Our View

The Herald on Sunday editorial

Herald on Sunday Editorial: The future? You're welcome to it

12 comments
Deck Hazen. Photo / Supplied
Deck Hazen. Photo / Supplied

Deck Hazen should be careful what he wishes for: it might come true. The American-born IT specialist, who has retired to Kerikeri, has invested in - and signed up to be a customer of - an Australian cryogenics facility.

For a mere $50,000, his body will be stored after he dies, in the expectation that science will eventually be able to bring him back to life. But it is not what Hamlet would have described as a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Social historians tell us that time travel would be a very mixed blessing. A visitor landing in, say, Shakespeare's London direct from the 21st century would almost certainly be overcome by instant gagging nausea from the smells of unwashed bodies (and worse). Everybody would be at least slightly drunk all the time (the water would not be potable and tea would not be arriving for another 50 years, so it would be flat beer for breakfast).

Fisticuffs on the slightest of pretexts would be more common than in Queen St on a Saturday night (the upper-class twits would be engaged in swordfights).

In short, the culture shock would be so profound, it would knock most of us off our rockers.

Travelling to the future has got to be worse. In his 1970 book, Future Shock, Alvin Toffler argued that the exponential rate of technological change was becoming mind-numbing. In that year, the computers in the world numbered a few thousand; now the amount of technical information is more than doubling each year, so the amount of new stuff the human race is learning annually is equivalent to everything it ever knew before.

When you consider what your grandparents in postwar New Zealand, where there were no transistor radios, would have made of a kettle that switches itself off when it boils, much less the iPod or Spotify, it doesn't take much to imagine that waking up in 2062 would be a very unsettling experience. Those emerging from long prison terms, who have never seen a mobile phone and can't believe how fast the traffic is, attest to that.

Apart from the unnerving prospect of future megashock, some of the more disturbing predictions of futurologists -climate change, peak oil, global overpopulation and the impossibility of getting a nice piece of fish for your dinner - make this technologically enabled resurrection a rather distasteful idea.

If Hazen wants to spend his money on a big and very cold sleep, good luck to him. But it may be smarter to spend the $50,000 now. At least he will know what he's getting into - and he won't run the risk of doing his dough.

- Herald on Sunday

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 18 Sep 2014 18:38:08 Processing Time: 807ms