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Thursday, June 17, 2010


The Huffington Post just published an updated version of a blog I featured a couple of days ago on "The Future of Graveyards." I had materially adjusted it anyway, and they further changed the title. Here is the latest version of the piece, with graphics.

My HuffPosting on Gratitude, Not Grief almost a year ago led me to consider a variety of funeral options. I learned that cremation will soon overtake burial. As a futuristic thinker, a Swiftian (that's Jonathan on the left) thought occurred to me that a logical next step might be preservation of a small portion of the remains just in case cloning someday becomes commonplace. A post-insurance policy?

While there are already cryogenic processes, there is no assurance that this technique can have any happy ending, especially with the added costs involved. Then again, success was attained with frozen embryo births. Forty-three years ago James Bedford was placed in deep cold storage and baseball player Ted Williams was cryogenically preserved in 2002. On a mass scale for the public at large, though, it should ultimately not take much to keep a cubic centimeter of bone marrow, drop of blood or piece of your skin. Certainly, some technique can be devised at low maintenance cost to preserve your DNA/RNA specimen. Remember Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park? Recall that the blood of a dinosaur, sucked by a mosquito, which happened to get enveloped in amber, kept for a 50 million years at room temperature, became the viable fluid biologically cloned into a prehistoric beast. Well, that was an exaggeration of reality, but Japanese and Russian scientists are now in the process of cloning a woolly mammoth using this technique. Thus, it is not a stretch of wild imagination for a small sample of your dead body to be carefully stored, for, who knows, it could just be a matter of a few decades before science might perfect this process for humans.

There will be fly-by-night outfits to take your money, but the potential of a credible business succeeding around the world will happen, and probably soon. What organization already into searching for roots has the reliability, managerial ability, international roots and entrepreneurial capability to capture the marketplace? This "company" should have long term credibility, having endured controversy, but nevertheless remain thriving. The Mormon Church came to mind. Already, is taking cheek-swiped cotton swab and $200 to add DNA to your family tree. Yes, Sorenson Genomics, the firm doing the work, is headquartered in Utah. 
I can visualize repositories resembling a high-tech mini crystal palace. The setting will be a comfortable purgatory where the visitor can punch in a code to electronically view a video of the person at rest. As the average funeral in the U.S. today costs $6,500, the price tag of sustaining each person for this new enterprise should be a fraction of that sum. A simple charge of $1000 should be a financial and recruiting windfall for the Church. Analyzing the long-term total benefits, a seeming lost leader charge of free might even be considered. Each year, about one percent of the world population dies. Thus, the potential exists to add 60 million new specimens each year. Every society honors the dead in some respectful manner. If the charge is to be free to secure your loved one, with the additional prospect of perhaps a resurrection someday, that practice could well become universal.

Several billion bodies are already in the ground, and another billion or so stored in urns. While most samples are perhaps not now ideal for cloning purposes, the potential remains, opening up another marketing pathway.

Now, all this might at first blush sound much too sacrilegious and sardonic, and even offensive to some. If so, delete the religious references. What about then some business organization with the reputation and means to carry out this ghoulish imperative for a profit? This simple solution would make available land for more productive uses, reduce the cost of death and make it more convenient to visit those who have passed on, as many will merely carry out this privilege at home through the internet. And don't forget the ultimate: the possibility of a real afterlife.

The Dow Jones Industrials edged up 25 to 10,434, while world markets were mixed. Gold increased $14/toz to $1246 and crude oil is nearing $77/barrel.

There remain one storm in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific, with Blas now an official tropical storm:


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