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Friday, October 09, 2009


Cryonics, what's it all about? Dubious practices, if this recent story is to be believed: Former Alcor Employee Makes Harsh Allegations Against Cryonics Foundation (via me-fi). From the piece: 'When a body is brought into Alcor's facility, the patient's blood is pumped out and replaced with a chemical concoction to minimize freezing damage. In many cases, the head is separated from the body with the member's prior consent. Johnson said he began to grow uneasy about his new employer once he saw what went on in Alcor's operating room, where he witnessed three suspensions. "It was barbaric ... the third suspension that I witnessed, they actually used a hammer and a chisel," he said. "I actually witnessed them remove her head with a chisel and a hammer."'

Such strangeness is to be expected. A few years ago we had the pleasure of visiting Alcor, where we found a friendly workplace utterly devoted to what they were doing but also, how to put this, somewhat deluded about how they were going about it. This must have been about the same time the disillusioned employee was able to witness chiselling operations at first hand. When we were there, nothing was happening at all, save for a bit of clearing up. The big metal tanks hummed away to themselves, filled with dismembered sports personalities and immortality enthusiasts.

For the staff, their major problem in life was the inevitability and finality of death, an injustice that had to be conquered. Staff member Dr Mike Perry had written a hefty book, Forever for All (which we still have, somewhere), considering 'the problems of death and the hereafter and how these ages-old problems ought to be addressed in light of our continuing progress.... The immortalization of humans and other life-forms is seen as a great moral project and labor of love that will unite us in a common cause and provide a meaningful destiny.' It's a goal that is eccentric at least, a trait shared by many of the staff (some of whom wear their futurism proudly, like Regina M. Pancake, Alcor's 'Readiness Coordinator', former 'Nuclear Pharmacy Technician' and sci-fi prop handler).

The scope of ambition is illustrated by the Timeship concept, 'the "Fort Knox" of biological materials. DNA, tissue samples and cryopreserved patients will be housed in Timeship, and their safety and security against all threats, both natural and human-made, will have to be maintained for hundreds of years.' Designed by Stephen Valentine, this piece of epic Neo-Classicism is architecture for the long game (see the recent Design Observer link as well), its location secret, defended against intruders, bulky enough to withstand rain, disaster and the threat of ruin.

While the actual science of cryonics remains elusive beyond the relatively simple act of freezing something - resuscitation is still an entirely speculative process - the culture of cryonics is underpinned by the desire for immortality and the fear of death. The American Cryonics Society stresses there is no political or social undercurrent to their activities ('The American Cryonics Society is not a "utopian" organization.... We are a cryonics society: PERIOD. Our program is simple: freeze-wait-reanimate.). Indeed, a large amount of the debate surrounding cryonics is fiscal, looking at ways to sustain large, power-consuming organisations that require total financial and physical stability for a totally unknown amount of time. Nonetheless, the sense of impending apocalypse hangs over the entire movement, the conflation of disaster, survivalism, futurism and utopianism that has grown out of pop science, the same alternate reality that sustains other pseudo-scientific ventures, all of which are sadly gaining traction in our distracted world.

But we're repeating ourselves - Alcor is a thing of eternal fascination, as they (presumably) intended. There's more information in these earlier posts from December 10, 2003 and August 15, 2008.

*

Other, more transient, things. Photographs taken within a theme park at the Heterotopia. The location is Blackgang Chine, allegedly the oldest theme park in the UK, perched on the crumbling chalk cliffs on the south coast of the Isle of Wight / Data Liberation, striving to make it easy to extract everything you own from Google at your own convenience, not theirs / Meanwhile in Stoke, what would Cedric do?

His Old Haunts, an interview with writer (and one-time things contributor) Tobias Seamon / Mouette7, a tumblr / the Bloomframe is a neat piece of design, a window that doubles up as a balcony. Formerly just a concept, the design, by Hofman Dujardin Architects, has now entered production / One year after Hurricaine Ike.

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