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Does the following progression/collection of technologies make sense on the way to an artificial womb? The central assumption to this question is that the female body is a delicate, complicated machine that produces a functional human being. And if a machine, then it can be duplicated.

These are in no particular order.

  1. Ultrasound fetal heartbeat monitor (already exists but included for completeness)
  2. Implantable blood chemistry monitor for mother
  3. Method for placental monitoring (non-invasive preferable)
  4. Cheap genome sequencing
  5. Big-Data analysis of blood chemistry monitor matched with genome sequencing
  6. Rapid transplantation of fetus from womb into an artificial womb. (Useful in the event of an accident or illness to the mother).
  7. Chemical duplication of mother's and baby's hormones.
  8. Creation of a viable artificial placenta

I realize that there's a ton of scientific research that will need to be done on all of these technologies/techniques before an artificial womb carries acceptably low risks to be used by the population at large. Please take a clinical perspective when answering. Discussion of cultural changes, or existence of the soul are not in scope.

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In many ways I think it could be simplified a little. The important parts is a way to 'feed' the fetus, (and after some reading learned more about the placenta) so yes that will be one of the biggest hurdles to arrive at.

After that the amniotic fluid should be reasonably easy to duplicate, tracking the chemicals and the hormones across many pregnancies should be relatively minor and much should already be known. So keeping the mix correct shouldn't be terribly hard. Keeping it at a correct temperature should also be easy.

What will be harder to deal with is how much does personal contact during pregnancy affect the child? Hearing their mothers heartbeat 24/7, feeling motion as she moves around, hearing other voices as she communicates with others and the child itself (how many mothers don't talk to their child before birth!).

While I think the artificial womb could bake people more consistently with fewer issues via environmental circumstances, FAS, crack babies, underweight, etc. I think the social issues will be harder to know about in advance, starting with how much is needed before birth. On top of that child size at birth is largely based on the mother and how big the head can be (for natural birth), so would they wait an extra month or 2 or 3? Give a little extra growth, a little hardier child before the 'batch is done'?

So yes I think your list is a good one, only the psychological study of children not 'grown' in a real womb. Though an alternate might be as we can learn to grow/keep alive organs independently from the body, having an actual womb in a 'tank' might be a simpler way to get to the same end, though feeding it the right nutrients will be just as difficult as directly feeding the child without one, but the interface (placenta) is built in...

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    $\begingroup$ Attaching an audio player to the womb to provide audio stimulus for brain development should be trivial. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Sep 23 '15 at 11:55

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