Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A frozen old friend

So I was just googling people I haven't seen in a long time, and I found an article about some friends of mine, Mary Margaret and Jim Glennie, who I knew when I was in college. Jim died of a brain tumor, and had his brain cryopreserved in hopes of reanimating it some day; and Mary Margaret is signed up for the same treatment.

I don't know enough biology to say anything intelligent about whether this process could work. Seems far-fetched. But Mary Margaret's logic was sound: she pays some amount of insurance to Alcor, for a few decades, and gains some probability, however small, of a long, interesting, unimaginable life in the distant future, by the side of loved ones you're guaranteed to lose otherwise. If you can afford it, and you don't believe in any metaphysical afterlife, then why not? It's a bit like a materialist's version of Pascal's wager.

All the same, I don't see myself signing up. I have faith that, a society that had the technology to revive me wouldn't need me. They'd be bringing me back out of nostalgia or contractual obligation, and in a society with that kind of technology, I'd basically never die. I'd be the same kind of quaint annoyance as the crappy old buildings you can't knock down when historical preservationists take things too far. I mean, I like to think of myself as a beautiful and unique snowflake, but one coffee table book of snowflake pictures is about all anyone can appreciate. I'll let Jim and Mary Margaret fill that role. They'll make fine ambassadors to the future.

(Thanks mysza831 for the photo)