The Wives of the Cryogenically Frozen

Illustration for article titled The Wives of the Cryogenically Frozen

It's not hard to see why, for some, cryonics is an attractive postmortem option; it offers a chance to defy one's very mortality. But for the spouses of the to-be frozen, it can be something else entirely: abandonment and betrayal.

Nearly as long as the idea of cryonics has existed, so too has the Hostile Wife syndrome, according to "Until Cryonics Do Us Part" from this weekend's NYT Magazine. In short: often times, when men want to preserve their brains and bodies in liquid nitrogen, their wives aren't crazy about the idea, to say the least. The Times explains:

To spend a family fortune in the quest to defeat cancer is not taken, in the American context, to be an act of selfishness. But to plan to be rocketed into the future - a future your family either has no interest in seeing, or believes we'll never see anyway - is to begin to plot a life in which your current relationships have little meaning. Those who seek immortality are plotting an act of leaving, an act, as Robin [a cryonicist] puts it, "of betrayal and abandonment."


But honey, you don't get it! plead the men. For them it's not betrayal; it's just making sure all their brain-data is backed up. The article quotes one cryonic hopeful, a software engineer:

If you have a hard drive on a computer with a lot of information that is important to you, you save it...You wouldn't just throw it into a fire. It's clear to me that memories are stored as molecular arrangements. I'm just trying to preserve the memories.

And so we see that in the future, despite whatever amazing advances technology has in store for us, there will be spousal disagreements to go along with every last one of them. [NYT]

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I have no issue whatsoever with people wanting to freeze themselves. It's their money. It's their body. It's their sense of optimism about the future. My hope is that maybe some of these cryonics people will actually get better and better at it, and maybe it might work. It's a huge crapshoot. I also believe that there needs to be a segment of people who want to be frozen, not to be re-animated, but to serve as test subjects for thawing and revival after, say, 10 years or so. We'll never know how well the freezing went, or how best to thaw, without practice. Hell, start with dogs & cats. We might learn something along the way.