A.C. Clarke and Cryonics

Rick Knight (rknight@platinum.com)
Mon, 04 Aug 97 00:29:09 CST

Max More wrote:

Clarke knows about cryonics, and has even written a brief for Alcor
back when they were under attack by government agencies. He has no
plans to sign up, and has some objection based on his view of personal
identity, i.e., he thinks there is no point signing up because he will
eventually become such a different person. I find it hard to see this
as anything other than a rationalization for some fear he has.

Rick Knight responds:

Why do you find it hard to see that the man's view of life extension
involves the relinquishing of acquired self-hood? It tends to be for
the pro-cryonics crowd the ultimate holy grail (pardon the religious
pun) that the body and the self are unconditionally joined. I have no
interest in cryonics and it has nothing to do with fear. But a person
with the intelligence that Clarke has and the vision that he has time
and time again most aptly conveyed to the world doesn't seem to match
up to the judgment you would assign him.

Clarke may find that cryonics, despite any compelling empirical
evidence, is just a quaint notion, like a child not wanting to give up
his belief in Santa Claus. It's not so much the preservation of
body/brain that cryonics promotes but the restoration/reactivation of
a pre-existing "self". This alludes to self being completely
electro-chemical in nature.

To that I pose the question: what of the person who suffers
irrecoverable amnesia, forgeting all memories of the former life
including intimate relationships, even children. Did that "person"
die? Who know is in charge of the body of that person?

On the other hand, look the people documented in the book/film
"Awakenings". Time stopped for these people, sometimes for decades,
until they were brought back to life (mentally). The thing was,
during their zombie-like state, their physical lives were continuing.
A cryonically preserved body/head may be regarded as living. I think
a distinction between preserved and living is yet to be made.

The reanimation notions promoted in "Fifth Element" (a person rebuilt
from a rescued amputated arm I think) is interesting to note. Is
consciousness embedded in every cell so that when the complete
physiological form is re-fashioned, the brain re-establishes itself as
the command center, taking its information from a cellular "upload"?