X-Message-Number: 30
From: Kevin Q. Brown
Subject: there must be a catch
Date: 25 Oct 1988

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Yet, cryonics offers
people a chance for an extremely long and productive life.  What's the catch?
I have some speculations similar in flavor to one of Heinlein's aphorisms
(which I can only paraphrase here since I do not recall the source):
  Save a thousand dollars at 10% interest for 200 years and it will
  become 100 zillion dollars, by which time it will be worthless.
Cryonics may indeed work as planned, but not produce quite what cryonicists

Cryonicists share a vision of a future that:
  (1) has the nanotechnology and, in particular, cell repair machines
      necessary for reviving them from cryonic suspension, and
  (2) is worth coming back to (since otherwise they would not be preserved
      long enough to be revived).
The expectation seems generally to be that when a person is revived, he or
she will be healthy, young (if desired), and able to participate in a future
world full of marvelous hi-tech toys.  I won't argue that, but I suspect there
also will be some "gotchas", even if the future world is quite benevolent.

The first "gotcha" is that when people are finally revived from cryonic
suspension, humans (as we know them today) will be obsolete.  Not necessarily

extinct, but no longer major players in the events of civilization; they will be
anachronisms.  This is because any technology that can build nanomachines to
reassemble and repair 20th Century frozen sick people will be able to easily
and remarkably enhance humans far beyond what we see today.  Why would future
people elect to be "brain damaged" when they could have libraries of
information, high-bandwidth telecommunications, and the brainpower to
effectively use it all easily built-in?  Of course, newly revived people could
presumably become similarly enhanced, too, and become "bigger" and more complex
than they had the capacity to imagine before.  This is not a bad "gotcha", but

if one expected to wake up and find the world populated with the kinds of people
with which one is familiar, the change is likely to be a shock.  Supposedly
"futuristic" stories such as those in Star Trek, which feature cowboys of the
future romping through the galaxy, are both entertaining and misleading.  They
assume a future that will be much like the present, only bigger and faster.
I do not believe it will be that simple.

The second "gotcha" is that cryonicists do not like getting killed, yet a
dominant personality of the future may be one that takes great physical risks
and gets killed often.  Why would this happen?  When matter can be easily
manipulated (by general-purpose nanotechnology) into almost any physically
possible form, INFORMATION becomes the major commodity.  When our most valued
possession is information and we can decompose, transmit, and reassemble
ourselves as information, our sense of self will become our information and
bodies will be throwaways.  Instead of a future society of potential immortals
who always desperately try to avoid deadly accidents, we may see quite the
opposite; if your backups are in order go take any physical risk you like!
Furthermore, murder may become even more popular than it is today if everyone
sees it as just a harmless practical joke.  People newly revived from the 20th
Century would doubtless say: "But that's not what I bargained for!".

In what other ways may cryonic suspension work completely as planned, yet
the future still come out "wrong"?  Happy Halloween!

                                       - Kevin Q. Brown

Q: How many cryonicists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Four.  One to ensure that the lightbulb is declared legally dead, one to
   perfuse it with cryoprotectants, one to slowly cool it to liquid nitrogen
   temperature, and one to wait a hundred years for technology to advance
   sufficiently to revive it.

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=30