Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


16.1.4  Ectogenesis and Cloning

Ectogenesis is the process of "test tube pregnancy" as exemplified by Aldous Huxley’s science fiction classic Brave New World. If an artificial placenta can be designed, complete artificial development of an entire human being will be possible starting only with sperm and egg. As long ago as 1959, a plastic womb designed by Italian surgeon and medical experimentalist Daniele Petrucci carried developing human embryos for nearly two full months. There are recent reports that the first human test tube birth has already taken place,2871 although these are discounted by most reputable scientists.2872

Aside from using ectogenetic techniques to control birth rates or maintain rigid biological castes, aliens might find test tube birth an ideal solution to the problem of interstellar colonization. Instead of keeping adult ET travelers in suspended animation for hundreds of years in transit between stars, compact frozen embryos could be dispatched to the target solar systems. Upon arrival, these ectogenetic astronauts would be fertilized and carried to term in an artificial womb. At birth, cybernetic devices or RNA memory molecules could be used to teach the infants about their culture, their science, and their mission. The starship would then enter orbit around the new world and finally land, the now-adult alien colonists emerging to begin life on foreign soil.

Cloning is a related biotechnology that ETs will probably have. It’s a form of genetic engineering by which many exact duplicates of the original organism may be produced. Except for blood corpuscles, every cell in the mammalian body has identical and complete sets of genes which uniquely specify the entire organism. The nucleus from a human skin cell transplanted into an ovum and carried to term ectogenetically should produce an exact twin of the original donor. In 1969, Dr. John B. Gurdon at Oxford University succeeded in creating countless cloned frogs by transplanting genes from adult frog cells into the nuclei of frogs’ eggs.

Aliens will find many interesting uses for cloning. According to technologist Robert W. Prehoda, a combination of cloning and cryobiology (low-temperature preservation) could permit useful plants and animals to be conveniently transported with interstellar colonizers to make it easier to quickly populate barren planets with the flora and fauna of home.67 Cloning may also allow alien plants and animals to be reproduced in great numbers back on the home world, after interstellar expeditions across the Galaxy return with frozen cell samples of exotic foreign lifeforms. Extraterrestrial bioneers may also clone duplicates of themselves as successors in political office,1947 as standardized military units, or as nonsentient living warehouses for biological spare body parts for organ transplantation operations.


Last updated on 6 December 2008