The people running cryonics organizations try to be realistic and to shun exaggerations. Often they say cryonics can guarantee nothing but hope; but this is overly modest, misleadingly so. The cryonics guarantee is in fact very substantial. ("Guarantee" in this context means a high degree of assurance, based on very modest estimates of technical capability in the indefinite future.)
We cannot, of course, guarantee that civilization-as-we-know-it will survive long enough to do the frozen patients any good; a global nuclear war might kill the dead as well as the living. Nor can we be certain of the finances or administrative efficiency of a particular organization. But within the purview of cryonics itself, we can make a very specific and substantial guarantee, viz.:
Frozen patients will certainly be restored to a higher degree of identity than that of a clone.
This is a promise of profound importance, which can be appreciated only after considerable thought.
Many people find comfort in the succession of the generations, in the thought that their children and children's children will carry on and continue the blood line, so that "part of them" will live. Some would find even more comfort in the idea of a clone-a genetic twin, or a child identical in "blood" to oneself -- maintaining the name and memory.
It follows -- and experience proves it true -- that many people, even if not convinced that "they" could be revived after freezing by present methods, would pay something for the guarantee of a clone being built from their frozen remains, and would be more pleased, and would pay more, if the resuscitee were more like themselves than a clone--in other words, if the new person shared not only their genetic character, but also at least some of their memories and personality traits.
This we can guarantee.
First, cloning can be guaranteed because only one surviving cell is needed, and a great many cells survive even in cases of natural or accidental freezing; furthermore, if assurance beyond that were wanted, special cell suspensions or tissue cultures could be prepared before death and frozen separately, although stored with the patient.
Second, even with the crudest forms of cryonic suspension now in use, much of the fine structure of the brain is preserved, along with huge numbers of the molecules that help to encode memory; hence the person cultured or patched together from your remains would be much more than a genetic twin, and would in fact share much of your personality and spirit. (If enough of you is viable, perhaps only regenerative techniques would be needed, to connect the salvageable parts and substitute for the rest. If a clone must be grown, then at the appropriate stage of development your salvageable parts could be introduced, or could indirectly be used as templates to guide the growth of the corresponding new parts.)
Finally, good use could be made of the external record containing vast numbers of clues to your character, personality, and memories. Photos, movies, and recordings of you; your writings, raw and revised; official records of your positions and achievements, deeds and misdeeds; diaries, including your dreams; the impressions of relatives and friends; samples of your handwriting; vials of your secretions and excretions under various conditions; medical records including encephalograms, CAT scans, NMR scans, ESR scans--all these and many others will certainly become capable of interpretation, far beyond existing capability, and ways will be found to "read into" the new flesh the derived information about the character of the old. We cannot know in advance exactly when this capability will be available, nor how nearly it will approach the ideal, but beyond doubt some of what constituted you will find its way into the new person.
Look at it again. After cryonic suspension, the very least you can expect is a clone of yourself -- a son or daughter who is your identical twin at birth (or decanting or whatever). This baby twin will be raised to reflect as many of your traits as possible, and include as many of your actual salvageable parts as possible, consistent with the child's own welfare, so it will be closer to you than any twin ever was before.
With still better luck, no cloning will be needed, but instead you will be repaired and regenerated from the existing intact and salvageable parts, with no unnecessary replacements. In that case, the resuscitee, if not yourself in the full sense, will be someone largely overlapping you in both substance and continuity. And if that isn't you, it will have to do -- would anyone prefer a momument in concrete?
Finally, once more, if our hopes are fully realized, we will be revived largely intact, with only relatively minor repairs needed, and will be fully and undeniably ourselves -- until we decide to make improvements, after which we will still be ourselves, even though not quite our old selves (as of course happens to each of us every day anyway).
Once more, the minimum cryonics guarantee: out of your cryonic suspension will come someone closer to you than an identical twin. And beyond the guarantee is the hope, that the survivor will be you, large as life and raring to go.
But the "guarantee" that a frozen patient can at least be cloned-and-partly-duplicated in the future is just another way of saying that, if civilization endures, the limits of technology--manipulation of matter, energy, and information -- will certainly exceed this very modest capability. To doubt this would be tantamount to saying that the 20th Century is the end of the line.
But there are other kinds of guarantees, and the most important are those we make for ourselves.
If you are not frozen at death, for example, it is guaranteed that you will physically irreversible. You will get no second chance.
If you intend at some vague future time to make arrangements for cryonic suspension, but die before completing your arrangements, it is guaranteed that your influence over events will be sharply reduced, and it will not be difficult for those in charge to ignore your wishes.
If you postpone your decision or withhold your support from cryonics, it is guaranteed that the organizations will be weaker than they would have been with your help, and your own chances will be reduced. That is, you ignore the lead time phenomenon at your peril. If you want optimum conditions for yourself and your children later, the precursors of those conditions must be established now.
Finally, it is guaranteed that you can't count on a free lunch. The undeserving sometimes luck out, but more often the unfit fail to survive. To those who only sit and wait, the one thing sure to come is oblivion.
These are the guarantees, and you are the guarantor.
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