Philosophical Conundrums From ‘Futurama’ That Could Be True
Warning: This article contains descriptions of self-harm.
Futurama is obviously a very silly show, full of mutant sewer creatures, paramilitary astronauts in miniskirts and at least one mind-controlling celebrity toad.
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But in its bold, owl-invested vision of the 31st century, the show has raised some interesting questions about the future of life on Earth, concerning important topics such as our treatment of our lobster-men colleagues, but also, more importantly…
Will Cryogenic Freezing Fundamentally Change People?
If it weren’t for cryonics, Futurama would have been a dull dramedy about a pizza delivery guy and his scruffy dog. Instead, Fry tumbling into the cryogenic freezing chamber in the show’s pilot episode raises a number of questions scientists are currently grappling with. For instance, there are concerns that anyone who is awoken from “cryopreservation” might be a completely different person, “fundamentally altered in mind and body” due to the complex nature of restoring life to all the “cells, blood vessels, organs and neurons of the body.”
Bioethicists also speculate that anyone who survives the process will be vulnerable to “isolation, loneliness, depression and illness.” Although presumably, most of those conditions can be cured by attaining a beer-guzzling robot best friend.
Do Human Beings Need Real Food?
Fry’s go-to meal replacement, the depressing pile of mush known as Bachelor Chow, is not unlike the recent tech-bro super-beverage Soylent, which purported to be a substitute for food, containing all the nutrients humans need but with a smaller price tag and less chewing. And for some baffling reason, they named it after a product famously made out of processed corpses.
But Soylent has come under criticism, including because ingesting food in social environments with friends and loved ones has psychological benefits and remains one of the pleasures of human existence, whereas Soylent has been described as a “punishingly boring, joyless product.”
Do Suicide Booths ‘Glamorize’ Suicide?
Surely one of the grimmest aspects of life in New New York is the preponderance of “Suicide Booths,” those conveniently-placed kiosks that allow people to end it all for just 25 cents.
Ethical questions surrounding such an invention were raised when 2021 saw the unveiling of the “Sarco,” a “3-D-printed pod” that supposedly “can painlessly end someone’s life in a matter of minutes.” Of course, it accomplishes this using nitrogen gas, not automated knives, chainsaws and other assorted blades. This has sparked criticisms that the pod’s “sleek” design “glamorizes suicide and makes it easier for people who are vulnerable and mentally ill.”
Can Robots Consent to Sex?
Despite dramatic warnings from the Space Pope, Fry memorably dates a robotic Lucy Liu in a Season Three episode.
While they may not be as sophisticated as the Monroebot, A.I. sex dolls are already a thing. And there is a certain amount of uneasiness around this technology that has nothing to do with the collapse of civilization as we know it. For one thing, we’re already seeing controversies involving sex dolls designed to look like celebrities, living and dead, not unlike how the real, body-less Lucy Liu understandably felt violated by the “sweaty nerds” copying her image without authorization.
And it’s been suggested that pleasure-bots may not be able to properly consent to sex. If these dolls become sentient, it raises “profound ethical and legal issues” that, according to experts, “must be resolved urgently, before they appear.” Some researchers have even warned that should this technology continue to advance, huge numbers of people could become addicted to robot sex. But, notably, this claim was made without the endorsement of the Space Pope.
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