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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Cryonic Investor: A Science Fiction Story

The Cryonic Investor: A Science Fiction Story

Al Kent had developed the strangest plan ever created for getting rich.

Al had got his idea while doing medical research on cryonics, which is the science that deals with preserving humans and animals at low temperatures. Al had worked for a large bioengineering company that was trying to develop medical techniques that could be used to put very sick patients into a deep cold sleep, until their condition had stabilized and a plan could be developed for treating them. Part of Al's job had been developing experimental techniques that could put animals into a deep, cold, cryonic sleep. The company had hoped that these techniques could one day be used to help save sick humans.

After a month of making particularly good progress on this task, one day Al had come home and thought to himself: what would it be like for a human patient to go into a cold, deep sleep for thirty years, and then wake up? After considering various ramifications, it had occurred to Al that this type of long deep sleep would be a great thing for the person financially. Because of what is called “the magic of compound interest,” Al calculated that if a person had $100,000 in an investment account earning 6%, and left the account untouched for thirty years, at the end of the thirty year period the investment would be worth about $574,000.

Then Al had thought to himself: wait a second, what if I did that myself? The scheme had then hatched in his mind: he could use his company's cryonic technology to put himself into a long, deep, cold, cryonic sleep. He could sleep for thirty years, and when he woke up, he would be rich. His investment portfolio would grow to a level of wealth about six times greater than when he started.

At first Al just kept this idea in his mind as a pleasant fantasy. But then he started to think about it more and more seriously. When Al had experimented with inducing cryonic sleep in animals, he had found that the long, deep sleep seemed to slow down their aging process by about 70%. Al concluded that if he went into a thirty year cold, deep sleep, he would wake up looking only about ten years older. Being only 33 years old, Al figured that he could go into a cryonic sleep for thirty years, and wake up looking only only about 43 years old.

One day Al was watching a television show called Revels of the Filthy Rich, and he looked with envy at the big, beautiful houses and shiny cars and exotic vacations of the people on TV. He decided right there and then to put his radical plan into effect.

Al bought some land in a remote area of the woods. He arranged for contractors to build an underground house there. He arranged for other contractors to install a fence around the house, and to install solar panels that would provide an uninterrupted power supply.

Then one day Al took a bunch of equipment and experimental drugs from his company, the same things he had been using to put animals into a long, cold, cryonic sleep. Al left a stack of fifty dollar bills to pay for the things he had taken. He took the equipment and experimental drugs to his underground home.

Using a combination of items he had taken from his company and items he had developed at home, Al set up a cryonic sleep chamber designed to keep him in a cold, deep sleep for thirty years. The chamber would be powered for 30 years by the solar panels connected to his house. Al set up a mechanism designed to slowly feed an experimental drug into his body by means of an IV drip. The drug would help slow his metabolic processes, so that he would not need food. Al set up another mechanism designed to occasionally supply a tiny amount of water to his body. In preparation for his cryonic sleep, Al had gained seventy pounds. He calculated that given the extremely low rate of metabolism he would have during his cold, cryonic sleep, his extra seventy pounds would be enough to last him for the next thirty years.

Just before sliding into the cryonic chamber, Al took a look at his investment portfolio. He was worth about $170,000. He figured that when he awoke thirty years later, he would be a millionaire.

Then Al pressed some buttons on his chamber, and went into a long, deep, cold, cryonic sleep.



Thirty years later, the chamber's timer went off, and Al awoke. He slowly climbed out of his cryonic chamber. He looked at his body. He had lost about 90 pounds. But since he had gained 70 pounds before entering into the chamber, he looked pleasantly thin.

Al immediately thought: what is my portfolio worth now? He grabbed his cell phone and tried to call his investment bank. But the phone was dead. Of course, thought Al; the phone bill hadn't been paid in thirty years.

Al then decided to go visit his investment bank face to face. He jumped into his car, and held his breath when turning the key. He was surprised to find that he was able to start the car.

Al drove into the nearby city, and parked his car on the street. He marveled at all the strange looking futuristic cars he saw on the street. He then walked to his investment bank, and asked to see an investment specialist.

“My name's Al Kent, and I need to check on the value of my portfolio,” Al said. The investment specialist complained that the company had not heard any word from Al in thirty years, and demanded some proof of his identity. Al produced the proof.

“Well, looking at our records, I see here that your investment portfolio is now worth $1,156,234,” said the investment specialist.

Al stood up. “I'm rich!” he exulted. “I'm filthy, stinking rich!”

Al walked out of the bank, and decided to get some food. He hadn't eaten in thirty years, and now that his metabolism was back to normal, he had regained a healthy appetite. Al walked into a small convenience store to buy something to eat.

Al picked up a sandwich, and looked at the price: $347.

Al thought to himself: what kind of a joke is this? Some computer must have goofed when printing the price tag, he thought.

Then Al checked other items at the store: a cup of coffee cost $115, and a can of beans cost $120.

Al thought to himself: what kind of a psycho store is this? He left the little store, and went to a large supermarket across the street.

Al checked the prices. A head of lettuce cost $95. A loaf of bread cost $249. A gallon of milk cost $429. Nowhere in the supermarket could Al find anything that didn't seem to be a hundred times more expensive than he expected.

Al walked out of the food supermarket, stunned. He sat down on the street curb, and asked himself: how could this have happened?

Then finally he figured it out.


During his thirty-year cold, deep, cryonic sleep, Al's portfolio had grown at an annual rate of about 6%. But during that time the average inflation rate had apparently been much higher than 6%. So now Al was a millionaire, but his million dollars wasn't worth the same as a million dollars in 2013. It was worth something much, much less.

Using the prices he had seen, Al did some math in his head to estimate how much his million dollar portfolio was worth in 2013 dollars. He calculated that his portfolio was now worth about $10,000 in 2013 dollars.

Al was a millionaire, but his net worth had really dropped more than 90%. Instead of getting six times richer, he had gotten ten times poorer. With everything being a hundred times more expensive, Al would be lucky if his money lasted him another six months.

After figuring this out, Al was so sad that he bought himself a six-pack of beer to drown his sorrows.

The six-pack cost him $835.