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Cryonics and marriage
July 11, 2010 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Until Cryonics Do Us Part: The men who want to be cryonically preserved, and the women who sometimes find it hard to be married to them.
posted by homunculus (137 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
My favorite story about cryonics is still Another Cold Morning.
posted by homunculus at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


My little brother, Yehuda Nattan Yudkowsky, is dead.

He died November 1st. His body was found without identification. The family found out on November 4th. I spent a week and a half with my family in Chicago, and am now back in Atlanta. I've been putting off telling my friends, because it's such a hard thing to say.

I used to say: "I have four living grandparents and I intend to have four living grandparents when the last star in the Milky Way burns out." I still have four living grandparents, but I don't think I'll be saying that any more. Even if we make it to and through the Singularity, it will be too late. One of the people I love won't be there. The universe has a surprising ability to stab you through the heart from somewhere you weren't looking. Of all the people I had to protect, I never thought that Yehuda might be one of them. Yehuda was born July 11, 1985. He was nineteen years old when he died.

Since Yehuda's body was not identified for three days after he died, there was no possible way he could have been cryonically suspended. Others may be luckier. If you've been putting off that talk with your loved ones, do it. Maybe they won't understand, but at least you won't spend forever wondering why you didn't even try.


This worldview... so optimistic, yet so prone to tragedy.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:16 PM on July 11, 2010


You know, even if the cryonics people are right, I don't think they are thinking clearly. You revive a brain-what kind of living hell must it be to be just a brain? You really trust the future to make sure you got a body to go with it-one that works???? Sounds like a working definition of hell to me.

Of course I think they're all nutcases, but nevertheless....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:28 PM on July 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm skeptical about cryonics, but I do find the spouses' reactions in this article completely baffling and alien. Is there something missing where the would-be cryonically-frozen men are saying they don't want their significant others frozen as well?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:30 PM on July 11, 2010


You revive a brain-what kind of living hell must it be to be just a brain? You really trust the future to make sure you got a body to go with it-one that works????

Mmmm, brain transplant.
posted by new brand day at 5:36 PM on July 11, 2010


People who look down on cryonics are misunderstanding the math.

You're dead.

If it works, yee-haw. If it doesn't, you're still dead.

You are only out the money you spend on this slim chance.

But it's a slim chance at immortality. How much is that worth?

You know the odds against you of winning the lottery. Don't spend a dollar each week, it's silly.

OK, but what if the cost of a lottery ticket was a penny? You'd play for sure, then, right? Hell, you've got pennies stuck in your couch cushions.

But, you say, if the lottery odds were a penny, then more people would play (Hey, $1 is 100 chances to win, right?), lowering your odds again. Now even a penny per week seems foolish, right?

OK, now what if the lottery odds were a penny, but instead of money, the prize was you get to be God.

Now would you play? Would you play for a penny? Hell yes. How about a dollar? Trust me -- somewhere, we'll find a number that's acceptable to you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:43 PM on July 11, 2010 [13 favorites]


Here's the other thing about cryonics.

You're dead. You won't remember the time in which you were dead.

It would be like waking up after surgery, completely unaware that hours had passed between the time the anesthesiologist hit you with the drugs and the time the nurse shook you awake.

My wife donated bone marrow. Freakiest thing, she said? She started surgery on her back and woke up on her back, but the entrance points for the extraction were on her back. Which meant that at some point while she was asleep, they had rolled her over, performed surgery, and then rolled her back to where she started. She's completely unaware of this happening.

So, if you're frozen ... you remember being alive ... and then shazam, you're still alive.

As Neo would say ... whoa.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:47 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't get the "arguments" against cryonics either. You don't want to live forever? OK, I'll take whatever lifespan you don't want.
posted by DU at 5:51 PM on July 11, 2010


I'm getting sort of tired arguing about the futility of current cryogenics, so I won't.

I will state that, if my spouse fell for some sort of afterlife scam that cost tens of thousands of dollars, I WOULD be angry.
"This is not a hobby or conversation piece,” he wrote in 1968, adding, “it is the struggle for survival. Drive a used car if the cost of a new one interferes. Divorce your wife if she will not cooperate.
Scientology urges the exact same thing.
posted by muddgirl at 5:52 PM on July 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


Give me immortality. Or give me death.
Dear Friends, where's a link to FT's Freezing Mr. Foster when I need it?
posted by hal9k at 5:56 PM on July 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, I was pretty disappointed with this article. The core couple, Robin and Peggy, did not seem to demonstrate "hostile-wife syndrome".
posted by muddgirl at 5:57 PM on July 11, 2010


But it's a slim chance at immortality. How much is that worth?

Oh yeah, I know the attraction of continuing to exist after my own death.

On my driver's licence under my address it says "Donor: A" (for "all"). I've talked about it with the people I care about, and that's the immortality I want: when I'm not using my body parts any more, I want to be stripped clean, first come first served. Want a kidney? Hey I won't be metabolising any more. Corneas? Got two of 'em.

I'm a regular (and probably excessive) user of alcohol, I don't do nearly as much exercise as I should, I have a history of stroke in my family, and every now and then I ride a motorbike in an urban area. So my odds are pretty good for immortality already, thanks.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:58 PM on July 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


I feel like death and grief are part of being alive. It would be strange to miss that adventure.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:05 PM on July 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think we agree on the science, muddgirl, but what fascinates me is the recurring idea that life extension is somehow horrible- not because it has negative effects on society or the environment, but that there is some kind of inherent horror to living longer than we "naturally" do (as if the word has any meaning in the age of chemotherapy and the like). I suspect that it's a reaction to unattainability of eternity; denied it, we turn aside and mutter about sour grapes, and sometimes go on to write very nearly every science fiction story about life extension ever.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:12 PM on July 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


To be fair, if someone made me choose between a life-saving treatment and them, yeah, I would split up. Given the part where you view cryonics as valid, you're logically looking at a choice between life and someone who wants you to do it their way and die.

Assuming that we do not tear ourselves and the planet to pieces, cryonics is likely to be a First In, Last Out procedure. At some point the ability to revive people will come to pass and humanity will revive the freshest ones first. Later, they will have learned more and will be able to revive less recent bodies, frozen with cruder and cruder techniques. After a very long time, the oldest corpscicles will be the hardest possible endeavor — raw brains, frozen under the worst conditions, requiring atom-by-atom analysis and massive inferences from data mined about the dead to fill in the behaviors and memories too damaged to guess from brain structure damaged by, say, ice crystals.

Right now, that Roth character is working on slowing metabolism with very specific oxygen deprivation, would could be a great start to actual freezing. New techniques in vitrification, freezing without ice crystals, are evolving. If I were frozen now, even with DVDs full of my scanned in journals and bills and whatnot, I would still expect it to be a few centuries before my mind could be rebuilt in some fashion, and I might only be 90% the same, in terms of personality. I'd take it. I'm hardly the same person I was ten years ago, in any case.

She works in what amounts to an industry of witnessing death, of accepting it. Good on her, but that doesn't have to be everyone's choice.
posted by adipocere at 6:17 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I feel like death and grief are part of being alive. It would be strange to miss that adventure.

Well, luckily those who are woken up from cryonic sleep still get the mourn the loss of everyone they ever knew!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:17 PM on July 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


when I'm not using my body parts any more, I want to be stripped clean, first come first served.

Don't see how this conflicts. I mean, who'll want your brain?

(Aside from zombies)

So donate all of your body, freeze your brain. Unless you donate it to SCIENCE! or something, which is another sort of immortality, I suppose.

Frankly, I agree with the article that what people want done with their own bodies, they should be able to do. I can see the spouses being angry at the cost of cryonics, and I think they have a point, since financial decisions should involve both husband and wife equally.

"I see people dying All. The. Time. And what’s so good about me that I’m going to live forever?”

Peggy finds the quest an act of cosmic selfishness

This is a point that gets brought up again and again regarding life extension generally, and it's one I fiercely disagree with. Selfishness is only bad when it causes affliction for other people. Who is being harmed here by Robin taking a shot at immortality? Again, if this would cause financial hardship to the family, I understand Peggy's issue, but absent negative consequences for others, the cry that "selfishness is bad" seems nonsensical.

That said, this statement:

Drive a used car if the cost of a new one interferes. Divorce your wife if she will not cooperate.

I think clearly falls under the harm principle. Sure, short-shrift your family and abandon your children for the sake of a long odds shot.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:21 PM on July 11, 2010


But it's a slim chance at immortality. How much is that worth?

This is just Pascal's Wager for atheists. By this logic, I should be tithing 10% to, like, three incompatible Christian sects, wearing a hijab, and keeping kosher, among other observances. You know, just in case.
posted by muddgirl at 6:22 PM on July 11, 2010 [21 favorites]


Until Cryonics Do Us Part: The men who want to be cryonically preserved, and the women who sometimes find it hard to be married to them.

ie. Until melt us do part
posted by hal_c_on at 6:25 PM on July 11, 2010


Well, you guys are assuming that they thaw the brain out and will be reattaching it to a body. You trust the future? Talk about ultimate lack of control....

As for me, I have an alternative plan for resurrection. I like mine better.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:26 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cryonics: Your body might not be immortal, but there's no reason your narcissism can't be!
posted by Sys Rq at 6:26 PM on July 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


P.S. There will never be a cure for death, no matter how frozen your head is.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:28 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell: OK, now what if the lottery odds were a penny, but instead of money, the prize was you get to be God.

What rot. You won't get to be God. You'll live an endless cycle of aging, dying, rebooting. Even if we cure the old diseases, new ones will arise. As long as there is velocity, there will be a chance of trauma. Even more than usual your life will be full of suffering. Infinite life won't make you happy, although you might just get infinite chances. You might be like that flaky old PC in a dusty corner, always needing to be restarted, except in pain.
posted by elephantday at 6:28 PM on July 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ah. Robin Hanson. Only just made the connection. Feeling dense now.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:29 PM on July 11, 2010


As for me, I have an alternative plan for resurrection.

If it's the one I'm thinking of, the cryonics candidate still has a shot at that one if cryonics doesn't work, as long as he pays his tithe and goes to church on Sunday. They're hardly mutually exclusive.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:31 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Creepy Portraits Of Where All Those Frozen Heads Go
posted by homunculus at 6:37 PM on July 11, 2010


Wake me up right before the sun goes supernova, man.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:42 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


My biggest problem with cryonics is that it combines some of what we know about cryobiology with a variety of speculative "what ifs" that have no basis in reality, yet they're more than happy to accept thousands of dollars from people - usually in the form of their life insurance pay-outs - to give them a sense of hope with no real backing from the medical community. It sort of reminds me of psychic mediums, in the sense of exploiting a fear of death and the unwillingness to let go of a loved one. The odds of such a procedure being successful "at some point in time" more or less approach zero. Case in point:
Both critics and supporters have made specific probability estimates about how likely cryonics is to work. In its worst form such probability assessments convey nothing more than putting a number on overall feelings of pessimism or optimism. More serious attempts have been made to calculate a specific probability that cryonics will work. Such attempts usually go as follows: A number of independent conditions (or events) for cryonics to work are distinguished, these conditions are “assigned” a probability, and the total (or joint) probability is calculated by multiplying them. Although such calculations give the semblance of objectivity, they are equally vulnerable to the fundamental objection that assigning one single number to the probability that cryonics will work is just a lot of hand waving.
When you bring up just how improbable this is, supporters will talk about the moon landing. In fact, it's right there on Alcor's home page - the "notable quotes" of skeptics of the Apollo program. This retort has its own problems.

Currently, it is illegal to cryogenically freeze someone who is already alive. This means these are dead people being frozen. Supporters like to point out that a hundred years ago, someone who stopped breathing was "dead", but thanks to modern technology, we can revive people who have stopped breathing and make them live again. But even if, in some future scenario, where we have cured all forms of cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and any number of physical ailments that have killed these people; even if we would be able to thaw someone who was frozen after dying from cancer, and reverse the damage done by the cancer, we would still need to actually cure their state of being dead. Death, at the hands of all the major diseases that have killed these people, would need to be cured; not just the diseases themselves.

So let's say we can achieve that. No one ever dies, unless their bodies are horribly smashed into tiny pieces. How could we sustain all these people? Hey, it doesn't matter - we'll just toss in some more speculative notions about what our life support technology will be like some day. Ethical problems gone. But life extension itself (which, to my mind, is a worthwhile endeavor) isn't even the core of what I find wrong with cryonics.

I watched my mother get sick and die from cancer. I understand how painful it is to let go of someone. I get that. What I don't get, and what I have a real problem with, are people who prey upon the dying and grieving with pseudoscience. I'm sure they've all got their hearts in the right place, and believe they're doing a good thing, but honestly, if you're that passionate about fighting disease or keeping people alive longer, you'd be better off going to medical school, joining the Peace Corps, or any number of things.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:53 PM on July 11, 2010 [14 favorites]


This is just Pascal's Wager for atheists. By this logic, I should be tithing 10% to, like, three incompatible Christian sects, wearing a hijab, and keeping kosher, among other observances. You know, just in case.

Your use of the word "incompatible" indicates that you must know this analogy is false. When sciences disagree, we know that one is wrong. When religions disagree, it's chalked up to the myriad diversity of the human spirit or something.

Not to mention Yahweh is a "jealous god" but biology isn't. If you put your money on both brain freezing and, I dunno, Zero Point Relativistic Sleep Fields or whatever, and one of them turns out to be right and the other wrong, you won't be sent to hell anyway for failing to be believe with all your heart.
posted by DU at 6:57 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Ladies and gentlemen, I can envision a day when the brains of brilliant men can be kept alive in the bodies of dumb people." -- Dr. Hfuhruhurr
posted by kirkaracha at 6:57 PM on July 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm with Fiasco da Gama: organ donation is a great way to avoid entropic absolescence ("death"). Also, you know the stories you always hear about how a guy doesn't like green apples, but then he gets a liver transplant, and suddely he can't get enough green apples, or the girl was left-handed and is suddenly ambidextrous thanks to a fresh spleen? Or you just spontaneously become a maestro on the piano, or speak Albanian, thanks to a new foot? Because of memes or something like that? Sheer nonsense of course but on the off chance that it is true then I hope one of you waiting list types has an understanding spouse/partner because there is a lot of Swedish goth-fetish watersports porn in your near-to-distant future.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:02 PM on July 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


Funnily enough, I just finished reading Parasite Eve. Wasn't that bad for a horror novel, and made me very suspicious of my own mitochondria.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:06 PM on July 11, 2010


These people don't seem to understand that there's no such thing as immortality. If you live a million years, you're still not immortal. You're still going to die, even if it's a million years from now, or a billion years, or with the heat death of the universe.

I understand the desire to avoid the decline of age, but death is inevitable, and denying it is ridiculous.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:07 PM on July 11, 2010


If I got frozen, I think my biggest concern would be that even if they could defrost me in a couple hundred years they might not bother. What good will any of us old-timey useless folk be after they unfreeze a few thousand of us and the historical figures? My plan is to earn a vast fortune, which I will bury someplace secret, and then whoever unfreezes me will be told the location. This should also protect me from if the company that houses my brain goes bankrupt or something, some speculator might buy my brain and insure it's kept frozen so he can reap the rewards or resell it later if I appreciate.

Difficulty: I'm broke.
posted by floam at 7:09 PM on July 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I understand the desire to avoid the decline of age, but death is inevitable, and denying it is ridiculous.

If you believe that someday we will be able to emulate a brain on a computer, and we could be digitized and uploaded into robots, it's entirely plausible that one could exist as long as humanity does, which could potentially be as long as the universe lasts.

Our lives are pretty short, we just get to spin around the sun maybe 80-90 times if we're lucky, just about anything is an improvement.
posted by floam at 7:12 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Death is inevitable, denying it is ridiculous.

So pour your meds down the sink, cancel your insurance, unplug that smoke detector, and slash your seatbelts. Stop eating.

Oh, you want to live a little while longer?

Well, then, we are in agreement. Some of us just want to gamble a bit on a better outcome, that's all.
posted by adipocere at 7:12 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


How I imagine this turning out
posted by The Whelk at 7:18 PM on July 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is just Pascal's Wager for atheists.

I had honestly never heard of this term, so I looked it up.

Historically, Pascal's Wager was groundbreaking as it had charted new territory in probability theory, was one of the first attempts to make use of the concept of infinity, marked the first formal use of decision theory, and anticipated the future philosophies of pragmatism and voluntarism.

Gosh, sounds like I'm good company.

You? Food for worms.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:24 PM on July 11, 2010


Pascal's Wager is laughably facile. If your position can be accurately analogized to it, reconsider.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:29 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I'm sure they've all got their hearts in the right place, and believe they're doing a good thing"

I doubt it. This is straight up snake oil and magic beans. Straight up fraud.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:33 PM on July 11, 2010


You? Food for worms.

And roses, too. Or carrots, if vegetables are more your rhetorical bag.
posted by muddgirl at 7:35 PM on July 11, 2010


Cryogenics is for suckers. I'm gettin' immortality the old fashioned way, fucking and/or killing a major deity.

or you know, vampirism. Either or.
posted by The Whelk at 7:38 PM on July 11, 2010 [12 favorites]


If we're lucky, life extension will be affordable in our lifetimes, and we can go around the sun a few extra times. But freezing your brain with the idea that you're going to live forever? Go ahead, give your money to the pop science version of Bernie Madoff.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:38 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pascal's Wager is laughably facile

For those interested in a more detailed study.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:51 PM on July 11, 2010


I'm gettin' immortality the old fashioned way, fucking and/or killing a major deity.

Not me, boyo. I'm not cut out for godkilling/fucking. I'm just going to hunt down the Hourai Elixir. I mean, it probably doesn't exist, but as long as there's a chance, I'd be a fool not to look for it!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:52 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The heat death of the universe will get everyone. Or the big rip. Take your pick. The dominant view of the best minds of modern physics and cosmology is that our universe will end. Nothing you learn, achieve, believe, love or treasure will transcend that.

It's not just us that are mortal; it's the universe itself, too. Know it, and go on anyway. Know it, and make life a bit better for others between now and then. The quality of the time we have together is all we have.
posted by NortonDC at 7:59 PM on July 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna plow through boxes of Apples and Peaches til i find the right one.
posted by The Whelk at 8:04 PM on July 11, 2010


The hidden thing that I think the loved one of these folks find disturbing is that in all the "wouldn't-it-be-neat-to-see-the-future" daydreams is the implication that the cost of losing all that you know is negligible in comparison to sustain one's own consciousness in existence....that what gives one's life meaning is only the self, and not the self in relation to its time and place and people....

Sometimes I wonder, if this actually worked, whether it'd end up with all the reaminates in a rest home together, spending all their time reminiscing about what it was like to play baseball or eat a hamburger or shoot pool. Or maybe hooked up to their virtual reality machines, trying to re-live the 21st century.

Of course, this is not a possibility that seems to appeal to the nostalgic.

As for myself, I tend to think that something cannot be precious if it is not scarce. It is the limit that makes the meaning.
posted by Diablevert at 8:10 PM on July 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why on Earth would this hypothetical future generation want to unfreeze a bunch of random dead people?
posted by cj_ at 8:14 PM on July 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


As for me, I have an alternative plan for resurrection. I like mine better.

You'll go under with the same peace of mind as the freezer pops this thread is about. Enjoy.
posted by nola at 8:14 PM on July 11, 2010


As for me, I have an alternative plan for resurrection. I like mine better.

What if you die and get frozen, go to heaven, and then get reanimated?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:14 PM on July 11, 2010


I don't understand the comparison of cryogenics to gambling, because the idea of "gambling" entails that you may lose the money you put in. With cryogenics, however, the alternative is death, so there is nothing to lose (besides money, I suppose, which you won't have any use for because you'll be dead.).
posted by nhamann at 8:19 PM on July 11, 2010


You're gambling that you didn't waste a ton of money.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:20 PM on July 11, 2010


besides money, I suppose, which you won't have any use for because you'll be dead.

You, personally, no. But maybe your heirs? Surviving relatives? Charities?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:23 PM on July 11, 2010


Why on Earth would this hypothetical future generation want to unfreeze a bunch of random dead people?

Conscription in future wars. Think about it.

Everybody always complains about the way the youngest people with the most potential wind up fighting the wars of the old. Well, eventually, some defence contractor's going to figure out, hey, we need pilots for these RQA-5000 superdrone attack helicopters, and we have a hundred thousand frozen brains from early 2000s computer programmers and network admins. They're dead, they don't vote, no ethics forms are required, Members of FutureParliament are hardly likely to get letters from their parents, and—best of all—they're nerds, you can just wire them up, they already think in assembly.

You've had your chance, cryo-folks. Expect to wake up wearing stripes.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:28 PM on July 11, 2010 [13 favorites]


You've had your chance, cryo-folks. Expect to wake up wearing stripes.
posted by The Whelk at 8:29 PM on July 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


De-cryonization was a plot point in Ellis Transmetropolitan. Apparently all the unfrozen people suffered such severe system shock that most went insane. There was an entire ghetto dedicated to partially- and fully-batshit defrosted people.
posted by griphus at 8:31 PM on July 11, 2010


You, personally, no. But maybe your heirs? Surviving relatives? Charities?

I personally don't plan to have children. The charity argument is also invalid: Eliezer Yudkowsky, who was mentioned previously in this thread, has said that he spends $300/year on cryonics. Unless you're willing to argue that any spending of $300 or more on frivolous things (entertainment, vacations, etc.) should be redirected to charity. It seems to me that investing in cryonics may have a far, far greater utility than a few vacations (it's difficult to say for sure given the uncertainty in the efficacy of cryonics.)

I honestly have not seen a reasonable objection to cryonics.
posted by nhamann at 8:41 PM on July 11, 2010


My husband and I hope to upload our consciousnesses before we die so we can spend eternity roaming the internet together.

It's kinda like what we do with most of our time now anyway...
posted by Jacqueline at 8:42 PM on July 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


The charity argument is also invalid: Eliezer Yudkowsky, who was mentioned previously in this thread, has said that he spends $300/year on cryonics. Unless you're willing to argue that any spending of $300 or more on frivolous things (entertainment, vacations, etc.) should be redirected to charity.

My argument is more that the money going to what we know actually helps other people might be a better investment than handing your money over to science fiction, but hey, it's your money.

I honestly have not seen a reasonable objection to cryonics.

Guess that settles that.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:45 PM on July 11, 2010


My husband and I hope to upload our consciousnesses before we die so we can spend eternity roaming the internet together.

I copied my Personality Matrix and Memorcrption a few times and saved them on flash drives around the house with big DO NOT DELETE Post-it-notes on them. Every year I upload one to a random server and let it roam free and diverge, taking note of the changes caused in each iteration. In a few years I'll start the copy and replace program, WhelkWorm for short, and soon the entire internet will be a shouting gallery of me, glorious me, crowding out all others.

My Gods, it'll be beautiful.
posted by The Whelk at 8:47 PM on July 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Ah, but the argument works the other way too. Let's try a little substitution:
The charity argument is also invalid: Fiasco da Gama, who was mentioned previously in this thread, has said that he spends $300/year on blackjack and scotch. Unless you're willing to argue that any spending of $300 or more on frivolous things (entertainment, vacations, etc.) should be redirected to charity. It seems to me that investing in blackjack and scotch may have a far, far greater utility than a few vacations (it's difficult to say for sure given the uncertainty in the efficacy of blackjack and scotch.)
Me, I've never heard a good argument against blackjack or scotch.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:48 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps you should start your own amusement park.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:52 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


What if you die and get frozen, go to heaven, and then get reanimated?

As you are standing there in heaven, a huge bulldog with horns and a pitchfork suddenly appears from a cloud of red smoke. The bulldog laughs at you, and pushes you into a trap door in the clouds with his pitchfork, and you awaken in your thawed corpsicle, screaming in terror.

I know there's no real evidence for this claim, but there's a chance it could be true, or might end up being true at some point in time, so the safe bet is to assume I'm right.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:59 PM on July 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


The heat death of the universe will get everyone.

Yeah, but we'll just freeze the universe until we can bring it back.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:59 PM on July 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


I remember a pretty good story about cryogenics on this episode of This American Life.
posted by reenum at 9:07 PM on July 11, 2010


People, people. Let's let cooler heads prevail, shall we?
posted by atchafalaya at 9:16 PM on July 11, 2010 [10 favorites]


I've always felt that the future is quite capable of generating its own wankers, and probably doesn't need ours.
posted by pompomtom at 9:33 PM on July 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I plan on living forever. So far, so good!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:34 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


After a hundred years or so of thinking in this head, I might just simply get bored with myself. I'll take my chances at starting over, rather than carrying on same ole same ole. And why deny myself a shot at being a cat, or a tree, or even a worm?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:49 PM on July 11, 2010


I honestly have not seen a reasonable objection to cryonics

I'm not objecting to other people doing it. Your money, knock yourself out. It just seems like a waste of money and more than a little silly.
posted by cj_ at 10:06 PM on July 11, 2010


I just want to be eaten. But, for some reason, whenever I mention that, my girlfriend FLIPS OUT. What the hell? It's just meat. Who hasn't wondered what human flesh tastes like?
posted by Eideteker at 10:24 PM on July 11, 2010


Soon we may all be able to enjoy cultured manburgers.
posted by homunculus at 10:45 PM on July 11, 2010


This is just Pascal's Wager for atheists.

If it is, I don't see it.

Pascal's Wager requires you to live your life differently than you want. It's an argument for forcing yourself to believe things you don't believe and behave in ways you don't want to behave; to sacrifice who you most authentically are for the vague hope of going to heaven and/or avoiding hell.

Cryonics doesn't require anything like that. It's about what is done to you when you're dead, not about how you live while you're alive.
posted by Missiles K. Monster at 10:50 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Full disclosure: I am a paid-up member of Alcor, one of the two cryonics companies mentioned in the article. I toured their facilities last month, and am now completing the paperwork (after a long, long period of consideration and research).

Is cryonics selfish? Of course - but then so are many decisions that people make throughout their lives. Vainglorious acts continue even past death, with elaborate funerals, coffins, and tombs. I recognise my decision as a selfish one. However, I have no children, no partner, and no dependents, and remain unlikely to have any. I'm not sure that I could have opted for cryonics if I did: I would have a sense of responsibility to use my estate to benefit them, rather than myself. I'm also not a big believer in charities: although several non-profits and foundations do receive some of my estate, I have reserved a portion for myself, at least for my maintainence as a corpsicle.

To me, as with many of the people opting for cryonics interviewed for the article, the issue is one of data retention. Every other form of internment that we know leads inevitably to decay and data loss. Planted into the ground, cremated, or given a sky burial, the information that makes up you - your thoughts, memories, physical appearance, and, eventually, DNA - is, as far as we can tell, lost, distributed into the cosmos after death. That is an uplifting thought for some, but not for me.

I recognise that my chances of being "resurrected" are extremely remote; however, given the other options I have just described, and lacking any evidence for a spiritual hereafter, cryonics is my only chance, however slim. I am also uncomfortably aware that this is the scientific expression of a desire that is at least as old as the Egyptians. At the very least, my cadaver will make an interesting opportunity for study for some future medical student or archeologist, just as mummies are today.

People think of their immortality in their children, in feats written of for centuries to come, in works of art or literature, in endowments and trusts in their name, or in their religious or spiritual beliefs. Not having any of those, this is mine - rather more practical, if with less social acceptance.

It is my impression that people somehow feel that cryonics takes you "away" from the people that love you. But that's silly: preserved in liquid nitrogen, I am just as dead. The only difference is, if you did want to visit my body, it will be in a stainless steel dewar rather than a granite crypt. That's all.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:52 PM on July 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


Bora Horza Gobuchul: Full disclosure: I am a paid-up member of Alcor, one of the two cryonics companies mentioned in the article. I toured their facilities last month, and am now completing the paperwork (after a long, long period of consideration and research).

It never ceases to amaze me, any topic that gets posted to the front page, sooner or later somebody shows up and says: "…well, I'm a [seemingly_outlandish_thing] and I…"

It's pretty great, really.

To me the defining social aspect of cryogenics isn't the selfishness, it's the anti-socialness. "You meatbags are all going to die and fucking rot, but not someone as special as me! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!"

Also the ice crystals and the ruptured cell walls make the whole thing seem like a worse investment than Powerball tickets.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:15 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your money, knock yourself out. It just seems like a waste of money and more than a little silly.

It seems that a lot of people respond dismissively to cryonics because "it seems silly," but I do want to note that if you went back in time about 100 years and told people that someday that there would be millions of personal machines (some small enough to be carried around in your pocket) connected in a vast global network which enabled instantaneous worldwide communication and access to various exotic new forms of media, that they would probably think it all fantastical and "silly." This is not an argument that cryonics is correct, obviously (you can apply the same argument to literally anything), but it is an argument that "that seems silly" isn't a good reason to dismiss something when thinking about the viability of future technologies.

My argument is more that the money going to what we know actually helps other people might be a better investment than handing your money over to science fiction, but hey, it's your money.

My argument is that undoubtedly every person here spends more than $300 per year on things that do nothing but give them personal pleasure (books, movies, music, eating out, traveling, etc.), so it's moot to argue against cryonics on the grounds that that money could be better spent on things that help others.

As for the "science fiction" quip, I think the robot post yesterday makes it clear that science fiction is coming closer to reality every day (barring the impossible like faster-than-light travel). If you have any arguments for why you believe that the technology needed to make cryonics useful will not materialize or will be otherwise ineffective, I would love to hear them. Seriously.
posted by nhamann at 11:26 PM on July 11, 2010


Many folks in the U.S. of A. can't afford medical treatment. If you have your brain frozen why do you think anyone will ever pay to have you brought back?

Sure, they might pay to bring you back to be cannon fodder or for entertainment purposes, but why would you want that?
posted by arse_hat at 11:31 PM on July 11, 2010


My biggest concern with cryogenics is who is going to pay the rent on the building that houses my frozen head. How do you guarantee that the building lease will remain in good standing? Is there someone out there you trust so completely that you know that s/he can leave a legacy that will ensure that your head doesn't get thrown into a bio-dump two hundred years in the future because someone forgot to pay a bill?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 11:53 PM on July 11, 2010


If you have your brain frozen why do you think anyone will ever pay to have you brought back?

Why would anybody pay to dig up the bones of some old giant lizard or shards of pottery? There are people in the world who are fascinated by the past, and what could be better than first hand accounts?

Besides, if nobody wants to revive you or they never develop the technology to revive you, you're dead, but you would have been dead anyway, so what's changed?

People spend thousands of dollars on funerals every single day. Seems like a massive waste of money to me. This doesn't seem all that different, except that maybe you'll get to see the future -- a future in which they can repair ruptured cell walls, cure disease, and probably have the iPhone 50, which will probably do some pretty nifty stuff, or at least may be able to make an actual phone call. It probably won't happen, but it certainly won't with every other way of disposing of a dead body.
posted by willnot at 11:54 PM on July 11, 2010


willnot: People spend thousands of dollars on funerals every single day. Seems like a massive waste of money to me.

Why do people keep acting like this is a good comparison? First of all, I think they're both stupid wastes of money, time and effort, so it isn't a good argument just based one that. Second of all, the funeral happens because it gives some sort of closure to the survivors, but in most of the cryogenics cases, either there are no survivors or they are against it, which makes it completely different in the way that matters most. Sure either way we are pissing away a few thousands of dollars, but one way gives our loved ones a sense of closure about the absolute 100% fact that we are dead forever, and the other one slaps them in the face.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:00 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The husband in that article sounded like an annoying nerd. Would I want to be frozen and wake up in a world run by these annoying douchebags? His 'futurecracy' idea seems idiotic (and also unworkable) Other then that, I do find it kind of interesting. Maybe the marketing would be better if it was sold as simply an alternative disposal option. Rather then burying or cremating, why not freeze? It's just a more expensive way of storing the body, and it preserves it pretty well.
You know, even if the cryonics people are right, I don't think they are thinking clearly. You revive a brain-what kind of living hell must it be to be just a brain?
Well, they put it in a robot body.
What rot. You won't get to be God. You'll live an endless cycle of aging, dying, rebooting. Even if we cure the old diseases, new ones will arise. As long as there is velocity, there will be a chance of trauma. Even more than usual your life will be full of suffering. Infinite life won't make you happy, although you might just get infinite chances. You might be like that flaky old PC in a dusty corner, always needing to be restarted, except in pain.
Not if a robot body is used, which is probably what's going to happen. Or they might just end up being put into VR simulations or something. Who knows?

The real problem is waiting too long so you end up freezing a mostly deteriorated brain.
but one way gives our loved ones a sense of closure about the absolute 100% fact that we are dead forever
How exactly do you measure "a sense of closure"? Seems like lots and lots of people actually want to believe that they will actually see you in heaven, or whatever. Personally I would be more comfortable with being able to think that someone I loved might be resurrected then thinking that they are "gone forever"
posted by delmoi at 12:05 AM on July 12, 2010


A funeral's only a waste of money time and effort if you think about it as something for the benefit of the dead person, rather than the living. To put it bluntly, by definition, the subject's not invited.

I remember an acquaintance of mine telling me about how difficult it was to get his friends and family to big gatherings that weren't funerals. "Birthdays, weddings, parties, you know", he told me, "they're temporary. Funerals are permanent".
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:14 AM on July 12, 2010


but one way gives our loved ones a sense of closure about the absolute 100% fact that we are dead forever, and the other one slaps them in the face.

And, if our loved ones believe that a body must not be desecrated (as some religions do), but the deceased believes in organ donation, would you argue just as strongly that the deceased shouldn't do that as it is a slap in the face to the family who can't get closure?

Besides, if they don't believe cryonics works, they can still be 100% certain that the loved one is dead forever. It's just that instead of getting buried or burned or whatever, uncle Pete had his nerdy ass frozen. And, if they do think that maybe cryonics may work, and so the loved one isn't 100% for sure dead, then they can sign up themselves and maybe get to hug each other again. Seems like a win, win.

I can understand not believing it. I can understand thinking it's a waste of resources. What I can't understand is why people get so worked up about being opposed to it. It touches a core in some people that just seems to freak them out.
posted by willnot at 12:20 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


What I can't understand is why people get so worked up about being opposed to it. It touches a core in some people that just seems to freak them out.

Because it suggests that nothing in your life as you lived it mattered to you more than the possibility of more life. That the possibility of losing everything precious to you is as nothing next to the possibility of living once more.
posted by Diablevert at 1:05 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why on Earth would this hypothetical future generation want to unfreeze a bunch of random dead people?

I'm imagining the "Lunchables" executives of the future lounging in the Ol' Timey Brain Lab, extracting long lost flavors like chicken or asparagus from Robin's tissue mass. Maybe they'll insert some 21st century tastes or aromas into the McBaconsicle or the Quadruple Quail 'n' Kielbasa Squashquatch Breakfast Wraptastic. Hopefully Robin will remain unconcious throughout.
posted by biddeford at 1:18 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


My organs living on is pretty useless an idea to me (except for extending the lives of others, of course).

I'm and organ donor on my driver license.

But if I had the money to take care of my spouse & offspring while preserving my brain such that it might come back?

No question I take that opportunity.
posted by cucumber at 1:18 AM on July 12, 2010


I'm not signed up for cryonics, but I'm not seeing many good arguments here for why it couldn't work (as opposed to it being icky because it involves dead bodies, or selfish). Paul Crowley did an Open Letter to the Scientific Critics of Cryonics as part of his series of blog posts on the subject: there seems to be surprisingly little good debunking of it which goes beyond "that's just silly".
posted by pw201 at 2:03 AM on July 12, 2010


If you've devoted your life to helping people achieve a mature attitude to the inevitability of death, and then your spouse does something expensive and absurd which seems to you to triple-underline that fact that they have neither that maturity nor the sense to see that cryogenics is actually not a gamble but a guaranteed loss; something that means you'll never be able to tell people your spouse is dead or start another relationship without the thought that he was expecting to come back and the horrid knowledge that part of his body is still being kept in a grotesque lab; then I think it's understandable if you feel bad about it.
posted by Phanx at 2:08 AM on July 12, 2010


Why would anybody pay to dig up the bones of some old giant lizard or shards of pottery? There are people in the world who are fascinated by the past, and what could be better than first hand accounts?

I have no doubt that if a future generation somehow manages to cure death, cure whatever disease put you there, solve the challenge of unfreezing people, and have a handle on overpopulation, that they will restore a body or two for SCIENCE! Probably the first few will be total failures, but they'll get it right eventually. Maybe you'll be that one, and not wish you were dead again because everything you know and love is gone. But I don't see why this future generation would make it a mission to restore every single person and re-integrate them in society. Let's be realistic here. If they've solved the problem of dying, then they are dealing with a serious overpopulation problem. In this world, bringing Joe-Had-Some-Money back to life is going to be pretty low priority.
posted by cj_ at 2:09 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because it suggests that nothing in your life as you lived it mattered to you more than the possibility of more life. That the possibility of losing everything precious to you is as nothing next to the possibility of living once more.

That just assumes that someone who is cryonically preserved in the hope of having their life extended at some future date is doing so at the expense of everything and everyone in their present life. Suppose it became a common and affordable thing to do. Does you argument still hold in a world where it's a routine and normal procedure? Is it still selfish? Presumably only in the same sense as getting decent medical care or owning a house or a car.

What puzzles me though is how so many of the arguments against cryonics boil down the "It ain't natural. Death is part of life - be well-adjusted like me and embrace oblivion." line of argument. Well, that's fine and everything, but some people would like to be able to decide for themselves when they've had enough living. See how willing you are to embrace death as a natural part of life's rich tapestry when you're lying bleeding in a car wreck waiting for the paramedics to arrive.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:57 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


The heat death of the universe will get everyone. Or the big rip. Take your pick. The dominant view of the best minds of modern physics and cosmology is that our universe will end. Nothing you learn, achieve, believe, love or treasure will transcend that.


So why can't we cryonically preserve the universe too! We can freeze it, and, . . . oh, never mind.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:57 AM on July 12, 2010


In this world, bringing Joe-Had-Some-Money back to life is going to be pretty low priority.

Yeah, this seems like one of the best arguments against this use of cryonics (other than ones about whether it actually works, which seem pretty good too). The idea that in 200 or 500 years or whenever, long after the last fish have been caught from the ocean and the last fossil fuels have been dug or sucked from the Earth and the last suburb has been ripped up to make room for the starving hordes to grow their food, there will be dedicated scientists working to resurrect a bunch of people who paid 30,000 of a lost currency in the forgotten past to have their heads frozen - that's crazy talk.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:11 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


It must be quite a lot like your spouse adopting a religion that you have no sympathy with. Much as if your partner started going on about the Rapture and making big donations to help ensure they were part of it.
posted by Phanx at 4:54 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


2-for-1 Valentine's Day special. Problem solved.
posted by applemeat at 5:05 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoever mentioned the lottery above had it right, but for the wrong reason. We buy lottery tickets for the dream. $1 for a day's worth of daydreaming about all the cool stuff you could do with all that money? A bargain. This is the same thing.

So what if it doesn't work out. Even if the chances are near infinite, it's still a chance.

Coincidentally (or not) this episode of Star Trek The Next Generation was just broadcast in syndication. Explored these issues. It didn't seem fun. But on the other hand, HOLYFUCKINGSHIT I'M ON A SPACESHIP!!1!.
posted by gjc at 5:12 AM on July 12, 2010


Yeah, this seems like one of the best arguments against this use of cryonics (other than ones about whether it actually works, which seem pretty good too). The idea that in 200 or 500 years or whenever, long after the last fish have been caught from the ocean and the last fossil fuels have been dug or sucked from the Earth and the last suburb has been ripped up to make room for the starving hordes to grow their food, there will be dedicated scientists working to resurrect a bunch of people who paid 30,000 of a lost currency in the forgotten past to have their heads frozen - that's crazy talk.

That's part of the gamble. If the future isn't hospitable to my thawed self, so what? I'm dead.
posted by gjc at 5:15 AM on July 12, 2010


By this logic, I should be tithing 10% to, like, three incompatible Christian sects, wearing a hijab, and keeping kosher, among other observances. You know, just in case.

Tithing 10% while I am still alive, (and presumably) ready, willing & able to enjoy said 10% myself, that doesn't strike me as equivalent, logically-speaking, as having someone do "some shit" to your body after you're already dead, (and presumably) completely unable to enjoy any of the monies being spent to perform said "shit."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:24 AM on July 12, 2010


The idea that in 200 or 500 years or whenever, long after the last fish have been caught from the ocean ...

Arguments predicated on the idea that, as a species, we're doomed, aren't particularly helpful in any debate, because from that perspective everything is futile.

An optimist, on the other hand, might say that these are just challenges and that there's a good chance that we'll overcome them and go on to a bright and interesting future. Signing up for a brain-freeze is optimism of a fairly high order, so it's not hard to understand why, conversely, someone with your negative feelings about humanity's viability wouldn't see the point.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:24 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also do not understand Mrs. Hanson's dismay, although she is articulate and the subject seems straightforward. It isn't like an aesthetic dispute. It is more like ethics at the level of the Golden Rule, Ten Commandments.

One of the posters on Robin's blog said that it is an uncanny valley or zombie or vampire disgust reaction. His vow to her has been converted from "until death do us part" into "until I get turned into an inverse zombie do us part". Marriage vows are serious to some people, even though in Mr. and Mrs. Hanson's life circle there is plenty of divorce and any rational person would know that a wedding vow means little to nothing tangible.

You cannot unpack her view of cryonics from her view of marriage. Which means it could be a can of worms.
posted by bukvich at 5:36 AM on July 12, 2010


My argument is that undoubtedly every person here spends more than $300 per year on things that do nothing but give them personal pleasure (books, movies, music, eating out, traveling, etc.), so it's moot to argue against cryonics on the grounds that that money could be better spent on things that help others.

The thing is, in this example, you're already alive. Your money is in your hands, to be spent however you please, and what you spend it on will be there for you to enjoy. After death, what you spend your money on will have no impact on you, personally, whatsoever. This is why I say the money is better spent helping the rest of us still here on earth, rather than squander it on science fiction. It's not an argument against cryonics, though; people blow their money on frivolous crap all the time.

As for the "science fiction" quip, I think the robot post yesterday makes it clear that science fiction is coming closer to reality every day (barring the impossible like faster-than-light travel). If you have any arguments for why you believe that the technology needed to make cryonics useful will not materialize or will be otherwise ineffective, I would love to hear them. Seriously.

Everytime I hear this "science fiction is becoming science fact more and more everyday" remark, I can't help but wonder where this logic comes from. Because X was once beyond our capabilities, but now it is, then Y - which is also beyond our capabilities - will also one day be possible. It doesn't work that way. As for why I believe the technology to make this a reality is concerned, you could see my first post in this thread, or speak to pretty much any cryobiologist in the world.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:47 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


"... as for why I believe the technology to make this a reality will not happen is concerned ...", rather.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:49 AM on July 12, 2010


To me, as with many of the people opting for cryonics interviewed for the article, the issue is one of data retention.

Wouldn't it be more effective to just keep a journal? I really mean it.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:45 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tithing 10% while I am still alive, (and presumably) ready, willing & able to enjoy said 10% myself, that doesn't strike me as equivalent, logically-speaking, as having someone do "some shit" to your body after you're already dead, (and presumably) completely unable to enjoy any of the monies being spent to perform said "shit."

What, you think you don't pay for cryonics until you're already dead? Most places seem to ask for a life insurance policy, and someone crunches the numbers here, about halfway down the page.

$30-$50 a month may be less than 10% gross for me, but it's still a pretty good chunk of change for like 80% of the population. And factor in the cost of preserving my wife and kids, and that's up to like $150 a month - getting pretty close to what my monthly tithe would be.
posted by muddgirl at 7:02 AM on July 12, 2010


Of course nobody is going to wake up a brain and just leave it disconnected from a body and senses, like an unfortunate participant of a Mi-Go experiment in a cylinder. By the time you have technology to unpack information from a messy meatbrain, a body will be child's play by comparison. Note we're already growing sample kidneys in cattle. Right now.

Serious overpopulation problem — right. Again, all of this is predicated on a future where we haven't destroyed the planet, which means that, by then, we'll have come to terms with population issues. And the less than a thousand people who are frozen now are not going to make a significant impact, in any case.

People from the future are too selfish to revive folks ... which is why the various foundations place money in trusts to be paid out to the folks in the future, who will either be Star Trek selfless and will do it because "it's the right thing to do" or selfish enough to want money. Which is okay, we'll give you some when you unfreeze these folks.

Mourning the death of everyone you ever knew ... which wouldn't be a problem if some of your friends got frozen, but if you are serious about that argument, you won't want to live to be old, either, because your friends will die and you'll have to mourn them anyway. Better to die young, right?

Denying my loved ones closure? Die, the way we want, and have your body disposed of in the way we want. So, if you want cremation against family tradition, you're denying your loved ones closure. Donate your body to science instead of the old family plot serviced by the family which has been tending your historical boneyard for a century? Again, denying them closure.

Of course freezing people who have already died is suboptimal. The appropriate solution is not to wash your hands of the whole mess but to begin the induction procedure while the patient still has a pulse and has not suffered brain damage. Just because the law prevents people from dying (or being suspended) how they like currently does not mean that it will always do so. Let's say I want to go before the Alzheimer's kicks in too much. I set my affairs up, get cooled down to a state of low metabolic turnover with whatever Roth's technique evolves into, get the equivalent of antifreeze pumped in me, then flash-frozen. Hell, I'm sure it would be painful. I've done painful before.

People get really weird about the choices they wouldn't themselves make, even if those choices have nothing to do with those who do not partake. And then they appear with some of the most poorly-conceived arguments against whatever it is. Please, go ahead and enjoy your looming death. Have fun with it, make it into a party for your friends, however you like. Demanding an identical setup for others because you cannot see it any other way is bizarre.
posted by adipocere at 7:02 AM on July 12, 2010


I'm not demanding anything. Do what you want with your remains. My issue is with the industry; not the people who buy into it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:04 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a better option.

unrepentant self-link
posted by 256 at 7:08 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


People get really weird about the choices they wouldn't themselves make, even if those choices have nothing to do with those who do not partake.

Although in this case it's his wife.
posted by Phanx at 7:49 AM on July 12, 2010


willnot: And, if our loved ones believe that a body must not be desecrated (as some religions do), but the deceased believes in organ donation, would you argue just as strongly that the deceased shouldn't do that as it is a slap in the face to the family who can't get closure?

Yes, it would be. What do you think? If the family was Jewish, would you plant the stiff on a hog farm, or would that be a bit rude? Once you die the body is just a rotting piece of meat, and the only people who have any legitimate say in what happens to it are your survivors.

Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: I'm not demanding anything. Do what you want with your remains. My issue is with the industry; not the people who buy into it.

This a million times. You can think something stupid isn't stupid if you want, hell spring for a psychic to tell you how great its going to be once they scrape the freezerburn off your brain, and get a divining rod to tell you the optimum location for your head-freezer, I don't care, its your money to waste. But supporting these predatory pseudo-science ghouls is disgusting.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:01 AM on July 12, 2010


Simply put: this is one of those cases where there are not two reasonable sides to the discussion with the truth in the middle. There are foolish false hopes propagated by confidence men, and there are sincere applications of critical thinking, never the twain to meet.

If you had already demonstrated workable tech to re-form headsicles, that would be enough for you, especially once you realized that the only thing these people had in common was being impulsive and foolish enough to have their brains frozen 50 or 100 years before it could be done properly. Why would you want a building full of these nutters walking around?
posted by paisley henosis at 8:04 AM on July 12, 2010


That's weird, paisley, because I would look at it as "wow, here's a whole crop of people who anticipated the future accurately, despite everyone telling them that it was a bad idea. Guess they were right."

Versus, I don't know, whole continents full of religious people wandering around, supporting predatory ghouls (you know, various churches and whatnot), whose afterlife didn't pan out, those folks would seem downright reasonable.
posted by adipocere at 8:17 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Theoretically, the scientific ability to reincarnate brain matter would NOT disprove any sort of spiritual afterlife. Cite: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
posted by muddgirl at 8:34 AM on July 12, 2010


Actually, maybe Frankenstein isn't a good example (don't remember off the top of my head if the book was explicitely about the idea that the Frankenstein monster didn't have a soul), but originally the whole "zombie" thing was centered around the same idea. Nowadays, our zombie myths seem to center around viruses, not revivification.
posted by muddgirl at 9:25 AM on July 12, 2010


It all goes back to George Romero. Who, incidentally, didn't think he was making a zombie movie, but that's how myths work.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:31 AM on July 12, 2010


It seems to me like it's just an expensive tombstone - no more or less worthy of contempt than that. Instead of leaving behind a sentence or phrase carved in stone that captures you, you're leaving behind, well, you. At least you aren't having the architects executed and sealed inside the tomb with you like Ronald Reagan did.
posted by XMLicious at 10:13 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


You've had your chance, cryo-folks. Expect to wake up wearing stripes.

This is a basic plot point of Larry Niven's "The State" stories. They take young convicts, wipe their brains, and use the personality of a corpsicle. If the new personality doesn't like it, they wipe him and try another personality. Interestingly, in Niven's method, the body of the corpsicle is ground up for memory RNA, injected into the host, so it's a one shot process.
posted by nomisxid at 10:13 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


adipocere: Versus, I don't know, whole continents full of religious people wandering around, supporting predatory ghouls (you know, various churches and whatnot), whose afterlife didn't pan out, those folks would seem downright reasonable.

But see, this is just as much of a strawman as the expensive funeral argument. Some religions, religious institutions and/or religious leaders are predatory ghouls who turn the dying against their living loved ones, and those people are fucking monsters who ought not be supported. 100% of cryonics 'providers' are functioning in the same roll as Scientologist outreach people telling you to sell your house and car to pay us and fuck your family if they don't like it.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:22 AM on July 12, 2010


I'd add that believing in cryonics or being religious aren't the only two options, either.

originally the whole "zombie" thing was centered around the same idea. Nowadays, our zombie myths seem to center around viruses, not revivification.

I once saw a documentary on the making of "zombies"; the whole blowfish poison thing. It was incredibly scary stuff. Not as scary: that episode of Miami Vice where Tubbs is almost turned into a zombie.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:26 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


My god. I look forward to the nothingness that is death. Like a relief. I mean, who wants to end up like this guy?
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:36 AM on July 12, 2010


Oh, and egregious that no one has mentioned this incredible TAL story about the birth of cryonics.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:39 AM on July 12, 2010


I'm surprised at how divisive this issue is. Here, someone chooses to do something with their own body, and everyone has a strong opinion about it.

It is in some ways like the battle over whether the terminally ill can choose euthanasia, except here the choice is continued life rather than the termination of it.

Me? I think if someone wants to be frozen, that's no problem. I wish them well, too.
posted by zippy at 11:52 AM on July 12, 2010


Also: "You're a jerk, Dent, a complete kneebiter." 1

1. Hitchhiker's Guide, US edition
posted by zippy at 11:58 AM on July 12, 2010


I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice.

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
MorganLink 3DVision Interview
The biggest problem I have with cryonics right now is not one of practicality, it's one of weak vs. strong immortality. What it looks like now, given the amount of damage a brain/body takes when frozen is that the cells will be read and a new platform created. Which means I'm still dead. Something that looks, sounds and acts just like me, with all my memories, etc. is around, but I'm not. No one but me could tell the difference. But in this game, I'm the one that matters.

Let me know when they actually have a way of reviving and repairing that brain. When we develop Old Man's War type technology.

Addendum: if I have Alzheimer or dementia, how much of the damage from that will be repaired? How will they know the original me? I sure as hell don't want to be revived while still not all there.
posted by Hactar at 1:01 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


At least you aren't having the architects executed and sealed inside the tomb with you like Ronald Reagan did.

There was a change of plans, btw. Rather than mummify him, they brought him back to lead the GOP.
posted by homunculus at 1:10 PM on July 12, 2010


My biggest problem with cryogenics has nothing to do with the cost or probability of being reanimated. When you turn your frozen brain over to these people YOU ARE GIVING AWAY YOUR BRAIN TO A COMPANY. I mean, we all balk at the amount of data that Facebook stores about us (and rightfully so), but you're willing to give your entire brain over to some self-interested company? Are there any laws at all about what civil rights frozen brains have? They could put you to work in some sort of brain-server farm for the next generation's sick version of google. Helping future teenagers find the latest gossip about their version of Justin Bieber -- is this really how you want to spend your eternity?
posted by Afroblanco at 3:15 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, we all balk at the amount of data that Facebook stores about us (and rightfully so), but you're willing to give your entire brain over to some self-interested company? Are there any laws at all about what civil rights frozen brains have?

The state of Arizona - where Alcor is located - does not require cryogenics workers to have any medical education. In fact, the company itself only requires their technical coordinators (who oversee all the body-freezing equipment) to have "a degree in science or engineer" as a part of their educational background, and that their readiness coordinators (who work on the actual bodies) to have paramedic or nursing degrees, but "equivalent experience in a health field will be considered."

You are, in other words, handing over your body and/or brain, for supposed care, upkeep and resuscitation, to people who might not have even gone to medical school.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:29 PM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Afroblanco, When James Madison and Thomas Jefferson batted around legal reasoning upon which to form their new nation, one of their foundational truths was that the dead have no rights.

That does make the prospect of handing your noggin over to a corporation/psychopath a bit, hmm, disquieting.
posted by NortonDC at 5:24 PM on July 12, 2010


Are there any laws at all about what civil rights frozen brains have?

I was thinking about that last night. It would be pretty ironic if the revived were still legally dead, and thus had no civil rights at all, and were the property of whoever revived them. There might be a story there.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:48 PM on July 12, 2010


Mourning the death of everyone you ever knew ... which wouldn't be a problem if some of your friends got frozen, but if you are serious about that argument, you won't want to live to be old, either, because your friends will die and you'll have to mourn them anyway. Better to die young, right?

Come, come, let's not play Scarecrows and Tinmen. I only see everyone I'd ever love die if I live to be oldest, not merely old. And even if I am old, there are those younger than me with whom I might share a bond --- my children, my children's children. Perhaps, if I'm lucky. Perhaps not. And if so I'd mourn. I would mourn the loss of the world, the loss of the people with whom I had a peership, a kinship, an intuitive understanding of the times and places which have shaped me.

But the Cyrogenic Beauty does not awake the castle with her. The king, the queen, thrones, stones and briars, all are dust alike. But she doesn't mourn. Or if she does, it's just a sniffle, nothing as compared to the gushing joy of having attained immortality. The world can go hang as long as the self is preserved; she's sure she'll like the new one just as well. There can't be a better one than the one she's in. Because her being in it is the point. All the rest --- all the other stuff that makes up a life --- is motes in sunshine.
posted by Diablevert at 7:29 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nothing makes sense to me about cryogenics. I don't understand how anyone could think that they could recover their consciousness in that way. Brains aren't computers - otherwise we would understand them completely by now. Consciousness is so nebulous - we lose it every time we go to bed. When you die, those electrical impulses die, and memories, thoughts, die - YOU die. There's no way to recover that.
posted by agregoli at 7:41 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Alcor and the Cryonics Institute are both non-profits, you know.
posted by topynate at 12:59 AM on July 13, 2010


An optimist, on the other hand, might say that these are just challenges and that there's a good chance that we'll overcome them and go on to a bright and interesting future

Yeah and if they overcome the huge mess we leave, why the hell would they want to resurrect one of us? Maybe to press charges.

.. come to think of it, I support this idea.
posted by cj_ at 1:22 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm one of those who find the whole idea freaky and distasteful.

For one, I don't think life is that awesome that I'd want to have yet another stint of it. I mean, it can be pretty cool at times but all in all it's a load of bother.

For another, I don't want to see the future. However marvellous it's going to be, it's going to have a whole new set of problems and monstrosities that humanity is prone to churning out. (I thought the Transmetropolitan piece was particularly scary that way. And I like Ellis.)

And for a third, I particularly don't want to see a future in which everyone can live forever. Just thinking about the problematic aspects of that is giving me a headache.

That said, I can see why it holds a great appeal to many people even if I don't know much about it. If it is a scam as some people are suggesting then that is reproachable, but if there's a chance of success I totally approve of investing money even in crazy sounding future endeavours, even if it happens to be a sinkhole.

That said, I'm so damn glad I won't be around when you guys start changing the world.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:08 AM on July 13, 2010


"So, now that you're unfrozen, what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to do all those things I said I would do but never got around to doing when I was alive!"

*six months later*

"Hey, I thought you were going to go turbo hang-gliding and laser surfing."

"Eh, maybe later. I'm reading this New New Yorker article on HyperFilter."

*sixty years later*

"So what happened to all that stuff you were going to do?"

"Oh, man! I was so busy I forgot all about them. Can I have another go?"

Give me a finite lifespan. I'll take the motivation to go do stuff before I die at some unknown-but-soon point in the future. I'd rather live life than preserve it. (And, if I'm doing things right, there won't be enough of me left when I die to freeze anyway.)
posted by Eideteker at 5:50 AM on July 13, 2010


topynate, no, I didn't know that. Looking around I see that other players in the space are a mix of standard corporations and non-profits. For-profits apparently include Trans Time, Inc., Suspended Animation, Inc., and KrioRus.
posted by NortonDC at 6:31 AM on July 13, 2010


I'm only into this if they guarantee that they'll bring me back with upgrades. I'm not going to have another go at things only to be an anxiety-ridden barely-coherent wreck in the future. I'm barely functional at it this time around. No limiting me to my physical body, please, and please remove some of my perception filters put in place by limitations on my physical form. I want to hear at a better level, perceive infrared and various types of radiation, and possibly be solar-powered. Also, I want the ability to turn all these things off.
posted by mikeh at 7:47 AM on July 13, 2010


I'll say this -- not for me the hospice if there's one more stupid-ass long-shot treatment available. They're going to have to drag me out of this life kicking and punching and generally raging against the dying of the light. They don't say Life's Too Short for nothing.

If you're one of those people who see death before (say) at least age 500 to be nothing more than a bug in the hardware, as lots of us do, then where's the harm if you can spare the money? It might work, and if it doesn't you're dead anyway.

Conversely, there's only a few things that actually kill us in the end, barring external forces or self-inflicted malaises (cell replication errors, mostly, brain-mangling diseases and some inherited trump cards).

Let's assume that Teh Sciences are likely to sort that out in the end (I think it's more or less inevitable - it's the focus of almost all medical research now and that's not going to change any time soon).

Where's the research money for reanimating frozen heads after that? Probably nowhere.

Worth a shot though. Plus: Motherfucking TIME TRAVEL. Call yourselves nerds? Pah.

(Ignoring the religion stuff. Believe what you want, and all power to you. But I have long been persuaded from a lifetime of formal and other education that the magic sky man is the least likely explanation for our existence. This is all we get as far as I'm concerned and those of us who are convinced that dead is dead... we may be more interested in the not-dead option, anorexically-slim though its chances may be.)
posted by genghis at 8:47 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


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