Re: Who Should Live?

J. R. Molloy (
Wed, 17 Mar 1999 02:31:07 -0800

Billy Brown wrote,
>You seem to have some serious misconceptions about cryonics, and the
>expectations of cryonicists. For the record, I expect that the development
>of appropriate revival technology will be funded by the same trust fund
>keeps me suspended - i.e. its my money, and that of other cryonicists. We
>aren't asking you or anyone else to spend a single penny, or a second of
>your time. All you have to do is leave us alone.

I had no intention of interfering or intruding in any way. I simply pointed out to Randall that it would serve transhuman extropy better to fund intelligence augmentation, bionic engineering, and synthetic evolution rather than salvaging unavoidable obsolescence.

>As for whether people should sign up in the first place - well, this is a
>perfect example of the sort of things people should be free to decide for

Obviously people have that liberty. Extropians also have the freedom to endorse alternative means to arrive at a posthuman destiny. It comes down to a matter of personal taste, I suppose. I envision a future in which people _create_ better, smarter, stronger people rather than dredging them up from the morgue.

>> Instead of trying to revive the dead, I think it better to
>> find ways to raise the living to the level of Stephen Hawking, Spider
>> Robinson, Doug Engelbart, Robert M. Pirsig, Neal Stephenson, Douglass
>> Hofstadter, Martin Gardner, Arthur C. Clarke, Steven Jay Gould, and James
>> Randi, for example. In addition, I think that cryonics drains resources
>> could better go into finding cures for fatal disease and terminal
>> conditions.
>Then you need to take another look at what people are actually doing.
>now cryonics consumes an utterly trivial amount of money ( < $1 million
>annually ), none of which comes from public sources. What research money
>does consume is mostly devoted to improved methods of organ
>cryopreservation, which is quite useful for conventional medical purposes.
>The only other near-term research prospect is reversible biostasis, which
>again would have many important applications in general society.

Okay, so how does that help us decide "Who Should Live?" (the topic of the thread that Scott started).

>Reviving current suspendees would require both advanced nanotechnology and
>very advanced AI. Meaningful research on the topic is unlikely to be
>possible until after we have already eliminated diseases, ageing, and just
>about any other imaginable medical problem. Even intelligence enhancement
>is a simpler problem. So, your entire list will be old hat by the time
>'non-productive' cryonics research could even be attempted.

By the time "we have already eliminated diseases, aging, and just about any other imaginable medical problem" we might conceivably have the means to create a better human (transhuman) than any genius who ever lived. So why go backward, when we can go forward? How to justify salvaging what we've already surpassed? Not only would the entire list become "old hat" it would become garbage by the time you mention. Which restates my point.

>> Frankly, I think the world can "ill afford" to lose extropic
>> cognitive dissidents, and I don't think living extropians
>> should squander the resources of their world on the dead, even if the
>> have convinced some people that they believe in extropy.
>In other words, you don't think it will work, so no one should bother doing
>it. We'll, that's your choice - and again, no one is asking you to lift a

In other words, I think extropic humans can (and will) do better, so no one needs to lift a finger for cryonic humans. If some people choose to dwell on cryonics instead of more powerful extropic technologies, then, based on the figures you've supplied here, it won't amount to much waste. So it doesn't much matter.

If, in contrast to this scenario, cryonics succeeds to the point where the question, "Who Should Live" becomes more than a parlor game, to that extent it subverts extropy, because it supports stagnation more than it supports progress.

No one has asked me to lift a finger... no, they just asked, "Who Should Live?" Lucky for me the answer to that question does not require lifting a finger. Those who should live precisely correspond to those who surpass those who have died. Neither you nor I, but rather posthumans shall decide ultimately. Physically and finally, we will have to die as humans in order to become posthumans. So, the only thing cryonics can contribute to extropy relates to how it might help to develop transhumans, i.e., how it can displace humans with posthumans.

Of course you might prefer to think of life as a smooth, uninterrupted, transitional, evolutionary process with no annoying individual deaths -- a gentle morphological flow from one form to another. In counterpoint to this, I see the phase shift from human to posthuman as a quantum punctuation of evolution, a biological singularity so huge we can't even grok it. The posthuman superorganism will comprehend us perfectly well, but we haven't a clue. A century from now, cryonics will seem as childishly whimsical as Charlie Chaplin riding to the Moon on a cannonball.

>> Furthermore, cryonics seems entropic in that it denies
>> that life may create even more talented and gifted people. Scientists
>> capable of reviving dead genius could create even greater genius, and
>> consequently would have no reason to perform resurrections.
>> After all, it makes no sense to rebuild a 1950 machine, when you can
>> a better and more powerful new one to replace and surpass the old one in
>> 2050. Cryonics can only hope to revive talented and gifted people, but
>> transhuman extropy seeks to surpass, exceed, augment, and transcend what
>> gone before, no matter how talented and gifted.
>My, what a wonderfully deathist set of memes. By that logic, we should all
>just shoot ourselves at age 75 to make room for the next generation.

No, not "deathist" whatever that means, but rather extropic. By this logic, we should all just focus on reaching our full potential as creative entities, and supporting technology which will itself evolve into new forms of life. You don't need to lift a finger (or put a finger on the trigger), as that master of the bleeding obvious, Swinburne has written, "No man lives forever, dead men rise up never."

"shoot ourselves at age 75"? I don't know why, but that reminds me of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. Or perhaps it has to do with your word "deathist." I have nothing to do with any of that, but anyone who hasn't seriously considered suicide hasn't grown up yet. The next generation will make room for itself, don't worry about that.

>Cryonics is an insurance policy aimed at improving one's odds of surviving
>long enough to take advantage of advanced medical technology (especially
>life extension). Morally, it is no different than a heart transplant.
>Cryonicists have no desire to 'hold back' the rest of the world - we just
>want to live.

Okay, fine. As Soupy Sales used to say, "All you insurance salesmen... Watch your policies!"
I understand the motives behind cryonics. I also understand that the political realities of a severely overpopulated planet will need to change as drastically as any technology in order for cryonicists to survive the next punctuation in evolution. And I understand that I may have completely missed the mark in this respect, and cryonics may really take off in the coming years, so that tens of millions of people opt for cryonic suspension rather than cremation or burial. Whatever happens, I don't think I'll shoot myself to make room for the next generation. I may just shoot myself because I understand that I've already lived as much as I can, and hanging around annoys others as much as it bores me. That probably won't happen for another ten or fifteen years. At any rate, I'd better get busy and scrape up the money to freeze my shot-dead body.

>> Cryonics contains the seed of its own demise, namely, entropic conceit.
>Try as I may, I can see nothing "entropic" about a desire to save lives.

The meme "saving lives" entails entropy because it seeks to stop dynamic change and spontaneous natural order. I think that when we more clearly understand biology at all its levels, from the molecular to the societal and ecological levels, we will begin to appreciate the significance of our existence more fully. Extropy gives us order for free, and when we intrude on that order, even with the best of intentions (or with selfish intentions) to save lives, we smash against the complex algorithms of life itself.

Perhaps my raving here amounts to "deathism" but death and birth eternally form the two sides of life. Yet, by the logic of cryonicism, we should freeze talented and gifted persons while still young and healthy (you should freeze yourself while you're still young and healthy), so that cryonics can preserve you in good shape, thereby providing a better chance for a successful revival -- to save your life for a future time of advanced medical technology, especially life extension.

You think of this as an argument against cryonics, but really it just argues for an answer to the question "Who Should Live?" I say those should live who grab life by the throat every day and squeeze the juice out of every moment. I say William Blake got it extropically correct when he wrote: "Who seeks to bind herself a joy
Does its winged life destroy
Who touches beauty as he flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise."


--J. R.