The Problem with Cryonicists
An idea that I’ve seen repeatedly come up in apologies for cryonics is that countless people are dying when they didn’t have to. This assertion even appears in one of the latest posts by Robin Hanson on the topic. It seems to me that there’s a little problem with this sort of argument.
It’s highly emotionally-laden, and grossly inaccurate. The first facet is not so much a problem in itself, although it’s a worrisome sign, but combined with the second it becomes devastating, as the emotional appeal makes it harder to recognize what’s wrong with the point.
First, everyone who goes through cryonic preservation dies, whether the whole body is stored or merely the head. Frozen people are dead, period. The issue is not the preservation of their lives, but the possibility of their revivications.
Second, we do not know that cryonics preserves enough information to make revivication possible. For all we know, the minds that once existed within the frozen brains have been grossly damaged, or even erased completely. Even if it is theoretically possible to extract a mind from its chilly husk, we have no idea how much technological progress might be needed to accomplish that, nor precisely why a society capable of the hypothetical technical demands would bother. We do not know that revival can be achieved, no more than we know it to be impossible. But the procedure is a desperate leap into the unknown. Representing it as the salvation of countless dying human beings is wishful thinking at best, and an irresponsibly-extreme exaggeration at worst.
Cryonics doesn’t making dying unnecessary. It doesn’t even give us the reasonable expectation of potentially being ransomed from it. To speak of the ending of millions of human lives as avoidable displays a serious lack of concern for rational argument, and suggests that those who would use such arguments recognize they’re unable to produce solid support for their ideas.