They were a shattered world’s last hope -- three great minds from the past who might be able to avert a catastrophe that threatened to extinguish mankind... It’s difficult to say whether this sort of Hollywood sci-fi scenario ever occurred to three Oxford University dons when they signed up to be frozen after death. [Believe me, it did -- d] It was revealed yesterday that the trio -- Nick Bostrom, professor of philosophy at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, and his fellow lead researchers, Anders Sandberg and Stuart Armstrong -- have agreed to pay a U.S. company anything up to £50,000 to have their remains frozen at death. The hope is a future society will have the technology to restore them to life. Armstrong has arranged for his entire body to be frozen by the Michigan-based Cryonics Institute. His wife is expecting their first baby and he is so enthused by the idea that he wants to sign the child up, too. His two colleagues have opted for the less glamorous but cheaper and supposedly more reliable option of having just their heads frozen when they are declared dead, by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation outside Phoenix, Arizona. Their heads will be perfused with a cocktail of antifreeze chemicals and preserved in liquid nitrogen at -196c... Previous acolytes of cryonics have often been dismissed as head-in-the-clouds cranks, sci-fi buffs who have watched too much TV or victims of vanity. Britney Spears and Paris Hilton have both waxed lyrical about being frozen. Simon Cowell is believed to be among several dozen Britons who have joined a cryonics programme, although several hundred have reportedly shown interest... But Prof Bostrom and his colleagues are young, highly educated specialists who have devoted their careers to humanity. If they are signing up for cryonics, one might think, perhaps we should all pay attention.Uh, no. If the article seems to suggest that this brave new generation of deluded cryonauts are distinguishable from sci-fi buffs of the past they need only make momentary recourse to the Google to be disabused of this fancy -- not to mention the fact that at least some members of this transhumanoid brigade have been cryonically enthused for at least a quarter century by now: The new generation is the old generation, which is par for the futurological course. Further, the suggestion that these futurologists are not vain because they have "devoted their careers to humanity" (what, more than Britney Spears has done?) is likewise hard to square with their efforts to divert public attention and effort away from global financial and environmental and arms regulation into concerns over sooper-intelligent robot apocalypses, nano-magickal insta-Edens, the need to consume and "geo-engineer" our way past climate change, and how all the mean liberals keep getting in the way of the nice eugenicists. You know, for kids!
To those who would wag their finger at such hate speech directed to a religious minority in a land that guarantees freedom of belief, you may be sure that I do not begrudge these futurologists the human, all too human, consolations of their faithly dreams -- after all, they are not so very different from the private perfections and crutches I cherish myself as an atheistical aesthete when all is said and done. But you will forgive me when I insist on the difference between articles of faith and scientifically warranted beliefs, a difference the maintenance of which is indispensable to the flourishing of both faith and science, as any theologian worth his salt will be the first to tell you. Fandoms are fine, I'm a queergeek myself, but consumer marketing isn't political activism, wish-fulfillment fantasizing is not science, pseudo-science is not a sign of seriousness, and con-artists are not humanitarians even when they are high on their own supply.