New AI App Sparks Baby Fever, But Will It Lead to More Child Commodification?

The app’s ability to generate ready-made images of a potential future self is intriguing young adults who had not previously considered having kids.

Remini application.
Remini application. (photo: Shutterstock)

A new AI app is sweeping the app store, sparking “baby fever” in a generation known for low parenthood and marriage rates. Meet “Remini,” a photo-enhancing app that has been around since 2019 but is currently reporting a 15 million monthly download rate. The recent addition of unique AI image creation is putting it at the top of charts, making its $10 weekly subscription a hot commodity.  

The latest feature added just weeks ago allows users to create realistic images of themselves in various life stages: dressed in a wedding gown, pregnant, or cradling a child that closely resembles them and their partner. 

The app’s ability to generate ready-made images of a potential future self is intriguing young adults who had not previously considered having kids, now able to “see” themselves in these roles vividly. The AI-generated child, lovingly captured in their arms and soft-smiling into the camera, has ignited a newfound desire in many millennials, reshaping their aspirations and even redirecting career paths to include thoughts of a family.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Remini’s impact goes beyond mere excitement. One woman who tried the app confessed: “Feelings of motherhood rushed over me,” and she now finds herself more inclined to pursue family life.

The power of Remini’s AI imagery has undeniably opened up new and exciting possibilities when it comes to pregnancy and parenting. However, one scholar raises a cautionary note, pointing out that computer-generated children have a much broader impact than simply kindling maternal and paternal feelings in childless adults and can lead to ideas and practices in direct conflict with Catholic teaching on sexuality, reproduction, and the purpose of human life.

Emma Waters, Heritage Foundation research associate working on marriage, family, life, and assisted reproductive technology policy, said that while AI holds tremendous potential for good, it is not limited to benevolent applications. For example, apps such as Remini possess the capacity to create images of children produced by homosexual couples, which does not align with God’s intended plan for marriage and reproduction. Advancements like these may cultivate desires that cannot be fulfilled, even if science aims to make them possible.

More dire are the implications of this technology for the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) industry. 

Already, children are commodified by IVF, allowing parents to choose characteristics such as eye, hair, and skin color — but the advent of autogenerated child imagery could take the “build-a-baby” experience to new levels. Through genetic testing of embryos, scientists could produce lifelike images of the lab-created babies, and from this pool, parents could then choose which embryos to implant.  

Waters cautioned that adopting a consumerist approach to reproduction could profoundly reshape our expectations of having children. “If kids are no longer something that primarily comes from the union of a husband and a wife but are something we can create and design according to needs or desires you have for the kid, then I think we’re on a very slippery slope where having kids becomes more like ordering a product rather than receiving a gift.”

Real-life incidents that demonstrate the unintended consequences of child commodification have been emerging for some time now. For example, one gay couple in California is suing the fertility clinic they used after they requested a baby boy and ultimately received a baby girl. They claim the fertility clinic acted negligently and recklessly, not honoring the gender request a doctor assured he could make happen. The couple also sued for costs as they spent $300,000 on the surrogacy/IVF process and were still determined to eventually have two sons, the extra girl adding unintended child care costs.

The largely unregulated nature of the $8 billion fertility industry and the incentivizing they face to create the most perfect, desirable products for their customers is something to be considered when questioning the ethics that go on in their practices, Waters noted. Among other harms done to children through IVF, children are screened and sorted based on genetic desirability before implantation. These eugenic practices are happening behind closed doors and escaping the public eye.

As Remini’s AI technology pushes the boundaries of eugenic capabilities, it is essential to subject the fertility industry to intense scrutiny. “On the one hand, I think this technology [Remini] is very exciting,” Waters said. “It allows people who may not be around many babies or have a partner to really envision what life could look like with a child.” A revamping of family life in millennial circles is certainly not a bad thing.

But when embracing new AI in an ever-growing consumerist fertility culture, it becomes paramount to maintain a focus on ethical standards, especially regarding the sanctity of life, and not be swayed by alluring technological innovations, she said.

With AI, “all of [a] sudden the creation of a child isn’t this mysterious gift-like experience for parents to gladly receive the child they are given; instead, parents could be brought into a room and shown a host of options.”

Waters explained that Remini will produce about 20 different options for what a child could look like and parents are then able to “sort of design this product that is literally manufactured and handmade to be what they want.”

Despite the current high-use rate, Waters said she expects the magic of Remini to wear off soon but worries that Americans increasingly view themselves and their lives through the lens of technology.