X-Message-Number: 11368
Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 09:47:55 EST
Subject: Let them rot?

Chrissie Walton (#11360) seems to believe we should not impose resurrection on
those who have not expressed a desire for it. This view has a degree of merit,
but (as Mike Perry has pointed out) this is far from the whole story or a
balanced assessment. And this moral dilemma applies not only to far-fetched
conjectures about revival of remote ancestors in the distant future, but also
in many cases to our own relatives here and now.

Certainly individual freedom is an ideal shared by most cryonicists and
potential cryonicists. But there is such a thing as ignorance, and there is
such a thing as stupidity, and there is such a thing as responsibility; all of
these could in many cases be seen as requiring your attempted intervention,
even pressure, to attempt to assure cryonic suspension even in the face of

Hands-off is an easy option. If your relative or friend doesn't want it, then
forget it--what could be easier or (in the short run at least) more
comfortable? You can even kid yourself that your stance is the noble and
idealistic one. But if you are convinced that the opposition, or lack of
interest, is based on misinformation or aberrant psychology, then "hands off"
means "turn your  back," and this is not easy to justify. 

Compare the case of children playing in the street or otherwise engaging in
dangerous activities. Some parents believe in giving children a lot of free
rein, allegedly to develop self-confidence and to learn by exposure, and out
of respect for their individual freedom. Sometimes it works; but sometimes the
children are killed or maimed. My own belief is that, in most cases,  a
laissez faire parent is just lazy and irresponsible. We have not only the
right, but the duty, to exert pressure on children in their own best interest,
as determined by us from our vantage point of greater knowledge and

Similar remarks apply to aged and incompetent parents. They don't understand
now, and their habits prevent them from learning; but if they could be revived
and then rejuvenated, educated, normalized in hormones and emotions, and
optimized in intelligence--then, as Mike Perry has intimated, they would
probably thank you fervently for disregarding their dying indifference or even

Obviously, none of this translates to any simple or automatic policy in
specific cases. Obviously also, it is easy to characterize my "responsibility"
as arrogance, and to insist that no one has appointed me as arbiter, and to
use the "slippery slope" argument against interference with the decisions of
other people. I understand all that; I am merely pointing out that the hands-
off policy is not the only one with moral standing, and not necessarily the
"best" policy.

One comparison that comes to mind is that of someone who believes his own
religion is the only path to paradise, every other one leading to eternal
damnation. Is he justified in using strong persuasion, or even coercion, to
save another's soul? At various times and places, the Moslems and the Roman
Catholics, among others, have believed that the faithful have a duty to save
others, even if this involves the use of cruelty and coercion, as in the auto
da fe. These horrible examples will be used to buttress the argument that no
one has the right to make such decisions on another's behalf. Yet, as always,
it isn't so simple. There are always questions of quality and degree, of the
specifics of the situation. Taking refuge in broad generalities is easy but
not responsible. It always comes down to an exercise in decision theory, a
weighing of probabilities and projection of outcomes.

Rotsa ruck.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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