Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What you can do with my body after I'm dead.

In my ethics class, and in general when  the topic of death comes up, I usually tell people that they can do anything that they want with my body after I'm dead.  Kick it to the curb, feed it to cultures, mummify it, have it stuffed.  Whatever, so long as it doesn't upset the living, in particular my friends and family (since they would be the ones most upset by the treatment of my body, I would imagine).

But there is a possibility that it would not be in my interest for my body to be fed to the vultures....  Cryonics.    Should I take seriously the possibility, however remote, that in the future, my body could be dethawed and revived with more advanced medicine?  The argument is a simple appropriation of Pascal's Wager.  If I freeze my body and I can't be revised, I lose nothing.  If I freeze my body and I can be revived, I gain an extended life.  If I don't freeze my body, I'll never beneft.  So no matter how small the odds, I should freeze my body.

Now there are externalities here that we must take into consideration, specifically cost.  I would have to deprive myself a significant sum of money while I'm alive for the possibility of a future life.  And who knows what the quality of my future life will be.  I may simply be a decapitated head in a jar a la Futurama.

I also think it would be important to take other ethical obligations into consideration.  For example, if I were to be frozen, my body would continue to generate a significant carbon footprint for the duration of my freeze because of the energy it would require to maintain my low temperature.  I may not benefit if I don't freeze myself, but the environment may be harmed if I do. 

In the end though, I don't think I'd like to be frozen.  I think waking up in the future would be rather disorientating and I'd spend way too much on future Blu-Ray TV series compilations.  ;)


  1. Depending on which thawed man of the past film you think of, you could be either goofy as Encino man or crude as Demolition man. Either way, another chance at life would be worth it... I'm selfish like that and so is Walt Disney.

  2. If you care enough about future generations to worry about your carbon footprint, aren't there other things to take into account?

    Since population shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon, would the revived-you be adding to the overpopulation problem? You could say that this should be resolved before you are woken up, but if you want to make those kinds of assumptions, then wouldn't you also assume that freezing methods would so improve that sometime during your frozen-death, the method by which you are frozen would be improved to create a lower carbon footprint?

  3. I don't worry about overpopulation problems too much. Besides, it isn't my choice to be dethawed, it would be the decision of the future doctors. So I'm morally off the hook ;)

  4. And just for the record.... "dethawed" must be the dumbest thing I've written in a long time.