Cryonics

Becoming a vegetarian before being cryogenically frozen may be smart, just in case we wake up in a world that abhors animal-killers

Since the circle of empathy is widening for humans, one should consider becoming a vegetarian before being cryogenically frozen, just in case animal cruelty is so abhorred in the future, that they won't unfreeze former animal killers.

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Cryoshock

How do you rationally approach the decision to do cryo? Assuming you decide it's technically feasible, the question then gets reduced to "Is cryo worth it?"

You could use a saw like Pascal's Wager, where you say something to the effect of, "If I even have a small chance at immortality, couldn't I justify an unlimited amount of effort to obtain it?" But then why not also relocate to the cryo facility prematurely to guarantee an optimal freeze? Why not wear a helmet every day?

Instead of weighing your decision to do cryo in the abstract, you could use a more practical heuristic: Determine whether or not you would regret waking up in the future. This kind of thinking factors in common dissent to cryo: "I don't think I would survive the shock," or "I would feel so utterly alone." These statements seem to be connected to popular portrayals of time travel, like Encino Man, which show brutes from the past fumbling their way embarrassingly through the uncaring present. But perhaps, this rejection is simply the default response to considering something as alien as the cryo experience.

If you dig deeper, applying a bit of the banality principle of futurism, cryo scenarios can actually be grounded in the familiar. Using myself as an example, imagine I'm in my mid-20s living in Boston in the 1770s. I spend my days as a dock worker, dreaming of one day becoming a shipping baron. I then meet someone who will freeze me in exchange for working a few extra hours a week to pay for life insurance. After some thought, I sign up for a monthly payment plan and then forget about it. A few years later, I am unexpectedly stricken with consumption, vapors, or some other eighteenth-century malady, and die at the age of 30. I am then promptly placed in a barrel, filled with ice, and shipped off to Northern Canada where I spend the next 230 years. Finally, I wake up in Austin, Texas. The year is 2006.

Walking through my first years in Austin, I would find myself in awe of how much better life was. Every time I ate a Big Mac I would think about how often I was hungry in Boston. Every time I got sick, I would recall how every sneeze used to mean that Black Death was around the corner. I would probably start off as a janitor, then work my way up to cashier at a convenience store while working on my vocabulary and manners. After a year, I would probably take classes for a simple vocation, something where I can use both my hands and my brain. Maybe I'd pick plumbing. I'd work hard, because I'd want money. I'd want money, because I'd have an insatiable curiosity, one that would drive me to either buy comforts that were once reserved for kings, such as silverware, or to experience things that were once reserved for magicians, such as flying. In other words, I would be a simple, hard-working man whose baseline expectations were so low because he had come from so far away.

Eventually I'd want a girlfriend and then a family. For me, the typical middle-class existence would suffice, but I wouldn't lose my sense of wonder about modern times: having babies that survive; public education; unlimited entertainment; never having to use an outhouse. None of it would get old. One Christmas, sitting in my living room with my wife and kids who are all healthy and safe, I would think to myself, "I'm really glad I worked extra hours in Boston so I could afford cryonics."

To come up with the story, I picked a realistic setting. In real life, I was 24 in 2006 and moved by myself from the San Francisco Bay Area to Austin, sight unseen. I had no friends and no job lined up; I just went. To add to the story, I weaved in tales from my father, who grew up in a refugee camp in India but then moved to Canada in the late 1960s with only $100 in his pocket. He often tells me about his first Big Mac.

Using a plausible story and gauging regret is such a simple way of thinking about cryonics. When we imagine the far future, it's often in one of two extremes: a crude apocalypse on one end or a shiny cybernetic simulation on the other. In a way, both ideas are horrific because of how uncertain they are. And it's that fear that shuts down all reasoning. But the future won't be extreme. Life will be mostly like today, except with less crime, poverty, and illness, i.e. a similar leap forward from where we were two hundred years ago. Maybe we'll have some wild, fantastical invention, such as the Holodeck, but ultimately life will remain the same: We will fall in love, we will fall out of love, we will strive for meaning and purpose, but we will still enjoy kicking back and watching movies. If you're scared of cryonics, you're ultimately scared of life, and maybe the cost of continuing it.

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If individualism becomes passé, then so will the fear of death, which will make those unfrozen from cryo feel old-fashioned

One thing to consider with cryonics is the possibility of waking up in a world that has none of the assumptions that your current one does.

For example, assume you are born in the 1500s, and that you believe strongly in heaven and hell. You grow up with an ascetic bent and feel horrible about some sins (real or imagined) you committed in your childhood. The possibility that you will spend an eternity in hell plagues you.

One day, a magician comes to town and says that he can freeze your body and hide it till some future date when science will make you live forever, thus avoiding hell. You decide to get life insurance, and after ten years, a horse kicks you in the chest, you die, and are then frozen by the magician.

You wake up in 2030 in a city that is 50% agnostic, 25% atheist, and 25% religious. You ask people about God and are shocked that most people don't seem very interested in the topic. People ridicule you, which leads to some "soul-searching." You go to the library and read up about the existence of other religions, something you didn't even know about based on your old provincial lifestyle. You stumble upon Darwin and Nietzsche who fill you with doubt. You have your own personal Renaissance and question everything you thought you knew about religion.

What if there is no God? What if there's no heaven and hell? Your fear of hell was so crucial to your identity. It's why you could never form real relationships, and it's a big part of why you gave all your money to cryonics. The thought depresses you, and you regret having ever met that magician.

Likewise, if you purchase a $80K neuro freeze from Alcor in 2016, which just freezes your head and brain stem, you are going to end up waiting for a society that has developed some very exotic technologies. Mind uploading, cyborgs, and immortality will be commonplace by the time you are unfrozen. Even if you're an atheist today, you have to wonder how our attitudes about death will change in such a far-out future. It's difficult to imagine what kind of unravelings our philosophies would undergo because our philosophies are like gasses that expand to fill the containing intellect. Once our intellect expands, what if we don't even care about egos? What if individualism itself dies? If our future existence is in a fluid matrix of software, holodeck-style lifestyles, and human copying, could our fear of death becomes as antiquated as our ancestors' fear of hell?

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The initial trials of cryonics will be like Lasik or chemo, i.e. a hassle you have to repeat every couple decades

One way to think about cryonics is that it's just better healthcare or just better health insurance. Consider this scenario: First, you sign up for a full-body cryo, taking out a life insurance policy for $200,000. Then 20 years later, you get cancer and are frozen. 50 years later, cancer is cured and they unfreeze you and cure your cancer. But now you're an old man in the year 2082. While as core diseases like cancer and heart disease are cured, people are still dying of old age.

And so you decide to sign-up for cryo again and take out another life insurance policy, this time for 75,000 yuan since costs have gone up and you're now in China. But you don't have enough money to afford that yet and the job market is completely changed. So you go back to school, take out a student loan, then try to get a job with a company that offers cryo as a benefit. 30 years later, you die of old age and go back into cryo.

You then wake up 100 years later, old age is cured, but people can still die of car accidents. However, there are portable cryo facilities in ambulances so that, if you have the right insurance, you can be preserved right then on the spot. And so you go back to school and take out another life insurance policy.

According to this pattern, cryo becomes kind of like Lasik, which you need to have every 10-20 years—i.e. It's a hassle. In each of those times you get frozen and reawakened, you have to go through the rigmarole of re-connecting with new descendants who may or may not be interested in you. You have to re-build your financial base and maybe learn a new language to integrate with the dominant hegemony. Maybe by the second or third time you do cryo, you think, "You know what, if I knew it was going to be this much of a hassle to wait for immortality, I wouldn't have done it!"