Podcast on Cryonics by 'Stuff you should know'

post by FiftyTwo · 2011-09-04T22:36:35.194Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 5 comments

The podcast 'Stuff you should know' has done an episode on cryonics.

 

Available here: 

http://podcasts.howstuffworks.com/hsw/podcasts/sysk/2011-08-30-sysk-cryonics.mp3?_kip_ipx=862998473-1315175433 

 

I don't know much about the subject, but what do people think of it as a depiction of cryonics in popular culture? 

5 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-09-05T03:15:55.566Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a liveblog of my thoughts while listening. I didn't edit it at all, so you can see exactly how I reacted to each part.

They started the podcast with...a reference to The Simpsons. Ugh.

Overall, their tone is lighthearted and somewhat sarcastic. Most of their commentary is jokes, but not in a derisive way--it's more like "Ooh, how neat!" They are neither pro- nor anti-cryonics, it's more like they're just observing it from afar.

A few minutes in (paraphrased): "I was picking the topic a few weeks ago, and then I saw that [Robert Ettinger died], and I thought, how awesome! And then I thought, that's kinda sad, actually."

Another "great" quote, a few minutes later: "Ettinger's book had a sweeping effect--three years later, one person was cryogenically preserved!"

Ah, it's getting much better now. They discuss the difference between vitrification and freezing, although they do use the term freezing a whole lot in the beginning. This is followed by a decent statement of the purpose of cryonic suspension, and even take the time to dispel the "Walt Disney was frozen" myth. And they even said that there is a great deal of "rationality" involved in making a decision about cryonics.

They do a decent job of distinguishing between between "cardiac death" and (as they call it) "brain death." They also refer to this as "sound science." They also explain that people who were thought to be frozen to death were able to be revived hours or days later.

They liken the cost of cryonics to the cost of a lifetime of cigarettes, which is a nice analogy. They then move on to talking about the cost of preservation with Alcor. (Side comment: why is Alcor so much more expensive than CI?) However, it doesn't look like they did a good job researching--they seem unsure of themselves and they corrected each other a few too many times. They then pointed out (and I agree) that CI's website looks terrible, and that the organization should invents in redesigning it for PR purposes.

Moving on, they give a brief overview of the preparation process--removing the water from the body and filling it with cryoprotectant, etc. They also mention neuro-only suspension. Though I'm pleased with the material that they've been covering, they just come off as really incompetent. It took them three tries to correctly pronounce "cryoprotectant," and they admitted that the sources they were reading from are somewhat conflicting because some of them are out of date. They clearly didn't do a great job researching this at all.

And it gets worse: they threw in a Futarama reference. Followed by: "Negative 40 degrees...is that like absolute zero?" "We have been called out in the past for the difference between temperatures in Celsius and Fahrenheit."

Now it's getting a little better--they describe how vitrification stops any kind of decay, after which the patient's body (or head) are put into a tank.

Every time it starts getting good, they drag it back down again (paraphrased): "Then they put you in a tank with multiple other people, which I thought was weird. I mean, what if you were still cognizant, and you didn't like the people around you (laughs)....it's like a freaky, futuristic nursing home in there." Slightly later: "Man, that gives me a headache just thinking about being upside down in there."

Now they're moving on to talking about criticism: "People are saying that it's based on real science, but that it's still pseudoscience trickery. Alcor and others get a lot of criticism." One thing I didn't know: apparently cryobiologists get bad press because of cryonics. Fortunately, they do say this: "Alcor doesn't claim to know how to revive people--it just knows how to vitrify tissue, they're just the keeper of these bodies until we come up with a way to revive them...they're not promising eternal life, they're just a high-tech storage facility."

There's a bit of talk about how patients might be revived, but not much: "The great hope among cryonicists is nanotechnology, which makes sense." Then they started talking about "galvanic" revival and Frankenstein...what the heck.

Next, there's a little lighthearted discussion of whether neuro-only is a better choice. This quickly devolves into a discussion about one of the host's boxer shorts. Then there's a short discussion of some animals that have been revived. I didn't know this, but apparently dogs have had their blood replaced with cyroprotectant and later revived (come to think of it, I'll have to fact check this).

Then they go on to talk about the legal issues associated with coming back to life. Oddly enough they're taking this more seriously than any of the other topics so far.

Now they're discussing what happens to patients when/if a cryonics company goes out of business. One interesting thing: apparently a lot of the money that you pay to Alcor goes towards a fund that will make sure you are taken care of if Alcor goes out of business. They also mention (which I did know) that they depend a lot on donations from wealthy members. This lead into a discussion of the politics of cryonics

They briefly mention that most cryonics patients are middle class, and that some pay for it with life insurance (though they didn't know any details).

Then: "Oh yeah, we need to talk about Ted Williams." Discussion of Williams' case ensues.

They conclude with unrelated fan mail.

Overall thoughts: Meh. Not a great substance-to-noise ratio. If you've already researched cryonics extensively then you probably won't learn anything from it. The commentary is lighthearted and not very well-informed.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-09-05T19:28:00.630Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I dislike listening to podcast and this summary saved me both the time and inconvenience. Thanks!

comment by Alicorn · 2011-09-04T23:27:52.230Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Toplevel posts use WYSIWYG or HTML, not Markdown like comments. I have fixed your first link.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-09-05T00:02:10.742Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

I tried to do it with the graphical interface but couldn't get it to work.

comment by lsparrish · 2011-09-08T01:13:06.352Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I thought it was cool that they mentioned Depressed Metabolism. It was overall a nice neutral-positive podcast that might get people to thinking about it in an easygoing manner.