I’m expecting this to be one of the huge politial brouhaha’s of the future. I’ll go ahead and throw out my thoughts now before everyone takes sides and it becomes impossible to discuss.

The current birthrate is clearly unsustainable, outside of Israel and some Muslim countries. Other than those countries, what everyone else is doing clearly isn’t working, and there’s a time limit to fix it. I see two ways to solve the problem, either we go back in time and readopt traditional values, or we adopt the artificial womb as rapidly as possible.

It would seem like traditionalism is the obvious solution. We’ve done it before, it isn’t new and weird. Many have an idyllic view of the 1950’s, and would like to set the 50’s as the new cultural norm. I don’t think Momma and Poppa were as happy and fulfilled as some are advertising, but that’s beside the point. There were more children born, they had better childhoods, and some grew up to be better adults. In the end, that’s more important than the inability of two adults, who consented to marry, to find happiness together. I’m going to guess however that this solution won’t be implemented, and if it was, it would inevitably be liberalized and we would end up right back where we are now. It’s what happened every time, to every traditional society, barring primarily African Muslims and Orthodox Jews. Look at Saudi Arabia – currently a birth rate of 2.17 per woman, barely replacement level as-is, but I anticipate this rate tanking as women gain rights. Even Saudi Arabia is not traditional enough to have a high birth rate and prevent liberalization. Does anyone think it’s possible to swiftly implement a harsher traditionalism than Saudi Arabia’s, and keep it there? If so, I’ll be observing your progress, but I’m not anticipating much more than a temporary end to doctor-provided abortions in America (but not Western Europe).

On the other hand, we have the possibility of the artificial womb, which has the downsides of not being currently available and being weird. In vitro fertilization and sperm donation are also weird though, and people do it, so I’ll assume people can work around the strangeness of the artificial womb. The main problem is that it isn’t available yet, and possibly the technology isn’t mature enough. I’m not sure what the current state of the tech is. The last thing I read said that the artificial womb was being held up because of legal issues involved with potentially killing a human fetus. That wouldn’t be a good thing, but frankly women miscarry every day. This isn’t a point I’d hang the future of civilization on. I think this technology is inevitable, if only to assist with normal birthing. Who is going to argue against using the artificial womb to save the lives of extreme preemies? No one. Some may argue against celebrity women using it in place of a third world surrogate mother, but it will still be done. If America (for example) outlaws it, some tiny island nation will become a surrogacy-haven and quadruple their GDP overnight. China will decide they want to corner the market on artificial womb surrogacy (and implant the fetuses with all kinds of spyware), and then the cat’s out of the bag.

There may be a societal shift where men will have large families on their own. I’m not sure what women will do, they’ll have to decide for themselves. I’m guessing most men will have several children, even if they have to raise them without a mother. It’s not ideal, but I think this will get the birth rate back up above replacement level.

The way I see it, the emotional decision is “let’s go back to the 50’s.” The practical decision is, let’s have a moonshot program to develop the artificial womb and get it into widespread use as quickly as possible. It will happen anyway, but it’s better if it happens sooner. Our generations in the developed world are growing too long. When I was a kid, my great-grandmother was still alive and in good shape. If I had a kid today, they’d know their grandmother, probably. That’s not good, kids should know multiple generations of their family and they should have large families. It’s time to go ahead and get this problem fixed.