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LEGAL ASPECTS OF FOREVER FOR ALL By R. Michael Perry, Ph.D. Scottsdale, AZ Terasem Movement, Inc. 4 th Annual Colloqui - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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LEGAL ASPECTS OF FOREVER FOR ALL By R. Michael Perry, Ph.D. Scottsdale, AZ Terasem Movement, Inc. 4 th Annual Colloquium on the Law of Transbeman Persons December 10, 2008. Legal Aspects of Forever for All. Introduction

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R. Michael Perry, Ph.D.

Scottsdale, AZ

Terasem Movement, Inc.

4th Annual Colloquium on the Law of Transbeman Persons

December 10, 2008

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Legal Aspects ofForever for All


My book Forever for All deals with the ages-old problem of mortality from a modern perspective. It is claimed that the problem in all its aspects can be addressed scientifically. While some of the proposed approaches are expected to be developed only in the more distant future, cryonics is currently available and is recommended for addressing the problem here and now. Today about 1,200 have signed up for cryopreservation at their legal death, hoping that future technology will restore them to a functioning, healthy state, which means that the best possible preservation is desired. To date cryonics procedures can only be started following legal death, which offers a challenge to those desiring the best preservation, a matter of greatest concern, from a legal standpoint. If cryonics is successful, on the other hand, those resuscitated may face new, unprecedented legal issues based on possibilities for replication and creation of “designer beings” including replicas of past individuals who weren’t preserved. Civilization also will likely give thought to “compassionate” efforts to end all animal suffering. There are many other issues of this sort; only a beginning can be made here.

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Main Headings

Here I propose to consider some legal issues connected with:

  • 1. Current cryonics practices

  • 2. Uploading and other anticipated technologies that might accompany reanimation

  • 3. “Compassionate” handling of sentient creatures in a more advanced future.

  • I will close with some remarks about where I think civilization should be headed in light of immortalist goals.

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    Current Cryonics Practice

    The problem of getting a good cryopreservation

    Basically, we in cryonics see the practice as a medical procedure, but legally it qualifies as “disposal of a dead body” (or other remains). With a normal medical operation, one might be anesthetized and the operation performed without much fanfare. With cryonics, the procedure can be started only after the patient is legally dead (barring a few jurisdictions, which have not yet been used, and not counting pets). Under certain conditions terminally ill cryonicists might want to hasten legal death so the procedure can be started in a timely fashion, but there is the additional complication that cases of “suicide” are normally subject to mandatory autopsy which is highly damaging to the preservation process.

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    “Very lucky lady” maybe. Arlene Fried, public case, cryopreserved 1990, cancer patient, brain tumor, self-dehydrated to deanimation, required about 12 days. Considered a very good preservation for its time. Needless to say, however, we in cryonics don’t want to have to go through this to get a good preservation ourselves. So what to do about it?

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    Uploading & So Forth


    A “Singularity”—where machine intelligence exceeds present human levels and technological advances would be very rapid, is considered realistic by many thoughtful people and not too distant on the scale of history. It could, many would say will, usher in possibilities that seem to be “just science fiction” today. Among the possibilities: the ability to “express” personalities at the human level in artificial computational devices. The human personality could then be “uploaded” from a natural original. This for instance could simplify a resuscitation from cryopreservation—reducing it to a brain mapping operation followed by data crunching and transmission to a suitable body for awakening.

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    Uploading/Cyberbeing Issues

    • Are cyberpersons “persons”?

    • What if duplicate persons were created by accident? What about “asking them to accept deletion”? If “no” then what about property/ownership rights, etc.?

    • Should “reproductive rights” be highly restricted, particularly since it may become very easy to create “designer persons” cybernetically?

    • What about persons created in such a way as to have a “past-identity” claim—replicas of previously existing individuals in one or another parallel timestream, say? (Not as hard to do, in principle, as you might think!) What legal rights should such resurrectees have?

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    Ending Animal Suffering

    • Animals, particularly in the wild, seem “born to suffer.” They struggle through a brief existence and are killed, either by predators, aging, diseases, or numerous other causes. Predators in particular regularly destroy other sentient creatures who fight back and show expected signs of pain and terror as they die. On one hand many of us have a reverence for “nature” but still, watching a lion dispatch a zebra (as I have seen on TV) is not particularly heartwarming. In the future should we use advanced technology with accompanying legislative enforcement to end animal predation and other causes of suffering, even if it meant radically impacting the environment or even relegating all sentient, unintelligent life to a “safe haven” such as a cyberworld?

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    Closing Remarks

    • On the cryonics issue—no easy answers. “Tough it out, try to optimize on a case-by-case basis, support legislation to give more choices to the patient.

    • On the rest—good principles are fine but not a substitute for good persons. We must cultivate becoming “good persons” even as we advance to higher levels in other ways. Only in this way will we be able to make the right judgments on the difficult issues that will arise. We must carry out a “labor of love” to make the future what it ought to be, with essentially a religious motivation, guided by the knowledge acquired through science and reason.