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Temi A: Different Types of Deaths



There are different types of deaths. No, I do not mean this metaphorically, but literally.

I was having a discussion with my employer the other day and he informed me that a 2-year old girl in Thailand is the youngest person so far to have undergone the cryonics procedure. (Please scroll to the bottom for terms I have pilfered off Wikipedia to aid understanding). I was astounded. Why would a parent make such a decision regarding their baby? I did a little bit of research and hers is a sad story.

Two years old with severe brain cancer and she had undergone at least 27 surgeries due to that. When she eventually died, her parents decided to preserve her brain in the hope that in the future there will be a cure for it, and also a new body (?) as the report does not say her body was preserved.

Here is my first problem with Cryonics. I once read a book and there was this quote “we all owe death a debt”. Sometimes it is unfair when you lose loved ones in bewildering circumstances and tragic ones too as the case of this young girl but what becomes of her? Let us say a cure is found by 2070 and she is awoken, she might well be all alone in the world bereft of friends and family. Alcor is the pioneering company that undertakes Cryonics and it prides itself on being a “family” and one of its mission statements is to help people reintegrate into the society, but will that be enough? I decided to go through Alcor’s website with a fine toothed comb.

I was informed that only “independent and intelligent people” have the presence of mind to choose to be preserved as they live life to the fullest and will want to continue the same. They also tell you that cryonics can be paid for by your life insurance; full body preservation is worth $200,000 whilst the brain is a mere $80,000. Yes, just your everyday run of the mill insurance policy huh? However, another part of me, the very gullible part that will buy a tin of cat food based on an inviting advert for cat food on TV starts to think – Why not? I do want to see what the future looks like as I have always wondered. For a minute I forget that I have termed this procedure a horror movie waiting to happen and I began to imagine futuristic Temi.

But that did not last long. I am a firm Dualist. I believe that the human is made of mind and body. Body and soul, the “ghost in the machine” and what have you. Does your soul stand idly by and twiddles its thumb as you hang upside down in Alcor’s freezer?

I have never been able to accept the Monist argument that the sum of my existence begins and ends with my brain. The brain is just that, a physical organ. It cannot account for the myriad experiences I get and feel that are not logical and have no basis in reality. For this and various other reasons, I have rejected Monism. On the other hand,

I also believe that there is Universal energy everyone keys into like the movie Avatar. (Do you see how I am the architect of my own troubled mind?) Energy is physical. Have you ever concentrated your thoughts on someone and the person either calls you or text you almost immediately? Yes. That is what I am talking about. Therefore, it makes sense to some extent that when the “dead” people are resurrected, they can resume life normally to the degree that they can be a part of this Universal energy again; unless a soul is required to do so. I don’t know. This is too much philosophy for me, and I am confused as well.

Another interesting thing I found out is that this procedure is not completely governed by law. Can you blame the law makers? I started to imagine various possibilities of the future. Would we have a different category of “people” as distinct from people born by natural birth? Who governs how many times you can preserve yourself. You have to admit that it will be unfair to go on an endless stream of cryopreservation just because you can afford it. If the government gives a limit, how will they arrive at this number? What if you owe a debt, will contracts include the possibility of your resurrection so that your property can be inherited by your heirs, but your debts will be solely yours to resume and pay off on resurrection? Oh the fun I have had imagining various scenarios of this kind.

In marriage, would death truly do you part? What if the government decides its top and best officials should be preserved as well to continuously govern the world? Would we have a new and improved system of “Democracy”? Oh the questions! And it does not stop there. I have deliberately left out faith from this as I want you to decide and comment as to how this affects your faith if it does at all. Do you think it is a horror movie waiting to happen as well because Alcor may truly own the world in 100 years to come? Do you agree with it? If you had the means would you consider it? Do you have any possible solution to any of my myriad questions and musings? A bit heavy but it had to be done I’m afraid.

**Terms (Courtesy of Wikipedia, Alcor website and free online dictionary)

1: The term Information-theoretic death relates to physical damage to the brain and the loss of information. It is the destruction of the information within a human brain to such an extent that recovery of the original person is theoretically impossible by any physical means…The term information-theoretic death is intended to mean death that is absolutely irreversible by any technology, as distinct from clinical death and legal death

2: Cryonics (from Greek kryos meaning icy cold) is the low-temperature preservation of humans who can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine, in the expectation they can be healed and resuscitated in the future using more advanced medical technologies. Cryopreservation of people is not reversible with current technology, and is today only practiced following legal death.

3: Dualism: In philosophy of mind, dualism is a view about the relationship between mind and matter which claims that mind and matter are two ontologically separate categories. Mind-body dualism claims that neither the mind nor matter can be reduced to each other in any way

4: Monism: The doctrine that mind and matter are formed from, or reducible to, the same ultimate substance or principle of being.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Howard Sandler

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