Sexbot Surrogates That Birth Human Babies Are a Close Possibility, Says Scientist
Pregnant robots may radically change our notion of childbirth.
At first it sounds completely implausible: in the future it may be possible, and even desirable, for androids to have not only sex with humans but also become pregnant and carry healthy human babies to term.
Sooner rather than later
Yet, there are already signs that this kind of technology is inevitable. Just this year researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia created what they are referring to as a Biobag: the first step in the creation of an artificial, external womb.
For right now the technology has only been used on sheep and not used for conception. Instead, it’s been a way of giving premature lambs a more natural environment to further develop.
Speaking to the idea that someday the Biobag could replace human reproduction, Alan W. Flake, an attending pediatric and fetal surgeon and head of the team that developed the Biobag, told The Verge: “It’s complete science fiction to think that you can take an embryo and get it through the early developmental process and put it on our machine without the mother being the critical element there.”
Are we ready for pregnant androids?
However, despite Flake’s criticism, if there’s anything the last few years have taught us is that today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s reality. In fact, some people have already begun to envision a time when an ancestor of the Biobag could allow humans fetuses to gestate inside an artificial womb and have that robot become a surrogate mother.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Dr. Jordi Vallverdú of the Autonomous University of Barcelona pointed out that there has been a lot of serious discussion in academic circles about the concept of an robot giving birth to a child: “More than 200 academic papers have discussed this technology as well as many recent serious books. So, the possibility is very close,” he said.
Using the term ectogenesis for the process, he goes on to say that we could possibly be see true synthetic wombs in a little as two or three decades.
Despite this, he cautions that humanity is far from ready for the next step; for androids to become not just lovers but also parents since it “violates the common sense about what it means to be a human.”
Pregnant with possibilities
Without questioning Vallverdú’s expertise, it's worth considering that—back to science fiction again—in just a few short years since its development, processes such as artificial insemination went from controversial to completely commonplace. The same could also be said of many birth control methods such as the combined oral contraceptive pill.
Even with true artificial birth, from conception to birth of a healthy human child some years away, there’s still a good chance that we’ll be seeing pregnant sexbots sooner rather than later.
Speculating a bit, it’s—excuse me—conceivable that an android with a form of the Bioba, could also be given a supply of donated eggs. Either because of an inability to carry to term or simply through preference, someone could choose an android to become their true reproductive surrogate. Putting it rather inelegantly: it could then become a collection mechanism for sperm, a store of viable eggs, and—when things go well—a womb and even a delivery system.
The artificial family of the future
As far as why something like this would be used, it’s possible that it could be an option for those who have difficulties conceiving, or prefer to have children without childbirth.
It could even be a way of preserving a family after loss. With a store of viable eggs, a simulacrum robot could enable the birth of a child after a once-hopeful a biological mother had passed away.
Gazing even farther into the future, these types of androids could be an essential component of a deep space colony. If anything happened that could interfere with natural births, such as radiation, these types of androids could be kept on hand to make sure the expedition didn’t die out.
Of course, you’d also want to have the bots stocked with eggs and sperm, : giving them the ability to give birth no matter the circumstances.
No doubt when, and not if, these types of sexbots do emerge, even more uses will be found for the technology. The outcome could be beyond our current comprehension, including a change in the definition of the very word “parent.”