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October 1, 2016

Child parent relationship in second half of 21st century

By Oostur Raza

While the world wonders what changes and shifts in economy and military powers are likely in the second half of the 21st century, I believe a quantum change for the human race is likely to come from a fundamental shift in the social unit known as a family. 

Prior to the advent of single-God religions about 3000+years ago, most societies were organized by tribes and children were raised in tribal groups instead of individual family units. The arrival of religion forced societies to move to family units for childbirth and upbringing. Most focused on a two parent (a male and a female) unit.  The bulk of the responsibility for child rearing rested on those two parents with some support from their extended family. Lately, governments have started playing some role to assure healthy upbringing and education.  However, a fundamental shift in society is on the horizon based on new developments in child conception.

There have been major developments over the last 30 years in fertilization, conception and fetal growth processes. These changes are impacting the traditional concept of the children-parent relationship. Over the last few months, I have observed the following additional research which has prompted me to address the child-parent definitions in the second half of 21st century.  First, here are the new developments:

(1) Conception redefined: Scientists have discovered that, in addition to fertilizing egg, sperms pass on immunity. It has also been discovered that immunity transfer continues beyond conception. So, one must not look at conception as a single, complete event.  The new data suggest that children who are born following a single sexual encounter have higher immunity issues. This implies continued sex, following conception, plays a role in improving immunity for the child. One can infer from the data that potential, complex immunity problems for a child are likely when the mother is sexually active with multiple male partners during pregnancy. The article on child immunity is available in reference 1.

(2) Post menopausal child birth:  Scientist have found and utilized a growth factor which may help conception in post-menopausal women. This growth factor is known to help the conception process. In menopausal women with a declining number of eggs, scientists have improved the conception probability by introducing this concentrated growth factor.  Such results have implications for both young women with fertility issues and for older women who want to conceive at a convenient time in life (career), with or without the help of a partner. The article on scheduling conception is available in reference 2.

(3) Three parent baby via DNA merge to eliminate genetic disease: Scientists have announced (September 21, 2016) that the first baby has been born from a new technique that combines DNA from three people. The goal is to prevent the child from inheriting a serious genetic disease from one of the parents. The birth of the baby boy is revealed in a research summary published by the journal of Fertility & Sterility. The magazine, New Scientist, said that the baby was born five months ago to parents from Jordan. The technique involved removing some of the mother's DNA from an egg and leaving the disease-causing DNA behind. The healthy DNA (from a different egg) was slipped into the donor's egg, which was then fertilized. As a result, the baby inherited DNA from two female parents and the sperm donor. Reference 3.

For centuries, the child-parent relationship has defined the global social structure and influenced national laws in many areas including migration. Religions have woven their morality doctrines around this relationship and used it to define marriage.

However, a quantum change is very likely to arrive in second half of the 21st century. This change will fundamentally redefine current child-parent doctrine. These changes may force the restructuring of society and impact the family code embedded in religions and in national and international laws. Here are my observations on the potential likely changes.

(1) The traditional child, with a biological mother and a father, will slowly become a minority and will not be the only way of defining the relationship. A pre-screening will determine and repair any deficiencies in embryos and sperms. Such trends may result in more than two parents or even no assigned parents.

(2) The scenarios for a child will include the following with respect to a parent:

(a) One parent (either a mother or father only) scenario resulting from an anonymous donor of either egg or sperm

(b) One parent resulting from artificial (sperm replaced by an inorganic nano-particle) fertilization of an egg (mother only).

(c) Three parent scenario where a child is carried by a surrogate third party following a lab conception from a male and a female (biological mother and father and a surrogate mother). 

(d) Combining DNA from three or more parents for a child (reference 3).

(e) No parent scenario with human eggs and sperm. Production of children from stored embryos and sperm banks to maintain population levels. No direct linkage to any known parents. In this scenario, the State would be responsible for child initiation, upbringing and welfare.

(f) No parent scenario by artificial (organic or inorganic) means.  Scientists are experimenting with fertilizing human eggs with artificial means.  Efforts are also underway in labs to produce or modify eggs for lab conception and fetal growth. 

(3) The responsibilities of parents will change as the parent definition changes. This will have major impact on tax laws, inheritance laws, religions and morality codes, immigration policies, citizenship, national boundaries and many other facets of daily life.

(4) During the transition period, the role and responsibilities of women (biological, surrogate or assigned mother) are likely to compound and become increasingly complex. The role of the father will diminish faster than that of the mother. State or local child boards will increasingly take on the role of managing and regulating both birth and child upbringing. 

(5) The influence of religion will diminish greatly as the family unit changes. Morality will no longer be a useful instrument as children move from the current family status to a no-parent status.

(6) This change in social structure is likely to push humanity towards chaos at first but in the end may result in a more harmonious global society.  

References:

(1) Semen reshapes immune system by Alice Klein. NEW Scientist Magazine (September 3-9 2016 issue).

(2) Reversing the menopause by Jessica Hamzelou. New Scientist (July, 2016).

(3) https://www.yahoo.com/news/baby-born-dna-3-people-first-technique-183715051.html?ref=gs

Oostur Raza is a nuclear engineer, Power industry executive and a Venture Investor. He earned Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering (Power Plant design and operation) from University of Wisconsin, Madison. Oostur Raza is a recipient of Thomas Edison Award for Application Engineering. He worked for General Electric for 15 years designing nuclear fuel and cores for over 40 BWR Power plants in USA, Japan, Taiwan, Switzerland and Spain.