According to a special on ABC-TV this week, there is a place in the United States where, for a price of $70,000, you can have your body cryogenically frozen when you die. They drain the body of blood and all other fluids, and replace them with a special chemical that, when frozen, can preserve your body forever. Then, when a cure is discovered for whatever affliction caused your death, you can be “thawed out”, cured, and live again. If you had the money, would you do this? The family of baseball great Ted Williams did. And there are many people who have already paid their $70,000 so that, when they die, their bodies will be preserved in this way.
Before you answer “sure, why not!”, think carefully about this. If you died of a disease which disfigured you, disabled you, or otherwise changed you from how you were while still healthy, would you want to wake up in that state? Wouldn’t you want to stipulate that, in addition to being cured, you must be restored to the beautiful-looking person you were before cancer emaciated you, caused your limbs or breasts to be removed, or robbed you of your youthful healthy glow? Wouldn’t you want to be able to walk and talk, think rationally, and eat again as you did before that neurological illness took those abililties away? How about that auto accident that messed up your body, or that extra weight that raised your blood-pressure so high that you had that stroke that finally killed you?
And how long would you be willing to be frozen? Is there a point when you would just as soon be buried and never woken? Twenty or thirty years is reasonable; there would be people who would remember you, and may be willing to take you back into the family. Your children might be gone, or still frozen, but your grandkids might be happy to have Grandpa back. Or would they? Would you want to re-enter a world where you no longer know anyone, where nobody loves you anymore? What if they woke you 100, 200, 500 years later? Would you find your great-great-great…….etc. grandchiildren? Would they want you?
What if you came back to a world with all new technology? What if you didn’t like what you came back to? Could you then opt to die and be buried forever? Would the world be so different you could never adjust? Would your country even still exist? Think about someone frozen and awakened from 100, even 50 years ago. Let’s take a person from Yugoslavia or the USSR. He would find that he would now have to decide if he were Serbian or Croatian, Georgian or Uzbeki. And what happened to Communism, the Berlin Wall, the Eastern Bloc? What if a woman had been frozen in Great Britain during Queen Victoria’s reign, when the sun never set on the British Empire? Is there even an Empire anymore, now that India, Australia, and many of the West Indies are independent nations? How about if we woke up Americans frozen for 100 or 80 years? This is a bigger country, with more states. What would he think of a woman voting, and even running for President? Could she handle an African-American candidate, working women, male nurses, TV, computers, streets full of cars, the freeway system, tall buildings? Would we have to have “re-introduction training”, or would we thaw people out and let them loose?
And how would you live? Sure you put money aside, but how much is it worth 1000 years later? With any luck, you put it into an interest-bearing account, but where is the bank you put it in? Would $1,000 buy a galon of gas? Could you drive the new electric cars? Would you even be able to renew your drivers license? Is your house still there? Is a freeway running through where your town once stood? Was your town or country destroyed by a hurricane or a tsunami, ravaged by war? Was your country taken over by another country? Are your countrymen speaking a whole different language? If you woke up someone frozen from colonial times, we might as well be speaking a foreign language, because he wouldn’t understand most of what he heard on the street today. He wouldn’t have to worry about catching smallpox or polio, but what is AIDS? Would he know how to order coffee at Starbucks, shop for clothing at Macy’s, use a flush toilet, an ATM?
Would the world you came back to after thawing out, be even tolerable? What kind of marriages would there be, if any? Would society be morally reprehensible, politically insufferable, environmentally unbearable? How flexible could you be? How much could you learn? Could you handle being totally alone, with nobody you know still alive? Think about these things, because cryogenic preservation might be a decision to consider in the future.