Ahead of their time, or heady mistake?

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Source: Pixabay

Happy Wednesday. I hope your work week has been going well.

I’m very happy to report I’m writing again. I was suffering from tendinitis in August and wasn’t typing (therefore not writing much), but I’m back to getting some work done now, and feeling much better.

As such, I thought I’d write a quick blog post, and was looking for a topic. I ran across this fascinating article at BioEdge about people who have their head frozen after their death, in hopes of being “reanimated” one day in the future. The people who choose to get only their heads frozen are (1) looking to save some case, because it costs nearly three times as much to get your entire body frozen and (2) believe that their mind’s data can be downloaded to a computer and their consciousness placed in a robot or some other such vessel, to allow them to live again at some point in the future.

The article is interesting because it covers so many angles. The procedure (of head freezing) costs $80,000 (body freezing is $200,00), so it’s pretty much relegated to the well-off citizenry. Is it fair that only the rich get to come back later? However, the more pressing question is, are the rich being swindled? No such technology exists and it might be more than a few hundred years before such technology exists, if ever.  Should companies be allowed to make promises based on a hope? Presuming the brain doesn’t actually turn a mess (like that undated meat of questionable origin that’s been sitting in my freezer too long), how do they know the data will still be there? That the severing the head from the body process doesn’t actually wipe the data clean? (If you don’t think the body is fickle, check out Jimmy Fallon explaining how he almost lost his finger. Pay attention to the vein replacement part.)

Of course, the ultimate question is, who are we? Are we really the same person if we’re frozen and awakened again, hundreds of years later. Are the we the same people if we find out all of our family is dead, and there is no one around who is like us or who can relate to us. No one who knows the music we know. No one who knows the pop culture we reference (When we say, “Calgone take me away,” we get the blank stares.) If you were a happy-go-lucky person, would you still be able to be that when everything else in your life was completely different. And you wouldn’t even have a body. Not your body, not the one you grew up with, not the one that housed you for all of the memories that were downloaded from your head. It’s such an odd, odd thing.

I was thinking about this dilemma in respect to FoSS (Federation of Surviving States), the society in which the Life First series is set. I wondered if they, who so value the preservation of human life would go for this or if they would be repulsed by the notion of just this trace of humanity left. I’ve been waffling back and forth on the issue, and I think, in general, they would disapprove. For, they would want to save life in the here and now. They would want life saved at this very moment. Because, if you were freezing people, how would you know that enough of society survived to wake them, or to care for them properly. They’d bet more on the here and now than on the future. But, if things got bad enough, if society became enough in peril, I think they’d freeze a few people. Y’know, just in case things got worse.

Personally, I don’t think I’d want to be frozen. As a writer, I suppose I’m predisposed to think we live on in other ways. In the things we’ve written, in the stories we’ve told, in the lives of the people who read our works and were touched in some way by them. So, the idea of opening my eyes in another time, in another place, with no one else I know, seems anathema to me. But, then again, I’m not dying (as far as I know). I do wonder, if when a person knows the end is near, if they think to themselves, “I’m not quite done yet. I still have more to give.” And if they do think that, I suppose it might be natural to look for a way to give it, especially if time is short and you can’t easily download the core of your existence before your time will be up (to be shared after you’re gone). Perhaps in those instances, you say, just stick me in the freezer and thaw me when the world is ready.

 

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at http://rjcrayton.com/subscribe.
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4 Responses to Ahead of their time, or heady mistake?

  1. Preserving one’s head, or entire body, is more of a vanity endeavor than scientific or intellectual. This is assuming that the would-be preserved individual is too lazy (stupid?) to record their thoughts in some digital format. Computers have already made writing easier. How pathetic must someone be not to be able to utilize “Dragon” software? When I think of cryogenic cranial preservation, I think of one of the “Crank” movies with a perpetually angst-riddle Jason Statham evading one assassin after another in stop-motion color, and the sight of one of his victims. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t bother trying to find the movie. Believe me: it’s not worth the trouble.

    Meanwhile I’m still in the midst of a project where I’m video-recording my parents talking about their lives. As mundane as their years may seem, they each have some fascinating tales; proving to me that just about everyone is important and is worth having their life stories captured in a tangible form. And no one has to lose their heads over it either!

    • RJ Crayton says:

      I completely agree with you about preserving stories. Everyone who’s lived has had some interesting experiences, and the key is getting them down. One of my favorite things we read in school was the Spoon River Anthology, which is a group of short works — epitaphs, really–of people who lived/died in a town. It’s biting and interesting because the citizens all were portrayed one way in life, but in death, their true nature is exposed. Not that everyone is hiding their true nature, but I think that people who seem ordinary and mundane on the surface are full of untold stories that would amaze. So, whether people freeze their head, their entire bodies or nothing at all, it’s key to get that information down in tangible form (like your videography project)

  2. Charles Ray says:

    Glad to know you’re well, and back in the game.

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