By Michelle Peterson
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Published in 1969, Freezing Down introduces readers to the unique and futuristic life of a fiction editor named Bruno. Living in a time with technological advancements, individuals can choose to be “frozen down,” a process in which their lives are essentially frozen in time, stopped, and later awoken at a time they specify beforehand. The exact time may be when a specific medical procedure has been developed, a new technology is available, or other times significant to the individual. The novel, initially seeming to depict a society in transition to a utopian lifestyle, reveals that the scientific and technologic advances actually have the opposite effect. The technological advancements depicted in Anders Bodelsen’s Freezing Down, though created with intent to enhance lives, ultimately produce the deterioration of society. These depicted technological advancements, though feasible, come with complex ethical considerations and severe consequences to society, as observed in both Bodelsen’s Freezing Down and modern times.
One of these technological advances described in Freezing Down is modern medication. In the beginning of the novel, the main character, Bruno, is provided two yellow pills upon receiving the news surrounding his health status. These pills appear to yield both anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects for the character. It was not long into routine pill usage that the character begins requesting additional doses of the medication and develops a minor reliance on their effects for his daily life. Moving forward from 1973, a different medication is invented in 1995, “Eternol,” as it is coined, that provides anti-aging and antidepressant effects for its consumers. Though seemingly a solution for the “now-life” society members who wish to lead a normal aging life while also showing a younger appearance, the medication has a drastic mood-swing side effect, and consequently leads to one character’s death from overdose. The last of the medications depicted in the novel is “Obliviol”—appropriately named for its ability to remove targeted memories from its consumers’ conscious mind. This medication is invented in 2022, when the medical perspective on waking up participants from their freezing procedures is rooted strongly in beginning a new life, and having “…a clean sheet – tabula rasa.” Unfortunately, the medical staff appears to misuse the medication. For example, a doctor tries to remove two of the main character’s memories, one involving a past love interest and the other an agreement that had been arranged between the character and the doctor. Although all of the medications intended to improve life in society, they all inadvertently result in misuse or adverse effects.
Unfortunately, the inadvertent trend of misuse or adverse effects of medications is also present in modern society; the medications in Freezing Down could be likened to modern-day antidepressants, opioids, and concentration-enhancing stimulants such as Adderall. All of these modern medications were also created with the intent of improving health conditions, but in many cases, have inadvertently led to overuse and adverse effects. While many advancements have occurred in society, antidepressant use has rapidly increased over time, the reliance on opioids has become so severe that it is currently considered an epidemic in the US and Canada, and a significant number of students have reported abusing concentration-enhancing stimulants. 
Another technological advancement to highlight from Freezing Down is the process of organ donation and organ synthesis. When Bruno wakes up in 1995, he is informed that his kidneys had been removed and, in turn, replaced with younger, “organic” kidneys. To his surprise, the technological advancements had led to the creation and implementation of simple, computerized human organs and body structures throughout society. These components can replace one’s original organ or specific body structure, often functioning at an even better level than the original. It took until around 2022 before more complex structures, such as the spine, could be successfully developed and transplanted. Coming from a point in time in which all organs were “indispensable,” this is quite a shocking concept for Bruno. Later in the novel, we see these advancements portrayed in a more negative light, especially in 2022—as the advancements have consequently removed the main purpose of life for “now-life” society members. Originally used only in dire situations, such as replacing failing organs, many people of society start choosing to replace slightly damaged or sub-par body parts or organs, following the desire to have only the best of the best quality for their life. Additionally, at the conclusion of the novel, Bruno becomes depressed and unhappy with the current society, wanting to put an end to his seemingly eternal life. Trying to persuade the doctors by offering to donate his organs to those in need, Bruno discovers that his body has essentially zero value to society since all of the human body components are able to be made synthetically. This concept leads the reader to question what is the value of human life when man can artificially create all components of the human body, and what is the value of religion when eternal life prevents one from ever encountering life’s end.
In modern society, we have put an enormous amount of time, money, and research into this domain. Our progress has included realistic prosthetics, effective joint development, and electronic organ replacements such as pacemakers and artificial lungs. In some ways, modern society has gone technologically further than the society depicted in Freezing Down. Modern medicine has successfully grown beating cardiac muscle cells and sheets of skin cells in vitro from stem cells, synthesized and transplanted a trachea, and 3D- bioprinted a thyroid gland, tibia, and sample of beating heart cells.    Although these advancements have provided great benefits and life-improvements, they are not without heavy ethical consideration. The issue of using stem cells has been a topic of controversy since its beginning, as many people liken the process of changing stem cells into human body parts to the process of man playing the role of God. Essentially, the advances in medical capabilities highlight the issue of knowing precisely when scientific advancements go “too far” and overstep the proverbial ethical line. Additionally, the misuse of the advancements may lead to detrimental effects on society—at what point do we stop trying to change behaviors to prevent organ damage, and rather maintain our poor behaviors because we know we can simply replace the damaged organ?
One of the non-medical advancements depicted in Freezing Down is an autonomous car. While Bruno is living in 1995, he travels with Dr. Cavalcanti to and from the hospital in a modern vehicle, which is lacking a driver. To direct the vehicle to their destination, the physician appears to place a small card, perhaps similar to a modern-day SD card or flash drive, into a port on the car’s dashboard. Presumably loaded with information of the final destination, the car turns on and navigates its passengers along the notably empty roadways to their destination. Later, readers are informed that Bruno notices he rarely sees any cars driving on the roads in view from his window. Upon asking, he is informed that generally only politicians and physicians have cars in society. At this point in time, it also appears that so many people have opted to be frozen down that there are only a select few individuals functioning on a daily basis. Even many of the all-lifers who are “up” engage in the practice of hibernation, or being in a state described as “low.” With this heavy emphasis on strategizing every moment of life, people no longer wish to waste their time driving cars or have the need to use chauffeured transportation and thus, with the technological advancements, it would not be long until driving would completely vanish from the society.
The development of autonomous transportation is also a topic in today’s society. Many of the newest model cars are equipped with at least some semi-autonomous driving capability, as many of the fully autonomous vehicles are still being tested. This technology is still in its beginning stages, and often requires drivers to remain alert and fully monitor the functioning of the car while in use. Luxury vehicle manufacturer, Tesla, encountered the first “autopilot” vehicle driver death in 2016, when a driver was using the autopilot function and failed to notice an error in the vehicle’s sensor algorithm, driving full-speed into a white trailer that was crossing the road. Another debated topic when discussing autonomous vehicles is the determination of the individual, or entity, which shall be held responsible in the event of an accident. Moreover, changing weather conditions, GPS accuracy, software hackers, elimination of jobs, and human traffic signals are a few of the many additional barriers this technology has yet to overcome before being accepted and adapted into society.
The final advancement depicted in Freezing Down that is worth mentioning is the surveillance and entertainment system at The Ackermann Center. Bruno is not initially notified of the device and would occasionally hear clicking noises from the grafting above his bed. Unaware he was susceptible to being watched and listened to at any moment, Bruno finally questions his doctor about the mysterious clicking noises he was hearing from the overhead grating of his room. He is informed that the device was equipped with a camera, microphone, and audio system. Appearing to have dual purposes, the device both acts as a patient surveillance system for the medical staff and as an entertainment system for the patients. Although the device seems like a source of great intent and ingenuity, it is later shown to be controlling towards the patient. Being not only a severe threat towards one’s privacy, the device is also shown attempting to prevent patients’ anti-“all- life” conversations. With intent to cover their conversation by the noise of running water in the bathroom sink, Bruno and Henry discuss events that had occurred, and what was really happening behind closed doors – topics apparently forbidden to discuss. Following a clicking noise from the overhead grate, signifying the conversation had been heard by the device’s controllers, orchestral music thunders into the room so loudly that it is impossible for Bruno and Henry to continue their conversation. Another time, the device was mentioned as playing endless music, not giving Bruno a clear moment to think other than the minuscule breaks between songs. What initially appeared to be a patient safety and entertainment device is really more of a human monitoring and censoring device.
Some modern time equivalents of the depicted device include baby monitors, home security systems, Apple’s Siri, and the Amazon Alexa. Although these devices were all created to enhance daily living, safety or security, the devices have all included various moments of questioning. For example, the Amazon Alexa is a device, equipped with a microphone, speaker, and occasionally a camera, that sits in one’s home. Created to provide auditory weather reports, news stories, information searches, music and entertainment to the user, the device has been highly criticized for its numerous invasions of privacy. Being susceptible to hacking, constantly listening to nearby conversations, recording all of your interactions, inserting advertisements into the verbal purchasing feature, and revealing eerie quirks and responses to certain questions are just a few of the device’s current criticisms.  Inviting this security-exposing device into one’s home poses a true threat to one’s privacy, information, and individual choice.
In the true science fiction genre fashion, the similarities between Freezing Down and modern society lead readers to question exactly how far away modern society is from becoming like the society in the novel. Initially seeming to pose no threats, Bodelsen reveals how truly dangerous the advances are to mankind. While the technological advancements depicted in Freezing Down were well-ahead of their time at the book’s release, many of these devices have near equivalents today. These technologies, although generally created with good intent, have severe consequences, present complicated ethical considerations, and ultimately demonstrate negative impacts to society, both in Freezing Down and modern times.
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 Anders Bodelsen, Freezing Down, (Berkeley International, 1969), 118.
 Laura A. Pratt, et al.,“Antidepressant Use Among Persons Aged 12 and Over: United States, 2011–2014,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 15, 2017, www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db283.html.
 Erik MacLaren, “History and Statistics of ‘Study Drugs,’” DrugAbuse.com, September 17, 2016, www.drugabuse.com/library/history-and-statistics-of-study-drugs/#prescription-stimulant-abuse.
 Michael Hopkin, “Beating Heart Tissue Grown in Lab,” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, April 23, 2008, www.nature.com/news/2008/080423/full/news.2008.775.html.
 Dom Galeon, “Artificial Organs: We’re Entering an Era Where Transplants Are Obsolete,” Futurism, December 4, 2017, www.futurism.com/artificial-organs-entering-era-transplants-obsolete/.
 Andy Coghlan, “Man Receives World’s First Synthetic Windpipe,” New Scientist, July 8, 2011, www.newscientist.com/article/dn20671-man-receives-worlds-first-synthetic-windpipe/.
 “Eurostemcell,” ed. Jan Barfoot, ”Stem Cell Therapy & Treatment – Diseases and Conditions”, EuroStemCell, www.eurostemcell.org/what-diseases-and-conditions-can-be-treated-stem-cells.
 Danny Yadron and Dan Tynan, “Tesla Driver Dies in First Fatal Crash While Using Autopilot Mode,” The Guardian, June 30, 2016, www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/30/tesla-autopilot-death-self-driving-car-elon-musk.
 Paul Tamburro, “Alexa Has a Creepy Response When Asked If It’s Connected to the 7CIA,” CraveOnline, March 10, 2017, www.craveonline.com/design/1227739-alexa-creepy-response-asked-connected-cia#/slide/1.
 Ben Stegner, “7 Ways Alexa and Amazon Echo Pose a Privacy Risk,” MakeUseOf, January 10, 2018, www.makeuseof.com/tag/alexa-amazon-echo-privacy-risk/.