Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

This fad for cryonics really needs us to keep cool heads

I regret to announce I will not be having my heid frozen after death. Living in northern lands, it's been frozen enough during life.

You may have heard of cryonics. No, madam, it's not the science of bursting into tears. Cryonics is the theory that, in the future, they'll be able to bring folk back to life, as long as they've a bonce or something concrete – so to speak – to shove your soul back into.

Indeed, you can have your whole body frozen, so that you don't wake up and think "I fancy nipping out for a pint", and find you're only a head attached to a machine by tubes.

Doubtless, you've already consigned such folks to the file in your drawer marked "Loopy". But, lo, the normal world was stunned this week when three senior academics at yonder Oxford University announced they'd be having themselves deep frozen.

Let's not get our knickers in a twist here. Being at Oxford University means nothing. Any journalist will tell you that some of the dumbest people they ever encounter are academics.

It's not just that they lack common sense on any subject outside their field but, usually after 20 to 25 minutes' research, any journalist will have mastered that field better than the academics themselves. That's just a fact, so don't bother arguing with it.

All the same, our prejudices mean the story carries more weight than one claiming four dustmen were giving cryonics a go.

The cost of having your napper stored in liquid nitrogen is £50,000. But you can pay it up on the never-never. Appropriately enough.

Well, on your own head be it. Think of the risks. In 1999, nine bodies stored in a Californian cemetery thawed out after the company involved ran out of money to pay the leccy bill.

One of the Oxford academics, Dr Anders Sandberg, admitted life as just a head would be "limited". But he added: "I would wake up in an entirely new world and that prospect is very exciting."

I think he'll find the new world pretty much the same as the old, except the planet will be run by Apple and life will be just one big app.

Critics say you can't die and be brought back to life from frozen anyway. You have to be frozen while alive. Curiously, there are no takers for that option.

There's also the vexed question of your soul. What if it has passed on to a better place, and then you wake up and demand it return to your defrosted head?

What if it doesn't want to come back, even if to your eyes it's a no-brainer? As indeed your head might be.

Look at Simon Cowell, the evil svengali featured elsewhere on this page. He told guests at a private dinner hosted by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown: "I have decided to freeze myself when I die ... Medical science is bound to work out a way of bringing us back to life."

The question is: how did he manage to steer a conversation at the Prime Minister's round to that?

His is the kind of warped mind we could do without in the 22nd century, and I trust the Government of England has taken steps to pull the plug on Cowell's cranium – should he ever decide to shove it in the freezer.

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