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.


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, that 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 decided 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. (Actually, this should be called "cryonics", preserving humans, not "Cryogenics", which is just science at low temperatures)

Cryonic 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 book 2001). Also people who are terminally ill or beyond current technology to save sometimes go through companies such as the Cryonics Institute in hope that future technology can cure them.

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 had also frozen themselves using her technology, even building their freezing chambers in a line to either side of her chamber, so nothing had been invented while she was frozen.

But as Cueball tells her in the final panel, they are all waking up now, implying that finally something new can be invented! But Megan then immediately decides to freeze herself 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 year steps. (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 user's life. One of the cliché 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 cliché 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 life of the company was that it admitted that nothing changed with its 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.


[Megan staring down at a smartphone in her hand while talking 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 its screen.]
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 which stands on a base where a small box at the end of the chamber is connected to it through a bend tube. 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.]
30 years later...
Cueball: Welcome to the future! Nothing's changed.
Megan: What?
Megan: Why??
[Cueball still stands in front of Megan in the chamber, but the scene has rotated revealing a row of other cryogenic chambers behind. The chamber after Megan's is still closed, but the others are open and people emerging.]
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.
[The scene has rotated to look straight in on the long side of Megan's chamber, Cueball is standing to the left of the chamber. She holds the cover ready to close it again. Two voices comes from off-panel to the right.]
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?


  • 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)