Cryonics: a Presentation and a Profile

The Toronto Transhumanist Association recently hosted a talk on cryonics, the practice of low-temperature storage of the body and brain after death. Cryonics is an educated gamble on the capabilities of future medicine, and the only sensible, scientific chance at a longer life for all too many people who will not live to see the coming era of working anti-aging medicine. You'll find details and an MP3 of the event at Sentient Developments, and some follow-on thoughts at Betterhumans:

Another issue brought up at the meeting was the 'right to death' issue. While on the outside it might seem antithetical for a hopeful cryonaut to endorse voluntary euthanasia, it is in fact an issue that is very pertinent.

Suppose you come down with Alzheimer's. As someone who hopes to preserve their brain in the most pristine manner possible, the thought of undergoing an illness that rots away at your most precious resource should be frightening to say the least. Consequently, it could be argued that it should be within your rights to commit suicide prior to the point where Alzheimer's irrevocably starts to damage your brain.

So, as I've argued before, fight for your right to die.

I've discussed this before; cryonics requires the freedom that comes with strong property rights, including the right to do as you see fit with your most fundamental possession - your body. Sadly, none of us really have that right today:

For example, it is extremely difficult to choose the time and method of your own death, even under the most compelling circumstances. Assisted suicide is illegal in many countries, leaving terminal stage patients - who often endure intolerable pain and loss of dignity - with no options other than to suffer. Cryonics patients often want to die in a time and manner of their choosing, in order to best preserve their brain for cryosuspension. The US legal system prevented a patient with a terminal brain tumor from being cryosuspended before the tumor could damage his brain beyond repair. I am at a loss to explain why courts, laws, and plain old other people should have any say in these matters. If you don't own your body and your life, what do you own?

It is unfortunate that we live in a society in which people serve laws, as opposed to the other way around.

Changing gears, an interesting and positive profile of an Alcor member showed up online in the past few days:

According to the company, the cryogenic process is expensive, starting at $80,000 for the preservation of a brain and jumping to $150,000 for a whole body. Clients usually start a life insurance policy that, when it matures, gives money to Alcor rather than to family members.

Marshall Reaves, a 21-year-old ASU student, is in the process of taking out such a policy, which he says will cost him between $10 and $20 a month.

"For the price of a few drinks from Starbucks every month, I can potentially prevent myself from dying," Reaves says. "It's a matter of priorities."


"No offense to anyone else," he says. "But having my body frozen for the possibility of resuscitation doesn't seem any weirder to me than being burned or buried in a wooden box six feet underground."


"At this point in my life, I can't imagine ever wanting to die," he says. "When there are so many problems in the world, why wouldn't you want to have time to try and help solve them? Maybe my point of view will change over time, but I don't know. There's so much I want to do, and I'd be upset if I missed out on any of it."

That would be about right. Personally, I'd like to avoid the requirement of cryopreservation if possible - just as any sensible person would rather avoid suffering prolonged incapacity, no matter how reversible - but it's an infinitely better option than oblivion.

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