Thanks to the rise of technology and science, man is narrowing the line between fiction and reality day by day. Chinese scientists have proven this once again by developing a new “revolutionary” device. It is an artificial womb controlled by artificial intelligence.
1-What is it?
The AI-controlled artificial womb is a long-term embryo culture device. In more basic terms, it is a new form of in vitro culture of animal embryos under the supervision of an artificial intelligence (AI). The system consists of several tubes that channel nutrient fluids to the embryo in a sort of womb. As for the AI, it is the conductor of the whole system. It regulates the flow of nutrient fluids, CO2 and elements necessary for the development of the embryo. The AI also has the ability to separate the fetuses according to their nutritional requirements, their health status, according to the presence of abnormalities or not… This function will allow to sort out the good babies from the less good ones. So what is the purpose of this scientific breakthrough? Is it to categorize people from their embryo stage?
2-Why an artificial womb?
The objective aimed by the scientists who worked on this project is restricted to a problem of China. Indeed, this feat, achieved by the researchers of the University of Suzhou is a solution to the decline of the birth rate in the country. It is a “revolution” as the researchers state in the Journal of Biomedical Engineering. The Chinese government’s efforts to increase the birth rate throughout the country remain insignificant. Indeed, the dissolution of the one-child policy in 2015, the possibility for Chinese couples to have 3 offspring since 2021 do not influence the birth curve. In 2021, the birth rate was 7.54 per 1000 people. This historically low rate is characteristic of an aging Chinese population.
For the moment, experiments are limited to mice with very conclusive results. This invention could therefore be a recourse for Beijing, except that it poses other problems, notably that of ethics.
3-The human limits of its application
The medical world has its laws and one of them, for ethical reasons, forbids experiments on human embryos older than 14 days. Even if a human experimentation would allow to diagnose congenital anomalies as claimed by the head of the project Sun Haixuan: “There are still many unsolved mysteries on the physiology of typical human embryonic development“. According to the researchers, it would elucidate the enigma around the origin of human life. In addition to this first barrier, it should be noted that China is a country where “surrogate motherhood” is prohibited. This prohibition also compromises a humane use of the process. A last societal problem is that of radicalization. Indeed, an artificial intelligence that separates the good babies from the not so good ones already lays a basis for discrimination in society. The society will thus be subjected to another form of racism.
Even if the artificial womb controlled by an AI seems to be an ineluctable scientific achievement, it seems that a human application is difficult or impossible. Fiction will become reality as Aldoux Huxley depicted in “Brave New World“. One could wonder whether normal people will be those born from a normal pregnancy process or from an artificial womb?