Cryonics and Freedom

Via Betterhumans, a fairly compact summary of one of the lessons that supporters of cryonics should learn from recent events in France:

RAYMOND MARTINOT and his wife have just had their 20-year slumber in a cryogenic freezer brought to a fiery end. Their son discovered that they had not been preserved at the temperature needed for the planned resuscitation in 2050. Regretfully, he had to have them cremated.

What is shocking about this story is not that a French couple were kept frozen in a basement by their son; nor the couple's belief that by 2050 they would live again. What is shocking is that the French Government was not going to let them try. A court order had already been obtained for the Martinots' cremation before the freezer failure. In France a corpse must be buried, cremated or formally donated to science.


What business is it of the State to dictate how to dispose of, or preserve, the body of a loved one? None.


A State that interferes in this delicate and private area exposes its cultural and religious bias - a dangerous thing in the modern, multicultural world. A State that denies the right to try cryogenic preservation stifles scientific investigation. A State that insists on only limited options for the dead inhibits creativity and invention. A State that dictates how best the dead may lie assumes a worryingly paternal position towards its citizens.

To discover the French Government telling its people what is right for them even after they are dead is no surprise. But one might hope things would be better in the UK. They are not.

Nor are they much better anywhere else. Even the US - home to Alcor and the Cryonics Institute, and once upon a time a culture with some very definitive ideas about freedom and the state - ensuring that regulations and government employees don't interfere in your preservation is a matter of some effort and luck. I blame the slow failing of property rights for all this, as for many other things. If you are held from determining the manner and timing of your own death (say, so as to ensure a good cryonic suspension with least damage to your brain), if you are held from determining the fate of what should be your first and most important possession - your body - than how, exactly, are you free?

The other lessons to take away from this are primarily economic in nature, some of which I've previously addressed, with the help of commenters. Cryonics provision is not something you can go at alone and hope to succeed - the odds are dicey enough already for the mainstream organizations. Quite aside from the complexities of performing a suspension - and leaving aside any debate over the capabilities of future technology and whether suspension methodology matters so long as the temperature is kept low enough - this is a high quality of service operation. You can't afford mistakes, and that immediately qualifies cryonics as a venture for process, formal organization, and a professional manner of doing business. No one person working alone can succeed in the long term, no matter how dedicated or diligent.

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