Arguments Against Cryonics
Biostasis aka cryonics may change our relationship with life and death forever. If revival works, we will face a groundbreaking discovery. Since time will cease to be an issue, society as a whole will have to change and adapt to a new way of living. Yet, as with every groundbreaking discovery, there have been several attempts in the last decades to prove that it will not work. For now, there is no actual scientific reason proving that it won’t work. However, let’s have a look at and analyze the main arguments against cryonics.
Many arguments against cryonics can be placed in the category of scientific (and often semi-scientific) arguments. These refer mostly to cryonics’ current technical and medical limitations.
Revival will never work
Very often we hear people saying that cryonics will never work because science might not advance enough to ever permit revival.
But what is “ever”, when time is not an issue? Cryopreserved patients can be stored for an indefinite amount of time. We don’t know when medical technology will be able to achieve revival. We can’t predict how long it will take. Surely, cryopreservation is quite a complex procedure and will therefore need a complex solution. Yet organ transplantation and flying to another continent (or to the moon) is also a very complex procedure. Still, we found a way to do it. And its procedures and capabilities are improving year after year.
Let’s get our attention back to Biostasis. If we look from a purely biological point of view, there are chances that revival will eventually work. We can’t extrapolate more specific success or failure rates without entering the field of speculation. So we can’t say exactly what the chance of success of Biostasis is.
In any case, looking at the unbelievable accomplishments of medical technology year after year, it should seem more obvious to be optimistic about the future than pessimistic. We are living in the most advanced society that has ever existed. There is no reason to believe that in the future, medical technology will not be able to achieve what today is considered “impossible”.
We won’t be able to revive patients with the current cryopreservation procedure
What if revival will eventually work, but the way we are cryopreserving patients today is not the right one? This could be seen as a more valid argument, compared to the previous one. Let’s then have a look at the current state of cryopreservation.
The procedures that we are using at the moment at Tomorrow Biostasis, and in other Biostasis companies, for whole-body cryopreservation are the result of several years of Biostasis R&D. Fundamentally, the main goal is to preserve as much as possible of the patient. To have a high quality cryopreservation, it is extremely important to start the procedure as quickly as possible after the patient is declared legally dead. The faster we act, the lower the degradation, the more of the patient we preserve. We do expect that, even though there will be damage, future technology will be able to fix it.
Finally, there are two reasons why we preserve as much of the patient as possible:
- We don’t know yet what exactly revival technology will need to be able to revive the patient. It may be that in the future we will be able to recreate a whole person from just one string of DNA. However, since we don’t know yet, we store everything at the very best of our capabilities.
- It is very likely that revival will be easier and faster when medical technology will not have to rebuild an entire body from scratch (as it would be in case of neuro cryopreservation).
Revival may work — but we will not bring back the “real you”
What is the “real you’’? Are you the sum of all the little electrical impulses between your neurons? Or of memories and life experiences that you’ve had? Or maybe there is a “soul”, an “inner flame” or something else that we haven’t discovered yet that makes you who you actually are?
The whole science behind cryonics is based on the idea that your “real you” is stored in your brain. This idea comes from the current state of scientific knowledge. From what we know now, if your brain is preserved intact, we will be able to bring back the real you.
To explain this concept even better, Biostasis utilizes the concept of information-theoretic death or info-death. Info-death occurs when the structures that encode memory and personality have been so disrupted that it is no longer possible in principle to recover them. Basically in most cases, once you are declared legally dead, your brain is still intact. Subsequently, as a result of the lack of oxygen to the brain, your neurons begin a process of degradation that will eventually lead to info-death. Once you reach info-death, all information stored in your brain is gone and revival becomes impossible. Through cryopreservation, we pause the degradation process and avoid info-death. According to the knowledge we have now, through Biostasis we store the “real you”.
Economical and Societal Arguments
These arguments against cryonics focus on its costs for society and for the environment. Are the resources we need to invest in this science worth the results and knowledge we may obtain out of it?
It’s too expensive
This argument could be divided into two:
- It’s too expensive — so only very rich people can do it
- It’s too expensive — society should invest in other fields
Assumption 1. Cryopreservation is an advanced medical procedure. Its current price covers not only the surgical open-heart procedure but also transportation, standby teams, long term storage and possible future revival. Consequently, it is expensive. At Tomorrow Biostasis, all costs associated with a whole body cryopreservation lead to a price of 200.000€ (or 300.000€ with a Platinum plan). Other Biostasis companies have similar or lower prices. But still, few organizations can currently offer this service at a lower price.
We hope that, with the growth of our community, Biostasis will finally reach an economy of scale and become more and more affordable per capita. Since this hasn’t happened yet, we have found a way to break down the price in affordable monthly payments (starting from 40€ per month), using term life insurance. With this method, not only rich people can choose to be cryopreserved.
Assumption 2. Since the technology needed for revival is quite advanced, we may need a good amount of money to invest in the research. Money that, according to some, could be better invested in other fields. This is true from a short term point of view. From a more long term perspective, Biostasis may in fact save more lives. Even if revival doesn’t work, along the way we could be able to make huge steps in the field of cryopreservation of organs for transplant, to name just one possible benefit.
It’s bad for the environment
Biostasis companies have been trying to debunk this myth for decades. Despite this, people still believe that you need electricity for long term storage. If this were true, the environmental costs would indeed be high. But cryopreserved patients are stored in cryogenic storage dewars containing liquid nitrogen. No electricity is needed to keep the dewars working. To produce liquid nitrogen, however, some electricity is needed — still less than the amount needed for mechanical cooling. So, at the current state, liquid nitrogen, produced through renewable resources, is the best and cleanest way to store cryopreserved patients. Furthermore, we do CO2 offsets for everything. Sustainability is in fact an important aspect for people who want to live a “second life” in a greater future.
Finally, many people are worried about the effect of Biostasis on overpopulation. As we covered thoroughly in this article, studies show that overpopulation will very likely decrease and eventually stop in the future. In some parts of the world we are already experiencing population decline. We expect that future technology will solve today’s environmental and societal issues, find increasingly better ways to use clean resources, and meet the needs of the population through technological improvements. Therefore, there will be space and resources for revived people.
Future society will not revive you
Some people wonder: “Why would future societies ever want to revive cryopreserved patients?”. One answer could be: “Why wouldn’t they?”.
There are two options here. Option 1: the future will be a better place than today. This option is very likely since, from a long term perspective, humanity has always progressed and improved itself. In this better future, where resources will be abundant and technology will improve human life… Why would a wealthy society decide against revival? It is more likely to think that the population of the future will look with interest at cryonics. Revived people will pave the way for several unimaginable new possibilities. Furthermore, a future (better than today) society might see a moral obligation to revive people who wanted to be revived.
Let’s now imagine option 2: the future is awful. Even if this possibility is less likely, it is still a possibility. In this case, there is an actual chance that future society, deprived of resources and wealth, will not revive cryopreserved patients. We can’t predict what will happen in this situation. It is very likely to think that, if the future will be such a terrible place, cryopreserved people would be happy not to experience it.
Finally, there are ethical arguments. Ethics is very complex, shaped by cultural background, religion and personal beliefs. Something that is considered as unethical today may be completely normal in tomorrow’s world. So how do we deal with arguments that are relative to the time and society we live in?
It disrupts the natural life-death order
Death is a natural process. It’s part of life. According to some, it is what gives life a meaning. Without death, they say, we wouldn’t appreciate life.
We can break this argument down into three different parts.
- Throughout history, we have come up with different ways to extend our lifespan. We have invented antibiotics and created vaccines. We have transplanted organs from one person to another, in order to allow the recipient to live some years longer. These procedures were considered unnatural at the beginning. Yet, looking at how many lives they saved, we have finally embraced them. Biostasis is based on the same idea, simply more long-term.
- Death is a natural part of life as we perceive it today. In the future, the way we live may be different. Immortality may be achieved by medical technology even without the use of cryonics. Imagine a day in which we will actually win over death. Will society after that day be against nature or will our perception of what is natural simply switch?
- One of the main reasons why people join the Biostasis community is because they love life. They love it so much that they are willing to invest in an experimental technology that may give them the chance to live longer. Will a “second life” in the future have the effect of making people who love life become bored of being alive? Or maybe the love for life that many of us feel is not linked to our mortality?
You won’t be able to adapt to the future
Many people don’t want to be cryopreserved because they are scared of the future. In fact, the future will be different from what we are used to and we don’t know how much different it will be. The economy will very likely be different. Will currencies still exist? And language as well, since it develops constantly. Relationships between humans could change as well.
Imagine if someone who lived 100 years ago, in the 1920’s, would wake up in today’s world… they would probably need some time to adapt. Society now is way faster. Technology is everywhere. Imagine your grand grand grandma learning how to use a smartphone. It could be complicated, sure. But impossible?
Cryopreserved people will not be left alone just after revival. Most cryopreserved patients will have family in the future. And their family will very likely be excited about the opportunity to revive them and help them adapt to the new society. Society as well would probably be interested in connecting with revived people. To discover first hand about the past. And finally, Biostasis companies will do their best to help patients reintegrate.
It’s a selfish choice
Finally, one of the most debated arguments against cryonics. Is the desire to live longer truly selfish? Sure, if by living longer we would take someone else’s living space, then we would have to face an ethical issue. But reviving patients will very likely not take anything away from other people’s lives.
At the Biostasis2021 Conference we listened to a very interesting talk by David Wood about future scenarios of Biostasis. At the end of the talk, Wood covers this specific topic: cryonics as a selfish choice and the need for a philosophical breakthrough. The reason why it is so hard to talk openly about Biostasis is because many people look at it as something egotistical and negative. But wanting to live longer is not egoistical. None of us wants to die. We all want to have more time to experience more things. Meet the children of our great-grandchildren. Go to places we haven’t had time to visit. Try new jobs. Find out if we’ll ever be able to live on Mars.
For these reasons, we are doing our best to make Biostasis possible for everyone. Our society as a whole should be able to benefit from it. It is not anymore a “choice only few people may gain from”. Every person interested in living longer should be able to make this choice.
And finally, as we said before, imagine immortality will become reality in the future. Wanting to live longer will not just cease to be seen as selfish. There will not be the need anymore for this desire at all.
There are several arguments against cryonics. Even more than the ones we listed here. Many times, behind these arguments there are people who haven’t researched the topic properly and therefore have a wrong understanding. Or people that may be scared of the possible effects of revival for our society.
Whatever the argument is, we have to keep some things in mind. First of all, there is no proven biological evidence that revival will not work. Secondly, no matter the outcome, investment and research in this field will provide society with significant discoveries. Thirdly, our society is in continuous change. The way we perceive life now is different from the way we perceived it in the past. And it will be different in the future. Concepts like “ethical” and “natural” vary as well. It’s our choice to move with them, or even help them change for the better, or to close our mind instead.