Re: Who Should Live?

Scott Badger (
Wed, 17 Mar 1999 10:27:53 -0600

J. R. wrote:

>Obviously people have that liberty. Extropians also have the freedom to
>endorse alternative means to arrive at a posthuman destiny. It comes down
>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.

I think what I find most upsetting about your views on cryonics is that seem unusually callous. Perhaps this is because you keep referring to those who are cryonically preserved as being dead. Cryonicists believe that these people are still alive. . . very sick, but still alive. Is using CPR or a defibrillator a waste of resources because the person is obviously dead? Suspension protocols are most appropriately thought of as emergency medical procedures designed to save someone's life. Emergency medical procedures, in general, have varying probabilities of success. We don't know yet what that probability figure is for cryonics but we believe that it is certainly greater than zero.

> 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).

Actually, I started this thread by asking those on the list to select the 5 people that they most wished would enbrace the idea of cryonics because the world could ill-afford to lose their particular gifts. There weren't very many responses to _that_ question. The issue of whether cryonic suspendees should be revived or not is one that you brought up, I believe.

>>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
>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.

Well, for one thing, reviving a few geniuses and recruiting their talents just may speed up the process of building a better human. Besides, as has been mentioned, the biotechnology that will lead to reversible suspensions is going to progress anyway because there are a large number of medical applications besides reviving cryonauts.


>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.

What are you saying here? I must die in order to become a posthuman? The human race must die to make room for post humans? That's news to me.

>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
>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.

I can understand how I might compare a "posthuman version of me vs. the current version of me" to "the current version of me vs. a 1 year-old version of me". In a sense, the 1 year-old version had to "die" to make room for the current version of me. I realize that my developmental transitions have been pretty smooth so far, and I agree that future transitions may be much more quantum-like. Any transition from one state to another involves the "death" of the earlier state, but is that the kind of death you're referring to?

>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
>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.

Uh-oh. The meme, "Death and birth eternally form the two sides of life." is a particularly virulent one, and helps explain many of your views. Am I alone in considering this meme to be more Yin-Yang, dualistic, polarized-thining nonsense? I also don't believe that cryonicists would advocate being frozen in a young and healthy state. It's true that I personally resent the fact that the state can prevent me from arranging a cryonic suspension while I'm still alive, though. I would want the option of assisted suicide with immediate suspension if I discovered, for example, that I had developed Alzheimer's or if I was terminally ill and in a great amount of pain. Why waste thousands and thousands of dollars and medical resources on palliative care that is only briefly delaying my deanimation when I plan on being suspended anyway?

>You think of this as an argument against cryonics, but really it just
>for an answer to the question "Who Should Live?" I say those should live
>grab life by the throat every day and squeeze the juice out of every
>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.

Yes, grabbing the gusto is a good thing. I intend to grab it for a long, long time in many different forms.

Best regards,

Scott B.