By Baroness Susan Greenfield, CBE
Professor of Pharmacology and Director of the Royal Institution
Will women outperform men entirely within 20 years? It's the scenario played out in this week's BBC Two drama documentary If... women ruled the world?
Men may not be needed at all to produce children, says Dr Greenfield
Baroness Greenfield explains why men could be surplus to requirements.
The future could be female for many reasons: perhaps the most obvious is that we will shift increasingly from manufacturing industries, requiring muscle power, to work with our brains in front of the screen.
Women, therefore, will no longer be disadvantaged because they are unable to tote the barge and shift the bale. More importantly, flexible working from home will not be so difficult to combine with looking after children.
On the other hand, the conflict, that we know all too well, of work versus child-bearing and rearing, might also be helped by technologies enabling us, for example, to freeze and thaw our eggs.
If... women ruled the world
Wednesday, 31 March 2004, at 2100 BST on BBC Two
Imagine, therefore, harvesting your eggs at the age of 18 or so when they are in optimum condition, knowing that you could then choose at what stage in your life you might want to reproduce.
You could therefore plan a career and appropriate breaks safe in the knowledge that perhaps with IVF and even a surrogate womb you could, nonetheless, still be a parent.
In fact, the genetic technologies could well do far more in terms of our concept of birth.
Some might think that men will no longer be needed; indeed, it could be possible in the longer future to extract genetic material from any cell in the body and combine it in an evacuated egg so that any one of any sexual orientation of any age could become parents.
This scenario has raised the strange prospect of at least possibly six parents: genetic donors, the donor of the egg, the donor of the womb and, indeed the people who brought the child up.
On the other hand, separating reproduction from sex does not disenfranchise men entirely: we are a very long way from the Orgasmatron of Barbarella fame. Indeed, it is hard to see how cyber simulation could substitute for a fulfilling, loving and physical relationship.
Then again, it could well be that the new technologies render us more autistic: less inclined and able to communicate, and therefore happier in front of a screen rather than talking to, let alone loving, our fellow man.
We could face a scenario where the old divisions between masculinity and femininity do, indeed, cease to have any use or need.
By this time, human beings, as we know them, will have changed so dramatically that we could no longer assume we would be in a "It's Raining Men" type-world, in which women were just naturally dominant, and males the subordinate group.
More probably, it is not so much that men could be extinct, as opposed to our family lives changing dramatically.
Just as the barrier between work and leisure is eroded, so will be the barrier between retirement and work, a job for life, as well as the generational child/parent/grandparent storyline that we are used to.
Baroness Greenfield took part in the BBC television programme If... women ruled the world.
The programme was broadcast in the UK on BBC Two on Wednesday, 31 March, 2004 at 2100 BST.