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Old 05-10-2020, 09:08 PM
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Ethical thought experiment - reanimating a frozen person


So at some point in the near future, explorers find someone who has frozen "to death" N years ago but is, due to the circumstances of the freezing, preserved enough that, with recent (imaginary) advances in nanotech surgery and cryonics, they could almost certainly be revived more or less as good as new.

Should they be revived? What would their legal status be post revival? What set of ethics, and/or laws, would cover this process?

What if N is:

1
10
100
500
10000

?
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Old 05-10-2020, 10:06 PM
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Anything less than a hundred years, try to contact family members and respect their wishes.

Anything more than that: Sure, give it a go as long as said person will be financially provided for the rest of his life.

And said subject should be entitled to all the freedoms the rest of us enjoy.

And granted citizenship of course.
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Old 05-10-2020, 10:07 PM
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Should they be revived? What would their legal status be post revival? What set of ethics, and/or laws, would cover this process?

I'd say yes, based on the reasoning that, if it were me frozen in the ice, I'd want to be revived.

Their legal status would be "a living human being". Probably stateless, though, if they're from long enough ago. If their country still exists, then they're still a citizen of that country.

Laws don't matter. This is new, and I'm not waiting around for the law to catch up. Let them figure it out later.

Ethics? The same as providing medical treatment for anyone incapable of communicating their desires: Do what seems to be in the best interest of the person, as best as you can determine it. Not being frozen seems better to me than being frozen.

If you're worried about culture shock, then spend a few bucks to create an environment that closely matches what they're used to, and use it to integrate them into modern society. That this may be difficult shouldn't be a factor in deciding what's the right thing to do.
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Old 05-10-2020, 10:37 PM
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If this is not one of those sci-fi scenarios where the guy is simply fodder for the gladiator pits, slave market, or body bank, then I do not see how this is even debatable. Somebody is frozen or otherwise injured but still alive, you take them to the hospital and fix them up, right? It has nothing to do with their legal status or lack thereof, simply medical ethics. (Legally, I suppose the guy would be in the same boat as any other refugee who lost his paperwork, which experience today varies a lot depending on where you end up.)
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Old 05-10-2020, 11:11 PM
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Assuming that the frozen person isn't like Jason Voorhees Friday the 13th, then of course, yes, you must save his/her life.
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Old 05-10-2020, 11:24 PM
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Frozen for X amount of years means you were dead.

I don't see how that can be up for debate.

I see the OP as asking about the ethics of reviving a dead person. And not saving the life of a live person.
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Old 05-10-2020, 11:33 PM
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ANAL but ISTM legal status would depend on jurisdiction.

Start with "She's DEAD, Jim!" Who owns a found corpse? Local authorities, or the nearest relative, or finders-keepers? Can she be sold? If a finder gains ownership of the corpsicle / ice queen and re-animates her, is she a chattel slave? If a free, live person, can she cancel her will and reclaim any property her heirs received? She is documented with birth and death certificates, one each. Will laws ever establish re-birth certs?

Moral status IMHO is trickier, a function of her salvager's belief system and professional standards, if any. Whether to re-animate - is that a personal decision, or an instruction from family or authorities? If Fearless Leader orders "Revive her," do you argue?

Scenario: Let's say I'm mountaineering in Upper Slobovia where I find the ice queen in a glacial crevice, quick-frozen like Birdseye peas. (Clarence Birdseye learned flash-freezing from Eskimos.) Upper Slobovia's laws are a bit vague about found corpses. A local identifies her as having gone missing 50 years ago. I easily bribe gain permission to ship the still-frozen ice queen to the cutting-edge bio-med lab of my sibling Pat in North Jambalaya where laws and ethics are remarkably loose. Pat re-animates her and calls her Frosti. Her brain functions as before. After reviving, we find that she's a BDSM dominatrix who subdues Pat and I as sex slaves. Did we do wrong?
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Old 05-10-2020, 11:39 PM
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Legally and ethically, what is the difference between the way we should treat a frozen person or someone in a coma?
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Old 05-11-2020, 01:14 AM
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Old 05-11-2020, 02:53 AM
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According to Webster the definition of death is "The irreversible cessation of all vital functions especially as indicated by permanent stoppage of the heart, respiration, and brain activity" (Bolding mine)

How long they have been frozen is irrelevant, if they are in a condition where they can be revived then under that definition they are not dead and by all medical ethics they should be revived

There's a saying among medical people regarding people who have been frozen that says "They're not dead until they are warm and dead"

The follow up questions of their legal status and what to do with them afterwards are not something that should be considered in the medical decision to revive them or not

Last edited by steepone; 05-11-2020 at 02:54 AM.
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Old 05-11-2020, 03:12 AM
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Assuming that the frozen person isn't like Jason Voorhees Friday the 13th, then of course, yes, you must save his/her life.
If you feel you must revive him, do NOT add bionic body parts. It won't go well.

Last edited by Czarcasm; 05-11-2020 at 03:13 AM.
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Old 05-11-2020, 03:48 AM
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According to Webster the definition of death is "The irreversible cessation of all vital functions especially as indicated by permanent stoppage of the heart, respiration, and brain activity" (Bolding mine)

How long they have been frozen is irrelevant, if they are in a condition where they can be revived then under that definition they are not dead and by all medical ethics they should be revived

There's a saying among medical people regarding people who have been frozen that says "They're not dead until they are warm and dead"

The follow up questions of their legal status and what to do with them afterwards are not something that should be considered in the medical decision to revive them or not
Okay. Point taken. But with the giant leaps in medicine made in the OP. I think society will have to reexamine what "death" means.

I mean, if frozen for 10 years doesn't qualify, what does? If we stand by the "We must revive every person we can"., I'd imagine we'd have an over population problem in a few generations.

Nanaobots capable of fixing damaged cells from freezing could probably stop old people from getting old too.
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Old 05-11-2020, 02:45 PM
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Most people seem to have come to the same conclusion I did regarding the should-the-be-revived question. If they can be revived, they're not dead. And if they're not dead, medical ethics apply.

What to do next is where it gets tricky. Suppose we're about to revive a 10,000-year-old person. How do we possibly set things up so that they can wake up and start to communicate with us without freaking out, going insane, being miserable, etc.

What environment should they be woken in? What food should we give them? How do we communicate with them? And how long can we "keep" them anywhere as a test subject before their natural rights as a human being start to outweigh whatever right we have as scientists/historians/whatever to learn from them?
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Old 05-11-2020, 03:19 PM
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Frozen for X amount of years means you were dead.

I don't see how that can be up for debate.

I see the OP as asking about the ethics of reviving a dead person. And not saving the life of a live person.
What's the difference? In either case, a person who would otherwise be dead is now not dead. That's a good thing, for the same reason preventing someone's death is a good thing.
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Old 05-11-2020, 04:15 PM
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What's the difference?
As we all know from watching movies, that when you die, your soul departs your body. And when you revive soulless bodies, well, they are basically evil incarnate, and nothing good ever happens.
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Old 05-11-2020, 06:24 PM
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What to do next is where it gets tricky. Suppose we're about to revive a 10,000-year-old person. How do we possibly set things up so that they can wake up and start to communicate with us without freaking out, going insane, being miserable, etc.

What environment should they be woken in? What food should we give them? How do we communicate with them? And how long can we "keep" them anywhere as a test subject before their natural rights as a human being start to outweigh whatever right we have as scientists/historians/whatever to learn from them?


You would create an environment as close to what they were used to as you can. They'll realise pretty quickly that it's not what they're used to, and that weird shit is happening, and then we can start the process of contact - learning languages, explaining the situation, and then seeing where it goes from there.

This gets into something we often see when people are talking about "Who built the pyramids?", and start speculating that it must have been aliens, because there's no way those primitive screw-heads could have built them. But people need to remember, they're primitive, not stupid. The guys who built the pyramids were the Einsteins of their age. Any random person from back then will likely be as intelligent as any random person of today. Given the chance to acclimate, I expect they'd get along all right.
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Old 05-11-2020, 09:39 PM
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You would create an environment as close to what they were used to as you can. They'll realise pretty quickly that it's not what they're used to, and that weird shit is happening, and then we can start the process of contact - learning languages, explaining the situation, and then seeing where it goes from there.
That's a good question. Are we better off building our best approximation of their environment... knowing that we won't get it quite right, plus it will almost certainly be fenced off and limited to begin with; so from their perspective it's some weird mockery of what they're used to; vs something all plastic and metal but with plentiful water and food and comfortable stuff; so it's immediately and blatantly something alien but non-threatening?

I dunno.



I think once communication is fully established, the ethical thing to do is to offer the person a choice for how they want to live the rest of their life:
(1) Painless suicide pills, if they really have no interest in living alone
(2) They can go live alone in as large a stretch of wilderness as can be found, and we will never disturb them for the rest of their life (I wonder whether this would actually be vastly harder for them to survive than one might think... edible animals might well be orders of magnitude less common now than in the pre-industrial past)
(2a) But we'll give them a panic button radio device with which we can come rescue them if they get in trouble
(2b) We'll give them some good metal knives, and a water purifier, and some other useful survival gear to start out with; and instructions on how to use it; and a method to resupply if they run out
(3) Like (2), but we'll send an alternating group of people to hang with them one week out of every month, to check up on them, provide company, bring whatever they're missing, continue to learn from them, and also give them the chance to change their mind if they want to
(4) We will teach them about modern society as they teach us about their past life, and they can live a life of comfort for as long as they like, with some special quasi-diplomatic legal status. So they can become as acclimatized to as much of modern life as they want, but will still live in a special bubble, surrounded by guardians/aides/etc.
(5) We'll teach them about modern society and languages, with the goal that they'll eventually join modern society, go to college, etc.
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Old 05-11-2020, 09:56 PM
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"Sometimes dead is better."
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:49 PM
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It's very unlikely this person would want to live alone, even if we could give them a wilderness that would sustain them. Humans are social animals; complete solitude is torture. Given that they can apparently remain in suspended animation indefinitely, I'd be very hesitant to bring them back until we've got the legal and practical issues sorted out.

Did anyone else read Island of the Blue Dolphins in fourth grade, about the last remaining indigenous woman on San Nicholas Island? It was a novel based on a true story. The woman it was based on lived alone for 18 years on her native island after her tribe was killed, then died a mere 7 weeks after being "rescued" by Spanish missionaries and taken to Santa Barbara. From Shrouded Heritage by Tom Holm:
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Before she died, that bereaved and displaced Islander tried in vain to communicate with individuals from numerous Southern California tribes, including those from Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, and reportedly, from Santa Catalina Island and the Northern Channel Islands. None of those “Native” speakers could communicate in-depth with her. She was described as chatty and said to become discouraged when she could not converse with others who shared her complexion, but not her dialect.
It breaks my heart to think of how lonely she must have been. Hell, people are going crazy right now because they can only see their loved ones over video chat. Imagine going to sleep and waking up to find you'll never see any of them ever again, nor anyone who speaks your language or understands your culture. And then, imagine that there's no place for you in this world, that you have no legal identity with which to enter into trade agreements or marriage or employment contracts even if you learn the rules and adapt to this alien society.

If we can do better than that--find a way to not only keep this hypothetical iceman alive in a world full of diseases he has no immunity to, but successfully integrate him into modern society with the full privileges of citizenship and a means of self-sufficiency and human connection-- then sure, let's do it. Until we can, though, let's keep him on ice.
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Old 05-12-2020, 12:20 AM
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That's a good question. Are we better off building our best approximation of their environment... knowing that we won't get it quite right, plus it will almost certainly be fenced off and limited to begin with; so from their perspective it's some weird mockery of what they're used to; vs something all plastic and metal but with plentiful water and food and comfortable stuff; so it's immediately and blatantly something alien but non-threatening?

I dunno.



I think once communication is fully established, the ethical thing to do is to offer the person a choice for how they want to live the rest of their life:
(1) Painless suicide pills, if they really have no interest in living alone
(2) They can go live alone in as large a stretch of wilderness as can be found, and we will never disturb them for the rest of their life (I wonder whether this would actually be vastly harder for them to survive than one might think... edible animals might well be orders of magnitude less common now than in the pre-industrial past)
(2a) But we'll give them a panic button radio device with which we can come rescue them if they get in trouble
(2b) We'll give them some good metal knives, and a water purifier, and some other useful survival gear to start out with; and instructions on how to use it; and a method to resupply if they run out
(3) Like (2), but we'll send an alternating group of people to hang with them one week out of every month, to check up on them, provide company, bring whatever they're missing, continue to learn from them, and also give them the chance to change their mind if they want to
(4) We will teach them about modern society as they teach us about their past life, and they can live a life of comfort for as long as they like, with some special quasi-diplomatic legal status. So they can become as acclimatized to as much of modern life as they want, but will still live in a special bubble, surrounded by guardians/aides/etc.
(5) We'll teach them about modern society and languages, with the goal that they'll eventually join modern society, go to college, etc.
This alien petting zoo stuff sounds more far-fetched and over the top, not to mention mad-scientific and disturbingly imperialistic, than the original hypothetical.

In real life (this is supposed to be the "near future"?) you can get things like support, benefits, loans, national insurance, education, training for work, etc.
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Old 05-12-2020, 11:56 AM
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"Sometimes dead is better."


But of course, "dead" is always still an option. If Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer decides that this new life is intolerable, they have the option to end it.

But frozen is no choice at all.
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Old 05-12-2020, 12:08 PM
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If they were revived after, say 50 years, would the IRS be on them immediately for back taxes?
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Old 05-12-2020, 03:49 PM
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This alien petting zoo stuff sounds more far-fetched and over the top, not to mention mad-scientific and disturbingly imperialistic, than the original hypothetical.

In real life (this is supposed to be the "near future"?) you can get things like support, benefits, loans, national insurance, education, training for work, etc.
Yeah, I didn't mean it to sound that way. More like "no attempt to normalize status and make the defrostee 'just a citizen like everyone else' ", rather the defrostee continues to have unique national/diplomatic status, and presumably continues to aid in research/whatever, while living as comfortable a life as possible under the circumstances. Sort of viewing them as a diplomat from the past.
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Old 05-12-2020, 04:06 PM
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I recently saw the iceman known as ÷tzi in his refrigerator, over in Bolzano, Italy. That guy has been frozen for more than 5000 years. If he (or another similar individual) were unfrozen an brought back to life, everyone he knew would be dead, and even the language he spoke would be lost to time. He seems to have been a hardy, skilled individual, but none of his skills are likely to be useful in today's economy (except for entertainment value). Who needs a chalcolithic age arrow-maker these days?

If he were brought back to full health he should be able to survive and thrive, have children, learn a modern language and even use a smartphone. But it seems very likely that he would be very disoriented for a very long time, quite possibly permanently so. The trauma might be so great that his sanity could be compromised and his valuable memories distorted or lost.
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Old 05-12-2020, 06:56 PM
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If they were revived after, say 50 years, would the IRS be on them immediately for back taxes?

I don't see why they would. Their last year of income taxes after being declared dead should have been filed by their family on behalf of the deceased, so any outstanding taxes owed would have been paid. And their income in the years prior to being revived is clearly going to be zero, so no taxes would be owed.

I'm not sure how deductions work in the US, but in Canada, we have several standard "refundable deductions", so that people who earn very little usually get back more than they paid in taxes. Were the Canadian Revenue Agency to try to assert that they need to file tax returns for the years they were frozen, it would be a nearly trivial matter to show that the government actually owes them many thousands of dollars.
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Old 05-12-2020, 08:08 PM
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If N is high enough, they won't be able to speak the modern language or know how to use modern technology.

I'd still revive them, unless there's a whole lot of them. (If only because I'd be happy to be in that situation.)
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Old 05-20-2020, 02:55 PM
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"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman..."
Reminds me of the trial in Idiocracy.

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Old 05-20-2020, 03:05 PM
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If you feel you must revive him, do NOT add bionic body parts. It won't go well.
What else am I supposed to use as fodder for my army of enhanced cybernetic supersoldiers? None of my friends will volunteer and when I tried recruiting some Malaysian children the State Department denied the visas on the basis of some kind of "human trafficking" regulations. I guess I'm just going to have to use reanimated roadkill raccoons.

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Old 05-20-2020, 03:11 PM
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"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman..."
Exactly the first thing I thought of.

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Reminds me of the trial in Idiocracy.
For anyone who didn't get the reference
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Old 05-20-2020, 03:25 PM
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Should they be revived? What would their legal status be post revival? What set of ethics, and/or laws, would cover this process?
If N is sufficient as to imply a language or culture barrier, or other culture shock, I probably would leave them be absent direct relatives asking for the revival. As far as laws and ethics go, I don't think a previously "dead" patient should be held responsible for the costs of revival if such technology was unknown at the time of freezing, unless they gave some sort of consent.

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Old 05-20-2020, 08:32 PM
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This is exactly the premise of one of my favorite films, Iceman. I thought it hit most of the right notes. The ancient man is revived in the spirit of discovery and communion, and genuine efforts are made to make him feel comfortable and meet his needs, but itís also recognized that the situation is inherently very difficult, and there are no easy right answers.
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Old 05-23-2020, 08:33 AM
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If they were revived after, say 50 years, would the IRS be on them immediately for back taxes?
You bet. And the banks would claim fees for the old accounts and some lawyer or talk radio dude would drag him/her to court for fake dying claiming it was part of a world wide conspiracy. (S)he would receive offers from Dancing With The Stars, Love Island or similar, depending on her/his looks.
But if (s)he could claim compound interests for a bank deposit for the last 10,000 years (s)he could become a very attractive partner.
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Old 05-23-2020, 09:20 AM
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Re: interest on bank accounts.
You can be sure that when corpsicles become feasible the banks will get laws passed declaring that bank accounts of Peoplepops are automatically frozen.
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:04 AM
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Re: interest on bank accounts.
You can be sure that when corpsicles become feasible the banks will get laws passed declaring that bank accounts of Peoplepops are automatically frozen.
Would such old companies even exist anymore?

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(株式会社金剛組, Kabushiki Gaisha Kongō Gumi) is a Japanese construction company which was the world's oldest continuously ongoing independent company, operating for over 1,400 years.
From Wikipedia. I imagine companies can maintain records for longer, but companies usually don't need to maintain records going back more than ten years, except for reasons of pride.

If someone has been dead for 500 years, finding their account info would recall digging through old tape drive records, or bubble drives, or old DVDs, or whatever. Would they even last that long? Even if we're still using Microsoft Excel centuries in the future, would we still have DVD drives or USB ports?
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Old 05-23-2020, 11:42 AM
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If they were revived after, say 50 years, would the IRS be on them immediately for back taxes?
Based on what income?
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Old 05-23-2020, 01:45 PM
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Based on what income?
Interest on the bank accounts he once had.
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