Who needs sex to make babies? Pretty soon, humans won’t

Stem cell technologies will bypass egg harvesting. Instead we will take a woman’s skin cells; turn them into so-called “induced pluripotent stem cells” (cells very similar to the famous embryonic stem cells but made from living people); turn those cells into eggs, and mature the eggs in the lab. This would not only greatly reduce the cost, discomfort and risk of IVF, but would allow each woman reliably to produce hundreds of eggs (or more). It already has worked in mice and the first steps have been taken with humans.

The result will be easy PGD. A couple who wants children will visit a clinic – he will leave a sperm sample; she will leave a skin sample. A week or two later, the prospective parents will receive information on 100 embryos created from their cells, telling them what the embryos’ genomes predict about their future. Prospective parents will then be asked what they want to be told about each embryo – serious early onset genetic diseases, other diseases, cosmetic traits, behaviours, and, easiest but important to many: gender. Then they will select which embryos to move into the womb for possible pregnancy and birth.

Easy PGD will not produce super-babies. Genes aren’t that important. But it will produce children who have little or no chance of some serious diseases; better than normal chances of avoiding other diseases; preferred hair or eye colours; slightly better chances of high maths, sports, or musical ability; and who are of the parents’ preferred sex. The health and behaviour differences are likely to be about the same as the average differences between being born to rich parents and poor parents – not enormous, but not trivial.