The XX Factor

Hostile Wives Right Again

I tend to put cryonics believers into the same category I do Ayn Rand enthusiasts swearing they’re ” going Galt ” or people who dwell on the possibility that they may never have been born: people whose egos have grown to a size that’s crippling them, making them unable to see that the rest of the world is less sure that we cannot survive without them. While I feel pity for their plight, especially as it’s usually accompanied by a distinct lack of social skills, I don’t want to spend my time around them. I can’t even imagine the hell that is being married to them, and so I was fascinated to read this New York Times Magazine article by Kerry Howley about what cryonics enthusiasts call the “hostile wife” syndrome. Fascinated not because wives are hostile-no duh-but because wives exist in the first place, something I wouldn’t bet on with many people who’ve convinced themselves that the people of the future are so interested in what they have to say that they’ll come up with magical technologies to revive dead, permanently damaged brain tissue.

I immediately sent the piece to Lindsay Beyerstein because I knew she’d find the whole thing as hilariously repulsive as I do, and she posted on it, comparing being married to a cryonics enthusiast to being married to an evangelical Christian who is sure he’ll be in heaven but you won’t be with him. The arguments against cryonics are pretty hard to argue with: 1) It’s so close to impossible that it could ever work to revive completely dead brain tissue that’s hundreds of years old that it’s not worth even entertaining the idea; 2) It’s stupid to think that the business you’re forking cash over to will still be around in hundreds of years after the enthusiasm for cryonics dies off, as it will; 3) Belief that you personally deserve to have immortality denied the rest of the human race is insufferably narcissistic.

It turns out that enthusiasm for cryonics, like enthusiasm for Ayn Rand, is quite the dudely enterprise.  (I’d also imagine there’s a lot of crossover between these two groups of enthusiasts, much like you get with fixed gear bicycle fans and vegans.) According to Howley, male cryonics enthusiasts outnumber female ones 3 to 1. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising. Men have the option, especially in our society, to be way more out of touch with their biological realities than women do, and this can make it that much easier to create elaborate fantasies about how the constraints of biology, including decay and death, don’t apply to you. Though I confess to being surprised that a cryonics fan can stay married to a woman who counsels the dying and their families for a living, as you get with the couple interviewed in this article. You’d think he’d learn a little more through osmosis about how death and decay are a process and have nothing to do with the cryonic image of death as being not so different than simply putting your computer on “hibernate.”