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Athwart

License to Breed

by James Lileks

You know you’re reading a British website when you see the word “foetus,” and you know you’re reading a leftist writer when the article is about banning the squirmy little things. Wired.co.uk recently ran an article by Zoltan Istvan with the provocative title: “It’s time to consider restricting human breeding.” He knows there might be objections: “For most people in the 21st Century, however, the idea of restricting the right to have offspring for any reason whatsoever seems blatantly authoritarian.”

Perhaps because it is? Then again, it’s not authoritarian if it’s marketed properly. Then it’s social justice. People opposed to infants would probably call the breeding curbs the Affordable Baby Act, because no babies whatsoever cost far less money. Millions would nod their approval. Opponents would be shills for Big Formula who want to keep people locked in an expensive status quo. The president would reassure: If you like the pediatrician you have, you can keep your pediatrician. He’ll just have nothing to do. Maybe he can go into doll repair.

The author contemplates licensing parents, just as we license drivers. Don’t know if this means kids conceived without the proper seal on the paperwork can be towed to the pound and auctioned off, but it certainly wouldn’t keep people with chemical addictions or poor impulse control from having babies, or OH WHY ARE WE EVEN TALKING ABOUT THIS.

Because of the planet. Overpopulation, of course. Lower carbon emissions, of course. At least the author realizes this idea has the cadence of boots a-goose-stepping: “Telling a person when and how many children they can have violates just about every core value we possess in a free society. It’s a thorny issue made even more complicated by the coming transhumanist era, which is almost upon us.” I’m sorry, the wha? “The transhumanist age — where radical science and technology will revolutionise the human being and experience — will eventually bring us indefinite lifespans, cyborgization, cloning, and even ectogenesis, where people use artificial wombs outside of their bodies to raise foetuses.”

No doubt some women would like to have the baby gestating in a box in the other room, and it would certainly change the loud sweaty trial of childbirth; everyone could come over for a Birth Party, gather ’round the EctoGenesis Mark VII, and wait for the timer to ding! signaling the moment when you open the door and take out the yowling little rutabaga. That would be the traditional approach. Busy moderns would simply have them grown at an Amazon warehouse and delivered by drones.

Mommy, where do babies come from? Susie says they grow in mommies’ tummies.

No, dear. The stork brings them. Specifically, a StorkCopter™ with quadro-rotating blades made from a composite plastic designed for less weight and faster lift-off.

Aw, that’s just a dumb story you tell kids.

If this sounds like a rather barren future, well, it’s also gloriously selfish. When we have the technology to extend life “indefinitely,” marriage will be a case of “until upgrades do ye part.” Three-hundred-year-old men will leave their families for 150-year-old women, and this will still be a scandal — she’s half his age! The ideal of settling down, as opposed to pausing in place, will finally evaporate.

Transhuman or not, we’re already heading there at a pell-mell pace. It’s not the future. It’s now! Which is the future! At least according to singer Katy Perry, who recently announced she wants to have a baby and doesn’t need a man. In a Rolling Stone interview, she said, “I don’t need a dude. I mean, Neil and David, their twins are beautiful. It’s 2014! We are living in the future; we don’t need anything. I don’t think I’ll have to, but we’ll see. I’m not anti-men. I love men. But there is an option if someone doesn’t present himself.”

To say “We don’t need anything” in regard to childbirth is odd, considering her example of Neil and David, two men raising children who were presumably not spawned by parthenogenesis. She will need a “dude,” or at least some material harvested from dudes. What she’s saying, of course, is that you don’t need a dude to raise a child if you have tens of millions of dollars and can not only hire good help but arrange for a series of men attired like “dad dudes” to show up on weekends and wave from the lawn while raking the leaves. Hey there! Just stopped by to role-model positive behavior. Stay off drugs and be sure to recycle.

Actual dads know that if a beloved celeb declared that “chicks” were not necessary for raising children, and the men’s-rights movement were dedicated to proving how children don’t need mothers and are perfectly happy with a female-shaped object covered with felt that smells vaguely of milk, the proponents of these views would be excoriated as monsters who want to raise homeschooled tot-bots to believe that their highest calling is to form a human chain around Hobby Lobby in order to protect Jesus. But Katy Perry says the same thing? Awesome! Because it’s the future.

We’ve come to this: You say, “People should be able to have children without the approval of the state, and children need a mom and a dad,” and the smart folks lean back and cross their arms and say, “Go on. I’m curious to see how you defend that.”

You might not want to. It could be transhumanphobic.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at www.lileks.com.

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