Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of humans and animals that can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine until resuscitation may be possible in the future. Currently, human cryopreservation is not reversible, which means that it is not currently possible to bring people out of cryopreservation alive. The rationale for cryonics is that people who are considered dead by the current legal or medical definitions will not necessarily be dead by future standards – the most stringent standard being the information-theoretic definition of death – and that such people could be brought out of cryopreservation in the future.
Two recent articles at the remarkable lesswrong.com reminded me of cryonics.
Eliezer Yudkowsky, That Magical Click:
Yesterday I spoke of that cryonics gathering I recently attended, where travel by young cryonicists was fully subsidized, leading to extremely different demographics from conventions of self-funded activists. 34% female, half of those in couples, many couples with kids – THAT HAD BEEN SIGNED UP FOR CRYONICS FROM BIRTH LIKE A GODDAMNED SANE CIVILIZATION WOULD REQUIRE – 25% computer industry, 25% scientists, 15% entertainment industry at a rough estimate, and in most ways seeming (for smart people) pretty damned normal. Except for one thing.
During one conversation, I said something about there being no magic in our universe. And an ordinary-seeming woman responded, “But there are still lots of things science doesn’t understand, right?” Sigh. We all know how this conversation is going to go, right? So I wearily replied with my usual, “If I’m ignorant about a phenomenon, that is a fact about my state of mind, not a fact about the phenomenon itself; a blank map does not correspond to a blank territory -” “Oh,” she interrupted excitedly, “so the concept of ‘magic’ isn’t even consistent, then!”
She got it, just like that.
There is a wonderful episode of the radio program ‘This American Life’ on cryonics titled Mistakes Were Made. + I first encountered cryonics around 1979-1980 in the book Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson. Currently I practice passive cryonics. My scattered atoms and memories will not necessarily be considered dead by future standards, with no effort on my part necessary.