The Orion's Arm Universe Project Forums

One of the technologies I see in the main setting that frankly I'm desperate for is the synthetic or external womb.

Tell me, by your guys much smarter estimations, how far off do you think we are from even the experimental stages of this technology?
For those who are interested, in OA, synthetic wombs appear in the second century AT, or sometime between about 2069 and 2170.

My expertise is not in that field, so I don't know, but my guess is it's still a long way away. On the other hand, given the progress we've made in medical tech in the last several decades, I wouldn't be surprised if some research in this field has already been done. Fetal surgery is sufficiently common it has its own Wikipedia page. Fetal transfer between natural wombs, sometimes referred to as "fetal adoption", would be simpler but is also currently impossible, and the implementation might be impractical even if it were.

Personally, it would be an understatement to say I'd love to see something like this IRL, because the potential is enormous - it could be a potential alternative to abortion, a solution for women who have difficult pregnancies, an alternative for colonizing distant worlds, etc.
No idea when this might actually happen. In the OA timeline we have what amounts to a biotechnological Industrial Revolution taking place in the late 21st/early 22nd century. No idea if that was deliberate if it just kind of shook out that way.

For an interesting examination on the impact of exo-womb tech, I recommend Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan stories. Although more of a soft science space opera setting, biotech plays an important role in many of the stories, including exo-wombs. In particular, it's interesting to see how a low tech 'lost colony' society starts adapting to advanced tech once it is rediscovered, particularly to exo-womb tech. In a very short amount of time you have arranged marriages being set up in which the contract explicitly states that an exo-womb will be used and that the wife will never have to do a 'body birth'. The wider galactic society in the stories already views natural childbirth as only slightly less barbaric and repulsive then female genital mutilation. Something similar might happen in OA, especially over our mult-thousand year timeline.

The technology itself could be only half a century away but unfortunately even when developed it will be illegal for many years.
Humans have irrational fear of new when it comes to biotech applied to themselves. Even when said applications are purely beneficial ,for example mitochondrial transplant which is currently hot topic of debate in UK, was first performed in 1997 in New Jersey by Jacques Cohen resulting in healthy girl and later in more than 20 babies.
Yet more than a decade later we still debate the ethics of this clearly beneficial therapy.

For those interested
The Japanese tested one on animals didn't they?

extrauterine fetal incubation via

That's the best I could get on is an image not sure if it's real or stock/staged.

Perhaps one of the biofolks is society member or has read/can read the article and give us a brief laymans overview.

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