By: Dr. Aniruddha Babar
In realms unknown, where science dares to tread,
Synthetic embryos awaken human dread.
Boundaries blurred, ethics in strife,
Our quest for knowledge, a double-edged knife.
At crossroads we stand, choices to define,
In humble wisdom, our paths align.
Reflections profound, humanity’s plight,
Moral compass guides, through shadows of dark night.
As I was about to drift off to sleep, my phone suddenly rang, interrupting the tranquility of the night. It was a call from someone I had last interacted with about three/four years ago. I felt a sense of intrigue and curiosity as I answered the call, wondering what could have prompted this unexpected connection. Little did I know that this call would reignite a unique friendship and lead to profound philosophical discussions that would leave a lasting impact on my perception of life.
“Hey ‘Polar Bear’, KakDela?” I greeted, using the nickname I had given to my almost six and half feet tall and equally huge friend. “Dobryyvecher! Hindostani, hum achhhaaye,” came the response in his distinct cold, dry, and somewhat robotic tone. It was “Vsevolod”, my Russian friend whom I had met years ago on a crowded local train in Mumbai. Despite the passage of time and the physical distance between us, our connection remained strong, and whenever we spoke, it felt as if we had been talking every day.
Vsevolod and I had an inexplicable bond that formed during our chance encounter in that bustling train. We instantly connected, bridging the cultural divide between Russia and India. Our shared experiences and mutual interests created a deep friendship that endured even when circumstances prevented us from meeting again. Although our paths had diverged, we both shared an insatiable desire to experiment with life, to push the boundaries of what was possible.
The conversation took an unexpected turn as Vsevolod exclaimed, “Our prediction turned out to be true!” I was taken aback by his statement, unable to grasp the direction in which he was leading the conversation. Curiosity piqued, I asked, “Why? What happened?” With a sense of urgency, he urged me to quickly check the Al Jazeera news app before abruptly ending the call. I was left bewildered, wondering what news could have caused such a reaction from my enigmatic, mysterious friend.
As I opened the news app on my phone, I was confronted with a headline that sent shockwaves through my being. “First synthetic human embryo created,” it read. The gravity of this discovery instantly struck me. The implications were immense.
THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 2023 – Scientists say they have created the world’s first human synthetic embryos from stem cells without using sperm or eggs.
In my little 37 years of timeless life, I had often contemplated the limits of human intellectual possibilities and the motivations that drive mankind. Now, faced with the reality of scientists playing God, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of unease. It seemed that humans were veering dangerously close to the line of hubris, where our desire to conquer nature and push the boundaries of knowledge could potentially lead to our own destruction.
As I grappled with the profound questions surrounding the creation of synthetic human embryos, I couldn’t help but reflect on the very essence of our humanity. It became apparent that our identity is not solely defined by our biological composition or our consciousness; it encompasses something deeper and intangible – an essence that goes beyond the realm of scientific understanding.
The ethical concerns that arose from this scientific breakthrough demanded our utmost attention. How do we reconcile the act of creating life in a laboratory with our moral compass? What responsibilities do we bear towards these synthetic beings? These questions compelled us to confront the moral landscape, urging us to establish guidelines and frameworks that protect the rights and well-being of all forms of life.
The implications for the survival of the human race weighed heavily on my mind. While the creation of synthetic human embryos offered potential solutions to fertility issues and medical advancements, it also presented the prospect of unintended consequences. Would these creations outpace natural reproduction, potentially leading to a world dominated by synthetic beings? The delicate balance of nature and the intricate interplay of ecosystems could be profoundly altered, posing unforeseen challenges for the future.
Navigating the legal landscape surrounding this groundbreaking development presented a vast expanse awaiting exploration. How would governments and international bodies respond to this new frontier? The establishment of robust and comprehensive regulations would be imperative to ensure the responsible use of this technology. By doing so, we could safeguard against potential exploitation, abuse, and the erosion of fundamental human rights.
In contemplating the parallels between scientific progress and ancient mythological tales, I couldn’t help but be reminded of humanity’s enduring desire for godlike powers. Throughout history, we have sought to transcend our limitations, to challenge the boundaries of what it means to be human. Yet, cautionary tales from mythology serve as reminders of the dangers that accompany such endeavours, highlighting the inherent risks of playing the role of the divine.
The increasing tendency to view life as a simulation, akin to characters in a computer game, reflects a broader societal shift towards instant gratification and a detachment from the consequences of our actions. This mindset, when applied to scientific pursuits, heightens the urgency for responsible conduct and thoughtful consideration of the potential ramifications. It is crucial that we recognize that our quest for knowledge and progress should never come at the expense of ethical principles and the overall well-being of humanity.
As I continued my philosophical musings, I couldn’t ignore the fact that we stand at a crossroads – a pivotal moment in our collective journey. The choices we make today will shape the trajectory of future generations. Therefore, it is paramount that we approach the unknown with humility, wisdom, and a profound sense of responsibility. We must acknowledge our place within the grand tapestry of existence and humbly accept the limitations of our understanding.
In the face of scientific advancements that challenge the very boundaries of our humanity, we are called upon to reflect deeply on our values, morals, and the principles that guide our actions. The creation of synthetic human embryos signifies a critical juncture that prompts us to confront fundamental questions about our purpose, our connection with the natural world, and the future of our species.
Ultimately, as we navigate this uncharted territory of scientific progress, it is essential to do so with a deep reverence for the mysteries of life. We must uphold ethical conduct, guided by a steadfast commitment to preserving the dignity and integrity of humanity. While the path ahead may be uncertain, by embracing our shared humanity and adopting a holistic perspective, we can strive towards a future that upholds the highest ideals of morality, compassion, and collective well-being.
However, on the other side of the spectrum, as I attempt to visualize, In the distant future, as humanity embarks on great intergalactic space expeditions, the ‘questionable’ concept of synthetic embryos takes on a whole new dimension. With the vastness of space and the challenges it presents for long-duration space travel, scientists and researchers might explore the possibility of creating synthetic embryos specifically designed for these interstellar journeys.
One of the key considerations in this hypothetical scenario, as I imagined, would be the need to overcome the limitations of traditional human reproduction in space. The challenges posed by microgravity, radiation exposure, and the long durations of space travel make it impractical to rely solely on natural conception and gestation. Thus, the creation of synthetic embryos tailored for space exploration could become a viable solution.
Synthetic embryos, engineered with a deep understanding of genetic manipulation and bioengineering, could be designed to withstand the rigors of space travel. These embryos would possess enhanced genetic resilience, adaptive capabilities, and resistance to the detrimental effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity and cosmic radiation. Through careful manipulation of their genetic makeup, scientists could create embryos with optimized traits for survival in the hostile environment of outer space.
Moreover, synthetic embryos could potentially offer advantages in terms of population management and resource utilization during intergalactic colonization efforts. Given the limited space and resources available on spacecraft or planetary colonies, the ability to create embryos in a controlled and efficient manner could help regulate population growth and ensure the sustainability of these distant communities.
Ethical considerations, however, would play a crucial role in the development and deployment of synthetic embryos in intergalactic space expeditions. Questions of personhood, individual autonomy, and the moral status of these synthetic beings would need to be addressed. Striking a balance between the advancement of scientific knowledge and the preservation of ethical principles would be essential to ensure the responsible use of this technology.
As humans venture further into the uncharted territories of space, the development of synthetic embryos for intergalactic travel represents a speculative yet intriguing possibility. It raises exciting prospects for overcoming the limitations of traditional reproduction and enhancing the adaptability of future spacefaring generations. However, it also demands careful reflection and a thorough examination of the ethical, legal, and philosophical implications associated with such advancements.
As mentioned before, the ultimate aim would be to strike a delicate balance between the progress of scientific exploration and the preservation of our core values and ethical principles. As we contemplate the potential for synthetic embryos on intergalactic space expeditions, it is essential to approach these possibilities with a sense of responsibility, foresight, and deep contemplation. Only through rigorous debate, collaboration, and a steadfast commitment to the welfare of all beings involved can we ensure that future space faring and other likewise endeavours align with our highest ideals and aspirations.
As i was closing my eyes surrendering to the ‘delirious’ night, my ‘awakened’ fingers updated a WhatsApp status- “THEREFORE, I am in a perpetual chill state of mind-looking deep, silently at the actions of ‘MAN’, I can predict the future” (The author is an academician in the Dept of Political Science, Tetso College, Nagaland)