«\\jciprod01\productn\M\MIA\68-1\MIA101.txt unknown Seq: 1 13-NOV-13 8:14 FUTURLAWMA: 21st Century Solutions to 31st Century Problems JUSTIN S. WALES1 ...»
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FUTURLAWMA: 21st Century Solutions
to 31st Century Problems
JUSTIN S. WALES1
I. INTRODUCTION...................................................... 87 R
II. “WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF TOMORROW!”............................. 89 R
A. “You can solve all of life’s problems by freezing them!”............... 90 R B. “Why must you analyze everything with your relentless logic?”......... 92 R C. “No! I want to live! There are still too many things I don’t own!”...... 93 R 1. “THE CAT, IS IT ALIVE OR DEAD? ALIVE OR DEAD?!”.............. 94 R
2. “IT’S A SUPERPOSITION OF BOTH STATES UNTIL YOU OPEN IT ANDCOLLAPSE THE WAVE FUNCTION.”.............................. 96 R III. “A CLONE OF MY OWN”.............................................. 97 R A. “Illegal copies never hurt anybody”................................ 99 R B. “I happen to know a place where the Constitution doesn’t mean squat!”. 100 R C. “My little clone”................................................ 102 R
1. “THERE GOES MY DNA. WHAT A DISGUSTING AND BEAUTIFULPROCESS.”................................................... 103 R IV. CONCLUSION: A BIG WARNING......................................... 104 R I. INTRODUCTION Having been inadvertently frozen in a cryogenic chamber for 1,000 years, Philip J. Fry finds himself facing the all-too-common fictional dilemma of adjusting to life in the distant future. Unequipped for the 31st Century, Fry joins the rag-tag group of humans, mutants, robots, Martians, and anthropomorphic crustaceans that work for Planet Express, one of New New York’s less reputable parcel carriers. Led by Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, Fry’s great-great-great-great-greatgreat-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-greatgreat-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-greatgreat nephew, the Planet Express crew supplies Fry with a job and a
1. J.D., University of Miami School of Law; B.A., University of California, San Diego.
This paper is (not literally) the least I could do. Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Al Jean, and the (many, many) other writers of The Simpsons and Futurama have shaped the way I think of humor, politics, religion, and culture in a way that is likely not unique to members of my generation. Since (almost literally) my birth, I have been exposed to, and influenced by, their writing, and, as all great art does, it has inspired me both artistically and intellectually. With Futurama having recently come to an(other) end, I wanted to send it off the only way I know how—with a lengthy, esoteric, and likely to-go-unread law review article. I would like to thank the University of Miami Law Review for agreeing to publish this ridiculous paper, my fonfon ru Eva for a lot of things, Dr. John D. Zoidberg and Joshua Plager for a few things, and Joseph Ho for nothing. Ever. He knows what he did.
To find out more about me, including what I do when I am not watching cartoons, visit www.justinwales.com. If by some chance a Simpsons or Futurama writer ends up reading this article, thank you. Your work has made the world smrter.
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88 UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI LAW REVIEW [Vol. 68:87
chance of surviving the post-post2 apocalyptical world that is the year
3000. Simply stated, that is the plot of Futurama, the second most popular animated series created by Matt Groening.
Much has been written about Futurama’s connections to the fields of math and science. Dozens of websites are dedicated to explaining the countless mathematic and scientific in-jokes and references hidden in the series, and the show has even been credited in creating a mathematical proof that proves the properties of an irreversible body swap scenario.3 That proof was written by Futurama writer and applied mathematics Ph.D. Ken Keeler.4 Used in the episode “The Prisoners of Benda,”5 and explained in the episode by fictional Harlem Globetrotters and mathematicians, Ethan “Bubblegum” Tate and “Sweet” Clyde Dixon, “The Futurama Theorem,” as it has come to be known, was implemented by the writers to save the Planet Express crew from a body swap conundrum initiated by one of Professor Farnsworth’s inventions.
That the show’s writers are able to so often utilize such high-minded plot devices into each episode led me to consider whether the topics and issues presented in Futurama could be used to explore issues beyond the scope of mathematics and science. Why, after all, should those nerds have all the fun?
When viewed through the eyes of a J.D., Futurama challenges many notions regarding the law and how we would expect—or hope— the law to evolve over the next millennium. This article will use the technological and sociological possibilities presented in Futurama as a means of pushing the boundaries of jurisprudential analysis by finding parallels to modern legal dilemmas and exploring how continued technical achievements might have an effect on how we view the law and ourselves. By doing so, I hope to do for this article’s readers what I believe Futurama’s writers do for its viewers: use the absurdity of the show as a vehicle (likely a spaceship) for discussing important issues about what life will be like in the future.
At 140 episodes, the number of philosophical and jurisprudential issues that could be discussed in this article could produce an anthology of interest. In order to narrow the paper’s scope, I decided to explore a
2. First Destruction of New York City, INFOSPHERE.ORG (Oct. 24, 2012, 11:33), http://www.
3. Casey Chan, Futurama Writer Invented a New Math Theorem Just to Use in the Show, GIZMODO.COM (Aug. 21, 2010, 12:30 PM), http://gizmodo.com/5618502/futurama-writer-inven ted-a-new-math-theorem-just-to-use-in-the-show; see also Dana C. Ernst, Talk: The Futurama Theorem and Some Refinements, DANAERNST.COM (Nov. 23, 2012), http://danaernst.com/talk-thefuturama-theorem-and-some-refinements.
4. Chan, supra note 3.
5. Futurama: The Prisoner of Benda (FOX television broadcast Aug. 19, 2010).
\\jciprod01\productn\M\MIA\68-1\MIA101.txt unknown Seq: 3 13-NOV-13 8:14 2013] FUTURLAWMA 89 duo of issues concerning our existential understandings of life and death in the future and how technological advancements may instigate a perceptional change in human identity.
Part II of our discussion will begin with the legal and moral implications that may arise through advancements in the field of cryonics.
Working under the assumption that technology will eventually allow a person to cryogenically preserve oneself for 1,000 years or more, fundamental legal and philosophical principles will require reevaluation. For example, this article will examine whether a cryogenically frozen individual should be deemed alive or dead in the eyes of society and the law.
If the law treats those individuals as alive, their existent status will undoubtedly affect estate planning and force the reevaluation of many settled issues of law. If considered dead, a bevy of questions will emerge as to the individual’s legal status upon reanimation. Part III of this article will explore the implications upon both society and the law if science is successful at genetically cloning a human being. Among the issues discussed in this section are the rights and responsibilities of both donor and clone, as well as the possible constitutional implications of government regulation of the cloning process. This article will posit that the possibility of human cloning will force drastic changes in our understanding of heirdom, parenthood, and fertility, but not necessarily in our understanding of freedom or autonomy. Finally, Part IV will offer a concluding thought on what it means to be human in a world of rapidly changing technology, and will urge readers to use the pages (or DVDs) of science fiction as a means of challenging our understanding of society and the law. “Interesting Stuff! Stay tuned for more....”6
It is the curse of the human condition that we live with the knowledge of our own mortality. Our fate is assigned: “[d]eath borders upon our birth, and our cradle stands in the grave.”9 But is the ability to escape death completely out of our reach? According to Futurama’s version of the year 3000, the answer is no. In the Futurama universe, there are at least two ways one can go about cheating death. One can either
6. Futurama: Anthology of Interest I (FOX television broadcast May 21, 2000).
7. Futurama: Space Pilot 3000 (FOX television broadcast Mar. 29, 1999).
9. HERBERT LOCKYER, LAST WORDS OF SAINTS AND SINNERS 9 (1969).
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best the Robot Devil in a fiddle-playing contest,10 or, alternatively, cryogenically preserve one’s body for future reanimation with the hope that whatever life-threatening ailment one currently suffers from will be cured in the future.11 While the eventual existence of Robot Hell is suspect, the practice and study of cryonics is very much a real thing. At the time of this article’s publication, over 200 bodies12 have been preserved in one of three non-profit cryopreservatories around the country.13 The choice to cryogenically freeze one’s body is a gamble on future generation’s scientific breakthroughs, and an expensive gamble at that. The costs of a full-body preservation at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, for example, can bear costs exceeding $200,000.14 Alcor itself admits that cryonics is a “speculative” practice15 and Alcor’s website displays tongue-in-cheek quotes such as “Cryonics is an experiment. So far the control group isn’t doing very well.”16 Despite being a gamble, however, it is not hard to imagine why someone with the means would make such a bet. By offering the hope—no matter how small—that death may not be a permanent destination, the thought and acceptance of our own mortality may be easier to accept.
“You can solve all of life’s problems by freezing them!”17 A.
We will begin our discussion by comparing the practices and procedures of two cryonics facilities; one real, one imagined. Applied Cryogenics is Futurama’s fictional cryonics facility. Originally located in New York City,18 and dating back to at least 1997, Applied Cryogenics offers its “patients” the chance to suspend their pre-mortem bodies in a deep-freezing cryogenic chamber and provides services to its patients
10. Futurama: Hell is Other Robots (FOX television broadcast May 18, 1999).
11. Futurama: Space Pilot 3000 (FOX television broadcast Mar. 29, 1999). You will, however, have to remember to take your Boneitus pills.
12. Comparing Procedures and Policies, CRYONICS.ORG, http://www.cryonics.org/compari sons.html#Existing (last visited Apr. 1, 2013).
14. Cryopreservation Agreement – Schedule A: Required Costs and Cryopreservation Fund Minimums, ALCOR.ORG, http://www.alcor.org/BecomeMember/scheduleA.html (last updated Jan.
15. What is Cryonics?, ALCOR.ORG, http://www.alcor.org/AboutCryonics/index.html (last visited Apr. 1, 2013).
16. Notable Quotes, ALCOR.ORG, http://www.alcor.org/notablequotes.html (last visited Apr. 1, 2013).
17. Applied Cryogenics, FUTURAMA.WIKI.COM, http://futurama.wikia.com/wiki/Applied_Cryo genics (last visited Apr. 1, 2013).
18. The facility was relocated to New New York sometime after the city’s destruction in
2308. See Futurama: Bender’s Big Score (FOX television broadcast Nov. 27, 2007).
\\jciprod01\productn\M\MIA\68-1\MIA101.txt unknown Seq: 5 13-NOV-13 8:14 2013] FUTURLAWMA 91 upon reanimation to help them adjust to their new temporal existence.19 In contrast, real-life cryonics facilities, like the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, which is located in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers patients the opportunity to preserve their bodies and brains, or even pets,20 in liquid nitrogen after the patient has been declared “legally dead.”21 Its facility is funded via an irrevocable Patient Care Trust, which was created in
1997.22 The trust holds the mortgage on Alcor’s property, and its remaining investments are held by Morgan Stanley.23 Included in the fees patients pay to secure Alcor’s services is the money that Alcor places in trust for the financial sustainment of the facility’s operation.24 Because of pesky state laws prohibiting homicide and assisted suicide,25 Alcor is not a “cryonics” facility in the truest sense of the word, but rather a “cryopreservation” facility.26 Modern cryonics attempts to preserve a body after the body is pronounced “legally dead,” but before the body’s organs lose all life sustaining capabilities.27 Often, this period of time is extremely short—lasting mere minutes—but if a patient is prepared within that time, blood, circulation, and breathing can be artificially restored and the patient can be preserved in liquid nitrogen while still being “biologically viable.”28 In other words, if a patient dies of a heart attack, the “[c]ardiac death isn’t a diagnosis of death, it is a prognosis of death.”29 Alcor’s methods of preserving life before “biological death” are based largely on the theories of Dr. Robert Ettinger, as set forth in his influential book “The Prospect of Immortality.”30 While the realities of reanimation are contentiously debated,31 modern science has advanced
19. After defrosting a patient, Applied Cryogenics employees examine the newly-defrosted individual with a device known as the “probulator,” and then implant a career chip into the patient’s hands which will confine the thawed patient to the job he or she is best suited to perform.
Futurama: Space Pilot 3000 (FOX television broadcast Mar. 29, 1999).