Many of society’s roles and traditions that govern the male/female relationship have their roots in a single biological imperative: to procreate. We long understood that in order to keep our species from going extinct, certain rules and guidelines must be put in place to help men and women get along and keep it together long enough to produce offspring. So belief systems and institutions were created to reinforce the importance of mating and pairing like gender roles, chivalry, dating and marriage.
That was before technology came about and completely changed the game. Society has already witnessed the great impact of birth control like condoms, the pill, shots and other contraceptives have revolutionized the ways men and women interact and the societal rules that govern those interactions. Gender norms that were once rigid and unchangeable have been transformed in ways unimaginable. Without the constant of pregnancy, women and men can more freely express their sexuality and desires.
Today, we are still trying to understand and deal with the challenges that have arisen because of the technological advancements of yesteryear. Gender rules and boundaries are constantly being challenged. Some women are busy at work while men take care of the household and children. More men than ever are single parents. Many are finding it increasingly difficult to marry or stay married. No one can define, any longer, precisely what the role of the “man” or “woman” is supposed to be. Yet, despite all of the confusion, technology is not letting up and a new wave of advancements are on the horizon that will force us to rethink everything about heterosexual and even homosexual relationships.
1. Say goodbye to the ticking biological clock: women’s eggs are now timeless. Ladies can freeze their eggs and some companies are willing to pay for it. Facebook and Apple are giving career-focused ladies a chance to forget the worries of their biological clocks. As a part of a “perks” package that includes unlimited vacations, five-star meals cooked by top of the line chefs, and on-site massages, these tech companies are willing to fork over $20,000 to employees who aren’t ready to start their family yet but hope to still have the opportunity in the future. Though cryogenics (the freezing of eggs) has been available for some time now, the push to make the procedure readily available to more women will definitely have huge impacts on society. It may begin with Apple today, but what if Walmart must one day offer their employees a similar reproductive benefit?
2. Who needs men, anyways? Sperm can now be created with bone marrow. If the mere purpose for relationships between men and women rests on the biological imperative to procreate, women are on the road towards no longer “needing” men at all. British doctors have discovered a method that allows stem cells taken from bone marrow to be transformed into sperm. It is estimated that “mature sperm,” capable of fertilizing an egg, will be produced within three more years. So, folks, we have three years to come up with a better reason for heterosexual unions: procreation is no longer a good excuse.
3. Oh wait, seems like men don’t need women either. Japanese scientist Mitinori Saitou has created sperm and eggs from skin cells. By harvesting mature skin cells from mice and turning them into stem cells, Saitou then turned the stem cells into primordial germ cells (the cells that generate sperm in men and eggs in women). After implanting these cells into infertile mice, both male and female, the mice became fertile. This discovery will not only revolutionize infertility treatment but will allow for people of any gender to reproduce by creating PGCs with their own skin cells.
4. Birth control shots for men are expected to be available in the U.S. by 2015. For the most part, birth control worries have been laid square on the shoulder of women and that responsibility has lead to many slip-ups. A new advancement will empower men to alleviate that burden a bit for the ladies. RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance) is a new completely reversible birth control procedure that requires men to receive two shots to the scrotum and in exchange, they can be baby-free for up to a decade. The method is minimally invasive and even more effective than the more common forms of female birth control like oral contraceptives, patches and intrauterine devices. It has already been in use in India for about 15 years now and its users are mostly giving the contraceptive five-star reviews.
5. Designer babies are on the horizon. The convergence of two technological breakthroughs: the mapping of the human genome and the genetic engineering of human gametes, zygotes or embryos will make “designer babies” a real possibility– so who needs to hook up with a Brad Pitt, anyways? We have long rationalized our need to find the most attractive, intelligent or athletic partner by weighing the reality that our genes (and that of our selected partner) will be passed on to the next generation, our offspring. That was before we mapped the entire human genome, which details the good– the most attractive phenotypical characteristics or attributes like height, eye color, weight, muscle tone etc — and the bad like disease. This technological break combined with gene therapy and germ line modification (the selection of different traits in any stage of a developing fertilized egg) will make the future of designer babies a reality, especially as laws that regulate these technologies increasingly become more lax. Futurists are already foreseeing a dystopian future where the human race will be divided between a superior, genetically modified and enhanced population and us regular ol’ human folk.
What do you think the future of humanity and dating will look like? Share your thoughts in the comments section.