1916 – Artificial Womb Appeared in Cinema

Elle Zhan Wei
August 16th 2017

The image above it's a screenshot from Homunculus, a 1916 movie by Otto Rippert about a group of scientists who created a human in the lab. This "superman" was simultaneously a master criminal and a Christ figure. The frame shows the fear and astonishment reaction of two villagers towards the lab-created human. This is the first time an artificial womb was presented on screen.

The part of the movie showing the "birth" of the human from the artificial womb:

The movie reflects fear towards a lab made man, but also undeniable curiosity. It is intriguing to see how 100 years ago science fiction was already trying to start a debate on the ethics of the artificial womb. This visual representation of the "artificial womb", resembling to a roman column, does not convince us just yet. But the conversation and debate it evokes stay relevant. Does the use of an artificial womb make us super humans? Or is what we create from the artificial womb that is super human?

This article is part of the Artificial Womb research project by NNN. The goal of this project is to develop thought-provoking scenarios that facilitate a much-needed discussion about the way technology radically alters our attitude towards reproduction, gender, relationships and love in the 21st century. We highly value your feedback or input, contributions can be sent to womb@nextnature.net.

Image: MoMA

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Should men be able to give birth to children?

Joyce Nabuurs: To me this question seems to be a logical next step in the emancipation movement of the past century. More and more women entered the workspace, but the responsibility for pregnancy and childrearing remained female.

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