I’ve previously argued that the avoidance of spousal scorn is one of the main reasons why we buy insurance, and pointed out our lack of sympathy for men.  But nothing prepared me for this piece on cryonics and the family:

One unpleasant issue in cryonics is the
“hostile wife” phenomenon. The authors of this article know of a number
of high profile cryonicists who need to hide their cryonics activities
from their wives and ex-high profile cryonicists who had to choose
between cryonics and their relationship. We also know of men who would
like to make cryonics arrangements but have not been able to do so
because of resistance from their wives or girlfriends… As a result, these men face certain death as a consequence of
their partner’s hostility.

The article goes on to describe the main reasons why wives are so hostile to cryonics:

o    Fear of social ostracism:
Involvement with cryonics is not commonplace in any society on the
planet and any unusual, atypical or nonconformist behaviour carries
with it the risk of reduction in social status, gossip, doubts about
good judgment and rationality, and in the worst case, ridicule and

o    Embarrassment and inadequacy: …Many women are uncomfortable being singled out or made
the center of attention because of nonconformist behaviour on the part
of any member of their family whose behaviour they perceive they may be
held accountable for…

o    Resource drain…

o    The prospect of homosocial or
ideologically-driven alienation: …The social structure in most of the world today is
predominately homosocial, wherein heterosexual men engage heavily or
even almost exclusively in social (not sexual) interaction with other
men… After even glancing
contact with cryonics, women quickly perceive that cryonics, and
particularly activist cryonics, is populated almost exclusively by men
and therefore represents a homosocial threat…

An even more anxiety provoking prospect
is that of ideological alienation of the husband from his wife and
family… Wives often express anxiety and concern that their husbands
may change drastically in both beliefs and behavior as a result of
involvement with cryonics and that this might result in alienation
within the marriage or even divorce.

o    Religious and childrearing

o    Other women: While cryonics is
mostly a male pursuit, there are women involved and active, and many of
them are single…

The article hastens to admit that there is some validity in most of these concerns.  But the intensity of the opposition to cryonics seems far out of proportion to the complaints. 

What’s really going on?  I’m not sure, but the sheer weirdness of cryonics probably drastically ramps up the embarassment factor cited in the piece.  You might not be thrilled if your husband becomes a model train enthusiast, but at least you don’t become a freak-by-association.  “She’s the wife of the toy train guy,” doesn’t sting like “She’s the wife of the guy who wants to freeze his head.”

One factor that the article doesn’t mention, but probably should: Many wives hastily conclude that their husbands agree that interest in cryonics is morally suspect.  This makes it hard to work out a deal, such as “You can do it, but don’t tell our relatives about it.”  As I explain in an earlier controversial post:

If you think that someone is willfully shirking,
you probably won’t bother to bargain for better behavior. The shirker
has already broken his word once; why should you believe he’ll change?
In contrast, if you can accept that a person is living up to his
obligations as he understands them, it’s a lot easier to amicably

P.S. In response to Robin’s challenge, I’m not interested in cryonics because I think my chance of being physically revived is less than one-in-a-billion.  And that is what “immortality” means.  Creating a copy of me, no matter how accurate, just doesn’t count.

HT: Kerry Howley via Robin Hanson