Re: Who Should Live?

J. R. Molloy (
Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:55:05 -0800

Billy Brown wrote,
>Why not? From a moral/philosophical perspective, what is the difference?

I think that cryonics differs from "life extension technology in general" because cryonics represents a small part of the technology in general, and I find other parts of life extension technology more promising, more interesting, and more potentially much more powerful. Especially interesting, clone technology combined with genetic modification and combinatorial chemistry may have the possibility to amplify intelligence far beyond present human levels. This may provide transhumans a significant (who knows, maybe as much as a ten year) lead over silicon-based AI, to leap-frog Moore's Law. To effectively manage future information technology, humans will need all the augmented and genetically enhanced intelligence they can get. I don't believe in personality, so I have no interest in freezing my imaginary persona.

Beyond mentioning that moralism and philosophy have their roots in biology, I haven't much to say about them, except that building a better organism can result in better mores with less philosophizing.

>I was referring to the longstanding resistance to any sort of longevity
>research. This barrier has begun to erode recently, but it has cost us a
>lot of time. The more time we lose, the more people will die before we
>an effective life extension treatment.

It seems to me folks can get real touchy about this, so just let me say that I endorse whatever medical research pays off in real benefit to real people. Just because I don't happen to think much will come of cryonics doesn't mean that I wish to intrude on others' enthusiasm for it.

Let me put it this way. In answer to Scott's query ("Choose five people that you most wish would embrace the idea of cryonics because they have a talent or a gift that the world can ill afford to lose"), I tried to indicate that the people I think the world can least afford to lose may not themselves embrace the idea of cryonics. Apparently some people on this list did not grok what I meant by that, so let me add that the people I think the world can least afford to lose have not yet emerged from ultra-technology.

The world, I suspect, will need super-intelligent and super-sane people who can effectively manage human destiny on the chaotic eve of the Singularity. Such super-people, it seems to me, will more likely come from clone technology combined with genetic modification and combinatorial chemistry or some new technology other than cryonics. I think the posthuman wants to get born ASAP, and it doesn't have a messianic attitude toward humans. It doesn't have a savior complex either. It wants to reach to the stars, just like some of us do. And like us, it won't tolerate fools and assholes. To it, we will appear as fools and assholes. It may even have an attitude: "Get used to it, or get augmented."

>Why? Contrary to the beliefs of the Club of Rome, we have yet to face any
>significant shortage of resources. Suspending people who can pay for it
>simply creates another industry - and it isn't going to be any bigger than
>cosmetics, or tobacco.

That seems reasonable to me. But you'll have to convince the Club of Rome. I didn't even know of them until you mentioned the name. Then again, don't try to convince the Club of Rome. Don't even tell them about cryonics. They sound like a group whose talents and gifts the world can easily afford to lose.

>A "global conflagration"? How? As Anders would say, this is a Hollywood

Perhaps so, or it might more closely mimic a Club of Rome meme.

>Rationally, we would expect a treatment for old age to follow the same
>course as any other medical advance. It starts out being so expensive that
>only the wealthy can afford it, and gradually becomes cheaper as its use
>expands. Anyone who can afford it can buy the treatment, and the cost
>steadily with time.

Of course, but the treatment for aged suspension patients involves reviving them, and no one has yet demonstrated that treatment. So, as you suspend more and more patients, the demand for the revival treatment increases, even though it doesn't yet exist. That pushes the price up.

>That being the case, what is going to start a "conflagration"? Poor people
>in America don't storm hospitals today seeking cancer treatments, or
>cosmetic surgery, or other expensive medical treatments. They lobby their
>politicians for entitlements, or work to improve their status so they can
>buy better insurance. Why should we expect things to be any different for
>ageing treatments?

Oh, I dunno, perhaps the Chinese, lacking cryonic technology themselves, may decide to take exception to other cultures' suspending hundreds of millions of their aged patients. Or perhaps Asian families, eager to preserve their own elders (some worship ancestors), may invest in US cryonic corporations, which might put US militia maniacs in higher gear.

Wait until poor people in America car-jack enough vehicles so that they can mobilize to storm hospitals. Just kidding... don't hack my ISP's server!

I've probably overstated my position on this issue. In itself, I don't really think cryonics can ignite a social rebellion/conflagration, but it could add fuel to the fire.

>Now, I know some people are afraid that there will be some sort of uprising
>in the Third World, but that idea ignores the military realities. A nation
>that is too poor to afford modern medical care is also too poor to afford a
>modern military, which makes them completely impotent on the world stage.
>Besides, most of the people in these countries are still wedded to beliefs
>that oppose life extension - it will take a lot of exposure to the idea to
>even get them interested.

Precisely so. Which explains why I think this could lead to a conflict between haves and have nots. When the have nots feel so excluded that they can't even get a real rebellion going, then watch out. Powerful social influence often comes from people with nothing (or very little) to lose. They fight most earnestly and tenaciously. The kamikaze and the suicide bomber have their own madness to motivate them.

Global corporations want posthumans to get born as much as the posthumans do, because corporations need the brains. Expert computer systems already replace aged company consultants, so corporations don't have much interest in expert suspended patients. Upon revival, many suspended patients may actually find themselves in the ranks of the poor, due to their inability to catch up educationally, plus their huge medical bills for the revival operation and the cure for what killed or incapacitated them.

--J. R.