You lie still on the hospital bed. Just now you were told the full severity of your situation: the rare disease you’ve contracted will claim your life in less than twenty hours. The only known treatment takes days to prepare. The doctors come back to your room unexpectedly. They have a proposition: you can be cryogenically frozen for the time it takes to prepare the treatment. It only takes ten hours to enter a safe stasis. The doctors assure you that you would experience none of it. If you take this option, they will immediately put you on a heavy sedative while the preparations and freezing are carried out. The procedure is still relatively experimental, but you are given 98% figure for predicted success likelihood. The alternative is certain death, for which the doctors also offer the sedative.
If you choose cryogenesis, you are immediately given the sedative – there is not a minute to waste. Before you start feeling the effects, you take some moments to consider the rammifications of your choice. Where are you when you are in stasis? Your body will be uninhabited – dead in any usual sense of the word. You memories will be frozen in your brain, but there will be no that can remember them. This isn’t like sleep; when you are asleep, you are conscious just as much as when you are awake, just in a slightly different way and usually without much memory after you awake. But there are no cryodreams.
And when a person is thawed to take place in your body – who is that? They have the same memories as you, and the same body as you. But there is no continuous connection between your experience and theirs. That person could have been thawed – born – into another body, perhaps copied into multiple modies. Why not?
Thinking forward, you feel an undeniable connection to that person thawed into your body. This person will take your place in everything. They will believe that they are you, and perhaps they really are you? Your moments of reflection so far have spun a anxious spiral in your thoughts. But now you glimpse a handle to grasp onto. You will be no one while your body is in stasis, but once your body is flawed, you will be the person that awakes inside. Right? Technology for transplanting memories nowhere close to feasible, so why worry yourself with these philosophical hypotheticals? Yes, you will be the person that awakes in your body; you will awake in your body. You will survive this.
You begin to feel the sedative distorting your attention. You force the doubts out of your mind. If you believe that the awaker is you, and the awaker believes that they are you, then the awaker is you. But what if they don’t remember me? What if I don’t believe in them? What if something goes wrong? What happens to me? Your last thoughts dissapate.
Use Cases for Cryogensis
This short story above was a short exercise in imagining a medium-term future use case for cryogenesis, along with the existential dread that might befall those that experience – or rather, non-experience – it.
One popular use case for cryogenesis so commonly referenced is to freeze oneself with instructions to thaw when medical technology has advaced to the point that virtual immortality is achievable for oneself. While this is certainly a possible use case, it is probably infeasible and doesn’t have many interesting medium-term future use cases. Sure, old rich people can freeze themselves when they become afraid enough of death that they decide its worthwhile to potentially sacrifice the rest of their normal lifespace for some (very unpredictable) chance at immortality (or at least a longer lifespan at some point in the future).
But I think there are plenty of other interesting use cases that have much nearer-term feasability:
- Freeze someone that would die/suffer in order to wait for a treatment to be developed
- TODO: other use cases