989: Cryogenics

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'Welcome to the future! Nothing's changed.' was the slogan of my astonishingly short-lived tech startup.
Title text: 'Welcome to the future! Nothing's changed.' was the slogan of my astonishingly short-lived tech startup.

[edit] Explanation

Megan holding a smartphone tells White Hat that everyone now carries a computer in their pocket, and refers to how it is always on-line (connected) and is full of sensors (like orientation, vibration and GPS etc.) This is actually amazing and White Hat assumes she is overwhelmed and ask her if the development is changing too fast for her.

But it turns out that Megan is actually disappointed about the pace of technology's improvement, it goes too slowly. (Who isn't disappointed? From old sci-fi movies predictions we should by this point have flying cars and the flying skateboard like in Back to the Future 2 or a hyper technological future like in Blade Runner). She tells White Hat that she has decides to cryogenically freeze herself now that she has developed cryogenics (hence the title) far enough for humans to survive such a deep freeze, and then she climbs into her homemade chamber and plans to skip 30 years ahead in time.

Cryogenic freezing is the ability to freeze oneself, so that one does not age and doesn't experience the passage of time. It is common in fiction as a useful technology for long space flights or other necessary preservation (like in the film 2001).

However, to Megan's chagrin, when she wakes up, she is told by Cueball (who is not Terry!) that all the other scientists and engineers that were fascinated about the future have also frozen themselves, using her technology, even building their freezing chambers in a line to either side of her chamber, so nothing has been invented while she was frozen.

But as can be seen in panel four, and as Cueball tells her, they are all waking up now implying that finally something new can be invented! But Megan then immediately decides to try again to see what happens next, hoping the situation 30 years later will be different. But then the guy in one of the nearby chambers gets the same idea as she did (again). However, if everyone does the same thing again, the situation will repeat itself and nothing will ever change again, as they can continue this process in 30 years step. (Note that this is not time travel, but still related to this recurring theme in xkcd, and similar methods have been called time travel in xkcd before, like in 630: Time Travel and especially 1617: Time Capsule.)

It seems, however, that the engineer in the nearest chamber, to Megan's right, spots this problem and tries to stop all the other engineers from freezing down again, as he says Wait, guys.

The moral of the comic is:

Don't freeze yourself, engineers and scientists! We need your help!

The title text refers to tech startups (and existing tech companies) who often use bold marketing techniques, proclaiming that they are going to 'revolutionize' not only a particular product or service, but every facet of a users lives. One of the cliche phrases used in presentations is "Welcome to the future", implying that their product is the only way forwards, and all others are rendered obsolete.

In the title text this cliche is turned on its head, when Randall tells about a very short lived tech startup he tried to get going. The reason for the short live of the company, was that it admitted that nothing changed with it's slogan: 'Welcome to the future! Nothing's changed.'

Technology by its nature tends to evolve and improve, and thus a tech company which doesn't change will fall further and further behind their competitors, likely ending up going bust. Which was the case with Randall's (fake) tech startup.

[edit] Transcript

[Megan staring down at a smartphone in her hand talks to White Hat.]
Megan: Everyone's carrying sensor-packed, always-connected computers everywhere. That wasn't true ten years ago.
White Hat: It's all changing too fast, huh?
Megan: No, too slowly.
[Zoom in on Megan's upper part as she holds up the smartphone showing it has several round circles on the screen (maybe the dial screen with numbers in circles?)]
Megan: There's so much potential here. These clumsy, poorly-designed toys are nothing compared to what lies ahead.
[Megan climbs into a cryogenic chamber holding on to the open lid. The chamber stands on a base where a small box at the end of the chamber is connected to it through a bend tube. The lid is curved. The inside of the chamber is gray, except for a white patch which may be a control panel or an instruction. She leaves the smartphone on the floor in front of White Hat.]
Megan: That's why I've worked to develop cryogenic freezing.
Megan: I'm gonna skip forward 30 years and use this stuff when it's good.
[Cueball is greeting Megan holding a fist up in front of him, as Megan with morning hair rises up from the open cryogenic chamber, which is seen side on. The top of her head is just above the top of the open lid. (Cueball isn't Terry according to the original transcript! See trivia). At the top of the panel a frame with a caption is drawn over the panels frame. Inside there is a caption:]
30 years later...
Cueball: Welcome to the future! Nothing's changed.
Megan: What? Why??
[Cueball is still standing in front of Megan in the chamber, but the scene has rotated revealing a row of other cryogenic chambers behind hers, and the corner of one more in front of hers at the bottom right edge of the panel. All the chambers are drawn in light gray, also Megan's. Only Cueball, Megan and the text is black. The chamber after Megan's is still closed, but the next three visible are open and three people, the first a Cueball-like guy, the next maybe Cueball maybe Hairy and the last could have hair, be a Cueball or a woman with ponytail... The chamber in front of Megan's has also been open, the lid is not on it. The inside of the open chambers that are fully inside the panel has a different gray color than the lines of their drawing the same gray used in the first panel with an open chamber.]
Cueball: When cryogenic freezing was invented, all the engineers who were excited about the future froze themselves. So there's been no one building anything new.
[Cueball, now standing to the left of the chamber, is holding a hand out palm up. The scene has rotated to look straight in on the long side of Megan's chamber. She takes hold of the lid, the other hand on the edge, ready to close it again. To either side the bases of the two nearby chambers can just be seen. Two voices comes from off-panel to the right, the direction where only part of a chamber could be seen in the previous panel. The last to speak seems to be from the chamber next to Megan's, but is is not certain.]
Cueball: But they're all waking up now!
Megan: Sweet! I'm gonna jump forward to see what they do!
Engineer 1 (off-panel): Me too!
Engineer 2 (off-panel): Wait, uh, guys?

[edit] Trivia

  • This version of Cueball was called either Someone who isn't Terry or just plainly not Terry in the actual transcript by Randall.
    • It is a Futurama reference as Terry is a recurring Futurama character, and he is the "employee at Applied Cryogenics whose job is to greet the newly defrosted.
    • In the transcript, Randall is thus pointing out that the character in his Cryogenic lab is not the same as Terry the Futurama character.

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Should we begin work on www.explainexplainxkcd.com? Why is Cueball not Terry? .....

AngryBear (talk) 15:44, 2 January 2013 (UTC)

It was written in the actual transcript by Randall. Apparently a Futurama reference. 21:18, 2 January 2013 (UTC)
[Terry] is a recurring Futurama character, and he is the "employee at Applied Cryogenics whose job is to greet the newly defrosted." So Randall, in the transcript, is pointing out that the character in his Cryogenic lab is not the same as the Futurama character.
I have added this info to a trivia section. It is not a part of the comic, as most people have no idea where to see these transscripts. --Kynde (talk) 21:05, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

The future was yesterday, I'm sorry but you missed it! 21:35, 21 October 2015 (UTC)

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