Last spring, engineers from Barcelona sent a sperm injector robot they designed to the New Hope Fertility Center in New York. Using a Sony PlayStation 5 controller, they operated a robotic needle. Looking at a human egg through a camera, the needle moved forward on its own, penetrating the egg and depositing a single sperm. In total, the robot was used to fertilize more than a dozen eggs. In spring 2023, two girls were born that were conceived in this way. The start-up that developed the robot, Overture Life, claims its device is a first step toward automation of in vitro fertilization, or human fertilization on an industrial scale. What a nightmare!
According to these mad scientists, the main goal of automating IVF is to deliver many more babies. About 500,000 babies are born each year worldwide through IVF, but most people who need help having children do not have access to or cannot afford this fertility medicine. The goal is to increase the number of children born each year from half a million to 30 million. Although a complete fertility machine does not yet exist, automation of parts of the process, such as sperm injection, egg freezing or embryo breeding, could enable more radical innovations, such as gene editing or even artificial wombs.
The average cost of an IVF baby in the United States is $83,000, including failures, which are frequent. The goal is to reduce the cost by 70 percent, which is possible if success rates increase. The MIT Technology Review identified half a dozen startups with similar goals, with names such as AutoIVF, IVF 2.0, Conceivable Life Sciences and Fertilis. Some have roots in university laboratories specializing in miniaturized lab-on-a-chip technologies. So far Overture is the one that has raised the most: about $37 million from investors such as Khosla Ventures and Susan Wojcicki, the former CEO of YouTube. We are on the threshold of a terrible and disturbing new world in which man and woman are and will be increasingly useless.