FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, February 14, 2005

Are Men an Endangered Species?

Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes has a startling thesis in his book Adam's Curse: A Future Without Men (2004, Norton). He states that the human Y chromosome has decayed so badly over the milennia that men will eventually be rendered sterile.

Don't worry, guys -- you're okay. It's your descendants you neeed to be worried about. By Sykes' calculation, fertility will drop to 1% of the present-day level within 5,000 generations. That's approximately 125,000 years from now.

Normally, this would spell the end of the species; Sykes believes that many have become extinct because of Y chromsome decay. But we humans have technology on our side -- and some choices to make.

One solution is to apply genetic engineering to repair the Y chromosome, ensuring that men remain fertile. The other, more radical notion is to abandon the natural methods of reproduction and conceive all future humans artificially. Researchers have found that it's not even necessary to have sperm to do this! By fusing two mouse eggs, researchers have created viable mouse embryos (though only one out of 457 egg fusions survived to adulthood).

The clincher with the latter method is that all offspring are female. Sykes speculates on what a women-only world would be like, though such a world would be totally dependent on genetic technology for its survival.

Needless to say, Sykes' theories are controversial. But they are exactly the type of deep futurism worth pondering.

Source: World Future Society