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In The Lord of the Rings, Saruman breeds his own version of a type of orc known as the Uruk-hai. The Uruk-hai spring up from pits of mud fully formed, like this:


Image from here.

It seems, of course, highly unlikely that such a creature could be born this way naturally. However, humans do have technology that can make some improbable things possible.

My question is in two parts:

  1. Is it possible for a human-like (I have to assume that the Uruk-hai are close enough to humans, genetically) creature to incubate in a vat of mud, fed by nutrients dumped into the sludge?
  2. Is it possible for this same human-like creature to emerge fully formed at "birth"?

Note: This world has the technology of about the present day, and no magic.

Saruman the White grows impatient waiting for answers about his chances of success. . .

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  • $\begingroup$ The Uruk-hai are descended from Elves, right? Maybe they bred them with dwarves to make them "just spring out of holes in the ground". This would also lead to the internal conflict which makes them so angry and evil. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 4 '16 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel I've heard of mixed breeding between Orcs/Men and Orc/Goblins. Although I think the Orcs were descended from Elves corrupted by Sauron, if I remember correctly, so maybe your idea would work. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Feb 4 '16 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ Must the vat actually be filled with mud, or could it just be a combination of fluids that gives that appearance (and texture)? $\endgroup$ – Avernium Feb 4 '16 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Avernium I'd prefer actual mud, if possible. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Feb 4 '16 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 To be precise, Orcs were first created by Melkor through the torturing of elves. Afterward, orcs bred like any other creature. I don't know where Peter Jackson and company got the creature-in-vat idea. This, of course, doesn't change your question, though. $\endgroup$ – Alex S Feb 4 '16 at 23:22
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Given present-day technology, then No. We don't have the genetic engineering capabilities to change a human this much.

However, our genetic engineering capabilities are in their infancy. In a few hundred years, the answer may well be yes, however the end result will not be even remotely human given the sheer number of genetic changes required.

This would involve:

  • Replacing the placenta with a more tree-root-like organ that is also capable of absorbing sufficient atmospheric oxygen to support life.
  • The foetus would need an active immune system from the outset, given the likelihood of bacterial contamination of the birthing sludge.
  • The foetus would likely need exceptional thermoregulation capabilities to survive in a pool of cold sludge.
  • Human/ape growth patterns would need to be drastically altered for the modified placenta to survive long enough to grow this creature to adulthood in its embryonic sac in any reasonable timeframe, though its gestation period may well be drastically curtailed from 20 or so years (as in humans) to 2-3 years.

There are certain problems too:

  • Human growth takes so long because there is so much to learn. It takes about as long to learn to be a good human as it takes to reach adult size - 16 to 20 years. Our genetically-engineered uruk-hai would emerge fully-formed and as helpless as any baby without technological intervention in the form of pre-birth artificial instruction and training, though in a few hundred years, that may well be entirely possible.

  • A growth rate this high in a pool of cold sludge would require a pretty high energy input. There would have to be someone around continually dumping fresh nutrients into the sludge in order to maintain its levels of consumable nutrients, though one "keeper" could look after quite a few sludge tanks, many more than a humanoid female can gestate internally.

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Nanotechnology can cause all the right atoms to be arranged in the right way, so it doesn't violate the laws of physics.

Using the assembly routines generally present for the development of living animals, which is the for-sure way to create such an animal (why invent wholescale general replicators when living animals already self-assemble?) will run into some issues.

When growing in a womb, there is a whole adult animal providing working support systems while the embryo is growing, and using active metabolism to provide processed nutrients.

Thinking of an egg instead, you need pre-processed stuff with more than enough mass for the final assembly to be prepared ahead of time, which is nothing like pulling more primitive stuff out of sludge.

You'll also find the egg is limited in size by scaling laws. It can't get enough oxygen for anything larger, for example.

Perhaps looking at the way plants work: a system of roots and vines can grow fruit which are actually "eggs" for the desired creature, but being actively fed and energized they are really "wombs". The idea of roots and already working plant-like tissue can process raw materials, but what about getting enough energy? An autotroph would need a huge amount of solar collector surface area and it would also take a long time as the overall metabolism is slow. Would the one plant even be able to maintain the growing animal fetus?

So look at fungi, not plants. No visible huge leaves, just hidden hyphae "eating" the energy-rich material already present. That's getting somewhere: it's hidden under the surface, it can digest dead animals and other plant matter rather than having to build everything up from air and sunlight. But the rapidity of the metabolism is still not high enough to grow and maintain a warm-blooded animal. It would be more animal-like itself, using circulating blood rather than slowly diffusing protoplasm. It would be animal-like tissue spreading out like roots, maybe like a Siphonophore which is a really cool SF-ish creature!

The animal spreads out colony parts along vine-like tendrils, including mouths/stomachs for gathering food from the bog, gills to get oxygen, and might even have active hunting elements that remain tethered or return to the sedentary bodies. Think of jellyfish parts. And one huge bell is actually a womb with the bioengineered solderer being grown inside.

There's your answer. And it's scary and awesome in its own right!

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