Cryonicist's Horizons

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The Philosophical Debate Surrounding Cryonics and Identity

Discover the philosophical debate surrounding cryonics and identity

Cryonics is a topic that has sparked heated debates among philosophers, scientists, and everyday people alike. At the core of the cryonics debate lies the issue of personal identity and what it means to be human. In this article, we'll explore the different arguments surrounding cryonics and identity to gain a better understanding of this complex and fascinating topic.

Understanding Cryonics

The Science Behind Cryonics

Cryonics is a fascinating field that has captured the imagination of many people around the world. The main idea behind cryonics is that by preserving the body, the brain's neural connections can remain intact, thus allowing the person to be brought back to life. This is based on the belief that death is not a permanent state, but rather a process that can be reversed if the body is preserved in the right way.

No one knows for sure if or when reanimation will be possible.

While there is still much that we don't know about the human brain and how it works, scientists have made significant progress in understanding the science behind cryonics. Many experts believe that cryonics may be a viable option for people who want to extend their lives beyond what is currently possible.


The Process of Cryopreservation

The process of cryopreservation is a complex one that requires careful planning and execution. It involves perfusing the body with cryoprotective agents and cooling the body down to cryogenic temperatures. The goal is to pause all biochemical activity while preventing the water in the body's cells to turn into ice and therefore not causing damage to the tissue. Once the body is cryopreserved, it is stored in a tank filled with liquid nitrogen (dewar) until such time as it can be reanimated by future medical technology.

One of the challenges of cryopreservation is ensuring that the body is properly prepared before it is vitrified. This involves removing as much of the blood from the body as possible and replacing it with a special solution that helps to prevent ice crystals from forming. The body is then placed in a special bag that is designed to protect it from damage during the cooling process.

The History and Development of Cryonics

The idea of cryonics dates back to the mid-17th century, when scientists first began to explore the possibility of freezing living tissue. However, it wasn't until the 1960s that the first human cryopreservation attempt was made. Over the years, cryonics technology has improved significantly, and today it's possible to vitrify a person's body almost immediately after death, increasing the chances of reviving them in the future.

Despite the progress that has been made in the field of cryonics, there are still many challenges that need to be overcome before it can become a mainstream practice. One of the biggest challenges is the fact that the technology is still relatively new and untested, which means that there is still much that we don't know about how it will work in practice.

Despite these challenges, many people remain fascinated by the idea of cryonics and are willing to take this bet and potentially extend their lives. Whether or not cryonics will ever become a widely accepted practice remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that it will continue to be a topic of much debate and discussion in the years to come.

Personal Identity and the Self

Defining Personal Identity

Personal identity is a complex and multifaceted concept that has been debated by philosophers, psychologists, and scientists for centuries. At its core, personal identity refers to the unique set of characteristics that define who we are as individuals. 

These characteristics can include our personality traits, memories, beliefs, experiences, and more. Personal identity is what gives us a sense of continuity over time and allows us to distinguish ourselves from others.

However, the concept of personal identity is not always straightforward. For example, what happens when someone experiences a significant change in their personality or memories, such as through brain injury or disease? Does this mean that their personal identity has fundamentally changed as well? These are the types of questions that have fueled much of the debate surrounding personal identity.

Theories of Personal Identity

There are several theories of personal identity, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. One of the most popular theories is the psychological continuity theory. This theory posits that personal identity is preserved through psychological continuity, which means that if most of your mental features are still functioning properly after death, your personal identity is preserved. This theory emphasizes the importance of memory and consciousness in defining personal identity.

All the baggage that we carry from our life experiences is what makes you, "you".

Another theory is the physical criterion theory, which maintains that personal identity is tied to your body. According to this theory, if the body is preserved, your identity is preserved as well. This theory has been criticized for not taking into account the role of memory and consciousness in personal identity.

The Role of Memory and Consciousness

The concepts of memory and consciousness are central to the debate over cryonics and personal identity. Cryonics is the practice of vitrifying a person's body after death with the hope of reviving them in the future. Many cryonicists believe that memory and consciousness are what make up the essence of personal identity, and thus, if these aspects can be preserved, the person's identity is preserved as well.

However, opponents of cryonics argue that preserving memory and consciousness alone is not enough to preserve personal identity. They argue that personal identity is much more complex and intangible than mere memories or consciousness. For example, personal identity may also involve our values, beliefs, and relationships with others.

Despite these debates, the concept of personal identity remains a fascinating and important topic for understanding what makes us who we are as individuals.

Philosophical Arguments for Cryonics

Cryonics as a Means of Life Extension

One of the main arguments for cryonics is that it offers the possibility of life extension. Cryonics involves the preservation of the body at extremely low temperatures, with the hope that it can be revived in the future when medical technology has advanced enough to cure the ailment that caused the person's death. This means that if we can revive people who were previously considered dead, then the average human lifespan could be greatly extended, offering opportunities for scientific and technological advancements that we can't even imagine yet.

Imagine a world where people could live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The implications of such a world are staggering. People would have more time to pursue their interests, achieve their goals, and contribute to society. The accumulation of knowledge and experience would be exponential, leading to unprecedented advancements in science, medicine, and technology.

However, some argue that this could also lead to overpopulation and resource depletion. But overpopulation is nothing more than a fallacy.  

The Potential for Future Technological Advancements

Another argument for cryonics is that it provides the possibility of technological advancement beyond our current level of understanding. By preserving the human body, we give future generations the opportunity to unlock great scientific and medical discoveries, essentially allowing us to live in the future.

Imagine being able to witness the technological advancements of the future firsthand. Cryonics offers the possibility of being able to experience a world that we can't even imagine yet, with technologies that we can't even conceive of.

However, some argue that this is a risky proposition. We can't predict what the future will hold, and there's no guarantee that the future will be a better place. It's important to weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks. That's why we believe in Informed Consent

Ethical Considerations in Favor of Cryonics

Lastly, there are ethical considerations in favor of cryonics. Some argue that it's our moral obligation to allow people to have the chance to restore their lives, if possible. This is especially true for those who were unable to receive medical advances during their lifetime but may have the chance to benefit from future advancements through cryonics.

Imagine if we could bring back historical figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, or Marie Curie. They could continue to contribute to society and inspire future generations. Cryonics offers the possibility of preserving the legacy and knowledge of those who have come before us.

However, some argue that cryonics is an unnatural and potentially dangerous practice, and could bring back dangerous individuals. There are also concerns about the potential cost and accessibility of cryonics, which could lead to a widening gap between the rich and poor. Those all are valid points, but the risk of preserving notoriously dangerous individuals in serious organizations is very small. On top of that, it is part of our mission to make Cryonics accessible to all spheres of society, we need just economies of scale. 

Cryonics is a complex and controversial topic that raises many philosophical questions. While there are arguments in favor of cryonics, there are also valid concerns that must be addressed. It's important to approach cryonics with an open mind and consider all of the potential benefits and risks before making a decision.

Philosophical Arguments against Cryonics

The Continuity of Identity Problem

One of the primary arguments against cryonics is that the continuity of identity problem is unresolved. Those against cryonics argue that the person who is revived from cryonic suspension won't be the same person who died, as their environment, experiences, and memories will be vastly different from their previous life.

Furthermore, the continuity of identity problem raises questions about the nature of consciousness and personal identity. If a person's memories and experiences are altered or erased, are they still the same person? Some philosophers argue that personal identity is not solely based on memories and experiences, but rather on a continuous stream of consciousness. 

Therefore, even if a person's memories and experiences are altered, they may still be the same person if their stream of consciousness remains intact.

Ethical Concerns and the Value of Life

Another argument against cryonics concerns ethical issues and the value of life. Opponents argue that rather than focusing on extending the lifespan of dead individuals, we should focus our efforts on improving the quality of life for those who are currently living. This includes improving access to healthcare, education, and basic necessities such as food and water.

Additionally, some argue that cryonics is an unethical use of resources and that it's better to use those resources for the common good. Cryonic preservation is an expensive process, and opponents argue that the money spent on cryonics could be better used to improve the lives of those who are currently suffering.

While improving the quality of life for the living is certainly an important goal, that does not mean we should not also pursue technologies like cryonics that could extend lifespans and even revive those who were previously considered "dead." Cryonics does not necessarily take resources away from other worthy causes like providing food, water, and healthcare to those in need. Many of the people who opt for cryonics preservation are able to fund it themselves, either through life insurance policies they take out specifically for this purpose or through other means.

Cryonics also offers hope that lives cut short by incurable diseases like cancer need not be permanent deaths. If a cancer patient has their body preserved through cryonics shortly after legal death, they maintain a chance of revival once cures for their disease have been developed. For families losing loved ones, this can offer comfort and a belief that they may meet again in the future.

While cryonics will not be for everyone, it should remain an option they have the right to choose by having access to useful information to make an informed choice. Regulation and legislation should not prohibit consenting individuals from deciding whether they want a chance at a future revival when science may have advanced beyond today's capabilities. With careful consideration of ethics and resources, cryonics and vital efforts to help living people in need do not have to be mutually exclusive. Both aims can be pursued through continued scientific progress and an open and informed discussion of emerging technologies.

Cryonics does not necessarily divert resources from the living and offers hope for revival that should remain a choice for informed individuals. Provided it is pursued ethically and responsibly, cryonics has the potential to extend lives that would otherwise be lost to incurable diseases. It deserves more open consideration and should not be dismissed as preventing resources from being used to help those currently alive. With open minds and ethical scientific progress, we can advance both life extension and quality of life.

The Potential for Unforeseen Consequences

Lastly, critics of cryonics argue that there's a potential for unforeseen consequences, such as the possibility of something going wrong during the cryopreservation process or the unforeseen impact of introducing a previously dead person back into a society they no longer recognize.

Moreover, cryonics raises questions about the ethics of resurrection. If a person is revived from cryonic suspension, are they truly alive? What rights and responsibilities do they have? These questions are difficult to answer and raise concerns about the potential impact of cryonics on society as a whole.  

My personal opinion is that we underestimate how much the human mind can adapt to new circumstances and environments. 

What would be the challenges faced by cryopreserved individuals if reanimation becomes a reality?

Any emerging technology brings uncertainties, and cryonics is no different. With proper regulation and oversight, the cryopreservation process can be made safe and ethical. Revived individuals would still maintain the same rights as any citizen and be responsible for adapting to a new era, just as societies have adapted to major technological and social changes throughout human history.

The question of whether a revived person was ever "truly alive" or died in a meaningful sense is a philosophical one that depends a great deal on one's personal definition of life and death. 

There are three definitions of death commonly accepted. We at Tomorrow Bio, also believe in a fourth type of death, called Information Theoretical Death (ITD). In cryonics, information theoretical death could be defined as permanent death, or past the point of no return. Meaning that all the information contained in one's brain cannot be recovered, no matter how advanced the technology is in the future. 

From a scientific perspective, biologists are increasingly finding such definitions difficult in an age of advanced life support systems, organ transplants, and the realistic prospect of radical life extension. Provided the individual consented to preservation and revival, they have as much claim to life as any other person. Questions of personal identity after long periods of stasis may indeed be challenging, but human societies have grappled with even fundamental questions of identity, rights, and humanity before through eras of major change.

While cryonics raises important philosophical and ethical questions, that is not sufficient reason to abandon its development or deny individuals the freedom to choose whether to make a chance at revival possible for themselves. 

All emerging technologies bring uncertainty and disruption, but with progressive science and an open and principled discussion of ethics, cryonics need not pose insurmountable problems for society. 

After decades of development, debates around defining life and death as well as the rights and responsibilities of citizens continue through an era of biomedical advance. 

There is no reason cryonics could not be considered and regulated responsibly as another domain within that ongoing discussion. Continuous progress need not come at the cost of maintaining ethical standards or even cherished human values.

With open minds and judicious regulation, cryonics presents no unanswerable questions or certainly dire consequences for society. All cutting-edge science raises uncertainties, but progress depends on confronting them rather than avoiding ambitious technologies altogether.


While there are compelling philosophical arguments for and against cryonics, the debate over identity and what it means to be human remains unresolved. Ultimately, the decision to undergo cryopreservation is a personal one, and it's up to each individual to decide if they believe their identity can truly be preserved, and if the potential benefits of cryonics outweigh the potential costs.

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