December 30, 2007
Pregnancy Surrogacy Outsourced To India

Picture groups of women in India living - and, by doing so, working - in a sort of baby factory.

ANAND, India - Every night in this quiet western Indian city, 15 pregnant women prepare for sleep in the spacious house they share, ascending the stairs in a procession of ballooned bellies, to bedrooms that become a landscape of soft hills.

A team of maids, cooks and doctors looks after the women, whose pregnancies would be unusual anywhere else but are common here.

While lots of the surrogacy is for local women some of it is for foreign women who can't carry a baby to term.

More than 50 women in this city are now pregnant with the children of couples from the United States, Taiwan, Britain and beyond.

They use eggs and sperm from the prospective parents, do in vitro fertilization (IVF), and then implant the resulting embryo in an Indian woman who accepts payment for carrying the baby to term. The article states an Indian woman can earn the equivalent of 15 years of salary by carrying just one pregnancy.

This is all legal in India.

Decades ago Honeywell used to run TV ads about computers for controlling commercial building heating and cooling and they'd end each ad with a guy saying "The future is today at Honeywell". Well, I increasingly feel that way about the whole world. There's increasingly science fiction quality to aspects of every day life. We are getting far enough away from the limitations of our primitive past that the future of our imaginings doesn't seem as distant and unreachable as the future seemed in the past.

50 years ago science fiction writers could write all sorts of plot elements into a story secure in the knowledge that whatever they'd describe would seem distantly futuristic. Well, it seems harder to come up with ideas about the future that sit way in the distant future. What is theoretically physically possible to do that is unlikely to happen in this century?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 December 30 10:49 PM  Bioethics Reproduction


Comments
Mark Plus said at December 31, 2007 8:03 AM:

I beg to differ. Some "futurists" back around 1980 thought we'd have space colonization, solar power satellites and radical life extension by now, none of which has happened. Nor do we have the programmable nanotech assemblers predicted for about now by "futurists" back in the late 1980's. Life in the real 21st Century just hasn't changed all that much since my teens in the 1970's. In fact, people make a hobby now of finding and laughing about examples of the 20th Century's bad "futurology," for example, the Paleo-future blog http://paleo-future.blogspot.com .

For an especially wrong view of life in that far-off, mysterious year 2010, published back in 1981, read F.M. Esfandiary's "Up-Wing Priorities" (PDF): http://www.box.net/shared/static/ay9lub60ha.pdf

Julian Morrison said at December 31, 2007 8:59 AM:

Serious interstellar colonization is unlikely this century unless someone invents a warp drive, or an AI smart enough to invent warp drive for us.

I think for most people, some time in the next couple of decades there will be a moment when the future shock hits home. Whether it's lesbians conceiving a baby by way of stem cells, or De Grey achieving his "robust mouse rejuvenation", or all the cars on the road being electric, they're going to realize "hey, this is the future now".

That's going to have interesting political consequences. I'm quite sure the reaction of a great many people is going to be "Help! Stop the world! I want to get off!". They'll form a politically powerful Luddite lobby, and one of the major hurdles for transhumanists will be to beat back their attempts to put the brakes on change.

kurt9 said at December 31, 2007 10:35 AM:

Mark Plus is right.

Radical life extension and space colonization have not happened yet. These are the only two things I give a rats arse about. Everything else is meaningless drivel.

aa2 said at December 31, 2007 1:36 PM:

For me it hit home earlier.. I had severe depression where even food didn't taste good when I was very hungry.. I was uncomfortable and sick all the time for several years, and shedding pounds to an unhealthy level. Then the doctor put me on Paxil in 2001 or 2002 and for me it was a miracle drug. One thing among many.. I could sleep without constant nightmares.


I think a big moment for many people will be when mankind solves the oil challenge with technology. Because so far most people are still clinging to pessimistic doomsday scenarios for our world. I think a good deal of people will rethink their whole outlook on what mankind can accomplish.

kurt9 said at December 31, 2007 1:53 PM:

I want the cure for aging. Noone can convince me that technology is "going too fast" as long as the experience of aging remains mandatory.

Brock said at December 31, 2007 2:45 PM:

"The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet." - William Gibson

And he's right. Even the robust life extension and interstellar travel are probably 50% invented, just spread all over the place. Some mitochondrial research here, a VASMIR drive there, some nuclear "batteries" the size of a bathtub, some skin cell-to-stem cell therapies over there, etc. etc.

Other than Clarkian technology "indistinguishable from magic" like human teleporters or a warp drive, I can't even imagine any technologies that aren't already being worked on in some preliminary fashion. From AI to fusion power, there's advances being made all over the place. Even interstellar travel of the "hibernate and wait" variety seems likely by 2060 or so.

Julian Morrison said at December 31, 2007 3:00 PM:

If you want the cure for aging, send money here: http://www.methuselahfoundation.org/index.php?pagename=donate

cancer_man said at December 31, 2007 5:04 PM:

But many predictions from the 70s and 80s used the year 2000 as a reference point when many meant "early 21st century," so it isn't surprising that people laughed when the real 2000 rolled around. Yet by 2010 there likely will be much more promise with respect to anti-aging and automatic cars, etc. "2000" will be off by 20 years, but that isn't too bad when predicting in the 80s, and when most seem to think nothing will change much until 2050.

Fly said at December 31, 2007 6:14 PM:

"Life in the real 21st Century just hasn't changed all that much since my teens in the 1970's."

Predictions in the 70's...
Scientists would never sequence the human genome. The idea of sequencing an individual's genome was beyond ludicrous.
Computers would never beat a chess master.
I would have laughed in disbelief if anyone had suggested that a 3/4 teraflop computer costing a few hundred dollars would be used for games.

The Internet is a far more revolutionary development than flying cars or interplanetary travel.

Randall Parker said at December 31, 2007 6:36 PM:

Kurt,

I don't care about space travel as long as we do not have full body rejuvenation.

I agree that rejuvenation is the most important thing. But I see that the way one can view personal computers from the standpoint of the 1960s. In the 60s Moore's Law was going on. From one year to the next mainframe computers looked the same. But doubling processes were going to change that.

By the same token, we have (and I've repeatedly posted about) similar processes going on with microfluidics and other technologies of the very small that will help revolutionize biological science. The rapid rate of decline in DNA sequencing costs is much faster than Moore's Law.

Randall Parker said at December 31, 2007 7:25 PM:

I agree with Fly about the importance of the internet. We are here talking to each other having a debate about whether much has changed. That debate didn't use to be possible. Think about that.

Heck, I have met people in real life who first became familiar with me from discussion forums. I've had my way paid to go to conferences as a result of what I say on my blogs. I'm been contacted by journalists from cable news networks and magazines. This has happened to other people. Our society's structure is changing. The choices available on 3 major TV networks have been enhanced and extended with YouTube, cable news 24x7, C-SPAN, and web logs.

Look at the marvel which is Google News. It has changed how I conceptualize the world. It allows me to track down far more details about a story than I ever thought possible. You can know so much more if you want to make the effort. I can watch web sites that publish science press releases and watch developments in many fields. This is great.

Other software developers have said to me on numerous occasions "How did we ever get anything done before Google?". You hit some obscure problem and you can find web sites and forum discussions that hash out APIs, bugs, solutions.

I can point you to numerous specialist web logs where people with amazing amounts of knowledge and technical skills hash out what is known on topics and know more than the traditional experts. Look at The Oil Drum where you can read petroleum engineers, physicists, and other technically skilled people in the oil industry analyze what is knowable about oil production. Those guys are amazing. Or you can read first class economists argue with each other across blogs. Or you can read genetic anthropologists.

Or how about shopping? I rarely go into physical stores for many types of products. I can find more and more easily on the web. I can find reviews. I can find customer comments. I can find types of products I never knew existed. I'm becoming a much more sophisticated buyer as a result.

Computers keep getting more powerful. Fiber optic capacity keeps going up. The world wide web keeps getting bigger. This is a revolution.

Julian Morrison said at December 31, 2007 10:51 PM:

Randall: the obvious very next step is web-style technologies merging into what was previously offline life. I'm beginning to find it strange to move around between places I can Google. Rather like holding my breath. I see a word I don't know, and realize I'm never going to know it unless I can hold it in my head and reach a computer. It's frustrating.

So the next thing will be ubiquitous wireless and ubiquitous location-aware small computing devices (but more heir to laptops than to crippled cellphones). And the next thing after that will be object-aware devices (via RFID or similar), so I can point at a real-world object and ask about it. What is it, whose is it, where was it, who made it, where can I get one, etc etc. And the next tech after that will be wearables - they will become useful when the real world has grown labels.

The web is a revolution, but it's also only the beginning of a bigger one.

Mark Plus said at January 1, 2008 8:22 AM:
If you want the cure for aging, send money here: ">http://www.methuselahfoundation.org/index.php?pagename=donate

Sorry, Aubrey de Grey just doesn't give me a boner.

We had scientists back in the 1970's who predicted rapid progress in "life extension sciences" starting in that decade. A number of them spoke at an Alcor conference in 1978:

http://www.box.net/shared/static/vtksoi8t4t.jpg

As near as I can tell, at least a third of the people listed to speak at that conference have died by now.

So how embarrassing will de Grey's pronouncements sound in another 20-30 years, if we still see no progress in conquering aging?

Mark Plus said at January 1, 2008 8:47 AM:

Fly writes:

Predictions in the 70's... Scientists would never sequence the human genome. The idea of sequencing an individual's genome was beyond ludicrous.

I concede that as a nontrivial accomplishment, though I still don't see what it has to do with foreseeable healthcare. You can get your genome sequenced to see what you'll likely die from, but the information won't tell you how not to die from senescence at all.

Computers would never beat a chess master. I would have laughed in disbelief if anyone had suggested that a 3/4 teraflop computer costing a few hundred dollars would be used for games.

Yeah, how did we live in the old days when we had only humans to play board games with?

The paleo-futurists got a lot wrong, but at least they portrayed futures where people got off their butts and did difficult jobs in the physical world like building moon bases and such. Their Future Man came from sterner stuff than the people in the real 21st Century who think they live "futuristically" because they can sit in front of their computers all day and pretend they have "second lives" online.

Fly said at January 1, 2008 10:56 AM:

"futures where people got off their butts and did difficult jobs in the physical world like building moon bases and such."

To me, it isn't about building huts on the moon. It is about understanding the universe in which we live. Understanding the intricate mechanisms of life. Understanding memory, thinking, and consciousness. Understanding quantum mechanics so well that it has become engineering.

The less cerebral payoffs keep coming...better information technology, better agriculture, better treatments for cancer, immune diseases, and mental diseases, better manufacturing technology. These are real developments and real products that are reported every day.

kurt9 said at January 1, 2008 12:53 PM:

We are now in 2008. This is the year that Eric Drexler thought in 1988 that we would have real, honest to god nano-assemblers. Its New Years day! Where are my nano assemblers?

Randall and others,

I agree with you guys.

Biotechnology and rejuvenation is one area that I am actually optimistic. Biotechnology is based on instrumentation and apparatus that appears to be following a Moore's Law like projection. One version of this, applied to sequencing and synthesizing of DNA is called Carlson's Curves. Now, making DNA is not the end all of biotech, but much of the other biotech applications seem to be on a similar roll. Microfluidics is one key technology that we willl hear a lot of in the next few years. Synthetic biology is another.

Another reason why I am optimistic on biotechnology (curing aging as one application) is that, like semiconductors in the early days, it is a very decentralized industry composed mostly of small to medium sized companies (Michael West founded ACT with about $1 million). This means that the rate of innovation will be very high. Also, the capital equipment costs in biotech are very low as well. as compared to semiconductors and other technology manufacturing. This also assures us of rapid innovation rates.

Space colonization never took off because its proponents believed that the government bureaucracy of NASA would do all of the work. Since bureaucracy, in any form, is incapable of positive work and especially in cost competition, launch costs remain stubornly high and there is no real activity in space. Also, some of the projected markets, such as SPS and zero-gee manufacturing, turned out to be mirages. There may be an economic case for SPS, but I suspect that improved forms of fission (thorium nuclear power, integral fast reactor) or, possible fussion (Tri-alpha, Bussard's Polywell) will render this moot.

In any case, space activity can only happen once space transportation becomes a competitively driven industry, much like airlines and shipping is today. Government bureaucracies such as NASA and the like can never make this happen.

Randall Parker said at January 1, 2008 5:19 PM:

Julian Morrison,

Yes, info on demand wherever you are.

Did you ever see the late 1960s classic The President's Analyst with James Coburn. "The Phone Company" kidnapped him to convince him to persuade the President that every American should be implanted with a brain chip that would let them instantly dial any phone number they thought of. Well, we may see that for real.

Mark Plus,

We could go back in a time machine before the Wright Brothers few at Kitty Hawk and find people saying humans will never fly in fixed wing aircraft. We can do the same for other inventions and discoveries. Just because some people were overly optimistic in the 1970s about when certain things will happen doesn't mean that what they dreamed of will always stay in the distant future.

The importance of the falling costs of DNA sequencing and microfluidics is that these are tools we need to solve the rejuvenation problem.

Your comment here betrays a common misunderstanding:

The paleo-futurists got a lot wrong, but at least they portrayed futures where people got off their butts and did difficult jobs in the physical world like building moon bases and such. Their Future Man came from sterner stuff than the people in the real 21st Century who think they live "futuristically" because they can sit in front of their computers all day and pretend they have "second lives" online.

The computer advances and other small scale advances are changing how we do big things. What happens at the smaller scales is more important than the big physical projects. The smaller stuff will bring us cheap photovoltaics using nanotechnology. The smaller stuff will bring us cables that can reach into orbit.

I work online. I supervise some people remotely. The internet isn't just a tool for viewing web pages. Though that capability alone really changes things. It has lowered the cost of publishing. It has lowered the cost of distributed work.

Julian Morrison said at January 1, 2008 6:14 PM:

Mark Plus, you seem to have missed the total difference between anti-aging optimism then and now.

Then: the future will be super cool. Speculative technologies such as nanotech must soon be capable of ending the unspecified medical causes of aging. The 21st century looks like a round number, let's aim for that.

Now: these existing or incipient technologies, some of which are already advanced in clinical trials for other medically similar uses, can be brought to bear on these seven named general categories of damage that, according to current knowledge, are the entirety of the direct causes of aging. The work remaining to do amounts to grunt work and incremental discovery, not revolutionary discovery. We can predictably complete this in mice in a decade.

It's exactly the difference between science fiction set in the near future, and a research proposal.

Julian Morrison said at January 1, 2008 7:05 PM:

kurt9, real space travel (going and staying) will be for-profit or nothing. Only the entrepreneur returns from the flight with more "fuel" than he set off. Socialist spaceflight expends its money and that's it, all gone. It's the difference between on the one hand, leaping and falling back, and on the other, climbing a ladder.

Mark Plus said at January 1, 2008 9:21 PM:

Randall Parker writes:

We could go back in a time machine before the Wright Brothers few at Kitty Hawk and find people saying humans will never fly in fixed wing aircraft. We can do the same for other inventions and discoveries. Just because some people were overly optimistic in the 1970s about when certain things will happen doesn't mean that what they dreamed of will always stay in the distant future.

You overlook the possibility that a supposedly futuristic "X-Age" based on a new technology could only last for a few years, then stop indefinitely because of some infeasibility or economic constraint. The "space age," defined as manned travel into the solar system, ended in 1972; and the "supersonic age" ended in 2003 with the permanent grounding of the Concorde. We don't have any practical successor technologies to restart these respective "ages." (And I mean tangible hardware coming out of a factory, not someone's "progress porn" from the pages of Popular Science.) Someone my age (48) who dies today would from his perspective have died literally over a generation after the "space age" ended. The skeptics of manned space travel or commercial supersonic flight look vindicated on the "after" side of these failed technologies.

Mark Plus said at January 1, 2008 9:34 PM:

Randall Parker writes:

The computer advances and other small scale advances are changing how we do big things. What happens at the smaller scales is more important than the big physical projects. The smaller stuff will bring us cheap photovoltaics using nanotechnology. The smaller stuff will bring us cables that can reach into orbit.

Big physical projects matter a lot more to people's survival than computer networks and the like. The people of New Orleans would have gladly gone without internet and cell phone service during Hurricane Katrina if the city's levees had held up. Oklahomans would have willingly made a similar sacrifice to have kept their power on after the horrific ice storm they had a few weeks back. This computer-centric thinking has probably contributed to the ongoing neglect of our civilization's physical life support systems in recent decades.

Julian Morrison said at January 1, 2008 9:49 PM:

Mark Plus: the answer is that space age didn't stop - it didn't begin. In fact it's on the verge of beginning, with SpaceX Falcon rockets and Bigelow orbital stations. The Apollo era was no more the beginning of the space age than the Nile pyramids were the beginning of the skyscraper era. You can achieve amazing things by battering down hard problems with brute force and huge wads of public funds, but you need to build up a technology and a market if you want it to become permanent.

Bob Badour said at January 2, 2008 7:55 AM:

Mark Plus,

Katrina would have been a non-event if the US had never wasted loads of cash blocking up the Mississippi flood plains in the first place. That's a large capital project that has enduring (even growing) negative value.

Large cap projects are costly by definition, are vulnerable, and have a very low return on assets. On the other hand, solid-state electronics have drastically improved the standard of living over my lifetime. When I was born, transistor radios were the new big thing. The only faxes were hugely expensive things in police stations. Parents didn't keep track of their kids by calling their cell-phones or by using GPS information built into them.

When I was born, it would be 7 years before Pong came out. Now WII is considered a low-end gaming system. Kids carry around music collections that used to fill entire rooms with vinyl on iPod nanos.

I would wager that for more than a few Oklahomans, the biggest problem with the loss of electricity was the inability to recharge their iPods.

I live in an area that gets a lot of winter storms. (We are having one right now, in fact.) I am thinking about spending thousands on a UPS system and a back-up generator to keep my computers running. Running the furnace and the water pump would be nice pluses.

Post a comment
Comments:
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
URL:
Remember info?

                       
Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright