Cryo and Social Obligations

I’m about a third of the way through “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” by David Grae­ber, and am en­joy­ing the feel­ing of ideas shift­ing around in my head, ar­rang­ing them­selves into more use­ful pat­terns. (The last book I read that put to­gether ideas of similar breadth was “Economix: How and Why Our Econ­omy Works” by Good­win.) “Debt” goes into the ori­gins of debts, as com­pared to obli­ga­tions; and re­lated top­ics, such as ex­changes con­sid­ered be­neath eco­nomic no­tice (“Please pass me the salt”), debts too big or unique to be re­paid, peace­ful ver­sus vi­o­lent in­ter­ac­tions, the end­less minor obli­ga­tions that form the net­work of so­cial con­nec­tions, and even the ba­sis of whole so­cieties.

The rea­son I’m post­ing about this book here… is that it’s giv­ing me some new per­spec­tives from which to con­sider the whole cry­on­ics sub­cul­ture, and, for in­stance, why it re­mains just a sub­cul­ture of a cou­ple of thou­sand peo­ple or so. For ex­am­ple, a stan­dard LessWrong thought ex­per­i­ment is “Is That Your True Re­jec­tion?”; and most of the ob­jec­tions peo­ple raise to cry­on­ics seem to be off enough that, even if those ob­jec­tions were solved, those par­tic­u­lar peo­ple still wouldn’t sign up—that is, they feel some fun­da­men­tal an­tipa­thy to the whole idea of cry­on­ics, and un­con­sciously pick some ra­tio­nal­iza­tion that hap­pens to sound rea­son­able to them to ex­plain it.

I still have two-thirds of “Debt” to go… but, at the mo­ment, I have a strong hunch that one ex­tremely strong rea­son peo­ple feel an emo­tional re­vul­sion to cryo is, sim­ply, that even if they do wake up in the fu­ture, they will have been cut off from all their so­cial con­nec­tions. This may not sound like much—but the part of “Debt” I’m cur­rently read­ing dis­cusses how one of the more fun­da­men­tal as­pects of slav­ery is that be­com­ing a slave in­volves be­ing cut off from one’s fam­ily and so­ciety; and an­other fun­da­men­tal as­pect is that be­ing a slave is be­ing with­out honor, and in many senses liter­ally hav­ing died (eg, in some so­cieties, when some­one was taken as a slave, their will was read and their spouse con­sid­ered a widow). On a cer­tain emo­tional level, many peo­ple re­ally do seem to think that be­ing prob­a­bly-per­ma­nently cut off from all their loved ones is a fate no bet­ter than sim­ply dy­ing out­right.

What’s even more in­ter­est­ing is that if this idea has any ac­tual ba­sis in re­al­ity… then it offers the pos­si­bil­ity of com­ing up with ap­proaches to counter it: pro­mot­ing the idea that wak­ing up from cryo will in­volve be­ing en­meshed in a com­mu­nity right­away. I’m not ac­tu­ally sure how this might be man­aged. The Ven­tur­ists seem to be head­ing in the gen­eral di­rec­tion of that idea—but don’t quite seem to be cap­tur­ing it; maybe its the an­nual fee, maybe it’s the dearth of con­crete plans about how to help cry­onic re­vivees, maybe it’s some­thing more ab­stract.

One pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tive ap­proach might be to take the thought ex­per­i­ment—what if we could re­vive some­one from cryo not next cen­tury, or next decade… but to­mor­row. What could we do to help them in­te­grate into mod­ern life, in­stead of merely wak­ing up in a hos­pi­tal bed with the day’s news­pa­per and be­ing shown the door? Bed­ford was frozen in 1967; how hard would it be to ei­ther col­lect or as­sem­ble a set of year­books, de­scribing what’s hap­pened since then, and stor­ing a small library of such refer­ence texts at both CI and Al­cor? Per­haps the cry­on­ics providers’ boards of di­rec­tors could offer their mem­bers a re­vival fund that could be donated to, speci­fi­cally tar­geted to help fu­ture re­vivees to re­join so­ciety? I’m not even scratch­ing the sur­face of pos­si­bil­ities here, so even if these par­tic­u­lar ideas turn out to be wrong, at least they sug­gest fur­ther pos­si­bil­ities.



So: If some­one was re­vived from cry­on­ics to­mor­row, would you be will­ing to at least let them crash on your couch for a few weeks?