In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Amy Webb, one of the most prominent futurists around, founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute—a “leading foresight and strategy firm that helps leaders and their organizations prepare for complex futures”—and author of the upcoming book The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology predicted that, among other things, the way humans procreate will significantly change in coming years. More precisely, Webb says that children will soon have more than two biological parents. Say what?
“What we’re talking about here is a technology that unlocks our ability to be more selective and to intentionally design life,” said Webb while discussing her new book, which was co-written with microbiologist and geneticist Andrew Hessel. “Maybe that means one person using their own genetic material to bring an embryo to term; maybe it unlocks opportunities to select traits from more than two parents,” she continued.
Webb carried on by explaining that although scientists and futuristic experts like herself don’t yet know the full applications for gene-editing technology like CRISPR (“and others that are sure to follow,” as stated by the publication Futurism) she believes the “possibilities” and “optionality” that could soon be offered to those who decide to procreate could be significant.
In both her interview with The Washington Post and her upcoming book, it’s clear to see that Webb has an almost philosophical belief that people should overhaul what they think about how humans are created. In other words, if synthetic biology can offer us, as a society, new options such as removing any age restriction on egg fertilisation or having embryos be gestated outside a human body—why not think further than that? “Forty years into the future, I think it may be the case that there are many parents to one child, or that a 70-year-old and their 60-year old spouse decide to have a baby. Why would we close ourselves off to those possibilities?” she told the publication.
Of course, the question of genetic engineering often leads to many of us worrying about the potential use of such scientific advancements for governmental abuse. But Webb was quick to dismiss those concerns, “We need to acknowledge the geopolitical advantages that some countries might try for by elevating their population’s intelligence and physical traits. But the thought of making pregnancy easier for people who really want to become parents is something we should be embracing. Right now, creating a child relies on chance and serendipity, or enough money for a lot of IVF cycles. It’s shockingly difficult in the year 2022 to make a baby. It shouldn’t be that way.”
As if such alterations to the way humans procreate wasn’t enough, Webb also discussed how it could positively impact the food supply, “There is so much instability in the market because of our incredible reliance on meat. And I think the ideal—I think the plausible outcome, really—is how do we produce meat in a different way.”
In a somewhat abrupt change in topics, The Washington Post went on to mention 5G technology and even drone deliveries. Webb’s verdict? 5G will most definitely change the world, allowing for more online connectivity than ever, while drone deliveries will, quite literally, skyrocket.
In probably her most shocking statement during the interview, the futurist also predicted that smartphones would “go away by 2031.” Instead, she thinks we’ll swap our devices for a new form of technology that will be “worn all over us.”
Let’s be honest here, all of Webb’s prospects are both terrifying and promising—we’re just not sure which of these two overwhelming feelings is currently outshining the other—but one thing is for certain: until we reach the future she has predicted, we’ll have time to sway back and forth from such opinions before making our minds up.