Humans want to survive. Religion is about getting “saved”, and the desire to be saved is basically an allegory on the urgency to want to live. Living isn’t always fun (ask Eugen) but over-all it beats being dead. The desire to live is innate to us as human beings, and many would want to do so even in stark and hostile conditions. Think about the sacrifices the Inuit make for survival. Think about the sheer perseverance of people in concentration camps. Many went on, no matter what hardship they endured.
The most clinically “relaxed” form of indefinite survival is espoused by Aubrey de Grey, as he postulates a form of immortality on extending the function of the human body by “keeping it together”. Aubrey postulates seven methodologies of extending the physical organochemistry of the human physique. Let me crudely paraphrase these approaches as follows : (1) make sure unnecessary human body cells don’t excessively croak or become dysfunctional; (2) make sure that the operating systems of human cells does not go unmanageable rogue or “carcenomic”; (3) engineer and safely introduce body friendly and compatible cells in a manner that they last substantially longer; (4) look at the energy factories inside cells and make sure these intracellular devices keep operating smoothly; (5) get rid of useless/bad debris that builds up inside cells; (6) get rid of useless/bad junk that accumulates in-between cells and (7) create some kind of pervasive management system that manages cell complexity and pathology.
These seven approaches might work, but they might not do so in time. I mean, this is a whole lot of work, even for an obsessive workaholic such as Aubrey. I have met him a few times, I have seen him go about it, the guy deserves Nobel prizes just for obsessiveness and dedication. But even for Aubrey and his merry cabal of life extensionists, it’s a lot of work. So in essence we need a somewhat plausible backup plan. Is just a few years older than I am, and he might not make it in time to reap the fruits of his spoils, and we all know what failure in this race entails, right? It entails a state of irreversible dead-ness, and most of us instinctively abhor this state. I mean, we probably have to accept it to some degree, but hey, we might as well try not to.
So what is the next back-up plan? Well there is one, but it’s a fairly expensive insurance policy. The best one around is offered by a company called ALCOR, and what they basically do is this — they make sure they get your body just minutes after you die. They pump it full of a rich family of preservatives, while cooling it gradually. They then chisel out the brain from your skull, and perfused in a substance that facilitates the delicate structures of the brain to remain optimally intact, they freeze it. So if you had any notions that the kind of cryo suspension ALCOR does looks like this, you are sadly mistaken.
No, they take the body and tear it to shreds and isolate those components that are alleged to contain the essential patterns that are you, as a person.
I mean, you have to be really in love with yourself to have people subject your remains to such an ordeal. Alcor is a very sincere attempt to try to reduce the human essential state to something you might carry on a plane as carry-on luggage. I am personally not sure if I would subject myself to such a prospect, since it isn’t merely about being eviscerated and effectively freeze-dried post mortum, it also entails the anticipatory caution just before dying. In other words, if you die in the Netherlands, it is very likely your body is legally and forcibly subjected to anatomical study. In other words, in many European countries a post mortum investigation is pretty much routine. In many cases the skull is opened up. The process of post mortum opening upof the skull routinely involves removal of the tongue, and the studied (sliced) remains of your brain are generally deposited in a small plastic bag inside your chest cavity. To do this the anatomist pulls your face upwards over the skull, much like a mask, opens the skull with a drill, saws open the cavity and extracts the brain, slices it twice or three times to look for hematoma and then deposits in ice, where it might be left to rest for an hour, all the while losing what essential pattern it may have, and thereby losing whatever qualities it may have as an unique record of what you were as a human being. Cryonic suspension is’t about bringing you back, as if you would a trauma patient. Cryonic suspension is at best a forensic preservation of the neurological pattern (some call this the connectome) of the human mind.
The ideal of Cryonic suspension is that in some future time it may be possible to take such a 3D photographic “vitrified” representation of “what used to be a brain” and reconstruct some kind of functional model out of it. I shall not make comment on my expectations of this succeeding, I just have no way of knowing. What I do know is that the existing medical world appears to be quite dismissive of this approach. If I were to declare I had a Cryonic contract with ALCOR, and if I were to die in the Netherlands, chances of my cadaver being claimed by legal and medical authorities and consecutively being (punitively?) subjected to a kind of hate-pathological study rises considerably in probability with the insistence of my post mortum lawyers to have my cadaver shipped off to the containment care of ALCOR. So in essence, my concern with ALCOR would be that in case I were to get close to death I would have to get on a plane, fly to Scottsdale, spend a fortune to get a hospital bed and then “wait it out” for a while to get access to the cryonic facilities. And even then the Dutch authorities might still go after ALCOR with a court order, demanding to slice up my body in the Netherlands (paid by Dutch taxpayers) to see if I might have been the subject of some sort of crime. Don’t believe me? Ask them. This are pretty much the precise words I got from a Dutch pathological-anatomist. This would be “routine” procedure.
Besides, ALCOR is a treatment reserved for the comparably rich. The treatment starts at 50.000$ (which they say “it is’t that much, ha ha”) and I don’t have that, and probably I will never have that. So I inquired about that and I was told that I can get a life insurance, the kind that covers the trip, the Cryo treatment, a financial plan that covers some monetary reserves after I am re-awakened and the medical care leading on to the preservation process. Restoration process (which would cost millions in today’s money) not being discussed. Future people can figure that one out.
If I were to magically find myself the beneficiary of a few million dollars, sure I’d buy a small apartment in Scottsdale with a stand by facility, and pay for all the costs in advance, and create small and very safe fund for me to use in the hopefully none too distant future. But I probably won’t.
So, with SENS ad ALCOR being out of my easy reach (and they say nasty things about KRYORUS…) what else is left for me? I am not a very religious person so I suppose prayer is not something I would spend many sleepless nights on. So should I consign myself to accepting death?
Well maybe there is an alternative. The Turing Church espouses another hopeful vision, and that is called Quantum Archaeology. The basic premise is basically that in a far distant future it might become scientifically possible to look back in time, and study small bits of space in their respective past, and reconstruct precise patterns, through a complex and mostly arcane process of quantum forensics. I agree, this is a long shot, but hey, my question is to optimize my chances, right?
So how would this work?
In essence, the idea would be to look at my pattern, as if through a sort of observational tool, from the future and record my pattern. For those strange and magical people of the distant future this might be do-able for every instance of my body from birth down to seconds before my demise. Each incarnation of me, probably several for every day for every day I have lived could be retrieved to the future. In such a very strange future I might find myself reconstructed in some very precise facsimile of my environment, and “that version of me wouldn’t even notice”. In fact, I might walk out of my bed one morning, walk out the living room and find myself in a massive hall where thousands of versions of me might walk in at the very same moment.
This is speculation of a type that doesn’t serve much of a useful purpose. But I do have one poignant question that bothers me — how would a team of caring future quantum archaeologists that would like to do me the favor of reconstructing me in to some gradually more pleasant state of me (I have several suggestions!) go about their business? How would they aim their fine tuned devices in to the past and precisely lock down on where I just happen to be at that time?
This might be very difficult, since the actual place might have evaporated. The buildings I live in, in my short time allotted on this planet might have been demolished, and my possessions might long have ended up in landfills, or recycled for their space carbon atoms aeons ago. In fact, in a thousand years what might be left of me to reconstruct might be mostly some incoherent rambling articles on a blog, a few historical references of a mostly pathologically narcisstistic nature, and little else. The random stray atoms that were me and my physical environs might have been scattered in to irrelevance.
So I would need a means to help the people from the future to allocate me. Well let’s give them a hand. As I am writing this I am located in the small sleepy village of Palm Mar on Tenerife. I am situated in puerta 28, apartment K, (haha) on the second floor of the Mocan. I am sitting behind the desk, more or less central in the room. It is 11:41 AM, local time. If you guys don’t mind, take me now please.
Nothing happened, from my perspective. However a future version of me might find herself reconstructed from precisely this very moment and she might live on a very happy and long existence. Sadly that does not help me much. I am still stuck here, wearing these same turcoise pants.
But let’s assume Quantum Archeology is more difficult than that. I mean, a thousand years from now the whole island of Tenerife might exist in a completely unrecognizable configuration. In fact the whole planetary surface might be unrecognizable. How would the gentle and charitable future people “lock on” to my essential pattern so to speak? They might need an achor point. The future humans might need a calibration tool that is objective to my current state. This pattern would have to be objective. There would have to be a large number of atomic particles that were part of me, that would serve as a callibration aid to lock their temporary quantum archaeological scanners on to me.
And I would have to leave these breadcrumbs accessible for recovery.
Now what kind of material substrate might I leave behind, in a recoverable condition, as to facilitate the future people to lock on to the pattern that is me? I would need some atoms that were “mostly deep inside my body”. Since I am not inclined to apply biopsy on my valuable tissue, I need a viable alternative. And my guess is this alternative would be poo. In essence my unproven hypothesis is that in the future very few patterns might be accessible, barring the digital recollections of me. My whereabouts, in reference to a very large number of by then evaporated physical structures might be irrecoverable. But if I leave behind a very large number of immutable physical objects with a sample “targeting configurations of atoms”, and a small bit of scratched metal depicting this web site’s URL, then these charitable kind souls might be able to target my whereabouts in space time, as to facilitate my reconstruction and continued happiness in some exotic and alien future world.
That’s it, let’s go and find myself a few solid aluminium bottles, let’s go collect some of my stool and wrap it in aluminium foil, and put it in those metallic or glass receptacles. Padded with some local volcanic gravel. Let’s not go as far and call them ”Easter Eggs” just yet… I’ll pitch a dozen of those in a nearby ocean, and who knows, “I” might get lucky?