Self and other, and cryonics (was Re: Deep Field)

Michael Butler (
Thu, 3 Jul 1997 13:38:30 -0700 (PDT)

> this prompted a philosophical question of why/how could he be ME? Why
> am I considering that I am not the isolated individual, but part of a
> continuum where we are just beginning to free exchange ideas, energy
> and contribution?

I've been there, I've wondered that. I am the sun on my face, for without
it I would cease to be. I am my friends, for without them I would not be
who I am. Every time communication occurs, the boundary between self and
other blurs.

> body which seems to curiously change from year to year. Freezing my
> body (or even more whimsically, my head) seems a rather quaint notion.

Speaking only for myself, getting frozen is the second worst thing that
could happen to me. Most afterlife stories seem rather quaint to me.
But I try to remember that from the right vantage point, all adjectives
are "quaint"... they tell much more about the observer than the observed.

> Does extropian thinking focus so much on the physically proven and
> sound as to consider this the most preferable and viable solution to
> achieving "immortality"?

Again, speaking only for myself, the best way to achieve immortality (in
Woody Allen's words) is by not dying.

On the other hand, I believe there are some things worth dying for--and
that these things include finding out "what's next"--IF such is your

Paradoxically, I find myself worrying a lot less about my eventual
demise, and my place in the cosmos, since signing up. It's like "Well,
that's handled about as well as I can manage (as long shots go)... now
what is my _life_ about?"

It _is_ a long shot. Absolutely. I can do very little about the state of
the preservation-of-self art when/if I get frozen; my focus is on helping
create a world, as I mentioned in another post, that satisfies my two
"least criteria":
1) a world that I wouldn't mind coming back to, and
2) a world that wouldn't mind bringing me back.

Oddly enough, helping create such a world seems to imply living a
virtuous, possibly even Christlike, life. And when I'm doing my best, I
don't mind that much if I don't come back. "A good day to die", in the
overused Native American phrase.

>As a mental exercise, I wonder what
> discoveries of the essence, the unforseen would radically change such
> notions? That which is beyond the horizon where the fishermen's wives
> are no longer visible from the shore and you are going on gut instinct
> and conviction.

Consider cryonics as a transport protocol: in time, rather than in space.
If bringing someone back someday costs about what a Life Flight medevac
helicopter ride and an overnight stay in a hospital costs today (say, $10k
total)--why *not* do it? The Golden Rule is a *good* I-and-thou myth.

If it's ever _proven_ that recovering _the person_, whatever that turns
out to be, is a fundamental impossibility... Well, I bet a lousy $100k
insurance policy and a dollar a day for my cryonics society membership,
and I "lost". No big deal, some people spend more on exotic vacations or
powdering their noses. And if I really died _dead_ anyway, then the
Cosmic Whatsis had its way with me, no? Om shanti.

Now, there's a bare possibility that getting frozen will result in my
becoming a "ghost", unable fully to participate in Whatever Comes Next,
but if the pull of the Cosmic Whatsis is that powerful I expect I'll be
freed eventually.

> Personally, I'm rather curious about what happens to a "self" released
> from physical containment. I suppose for some extropians, in comes
> down to going for the likelier (or preferred) outcome

If that's your absolute top priority, go for it! I respect your right to
choose. Heinlein is reported to have said "How do I know it won't
interfere with reincarnation?" when polled, near the end of his life, by a
significant figure in the Cryonics scene. That man told me the story with
a bitter shake of the head; I just closed my eyes for a moment and nodded.

> Seems like life without challenge and quest is apathy and
> inertia, once assured comfort has become mundane and there's no energy
> one needs to devote towards the most inane survival issue.

I'll let you know once I've fully conquered my human genetic apparent
predisposition for dysthymia (See David Pearce's _Hedonistic Imperative_
Website). Having spent roughly 30 years in an endocrine holding pattern, I
believe I could do with a few hundred of worthwhile striving--and yes, I
do include cooperation in that :).

Einstein is reputed to have said, late in life, "The most important
question a person can ask is: 'Is the universe a friendly place?'."
Either answer allows for plenty room to construct a Meaning of Life, and
as much melodrama/"attachment" as you desire. If you're perfectly detached
and desireless, then relaxing and floating downstream "is not dying"...
and so what?

The myth that I am in here and you are out there is how we live these
days, most of us, most of the time. Sometimes we mung it, and sometimes it
mungs us. If that changes, everything else changes.

Paraphrasing the senior archangel at the end of _Stranger in a Strange
Land_, "Of course 'thou art god'--now quit being so formal and _get back
to work_!"

> To subscribe to life extension methods such as cryonics, I'd have to
> be more sure of what "life" is. Too many details missing from this to
> make an informed decision.


> personality type required for such a job. Maybe that's enough of a
> notion to go fot it. For me, cryonics sounds like a better spin on
> life may get to enjoy it. Gentlemen, place your bets.

Absolutely, that's all it is. As I mentioned, I feel freer, able on a more
relaxed way, to discuss and even plan for my own possible eventual
mortality, having hedged as best I can.