Re: Who Should Live?

J. R. Molloy (
Wed, 17 Mar 1999 22:50:20 -0800

Billy Brown wrote,
>Glad to hear it. Your previous post sounded like you'd be willing to
>endorse anti-cryonics legislation.

I do not now and never have publicly endorsed any kind of legislation.

>As it currently exists, transhumanism is incapable of funding significant
>research of any kind (unless we've got a few closet billionaires I don't
>know about). To my mind, that makes any serious debate about what we
>spend our money on rather pointless - when we actually have some, then it
>may be productive to argue about it.

Well, if nobody has any money to spend on it, and it can't happen without money, then the whole issue remains science fiction. Nothing ignores political reality quite like science fiction. I loved science fiction as a child, but science fact carries weight.

>So do I. So do most other cryonicists. I also hope to be one of those
>enhanced people - and I intend to take every possible measure to increase
>the odds of that happening.

A great enhancement of consciousness comes from understanding the appeal of hope, how it arrests development, and interferes with direct experience of reality. A belief in the power of hope seems to me a superstitious anti-scientific obstinacy. As Ben Franklin said, "He that lives upon hope will die fasting." ...and, "Hope is a good breakfast, but a bad supper." To which Ralph G. Ingersoll would add, "Hope is the universal liar." Even Diogenes Laertius says, "Hope is a waking dream."

>Note the assumption that suspension patients are dead. This is

I see no legal contradiction in calling "suspension patients" dead. Do "suspension patients" vote? Do they pay taxes?

>If cryonics can never work, these people are dead. They will never be
>brought back, so the issue will not arise.

The issue will not arise if no one can bring them back? Why not? It seems to me that describes the issue you just referred to: "the assumption that suspension patients are dead" no longer remains an assumption does it?

>If they can be brought back, then they aren't dead in any meaningful sense.
>They are equivalent (in a moral sense) to comatose hospital patients, or
>people in suspended animation, or anyone else who is unconscious and unable
>to resume normal functioning without medical attention. We could
>the word "hospital" for "morgue", with no change in the moral content of

"meaningful sense" according to whom? They might feel it has some meaning. "Suspended patients" have a few more problems than the comatose or merely unconscious, but so what? The moral content of the statement remains: Better to build something new than to drag something out of the hospital.

>It was a purely hypothetical question, and it is pretty unlikely that
>anything like it would ever arise in the real world. Cryonic suspension is
>not especially expensive (unless you're already 80 when you start thinking
>about it), so it is pretty hard to find people who want to sign up but
>afford to. If someone knows about cryonics, and doesn't sign up, they've
>made their decision.

Since the whole thing remains hypothetical and "pretty unlikely," it sounds expensive at any price. If someone knows about cryonics (as you've just outlined it), and signs up, they've blown their money. The more one thinks about it, the more it begins to look like a pyramid scheme.

>Besides, I believe the spirit of Scott's question could be captured as "If
>you could pick 10 people to live forever, who would they be?" Its essence
>is "Who do we most admire?", not "How should we spend our money?"

I think he mentioned just five people. So, who did you vote for?

>Obviously, in a realistic scenario no one we pick is likely to have much
>impact on the future. That isn't the point.

If the whole thing amounts to a hypothetical, excuse me for bothering you about it. I think extropy (as opposed to cryonics) deals with more than hypotheticals, so let's get back to real issues.

>Would you say the same thing about life extension technology in general?

Probably not.

>Deathism is the believe that death is a good thing. It is generally found
>as part of a belief in some sort of universal harmony, cycle, or order
>is more important than the individual, and too sacred to be subjected to
>human meddling. In the vast majority of cases people with this sort of
>belief see any attempt to achieve physical immortality as morally
>or even evil.

Luckily, that doesn't apply to us.

>IMO, this kind of thinking is one of the biggest problems we face today.
>may have been a necessary adaptation in the days when there was no prospect
>of real life extension, but that is no longer the case. Today it promotes
>an irrational acceptance of mortality that greatly impedes life extension
>research, and is thus likely to lead to hundreds of millions of unnecessary

Hundreds of millions of suspension patients does begin to sound like it might cost more than a few bucks.

>Either I've completely missed your point, or you haven't thought this one

No biggie, I just meant that overpopulation presently (not in the future or the imagination) constitutes a problem which humans will need to solve _before_ putting hundreds of millions of people into suspension.

>If a singularity is immanent, the whole modern concept of the overpopulated
>Earth is meaningless. Even primitive nanotech would enable the Earth to
>support hundreds of billions of people in luxury. It would also easily
>allow us to move our entire civilization into space, restore the Earth to a
>pristine state, recreate the vast majority of all extinct species, and
>terraform Mars and Venus to boot. Resource scarcity would not become an
>issue for many centuries - and this is just pre-singularity technology.

That answers the question, "Who Should Live" ...the Singularity should live!

>That being the case, the idea that reviving cryonicists contributes to
>overpopulation doesn't make much sense.

Right, because the Singularity will decide, not us.

>I doubt it. IMO, the general population will not embrace cryonics until a
>fully reversible procedure is available - at which point we aren't talking
>about the same thing.

There you go, when the procedure becomes available, so may better things than cryonics become available. So, cryonics doesn't matter as much as addressing the issues of who should live, which has the potential to ignite a global conflagration as desperate humans compete for longer lives.

>If you don't want to live, then there would hardly be any point to getting
>yourself frozen.

Except that getting yourself frozen does end depression... until advanced medical techniques can more decisively remove it, or until such time as the cause for depression disappears. If you don't want to live in this world, cryonics offers the only materialistic alternative, at least for now.

>But, come on, "ten or fifteen years"? Surely you can do better than that.
>If nothing else, don't you want to see how it all turns out?

You don't think ten or fifteen years may suffice to see how it all turns out? For all we know, it could all turn out tomorrow. I don't intend to just sit around and wait. I intend to just sit around. Ten or fifteen years should do quite nicely. The last ten or fifteen years haven't let me down either.

>I see. So, does this also apply to life extension research? What about
>treatments for age-related illnesses like Alzheimer's and heart disease?
>how about cancer treatments, organ transplants, and blood transfusions?
>These are all ways that we "intrude" on the "complex algorithms of life

But they don't have much to do with cryonics.

>Ah, no. That is a common misconception, but it has nothing to do with what
>cryonicists actually think.
>As some of us are fond of saying, being frozen is the second worst thing
>that could ever happen to me. I have no interest at all in being frozen
>young, and I hope to avoid ever being frozen at all. I'd much rather face
>an unknown future on my own two feet than in a dewar.

Me too. Nevertheless...
"It is natural for man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not." --Patrick Henry (fond of saying it too)

>However, I may not be that lucky. I may come down with some incurable
>disease, or get mangled in an auto accident, or meet some other untimely
>end. Or, I may be completely mistaken about how long advanced technologies
>will take to arrive, and I may simply run out of lifespan too soon. Either
>way, being frozen is a second change - instead of being dead and gone, I
>have a possibility of being revived. Its still a bad situation, but it
>isn't quite as bad as being worm food.

The odds of getting (me) suspended seem astronomical to me, since I can't even afford medical insurance. (Uh-oh, there goes another cat out of the bag.)

>So do I. But I don't intend to go quietly when the grim reaper comes
>calling. I have more to do, to say, to learn and to see that could ever be
>accomplished in a human lifespan, and I'm not leaving until I'm done.

For a nominal fee, you can adopt me as your suspension patient. <g>

Thanks for the interaction, and remember: If you want to get done before you leave, don't volunteer for anything.


--J. R.