Hey Kids, Don’t Forget to Take My Brain Out of the Freezer
"Daddy, when are you going to die?" asks my daughter Zenobia, age five.
"Yeah, how much longer do you really think you can live?" says big sister, Tallulah, age nine.
I’m only 57, and healthy, but my two larvae are obsessed with my expiration date because their grandfather passed away last summer. I am twelve years older than their mother, so the kids know I’m scheduled — in the traditional societal view — as the next family member to croak. "Hey, you brats!" I retort. "I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to boss you around forever."
They look disappointed. My absence might mean staying up past 9:30 pm and eating more ice cream for dessert. "No, really, Daddy," says worldly-wise Tallulah. "I can do math. Grandpa died when he was 81 so does that mean you have just 24 more years?" They both glare at me, expecting honesty.
"I will live to be at least 110." I reply. "But I don’t want to put a limit on it. I’m very optimistic. I’m going to live forever." My pulse accelerates as I say this. "Will you have to wear a diaper, like Grandpa?" asks Zenobia, referring to the lack of sphincter control in Parkinson’s victims. "You can’t," scoffs Tallulah. "Every animal dies. Even whales and trees." I contemplate emailing her teacher to suggest up-to-date science books by Aubrey de Grey and K. Eric Drexler. "If my body dies," I announce, "I’m going to have scientists freeze me immediately, because my brain will still be alive. I’ll stay frozen until future smart people wake me up in a world where everybody lives forever." Tallulah’s eyes brighten with curiosity; Zenobia’s dim with incomprehension.
I show my daughters the website of a cryonics organization in Silicon Valley. "When I die," I instruct them. "I’ll have a medal around my neck that says ‘Cool Me Off.’ On that medal there’s a phone number. Call it and somebody will tell you what to do."
"More, Daddy," urges Tallulah.
"To freeze me correctly," I continue, "they have to get my blood out real fast."
"With a knife?" asks Zenobia.
"Yeah, and maybe a vacuum cleaner," I guess. "Then they pack my body on ice, so I’m cold and fresh, like the fish at Farmer’s Market."
"To eat you?" asks Zenobia.
"No, not one bite," I assure her. "They’ll put my cold body on an airplane and fly me to ‘Michigan’ and keep me there in suspended animation."
"What’s that?" they ask.
"Hmm…." I pause, seeking childish metaphors. "I’ll be a zombie, like Snow White after she ate the poison apple. Except she was all dressed up, and I haven’t decided yet if I want my full body naked like a giant popsicle or if I just want my brain iced."
"What do you think?" asks Tallulah.
"I only have enough money for the iced brain," I admit, "unless I spend your college fund."
"You said I could go to art school!" she hisses.
"Icky," says Zenobia. Her father reduced to just a cold blob in a bowl — like tapioca — disturbs her.
"It won’t be for long," I comfort her.
"Oh," she puzzles, "like when you went to Belgium all alone to eat chocolate and drink beer?’
"Yeah, right," I huff. "Maybe longer than that. I have to stay frozen until they can either grow a new body around my brain…"
"Really?" They giggle. "Will the new grown body look just like this one?"
"Does it have to?" I fudge. I can’t tell them that I want my next physique to be a promiscuous 22-year-old Swedish woman who can have 15 orgasms a night.
"Grow the same Daddy-body again," says Zenobia. "But not as strong. We want to beat you up in judo when you get back."
"Okay," I agree. "But, what if my brain just gets put in a robot? Is that alright? Can I be a robot?"
"Stop it!" shouts Zenobia. Robots, to her, are icky toys for mean boys.
"Yes, Daddy, be a robot!" smiles Tallulah. "That’d be cool!" She imagines a ‘bot Daddy as the most prestigious item in her girl-gang, more awesome than American Girl dolls.
Briefly, I describe two scenarios. My brain could be sliced very thinly, like pastrami, with each section scanned as an information file of my memory and personality, then uploaded in metallic form into a ‘droid. Or I could keep the "old-fashioned" meat brain and have it safely encased in a robot’s skull container. "If I was robotic," I beg them, "I could live on any planet, because I won’t need to breathe. I could live on Jupiter; cheap real estate there in 70 years."
"You come straight home," orders Zenobia. "You have to make our school lunches."
"Okay," I sigh. "What about this plan? My brain is kept secure underground, but its connected to my body via radio signals. That way I can be more than one robot at a time. I can even be an animal or a bird. Get it? I feel everything in all my bodies because my brain’s alive, but…"
"No!" They stamp. "Just a Daddy! Here." An eternity doing their laundry, I surmise. This is their ambition for me, plus shopping and chauffeuring to play dates.
"Just don’t forget me, okay?," I implore. "Don’t forget to get my brain out of the freezer."
They pinky-promise, and give me a hug. Then Tallulah turns to a serious topic: herself. "Daddy, will I die?" she asks.
"No," I say. "Nobody your age will die. Science will solve all the problems like disease, death and getting old. You and Zenobia will live forever."
"Do I have to?" she asks, her voice weighed down by existence. Perhaps longevity sounds like never-ending homework.
"No, you can go to sleep for ten years or more if you want to," I assure her.
Daddy, be a robot!" smiles Tallulah. "That’d be cool!
"I’d like that," she yawns.
"Will Mommy die?" asks Zenobia.
"I don’t know," I reply. "She’s twelve years younger. It depends on when the big super-smart computer gets here." Loosely, I explain the Singularity and its debatable arrival time. "If Ray Kurzweil is right and its 2045, I’ll be 93 and Mommy will just be 81."
"She’ll still be alive!" yells Zenobia.
"Maybe Daddy, too" says Tallulah, "but probably not."
"However, " I continue, ignoring her callousness, "if the Singularity doesn’t arrive until 2065, Mommy will be 102 and I’ll be 113."
"Dead!" they chime in unison. "Dead! Dead! Dead!"
Singularity enchants tech-savvy Zenobia, who quickly grasped all the features of my iphone that she swipes to surf around youtube. But Tallulah is a hostile Luddite, soulmate of the Unabomber. "That’s stupid," she scoffs. "People can’t make robots smarter than us. And if they did, the robots would kill us."
Nanobots are easier; they remind her of fairy dust. I hint to the little sweeties that "invisible robots in our bodies" might enable us to eat whatever we want, without cavities or nutritional damage. "Candy!" They shriek, bouncing chaotically around the room. "We’ll eat candy all the time!"
I wonder, as I watch the hyperactive apes disarray my abode, will people still have children after infinite life is attained? I passed on my DNA because it lessened my anguish about potentially dying. Children are fun and adorable but they require massive patience, funding and drudgery. The solution, I realize, is what every parent fantasizes about: Two Bodies. One operates as 100% Super Parent with all the kindness and knowledge required, while #2 Body lives far, far away, unencumbered, self-absorbed, enjoying all the adult entertainment it craves.