Men No Longer Needed

Finally, recent uncited sciencey breakthroughs have confirmed previous findings allowing the production of eggs and sperm from the stem cells of both men and women. For the past billion years our ancestors have been required to mate with males in order to reproduce, but that wasteful system has finally been corrected. Starting soon, clinical trials will be carried out in prestigious name-less research hospitals, allowing lesbian couples to have children they can both call their own. Women will soon be rejoicing around the world, as men are no longer needed!

Let the age of Fempires begin!

Luckily for us men, no recent breakthroughs have actually made this a possibility, yet. Researchers in Newcastle and Cambridge have taken the first steps in creating sperm and eggs from stem cells, but they are still quite a long way off making this a reality. But let’s just imagine this is real, and is about to create shockwaves throughout our societies, as it might in the not too distant future.

If you’re in a lesbian relationship and hoping to have kids, this is the perfect opportunity for you. You no longer need to decide who will be the biological parent, as now you can both be. You can even take it in turns acting as the mother or fertilizing the egg (with your very own female sperm), as your family grows.

The male sex is a puzzle that biologists have been mulling over for decades. They can’t directly produce offspring and reproduce – the currency of natural selection – so why on earth are there so many of them? Clearly with just a few males in a population of females the group could produce a great number of offspring – far more than a rival group with a 50:50 ratio of males to females. Yet the small number of selfish males would have such high reproductive success, that natural selection would favour an increase in males. It currently takes one male and one female to produce an offspring, so if either sex were greater in number, then individuals of the common sex would have a lower average reproductive output than the rare sex. Thus, an equal ratio would be restored by natural selection, as the rare sex would be favoured by selection.

But now things have changed. With the advent of stem-to-sperm (STS) capabilities we can allow women to produce healthy sperm cells, which can be used to impregnate the egg of another woman. No longer are we restricted by the iron grip of natural selection. No longer are costly men required.

A fantastic side effect of lesbian couples having their own children is that, with no Y chromosome involved, couples are guaranteed to have little baby girls. So perhaps it is only a matter of time before men become obsolete – their parasitic nature finally exposed for all to see, and their legacy finally coming to an end.

It is true that these breakthroughs also bring us new stem-to-egg (STE) capabilities, meaning gay male couples now also have the chance to bring up children to which they are both the biological parents. However, two men, each the legacy of a billion years of the exploitative sex, simply don’t have the required uterus for same-sex reproduction. No, gay couples require a woman to act as the surrogate mother, thus continuing the dependency men have had for eternity.

Now before we celebrate there is one thing we should still consider, and that is that many women are quite attracted to men. Unfortunate though this now is, it is a rather general, well-supported finding both scientifically and anecdotally. So although men are technically no longer needed for reproduction, this does not mean that women will immediately stop finding them attractive and mating with them. Looking forward, we will perhaps see competition occurring between the men of the world and the growing number of lesbians, for the affections of straight women. But the outcome is far too uncertain for speculation.

Another potential use of this technology would be cutting out a reproductive partner all together, as women could make their own sperm and use it to fertilize their own egg. This self-fertilization might sound like a great idea that would result in clones, twice as related to you as normal offspring, however there are a few problems. Firstly, clones have an identical genome to the ‘parent’ whereas this would be two random halves of the same genome. This means the chance of abnormalities due to inbreeding and harmful recessive alleles is dangerously high. Additionally, reproducing with one’s self, usually known as asexual reproduction, is detrimental because it severely limits the genetic variation of the resulting offspring. Sexual reproduction evolved as it maximizes genetic variation, such that diseases and parasites cannot become accustomed to a host’s genome and thus able to rapidly attack its offspring.

There is one final pitfall that we must consider. Take our perfect lesbian couple; let one fertilize the other’s egg and watch as the child develops over the next 9 months. Now here’s the problem. What if our sperm-wielding woman does a runner? She could move to the next town, attract another lesbian partner, impregnate her and then move on again! Outrageous you might say. But this woman would be doing rather well in the gene pool, and she would be taking advantage of her ability as the sperm-giver to make a very low investment in reproduction. What does this all mean? Well, in a world full of lesbians, some would probably shift to a fast, low investment strategy and the lesbi-man would be born. All of this goes to say that when it comes to sexual reproduction, even between members of the same sex, unequal initial investment in human reproduction cannot be overcome.

Latest Research

Newcastle: “Women may be able to grow own sperm” by Roger Highfield: The Telegraph (2007)

Cambridge: “Cell breakthrough to bring two-dad babies” by Lois Rogers: The Sunday Times (2015)

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Medical Advances and their Limitless Potential

Extraordinary genetic and medical advances are becoming ever-more frequent occurrences it would seem. The possibilities are endless and we are rapidly increasing our repertoire of extreme, life-saving and unbelievable therapies. For example, this woman in Holland had a rare condition that caused the bone in her cranium to thicken to the extent that it was crushing her brain, causing loss of sight and severe headaches, which would eventually have killed her. So she had her cranium scanned and then a perfect 3-D printed version made for her and implanted as a replacement to her own. This photo shows her with the new plastic skull as it was fitted during the operation.

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Insane. But 100% real and hopefully life-saving for her. We can allow ourselves to imagine that we’ll soon be able to create synthetic versions of any organ or structure and make it personalized to an individual’s DNA, so the chances of it being rejected are extremely slim. We’ll be growing spare organs that are made-to-order and perhaps even providing genetic and tissue enhancements too. It reminds me of the film ‘Robots’ where they buy new parts in order to grow or make improvements, but only the richest individuals can afford the most desirable and powerful upgrades.

However, it’s unlikely we could ever recreate a person’s brain, as it is incredibly difficult to understand and attempt to replicate the relationship between neuron signalling and memories, thoughts, feelings and emotions, although we are improving all the time. Maybe one day it will be possible to upload the content of a brain, and to download this on to a replacement, in essence allowing someone to live forever. The film ‘Transcendence’ uses this idea to suggest that an uploaded brain could be given access and control over the power of a super-computer, forming a sort of Artificial Intelligence/Human hybrid. I can’t help but think that film is about Ray Kurzweil. But I would hasten a guess that if we do hybridise in some way with machines, it is more likely that we would be incorporating computer power into our heads, rather than our minds into a computer. It just seems simpler.

Brains Online in 2030’s?

Over at the Singularity University in Silicon Valley, California (of course), some of the brightest (and richest at $29,500 per 10 week course) technology-loving futurists gather to discuss, imagine and create. Ray Kurzweil, co-founder of the ‘university’, has recently been speaking about some of his work as the Director of Engineering at Google. He describes their current mission as “reengineering the human brain” in such a way that we can eventually connect it to the internet, which he predicts will be realised in the 2030’s. As a leader in this field and proven predictor of such things as the year a computer would beat a human chess grand master and the explosion of the internet, it’s hard not to take his word for it.

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Perhaps the most shocking part of Kurzweil and Google’s work is not that they are trying to hook us up to the cloud by inserting nanobots into our brains, but the potential resulting brain power that could come from such a process. Were it done correctly, and by that I mean accurately mimicking existing brain connections and hierarchical structure, then it could create a super-intelligent network of brains. Imagine linking the neocortex of the members of a lab group, allowing them to more efficiently trade ideas, innovate and discover using a ‘multi-brainstorm’ approach. Teaching would be transformed – think Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Paige designing radical architecture while dream-sharing in the film Inception – but in danger of imposing ideas instead of just presenting them.

Picture world leaders plugged into each other’s heads discussing the future on behalf of the rest of us. Could they not easily do away with transparency, leaving the public out of the loop? Or would it allow great collaboration, democracy and openness in politics and worldwide, unified action? There is also danger that the experience of linking minds itself may be so overwhelming that any group risks an explosion of power-thirst and ambition from among its members. More likely not.

There is no shortage of volunteers to scout, pioneer, and trial new technologies, even when there are unresolved ethical dilemmas and questionable futures. The “Explorers” that bought the first Google Glass models and have been using them ever since are just one such example – cameras in contact lenses could be next. Whatever new tech is released there is always someone willing to test it, so the progression towards greater technological dependence and enhancement of humans is in some ways inevitable (if such things are mechanistically feasible, which they probably are).

Cloning for Lay-Men and Women

How do you clone a dog like they did on the Channel 4 programme “The £60,000 Puppy: Cloning Man’s Best Friend” shown this week? It might seem obvious to some, but for the great majority cloning sounds like something out of science fiction. Let’s break it down as simply as possible. DNA is the recipe that is used by almost all of life on Earth. Every single animal that has ever lived started as a single cell and developed into an adult by following, very precisely, the instructions in its DNA. Using delicate processes scientists are now able to remove the DNA from an embryo, leaving a healthy but information-less cell. The DNA is then taken from a living individual and inserted into the empty cell, replacing that which was removed and giving it instructions to create an adult. This embryo is then implanted in a female and the pregnancy and growth begins.

So an individual’s unique DNA specifies precisely how to ‘make’ that individual from the starting point of an embryo. By replacing the recipe from one embryo with that of a living individual, a clone is produced that is essentially an identical twin, just with a different birthday to the original. This does not mean that the clone is the exact same individual – just look at typical identical twins – they are made individual by the environment they experience through their lives.

Cloning cannot recreate an individual’s personality; it cannot make a copy of a person; it cannot bring someone back from the dead or let them live forever. However, it could be used to exclusively breed the most desirable and valuable animals for agriculture, albeit at greater risk of epidemics.