Charles Platt on the Timeship's marketability

From: John Grigg (
Date: Sat Dec 29 2001 - 17:45:51 MST

Hello everyone,

Charles Platt, science fiction and fact writer and a prominent longtime cryonicists, wrote an excellent cryonet post which discussed not only Hollywood and cryonics, but why in his view the Timeship concept is brilliant. The latter part sure surprised me!


Message #18227
Date: Tue, 25 Dec 2001 14:37:26 -0500 (EST)
From: Charles Platt <>
Subject: narcissism, Hollywood, and cryonics

There is still something more to be said about Vanilla Sky, which is that
it displays an aspects of cryonics which we might prefer to forget or at
least downplay: Narcissism.

Hollywood is of course the world capital of narcissism, and Cruise movies
have their fair share ("I do my own stunts! I look as beautiful as
Barbie's boyfriend Ken!"). It certainly makes sense to find this
narcissism in a cryonics movie, because cryonics of course makes no sense
at all unless you like yourself to a healthy (or unhealthy) degree; if you
hate yourself, why would you want to be brought back? Thus in this sense
Hollywood and cryonics are made for each other, but in a way that may make
us feel a bit uncomfortable. Because when we sell cryonics, we do not
sell it in the same way as, say, LEF sells Rejuvenex. We sell it for
"rational" reasons, and we are careful not to make exaggerated claims
(well, some of us are), and we dwell more on the tech side than on the
touchy-feely side. Most of all we try to avoid overtones of religion,
afterlife, and all that mystical stuff which we feel would undermine the
solid scientific basis for cryonics. We want to sell cryonics rationally.
This is our great ethical virtue and our biggest commercial mistake.

When I saw Steven Valentine's superb presentation for his Timeship
project, I realized that he had taken all the stuff I found most hokey and
embarrassing about immortalism--the 1950s B movies, the religious
iconography, pyramid power, mysterious powerful rays, people in white
robes and Lucite sandals--and instead of sweeping this stuff under the
rug, he had recognized it and enshrined it as the true essence of
cryonics. And from a mass-marketing perspective, he was right! We're crazy
to try to get away from these wacky overtones. They are in fact the core
of the matter to most potential consumers. We *need* a building shaped
like a mandala, with a promenade where mirrors trap the sun and reflect it
through swirling clouds of LN vapor, while Scientists walk priest-like
through the mist, pondering some 1930s Vision of Tomorrow. If you find
this stuff embarrassing and you try to talk about nanomachines and the
composition of vitrification solutions, you've lost 99 percent of your
potential audience right there. People WANT white robes and lucite
sandals, and cryotoriums with a vaguely Egyptian/mystical look, built
above ground where they will be vulnerable yet cinematic.

Personally this paraphernalia still makes me feel slightly nauseated,
because it is a gross misinterpretation of science and the transcendent
impulse. It's the comic-book version of cryonics. But long ago I became
reconciled to the fact that most people do not think as I do. If they want
the Timeship version of cryonics, or the Tom Cruise version ("This face is
too beautiful to die, because it is my face!") then in a free-market
system, that is the cryonics they will have.

And here is the take-home message: There is nothing we can do about it.

Every small group of extremist visionaries tends to find that its pure
good ideas are used and abused selectively by the media, and turned into
trash. This is the way of the world. Complex concepts are oversimplified.

This to me is the message of Vanilla Sky. It is the first step (there will
be more!) toward a bowdlerization of the cryonics philosophy as
established by Kent, Henderson, Leaf, Darwin, and yes, Harris, and maybe
even me. It is just as much a travesty as Star Trek was, relative to the
stories in those 1950s science-fiction magazines (so carefully and
logically worked out, and now forgotten).

When cryonics acquires mass appeal, it will offend us. I guarantee it. And
Tom Cruise has taken the first step in this direction.


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