Cryonics and Regret
This post is not about arguments in favor of or against cryonics. I would just like to share a particular emotional response of mine as the topic became hot for me after not thinking about it at all for nearly a decade.
Recently, I have signed up for cryonics, as has my wife, and we have made arrangements for our son to be cryopreserved just in case longevity research does not deliver in time or some unfortunate thing happens.
Last year, my father died. He was a wonderful man, good-natured, intelligent, funny, caring and, most importantly in this context, loving life to the fullest, even in the light of any hardships. He had a no-bullshit-approach regarding almost any topic, and, being born in the late 1940s in relative poverty and without much formal education, over the course of his life he acquired many unusual attitudes that were not that compatible with his peers (unlike me, he never tried to convince other people of things they could not or did not want to grasp, pragmatism was another of his traits). Much of what he expected from the future in general and technology in particular, I later came to know as transhumanist thinking, though neither was he familiar with the philosophy as such nor was he prone to labelling his worldview. One of his convictions was that age-related death is a bad thing and a tragedy, a problem that should and will eventually be solved by technology.
I could see his decline, beginning about 15 years ago. He just was not as energetic anymore as I had known him, and I kept telling myself that this is a part of the usual aging process. Some five years ago, when he started to have troubles walking, I proposed to see a neurologist. He was diagnosed with cardiovascular dementia and it was clear where things were going.
I was alone with him, holding his hand and looking into his eyes when he took his last breath. It was one of the most intense experiences of my life. In the months after his death, I told myself that I did anything I could for him. But now it is clear to me that I did not, and my regrets weigh more heavily than my mourning.
I know that he would have been all in. A second chance to live, rejuvenation, a future with maybe endless possibilities. And I just was not aware anymore of the process that could have given him that chance. The funds were there, everything could have been arranged in time. I just did not think about the possibility then. And now he is gone without any chance to get him back.
My wife tells me that his brain was damaged to an extent that vitrification probably would have failed and pushes me to rationalize along the lines of „there was not much left to safe“. It does not work for me, I know what was left of him—though his brain looked like swiss cheese, his core personality was still there. The few things he was still able to speak told me enough about what he still knew and understood, his last utterance was a witty joke about me being there with him and not being at work instead.
I can easily accept most of the mistakes I made, I can live with my past shortcomings. But this I do regret, and I do not think that my regret will ever vanish, that I did not arrange for a second chance for my dad.