A conversation no one wanted has broken out on the internet’s most insufferable website after the world’s richest man said he was “worried about population collapse,” adding, without explanation, that “UN projections are utter nonsense.”
Elon Musk, who runs a car company and a rocket company but has increasingly been shouting that humanity is doomed because people are not having enough babies to necessitate humanity colonizing Mars, which—do I have this correct?—is something Musk has convinced a significant portion of the domestic population we need. (Earth, famously, is a fine place to live.)
Since everything Musk tweets makes people react with either deep religious gratitude or burn-it-down rage, the obligatory Battle Of Ideas thus commenced, beginning with the theories of Sahil Lavingia, founder and CEO of the self-publishing digital marketplace Gumroad.
“Synthetic wombs, etc,” indeed. Shockingly, not everyone liked the idea, and crypto/tech Twitter devolved into a full day of discussion about whether or not synthetic wombs are necessary to save humankind. A quick collection of reactions:
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the guy who wrote The Black Swan, did a tweet too. Even the guys who run the Twitter account for Gab.com, every neo-Nazi’s favorite social media site, argued that it was proof that “the great war of our age is about preserving our humanity from these technocratic demons.”
Mostly good arguments, sans the Nazi site. Case closed, right? Wrong. Because down from the rafters came Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, who suggested that synthetic wombs could solve inequality. To argue his point, he included a Vox chart showing that women’s earnings drop after childbirth.
This led to the very fair critique that “men would rather develop robot wombs than advocate for paid leave.”
Anyway, former Coinbase CTO and venture capitalist (and forever Twitter troll) Balaji Srinivasan seemed to express support for this idea, referencing the success of IVF, as did Alexia Bonatsos, the venture capitalist and former TechCrunch co-editor. Claire Lehmann, who founded Quillette, where “Free Thought Lives,” as well as the “intellectual dark web,” also noted (correctly) that the concept of artifical wombs isn’t some “crazy newfangled idea,” but rather something feminists including Shulamith Firestone were thinking up for years ago.
All of this goes to say, if you want to have a complex and nuanced ethical discussion about the future of the human species, there is only one place worth having it: Twitter dot com.