Cryonics and Kim Souzzi

(This essay was reprinted in the online magazine of the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, September 28, 2015)

A recent New York Times article chronicled 23-year-old Kim Souzzi’s decision to cryonically preserve her brain. Kim, who died recently of cancer, raised the money for her cryonic preservation by soliciting donations with this post at the subreddit “atheism” at the online site reddit. She was successful in raising the funds—I wonder if the religious would have been as generous as the theists? Here is the video that accompanied the post:

(The New York Times, with Kim’s permission, produced a great video that chronicled the last few months of her life; it can be found here.) http://www.nytimes.com/video/science/100000003897597/kim-suozzis-last-wishes.html

Cryonics is controversial, but for those of us who don’t believe that dying is like moving to a better neighborhood, it is a reasonable choice. We might call it the cryonics wager, which would go like this.

What happens if I preserve my whole body or my brain? The continuum of possibilities looks like this:

I—————————————————————l—————————————————————-I

awake in a great reality                       never wake up                      awake in an awful reality

I might be awakened by post-human descendants as an immortal being in a heavenly world, or by beings who torture me hellishly for all eternity, or I might never wake up. How then should I proceed? Should I get a cryonics policy? I don’t know. If I don’t preserve myself cryonically, then I might die and go to heaven, hell, or experience nothingness. If I do preserve myself, as we have just seen, similar outcomes await me.

In this situation all I can do is assess the probabilities. Does having a cryonics policy, as opposed to dying and taking my chances, increase or decrease my chances of being revived in a good reality? We can’t say for sure. But if the policy increases that chance, if you desire a blissful immortality, and if you can afford a policy, then you should get one.

Personally I believe that having a cryonics policy greatly increases your chance of being revived in a better reality as opposed to just dying and taking your chances. I place more faith in my post-human descendants than in unseen supernatural beings. Still I can understand why others would choose differently, and we should respect their autonomy to die and hope for the best. In the end we just can’t say for certain what the best move is.

As for Kim Souzzi, I admire that she had the courage of her convictions. And I hope she becomes conscious again.

4 thoughts on “Cryonics and Kim Souzzi

  1. Very moving story. Kim made a brave decision; one I wouldn’t dare make myself. The possibility of being reawakened one day, without being able to exert control over myself – or what is left of my former self – is too frightening to me. Besides, at this time in my life I think I would be able to accept that one day it will be over. Easy talking though, without being faced with death approaching (at such a young age). I hope whatever way things turn out, Kim will be happy with her decision.

  2. Thanks, John. It goes without saying the same goes for your entire website. I really enjoy coming here to read and think about the things you share with us. Thanks for that! 🙂

  3. This is a comment I posted at Alcor’s Facebook page, reviews section. It is a response to Sybil Bailey’s review of Alcor, and is reflecting on other commenters regarding her review:

    “Though the review and comments are talking at cross-purposes, one can say for sure there are science-oriented people, and, naturally, the non-scientific. Sybil doesn’t know about cryonics– yet it’s also true the science-oriented people connected with Alcor don’t know much about metaphysics. I have visited Alcor many times.. its members and staff are informative when they discuss scientific matters.
    Whereas their non-science opinions are the sort you get from anyone.
    Sybil does have reason to be exercised about the future of morality, because morality as we know it wont exist; morality is being replaced by situational ethics. Shattered morality, one could write. Thus Sybil’s review though not really directly relevant regarding Alcor, is timely as to the future of ethics.
    As tech advances, ethics and aesthetics slowly decrease; a mathematical certainty. So religion and spirituality become more important.
    We should not categorically reject what Sybil writes but, rather, think carefully about her words. Where she goes wrong is in presuming that the wages of sin will always be death. Science is in fact capable of greatly prolonging life.
    The bad news is :: the outcome of radically prolonging life is completely unknown, which is IMO linked to the ethical turmoil of today. What are people fighting most about? They are fighting almost like animals about who gets to shape the future.”

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