January 07, 2015

Will The Singularity Make Cryonics Useless

The idea of cryopreservation is fascinating and the cryonicists of today are far from crazy. They certainly cannot be compared to the medieval people whose faith consists of a smorgasbord of silly religions, myths, gods and so on. It would be correct to shake our head at the extreme and undue optimism of the cryonics pioneers of today but then all pioneers appear crazy in their lifetime. Giordano Bruno paid with his life for his soaring imagination.

Carl Sagan cautioned about the danger of nuclear Armageddon and Richard Feynman in his youth was extremely pessimistic in the immediate aftermath of the success of the Manhattan Project and the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Can we be so sure today that we have once and for all avoided the fate of nuclear Armageddon for our species? I am not so sure. Nobody would survive if the fears of Sagan and Feynman come true at some point in the future.

The techno-utopians — which is a perfectly normal way to describe the cryonics believers — are merely making a rational conjecture that given the history of scientific and technological advancement of the recent two centuries, we will soon reach a point where today’s diseases become curable and the cryonically preserved humans can be brought back to life from their state of … hibernation.

That raises questions about resource challenges but keeping the long-term perspective in mind, humans will surely achieve a lot in different areas of science & technology and not just in medical science. Not only cancer and Alzheimer’s will become curable but space travel will become commonplace too and we will terraform many planets — not just Mars.

Our species will become a multi-planet species and with the aid of technology, we will learn to better harness the resources of the universe. There are a hundred billion galaxies out there each with a 100 billion stars. Even our Milky Way has billions of planets orbiting those 100 billion stars in it. Many of those planets may be habitable and our puny numbers — 8 billion at present which may even grow to 100 billion at some point in the future — present no challenge at all if those numbers are spread among thousands and millions of planets.

The techno-utopians also posit that the technological singularity will soon be upon us — as soon as 2045 if you believe the likes of Ray Kurzweil. But that coming Singularity poses a problem for the cryonics believers — if humans will soon reach a stage where we can design machines that are for all intents and purposes as smart as humans without our drawbacks, then what role do the purely biological versions of us have to play in such a future? 

Whatever form the Singularity takes — whether it leads to trans-humans or a race of smart machines that are entirely non-biological (no DNA, no genes, nothing), the need to keep alive this billion-year-old delicate thing that we call the human body becomes unimportant.

What role, then, cryonics?

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