The Scenario: Our protagonist estimates that present-day cryonics has around a five percent chance of leading to a successful revival. Since that's better than the zero percent chance if he doesn't sign up, and he can afford it, he makes the necessary arrangements. As part of those arrangements, he receives a lockable file-cabinet drawer, in which he can put any desired mementos, knick-knacks, or other objects; and which will be protected as securely as his own cryo-preserved body. The drawer is around one and a half cubic feet: two feet deep, one foot wide, nine inches high.

The Question: What should he arrange to have placed in his drawer?

Some of the more obvious options:

* Long-term archival DVDs, such as M-Discs, containing as much of his personal computer's data as possible. With slimline jewel cases, around 400 such discs would fit, which could hold up to around 1.5 terabytes. (Secondary question: Which data to archive?)
* Objects of sentimental value
* Objects with present-day value: cash, gold coins, jewelry
* Objects with predicted future value: collectibles, small antiques
* In honor of previous seekers of immortality: a copy of the ancient Egyptian funerary text, the Book of Coming Forth By Day (aka the Book of the Dead).
* For the purely practical and/or munchkin approach: a weapon, such as a fighting knife or even a pistol

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I'd spend a few weeks writing a set of incredibly convincing essays arguing that the reader should attempt to revive me. They would be aimed at a few major possible future civilizations, based on my best extrapolations of current civilization. I'd try to appeal to future values in as general a way as possible, while remaining convincing. I'd write them in English.

If you get revived, it's going to be because someone decided to revive you; they have total power over you before they revive you, so bringing a weapon wouldn't be very helpful. In fact, I probably wouldn't revive someone who put a weapon in their time capsule, at least without arming myself first!

If future people are so awesome superior to us -- in the time of revival -- its because they share some values with "me/we now" or have managed to create a successful experiment like a simulation to study this curious species.

Long-term archival DVDs, such as M-Discs, containing as much of his personal computer's data as possible. With slimline jewel cases, around 400 such discs would fit, which could hold up to around 1.5 terabytes. (Secondary question: Which data to archive?)

The first rule of backuping up data is that you are not selective; or if you are selective, you use a blacklist (excluding big useless things like swap files) rather than a whitelist (because you will forget to put something on it).

When storing large numbers of optical disks, you use spindles rather than jewel cases; this approximately doubles the density. But I'm not convinced that archival-grade optical disks are better than regular hard disk drives or flash memory, particularly if you spread across a few different types of media and use large par files; in particular, optical disks are very expensive, and you have no guarantee that they will live up to their durability claims.

For storing digital data, it's much better to pay the cryonics organization to store it for you. They can store multiple copies in separate locations, and verify their readability and compare their contents every few years.

With many clients storing data, and with ever-decreasing storage costs as technology improves, this will also be much cheaper than physical DIY storage.

Unfortunately, at present, none of the major cryonics organizations have branched out into redundant long-term data storage; other than the described drawer for the cryonics patient's chosen physical possessions, any and all such arrangements are up to the cryonicist himself.

Not to mention that flash memory has much better storage density. A compromise would be archiving just about everything on flash memory and having an extra copy of just the most important stuff on a couple M-discs.

Considering the mechanism of flash memory, I'm not sanguine about it surviving for centuries.

After losing some digital photos stored on some flash memory, I'm not sanguine about it surviving for months...

Was that recent? They're a lot better than they used to be.

It was about a year ago.

A stone tablet reading "Do not revive until there are holodecks."

whatever book I was in the middle of when I died.

  • Objects with present-day value: cash, gold coins, jewelry

Hmm, what if a future society could produce enough gold through advanced nucleosynthesis that it becomes a throwaway commodity like our current use of aluminum?

I've asked gold standard advocates this question, and I haven't seen a good response. In fact, the question makes them uncomfortable because it generates cognitive dissonance. Basically they've adopted the Thomas Malthus position on gold, and the Julian L. Simon position on every other resource.

There are more ways than nucleosynthesis to devalue gold through increased supply - asteroidal mining is another possibility that comes to mind.

Yes, that could increase the supply of gold to some extent, but on its own I don't think it would be anywhere near enough for gold to become "a throwaway commodity" like aluminium today.

A society that could do that could most likely do lots of other awesome stuff, too, and I'm not sure in such a post-scarcity society it'd be terribly important for the value of money to be stable anyway.

As many bottles of wine as can fit.

An essay describing my best understanding of who I am, going from trivial details like name, date of birth and standard biographical details to all sorts of very subjective psychological self-assessments. The cover page would instruct the reader to go write a similar essay from memory before reading further, and then to compare notes with what's written in the old essay.

Bonus points for figuring out a way to store a cryptographic checksum of the original essay in a future-proof way, so I could tell if the essay contents had been altered after I deposited it.

Could also be useful to add to that:

A variety of brain scans from various sources, different scanners, different techniques and technologies. Massive bonus points if I can get active scanners and run them constantly during "typical" and "optimal" days, recording all scans and saving them to whichever are the best available storage media (preferably multiple ones).

A large collection of 3d (or that could be reconstructed in 3d) videos of brain activity under various scanners would be best, since presumably it could be very useful for extrapolating the gritty details of the brain when reconstructing the patient, or at least for using it myself to learn about my own thought patterns.

I'd need to know how to relate the scan data to anything resembling high-level thought for them to be useful to me after being woken up.

Also, these scanners would need to be some serious future technology. Anything like today's brain scans would be about as much help for reconstructing personality as low-resolution satellite photograph of a library building would be for transcribing the works of Shakespeare.

I'm not sure the analogy is appropriate. The sat-photos of the library give no information on the works of Shakespeare because the library's rooftop (and the bookshelves, and the book cover, and the pages themselves) obscures the text, and there's no traceable causal relation between the rooftop and what Shakespeare wrote.

However, even with current "off-the-shelf" brain scanners, you can with some training and machine-learning have your scanner recognize specific thoughts, so that whenever you think "Browser" in just the right mental pattern the headset will detect it (and fire up your web browser or something). So there is some correlation somewhere.

So a more appropriate analogy would be if you tore out all the pages of Shakespeare, and laid them out next to eachother on the rooftop, and then had a bunch of low-res satellite photographs, but also more importantly, of various types of video recordings from moving satellites all pointing at that text. With enough pictures and videos, emphasis on number and diversity of viewpoints / moving pictures / different imaging techniques, you'll be able to eventually reconstruct quite a significant portion of the text if you had correspondingly amazing image-reconstruction technology.

(we can already do some pretty amazing things in that area from one single blurry picture to readable text, so imagine with the kind of future tech that reanimates dead people and massive visual datasets with varying angles and recording technologies...)

Still, it's true that it might not provide much information. But it also might provide more than enough. It also might provide a helpful little bit more. It's something that's pretty hard to estimate, and I would stake my chances on more data rather than less if I've got the money available and am going to get frozen anyway.

That'd be help for the people doing the reanimation, not the reanimated you?

Being a bit weird, I might actually prefer a cryonic preservation where the people reanimating me get basically zero information beyond my physical remains, and will need to bring me back and ask me if they want to know my name. That way I'd know that whoever gets brought back will probably have their mind-state pretty closely causally connected to the one I had going in the suspension, assuming they will have a mind at all. Having lots and lots of lifelog information seems like it might increase the chances of the reanimators producing scrambled actors who are good at parroting my surface mannerisms to match the recordings, but aren't internally much more of a continuation of me than a very capable actor doing Napoleon is the continuation of the actual Napoleon.

I'd need to re-write the essay every couple years, though, otherwise it might get out of synch with my memory even if they managed to exactly reconstruct my brain state from right before I was preserved.

Yes, would be good idea to make a habit of rewriting the essay every year. That way you could compare differences to a baseline yearly drift.

Bonus points for figuring out a way to store a cryptographic checksum of the original essay in a future-proof way, so I could tell if the essay contents had been altered after I deposited it.

Bruce Schneier designed the 'Solitaire' cryptographic algorithm to use a deck of cards - if you asked politely, he might be able to refer you to some system which can provide the checksum you describe. The reasons and specifications of what you're trying to accomplish might need to be made a bit more explicit.

I don't see why I'd need Solitaire. There is probably going to be something much more seriously wrong than someone tampering with my diary if I end up in a future where I am unable to get my hands on any simple computer I can make run a contemporary crypto algorithm.

Basic scenario is, I don't completely trust the safety deposit box, so I want to put something in there that can't be easily changed and rebuilt (maybe the reanimators botch something bringing me back and then go mess with my personal effects trying to alter the evidence that could tip me off to something being wrong).

I could just use a standard digital signature with a huge private key which I would then destroy. But I'd need to store the public key somewhere outside the deposit box, or else the attackers could just re-sign the forgery and replace my public key with theirs in the box. I could commit the public key to memory, but might forget it with brain damage. I could also try to leave it in some public archives, since the key wouldn't contain any information I might want to keep private, like the deposit box would.


Identifying documents (e.g., birth certificate, social security card, passport) and financial records.

I definitely wouldn't include a weapon.

An accurate encyclopedic description of contemporary life/society/events, and recent history, along with a list of significant events I was personally a witness to during my life. Something to make a future archeologist want to thaw me for an interview.

Would a Wikipedia dump suffice for the former?

Yeah, I'd just take some sentimental value stuff. Gifts that remind me of family, some books I own, maybe vacuum-pack my favorite blanket (it's a seriously good blanket).

In a worldstate whitch involves the reviving of cryonicly stored people, I would expect a weapon would be one of the last things on my list of things I would need. That is to say, a world which has sufficiently advanced technology, sufficient resorces, and so on to revive cryonicly stored people would not be a wolrd were civilisation has colapsed, not be a world were order has broken down, and in other words would be a world in which a weapon would be about as useful as a weapon is in a first world country today, which is to say, it would be not all that esential.

If you can't trust the motives of the agent reviving you, you're screwed anyway, so I'd focus on things you'd regret not having. For me, I'd try to store any information that might otherwise be lost to entropy (including my forgetful memory): originals or backups of my journals, correspondence, etc. (Keepsakes are probably not worth the space, unless quite unique.)

If i'm bringing data I'd want a in depth blueprint of how to construct a reader for that storage medium, ideally inscribed on Gold/Diamond plates, since I've no guarantee that whoever revives me has access to relevant technology.

If I'm doing that anyway I'd probably bury a few copies of my own data, as much as I could get of the internet and the reader blueprints in various places on the earth [and if funding permits in orbits/Lagrange points]. Even if I don't survive I'd value the knowledge being preserved.

I'd write the conversion rates for all those crazy box size measures to meters, because I have no idea if that is something the size of a telephone, a computer screen, a soccer ball or a baseball bat.

My source material gave me the measurements in Imperial. Any conversions would add either extraneously specific digits, or further uncertainty; eg, calling a foot "30.48 cm" or "30 cm". But if you really want metric numbers - call it 60cm x 30cm x 20cm, plus or minus a minor fudge factor.