Alice and Rob fall in love, get married young, and decide that they want to sign up for cryonics. When they die, their bodies will be immediately preserved at ultra-low temperatures until technology is able to restore them – either their whole bodies, or their brains in some sort of emulation. Even if they both live to 100, they’ll only have spent 75 or 80 years together, but they’re so in love that this doesn’t seem like enough.
In their mid-30s, Alice contracts a rare disease for which there is no cure. Her demise is quick and painless, the best you could hope for. Rob is devastated, his life completely shattered. Alice’s remains get frozen, and after a few years Rob starts dating again. He meets Julia, and after a few years they settle into a loving marriage. Rob is still paying for cryonics, and convinces Julia to do the same.
In the fullness of time, Rob and Julia pass away, and their remains, too, are preserved and stored.
Many years later, Rob wakes up from oblivion with a gasp. The surroundings are unfamiliar, but he slowly recognizes it as some kind of medical facility. There’s a nurse in the room, who explains to him that he’s been woken up from his frozen state, and returned to life and health.
“Your wife is waiting for you in the other room.”
Who does Rob expect to see? How will he feel if the other person shows up? If all three are awoken, and the situation explained, what will they decide to do? Will they follow their own time’s moral norms? Adapt to whatever norms the future society has developed? How does the presence of children from either marriage, and their potential presence in the future, affect these questions?
What if instead of physical rejuvenation, our three protagonists are awakened in a virtual emulation, where they can choose how their conciousness will manifest? What if Rob wants to be a cloud, Alice a fire truck, and Julia the concept of temperature?
What if their consciousnesses are split across different emulations, or different worlds? Would they be free to remarry?
Or what if the awakening timeline is not so clear – suppose Rob and Alice are awakened, but Julia’s cause-of-death is not yet curable? Is Rob free to resume his marriage to Alice? What would then happen if Julia is awoken a few years later?
Couples or other family units who are considering cryogenic freezing should consider these questions, and perhaps draft special prenup-like contracts that cover these eventualities.
I expect that the specifics of the discussion will be made irrelevant by the eventual unforeseen development of the technology, but there are principles that can be laid out. Even if the contract will have no binding legal force, it has the potential to avoid major conflict.
Of course, people with enough openness to consider cryonics may simply be willing to take their chances and figure out what to do when the time arrives.
But a dedicated professional – either a relationship coach or a lawyer – could develop a fairly niche side practice, starting now, to facilitate these conversations.
There is also the so-called “hostile wife” phenomenon, about men who sign up for cryonics over their wives’ objections, as discussed in this piece. Which suggests there is definitely room for a cryonics-focused relationship therapist, though with a slightly different angle than I’ve been addressing.
If you decide to do this, or are aware of someone doing it now, let me know!
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