X-Message-Number: 398
From: Brown/Levy
Subject: Cryonics and Overpopulation 
Date: 18 Aug 1991

From att!Venus.YCC.Yale.Edu!LEVY%LENNY Fri Aug 16 13:48 EST 1991
Date: Fri, 16 Aug 1991 13:48 EST
From: LEVY%
Subject: CRYONICS question

Here's a tough question people often ask me when I tell them about my
interest in cryonics: "What are we going to do with all those people if
no one dies?"  I usually answer (1) space exploration, and (2) there's
more room on the planet than you think.  Neither of these answers seems
to satisfy anyone, myself included.  Any other ideas?  Thanks.

[ Simon, here are a few thoughts about that.  First of all, it IS useful
  to have a quick, succinct answer to a question like this.  When speaking
  to the public (in person or on radio or television) you usually have only
  a few seconds to utter your "sound bite" before either someone else
  interrupts or you lose the attention of your audience.  Second, in my
  humble opinion, anyone whose initial reaction to the topic of cryonics
  is to ask such a question probably is just looking for an excuse to not
  have to think hard about the feasibility of cryonics.  (I prefer people
  who first question the feasibility rather than the desirability of the
  success of cryonic suspension.)  Your points about:
    (1) earth not being near its carrying capacity and
    (2) the immense resources and room available in space
  are thus good intellectual arguments, but not sufficiently effective
  in this case because what you need is something that goes for the gut.
  Some other "intellectual" answers are:
    (3) Arguments of the form "What if everyone does X?" do not apply
	when in actual practice only a small fraction actually "do X".
    (4) Human population has followed roughly a geometric expansion,
	which has a remarkable consequence.  Consider the geometric
	sequence 2, 4, 8, ... 2^N.  If all but the current generation
	have died, then the current population is 2^N.  If nobody ever
	died, then the current population would be only about twice
	that amount, which isn't too bad.  (Yes, I know that this
	argument is simplistic, but it's hard to convey anything more
	complex in a few seconds.)
    (5) In general, as populations of people become wealthier, their
	reproduction rate decreases.  Any society sufficiently advanced
	to have a lot of cryonic suspensions will be sufficiently
	advanced to have a low reproduction rate, so cryonic suspension
	will not cause a population explosion.
  Here are some answers with more emotive content:
    (6) "Cryonics: Reaching for Tomorrow" (msg #351) recasts our situation
	with regard to how we ultimately will control the growth of our
	population as a choice between reducing our birth rate or maintaining
	a high death rate through "not treating deadly illnesses (such as
	aging)."  The punchline is this:
	  "How could a morality respectful of human life ever condone
	  the sacrifice of living people for the sake of unbridled
	(Note that answer (5) above asserts that the population growth
	will be resolved by voluntary birth control.)
    (7) Ask the person the following:
	  "If you were told that we are overpopulated and that volunteers
	  are needed to step forward and have themselves shot to reduce
	  the population, would you volunteer?"
    (8) Or be more direct:
	  "Do you enjoy living?  Do you value your life?"
  The result depends on the attitude of the person you are speaking with.
  Some people do not want cryonics to work.  Attempting to change their
  minds is like attempting to change their religion; no logical argument
  will be effective and answers that really get to the central issues just
  make them mad.  Fortunately, it takes only a small, determined minority
  to change the world; we do not need to convince everyone.  It's like
  panning for gold.  You have to sift through a lot of uninteresting rock to
  find those few valuable nuggets.  So keep spreading those memes! - KQB ]

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