I was always interested in the question "to what extent is extending the life of an individual through technological means considered ethical?" That is to say, are human beings trying to extend our lives beyond what the natural biological timer allows ethical or right?

I just had a lecture on lives and immortality and it got me interested. For instance extending our lives through medical treatments I think is fine, however trying to live beyond what is allowed of us, does that mean we get to play the hands of the god and control our own destiny after what is permitted? I am just very curious on the ethics behind cryonics or other means of extending the lifelines of an individual through artificial means after the normal lifespan permitted.

I would appreciate the feedback and ideas.

  • Do we assume everyone believes in god and "what is permitted"?
    – Cell
    May 31, 2019 at 15:13
  • What do you mean by "allowed"? How do we define that? May 31, 2019 at 16:47
  • Why would a "natural biological timer" have something to do with ethics? There certainly are some ethical issues, see e.g. Ethics of Non-ideal Cryonics Cases, as with any kind of medical intervention, but whatever God intends for us he certainly gave us means to go way beyond natural and biological. Concerns over "playing God" are more prudential than ethical, e.g. altering our genetic make up drastically might have unpredictable adverse consequences. Similarly, there might be social tensions with accommodating cryonic patients.
    – Conifold
    May 31, 2019 at 17:25

2 Answers 2


Define "normal" and that conversation starts.

Life expectancy was around 30 years until the modern world brought forth technology to get past that. What's "normal?"

The arguments involving "natural biological timers" do presume that those biological components have the purpose of limiting our lifespan. If someone is challenging such ethical questions, it's worth addressing such telelogical claims. As an example thinking, perhaps their goal was not to give us a finite lifespan, but rather as a check on cancer, turning many malignant tumors into benign ones (one of the key characteristics of a malignant cancer is that it turns these systems off).

You do bring forth God into the equation. It is worth asking the question of which God and what do they really want with the universe. Those are hard questions, and they are presumed to have clear answers by many who use them in the arguments.

Myself, I find a fascinating screwball question in whether we should bring people back from cryogenics if the world is substantially different from the one they "died" in. You can see the challenges older generations have with dealing with newer technology, and those have been dealt with in a continuous manner (some individuals being successful, some not). Someone brought back from cryogenics will have a substantial discontinuity in technology and culture, the likes of which have never been experienced by a human being.


You may be interested in the book The Ethics of Cryonics: Is it Immoral to be Immortal? by the bioethicist Francesca Minerva. Part I of this book is titled 'Cryonics as an Ethical Problem' — here is an excerpt from the second chapter of this section:

Most objections to cryonics deal with either the unlikelihood that cryonics will succeed in reviving people or the claim that the enterprise as a whole would be undesirable (whether due to high cost or some potential implications). This chapter starts with an analysis of arguments based on the wastefulness of cryonics, as compared with other costly enterprises, focusing on a comparison between cryonics and various investments that could extend the lifespan of a large number of people for many years. Other common objections to cryonics are based on the assumption that the future will not present socio-economic circumstances that would be favourable to the revival of cryosuspended individuals; hence cryonicists would never be revived by future people. Finally, different possible scenarios in which the cryonicist could be revived are considered, ending with a discussion about the possibility that life for a revived cryonicist would not be good enough to justify their investing in cryonics arrangements today.

If you're interested, I can share this chapter with you.

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