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The frigid-spouse problem

Posted by Christopher Shea  December 19, 2008 03:28 PM

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It seems that the cryonics community -- the people who would like to see their bodies (or heads) frozen when they die, in the hope that they might be revived sometime in the future -- face a problem as challenging as any technological hurdle: spousal disapproval.

In a publication called Depressed Metabolism (new to me, too), three pro-cryonics authors identify and discuss what they refer to as the "hostile wife phenomenon." One of them has kept a log, over the years, of his encounters with men who faced serious pressure from their wives to give up their dreams of immortality. Some of the men did so; others chose to freeze out the women instead. (Sorry.)

The phrase hostile-wife phenomenon may sound sexist, but the authors defend it, explaining that this is almost invariably the direction in which opprobrium runs. (They offer two counterexamples, intriguingly naming names.)

Hostile wives, in this arena, are not a new trend, it must be said. The authors point out that Robert Ettinger, whom some consider the father of the cryonics (aka cryogenics) movement, once spurred his followers to action with the following words:

This is not a hobby or conversation piece: it is the principal activity of this phase of our lives; it is the struggle for survival. Drive a used car if the cost of a new one interferes. Divorce your wife if she will not cooperate.

That was in 1968.

The article has spurred considerable chatter, some of it bemused, some of it damning the spousal skeptics as Luddites. Bryan Caplan theorizes that the "sheer weirdness" factor accounts for the disproportionate skepticism toward cryonics (as opposed to other very expensive requests in wills). Robin Hanson thinks the disapproval is a defensive mechanism: If the husband is right about the potential of cryonics, then the wife's whole worldview (as it pertains to the inevitability of death) is demolished. Better a dead husband than a moribund worldview, evidently.

Hanson's related query: Would the wife object if the husband wanted to have himself immolated in a volcano, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars? He thinks not, which exposes, he thinks, the illogic of the hostile wives. I think, on the contrary, that the volcano dream might raise some spousal eyebrows, too.

(Image: Cryogenics International)

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1 comments so far...
  1. Furthermore, can those who force their spouses to avoid cryogenic preservation be convicted of murder at the moment the first human is revived from being cryogenically frozen?

    Posted by Kyle McDonald December 19, 08 07:09 PM
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