Saturday, April 11, 2009


This week's episode of This American Life tells the story of a cryonics advocate, Bob, and his attempts to help himself and others cheat death. But the technology isn't quite there to reanimate the deceased, Bob's storage facilities are subpar, and funding proves to be a problem. 

The ugliness of the situation snowballs into a complete nightmare and a predictable legal battle. 

When you listen to the story, if you think Bob's ethics are a little shaky at the beginning, just wait until you hear some of the stuff he's saying at the end of the piece. 

For me, this tale is the ultimate in death avoidance. From beginning to end, everyone involved with Bob and his brand of cryonics shows an amazing inability to accept death. They all seem to think the frozen bodies in Bob's cryogenic chambers are in some sort of half-dead state, and it's as though, they don't really have to let go of their loved ones, or accept their own impending deaths, if they have cryonics to fall back on. 

As always with This American Life, it's a fascinating tale, and it's full of lots of murky ethical issues. 


Gail Rae said...

I missed the NPR piece but, I have to agree with you that I've never understood cryonics, either, for exactly the reason you cite, it seems to be based on belief in some "half-dead" state in which one's sense of oneself is preserved in a frigid limbo and can be resurrected at will. Sort of like thinking that your clone is you.
Intriguing. Think I'll look that one up on the NPR site, hoping that they will have the program in audio.

Jessica Knapp said...

You can go to, I linked to it in the blog entry. This American Life has a great archive system set up.

dethmama said...

Thanks for directing me to the audio from this show. It's excellent. This post has been eye opening and inspirational. The lengths we'll go to in order to defy death seem to be without limit.

Jessica Knapp said...

dethmama: it's a little bit nutty, isn't it? I hate to judge an entire belief system or field or science or however you would classify cryonics, but I'm having a really hard time seeing the good in it.

And the particular radio story here is just classic. Goes from bad to worse to un-freakin'-believable.