February 24, 2024

Does the future include three-month accelerated pregnancies?

Hi there,

The New York Times reviewed
a thought-provoking book this weekend, “Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless, and You Can Do
Better”, by Canadian journalist Dan Gardner. One thing led to another and
pretty quickly I discovered that the fallibility of experts is the theme of a a
number of recent books with titles like “Wrong: Why experts keep failing
us–and how to know when not to trust them”, “Being Wrong: adventures in the
margin of error”, and “On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When
You’re Not”.

It must have something to do with being
blindsided by the Global Financial Crisis. But even if the track record of
experts is no better than that of dart-throwing chimps, we don’t seem to have
lost our appetite for predictions. The future is a bit like death: no one you
know has ever done it before. So predictions are fascinating, even addictive.

That’s why I am intrigued by a series of short (10-minute) films by
young directors about what US society will be like in 10 or 20 years. I have
posted one of them on BioEdge, “Silver Sling”, which deals with surrogate
motherhood. The premise is that this business could really take off if you
could get three-month “accelerated pregnancies” for busy working couples.

Futurecasting is an undervalued part of the
enterprise of bioethics. Many disputes over hot-button issues take the form of
“if X happens, then we are on a slippery slope to Y”. When this is turned into
a film, it becomes a powerfully persuasive.


Michael Cook