An Anniversary For the Cryonics Community

As noted at Wired - and, more usefully, by Michael Anissimov - this is a noteworthy anniversary for the cryonics community:

January 12th is the day on which the first cryonics patient, Dr. James Bedford, took leave of us. Bedford’s heart stopped beating on Jan. 12, 1967 at the age of 73, and shortly after he became the first person to be cryonically preserved with the intention of future resuscitation. That was 40 years ago. If Bedford were up and kicking today, he’d be 113 years old. In 7 years, his combined pre-suspension and post-suspension age will surpass that of the longest-lived human on record.

Our personality, memories, dreams, and goals have a physical reality - in the connections between neurons in the brain. There is no ambiguity here; the entire field of cognitive science is possible because we know for a fact that the brain is the hardware that runs the software of consciousness. Cryonic suspension preserves that connective map, opening up the possibility that one day it could be reanimated and given new life.

This is true. In modern day science, mind is matter - geography, structure, connections. Collections of molecules in particular places. Vitrify that map at low temperature, and it'll still be there when scientists come to an understanding of how to bring it back to life and mind. Which, from my point of view, is an unpleasant experience to have to go through, and the overall concept has its thorns, but it's a damn sight better than the grave and oblivion.

Just a pity it doesn't have the level of support and understanding it merits. A great pity, and a great waste; a river of lives and minds pouring into the pit with every passing day.

After 40 years, the cryonics community and nascent industry has progressed, but not yet blossomed. I am inclined, at times, to agree with Aubrey de Grey's point of view - that most people will remain unconvinced of the economic rationale (in the broadest sense) for cryonic suspension until real anti-aging medicine or noteworthy progress towards the ability to revive the vitrified has been demonstrated. In other words, when the chance at additional life on the other side of cryopreservation is brought closer in estimate and thus made more valuable in the mind's eye via the magic of time preference.

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