Sunday 19 November 2017

Write side... with Mark O'Connell

Mark O'Connell
Mark O'Connell
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Mark O'Connell on freezing bodies and driving round America on a coffin-shaped bus with a US presidential candidate

So what is your new book To Be a Machine about then?

It's about transhumanism, which is the desire to use technology to completely transform the human condition so that you become immortal. Transhumanists want to become machines.

You visited a place called Alcor in Arizona where they freeze bodies. What was it like?

It's like this warehouse next to a tile shop. They keep the corpses in giant thermos flasks in liquid nitrogen. They can either freeze your whole body, or just the head.

Do they have a price list?

Freezing your whole body costs $200,000, and you can pay it in instalments. If you are just freezing your head, it's $80,000.

Excuse me for asking, but why would anyone want to freeze their head?

Some people believe that in the future we will be able to upload the content of our brain onto a computer. It's a popular idea in Silicon Valley. They believe that we will transcend our human bodies and merge with machines.

So long as I don't merge with a 46A bus. Is it true that Walt Disney had himself frozen?

A lot of people think that, but I looked into it and discovered that it isn't true.

So, we won't have a sequel to Bambi. What about other celebrities?

Ted Williams, a well-known American baseball player, is frozen in liquid nitrogen at Alcor. Timothy Leary (the psychologist/guru famous for advocating the use of LSD) originally intended to have his body frozen, but in the end he had his ashes blasted into space in a rocket.

How did you end up following a US presidential candidate who campaigned for immortality?

I travelled around Texas with Zoltan Istvan on a coffin-shaped bus. He never thought he would get a huge number of votes, but he got lots of publicity.

They should put Trump in the deep freeze right now...

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