Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Final Report Installment #1

In Zero K by Don DeLillo, there are several bioethical issues.  Although it is a science fiction book, it has realistic ideas. The concept of preservation of a body in liquid Nitrogen to prevent decay of a recently deceased person is a not a new one, but it is very controversial. The book explores these issues by attributing different perspectives and ideas involved with them to each of the main characters.
The main character and narrator of the book, Jeff, is the skeptic of “The Convergence”, what they have named the project. His stepmother, Artis, is the hopeful visionary who puts all her faith into the idea of a better future. His wealthy egotistical father, Ross, is a contributing sponsor that provides funding of the project. They each represent the different attitudes in the debate. While Jeff is at the clinic where they do the procedures post mortem, he notices how everything feels like a sales pitch or a scam in which the founders provide a promise of a healthy, violence free, and hopeful future. In this, he finds the absurdity with which they “sell” their ideas to people who can fund their research. He sees people in the “hospice unit” that have essentially “come to die” as a person says to Jeff while he is there. There is a point in which he sees a little boy who is paralyzed, and the quote below shows how his attitude shifts slightly, considering the very few good things that could come from this…

“In his physical impairment, the nonalignment of his upper and lower body, in this awful twistedness, I found myself thinking of the new technologies that would one day be applied to his body and brain, allowing him to return to the world as a runner, a jumper, a public speaker.” (Pg 24)

… However, he comes to realize that the good is outweighed by the bad done by cryogenic preservation in his eyes. Allowing oneself to be part of an elaborate experiment that has unknown outcomes and high chance of implausibility seems to be kind of ridiculous. It is even worse if people do it for selfish reasons or to escape from the wrongs that someone has done, crimes committed, in this life. People doing things, especially to their bodies physically and minds mentally, through science and medical technology seems incredibly wrong. It is like when we discussed cloning… It’s feasible… but is it ethical?
           The next idea up for debate would be the fact of inserting Nanotechnology into our bodies such as they suggest will occur when the future medical professionals would unthaw them. The nanobots used will supposedly rebuild any damage done to the body from aging or decay that could have occurred before or while preserving of the body in the cryogenic chamber. Again, we can think about Eula Biss’s idea of not allowing people to put foreign substances or objects, in this case, into our bodies for certain reasons. We need to also consider the idea of artificial intelligence and what this could mean having an entity inside of us that controls and has access to our most valuable resources and assets. Also, at this point (the point of immortality) we must question what the meaning of living is? Would we truly be living a life? What would our purpose be? We would no longer strive for goals and would essentially lose what means to be human, inevitably.
Next, I will discuss the perspective of this being seen as medically assisted suicide, the idea of worldly suffering, and the conclusion of the book that projects how we should not be persuaded by the idea of a hopeful future if all of the evidence surrounding it is flawed and human intuition senses the dangers of such an undertaking.
           Image result for cryogenics
Also here is a link for my PowerPoint presentation I did on Thursday



  1. Very good, looking forward to your next installment.

    I wonder if the "gray goo" problem we used to hear about in connection with nanotechnology (from people like Bill Joy in his essay "Why the Future Does Not Need Us"*) is still something we should be concerned to avoid at all costs?

    By the way, if you want to embed your slideshow it's easy with a slideshare account.

    * http://www.cc.gatech.edu/computing/nano/documents/Joy%20-%20Why%20the%20Future%20Doesn%27t%20Need%20Us.pdf

  2. Unfortunately, Jeff's experiences at the clinic, where researchers try to "'sell' their ideas to people who can fund their research" is not purely fictional. Scientific research relies on (highly competitive) grants, so, for better or for worse, scientists must be able to market their work, and they face an underlying anxiety that their work will lose funding. On the one hand, the need to acquire funding forces scientists to focus on beneficial, useful research. On the other, the pressures of academia can also greatly stifle their creativity, preventing innovation and discovery.