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IEET > Rights > PostGender > ReproRights > Life > Health > Vision > Futurism > Technoprogressivism > Affiliate Scholar > Nikki Olson > Contributors > Hank Pellissier

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#12: Artificial Wombs Will Spawn New Freedoms

Nikki Olson & Hank Pellisier
By Nikki Olson & Hank Pellisier
Ethical Technology

Posted: Dec 20, 2011

Eggs were first. Millions of years before mammals, eggs existed, their hard shells protecting the incubating embryo inside. Egg Mom wanders mobile, light in her anatomy—unlike her mammalian sister that waddles around, heavily crippled with the burden of her womb. Eggs were an evolutionary smart idea.

According to IEET readers, what were the most stimulating stories of 2011? This month we’re answering that question by posting a countdown of the top 12 articles that we published this year, based on how many total hits each one received.

The following piece was first published here on May 26, and is the #12 most viewed of the year.

In February at the Grammy Awards, Lady Gaga crawled out of an artificial womb to sing her hit, “Born This Way.” Synthetic uteri have been featured in numerous books and films, from Brave New World to Avatar. We believe eggs are destined to return, to hatch our young, and that we will embrace them.
Humanity inevitably will return to the egg via “artificial wombs” that allow women the same gestating liberty as birds in the air. Critics of “ectogenesis” abound, but we’re convinced of its advantages. Synthetic uteri will spawn exciting freedoms for both genders. Here’s how:

Maternal Health & Safety

Feminist Shulamith Firestone famously spoke out against pregnancy in the 1970s, calling it “barbaric.” She deplored the “deformation of the body” that gestation created, leading to childbirth that “hurts and isn’t good for you.” Though Firestone’s views on pregnancy were at times extreme, the negative side effects of pregnancy, which include nausea, vomiting, weight gain of up to 40+ pounds, fatigue and pain, with a torturous pushing culmination that can leave the mother dead, wounded with a c-section, with pelvic floor injuries, postpartum hemorrhage, pre-eclampsia, hospital infections, or post-traumatic stress disorder, give due credit to her case. 

Historically, 1 out of 100 women died giving birth, and although that figure has been vastly reduced, birthing remains, and will always remain, a serious health risk. And while many women report holding the newborn in their arms for the first time, forgetting the frustrations of pregnancy and considering the hardships ‘worth it’, the fact remains: pregnancy is one of the most risky and unpleasant things a women can expect to endure.

Fetal Health & Safety

The crosstalk between mother and fetus is significant, and we don’t undermine the many well-designed parts of mammalian reproduction. But a human designer can do better. And in examining the inadequacies, one realizes there are many aspects of human reproduction that could easily be improved upon. Are fetuses safe, climbing stairs ensconced in their mothers? No.

“The womb is a dark and dangerous place, a hazardous environment,” notes Joseph Fletcher, PhD., University of Virginia Medicine. Fetuses are 100% dependent on their mother’s health and sensible judgement; if Mom falls prey to accidents, disease, drug addiction, alcoholism, chemical pollutants, cigarette smoke, or inadequate nutrition, the helpless embryo inside gets traumatized, perhaps irreparably. Forty thousand children per year are born in the USA with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, for example. Traditional delivery also has dangers—like strangling in the umbilical cord—that would be avoided if infants were “hatched” out of synthetic eggs.  

Incubation in artificial wombs is immeasurably safer: perfect-balanced doses of nutrients can be provided to the “hydroponic” womb, with all dangerous toxins excluded. The concern that fetuses will be deprived of emotional development if they are physically isolated from their mothers is also unwarranted. We believe artificial wombs equipped with electronic programming can transmit parent’s personalities and emotions via vocal recordings, movement, and other sensations. The developing infant can be maintained around-the-clock in a safe environment that remains connected to the mother electronically.

Babies for Everyone

Artificial wombs will allow all humans to have as many children as they wish. Infertile couples, women who lost their wombs to disease, and the elderly all can join parental ranks with ectogenesis.  Gays and lesbians—with stem cell advancement—also will be able to create children using only their own genomes via “female sperm” and “male eggs.” Former IEET Fellow Athena Andreadis has noted, “all parents will become fathers, biologically, psychologically, and, possibly, culturally,” with ectogenesis because, “women will be able to have as many children as men, even multiplets without the severe problems of extreme prematurity now inherent in such a choice.”

Female Careers Go Forward

With artificial wombs, mothers-to-be can skip maternity leaves, and certain physical vocations—like athletics and dance—will not be impacted because health won’t be compromised. Women’s competitiveness in certain areas—like politics and high finance—would subsequently accelerate. Shulamith Firestone opined that “once women break free from the tyranny of their reproductive biology, they could achieve full equality with men.”

Balanced Parental Roles

Mothers today often feel that they have invested and suffered the most to “bear fruit” and are therefore entitled to leadership roles in parenting. Artificial wombs would equalize the roles that males and females perform in reproduction, and, thus, the subsequent responsibilities. Postpartum depression that afflicts 10-20% of new mothers could be eliminated, as well as postpartum psychosis that troubles nearly 1 in 1,000. Andreadis also notes, “women will not undergo the hormonal changes of pregnancy, which means they will be as much (or as little) emotionally invested in their offspring as men.”

Genetic Therapy

With fetuses conveniently kept in artificial wombs in medical laboratories, there would be easy access to genetically engineered improvement.  Mutations in the embryos could be corrected, and dangerous genetic disorders—like Huntington’s Disease—could be detected immediately.

Sexual Freedom

Human erotic enjoyment is all-too-often ruined by the threat of pregnancy. “Births” could take place solely via artificial wombs with our eggs and sperm harvested in early adolescence, and natural pregnancy reliably prevented.

We can expect resistance to artificial wombs, but we can also expect welcomed adoption. Arthur Caplan—a prominent bioethicist on the IEET’s Board of Trustees—has argued in a New York Times interview that “there will be a movement afoot which says all this is unnecessary and unnatural…that the way to have babies is sex and the random lottery.” Will there also be insistence that it be available? Yes. “Demand is hard to predict, but I’ll say significant,” says Caplan.

Artificial uteri aren’t arriving tomorrow—researchers at Cornell University and Juntendo University (Tokyo) have discovered that duplicating the womb’s abilities is immensely challenging. Caplan’s estimate in the NYT interview is that development arrives decades from now—around 2055. Athena Andreadis concurs with this prediction, and, she believes, “none of the required research will be conducted in the United States, for political/religious reasons.” Miodrag Stojkovic, stem cell biologist in Valencia, Spain, also regards development of artificial wombs as more than three decades away.

Sooner or later, though, it will happen.

The iconic oval shape is rolling back to us, and why not? We need not always look forward in contemplating desired futures—recreating traits from our evolutionary past are also appealing. Futurist technology, we think, is about choosing what is ideal, even if that means looking backwards.

Hank Pellissier, an IEET Affiliate Scholar, has written dozens of often-controversial transhumanist / futurist articles for IEET, H+ Magazine, the World Future Society, and other publications, occasionally under his nom de plume, “Hank Hyena.” His e-book entitled Transhuman Conversion: the Pre-Singularity Era 2010-2040 will be available in August 2011.

Nikki Olson, an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET, is a transhumanist writer/researcher authoring unique articles on transhumanist culture and advancing technology. Involved in Singularity research for 4 years as a full-time research assistant, she worked on an upcoming book about the Singularity, aided in the development of the University of Alberta course "Technology and the Future of Medicine", and produced educational material for the Lifeboat Foundation. She attained a bachelor’s degree in 2007 at University of Alberta, Canada, in Philosophy and Sociology. Her interests lie in scarcity reducing technology, biotechnology, DIY, augmentation technologies, artificial intelligence, and transhumanist philosophy.
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The topic of this article only solves about one year of a woman’s parenting/career life, which is still a step forward, but not a major revolution because her eggs are still the age that they are, and parenting is at least 20 years of an active process. A major revolution would be giving a woman: Time, say 20 years by freezing her early-life eggs, in which to build her parenting life (1).

The article also left out what I see as a couple major technological hurdles:

1) How would the fertilized egg implant? This is a large unknown, and in a research area that is somewhat stuck for the lack of blastocysts to study (due to US Federal regulations). There are half-million frozen embryos in US fertility clinics that _could_ be donated to these kinds of studies, but they remain an untapped resource.

2) How would the baby build its immune system? A child who goes through the birth canal picks up the microbiome of his/her mother, which is the start of a strong immune system.  (Yes, c-section babies don’t have this advantage.)

Other specific points I’d like to make:

“Historically, 1 out of 100 women died giving birth, and although that figure has been vastly reduced, birthing remains, and will always remain, a serious health risk. “

In US Hospitals, that is correct, but it is not a true statement generally.

“pregnancy is one of the most risky and unpleasant things a women can expect to endure.”

I don’t agree. There is a wide variation in types and experiences.

“Female Careers Go Forward “With artificial wombs, mothers-to-be can skip maternity leaves”

Parenting is much more than the 40 weeks of pregnancy, however, and women are still considered by societies all over the world as the primary caretaker of children, therefore _her_ career will be impacted more than a man’s, unless he is a single Dad. An artificial womb won’t change that… society in general would need to change to help “female careers [to] go forward”. For example see this recent study (2).

Sincerely, Amara Graps



Hi Amara!

Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful response. And the links you provide are excellent!

To answer your questions:

“How would the fertilized egg implant? This is a large unknown, and in a research area that is somewhat stuck for the lack of blastocysts to study (due to US Federal regulations). There are half-million frozen embryos in US fertility clinics that _could_ be donated to these kinds of studies, but they remain an untapped resource.”

-Progress in this field will come from increased understanding of pregnancy in general, and through experiments with non-human animals. Once we have a more complete understanding of reproductive biology (the process is currently not well-understood) more promising simulations will be tested, and eventually considered safe for human embryos. As scientists point out, there is no reason in principle the reproductive process could not take place in a simulated environment. The task is challenging, but ultimately achievable, and in fact there are many ways in which human reproduction can be improved upon. There is a great deal of motivation in the medical community at large to perfect knowledge of human reproduction more generally, and artificial womb technology will benefit from this research.

(The same response can be applied to inquiries regarding mother-child immune interaction)

“pregnancy is one of the most risky and unpleasant things a women can expect to endure.”
I don’t agree. There is a wide variation in types and experiences.”

-It’s true that many women enjoy pregnancy and have very few negative experiences. And even where there are negatives and inconveniences, women often conclude the negative experiences and risks are worth it. But I can’t help but anticipate that, given a choice, a significant portion of women would opt out of pregnancy if they could, especially when artificial reproduction becomes the safest and healthiest option for the child too. 

“Parenting is much more than the 40 weeks of pregnancy, however, and women are still considered by societies all over the world as the primary caretaker of children, therefore _her_ career will be impacted more than a man’s, unless he is a single Dad. An artificial womb won’t change that… society in general would need to change to help “female careers [to] go forward”

-Because the women has not had a baby naturally she would not be breastfeeding, and time spent between parents and child could be equal distributed. Given the circumstance of biological equality, there is no reason female careers need to be any different than male careers in the event of having children. I think a more interesting question here is, ‘how will leveling the biological playing field of human reproduction affect the careers of men’?

The strength of the argument for artificial wombs is in its creating alternatives where there currently aren’t any, in developed and developing countries. Women can choose how much of a role they want to play in the reproductive process; artificial wombs add choices, they don’t take choices away.

Thanks again for the questions, and raising these concerns!

I expect artificial wombs to have a huge social and cultural impact. You mentioned a few, but I wonder what it will do to the male/female ratio in some societies.

And will there be more children, or less? Will women in every country have a say in what gender their offspring will be?
Like so many things, it can be a two edged sword. It can liberate women in some societies, but in other it can take away even more rights.

Wouldn’t it be easy for parents to “forget” about their child stored away in a lab for 9 months?  Fathers have enough trouble following though with their reproductive-type acts; why weaken mothers in this regard?  We take care of kids because they are cute, and when they’re not, they need the law and mom’s instinctive bonding, societal pressure on the men (i.e. traditional marriage) and a moral code.

Artificial wombs are clearly in the interest only of adults . . . and shamefully risk-averse ones, at that . . .

Hi DutchCon!

“And will there be more children, or less?”

-as I see it there are two forces working against one another here, the trend in developed nations to have fewer children, countered by the possibility of people having more kids because of the lack of biological investment for women, as well as making it easier for male gay couples and those with fertility problems to have children. Somehow I see the first trend as having more of an impact than the second, and also we expect global population to peak mid-century (with artificial wombs presumably not available until roughly the same time), leading me to believe that the trend more generally, and globally, will be to have fewer kids despite the artificial womb. I personally feel as though I would be inclined to have more children, and I wonder how many women in developed nations would feel the same. Would be interesting to look more into that question further.

“Will women in every country have a say in what gender their offspring will be?”

-I hope so. Depends how pessimistic one is regarding the socio/political evolution of nations where religion and agriculture still play a major role. I would expect that by mid-century a lot of the motivations for banning gender selection will have subsided.

Thanks for the questions!

Nikki and Hank, thank you for the extensive quoting!  In addition to what has already been discussed, it is worth noting a few additional items: 1) women are still cheaper reproductive vehicles, given their overall status—as “surrogacy” clearly shows; 2) there is essentially no ongoing research on this, in part because of the results of earlier animal research (most prominently, lethal deformities), which brings it far further than 50 years; and 3) as I point out in my article, a possible outcome of artificial wombs will be the extinction of women within a few generations.  The cases of India and China show this unequivocally.

Hi Henry Bowers,

Artificial wombs will be a real test of character for some people, hey? On the flip side you have people who take care of animals as if they were children, and children who aren’t their own. Also, the artificial womb creates a new threshold for parenthood because having an artificial womb baby would hardly ever be considered an ‘accident’. High initial costs would create a barrier against dead beat dads, also… I foresee the fraction of people being neglectful in the artificail womb scenario as quite low.

Hi Nikki,

Your answers bring up a few more comments.

(you said)
-It’s true that many women enjoy pregnancy and have very few negative experiences. And even where there are negatives and inconveniences, women often conclude the negative experiences and risks are worth it. But I can’t help but anticipate that, given a choice, a significant portion of women would opt out of pregnancy if they could,

I still don’t think that’s correct. There’s many aspects of which the 40 weeks of pregnancy provide, that would need to be added to the artificial womb process, in order to build a good system for baby care. For example, notice how early on in a pregnancy, a woman’s bladder signals her to make a run for the bathroom every two or three hours. That internal clock that was set up in her pregnancy becomes her friend for the next 3 years, because that is exactly the time interval that an infant/baby/toddler needs to be fed.

In addition, there is absolutely a deep psychophysio-bonding that occurs during those 40 weeks of pregnancy. Even if a fertilized egg is not genetically-linked, a pregnant woman has a good part of a year of communication with that life inside of them. This is why there is a risk of surrogate mothers breaking contracts with prospective parents. Therefore, an artificial womb would also need to simulate that bond of communication, and I don’t know where one would begin. I played games with my baby’s feet, played music for her, looked forward to her daily 12:30pm hiccups, for example. There were long periods of time when I really didn’t want her to be born, because my alien-attached life was that rich. I can’t imagine the psychological state of a baby who _wouldn’t_ have those 40 weeks inside of a living, conscious human being.

(I said)
“Parenting is much more than the 40 weeks of pregnancy, however, and women are still considered by societies all over the world as the primary caretaker of children, therefore _her_ career will be impacted more than a man’s, unless he is a single Dad. An artificial womb won’t change that… society in general would need to change to help “female careers [to] go forward”

(you answered)
-Because the women has not had a baby naturally she would not be breastfeeding,

Are you aware that _any_ premenopausal woman can stimulate her breasts to produce milk? Some number of new adoptive mothers do just that. Domperidone is a safe and effective medication to stimulate one’s breasts for milk production (it’s banned for lactation use by the FDA in the U.S., but is available in almost every other western country). I think that if you had a long conversation with a lactation specialist, you would be intrigued with what you learned.

Therefore, why wouldn’t a new mother want to breastfeed their baby, if they can? While it’s true that some can’t, breastmilk is ‘customized food’ for their baby, doesn’t cost anything to produce, and goes a long ways toward helping a baby build its immune system. The formula today is still not the same as breast milk, (and is incredibly expensive too), so if one is going to advocate artificial wombs, they had better be also working on getting the baby formula more like breast milk and cheaper.

(you continue)
and time spent between parents and child could be equal distributed. Given the circumstance of biological equality, there is no reason female careers need to be any different than male careers in the event of having children. I think a more interesting question here is, ‘how will leveling the biological playing field of human reproduction affect the careers of men’?

Presently very few countries have laws that give dads equal parental leave as moms, so that would need to change. I agree that it’s an interesting option, if the other large factors I’ve identified above can be addressed.


Have you ever been pregnant, Nikki? Have you raised a child?

Hi Amara,

Thanks for the response.

“Are you aware that _any_ premenopausal woman can stimulate her breasts to produce milk? Some number of new adoptive mothers do just that.”

-Yes. It is interesting then to speculate what the prime motivation behind using formula is (despite knowing it is worse for the baby), beyond not having the time to breastfeed due to occupational commitments. With women who have had children, roughly 10% have no interest in breastfeeding at all, and of the 90% that start out breastfeeding “By six months, just 14 per cent of Canadian mothers are exclusively breastfeeding their babies, the study found. Only 54 per cent of mothers were doing any breastfeeding by that time.” : The article suggests that women ‘dropping out’ need more education and encouragement regarding breastfeeding, but I suspect there’s more to it than that.

Not to mention, for mothers whose prime motivation for breastfeeding has to do with giving babies the best nutrition, rather than bonding and having the ‘mother experience’ (there are strong social pressures in place to participate in this that won’t necessarily be there in the future), there are other promising options on the horizon that may then reduce the number of women breastfeeding even further:

Given the above, I do not see breastfeeding via Domperidone, or an improved version without side effects being the first choice in artificial womb scenarios, especially not after the first 6 weeks. Thank you for pointing out that they would be able to if they wanted, I was aware of Domperidone (although it is currently not legal in the United States), and should have mentioned it. I just don’t see it being a popular a choice in the future scenario of artificial wombs given the alternatives we can expect. Already, if the women does not have the child herself, she is far less likely to breastfeed (despite the Domperidone option), compounded by the continual decrease in interest in breastfeeding from biological mothers as formula solutions improve, compounded with the likelihood for over 50% of mothers to drop out of breastfeeding, and we can anticipate far fewer women breastfeeding mid-century, and by extension, female careers positively impacted (Not only by the reality of artificial wombs, but by the associated technologies effecting women’s freedom in the reproductive process).

But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the value of breastfeeding in terms of having physical contact with the mother etc. either…. 

When it comes to bonding/feeding/schedules etc. I recognize the importance of bonding while in the womb, and through breastfeeding, and the significance of the body’s preparations for post-birth motherhood, very much so. In these ways pregnancy is a beautifully designed and very meaningful thing. But there are ways to work around all the things you mention, and I think we can learn a lot from the community of people raising a child in a circumstance where the biological mother is not around (single fathers, gay couples, adopting mothers, etc.). It would take fairly convincing evidence that children in these circumstances fared significantly worse in order to deter people from believing that they could make up for the things lacking due to biology. So far there isn’t any evidence that children raised in a circumstance away from their biological mother fair significantly worse once you control for other variables, such as income. There are many factors influencing a child’s mental health and bonding, and a better understanding of the psychology there would definitely help parents to prepare, and in designing artificial wombs. So far most of the literature looks at bonding between biological mother and child. We need to study the other components. 

Now, the issue you raise regarding how the child would bond with the mother while it is in the artificial womb is, I suspect, going to be difficult to tackle. As in, how will we give the baby the rich womb-like experience of being ‘carried’ by someone who cares deeply for it. Again, difficult but not impossible. And I would point out that in many instances with regards to the artificial womb we are not trying to duplicate the experience, we are trying to duplicate the effect. More research/better understanding of pregnancy more generally is what is needed before design solutions will seem feasible, preferable, better, and then (hopefully) ideal.   

“Presently very few countries have laws that give dads equal parental leave as moms, so that would need to change. I agree that it’s an interesting option, if the other large factors I’ve identified above can be addressed”

-Yup, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, the new liberties of women here will likely effect the current liberties of men in a way they may not like, at least socially, if not legally in some countries. I agree that a lot would have to change, but I see women’s liberty and equality with regards to reproduction as a strong motivator for sociopolitical change. 

Thanks again!

Hi Athena!

I enjoyed your article very much. Lots of great imagery and imaginative constructs.

To respond to your three points:

1) Agreed. Women are much cheaper reproductive vehicles, and they will be for a very long time, if not always. Some worry, as a result, that a divide will ensue where those able to afford artificial wombs, and their children, have an advantage over those unable worthy of concern.   

2) Yes, most research halted years ago for the reasons you give. There is too much guess work in terms of design at this point, and we need to learn more about reproductive biology/pregnancy in order to move forward.

3) I have to disagree (strongly) on your third point, however. The reasons for gender selection against women in China and India are largely economic, and it does not make sense to apply the logic more broadly. The value of women extends far beyond reproductive utility, and I enjoyed Edgar Dahl’s article here on IEET “FDA Bans Gender Selection Procedure” in navigating this issue: Not taken into consideration in your article, also, is that we can expect the pressures involved in the preference for male babies in China and India to largely subside as economic conditions improve and the industrialization process moves towards a close in those regions.   

Thank you for the response!

Nikki: I encourage you to research more about birthing and breastmilk, to use real research articles, for example, and to use the people who have the most data: the midwives (not statistics from hospitals, that’s badly skewed, especially in the U.S.) and the lactation specialists/consultants. The U.S. is off-scale in almost every respect when it comes to birthing and breastfeeding and childcare, so data from many other countries would provide more accuracy too.

(you said) “I think we can learn a lot from the community of people raising a child in a circumstance where the biological mother is not around (single fathers, gay couples, adopting mothers, etc.).”

Well I’m one, I’m not genetically linked at the cellular level to my daughter, but we do genetically share the microbiome in her gut since she picked up mine while going through my birth canal when I gave birth to her (natural birth) after carrying her for 40 weeks. She’s 2.5 yo now, and I just turned 50. I’m a professional scientist, single mom, breastfed her for 21 months (mostly pumping), so every cliche and stereotype of motherhood and career women (quite of lot of that in this article) doesn’t apply. More scientific research on all of the aspects and interviewing mothers and career women/mothers too (since your focus seems to be on pushing women’s careers forward and equalizing the gender roles in childcare) would make this article more credible.

Amara Graps

Hi Amara,

The article I provide is from the Globe and Mail, but the statistics in the article are from Statistics Canada-If you are not aware then I will say statistics Canada is the Federal data collecting/research effort in Canada, and it more than qualifies as real research. The other study cited in the article is from the Journal ‘Birth’, another more than real research article. That aside, I’m not sure why you find breastfeeding behavior in the United States (where stats indicate similar trends) irrelevant here, since we are talking about projected behavior in the context of advanced technology. There is good reason not to expect, I argue, a revival of breastfeeding in the context of artificial wombs given the other options we can expect to come available. If you re-read ‘Artificial Wombs Will Spawn…’, you will see that the claim is that we will embrace artificial wombs and that in the comments I argue a significant number of women would choose the womb especially if it can offer better health for the baby too. I hardly think that is a controversial claim, and it does not negate the idea that a significant portion of women still will choose real pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. So I’m not sure you and I even disagree on the original claim, and perhaps more of your concern has to do with how the article focuses on the negatives of pregnancy. To that I will say that in the article we are largely talking about the objectives of pregnancy, not the subjectives. In the future, for a women who has never had kids before, comparing the options objectively, the artificial womb will be an attractive option. What you are suggesting be presented are the subjective feelings about pregnancy, or data coming from regions uncharacteristic of future contexts, or from women who have already chosen pregnancy, and/or embrace motherhood. As the article mentions, once women have children their feelings about pregnancy change, often making negatives seem worth it, or even like positives. That is not to say these opinions and perspectives don’t matter, but when you are talking about objective choices in an advanced context, they are not as relevant. Artificial wombs create a new option, having children while not having a lot of negatives associated with pregnancy, and are an attractive, liberating choice for that.   

I hope this helps clear up where we may be missing each other here.


“Have you ever been pregnant, Nikki? Have you raised a child?”

- Have you? What you are inferring is because Nikki co-authored this article that somehow she could not possibly have written it outside of a personal first-hand perspective. People write often author articles for the sake of a presenting and defending said argument.

There is no need to being biased and make it personal. Your response appears to be merely some sort of irrational instinctive motherly hormonal response, combined with an obvious prejudice that you failed to disclose.

Transhumanism is about freedom of choice, liberation, and transcending limitations, in particular biology limitations. It takes a strong individual to stand up against all of human biological heritage and social tradition and say ‘humans can do better’, or at least advocate the ambition of trying to do better. I applaud Nikki for daring to be a vocal female advocate here, and as Gwenny’s comment indicates, mothers are more than willing to ridicule the position taken here and attempt to call it naive.

Thank you Hank and Nikki, this is an excellent article.

Thank you Sarah!

There are immense social/evolutionary pressures in place that work against the argument in this article. Not to mention, there is a tendency in general to oppose Transhumanism with bioconservatism. The Transhumanist response is to re-emphasize that we do not undermine the wonderful aspects of biology, but insist that where the human experience can be improved upon we should try to improve upon it. In the end, as you point out, it is about creating more choices, more freedom, and acting courageously and boldly to make those things possible.

Glad you enjoyed the article.

A few years ago I had an interesting discussion with my ex-wife regarding the potential development of artificial wombs (we had/have no children). She regarded the idea as incredibly strange. One day, she mentioned the idea of these “pods” to a good friend of hers, a devoted mother of five. She expected her friend to agree with her but to her surprise she replied “I wish they had these pods now! All of my kids were big when they were born and I could totally do without that pain I went through!”

Just thought that was funny.

If this technology will be developped around mid-century, 3D-printers widely will be widely available. Together with online genetic blueprints and easy to use biotech anyone can build a pod and start growing people (or for that matter any other creatures/hybrids).
This will not only be in de developped world, but just about anywhere.

Of course this technology can be abused by cults, perverts, militants or for just plain slavery. A chilling thought.
But forbidding this technology is not the way to go. You can’t stop ideas like this. Like any form of abuse, you will need to have laws. I hope we will have them by then…

All of these pythagorean sigularitarian advancements are so very great. But is it not putting the cart before the horse to assume that we should take for granted the social/economic changes that we must make happen to make them available to anyone but the most privileged? Is this a stupid point of view? The Star-Trek, tech-based-economy is anything but a given in my mind. Until thought is given as to how the poor would access this future-tech (I don’t want to hear about the cellphone anecdote), I regard it all as sci-fi fantasy. If Paris Hilton’s dog would have greater access to empowering technology than economically-isolated humans, then I really couldn’t care less how impressive the advancements are. Do I begrudge rich women and gay men this opportunity at avoiding adopting some ethnically different child in order to become parents? I guess not. But, for me,  it will occupy the same social category as beach houses and Botox until everyone can use it. Off the radar.

ouch, I meant promethean not pythagorean. More gift-from-the-gods, less related-to-triangles. I’ll proof read in the future.

Hi Andrew!

The potential for inequalities is exacerbated if children of artificial wombs are born healthier and better adjusted, and have significant, long term advantages over naturally born babies, at which point we need to worry that certain kinds of insurance policies will favor not only the women who use artificial wombs, but their children, creating additional long-term financial inequalities and pressures.

However, there are a number of technological developments that could prevent the problem of unequal access, should they come to fruition (such as 3D printing, as Dutchcon suggests). 

But if not, then at least ethical and political consideration on this matter will have earlier precedent to fall back on, such as discussion on genetic engineering, which will likely come to fruition first, and faces similar political/ethical dilemmas.

Long and short, I agree with you that the (potential) problem of unequal access is worth serious consideration.

I welcome the introduction of artificial womb technology.  It will give otherwise childless couples a way to have children of their own and that is a good thing.

I do however deplore the attitude of the authors of this article.  Their focus is all on the “freedom” it will give the mother, as if children are some sort of bothersome annoyance.

Frankly, the narcissism and selfishness implicit in such an attitude demonstrates why “feminist” wont have any real need for such technology.  You wont have time for kids no matter how they are conceived, incubated or raised. 

Your life is all about you.  You have no time for anyone else.

Go back to your corner, suck your thumb and leave life and living to those of us who wish to participate in it. 


Gwenny, Ken, Jeremiah -
My wife and I have two daughters, both born via c-section.  The first one was particularly messy, my wife lost a lot of blood and was put in a cold dark room where she hemorrhaged shivering into a hospital pad, she was drugged up to coagulate her blood but she still had to breastfeed her newborn of course, although she was not really in the mood due to pain of 30 hour labor and c-section.  I slept in a chair beside her for three days and it was all altogether awful but of course we did have another baby, again c-section, again the drugs, the blood loss, the stitches, sleeping on the floor etc.  I watched the first c-section which was far more primitive than I anticipated, consisting basically of slicing my wife open and piling her entrails on her stomach, pulling the baby out, and then re-stuffing my wife’s guts back inside her. For my family personally, a gentle hatching out of an artificial egg would have been preferable.  My wife says she would have had more children if artificial eggs were an option and she says her friends all say the same.
Ken?  A male name?  I do not know how you can loftily call women lazy and selfish since you personally are never going to get pregnant and bloat up for nine months and then scream out a child.  You are capable of boasting that you would do it happily but you will never be called upon to prove it.
I have met exactly one woman who said that she enjoyed childbirth.  Far more stories resemble my wife’s.  My mother had seven c-sections, I was caught in the umbilical cord and nearly strangled to death, was subsequently put in an incubator for 2 weeks to teach me to breathe properly.  An artificial egg would have been gentler for me as well.
I’ve written about fetal alcohol syndrome elsewhere on this site, also genetic birth disorders.  Even if a future woman decides that birthing is a rite-of-passage she wants to undergo, is it safer & better for the baby if technology gets works out?  I don’t think so

  Learn to read Hank.

  My comments weren’t addressed to you or your wife.  Nor were they addressed to “women,” but rather a particular type of women. Go back and reread my post.  You may need several goes at it since you seem to be more interested in beating your own chest than understanding what other people are saying.


Dear Nikki:

You said:
“The article I provide is from the Globe and Mail, but the statistics in the article are from Statistics Canada-If you are not aware then I will say statistics Canada is the Federal data collecting/research effort in Canada, and it more than qualifies as real research.”

OK about the data.. I encourage more though.

You said:
“That aside, I’m not sure why you find breastfeeding behavior in the United States (where stats indicate similar trends) irrelevant here, since we are talking about projected behavior in the context of advanced technology.”

Oh.. but it is. The U.S. is an outlier for attitudes of breastfeeding. Travel to Germany, France, many other European country and witness breastfeeding without that godawful ‘hooter cover’ that American women are strongly encouraged to use if they wish to feed their baby. An ‘advance’ in American businesses today, is to provide a place for women to pump breastmilk for their babies, but no place to nurse! That’s an advance? Even American social media like Facebook removes pictures of women nursing their babies. With such negative messages and anti-support, is it any wonder why American new mothers lose interest?

You said:
“I argue a significant number of women would choose the womb especially if it can offer better health for the baby too.”

I prefer to think that the baby’s health would be the priority rather than the woman’s convenience. This is _the_ one time in a woman’s life when her life takes a backseat to making the most wonderful and healthy human possible. And after her baby is born (and for years), her life still takes a backseat, but the woman is learning to balance self-care with child-care (and work-care, and everything-else-care).

“perhaps more of your concern has to do with how the article focuses on the negatives of pregnancy”

Yup. The main message in many western countries—especially in the U.S. and especially in the transhumanist communities (before I dropped off of the lists in late 2008) regarding birthing is:

‘It _must_ be excruciatingly painful, the woman has no influence over the process, the only thing she can do is drug herself silly. That’s life.’

So I have three general objections to the gist of this article:

1) The communication between mother and baby in-utero is incredibly rich, and I see this as the largest challenge for how to simulate that aspect.

2) That the woman’s career will be advanced. As I said in the beginning of the comments, one year out of a woman’s parenting life is not significant. I agree that an artificial womb is an interesting option if none others exist for some situations, but I don’t think women will be flocking to this new technology. Here is where a lot of data with mothers (stay-at home, career moms, etc.) would be useful, and please include those from other countries and midwives/homebirths. The hospital data is badly skewed.

3) That this is promoted as the technological solution to birthing. Isn’t that strange in the H+ community of people who desire to learn about and take control of every aspect of their life so that it can be a richer, deeper and better experience, that birthing is by default something that a woman must give up control?

Why is it such a default in western society that birthing _must necessarily_ be an awful and painful experience? Even if one ignores the messages from the religious that say that excruciating birthing is the curse of Eve and the way it is? Especially when there is _so much_ information and data available, if one tries to look for it, that shows the opposite information.

If anyone wants, then they can learn alot about the birthing process from watching recorded videos or live birthings (espcially home births) which demonstrate the range of experiences. And they can read the physiological texts about how the set of uterine muscles work. And if she is a pregnant woman, then she can immediately learn how strong is the link between her state-of-mind and those set of muscles even during a simple process as an ultrasound exam.

A large key to not promoting the circle of terror that exists in hospital “labor” (nice word, right?) wards is the woman’s state of mind. How ready she is to get into the process and do it without fear and consider it normal and natural, because that is, after all, what our human physiology evolved to do.  And how well she has prepared herself, with knowing how to breathe her baby out, with the physical exercises she has done in the months before to build her strength and flexibility. There is a huge amount that the woman _can_ do to try to make it into a very rich experience. The women who succeed in that, and who don’t have a real medical emergency, are those who do not pay attention to the barrage of weird or negative messages from her surrounding culture.

Taking control of the situation, to learn and try and see, using all of the data and tools at one’s disposal, and _not being afraid_ is a typical H+ approach, but during the time of my pregnancy, I didn’t see that at all, and now this: I see your technological solution. It almost looks like a cop-out. I prefer to see a different spin on this presentation in the H+ community.


That sounds horrific, you have my sympathy.

As to the OP, I think people often gloss over the fact (that’s right I used the “f-word” wink that technology is convergent and concomitant.

At the same time that we will develop the capability to create artificial wombs, we will also be transcending our biology completely.

As fascinating as it is, these scenarios suffer from the same problem that hollywood “science fiction” (really more science fantasy) does: they extrapolate the development of one or two kinds of technology, while ignoring others.

My favorite recent example of this is the movie Surrogates. It was fun to watch, and I appreciated the fact that they used clips of actual experiments at the beginning of the movie, but the entire plot runs on the idea that this ‘surrogate’ technology is the only advances humans make in that time, and further, they don’t extrapolate very well what humans will do with it.

They picture a society where humans continue to live exactly as they did before (going to work, etc.), only in ‘surrogate’ bodies instead.

Excuse me, but what about telepresence exploration of other planets? What about sending your surrogate to the bottom of the ocean? What about all the mind swapping you could do with it? I mean, most of us are familiar with all the more far out possibilities when this kind of technology is available, but do we really consider this when trying to map out the future?

I’ve argued about the desirability of a ‘Gattaca’ like future with a lot of people, and almost everyone leaves out the convergent aspects of technology leading to a complete obsolescence of biotech.

Hi Ken,

We do not regard children as bothersome annoyances, we regard the biological commitments of pregnancy as such. We are discussing freedom from biological commitments, and the health risks they bring, not freedom from children. We advocate a scenario where it is possible for women to participate to the same degree as men.

I see that the ‘career women’ attitude upsets you, but I would remind you that it is the career women who works the ‘second shift’ and spends the most time with children, not the career man.

There is also the possibility of men carrying children that hasn’t been brought up yet.

Maybe in the 10 or 20 years before post-biology, a couple will simply be able to decide between them who will carry the baby?

And another crazy idea smile

What about when impregnated wombs are transplantable? Then the couple could share the experience, trading off part way.

Nuts, huh?

Nice article, but nothing I find especially shocking or thought provoking. As an amateur science fiction author, I’ve given thought to such issues before when creating my own fictional future.

First, you mention that advances in understanding Human reproduction will be required to develop artificial wombs. But would not such advances first serve to ameliorate the hardships of pregnancy and labour? I envision a future where although most people still reproduce the old fashion way, women do not have to endure the “Curse of Eve” as it were, and childbirth is relatively painless. If this were the case, would this not decrease the desire for a woman to ‘outsource’ her pregnancy? Women would be able to experience the full emotional value of a pregnancy, which many female commenters appear to support, without the need to suffer through the more traumatic parts.

I personally think of artificial wombs as being absurdly expensive and over elaborate contraptions. I agree with Athena and Nikki that women will likely be significantly less expensive than artificial wombs, and that surrogate mothers will always be the preferred option for those unwilling or unable to bear their own children. I simply believe that easing a natural pregnancy makes more economic sense than building an entirely artificial womb.

Your article fails to take into consideration the more radical possibilities for artificial wombs. Why just use it to grow babies? Why not grow them into adults and use a brain-jack to upload their education? Why only grow Humans? Why not create a synthetic embryo with a genome designed entirely from scratch? Artificial wombs are indeed a very Transhumanist technology, and will likely be used to create mostly Transhuman beings. As a Transhumanist technology, it will be rejected by bioconservative Humans, and so they will reproduce the old fashion way. I personally believe a ‘Butlerian Jihad’ style of conflict is inevitable between Transhumans and Humans, and I’m hoping the Humans win through fanaticism and superior numbers. Worked in Dune.

Finally, I agree with iPan above that you’re only thinking about artificial wombs in isolation. Technological innovations that coincide with or precede artificial wombs may well render the entire issue irrelevant.

Hi iPan, hi Amara—nice to hear from you.  Yes, iPan, I agree with you - it seems that the projection for Artificial Wombs arriving in 2055 is so far in the future that events before that (like a Singularity) make the timeline very murky, barely worth guessing at. 

What I find interesting is how Artificial Wombs could change gender roles and how we feel about that.  As Athena Andreadis notes, Artificial Wombs would make both both parents “men” because neither would be carrying the fetus. 

The subsequent equality in reproduction would, I believe, result in men and women sharing all aspects of parenting more equally.  But how do we feel about that?  As a male parent, I’d like 50%-50% right from the start. But that’s just me—some men might prefer that women continue as the more primary early parents…? 

Also, if you polled women, I’d say (risking controversy here) you’d get at least four different categories of answers.  You’d get:
1. Women who say they WANT Artificial Wombs because they want men to share early parenting 50-50 and they really truly mean it.
2. Women who say they WANT Artificial Wombs because they want men to share early parenting 50-50, but they really don’t mean it at all, they want to maintain a more important role.
3. Women who say they DON’T WANT Artificial Wombs because they like being pregnant and they like doing more than 50% of the work because they really do just love all that mothering stuff.
4. Women who say they DON’T WANT Artificial Wombs for the reasons above, but they’re not being honest, the primary reason is that they’d feel very threatened and useless without the mothering job because they don’t have enough other things going on in their life.

Three other comments -

1.  Some women might be ambivalent about giving up pregnancy, but I’ve never met a man who said he wanted to be pregnant.  It doesn’t look like fun, it seems rather grotesque, playing host to an enormous living thing dwelling inside your body.  Obviously, I am not one who regards pregnancy as “sacred” - it seems very inconvenient and as a transhumanist I’d seek to improve or eliminate it via Artificial Wombs.

2. Amara—I have researched breast-feeding’s benefits via PubMed—it catalogs studies conducted by PhDs in the field, and my opinion is, if facts aren’t backed up by PubMed reports, they’re not real, they’re just lame propaganda.  So, what PubMed indicates is that breast-feeding seems to perhaps be slightly beneficial, some reports say YES, others say NO difference.  If we are going to discuss breast-feeding’s benefits on this thread, I suggest we back up our contentions with PubMed reports, and we can’t really do that, because there are many many reports that offer different conclusions. That said, my wife breastfed our first daughter for 2 years and our second for 1 year and I was supportive of these decisions, often urging her not to give in to the hysteric notion promoted by uber-Moms that it is “bad” to give formula to kids.  I was fed only formula by my own Mother and I am neither mentally retarded nor physically weak nor sociopathic.  Personally, I think, after examining all the evidence, I think breast-feeding offers slight benefits and should be attempted if it is not too inconvenient.  I certainly don’t think women who choose not to breast-feed should be criticized.  I’m not mad at my own Mom, she had twins and my father was gone in a war and she was recovering from a c-section so she did the right thing for herself and her young family, to give us formula instead.

3. Amara - I don’t think childbirth is just “1-year out of a life of a woman” - You have to also consider the weight gain that is hard to lose, especially if you have a few kids in a few years, plus the emotional trauma if the birth was difficult.  I have known lucky women who had easy home births on Friday and went back to yoga class on Monday, but those are the rarity.  Shilometh Firestone also writes about the over-attachment that some mothers get after pregnancy that she regards as unhealthy, and I think she’s right about that, I know Moms who can never let their babies out of their sight, etc etc.

sorry for the very long post.

iPan:  yes indeed, there’s been three men so far who have given birth:

I think that it’s a great for a couple to decide who is going to carry the baby.. it is, after all,  the de-facto discussion in every lesbian couple I know who want to have kids. And I love even more your idea of a transplantable impregnanted womb. I would have loved to have shared my pregnancy experience with friends close to me (note, one need not limit it to couples, but to anyone who truly cared about the baby).

Now if society can only give such attention and care to the rest of the glorious process of a young human’s development (especially their first 3 years).


Hi Amara,

I hear what you are saying and I appreciate that there are cultural differences in breastfeeding habits between developed countries. Incidentally, despite greater cultural acceptance, studies in Germany indicate that after 2 months only 44% of women exclusively breastfeed, and at 6 months, only 21% were still breastfeeding, which is only slightly higher than the United States. Needless to say, formula is an attractive option for women in Germany as well. The study indicates that education does have a statistically significant impact on whether or not a women breastfeeds, but only explains part of that variance. Many women don’t continue becasue it is unpleasant. And actually, when German women here were asked what the biggest reason for not wanting to breastfeed was, the “main influencing factor reducing breastfeeding initiation was the partner’s negative attitude towards breastfeeding” ( 

But this is besides the point because in the original article we argue that women can (if they choose) have equality in terms of biological commitment (hence freeing time up for career developement), not that they will choose to in all matters. You and I are off on a tangent here disputing the likelihood of women (not giving birth) choosing to take Domperidone. It is too speculative to really say anything worthwhile here, other than that trends with breastfeeding in developed nations indicate a strong preference for formula. 

Either way, I appreciate how strong of a role culture can play in perceptions and experience of pregnancy. Absolutely. But from a medical standpoint you cannot dismiss the health risks and complications associated with pregnancy and birthing, and that is what we are talking about avoiding with the artificial womb. And you cannot ignore the plummeting rates in female and infant mortality that take place as birthing moves to the hospital. 

“Isn’t that strange in the H+ community of people who desire to learn about and take control of every aspect of their life so that it can be a richer, deeper and better experience, that birthing is by default something that a woman must give up control?”

-we do not advocate giving up pregnancy. We advocate choice. Freedom to from biology so that there are more choices.

“And how well she has prepared herself, with knowing how to breathe her baby out, with the physical exercises she has done in the months before to build her strength and flexibility.”

-A pregnant women, or a women in labor is not in full control, no matter how much she breaths and prepares ahead of time. There are biological realities that are out of any women’s control in a natural birth scenario. In an artificial womb scenario she is in full control of her body. 

“I see your technological solution. It almost looks like a cop-out. I prefer to see a different spin on this presentation in the H+ community”

-this is a classic bioconservatist response to an H+ assertion. We do not advocate taking the easy way out in the derogatory sense of the phrase. We advocate creating choices that allow humans to avoid unnecessary suffering. And so by advocating a choice of greater hardship, and making it sound like a virtue, you do not undermine the courageous spirit of H+. H+ advocates first and foremost, choice, i.e. freedom. Choosing to take a more difficult route for the sake of virtue (natural birth, in this instance) does not capture the spirit of H+, but H+ advocates the right to make that choice. Absolutely I advocate women of H+ acting in an empowered way, and that will include rising to the challenges of difficult situations, but doing does need to entail choosing hardship where unncessary. Choosing hardship where unnecessary is irrational and religious. However, insomuch as choosing hardship builds character and virtue, H+ does not dismiss it as a choice (because then it is a rational, empowered, conscious choice, with clear benefit to the individual).

I’ll admit we focus on the negatives of pregnancy here, but as I said before, we are focusing on the objective aspects of pregnancy, i.e., the medical reality. (I understand what you are saying that perspectives on pregnancy are heavily influenced by culture, but I say again, that does not dismiss the medical reality of risks and pregnancy). Neonatal death and birthing complications occur regardless of how relaxed and optimistic the mother is.

Dear Nikki:

I suspect that I have been tracking technical advances in the transhumanist community to help women in their biological imperative for a significantly longer time than you, so this is a slightly a knee-jerk response, but I’ll say that “this is a classic bioconservatist response to an H+ assertion”  is incorrect and insulting. I can give links to data birthing experiences that are not tied to hospitals, and therefore significantly more accurate and balanced, but you can find them yourself, as well, if you are motivated and interested. I very much hate the fear wrapped around birthing, it’s deep and pervasive in the U.S. and in other western cultures too, and your article continues to promote that (especially by relying on hospital data). Such promotion of fear sets up women, and creates the cascade-of-fear that causes them to not consider _all_ of their choices (e.g. that hospital birth is the only way) which _could_ make the birthing experience valuable. If you can promote your idea of an artificial womb without propagating this fear and amplifying the negatives of pregnancy, then I suspect that I will be less critical of your piece.


Hi Amara,

This part of what I last wrote is confusing:

“And so by advocating a choice of greater hardship, and making it sound like a virtue, you do not undermine the courageous spirit of H+. H+ advocates ……., with clear benefit to the individual). “

Allow me to clarify.

Choosing hardship where unnecessary (i.e. choosing natural pregnancy) is not more Transhumanist (as you suggest), but this does not mean Transhumanism doesn’t give adequate consideration to the value of choosing hardship, or working hard.

Nikki: I’m not advocating hardship, it’s the hospital data, not me,  that say that birthing is a hardship. The midwife (homebirth)  data will tell you that 1/4 of home and birthing center births are painful back-labor, 1/2 are uncomfortable, and 1/4 are painless or pleasurable.  Hospital data is badly skewed information.. medical emergencies are a small fraction of births, and often caused by a cascade of intervention that wasn’t necessary in the first place.  Personally, I wouldn’t call my daughter’s birth a hardship, even though I was in the category of 1/4 of back-labor moms. I had no meds, trained and prepared for her birth for a better part of a year, and would call it the most transformational and amazing experience of my life. It’s no self-delusion, I have the videos to remind myself of the amazing experience that it was. The worst part was the required stay in a hospital afterwards (my birthing center was oddly located inside of a hospital) because the pediatrician that I chose (not having very much info) did not believe in single moms taking good care of babies and wouldn’t let my baby and I leave right away. I know personally how awful hospitals are for birthing (and I’m still paying that huge medical bill).

Yes, Hank, I absolutely do know men who want to experience pregnancy. Women in the transhuman community are rare, and therefore, it’s been very easy to have discussions with my male transhumanist friends (since about 1989 or so) about women’s biological imperative and possible technical solutions and the situation that women find themselves in today.

Breastfeeding is another category of discussion, it’s a deep field which the lactation consultants know best. Like birthing data, if you are relying on hospital (medical doctors) data instead of the people sources which have the longest-term and broadest range of experience (lactation specialists for breastfeeding, midwives for birthing), then you will have far from complete information, and badly skewed too. Personally I wouldn’t believe it, that data being driven by insurance companies and hospitals. I’m deeply suspicious of them based on my own experience, and based on the data I collected for myself, researching the topic as thoroughly as I do my own astrophysics research in the year before my daughter was born.


The notion that these pods would be available to rich people and that they may create babies which would be healthier is fascinating and frightening. As a funny scifi thought, I wonder if an extra trimester could be added to a fetus in pod development. Usually, the human baby is born premature compared to other animals because of our small pelvis and big head. What would it be like if infant development could be ideally controlled in an extended utero. You could have a baby that was ‘born’ much healthier and further developed. Maybe the pod could be designed to slowly hatch allowing the fetus/baby to see and hear you and while still being nourished and cared for by the cybernetic surrogate. The kid could have a facebook page before it was born.


“Personally, I wouldn’t call my daughter’s birth a hardship, even
though I was in the category of 1/4 of back-labor moms. I had no meds,
trained and prepared for her birth for a better part of a year, and would
call it the most transformational and amazing experience of my life.”

-That is really good to hear. Just recognize you are the exception, not the rule. As a friend of mine says, who hated pregnancy, but noticed some women enjoying it “some women were made to populate the earth”. And to lighten the mood further and add more perspective here, wouldn’t you have prefered to carry a child and give birth as a kangeroo? Seriously. We know there are better design scenarios. Why not promote using technology to create them?

-it seems you have a conspiratorial view of hospitals and the statistics they report. In a country like Canada, where healthcare is publically funded, why would hospitals present misinformation regarding birthing? They don’t want to scare more people into going to them. They want as few as possible so long as people’s behavior regarding health leads to the best health overall. And further, where the resources come from aside, it seems you have a fairly bleak view of western medicine framework, and I would go so far as to say a bias against it. 

Amara - if you go to this site, benefits
there are 1,216 pubmed abstracts on “Breastfeeding benefits” -
with wide results.

I believe this big body of ‘Scientific Evidence” is what is best to base our discussion on.  If you don’t want to believe the info, that’s fine, but I think it’s best because what is the option?  Some kind of hippie alternative knowledge? 

The pubmed abstracts are not hospital data, they are produced by universities and research centers.  Also, you suggest that that data is compromised, but you think data compiled by midwives and lactation specialists is not?  Politely, I suggest that you need to think that over.

You all sound like a bunch of crazies who have no idea about anything and who can’t function in society. Maybe you should work on inventing a planet or a space pod big enough for you all o get on and leave everyone else alone. Seriously.


If you could explain how your objective to promote a more risky and painful route (home birth without drugs) in the name of the virtues of hardship, and what is ‘natural’, is not bioconservatist, I would be interested in hearing that. I don’t mean to be insulting. 

You can’t put western women down for having fear regarding birthing. Fear is rational in this context because there are many risks and it is painful. Not being fearful in this context is maladaptive. Fear motivates women to go to the hospital, which is the context in which the baby is most likely to survive. While Transhumanism tends to stand for courage and perserverance, it does not advocate irrational fearlessness (risking death unneccessarily where there is very little gain in doing so is irrational). Or, since fear in this circumstance is by and large rational and helpful, it does not follow that such behavior lends itself to following a precautionary principle rather than the H+ proactionary principle. And so arguing that women who go to the hospital out of fear and take painkillers are less of Transhumanists I think is seriously misguided. And making women feel bad and weak for the fear surrouging birthing is rude, irrational, and elitist.

Evolution doesn’t create ideals. Evolution selects for what promotes the best chances for survival in a given context (and is forced to settle for ‘local maximums’ (can’t select for what is ultimately best or best in all contexts)), and often ends up in situations where a lot of trade off occurs, after the fact ad ons, and ‘kluges’. (Kluge: Something not built according a design or plan, but assembled from whatever is available to ‘make do.’-think Apollo 13). When it comes to evolution, what it created was good enough to allow us to survive, that’s it. Any additional ‘goodness’ one sees in evolutionary design is a combination of mysticism, confusion, cognitive bias instigated misconceptions, the result of status/power relations in a societal context, bioconservative counter-cultures, and a romancing of the shortcomings. Prefering what evolution came up with (birth in the middle of the Savana, or a cave if she is lucky) over hospital birthing because it is, as you say, “what our bodies were designed to do” is irrational and I would say bioconservative in its motivations. In the artificial womb scenario we can increase the safety a milllionfold more, since there is a conscious designer, and we can create something more ideal and with fewer trade offs. 

And yes, if you could provide reliable statistics regarding birthing outside the hospital context I would be interested in those as well. One needs to recognize the inherent bias in said statistics, however, since when complications and death occur outside a hospital setting they are far far far less likely to be recorded. Regardless, it is well established fact that maternal and neonatal mortality rates plummeted as a result of the medicalization/technicalization of birthing, so I don’t know why you persist in arguing the opposite.

Besides, I would wager to say that many women actually feel more relaxed and comfortable in a hospital setting because they know that if something were to go wrong that they, and their child, have a better chance at surviving said problem. Making pregnancy a ‘technical’, ‘medical’ thing, not to mention a more sanitary thing, is actually enjoyable to many women since it brings a feeling of having greater control over the outcome, and greater confidence in being able to influence the outcome.

This article was meant to make a case for why we will embrace artificial wombs, and advocates the choice and freedom they promote. It does not argue to ban natural pregnancy, home births, or breastfeeding. So this discussion seems to be getting a little off track.

Another good article Hank. But, once again, you are treading on religions chokehold on human reproduction, as most of the objections against hold little logic or rational thought, but many appeals to the religious tenet of “suffering is good for the soul”

However, as both genders will become interchangable within the foreseeable future, and as the ability to reproduce becomes something that can only occur with the consent of both parties involved, such deep seated “moral arguments” are going to run headlong into the very real and practical benefits of such technologies and we’ll end up burying yet another ridiculous meme being dragged along because an ancient tribe of goat herders thought it was a good idea.

“Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so” Bertrand Russell

Great article and great comments. As usual, I welcome any technical and social developments which can give more options to more people.

For the longer term I agree with Valkyrie and look forward to bodies and genders becoming optional, temporary and interchangeable in the future.

Good to see Amara here, and good to see Athena back here after some time.

@Athena: as you note, this can eliminate most of practical differences between genders. So the extinction-of-women scenario is as likely as an extinction-of men scenario.


I can give you data that I collected in 2008 up to my daughter’s birth, but after my next two NASA grant proposals are submitted, I’m already not sleeping enough and I’ve spent way too much time on this topic. You and Hank have miscontrued my position again. I’ll summarize: artificial wombs don’t exist now (they are in interesting option to think about for choices in 40 or 50 years).  This article amplifies fear of birthing and focuses on the negatives of pregnancy and breastfeeding without taking into consideration _all_ of the data from all sides. Of _course_ there are biases, so why not be as accurate as possible by looking at all of the data and weighing the biases appropriately? That’s what scientists do (of which I’m one).

And Hank, while you are gathering information about the nutrients in breast milk, please also look at how breast cancer rates are greatly reduced by long lactation, and how important is the microbiome in the human gut,  (rivals genetic data for shaping how humans develop), which is picked up by babies as they go through the birth canal. The data is fairly recent (last few years) and fairly solid from the biologists.

I have hardly conspiracy views, but I do have a fair range of experience how wrong the culture presently is on this topic simply because I spent so much effort gathering my own data and succeeding where the culture said I would fail.  The fertility clinics said that I would have a 10-30% chance of becoming pregnant with donor eggs on one IVF cycle, and I became pregnant on the first trial. The Ob/Gyn said that pregnancy would be a difficult experience (it was easy) and everything about my age (47 when I gave birth) would work against birthing. I fired her 2/3 of the way through, got a midwife, and prepared successfully for a natural birth that was hard, but by far not a hardship, with the hardship being the post-birth recovery in a hospital not at home. (I would greatly disagree with anyone who said that hospital stays are relaxing!) The pediatrician that I initially chose was negative about single moms’ ability to care for their infants; I fired him as well, and have had a much more supportive doctor for my child since. By the way, he was very pleased with how little illness my child has had at our last visit at her age 2.

Honestly, why do you insist to promote fear about human possibilities with respect to pregnancy and birthing? That goes against what is usually the optimism in transhuman circles, and it’s a turn-off for all of the optimistic people I personally know, including alot of women.

And really, pregnancy and birthing was one short period of my parenting life, and there are far more important issues for technological women balancing career life and family life, which I suggest are more relevant topics for transhumanists to write about today.

Amara Graps

Hi Giulio: I would like interchangeable body parts too, but that’s not where we are today (which is still in a very backwards and fear-based universe). I believe that I wasted my precious time. See you in whatever next dialog.  Ciao! Amara

Valkyrie: “but many appeals to the religious tenet of “suffering is good for the soul”.

Exactly, and women who have positive birthing experiences are shamed to talk about it because they didn’t “suffer” as the religious-based culture said they should. Bias? You bet. This is as pervasive as the fear that is promoted prior-birthing.

I mostly agree with Amara’s remarks and wish to comment on two (mostly unrelated) gems of hers:

“I fired her…”
“I fired him as well…”

Great! This is how things are done. Doctors must not be dictators or bosses, but consultants. We can pay them for their advice, but then we must make our own decisions on our own bodies.

Nikki, Hank, great article, great discussion!  I wrote about this a few years back, and I wasn’t sure if the technology has progressed at all.  The artificial womb would force society to consider when that being in the womb is entity to rights and protection—and re-define ‘viability’, which is the basis of Roe vs. Wade.  You can read more of my analysis at, Part V and download my powerpoint presentation entitled “The Vexation of Viability” at

Also, have you seen this?:—an artist’s project that is amazing and provocative.



“Honestly, why do you insist to promote fear about human possibilities with respect to pregnancy and birthing? That goes against what is usually the optimism in transhuman circles, and it’s a turn-off for all of the optimistic people I personally know, including alot of women.”

-Not promoting fear. Sympathizing with fear/dislike of pregnancy. Promoting artificial wombs. Not promoting pregnancy. Promoting why a human designer could do better. 

-Yes, we identified a while back that we disagreed on how much negativity was in the original piece.

-Thank you for the discussion and sharing your story. Good luck with your NASA proposals! 

“I believe that I wasted my precious time. “

- That was a rather rude and unnecessary statement to make towards the authors of this article, Amara. How about this for wasting everyone’s “precious time”: going on and on about having data, but where is it? We, the IEET readers are waiting for it. Science is about the use of empirical data, not spouting off personal stories about the personal love of child bearing and your success of using a midwife. Without the data to show, you have nothing. The authors have asked for scientific data, the same data you asked for from them. Furthermore, the authors are not trying to promote fear, they are trying to present an argument based on data.

This hippie, new-age, anti-authoritarian attitude of “I know better” leads people down dangerous roads, like anti-vaccination, unless they actually have reliable data for opposing authority. So if you could present data rather than an ethnography, then this debate could take a useful turn and you could stop wasting everybody’s “precious time”. Maybe you should start by apologize for wasting the authors’ time complaining about the negativity but not having any data to present in your defense.

You’re spouting the worst kind of new-age Crystal Mother, Indigo Child tripe. Your presentment of data is non-existent and your conclusions are highly questionable. You do not act like a scientist at all Amara.

Why do you keep telling Nikki that you are older, and have more experience with H+? Does your age and so-called wisdom, and spouting off about NASA credentials make you anymore credible than her? If you were secure in your knowledge and credibility, your arguments would stand on their own without resorting to insecurely promoting your background. You polish off the rest of your posts by calling Nikki negative and that her views are not akin to what Transhumanist people are thinking or doing.

Furthermore, Nikki and Hank presented a sound argument in favor of artificial wombs and the reasons why one would choose artificial wombs. It was written to present an option, not a replacement.

Let’s get real; most women don’t like pregnancy, and from a medical standpoint it is problematic and dangerous, so I don’t know what your problem is with their presenting a more negative side of it, and presenting a second option. You seem to be confused about the original intentions of the article.  The consensus is that pregnancy presents dangers to mothers and children, and if it could be avoided, there would be fewer health risks to mothers and children. That is not a very controversial claim, I don’t know why you persist in trying to make it seem as though it is, or criticize them for not acting as cheerleaders for pregnancy.

I am frustrated with the H+ community because it is people talking about areas they have no expertise in, yet you yourself are not a doctor or medical scientist, Amara. But yet you shout loud and clear that you know better, even without presenting any evidence whatsoever. Where there is no expertise then the best thing to do is defer to real data.

Seriously, this is how dangerous Jenny McCarthy anti-vaccination nonsense gets started. Yes, one should evaluate a wide range of data and think for themselves. Thankfully there is also a huge portion of the H+ community who don’t get off on opposing authority at all costs, and actually take the time to look for the data. Not surprisingly, these people are not the extreme Libertarians of this community. Go figure.

Amara, it seems you misunderstood Valkyrie Ice.

Valkyrie is arguing against the religious notion that suffering is good for the soul, and so against the bioconservatist leanings in your prior posts. She says ‘once again you are treading…’ to say that Hank is towing an argument that is controversial. Obviously an artificial womb produces far less pain and discomfort than natural birth. You don’t seem to recognize that therein lies the ‘H+ strength’ of Hank and Nikki’s article.

“Exactly, and women who have positive birthing experiences are shamed to talk about it because they didn’t ‘suffer’ as the religious-based culture said they should. Bias? You bet. This is as pervasive as the fear that is promoted prior-birthing.”

Let me get this straight, Amara. So you are essentially arguing that there is some badly skewed societal consensus that pregnancy is terrible and in an effort to ‘fit in’ with society women outright lie and say that their labour was worse than it was? I can see how expectations affect perceptions of pain, and I will certainly grant you that, but with this being ashamed to admit they didn’t suffer nonsense, you are walking on thin ice.

Since when do people feel “ashamed” to talk about having a pleasant experience, or an experience that was better than average? No “evil societal force” is making women say “I had a bad labour”. The majority of women have bad experiences, so is the public perception. Period.

If anything, people tend to dramatize the pain so that they sound like warriors who endured and overcame - that would have been a more psychologically sound direction for you to take you argument in. You appear to be confused about what motivates human psychology.

You had a good experience giving birth, and that’s great. But as Nikki said to you earlier, “realize that you are an exception, not the norm”.

Who can possibly argue that mammalian birthing is well-designed?


“Childbirth is an inherently dangerous and risky activity, subject to many complications. The “natural” mortality rate of childbirth—where nothing is done to avert maternal death—has been estimated as being 1500 deaths per 100,000 births.[“( Safe motherhood strategies: a review of the evidence. Antwerp, ITG Press, 2001 (Studies in Health Services Organisation and Policy, 17:7–33).


“Modern medicine has greatly alleviated the risk of childbirth. In modern Western countries, such as the United States or Sweden, the current maternal mortality rate is around 10 deaths per 100,000 births.[31]”( Safe motherhood strategies: a review of the evidence. Antwerp, ITG Press, 2001 (Studies in Health Services Organisation and Policy, 17:10).


Some health complaints and problems associated with pregnancy:



-internal tissue tearing.

-nerve damage to pelvic structures.

-needed hysterectomy as a result of some injuries during delivery.

-infection (increase greatly with home birth)

-hemorrhage (heavy blood loss leading to death in home birth)/complications from   blood transfusions.

-hypovolemic shock.

-intrapartum asphyxia.

-obstructed labor accounts for 8% of maternal mortality.  

-cephalo-pelvic disproportion.

-poor uterine contraction strength.

-genitovaginal fistula.


Permanent back problems-in particular unstable sacroiliac joint.

High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia

Incontinence (wetting or soiling yourself)

Indigestion and heartburn

Leaking nipples

Nausea and morning sickness

Piles (haemorrhoids)

Severe itching and obstetric cholestasis

Varicose veins

Pregnancy can exacerbate disease in mothers with diabetes, thyroid conditions, asthma, epilepsy, renal (UTI more common) and cardiac conditions, autoimmunie conditions, and obstetric cholestasis.

Pregnancy induced hypertension (6-8% of all gestations)(Generalized edema)

Melanoma risks are higher during pregnancy.

-3% of pregnancies are complicated by proteinuric pre-eclampsia. 1/10 of these patients will have impaired liver function and renal failure.


Just to give some perspective here, lets contrast the above situations with what would happen with an artificial womb:


Maternal Mortality Rate: 0/100,000

Maternal Complications: None.

Neonatal Complications: Unknown, but guess is very very few. No birth canal is a good start.

You guys write “Humans can do better”. No kidding! I would think that would be like stating the obvious, but from looking at these comments it doesn’t seem to be.

Amara, happy to hear you had a pleasant experience. You probably have a wide birth canal. 

Sorry. It was early morning on a full day of deadlines and 4 days before a major funding effort (my funding drops in August and then drops off a cliff next year). For what it is worth, this is the only conversation I’ve had of any length with anyone in the transhumanist community in almost 3 years. I don’t have time for conversations with three ‘jobs’ (fulltime research, fulltime baby, grant proposals at night). I answered what I considered rude (and there is certainly more mudslinging here against me) comments with one rude comment. I apologize for that.

I can give some links and text, but more will need to happen after my next grant proposals in July.

It’s hard to give any only one link because the internet of full of home birth videos, personal blog stories, professional documentaries, and then research article links. I became buried with all of that info for months and months of evenings just following link after link, so I don’t believe that I’m saying or pointing out anything Earth-shaking, and I don’t believe that it will be hard to discover it and research it oneself with sufficient motivation.

Here is one research article to begin:

Then I would follow links to midwife associations and doulas and read their data
and information.

Here is one possible place to start:

And Articles describing births at home and in a hospital

For a more complete picture, I would start with this documentary
The Business of Being Born

Access it here


The Business of Being Born, a documentary about birth in the United States made by Ricki Lake, is often described as a must-see by natural childbirth advocates. It is a useful introduction to different birth choices for women considering where to give birth, giving a very visual illustration of the pros and cons of the various options.

The Business of Being Born essentially offers a window into different types of birth. It shows hospital births, birth center births and homebirths, and the contrast between them becomes strikingly clear. For me, the most powerful part of the documentary was French OB Michael Odent giving his views. He said: “We are completely lost. And we have even forgotten to ask the most simple questions – what are the basic needs of women in labor?”

All the footage of hospital births and OB/GYNs telling their side of the story more than confirms what Odent said. At the beginning of the documentary, a group of female OB residents is asked how often they see a natural, unmedicated birth with no interventions. After they spent some time looking at each other blankly, one admits that it rarely, almost never, happens. Then later on, the same snotty residents (not to say that all OB residents are snotty, but these are!) are looking at a chart of currently laboring women. All are having their labors augmented, according to one “because they are not anywhere near adequate”. The chart shows pitocin, pitocin, pitocin, and more pitocin.

Is natural childbirth about feminist machoism, and being able to tell another woman you did it all without drugs while you are both pushing strollers, as one interviewed OB claimed? Is it “not important”, like the same doctor said? Or are we indeed totally lost, and have doctors forgotten to even consider the basic needs of laboring women? Perhaps women today no longer go through the horrors of twilight sleep, their hands and feet strapped to a hospital bed for days on end (also shown in The Business of Being Born!), but are they so much better off? Are c-sections today’s twilight sleep?

But the documentary also does a good job of showing alternatives to “pitocin, pitocin, pitocin”, by showing homebirths and birth center births. And it isn’t one-sided “propaganda” either. At the end, the film maker and Ricki Lake’s friend is shown going into labor prematurely with a growth-restricted breech baby, and that is how a planned homebirth ended up being a cesarean instead.

The Business of Being Born is well worth watching. Most women reading this blog are already more than aware of the situation on today’s labor and delivery wards, and about the alternatives available. For those, this documentary provides a visual reminder. For women who have never thought about giving birth anywhere other than a hospital, it is bound to raise some serious questions. And for friends and relatives of out of hospital birthers, it could be really helpful in explaining why their loved-one made a decision they are uncomfortable with.


Another documentary: The Orgasmic Birth

Horrible statistics about the large number of infant fatalities in hospitals (no, hospitals don’t reduce infant deaths)


My own comments (written back in 2008)

Women are physiologically programmed not to remember the details of any large pain that they experience in birth, so the details of their experiences are retold more often by their partners, who are usually the men, who are remembering as strongly their own fear when they were with her with what they understand about their partner’s painful experience.

Any woman who doesn’t have a painful experience without painkillers (‘it was like a bad case of cramps’, I heard some women say), feels a little guilty that she didn’t have that painful experience (I heard these women say that too), or if she does talk about it, her words are often ignored by her society. Women who have better childbirth experiences (in birthing centers or giving birth at home), are usually not documented in the statistical surveys released by hospitals, because it is data outside of what the medical community usually work with. Because many or most obstetricians have not attended a home birth, and their medical training gives them a narrow set of procedures to follow for the variety of different situations, if there is anything in the birth that is a little bit different than how they were trained to handle, then the doctors follow the most conservative and most interventionist approach. Which isn’t always the best approach, in fact, doctors can make things much worse. The doctors are scared just as much as is the woman entering a hospital; malpractice suits is just as large of a fear for them as losing their patient.

So in a quasi-religious culture like the US, the pain of childbirth is described much more than the other, nonpainful range of childbirth experiences, and the cycle will never be broken because pain and death is foremost in everyone’s minds and fear is a powerful driver in a very primal situation. So as a scared patient with a lifetime of negative messages in her mind, entering a hospital, the mother ready to give birth—and her terrified, unrelaxed body that won’t ‘let go’ in the natural way—continues the cycle too. Women (at least in the US) don’t usually consider other alternatives to hospital births because the information given by the hospitals for their birthing are overwhelming. There is one default way to give birth, she learns. On top of that, women don’t have as easily available the information that describes the bad side-affects of the pain-killers (and there are many), and so they accept the default hospital procedures and methods, which in some cases can be very dangerous for her.

I have heard and read stories of all of the painful experiences that women have had, so it is nothing new. I’ve also heard stories many times over at the other end (the nonpainful kind), and in between too. But I have had to work much harder to find those (the nonpainful kind) data because the hospitals and general media and the negative messages from the culture (stories from your your colleagues, your family, magzaines and other news sources etc.) swamp the information sources.

I think that women need to know all sides of the story, hear about the dangers that exist from the medical community in their birthing, have access to alternatives that can provide a much better experience for themselves, make their birthing into the way that she wants and _can_ have, and not be scared about it.

Ciao for a while.


Amara, do you mean Ricki Lake as in the daytime tv host from the 1990s? I am not so sure she counts as as a credible documentary maker. Please correct me if I am wrong.

I am here in support Nikki’s claims that fear with regards to pregnancy is an adaptive trait in humans that we shouldn’t be criticising. I have personally been involved in extensive research within the field of physical anthropology, and give what anthropologists say the origin and purpose for fear about birthing my complete support.

Our human ancestors did not get help with birthing. There was no evolutionary advantage to getting help either. And there is no evidence of ‘fear’ in monkey birthing behaviour. Some people speculate there could have been disadvantages in getting help with birthing (another taking the baby).

Anthropologists think that humans began getting help with birthing because of the fear and the fear is from witnessing/anticipating the birthing complications that inevitably arose at this time. Being motivated to get help with birthing increases survival rate 10X (if not more) and therefore had some very clear evolutionary advantage!

“Childbirth is complicated in humans relative to other primates. Unlike the situation in great apes, human neonates are about the same size as the birth canal, making passage difficult. The birth mechanism (the series of rotations that the neonate must undergo to successfully negotiate its mother’s birth canal) distinguishes humans not only from great apes, but also from lesser apes and monkeys….” (Neanderthal birth canal shape and the evolution of human childbirth

Timothy D. Weavera,b,1 and Jean-Jacques Hublin  )

Human births are much more complicated and dangerous than monkey births.

“The evolutionary modifications of the human pelvis that enabled hominids to walk upright necessitate that most infants exit the birth canal with the back of their heads against the pubic bones, facing in the opposite direction as their mother,” (Rosenberg 83). 

 “The face-backward position of human infants presents a problem in that the mothers are not able to guide the infant, regardless of the pose she takes during labor.  This position also inhibits the mother from being able to lift the baby, clear the nose and mouth of mucous, and remove the umbilical cord if it is around the baby’s neck (Rosenberg 83).”

 “The painful and dangerous complications that arose as a result of bipedalism were lessened by the development of assisted births.  “Today virtually all women in all societies seek assistance at delivery,” (Rosenberg 83).  


“There are a few exceptions to this rule, but assisted delivery greatly alleviates the physical stress associated with childbirth. Assisted delivery also reduces the mortality rate among humans. The high mortality rate with unassisted human births almost outweighs the benefits of encephalization and bipedalism; the species would die out if it could not successfully reproduce.  It was, therefore, evolutionarily necessary for birthing mothers to seek assistance during childbirth.  (Rosenberg 85).”


Karen Rosenberg and Wenda Trevathan suggest that this behavior was favored during natural selection because it decreased the mortality rate (Rosenberg 85)


“The assistance seeking behavior is attributed to the fear, anxiety, and pain experienced by expecting mothers.”(Rosenberg 85)


“Psychiatrists have argued that natural selection might have favored such emotions…because they led individuals who experienced them to seek the protection of companions, which would have given them a better chance of surviving,” (Rosenberg 85).”


(Rosenberg, Karen R. and Wenda R. Trevathan. “The Evolution of Human Birth.” Scientific American May 2003: 80-85.)


Before there was fear, adjoining birth mothers would attempt to do the birth alone like their ancestors did, and the result; a woman will immediately become fearful of birthing on her own. So it doesn’t matter what society she is in. Teenage girls, for example, are known to become fearful of pregnancy; she just has to think about the size of the baby and compare it with the pain of tampons or a pap smear to predict the pain of the childbirth experience. We need to realize that there is no conspiracy here! Women don’t need exposure to media or anyone else’s opinion to become fearful of childbirth.  


The present day correspondent of seeking help is by going to a hospital.

No doctor that passed medical school can argue that it is not the most secure place for a birthing mother to be. Amara, you say the fear is overdone, but, I ask you this: A. How are you measuring that, and b. Evaluation of fear is measured by the likelihood that the fear brings about the best outcome and when it does not bring the best outcome it is considered a pathology.

It is a difficult case to prove that there is too much fear since the best outcome for childbirth is one done in a medical setting where there is lots of help available to the mother and their child (or children) and it is basically what women in the United States do. Homebirth statistics are thrown off by the fact that high risk women don’t give birth at home in first place.

I understand that too much fear can make the perception of pain worse. You do have a good point there, Amara. Be aware that by that logic you have to criticize children who fear the dentist, too… and it’s a slippery slope. Fear of pregnancy will also motivate women to choose artificial wombs which provide even greater survival returns.

The bottom line is that you cannot be so flippant of the fear presented here. I am a neophyte to the “H+” (Transhumanist) community but one thing I have noticed about “H+” is the tendency to explain human psychology in terms of evolution and what our ancestors did. I think I have explained some of the fear associated with pregnancy… but with all due respect; you have resorted to accusations of hospitals creating fear to get more customers (a very conspiratorial and anti-authoritarian attitude!), and I think I give a more reasonable, H+ interpretation of the fear than you did.


Fascinating article Nikki and Hank. I look forward to your next articles… smile

The first resource you provide is interesting. I look forward to more studies like this, although I have some thoughts I am eager to share with you and other IEET readers + writers… 
From the article: 
“Rates of transport to hospital in our study were similar to those reported elsewhere. A recently published evaluation of 961 midwife-attended births in birthing centres in Quebec7 reported a transport rate to hospital during the intrapartum period of15.8%, which is close to our rate of 16.5%. “
“However, the consequences of some of the expected complications (thick meconium in the amniotic fluid and haemorrhage) may be more serious for women and their babies when women deliver at home than when they deliver in hospital. These comparisons are based on small numbers and warrant ongoing evaluation.”
If 16% of people are going to hospital due to complications anyway, so why not just start out there? You realize that 16.5% is like 1/6 of all women (who were considered safe for homebirth!) that end up with birthing complications serious enough to force them into the hospital… that’s a pretty high number if you ask me! In medicine that aforementioned 16% is considered a very high number because there is a lot being risked. 
I personally defend the right of women who want to birth at home but at the same time I understand why doctors want births to happen in the hospital. It is true that medicine in US is a business, but you seem trapped in the negatives and ignore the positives like the fact that doctors swear ethical Hippocratic Oaths, and people working at hospitals are just like us; people. An overwhelming majority want to do well in this world, and are extremely proud of the work they do, and they do so honourbly.


I’d like to add; safety does go up with Midwife regulation. I noticed on your personal web-site, you mention that you are an “anarchist”.  I will assume you meant anarchist as in;
“That organization of society in which the Free Market operates freely, without taxes, usury, landlordism, tariffs, or other forms of coercion or privilege. RIGHT ANARCHISTS predict that in the Free Market people would voluntarily choose to compete more often than cooperate. LEFT ANARCHISTS predict that in the Free Market people would voluntarily choose to cooperate more often than to compete.” (Source: The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, 1975.)
(And not anarchist as in someone who dresses up in black, wears a balaclava and throws rocks and explodes bombs at globalism summit protests).
Do you believe mid-wives should be regulated? Why or why not, and please supply a detailed explanation. Thank you, Amara!


Tom B. - thanks for providing information from very reputable sources!

Amara—sorry, but I have to agree with Nathan here—I am still waiting for you to provide source material is actually scientific, what you cite is business propaganda to support what you describe as “midwife associations and doulas”

Like I said earlier, reliable evidence is best found via abstracts on pubmed. 

Children’s IQ is extremely correlated to the education level achieved by the mother. (research has repeatedly identified this factor).  This, and other factors, is far more important than breastfeeding.

I may be wrong, but it seems like one simple little thing is being overlooked in the discussion about home vs. hospital birth…we can always make hospitals themselves more ‘homelike’, while still being close to all the surgery equipment just in case.

My son was born in a hospital. The one thing I didn’t like about it was that they really don’t put much effort into making it as warm and welcoming as they could.

Theirs too much anxiety there. They could work on maternity wards to make them more home like, then everyone wins.

Dear Hank: I don’t owe you anything. For some of the others here, I was
going to give a description of the functioning of the two main uterine muscles during birthing and why fear breaks the normal functioning, but I’m exhausted and those who care can look into it on their own; it’s easy to find. Even after this next batch of grant proposals, my priorities are taking good care of my daughter, getting my funding to cover paying childcare, and rent and finding spare seconds to take care of myself and maybe get a good night sleep some nights. I have no buffer of time, and I’m very sorry, but I have no motivation anymore against a tide of snide and rude remarks. Maybe in a few more years I’ll find the presence of mind to have a conversation with some in this forum about something I’m passionate about, but it will be not anytime soon.

Amara Graps

I gotcha Amara

“An excerpt from Childbirth Without Fear

“Any stress to the mother stimulates the adrenal glands to pour out catecholemines. As a result, muscle sphincters tighten down making uterine contractions less effective and sending blood away from the uterus to the arms and legs because stress and tension prepare the body for fight or flight. All of this prevents an adequate supply of oxygen to the big contracting muscle-the uterus.

There are three muscle layers composing the uterus, the outer muscles contract to push the baby down, through and ultimately out of the uterus.
The middle muscles contract to squeeze the blood out of the walls of the uterus and then relax to allow the blood vessels to fill up again with a fresh supply of blood.

But when the inner circular muscles contract they close the outlet, maintaining the uterus in its unemptied shape. Thus, these inner circular muscles must be loose and relaxed when the long muscles contract to open the womb and push the baby out.

If a woman is frightened during labor this inner muscle layer contracts, then the muscles of the uterus and the muscles that hold it closed are working against each other. Whenever there are two big groups of muscles working against each other they soon begin to hurt and in a short time the pain becomes very severe.

We speak of this as the fear-tension-pain-syndrome of childbirth for a woman who is afraid and unconsciously resisting the birth of her baby by tightening the circular uterine fibers which prevents the progress of the birth and increases muscle tension within the walls of the uterus. This causes nearly all of the pains and distresses in otherwise normal labor. Which describes the labor of about ninety five women out of a hundred.”

Someone explained to me once, that if you need emergency life saving surgery or procedures the best place to be is an American hospital.

On the other hand, it seems that that is the only thing American health care does well. We are not holistic. We do not treat the patient, we look for problems.

Monty Python really captured this in the Meaning of Life

Monty Python - Birth

And I don’t know if anyone watches House, M.D., but Gregory House epitomizes, in kind of a ridiculous way, the paradigm of health in western nations. Always looking for problems to solve, mysteries to unravel. Not humans to heal and help.

There is an imbalance in the way we treat the human body.

@Nathan: “This hippie, new-age, anti-authoritarian attitude of “I know better”” _sometimes_ leads people down dangerous roads, but more often provides a much needed counterbalance to authoritarian nanny states. I prefer hippies to bureaucrats.

Well that’s a bit binary, Giulio! I’d like to think we didn’t have to choose one or the other. I understand why people should do their own research, but we need to be on guard for “Jenny McCarthy” situations and to do that we appeal to real scientific research, which is not an appeal to authority insomuch as it is an appeal to the value of empiricism.

Nathan Wosnack

Hi Linda MacDonald Glen!

I read your JET paper, and went through your presentation slides.

The artificial womb definitely does require we redefine viability, and I agree with what you say, that doing so will subsequently require an expansion of the notion of personhood. And you write:

“As different forms of life are created through transgenics, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence, the courts and legislatures will be forced to determine where these creations fall on the person – property continuum”

If considered a ‘person’, but one that is heavily dependent upon technology to survive (needs the artificial womb until 5 months, say), then the definition of personhood has less and less to do with human ability, and more and more to do with ability of man and machine in combination.

There is an eerie metaphorical aspect to this shift in that the expanding notion of viability in embryos parallels the growing dependence of humans on technology for survival more generally. The level of dependence will only increase as population continues to grow, and we depend more and more on maintaining a sophisticated agricultural and food production system.

I suspect the issue of ‘dependence on technology’ will matter less and less in legal definitions of personhood as we further integrate with technology, and the evolution of man and machine plays itself out. We will come to focus less on what a human is without life sustaining technology (no longer factoring the question ‘could they survive without it’ into conceptions of life/death), and more and more regard a human as something that will of course depend upon technology in some crucial way. In an era such as this I guess you could say there is a true, existential mergence of man and machine. 

Thanks for sharing your writing. These are interesting topics for sure!

Nathan, Giulio - I’m a Northern Californian, used to be a “hippie” but now I find that culture SO embarrassing.  Perhaps they occasionally come up with a useful “counterbalance” but they’re also responsible for New Age nonsense and an immense amount of “non-scientific” thinking that’s wasted time and brain cells.

  There’s Luddite reactionary thinking in eco-anarchism, for example, plus hippie self-hatred for western civilization and distrust of science & technology (due to laziness and inability to understand it).

IMO, Nathan is also right about the “I know better” attitude - self-rightousness is, I feel, a primary emotion of hippies.  Along with dogmatism, narrow-mindedness, and general irrationality. 

My hippie-time (about a decade) was far too long but at least I came out of it, turning into a punk rocker, which was smarter and far better for ironics.  Many of my old hippie ex-friends are still babbling about astrology though and Jerry Garcia’s demise.  Hippies are not a forward-thinking group, IMO.

Enough of my rant.  I just read George Dvorsky’s recent article about psychological diversity, and it was excellent, I recommend it.  One point he makes is that, in his opinion, the world runs best with multiple viewpoints - there’s plenty of value in autistic thinking, for example.  Perhaps hippies are needed as well.  As anti-authoritarians, they’re excellent.  As community planners, perhaps ditto. As scientists? I don’t think so.  Philosophers?  Please, no.

I have something I’d like to add to the comments that no one has said yet.  We don’t have a genetic explanation that codes desire to reproduce, but one day we will and perhaps we could influence the desire to reproduce without affecting the desire to have sex. Wanting to have kids is a very biological thing that people unconsciously comply with or think that they want but in actuality it is their biology talking. It is rational because we need to worry about extinction although that is a very small risk at the present time. Robots and technology, like intelligent viruses, want to reproduce for different reasons than humans do. When humans inevitably merge with machines we will probably end up doing less human things. 

The liking of kids is very much genetic and we can tell because many people don’t like them at all or they don’t want them and society is only now getting to a point where those people don’t need to feel bad or selfish for not wanting them, though I have noticed my baby loving friends think people who don’t want kids are selfish. That is an interesting opinion. It doesn’t mean that kids are not cute but we are heavily swayed by instinct so that we will want to have them even though they are lots of work and cause us a great deal of stress and financial burden.

I think kittens are much cuter than babies and kittens can survive on their own after a relatively short period of time. Human reproduction is badly thought up too because babies take significant time to come to a point where they can survive on their own autonomously. For example coordination and balance takes a very long time and in my opinion it is actually quite ridiculous.

I am personally more of a Ray Kurzweil follower and I personally don’t see the desire to have children in the future given the likelihood that we will merge with machines and other than existential threats from technology, we will have lots of control over the continuation of our species. The evolution of man and technology is after all about gaining more and more control over our survival and, in turn, depending less and less on biology to survive.

I have noticed some Transhumanists talking about the relationship between intelligence and education since these things increase people tend to have fewer kids and so we should expect fewer kids in the future either way. In lots of sci-fi books and movies there are no kids… I wonder why.  Either way people should have the freedom to be able to do what they want, or others leave them alone for it.

I wonder if worrying about having kids and how many die natural all that is really very important in the Raymond Kurzweil framework, but I agree with the authors that using an artificial womb is the smartest idea. Humans should always be striving to create alternatives (more options) so that they don’t have to do the things they don’t like or do something that is dangerous to them. That is what technology is for… isn’t it? smile

  Heinrich K.

@Nathan:  I’d also like to think we didn’t have to choose one or the other, that’s why I wrote “sometimes” and “more often”.

And @Hank: most of what you say about hippies and New Agers is true. But they had a certain freshness, openness, imagination, tolerance, vision and spirit that our modern society has lost. All things considered, I still prefer hippies to bureaucrats, and I also prefer hippies to over-rationalists who don’t want to think beyond 2+2=4.

However, less black and white and some Hegel. How do we put together the good things in the New Age spirit and the good things in the rationalist spirit?

@Hank re “I just read George Dvorsky’s recent article about psychological diversity, and it was excellent, I recommend it. One point he makes is that, in his opinion, the world runs best with multiple viewpoints - there’s plenty of value in autistic thinking, for example. Perhaps hippies are needed as well. As anti-authoritarians, they’re excellent. As community planners, perhaps ditto. As scientists? I don’t think so. Philosophers? Please, no. “

I completely agree until the last two points. Perhaps _some_ hippie scientists and philosophers are needed as well. Not too many, but just some. As George says,  the world runs best with multiple viewpoints and multiple cognitive attitudes.

Giulio Prisco; You say you aren’t being binary but when you stated “All things considered, I still prefer hippies to bureaucrats, and I also prefer hippies to over-rationalists”. These are considered binary ‘I prefer this to that’ statements.

Hello IEET!

My name is Angela Meredith and I am an APN (Advanced Practice Nurse) living in Texas with my husband David and two beautiful children Charlotte and Peter. I am in support of artificial wombs, so much as a matter of fact that I would seriously consider having my third child this way if they weren’t so darn far in the future! I saw Ricki Lake’s documentary back in nursing school, and I did my own research as I am a delivery nurse and I wanted to know all sides of the story. Ricki’s a lovely woman but she is not a nurse and I personally think she gets it wrong in a few ways and I am grateful for this conversation here because there are a few things I would like people to know from a nurse’s way of looking at things about birth and artificial wombs. Hank darling I sympathize with your wife’s experience!

I don’t like to say bad things about people but Ricki Lake really undermined the honor I have in how I do my job. We are taught as nurses to be as accommodating as possible and all the nurses I’ve ever worked with get so much personal enjoyment in knowing they’re helping mothers bring their children into this wonderful world that we just want to help as much as we can!

It is such a meaningful and beautiful moment and I love to help other women to make it as pleasant and easy as possible. I simply think it is insulting how Ricki Lake implied that we are not as caring as midwives and doctors just want their pay-checks, because that is a pretty over simplified viewpoint. I think she creates a sense of fear about the hospital experience just to make other people pay attention to her andI lose respect for her for that!

Oh, and Amara dear, fear is a natural plane as day response basic to the autonomic nervous system and is common with first-time mothers. Relaxing helps birth but understand that fear is completely normal, and we as nurses like women to pay attention to their instincts and talk to us about them comfortably and not feel bad about them. Adults get scared too and and a lot of tension getting in the way of birthing can be released just by talking about their fears.

Well it is pretty late here and I am up with the roosters to take the kids off to school. Thanks to you both for writing an article telling it like it is! With such visual language you’d think you were standing right there in a delivery room!

I am thought of as kind of a futuristic person in my circle down here but all my nursing friends liked this too and thought this article was so neat! We have been talking about how to design the womb and all the neat things you could do with it.

I just love technology and I do my best to keep up with all the stuff you guys are talking about with it cause it’s just so exciting.

Take Care,

@Nathan - “A is always better than B” is binary, “I usually prefer A to B” is not.

Angela - it is very wonderful to hear from you and your nursing perspective and from all your nursing friends!

Regarding the nursing care that my wife got, it was always excellent, and so were the doctors.  We had a doulah the first time and she was a little weird, well, my wife just wasn’t that relaxed about the doolah playing with her nipples to get the oxytocin going since she… didn’t know her that well? Or because I was watching?  I didn’t mind… 

The nurses, on the other hand, were very relaxed and offered her very good drugs (morphine?) which my wife was more comfortable with. 

It is funny, looking back on it, because my wife and I went into the hospital with a “Birthing Plan” all written out and a Pilates ball, etc, etc, and the nurses said later they just rolled their eyes and knew it was going to be a tough labor.  My wife (is this getting to be “too much information”?) has a vaginal canal that slants in the opposite direction so both babies heads got stuck coming out, thus the c-sections - the doctors said my wife would have died, twice, if she was birthing 100 years ago.

Thanks again for writing in - !  much appreciated !

Solid article on an important subject. I’m pleased to see IEET covering this topic. Artificial womb technology constitutes a central part of Shulamith Firestone’s revolutionary vision.

As a quick note, the idea of “human erotic enjoyment” being “ruined by the threat of pregnancy” comes from the heterocentric obsession with PIV intercourse. Folks with the same parts have always been able to get off without worrying about kids. Yet beyond that, even combinations of people capable of breeding could have engaged (and possibly did) in various fun sex acts without risk of procreation in prehistoric hunter-gatherer times. You don’t need any props for this.

Giulio Prisco; I apologize, I wasn’t saying that your preferences were black and white, rather that you only presented two options… thus they were binary statements.

@Nathan: I see your point now, thanks for clarifying. Of course there are many shades of grey between white pure hippies and black pure bureaucrats. I tend to prefer lighter shades.

QUOTE :“Human erotic enjoyment is all-too-often ruined by the threat of pregnancy. “Births” could take place solely via artificial wombs with our eggs and sperm harvested in early adolescence, and natural pregnancy reliably prevented.”

This will also have to be accompanied by changes in the mal-adaptive psychology of women.  Evidently, women can still not seperate reproduction from sex in the way that men can.  They still demand commitment and ‘faithfulness’ even when pregnancy can already be reliably prevented by use of the pill.  They still see the primary goal of their hard won political power to prevent younger sexual rivals from entering the free sexual market, even when virtual sex will shortly make disadvantages related to age and looks irrelevant.

“This will also have to be accompanied by changes in the mal-adaptive psychology of women. Evidently, women can still not seperate reproduction from sex in the way that men can. They still demand commitment and ‘faithfulness’ even when pregnancy can already be reliably prevented by use of the pill”

That’s a really interesting observation. Thanks! Interesting to speculate as to where technology could help with this. For instance, could really precise futuristic science find a way to shut off that response temporarily where women wished? Seems to me the mechanisms at play in the ‘commitment’ response involve many genes and systems that overlap with female personality traits/biology we would, at the same time, wish to keep. So, at least for the foreseeable future the suppression of commitment responses where unwanted will have to be managed by the individual at the psychological level.

Do you see another way in the foreseeable future? (other than virtual)

Thanks again!


I’m not a scientist so I can’t say whether changing these things is realistic in the near future.  Seems that oxytocin does play a large role in the female demand for commitment from a sexual partner (and, in fact, men’s desire to commit too).

The ethical question is whether or not we should encourage or legislate ‘treatments’ for mal-adapative traits such as that.  Of course, there is no question of any foreseeable government forcing women to take something that reduces oxytocin.  However, the way things are going regarding the increasing pathologization of normal male sexuality (i.e. male desire for multiple partners being classified as a psychological disorder), it’s far more likely that feminist states will encourage or force men to take oxytocin in order to be more ‘committed’ to their partners.  In fact, there is a gentleman who you may have heard of - David Pearce’ - who calls for exactly that.

I appreciate you publishing my comment, and I’m sure you came close to blowing a fuse when you read it, but the point is that the article states the opinion that seperating sex from reproduction at a physical level would be profoundly liberating for women, and I agree.  But,  in fact, at a psychological level, women seem to find that very difficult do do, and not only are women prevented from genuine liberation because of it, men are being increasingly hurt by it.  If science and transhumanism can find a way to fix that, I think it should be open to discussion.

“If science and transhumanism can find a way to fix that”

Fix?: since when is a scientist a fixer? if only such were the case; not even an engineer can ‘fix’. Scientists, engineers, transhumanists, are people—not magicians.
BTW what makes you think anyone at IEET is “blowing a fuse” concerning this? there are more personal issues, involving day to day struggles, to become extremely exercised about.

@Nikki, and Anti-Feminist

That desire for commitment is not truly about reproduction so much as it is about security.

Women are every bit as unfaithful as men, because the female “adaptive” strategy is an automatic double standard. “alphas” for reproduction, “betas” for security. Given absolute sexual freedom, many women would have sex with one type of male, and have a “committed relationship” with an entirely different one.

“Alphas” are pretty, they are physically attractive, they are “warrior” types. But they SUCK as committed partners precisely BECAUSE they are in high demand among women. “Beta’s” are reliable, tend to be good providers, and provide everything desired in a “child rearing” environment, but they just are not “Alphas”

We know this, we just refuse to admit it because we like to pretend that humans are not just as ruled by instinct as the other animals.

This reality is the source of nearly all “sexual taboos” and “social expectations.” Given the freedom to act according to programmed human nature, everyone would prefer to have sex with an “alpha” while having a “relationship” with a beta. It’s not an exclusively male or female trait. The concepts of marriage and fidelity are merely social concepts developed to prevent people from conceiving with one person and forcing another person to support the child.

And, as I pointed out above, gender change is going to become a matter of choice within the next few decades, which will throw all previous human behavioral norms out the window. When everyone is an “Alpha” and everyone can be which ever gender they feel like being at the time, the majority of these “social conventions” designed to prevent cuckoldry will be meaningless.

I’m disappointed to see y’all taking theantifeminist seriously. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll simply advise caution in making presumptuous statements about human nature, particularly when they support oppressive cultural narratives.

Summer, anything less than radical rabid support of female dominance seems to disappoint you.

How many times do I have to remind you I support gender neutrality, and that my views arise from long experience actually observing human behavior in action?

Neither side is superior, and neither side gets a free pass for behavior they wish suppressed in the other side. Polygamous behavior is a species wide trait, and ONLY social systems designed to ensure “ownership” of children disguise this fact. Just as many women “cheat” as men do.

If you can’t face the facts, I really can’t help your disappointment.

“Neither side is superior, and neither side gets a free pass”

Men get a free pass because they do in fact dominate women—
the side which has the big guns rules, everywhere.

To the comments about the female selection strategy:

Just found this article that makes me think about whether competition in women has been suppressed subconsciously for practical reasons.

Competition Between Females Leads to Infanticide in Some Primates

An international team of scientists, with Spanish participation, has shed light on cannibalism and infanticide carried out by primates, documenting these acts for the first time in the moustached tamarin (Saguinus mystax). The mothers, which cannot raise their infants without help from male group members, commit infanticide in order to prevent the subsequent death of their offspring if they are stressed and in competition with other females.


If inter-female competition leads to infanticide (and it seems to make sense, if competition between males leads them to kill each other).

It could be one evolutionary reason for needing to take care of “women and children” first, which would naturally result in the unequal status of women in society.

The solution?

It takes a village to raise a child, and children are not property.

@Valkyrie Ice “We know this, we just refuse to admit it because we like to pretend that humans are not just as ruled by instinct as the other animals.”

It’s not quite that black and white. The combination of our large brains, our language instinct and the massively moderating influence of civilisation leads to a vastly richer range of behaviours than could be attributable to “instinct” alone. This is important because the instinct-based strategies that you describe, real as I believe them to be, can be confused with destiny, as if we don’t really have any choice about them. When that happens, well-meaning attempts to “explain” human behaviour can indeed support oppressive cultural narratives.

The distinction that I think needs to be made is between, “This is how men and women naturally tend to behave, as suggested by evolutionary psychology, in the absence of other factors,” and “This is how men and women always behave, and there’s really not much that can be done about it short of genetic engineering.” Mindfulness, clarity of values and determination can go a long way in altering human behaviour.

Exactly iPan. The entire meme is all about OWNERSHIP, and NO-ONE has the right to own another human being.

Oh, and Summer, you STILL don’t get it. You’re so wrapped up in being AGAINST male domination you can’t see that FEMALE domination is THE EXACT SAME THING.

Every underdog wants to “get revenge” and become the new master so that they can abuse the previous top dog, but that merely leads to an endless cycle of abuse and revenge. ONLY TRUE NEUTRAL EQUALITY will end this pointless cycle.

So, in my opinion, you and anti-feminist are pretty much exactly alike. Neither of you really gives a damn about equality, you just want your side to be free to do whatever you wish with the other gender being “enslaved.” You are both equally biased to believe your side can do no wrong, and the “problem” is the “other side” and you cannot admit to the reality that BOTH sides are equally wrong, and equally right, and that the ONLY solution is neutrality.

AF actually brought up a valid point, although he did so in a manner that was indeed biased against women. I corrected that slant in my response, and addressed the real issue, which is neither a male nor a female only trait, but a genetically programmed instinct shared by the entire species. By doing so, I illustrated the pointlessness of AF’s suggested “solution” by pointing out it is based on a misunderstanding of the underlying causes that lead to the “mal-adaptive” strategies he was so disparaging of. It is not a “mal-adaptive” strategy, but a conflict between reproductive instincts and cultural conditioning based in the concept of “ownership” of children. Remove the cultural conditioning, which is indeed extremely heavily male biased, and you remove the conflict between conditioning and instinct.


Equality? how many men are raped by women? women have to be protected, and so do blacks—they are at the bottom. The way Obama has been insulted the last 2 1/2 years is evidence of the urge whites have to harm blacks not necessarily because they are black but because whites males sense a vacuum—they want to press their advantages.

@Valkyrie Ice

The decision to suppress the polygamy instinct in favor of monogamy is also an ‘instinct’. It is a competing instinct that promotes better parenting, relationships of greater depth, and all kinds of evolutionarily favorable things for humans.

Many people get confused and think that when we oppose polygamy that there is only one instinct at play and we are ‘consciously’ working against our ‘evolutionary programming’ in going against polygamy.

We are not working ‘against evolution’ at all. One evolutionary instinct, the instinct to reflect on instincts and override mating behavior where optimal to do so, is overriding the instinct for polygamy. They are both instincts, there is no entity detached from evolution that is picking and choosing from it’s code. It’s all code. Code in a dynamic relationship with the environment. ‘Society’ (the environment) puts some pressure on the suppression of polygamy in that it makes the choice of monogamy more appealing for it’s being socially acceptable, but there are many many other natural forces at play here opting for its being overridden. Put a different way, if society (the environment) completely favored polygamy there would still be instincts for monogamy that would override polygamy.

So there is nothing to ‘face up to’ at all, except that we do have an instinct for polygamy, but that there are competing human instincts. If there were no instincts to ‘override’ the polygamy instinct we couldn’t achieve more complex goals that require monogamy, such as having long term relationships. 

1 min video explaining this:

“if society (the environment) completely favored polygamy there would still be instincts for monogamy that would override polygamy.”

But mostly in women. Men are multiple-pollinators.

@post-post well it sure looks like summerspeaks is blowing a fuse at my participation here.

Yes, o.k, transhumanism is not eugenics is not nazism, I’ll refrain from using words such as ‘fix’ in future.

@valkryie_ice I largely agree with your comments on commitment and cheating, on the whole.  I’m sure both men and women have evolved to want to ‘cheat’ themselves whilst condemning such behaviour in everybody else (Ray Kurzban has published an interesting book relating to this recently - ‘why everybody else is a hypocrite’).  I’m not completely optimistic that this hypocritical nature will go away even when we all become Alphas in terms of being able to have sex on tap.  There’s also the question as to whether sexual freedom will always simply mutate into new modes of competition.  It’s become obvious for example, that the ‘sexually liberated’ woman is feeling more inadequate than ever before.

No Nikki. the decision to suppress that instinct is a social one, and imposed on natural behavior.

The basis for this suppression of the normal mating instincts exists solely to ensure “possession” of the offspring, and has contributed enormously to the downgrading of women from “human” to “thing that is owned.” The cultural meme of “fidelity” is also based in “I OWN YOU so you are not allowed to decide what you do with your own body.”

These are ingrained cultural behaviors, and are TAUGHT through cultural indoctrination from childhood on. Women are simply NOT ALLOWED TO BE SEXUAL CREATURES IN CHARGE OF THEIR OWN BODIES. The very existence of the word SLUT testifies to this.

Have there been benefits? That’s possible, but again, it’s also rather meaningless, as the underlying motivations are what I am examining, and those are extremely detrimental. Slavery has ALWAYS been beneficial for the enslavers, but very detrimental to the enslaved, even when they are taught to believe their enslavement is good for them.

Valkyrie Ice,

“No Nikki. the decision to suppress that instinct is a social one, and
imposed on natural behavior.”

-this is an oversimplified version of the relationship between society and monogamy. 

-no one has figured out what happens during a demographic transition, where suddenly, and unanimously (rich and poor), the birth rate drops. There is no radio broadcast that says ‘stop having kids, we are in the economic clear’, and no government that forces people to stop having kids all of a sudden. But suddenly, people unanimously decide (subconsciously most of the time) to stop. There is some instinct in place that at a certain point of perceived stability says ‘fewer kids are better’. 

As Matt Ridley writes:

“The transition seems to kick in as countries grow richer, but there is no exact level of income at which it happens, and the poor and the rich within any country start reducing their birth rate about the same time”

And Ron Bailey writes:“There is no need to impose coercive population control measures; economic freedom actually generates a benign invisible hand of population control”.

Seems that humans have an instinct that works against the ‘spread the seed’, polygamy instinct once a certain level of economic stability is achieved. Having many kids, at a certain point of economic stability, actually becomes a disadvantage for overall happiness. The drive for polygamy remains, but not in the same force. Other goals compete against it once a certain level of economic stability is reached.

SO, society (economic development) does indeed bring about desire for monogamy, but not always in the coercive ways you suggest.

I agree with Valkyrie, and I don’t think anything more needs to be said. Valkyrie said it very well. I am pasting her words below because they need to be said again, and loud:

Every underdog wants to “get revenge” and become the new master so that they can abuse the previous top dog, but that merely leads to an endless cycle of abuse and revenge. ONLY TRUE NEUTRAL EQUALITY will end this pointless cycle… Neither of you really gives a damn about equality, you just want your side to be free to do whatever you wish with the other gender being “enslaved.” You are both equally biased to believe your side can do no wrong, and the “problem” is the “other side” and you cannot admit to the reality that BOTH sides are equally wrong, and equally right, and that the ONLY solution is neutrality.

@Giulio..I don’t think this is all that needs to be said. On the contrary, I think the danger that considerations based on evolutionary psychology serve to support oppressive cultural narratives is a real one.

I’m also sceptical as to whether “true neutral equality” is either necessary or sufficient as a means to end the “pointless cycle of abuse and revenge”. I’m sceptical that it’s necessary because I believe that people can transcend their “natural” (i.e. pre-civilised) instincts, and I’m sceptical that it’s sufficient because it’s in any case ill-defined. How would we even know when we had achieved “true neutral equality”? How do you measure such a thing?

Peter, I think we will know that we had achieved “true neutral equality” when nobody complains of the contrary.

All oppressed people wish (I hope) to become free from oppression. But some just want to change from oppressed to oppressors. We can see these things every day, even for small things (think of those non smokers who used to be oppressed passive smokers and now want to put smokers in gulags).

I believe things are really very simple, or at least they should be. Live your life, and let others live theirs. Do what you like without harming others, and let others do what they like as long as they don’t harm others. Don’t accept oppression, and don’t oppress others. Fight authoritarianism, oppression and control freakery, wherever it comes from.


I really don’t know why you appear to be confusing monogamy with the desire to have less children.  People are having more sexual partners than ever before, they’re just not spending their entire lives married (i.e. in a sanctioned monogamous relationship) having families.  Are you really suggesting that people are now more monogomous than in the 1930’s (or any other pre-birth control period in history) on the basis of the decline in the birth rate???

Regarding this supposed oppressive cultural narrative - can I ask who was being oppressed when men shot other men who dared to take to the lifeboats on the Titanic before the women (women on the Titanic even got the lifeboats before the children - women first, children second, men left to drown)?  Or when suffragettes where putting white feathers through the letterboxes of the disabled men, and men working in vital industries, during WW1, whilst hundreds of thousands of other men were being slaughtered in the trenches,  most of whom didn’t have the vote themselves?  Or, for that matter, last week’s report for the British government that called for ‘no woman to be sent to prison in the UK’, the day before there was media outrage at the suggestion that (men) might have their sentances halved if they pleaded guilty?

Evolutionary psychology explains why these things are, via theories of the disposable male in relation to reproductive importance, but it doesn’t support the feminist culturally dominant narrative, it explains how feminists can use these instincts to justify injustice so easily, whilst constantly presenting themselves as eternal victims.

Any sane and civilised person should be sceptical of anyone who dismisses science on the grounds that it undermines their own moral system that they are imposing on others as an absolute truth.

Absence of complaints doesn’t imply absence of oppression: it can just mean the oppressed are too scared or apathetic (because of learned helplessness) to complain.

Why pretend things are simpler than they really are? If my natural inclination is to be a sadistic psychopath, then presuming “living my life” is not great advice. What if A’s openly gay lifestyle offends B’s homophobia, religious convictions or sense of “how things should be”? Do we need to pretend that no harm is being done to B in order to assert A’s right, and perhaps even duty, to express his or her sexuality? The reality is that there are always going to be choices to be made between non-ideal situations, and consequently the need for rules to help us make good choices, as well as a willingness to question and sometimes break those rules.

I also think we need to be careful about what kind of “explanations” for human behaviour we create, and how we use them. In general I find explanations based on evolutionary psychology extremely convincing, but I still think there is a risk of them serving to support oppressive cultural narratives. To avoid this they need to be complemented by another narrative, one that says we are NOT ruled by instinct, but can consciously decide what we value and adapt our instinctive, behavioural habits accordingly.


Are you familiar with oxytocin? It doesn’t sound like it. Oxytocin is associated with love, attachment, jealousy (anti-polygamy instincts). You say that monogamy is 100% socially created, but society didn’t create Oxytocin.

I am male, and I do not believe my desire for monogamy is entirely, or even largely, socially driven. Actually, I can give you a list of the reasons I prefer monogamy:

1.  I benefit immensely from the deep psychological bonding that monogamy brings.

2. I like the freedom that monogamy brings in terms of not having to worry about STDs and so not wearing a condom.

3.  Being in a monogamous relationship you have a security of having someone you can rely on to always be there for you. There is lots of comfort in that.

4. There is always a risk of pregnancy, and getting someone pregnant that I don’t know very well would be far worse than accidental pregnancy in a monogamous relationship on a number of planes.

Monogamy is definitely instinctual in the sense that it fulfills, important, deep psychological human needs.  Society didn’t invent or enforce anything on my list. These are biological realities that stem from hormones, (like oxytocin, but more are involved-you can look it up), and the economic freedom to be able to mate for love rather than mate for life.


Umm, Nikki at what point did anything I said have to do with population control? I am talking about the social conditioning that conditions humans to accept monogamy. Polygamy was nearly universal among all early civilizations, and only became cultural anathema following the rise of the abrahamic religions. Having a “Wife” for social standing and “legitimate heirs” and a mistress for “fun and games” was also a wide spread social norm. Nearly every old testament figure had multiple wives, because both the woman and her womb were considered the property of men.

None of that has ANYTHING to do with population control, it has ONLY to do with the concept of ownership of another human being.

The plain fact remains that most societies sought to maximize sex and minimize pregnancies except those societies which saw children as resources, such as the abrahamic tribes of goat herders, whose “sexual taboos” forbade any form of sex which did not maximize the chance of producing more children to work the herds and grow the tribe. Hank has already written extensively on how population growth has an inverse relationship with the level of affluence of a given society. Nearly every society which has overcome subsistence level agriculture or herding declines in reproductive rate.

Re “What if A’s openly gay lifestyle offends B’s homophobia, religious convictions or sense of “how things should be”? Do we need to pretend that no harm is being done to B in order to assert A’s right, and perhaps even duty, to express his or her sexuality?”

No harm is being done to B. A’s lifestyle is not B’s business as long as A does not actually damage B. B should just life her or his own life and let others live theirs.

Why pretend things are more complex than they really are? This is simple: I live my own life as I want without actually harming others, and leave others free to do the same, and I expect (no - demand) the same courtesy from others.

For a sadistic psychopath it is different, because a a sadistic psychopath does actual, real and painful damage to others, and should be stopped.

Things should not be made more

Re “The reality is that there are always going to be choices to be made between non-ideal situations, and consequently the need for rules to help us make good choices, as well as a willingness to question and sometimes break those rules.”

I can only agree with this very reasonable position, but rules should be seen as a necessary evil in order to reach the goal of a working society, and not as the goal itself. Instead, in today’s society rules are often motivated by control freakery alone, the sadistic desire to control the life of others.

Mark, I am indeed aware of oxytocin, as well as it’s effects in creating feelings of emotional bonding. But the emotional bond is entirely independent of the sex drive. People can have sex without feeling emotionally attached, and feel emotionally attached without sex. You are confusing the basic gene driven reproductive instinct with the much higher level and much more complex emotional needs developed as part of advanced cognitive functions.  SEX is about the drive of our genes to reproduce. LOVE is about human social interaction and the need to form emotional bonds.

So to answer your points:

1) deep emotional bonding is just a possible between multiples as it is between two.

2) Exactly how would this change in a committed polygamous relationship?

3) Again, how would this change in a threesome or foursome? Other than increasing the number of people you can rely on?

4) Casual sex is not the same as polygamy.

In other words, nothing you tout as a reason for monogamy is true of monogamy ALONE, but in fact can exist in any set of relationships. A committed polygamous relationship has the exact same advantages, but with multiple partners. Only cultural expectations that such relationships MUST AUTOMATICALLY FAIL, and the inherent meme of ownership in our cultural expectations of a relationship, with the resultant jealousy that is expected of individuals due to this meme biases individuals from a polygamous relationship.

History shows that multiple mates is just as functional as monogamy. There is no genetic advantage favoring one over the other, only cultural conditioning.

Valkyrie/Antifeminist (a lesson in demography)

Demographic transitions reduce the instances of polygamy, and increase monogamy. Death rates drop and men begin investing more resources into fewer children. Monogamy=fewer children overall since one women can only have a child once every 10+ months, and will only have a certain number in her lifetime. This happens consistently, across cultures, and suggests an innate form of population control. Why population control? To be blunt: when men realize their kids are not dying as much they have fewer families. Continuing to have many families where most mothers/children survive would lead to having more than one can support. Pre-demographic transition men have more families than they can support because they anticipate most of them dying. To be blunt again: when females stop dying so much during labor men don’t need back up families. All of this allows for increased life spans for children, and higher quality children, since overall men’s resources (time being the most important) are spread between fewer families. Polygamy works best as a reproductive strategy when everyone is dying. Development and technology stop people from dying. Desire to have sex with many people is still very prevalent, of course, and occurs, of course, but begins to compete with other objectives at the point of demographic transition.

Also, with demographic transitions ‘romantic love’ in the Disney sense becomes more sought after and prevalent. Pursuit of romantic love correlates with economic stability. For many people romantic love cannot fully flourish in polygamous arrangements. (oxytocin having something to do that)

Valkyrie, you only seem to be looking at religion as a cause. It’s a cause as well as an effect. The trend in demographic transitions is to move from polytheistic religions to monotheistic religions (which tend to encourage monogamy).

On a related note, you may also want to consider this: monogamy correlates with high IQ in men:

(however, I happen to think that pulling off polygamy without female oppression or the belief that God wants it, also requires intelligence)

Actually Nikki, I don’t look at religion as a cause so much as a vector, i.e. a carrier for the ownership meme into popular culture.

However, again, you are talking about controlling population and social effects while I am talking about the actual gene driven instinctive behavior. Minus all social factors, fears of disease, social acceptance, etc, homo sapiens is a polygamous animal.

For the male, the greater the number of partners the greater the chance for reproduction, hence, polygamy is the best evolutionary strategy.

For women, choosing alphas for procreation (best genes) and betas for childrearing (increased survival due to provision of needs for both mother and child) also shows that polygamy is the best evolutionary strategy.

This means that “cheating” is an inherent trait of BOTH GENDERS, and thus is neither a male or female exclusive behavior.

And none of that has anything to do with population control or with social strategies, all of which ARE NOT GENETIC LEVEL TRAITS BUT LEARNED BEHAVIORS.

However men ARE more polygamous than women, but no purpose in arguing with you- for it goes on endlessly.

Valkyrie Ice,

Get off the social oppression, anarchist-bandwagon and read these resources and you will learn something about Oxytocin and its direct correlation with ‘Love’:

(These are instinctual gene response promoting monogamy in relationships…)

Cited scientific sources…

Neuroendocrine bases of monogamy
Young LJ, Wang Z, Insel TR.
Dept of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,
Emory University School of Medicine,
and the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center,
Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.
Trends Neurosci 1998 Feb;21(2):71-5



Love as sensory stimulation: physiological
consequences of its deprivation and expression
Komisaruk BR, Whipple B
Department of Psychology, Rutgers,
State University of New Jersey,
Newark 07102, USA.
Psychoneuroendocrinology 1998 Nov; 23(8):819-35



Just a thought; men typically do not want to raise other people’s kids because it’s an evolutionary instinctual response: it’s about competition, they want their own because they want to pass on their genes for the sole survival of their own!


Love and Polyamorous relationships. One will feel more love for the other, but will unlikely share love/resources/time equally between the two, causing major problems in the relationship, resulting in the eventual inevitable failure of the Polyamorous relationship. See:

“While it is possible to love more than two people at the same time, the practical aspects of such a relationship become very complex. There is only 24 hours in a day and the more people one loves, the less time one has to spend in each individual relationship. With any relationship, it is necessary to have quality time to spend on making the relationship work, and this is probably even truer in polyamorous relationships. If one were to have a dozen partners, the amount of quality time with each partner lessens and makes the chances of such relationships lasting slim.”


- Nathan Wosnack

“However, again, you are talking about controlling population and social
effects while I am talking about the actual gene driven instinctive

- You are missing the point.

Competition for resources, survival, and prospering of the species are the primary motives (and these are gene behaviors). These drives are in a feedback loops with the environment and respond to changes in the environment.

Polygamy is only one method for achieving species survival, and as a primary method is not the best in all environments. Animal species will go in and out of being predominantly polygamous with changes in environment. In human environments, economic development changes the rules of the game for prosperity and survival. Polygamy is minimized as a reproductive method when it leads to worse outcomes such is the case in developed nations (when not enough people are dying): which is one reason why, cross culturally, societies decrease polygamy and increase monogamy in the event of a demographic transition (it is a response to changing environmental conditions).

“For the male, the greater the number of partners the greater the chance for
reproduction, hence, polygamy is the best evolutionary strategy.”

-you understand the effect of decreased infant/maternal mortality, and it’s relevance to instincts and mating. Environment plays a role.

“Minus all social factors, fears of disease, social acceptance,
etc, homo sapiens is a polygamous animal.”

-Yes, but behave less so in developed contexts. Still have the desire, still happens, but also now desire things that come with monogamy. One is conflicted by opposing desires. Your Alpha/Beta scenario illustrates this conflict well. It isn’t all hippie peace for everyone. Our ancestors were in less conflict because they didn’t have romantic love. Romantic love is a relatively new thing in human history. And no, it is not merely a social invention. It has biological/psychological, genealogical roots, stemming primarily from oxytocin.

-i am not debating that society/religion/moral constructs serve to enforce monogamy. Of course they do. That’s obvious and uninteresting. Recognize it’s only one part of the picture (But yes, I will grant you that it is a large part). And yes, when it comes to religion and society you are only recognizing cause in one direction. Economy shapes religion and changes it. Its called complexity. I suggest reading Kevin Kelly or Ray Kurweil to learn about how reality becomes more complex as technology progresses. The bottom line is that modern day mating behavior is much more complex than what you put forth.

@Giulio…I think we’re almost there, but a couple of further quibbles.

1. I think you’re underestimating psychological aspects of suffering when you distinguish the suffering of homophobes (and all those others who suffer, sometimes for primarily aesthetic reasons), with the “actual, real and painful” - by which I take it you basically mean physical - damage inflicted by sadistic psychopaths (although sometimes psychopaths inflict exclusively psychological pain as well). There is a danger of circularity here: genuine harm can only be inflicted by people acting unethically, and unethical behaviour is behaviour that inflicts genuine harm. I prefer to define harm as anything that causes suffering, especially prolonged suffering, and then use a rule utilitarian approach to try to use it (and increase positive life experiences).

2. I agree that rules are a means and not the end, but I don’t think that makes them a “necessary evil”. A necessary evil is precisely, in my view, something that does harm but which is nevertheless ethically permissible because it seems to be the best (least bad) option under the circumstances. But why do rules necessarily do harm? Surely it depends on the rules, and how much one likes/dislikes rules in general. Someone naturally inclined to anarchism/libertarianism will be more likely to see them as a necessary evil, while someone natural inclined to value more order and with a greater tolerance for hierarchy might values rules in themselves, and not only because of the role they play in increasing pleasure and reducing suffering.

On the wider debate, I’m sceptical about Valkyrie’s dismissal of Mark’s arguments. Just because love and sex can exist independently of each other doesn’t mean they are uncorrelated or that there is no (positive) causal relationship between the two. I’m pretty sure there is. And I think our natural tendency to jealousy DOES undermine our capacity to sustain committed polygamous relationships. But once again what I’m mainly missing here is clarity on what these *explanations* of human behaviour might mean in terms of policy implications. I don’t have to agree with Valkyrie in denying the existence of any genetic component in favour of monogamy to agree that learned behaviours are capable of overriding genetically-driven behaviours. This means we can choose what kind of sexual and emotional relationships we want to have, and how (if at all) they should be regulated. But this also requires us to clarify and discuss what we want, and not only why we think we behave as we do currently.

Some quotes, Valkyrie, demonstrating the feedback loop between mating behavior and environment. Given how uniform the correlation between development and monogamy cross-culturally, it makes sense to attribute some portion of the causes as instinctual responses to changing environmental circumstances.

“If resource inequality between men is great than women favor polygeny. If resource inequality is small then women favor monogamy. The theory explains the historical shift between polygamy and monogamy as a result of the gradual decline of inequality among men. Computer simulations uphold the logical consistency of the theory as does the analysis of cross cultural data from a large number of countries.”

Why Monogamy?
Satoshi Kanazawa and Mary C. Still
Social Forces
Vol. 78, No. 1 (Sep., 1999), pp. 25-50
(article consists of 26 pages)
Published by: University of North Carolina Press
Stable URL:

“As far as I’ve been able to determine, no polygamous society has ever been a true liberal democracy, in anything like the modern sense. As societies move away from hierarchy and toward equal opportunity, they leave polygamy behind. They monogamize as they modernize. That may be a coincidence, but it seems more likely to be a logical outgrowth of the arithmetic of polygamy.”

“Crime rates, according to the authors, tend to be higher in polygynous societies. Worse, “high-sex-ratio societies are governable only by authoritarian regimes capable of suppressing violence at home”

“Hudson and den Boer suggest that societies become inherently unstable when sex ratios reach something like 120 males to 100 females: in other words, when one-sixth of men are surplus goods on the marriage market. The United States as a whole would reach that ratio if, for example, 5 percent of men took two wives, 3 percent took three wives, and 2 percent took four wives — numbers that are quite imaginable, if polygamy were legal for a while. In particular communities — inner cities, for example — polygamy could take a toll much more quickly. Even a handful of “Solomons” (high-status men taking multiple wives) could create brigades of new recruits for street gangs and drug lords, the last thing those communities need.

Such problems are not merely theoretical. In northern Arizona, a polygamous Mormon sect has managed its surplus males by dumping them on the street—literally. The sect, reports The Arizona Republic, “has orphaned more than 400 teenagers ... in order to leave young women for marriage to the older men.” The paper goes on to say that the boys “are dropped off in neighboring towns, facing hunger, homelessness, and homesickness, and most cripplingly, a belief in a future of suffering and darkness.”

“By this point it should be obvious that polygamy is, structurally and socially, the opposite of same-sex marriage, not its equivalent. Same-sex marriage stabilizes individuals, couples, communities, and society by extending marriage to many who now lack it. Polygamy destabilizes individuals, couples, communities, and society by withdrawing marriage from many who now have it.”

(from ‘One Man, Many Wives, Big Problems’, Reason Magazine/National Journal. Saturday: April 5, 2006)


Since people favor pubmed articles on here I thought I’d post this. The issue of intelligence and monogamy has been brought up and this is by far the best resource relating to the correlation of high IQ in men and monogamy.

IQ and the values of nations.
Kanazawa S.

Department of Management, London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, UK.

“The origin of values and preferences is an unresolved theoretical question in behavioural and social sciences. The Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis, derived from the Savanna Principle and a theory of the evolution of general intelligence, suggests that more intelligent individuals may be more likely to acquire and espouse evolutionarily novel values and preferences (such as liberalism and atheism and, for men, sexual exclusivity) than less intelligent individuals, but that general intelligence may have no effect on the acquisition and espousal of evolutionarily familiar values. Macro-level analyses show that nations with higher average intelligence are more liberal (have greater highest marginal individual tax rate and, as a result, lower income inequality), less religious (a smaller proportion of the population believes in God or considers themselves religious) and more monogamous. The average intelligence of a population appears to be the strongest predictor of its level of liberalism, atheism and monogamy.”



Nikki, nothing I said disputes that. But none of the added complexity CHANGES the fact that this behavior is GENETICALLY CAUSED.

Do you get that no amount of social complexification CAUSES CHANGES IN THE DNA?????????????

“This means we can choose what kind of sexual and emotional relationships we want to have, and how (if at all) they should be regulated. But this also requires us to clarify and discuss what we want, and not only why we think we behave as we do currently.”

Putting to one side what is ‘genetic’, we might have to hear from experts on the subconscious & collective unconscious about this. For if our conscious behaviors are more or less sabotaged by the subconscious & collective unconscious (the latter being even more powerful than the former) then our choices may be narrower than we want to think they are.
I don’t want to go further because it is already off-topic, and amateur psychology tends to become dilettante—there exists a great temptation to be so in seeking pat answers to complex, complicated questions.

The following is a quote that puts some of it into a larger perspective:

“Evolutionary biology predicts that men and women will have different degrees of attachment to their family. Because women are limited in the potential number of their offspring, they are naturally more child-centered in their affections. Men by contrast can have a huge number of children, and thus their relations with any particular child tend to be inherently less secure. Men do provide more care for their progeny than males in most other mammalian species because human infants face a lengthy period of helplessness and fare much better with substantial paternal investment of time and effort in their upbringing. Yet fathers are more likely than mothers to resent and avoid obligations that may deprive them of other mating opportunities. Men are innately more aggressive and obsessed with status than women for similar reasons: because of their low-cost role in sexual reproduction they have far more scope for converting resources and status into the creation of children…The self, like all essential aspects of man, is an adaptation to selective pressures over millions of years and thus is jury-rigged from different mechanisms from our evolutionary past. It is a mistake, for example, to think of the sexual self as completely continuous with the more obviously rational acquisitive self that evolved somewhat later to take advantage of resources and status opportunities. These selves evolved for different purposes and are not fully connected—hence the frequently observed imprudence of sexual passion.”

Since IMO at this time “conservatives” cannot be trusted, I wont name the source for the above quote from a conservative professor..


I understand that the genes don’t change. Do you understand that despite genes being the same, mating behavior changes in response to population density/demographics irrespective of social norms and religion?

Are you familiar with the population studies of John Calhoun? He was the ecologist who found that mating behavior in mice changed as population density increased:

“With all their visible needs met, the animals bred rapidly. The only restriction Calhoun imposed on his population was of space—and as the population grew, this became increasingly problematic. As the pens heaved with animals, one of his assistants described rodent ‘utopia’ as having become ‘hell’ (Marsden, 1972).

Dominent males became aggressive, some moving in groups, attacking females and the young. Mating behaviors were disrupted. Some became exclusively homosexual. Others became pansexual and hypersexual, attempting to mount any rat they encountered.

Mothers neglected their infants, first failing to construct proper nests, and then carelessly abandoning and even attacking their pups. In certain sections of the pens, infant mortality rose as high as 96%, the dead cannibalized by adults. Subordinate animals withdrew psychologically, surviving in a physical sense but at an immense psychological cost. They were the majority in the late phases of growth, existing as a vacant, huddled mass in the center of the pens.

Unable to breed, the population plummeted and did not recover. The crowded rodents hat lost the ability to co-exist harmoniously, even after the population numbers once again fell to low levels. At a certain density, they had ceased to act like rodents and mice, and the change was permanent”

Another way to control population that goes against dominant instincts and is not initiated/enforced by society or religion is infanticide:

“Most societies agree that the drive to protect and nurture one’s infant is a basic human trait. Yet infanticide—the killing of an infant at the hands of a parent—has been a method for disposing of unwanted or deformed children since prehistoric times. Despite human repugnance for the act, most societies, both ancient and contemporary, have practiced infanticide. Based upton both historical and contemporary data, as many as 10-15 percent of all babies were killed by their parents. The anthropologist Laila Williamson notes that infanticide has been practiced by nearly all civilizations”

Because of the uniform move from polygamy to monogamy with demographic transitions demographers hypothesize that preferences for monogamy are a response to changes in population density and infant mortality. In that way monogamy becomes instinctual, just as homosexuality in mice becomes instinctual, and infanticide becomes instinctual. Demographics change, mating behavior changes (irrespective of societal norms), and you got it, genes stay the same. The root instinct is survival, not polygamy.

I won’t bother you anymore. And I think I can speak for all IEET readers when I say ‘I can read lower case letters’. 


Satoshi Kanazawa?


That guy is a joke. And a sexist. And a racist.

That goes for you too, Tom.

Kanazawa is known for the unscientific nature of his works and his strong bias against women and marginalized groups. His research is almost always discredited.

Two of his latest works asserted that “All women are prostitutes”, and that “African American women are the least attractive of all women”.

Cite an article by actual scientist, not a bigot.


Care to back up your claims with some reliable, citable sources? Outing someone with strong words like ‘sexist’, ‘racist’ without an explanation or some proof is rather extreme. Please indulge me and the IEET readers. Thanks.



you don’t need to agree with his interpretations. The data in the article finds a correlation between IQ and monogamy. PubMed found the data credible enough in this case to warrant publication.


I agree with Adrian. I’m not interested in his interpretations. He gathers a lot of data.

@Peter, you write: “I don’t have to agree with Valkyrie in denying the existence of any genetic component in favour of monogamy to agree that learned behaviours are capable of overriding genetically-driven behaviours”

The behavior you speak of is still part instinctual. It’s like deciding not to eat a piece of cake even though one craves fat. That is a learned behavior. But it is also instinctual in that it is fulfilling the goal of feeling health, and happy, which are drives originating in our genes. We used to feel healthy when we ate a lot more fat because we were moving around a lot more and there were larger gaps between meals. In the new environment, one recognizes/learns that they will be happier if they obstain. The instinct to feel healthy is better served by not eating cake in the new environment. One is working against the instinct to eat cake, but not evolution as a whole. Same goes with choosing monogamy. One is working against the instinct for polygamy, but in favor of the instinct for survival, healthy children, love, and so on. I think this is what Nikki was saying in her first response to Valkyrie but I think she missed the point with that too.

- Tom B.

@Peter: I also define harm as as anything that causes suffering of any nature, and I feel compassion for all those who suffer.

However, the homophobes who “suffer for primarily aesthetic reasons” just because gays exist cannot claim any priority and should just look the other way and let others live. They may suffer and we may feel sorry for them, but they cannot claim that their suffering must be given priority over the right of others to live their own way. Nothing bad _actually happens_ to them just because gays exist.

Look, when I go to museums sometimes I see artwork that I dislike, and it causes me some “aesthetic suffering”. But others do like it, otherwise it would not be in the museum, so I have no right to complain about its being there. What I can do, is not going to the hall again, or not going to the museum again. Of course, things are different if somebody wants to force me to hang the offending artwork in my own living room.

This article is hideously pro-natalist. No one has the right to impose life on someone else; it can’t be justified. I suggest reading David Benatar’s “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence” for catching up on the debate. It might be the biggest taboo ever known to humankind.

I think that’s what more or less that Nikki was saying. She posted this video from Blogging Heads between Eliezer Yudkowsky and Massimo Pigliucci to explain her point. I’ve watched it many times and decided it was well worth transcribing (for those who didn’t watch it).

Massimo: ... But what I’m suggesting is that just like human beings at some point in the evolutionary history that have become self conscious and have become able to override (at least to some extent) our biological programming.

Eliezer: I beg your pardon. We use some parts of our biological programming to override other parts of our biological programming. We do not have a spontaneous bit of free will that comes and overrides the whole thing.

Massimo: I’m not talking about free will but if you define biological programming as everything that includes genes as environmental information then it works. We agree. But that’s sort of winning by default because then you’re defining programming as any kind of bit of information that comes into the system from anywhere.

Okay then if you want to call that programming fine. But if we’re talking about programming as in genetic programming, let’s say, then clearly we have the ability to reflect on the programming to make decisions that bypass or alter that programming to some extent.

Eliezer: Can we say that we use some of our programs to reflect on our other programs?

Massimo: Yes, but we are also changing the very aims of that program. Those aims were obviously the result of natural selection—

Eliezer: Do we choose to do that according to some goals?

Massimo: ... Right and those are not the ones that natural selection implemented.

Eliezer: Hold on a second here.

Massimo: It’s easy to demonstrate. Look, natural selection for instance clearly programmed us to seek and enjoy ‘fat’ and ‘sugar’ or for example ‘sex’. Well, in modern cultures for a variety of reasons there are people who don’t want to follow that sort of biological imperative, and are successful, or more or less successful…

Eliezer: Why do they not want to follow it? What drives them… to not follow?

Massimo: Because there are other kinds of pressures, for instance societial that say at risk to the environment…

Eliezer: Why do they respond to societial pressures?

Massimo: What do you mean ‘why’? Because otherwise our lives would be kind of miserable.

Eliezer: And they don’t want to be miserable?

Massimo: Presumably not.

Eliezer: They don’t want to be miserable because evolution made them to not want to be miserable.

Massimo: What we have here is one bit of biological programming modifying another bit of biological programming.

Here is the link to the video (59:42 - 62:03):

- Nathan Wosnack

You know, sometimes I really despair for the future of humanity, because when so many intelligent people find it impossible to communicate because every single one of them seems to hear only what they want to hear instead of what is actually being said, I have to wonder if even superhuman intelligence is going to be sufficient to enable real communication.

I’ll say this one last time, and then I’m done with having my words misrepresented and argued against because no-one is actually listening.

There is genetic level behavior, and there is social level behavior. The genetic level behavior is the default mode, driven by DNA, and in the absence of any and all social behaviors, drives human reproductive instinct to polygamy.

The social level behaviors are an emergent set of behaviors caused by the interaction of humanity on a cultural and social level, and is due to the ability of humans to pass information on to other humans. It does not change the DNA level behavior, but it DOES override it to a degree. However, Since this is something learned AFTER BIRTH, it has NO EFFECT on the DNA. Therefore, it is not, cannot and never has been a GENETIC INSTINCT. MONOGAMY IS A LEARNED BEHAVIOR, not an instinct.

Our genes don’t give as damn about morals, or companionship, or infant mortality, ONLY IN GETTING THEMSELVES REPLICATED.

Everything else you are arguing is basically “well a dog who loses a leg and learns to run on three will pass that knowledge on to his descendants through his DNA” WHICH IS UTTER NONSENSE.

Does that clarify the difference between GENETIC behavior and learned SOCIAL behaviors?

@TomB.: I take the point, but ultimately I think it’s a semantic one - do we want to use the word “instinctual” to include basically everything we do, or do we prefer to use it for pre-civilised, pre-linguistic motivations?

@Giulio: To be precise, the suffering of homophobes to which I was referring was in reaction to openly gay lifestyles, not the fact that some people are naturally gay. That’s an important distinction. Beyond that I don’t disagree with anything you say in terms of how I think homophobes should handle their homophobia, I just think that this precisely illustrates the point that we should not always seek to avoid harm at all costs. In this case it seems most likely to maximise overall well-being to have a rule that says that it’s the responsibility of the homophobes to manage their suffering, although as you suggest it doesn’t hurt for the rest of us to show some compassion and sensitivity. Sometimes in our zeal to prove that we’re not homophobic ourselves we adopt a tone of outraged indignation vis-à-vis those who are, and this kind of attitude is generally unhelpful.

@post-post: points taken about (i) being off-topic (sorry!) and (ii) the dangers of amateur psychology and dilettantism (although I’m not quite sure I understood the link with delettantism). Jonathan Haidt’s “The Happiness Hypothesis” is an excellent (and distinctly non-amateur) source on the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious. In a nutshell: given a fight between the two, the unconscious will generally gain the upper hand after the conscious mind has scored one or two pyrrhic victories, but what we can consciously decide to do is to train our unconscious to want the same things as we consciously decide we want. It’s basically like learning any other skill: determination+action+dedication=success, particularly if we can avoid going into a tailspin every time we screw up (which we inevitably will).

There are plenty of citations of here.

The methods with which he gathers data is unscientific. None of his peers have anything positive to say about him. That says a lot about his credibility.

Valkyrie, there is true disagreement between commentors here that goes beyond their just misunderstanding you. 

Some commentors are saying the following:

Mark: He feels he has instincts that lead him to monogamy. He believes those are rooted in oxycotin. Which makes them genetic.

Nathan: Is saying with the BloggingHeads clip that there are evolutionary motivations that compete with polygamy, so even if it is genetic, it is better thought of as one bit of genetic programming overriding another bit of genetic programming. Nathan has backed up sources that monogamous love and sex are related by oxycotin, not just culture.

Tom B.: In his first post he seems to be saying that the inequalities in resources in men (physical and social) play a role in whether women act on polygamy on monogamy, suggesting different instincts being expressed in different environments. 

Peter: Aruges that despite some people being able to separate love and sex, that there is good reason to belive there is a correlation between them. 

Nikki: I agree with everyone above, and add that different demographic contexts draw out (like infanticide) instincts for monogamy. 

Please correct me Mark, Nathan, Tom B. and Peter if I am wrong in writing about your views here (as they apply to genetics/non-genetics)

Here is a few things you have said that directly contradict what these five people have argued:

“The basis for this suppression of the normal mating instincts exists solely to ensure “possession” of the offspring”

-it has been demonstrated there are many other basis’. Like love.

“These are ingrained cultural behaviors, and are TAUGHT through cultural indoctrination from childhood on”

-it has been shown that there are strong influences coming from oxycotin and that monogamy is to some degree orthogonal to culture, and rooted in biology.

“the decision to suppress that instinct is a social one, and imposed on natural behavior.”

-it’s been shown that it is not entirely a ‘decision’, and that ‘natural behavior’ also leads people to monogamy.

To summarize:

You are saying:

When alone in the state of nature humans act polygamous. The basis for suppression of the normal mating instinct exists solely to ensure possession of offspring.

Others are saying:

When in groups of certain economic distributions humans act monogamous, and that it is not so much ‘suppression’ of the normal mating instinct as it is competing evolutionary goals (which originate at a genetic level), and different instincts being acted on in different environments.

Conclusion: I think this shows that this is not just misunderstanding. It is true disagreement.

I apologize for any misunderstanding on my part. I hope this clears things up. I hope everyone here has a good weekend.

This thread sure has become a tangent smile

Quick correction Nikki, I think you meant “Oxytocin”, not “Oxycotin”.

I want to bring up a point I mentioned at the beginning, that I don’t think has really been discussed much.

The concept of an ‘artificial womb’ is fascinating. It’s also fascinating to imagine the technology that would be required to build these.

Imagining the level of technology to get to ‘artificial wombs’ leaves me wondering if they would be obsolete by the time they are available.

I’m guessing that ‘artificial wombs’ might take another 20 years, minimum, and maybe more, to fully flesh out. And then there’s also regulatory and societal hurdles to overcome (I imagine that the same people who blow up abortion clinics would try the same with this technology - and then there’s the FDA, and the Supreme Court, and on and on).

But, if we look at the breadbasket of other technologies that are developing concomitantly, and even the technology that would be used to make ‘artificial wombs’, I find it hard to imagine that we would use this technology for it’s intended purpose.

I imagine that society will be so alien from our current perspective, that the question almost doesn’t make sense, if you catch my drift wink

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

I’d say that there is a very high probability that ‘artificial wombs’ would very quickly evolve into ‘regeneration chambers’ for living adults.

Hank here, writing in from Bergen, Norway, where I am on vacation.

fun arguments here!  my opinion on two things:

1. Satoshi Kanazawa is indeed very controversial and I think it would be best to look for research other than his.

2. This argument about monogamy vs. polygamy seems unnecessarily heated - can’t some people be “naturally” monogamous and others “naturally” polygamous? 

There is the argument that all males want to produce as many offspring as possible, but it also seems obvious that they want to produce as “healthy & happy” offspring as well—

using myself as an example, I have two children - and I’m monogamous.  Sure, polygamy occasionally seems intriguing, but it would be upsetting to my children—and maintaining my children’s happiness is more of a priority than polygamy.

So I suggest the “natural” desire to nurture and protect one’s children, trumps the “natural” desire to be polygamous, at least in my case.


“Quick correction Nikki, I think you meant “Oxytocin”, not “Oxycotin”.

-Yes. lol. I always mix the two up. Both great chemical compounds! wink

It appears Valkyrie cannot quite get it that non-human animals are in fact controlled by their genes however humans are “nature rendered self-conscious”, therefore they possess a bit of wiggle room. It is true ‘DNA calls the tune and we dance to it’, yet the higher functioning have a certain say in what steps are involved in the dance; merely for example a high-functioner can hire a psychoanalyst to give advice in ‘dance lessons’—in how to change behaviors to a degree depending on the abilities, naturally, of the individual in question. And some very high-functioning individuals may be in the process of becoming DNA dance masters. We would hope so, wouldn’t we?
So Valkyrie ought to lighten up; he is part-right of course but he carries it too far.

*sigh* No post, I don’t. You and everyone else have been taking the very simple statements I made and read what you wanted into them.

DNA controls base behavior, and this behavior will ALWAYS be present in the human species. It is the basic HARDWIRED BEHAVIOR AT BIRTH.


Which is what you are ALL trying to say. “Oh, learned cultural memes will change dna and re wire hardwired genetic level instincts”

No. It doesn’t. Lemarck was wrong. Drop a hundred babies on a deserted island with no adults and no culturally transmitted memes, and polygamy will be the inevitable result when they grow up.

Our genes are wired for polygamy, our culture is wired for monogamy, so conflict between GENE and MEME exists and lies behind the human tendency to “cheat”.

The rest of everything else said is merely attempts to deny genetic reality because of cultural conditioning to view monogamy as superior. I’ve never made any claims otherwise, merely pointed out the genetic reality that social programming cannot eliminate, only modify. We are hardwired for survival on a savanna as a tribe of polygamous apes. Everything over and above this baseline DNA level primate is due to the wonderful and remarkable ability to use language and culture to transmit and maintain far more sophisticated behaviors than DNA itself can transmit from generation to generation, which has enabled us to evolve mentally in what would be an eyeblink for DNA level evolution.

But DESPITE this fantastic mental evolution, we are STILL SAVANNA APES. And denial of this fact is what leads to the kind of pointless and irrelevant debate that has been going on here by those who simply CANNOT bring themselves to admit to reality.

Some people respond to the cultural memes more strongly than others, and so favor a memetic level response to reproduction, while other people cannot overcome genetic instincts with memetic conditioning, and thus favor a genetic level response to reproduction.  EVERYONE HAS THE GENETIC LEVEL BEHAVIORAL PATTERNS, some just override it better than others.


But SOCIAL LEARNED RESPONSES are not DNA PROGRAMMED RESPONSES and no level of learned behavior will affect a change in DNA.

You are all manufacturing an argument out of nothing because nothing I’ve said contradicts anything any of you have said, I am merely pointing out that MEMES=/=GENES

I’m not sure how many times it has to be said but monogamy appears to be instinctive, i.e. in the genes! And I think that I can probably speak for everyone and say that no one on this IEET thread is making any Lamarckian claim - please point out where we are, Valkyrie Ice because I can’t find it.

Do you not understand that both are in the genes?

- Tom B.

No, not quite, memes are:
1) genes
2) environment.

If what you are writing were true we would be nothing whatsoever but meat puppets. Now we ARE in fact meat puppets yet we are meat puppets 2.0; while savanna apes were meat puppets 1.0; as the Model T was automobile 1.0;
and a 2011 car is automobile 2.0;
as the Wright brothers plane at Kitty Hawk was airplane 1.0; today’s airplanes are airplane 2.0…

Or whatever analogy you would care to make.


“And some very high-functioning individuals may be in the process of becoming DNA dance masters.”

The above is to write that what you wrote is not universally applicable, Valkyrie. There are, shall we say, Nietzscheian ‘Ubermensch’.

P’raps Valk Ice hasn’t heard of epigenetics???

@Valkyrie: like Tom B. I fail to see any evidence that anyone has been claiming that learned behaviour can change dna or “eliminate” hardwired behaviour. But as post-post implies we are much more than just savanna apes, and it is precisely our dna that has given us the mental capacity to display wide ranges of behaviour that can be strongly influenced by conscious endeavour and transcend simplistic models of what can be expected from our “hardwired” instincts.

So it’s not that we can’t bring ourselves to admit to reality. It’s rather that you’re exaggerating reality by over-stressing our bondage to instinctual behaviours that we’ve inherited from savanna apes. I think we have various different motivations for calling you on this; mine is a concern that this can turn into a limiting belief, discouraging us from deciding (as Hank has done, for example) how we actually WANT to behave, and taking steps to ensure that we actually do behave in that way, rather than in whatever way our “instincts” might allegedly dictate.

So, basically, you are claiming DNA is freely rewritable by simply thinking about it, that the genetic code is so very very flexible that just wishing to change it will cause the strands to unravel and re-write themselves and that a baby left alone on a deserted island without any trappings of civilization will grow up to be a civilized person and not a wild animal themselves.

Why did I bother to read all those books on biology, and genetics. I guess they were just people speaking out of their asses, since DNA is completely, totally malleable to culture and education, right?

You are all saying that learned, post birth, information will CHANGE the hardwired genetic coded info in DNA and I’m really getting confused as to how so many educated, supposedly rational, and intelligent people, can seem to miss my pointing this out over and over and over to continue to argue that post birth learning changes DNA somehow.

The human animal is a savage at birth. It has to be taught to NOT BE A SAVAGE. Polygamy is a DNA PROGRAMMED behavior. Monogamy is a TAUGHT behavior. If you CANNOT understand the difference, then there is apparently nothing further to discuss. I’ll continue to deal with reality and you can all enjoy fantasy land.

Have fun.

Seems like everyone here is arguing that either polygamy or monogamy are genetic, when in fact, both are sociocultural driven memes? Polygamy simply the heresy for men and women to express their freedom in the face of a monogomous cultural and authoritarian society. Polygamy is an expression of freedom, power and status for men, - and freedom, independance and emancipation for women?

If we isolated a small group on a desert island then polygamy may certainly seem as natural consequence, and yet so too monogamous behaviours as favoured partners begin to pair off, giving rise to deeper affections and affiliations, leading to love, jealousy, conflicts, competition and power status seeking, (and all of those ugly social attributes) Apes form these same monogamous ties also?

It is merely the Dawkins “Selfish gene” that drives animalistic desires, not polygamy?

And what does all of this have to do with artificial wombs?

@CygnusX1: Your last question is the most pertinent, maybe we should just stop this. But I see you a bit at the opposite extreme to Valkyrie: where Valkyrie sees polygamy as hardwired you see it as sociocultural. Post-post had it right: both polygamy and monogamy are memes, and as such they are determined by an interaction of genes+environment.

@Valkyrie: First of all don’t lump us all together. While we all seem to disagree with your belief that polygamy is hardwired and not at all culturally determined whereas monogamy is entirely cultural and not at all supported by our genetic hardwiring (and by the way “pointing [something] out over and over”, while getting upset and mildly abusive in the process, doesn’t actually strengthen your argumentation), I am probably the one that has gone the furthest in emphasising the ability of conscious thought to override what I have described as “simplistic models of what can be expected from our hardwired instincts”.

However none of us, including myself, are saying that you can rewrite DNA just by thinking. What I am saying, following post-post, is that our DNA, primarily by giving us very large brains, enables a very wide and complex range of possible behaviours, which can be massively influenced by conscious endeavour (if intelligently deployed). That’s not rewriting DNA. That’s working with the extremely complex and flexible genetic instincts our DNA has given with us to achieve the results we want.

So the disagreement is not about whether we can rewrite our DNA (for that we need biotechnology). It is about what kinds of behaviours our genetic code actually supports. It’s just far more complex than you are giving it credit for.

Valkyrie, it really doesn’t matter how much you know about genetics (or think you know about genetics). You can’t possibly know more than the top geneticists in the world, and even they still haven’t figured out all the genes, their behavior and how they relate to one another.

Pair-bonding goes back around 2.5 million years with ‘Homo Habilis’, where it is thought to have dramatically helped with infant survival. Selection pressure for neuro-endocrine oxytocin for bonding and jealousy perhaps originates here. Monogamy helps children to do well in life (you know, succeed) so it makes sense that evolution would favor genes of people with strong neuro-endocrine oxytocin.

It is quite obvious we have instincts for both, and so we are conflicted at a very primal level. Question; have you never felt relationship jealousy before, Valkyrie? Please, an honest answer would be appreciated instead of your typical avoidance to specific questions we have posed to you.

In present days we find which instincts get acted upon depend on things other than culture, like infant mortality.

In societies where the offspring’s survival rate is low, and a single female’s offspring are not likely to survive to maturity; polygamy behavior is more common (Merriman, 2000).

Given all of the above, Valkyrie, I really don’t see how you can say that monogamy only exists at the level of culture and learning and is only to ensure possession of the offspring! Human beings are built for both, and we always do different things in different settings.

You seem to have an agenda to justify polygamy as 100%. Do you really believe that genetics is that simple that it just says ‘in all situations act polygomous’? The example of infanticide is a good one; genes do not say ‘In all situations save baby’… historically and presently humans kill babies. When it comes to reproductive behavior human beings are complicated. You seem to lack appreciation for the complexity of the human genome and behavioral genetics. I look forward to your response. Preferably a calm, rational response, and not the emotional outbursts you’ve had in later posts.

On another note; I agree with CygnusX1, monogamy on your island might happen.

- Tom

How’d the conversation get so long without anyone talking about Maslow? Maslow Hierarchy of needs says sexual intimacy and morality become more valuable after security of: body, employment, resources, mortality, property, health and the family and other physiological needs like food are met. Sexual intimacy and morality are things of monogamy. Common sense to me is that die hard monogamists are rare in Africa today, or Africa on the Savanna.


Yes! Mating behavior is a complex interplay of genes and environment. Many possibilities and outcomes. And consciousness and intelligence are part of the process!

@Tom B.

Nice citation on infant mortality and monogamy. I went on too much of a tangent with that.


I like your thoughts about what might happen on the island. Although Matthew makes a good point about Maslow’s Hierarchy. Do you think it depends on how utopic the island?


I don’t feel as though I am trying to ‘prove’ monogamy out of a need to justify ‘indoctrination’. I don’t believe in ‘indoctrination’ anyway, I believe in ‘socialization’, with individuals, dynamically participating in the formation of their beliefs in feedback with society and the environment at large. The only thing that approaches ‘indoctrination’ in this world IMO are cults.


Artificial ‘wombs’ as regeneration chambers is fun to think about. Although first thing I thought of when you said that was Michael Jackson’s oxygen chamber (which he didn’t actually do—was an attention/tabloid stunt that backfired). Could be more Matrix like maybe where one could be at a virtual world beach or something while regenerating the body.


When you say “therefore they possess a bit of wiggle room”, to what extent, if any, are you talking about free will? I tend to agree with Elizer Yudkowsky and Massimo Pigilucci that self-consciousness is not free will but a feature of the mind that allows, psychological, social goals (such as feeling attractive) to override lower-level mechanistic goals (such as the goals of fat receptor cells) where doing so fulfills other higher level goals, like hapiness. I am beginning to think that consciousness is the experience of that process, as new research suggests that our brains know what we will do before we consciouslessly know.


If you trace back the steps far enough, coming into existence was a force of the big bang, not anyone’s choice. Humans and life on earth kind of sucks and everything, but with technology we make it better.

“to what extent, if any, are you talking about free will?”

Not much; IMO free will, justice, decency, and so forth, are miniscule yet in existence. As for Valkyrie he for some reason can’t quite get it that we are the sum (one more time) of,
a)  genes
b)  environment
Here is one example he will be able to comprehend: there is a big difference between living in a mansion with the best health care money can buy; and living in absolute poverty in a third world nation with no health care of any sort whatsoever. So environment does matter a great deal.
At one time we were homo sapien 1.0; now we are homo sapien 2.0; transhumanism gives us the opportunity of being homo sapien 3.0; as for posthuman? a posthuman wont actually be a homo sapien—so we can’t call a posthuman homo sapien 4.0, can we?

That is to say, Valkyrie, the homo sapien of 2011 CE is slightly more than the savannah homo sapien of 20,000 BCE.
Not a whole lot more, but more.

post-post, just a slight quibble (Peter Wicks, I like this term!); Valkyrie Ice is a she not a he. grin

Tom B.

After all: if homo sapiens could—merely for instance—walk on the Moon from 1969 to 1972 then Homo Sapien cannot only be a latter-day savannah ape and nothing more.
Perhaps not much more, yet more nonetheless.

This is going way off-topic (though someone else got us off-track): if the Space Race was to beat the Russians to the Moon it was prime evidence that though our actions are more sophisticated, our thinking is in fact little or nothing more than savannah ape thinking.

Not quite an artificial womb:

First mother-daughter womb transplant planned

The world’s first mother-daughter uterus transplant could take place next year in Sweden, the head of an international research team in the western Swedish city of Gothenburg said Tuesday.

i wish this was a reality!
my partner wants kids but i think guys often forget that its the woman’s body and so on that is on the receiving end here. i have never wanted to carry children, ideally i would adopt but you cant really do that in Australia and also i know some ppl want to have their own children with their genetics and such.

this would be a great solution for someone like me, also i read a science fiction book once where they recorded the mothers vitals to play on a loop for the baby so that way its not getting all the bad emotions from stress and such, just a neutral loop.

also diet and environment of the mother wont impact the baby.

i think its a great possibility that would eliminate a lot of negatives and even encourage ppl to have kids that otherwise wouldn’t.  also great for same sex couples. i see it as a tool of equality.

@ jacinta - thanks for your comments.  I didn’t know that you couldn’t adopt in Australia.  Can’t you go to Vietnam and adopt there?  or Cambodia?  Or China?  You could also find a surrogate to bear your baby, if you have the money.

New Science Fiction Release:  Wombs.  By Cliff Paris
Kindle edition $4.95. 
This Novel Addresses the next step in space exploration possibilities.  Artificial wombs sent into space in unmanned ships to find habitable planets.

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