This is the first article in the “My reading notes” category, in which I will share my reading notes with you as I go through various futurology books.
On the program for this premiere, the book “Preserving Minds, Saving Lives” edited by “Alcor Life Extension Foundation“:
Alcor is THE world leader in cryopreservation.
Cryonics (from Greek κρύος kryos meaning ‘cold’) is the low-temperature preservation (usually at −196°C) of people who cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that resuscitation and restoration to full health may be possible in the far future.
With cryopreservation, we dive a finger in the future, because cryonicists make the bet to preserve body and brain for a reanimation when the technological advances will allow.
The chance, as small as it is, to be able to wake up in full possession of its means in a future more or less distant, is a bet raised by the cryonicists. Here is a real audacity!
The first chapter begins with a quote from Michael Darwin “We are cryonicists because we choose to be optimistic rather than pessimistic about the future.” Does this remind you of something? It’s similar to what we claim in our Manifesto and About page. It’s this insatiable optimism that brings together a lot futuristic movements, beyond their differences.
The book “Preserving Minds, Saving Lives” is a compilation of various texts published by the magazine “Cryonics” during the last three decades. The topics discussed are as much philosophical as technical; reading promises to be as original as it is instructive!
By leaning on these futuristic themes and contemporary works of the field, the layman discovers an unsuspected universe mixed with techniques and refreshing metaphysical perspectives.
Chapter 1: What is cryonics?
Relativity and death
A first notable concept introduced by the book, that of the relativity of death. Indeed, the attribution of the final state of death can vary according to the epoch and the place: if you are a victim of a cardiac arrest in an underdeveloped country, your chances of survival are diminished and you will be more promptly characterized as “dead”. Get the same attack in a technologically advanced city like New York or Tokyo, and you could be “brought back to life” by defibrillation. In reality, you are not brought back to life … since you were never dead if you consider death as definitive and the intactness of your neuroanatomy within the short minutes following a cardio-respiratory arrest.
By extrapolating the concept, what is now considered an irreversible death, would no longer be in the future, where the means to “restart the machine” will be infinitely more elaborate than they are today.
Thus, for cryonicists, it is a question of (time) quantity, not of quality: cryopreservation is only a temporary state among others, awaiting future reanimation.
This raises questions about the preservation of identity. What is the duration of interruption of our consciousness beyond which we would no longer be considered to be the same person? Are we the same person in the morning when we wake up after losing consciousness while sleeping? Does the same entity remain after reanimation following a cardiopulmonary arrest, or following preoperative anesthesia? If so, why would it not be the case after 50 years in a state of cryopreservation? If I wake up in 50 years and my body and brain structure is sufficiently preserved so that I can regain my personality and all my memories …. am I the same person?
I will tend to answer affirmatively. A suspension of a minute or fifty years … the difference is indeed quantitative and not qualitative.
The book’s authors are, however, unequivocal; today it is not possible to reanimate a person who has benefited from a cryopreservation treatment. The approach is clearly a bet on the future.