've changed the way we live and the way we die. Now it's time to change the way we come into existence.