It might take decades or even centuries until it becomes clear if a new technology will have changed the world for the better or worse.
While this uncertainty has rarely — if ever — hindered progress in the long run, it is still prudent to think about what effects might be expected. Especially, if you’re actively working on something fundamentally new.
As explained before, I’ve decided to dedicate the next decades of my life to improving, scaling and promoting Biostasis.
One of the reasons I decided to do so is that I strongly believe that it will change the world for the better. While I briefly touched upon the topic before, here I will argue the case in more depth.
Part 1 — Biostasis leads to a positive future
Incentivizing long-term thinking
No matter where you look, the world has a problem with long-term thinking. For example, CEOs optimize for short term wins instead of long-term success. Entire industries build on perfecting instant gratification (such as mobile gaming). The disregard for preventative medicine and an underestimation of century-defining disasters. Climate change being the most famous but far from only such trouble arising on the horizon.
In general, slow progressing problems that are far in the future are especially difficult for most to care about. Humanity by and large operates on an “out of sight, out of mind system”.
One of the reasons people are comfortable not caring about the far future, even though there will be potentially catastrophic issues, is the fact that they will not be affected themselves — they will be long dead by then.
Biostasis changes this.
The prospect of living again in the far future, provides a personal reason for why long-term, far in the future issues are important. Albeit unfortunate, egoistical motivations are usually strong ones. In this case it helps. Of course, no one wants to wake up in a dystopian future devoid of nature, devastated by extreme weather and with wars started due to an ever increasing gap between the poor and rich. You want to wake up in a world that is like the one we live in today, just much much better in every regard imaginable. With the prospect of future life to look forward to, people now not only have an incentive to work towards ensuring a positive future, but also an incentive to promote the same. Importantly and potentially most impactful, they have an incentive to instill these values in the rest of society and culture. People in cryopreservation, need to make sure that the mission to build a stable and better long-term future is being carried out while they themselves can not — as they would be in cryopreservation and need to rely on others to build the very future they are looking to wake up in.
While there are other ways to incentivize long-term thinking and caring, most of them are for lack of a better word “theoretical”, lacking the tangible, personal upside that Biostasis provides which for most is a much stronger motivator.
Assessment by the future with hindsight lead to positive impact
Planning for a future life, one that most likely will start many decades or even a century in the future, changes what is personally most beneficial to do now and until you’re preserved in Biostasis. Once revived, the future society might assess one's actions based on how much one contributed to building the positive future you just woke up in and how much positive impact one had during the “first” life. Trying to optimize for personal power or vain metrics of success in your first (aka current) life will become significantly less important as one would need to plan for the fact that actions will be evaluated with decades of hindsight. Having a positive impact now and for the (long-term) future will become the best cause of action for anyone that is looking forward to continuing their life in the far future.
Furthermore, it will in fact provide instant gratification. Since other people would be planning to live again in that bright future and would have an incentive to promote the thinking and actions that brings it about, these very actions would bring fame and recognition in the here and now. In short, for anybody that believes they will live again in the future, focusing on long-term thinking and performing actions to bring about a positive future has both beneficial short and long-term effects.
In a liberal society, choice is considered a good thing. While maybe less tangible than the other advantages, having the option for Biostasis should be considered a positive impact on the world as it offers just that: a choice. It offers a choice where there was none prior. You have the opportunity to choose the possibility of continuing your life in the future or irrevocably ending it at the end of the current life span. Moreover, at some point it is imaginable that Biostasis preservation can be selected as an elective procedure for a number of reasons such as pausing your life for a while or long range travel (i.e. to another planet).
Personal benefit is — for better or for worse — a strong motivator. This is important as humans are moved by instant gratification much more than they are by delayed gratification. Biostasis leads to a positive future by aligning personal benefit with helping to bring this positive future about. And by providing instant gratification for doing so.
Part 2— Answers to Counterarguments
I’ve made the case why Biostasis has a positive impact and brings about much needed long-term thinking. Arguably, there are downsides or counterarguments to that claim. Let me briefly address the most common ones.
Biostasis will let the rich get richer since they will be able to live much longer.
Currently intergenerational wealth is accumulated at the family level — children inherit the wealth of their parents and pass it on to their children. While Biostasis might change the method of accumulation, it does not make it worse. In fact, due to the new incentive model explained above more funds might be used to bring about positive change instead of just being accumulated.
It’s unfair and only achievable for the rich. Death was the last equalizer.
Biostasis contracts start at ≈USD 30.000 in 2021. While this is not cheap, middle income families in the US have an approximate net wealth of USD 115.200 (2016 data), which is well within the required range to be able to afford Biostasis. On a global scale the situation changes substantially of course. Currently, most people would not be able to afford high quality Biostasis. This is not unique to this field, but holds true for many similar fields, from cancer treatments to nutrition. While Biostasis will become significantly more affordable at scale (≈one order of magnitude), independent solutions to reduce the global wealth gap are required. We consider the unaffordability a bit issue and are actively working in bringing down cost as much as we can.
Biostasis will lead to unsustainable overpopulation.
Biostasis has no chance of leading to overpopulation any time soon. Even with 100x growth, less than 1M people would be signed up, resulting in less than 0.001% additional people in the future. But let’s assume billions of people would sign up and be woken up in the future. Even then it would most likely not cause problems since a) population growth is expected to level off at 11B, b) earth is able to support much more people with technologies such as vertical farming, fusion reactors etc., and c) in the long run humanity is not limited to living on earth.
Less change due to “old” people ruling for centuries.
One claim states that new ideas and progress comes about due to the proponents of the status quo literally dying off. While this is primarily a problem with life extending technologies more so than with Biostasis technology, it has some merit. I don’t think there is a clear solution, but finding societal structures that support progress without the need for old people to die will be something society must improve independently from Biostasis.
Uses up money that could be put to better use, e.g. donation to charity.
This can be argued at length. While Biostasis requires relevant funds that could be put to good use in other ways, I would argue that its impact outweighs the positive effect achievable otherwise. Most importantly, because the money being used for cryopreservation would probably not be spend from other causes. Arguably it comes from another “bucket”. Another point might be that long-term thinking and incentivizing action for long-term positive impact might bring about greater returns than spending one or two hundred thousand dollars (the cost of the highest quality biostasis procedure) on even the most meaningful cause.
Would longevity / life extension do the same?
Partly, yes. Expecting to live in the far future, leads to being invested in that future. So the belief that life extension will become available soon would indeed have a positive, similar effect. But there are relevant differences. On one hand — until real longevity/life extension treatments are available — a Biostasis contract probably strengthen the belief that one will be around in the future due to its “tangible nature”. On the other hand, there is a high probability the longevity and life extension sector will go through a typical “valley of disillusion” some time in the next years, which would reduce its positive effect on long-term thinking for years. Signing up for Biostasis is possible right now and it will only become clear if Biostasis “works” far in future. While this long duration of uncertainty is not a positive in itself, it incentivizes long-term thinking for the next decades — as long as people have a sufficiently strong belief that it might in fact work and they will be woken up in the future.
— My organization Tomorrow Biostasis works on making Biostasis better, easily accessible and scalable. So I might be a bit biased, but I think the arguments hold. If you’re interested to discuss or in supporting the mission and want to help to build a better future, please reach out.