Comments From Cornwall
by John de Rivaz
This file contains the text of a monthly column that appeared in The Immortalist, a magazine published by The Immortalist Society <email@example.com>
Wherever possible source information has been given, and no additional information is usually available if you write in.
Embalmer Calls for Tougher Controls of Autopsies.
Writing in Funeral Service Journal David Pym, MBIE, DipFD, IFT, Affil RSH, MBIFD, called for more restraints on pathologists, particularly at hospitals. He said that the severity of the examination varied from a simple part evisceration to a complete evisceration and internal mutilation. He expressed surprise that relatives allow post mortems when the deceased has simply perished through old age. In his professional experience as an embalmer, he found that hospitals inflicted far more mutilation that a coroner's pathologist.
He suggested that the rules should be altered regarding the request for a post mortem made to relatives by hospitals. So soon after bereavement relatives often have no idea of what is being asked them. Mr Pym called for a period of time before next of kin are requested to sign consent forms, and for the procedure to be explained to them properly. He goes on to query the real need for some of the examinations performed.
The conclusion is that he can't see an easy way to get these ideas across to the general public, but feels that some effort should be made in finding one.
More on Time It has been said that if anything can be imagined one day it will be done. Something that has been imagined by fantasists and science fiction writers is the time destructor, but most rationalists would regard the concept as nonsense.
A time destructor would be a device that enables the user and everything within his area of influence to move through time slower than the universe as a whole, thus he would be able to get more done than those around him. In a way, tools are time destructors, for example a man with a mechanical digger can move far more dirt than one with a pick and shovel, who can move more than one using only his bare hands. However a true time destructor would be far more than a simple tool. To someone using it, the rest of the universe would appear frozen whilst he caught up with whatever he was doing. H.G. Wells wrote of The New Accelerator, being a drug that speeded people up, and a recent Twilight Zone story featured a mechanical device.
But is this idea basically impossible? It depends on whether time has one or more dimensions. Some say that there are an infinite number of dimensions (why stop at 4?) If this is the case, then maybe what we regard as time are all those dimensions from four up. If time has more than one dimension, then a time destructor would be possible, as when activated the user would simply be creating more time for himself and the selected task in another dimension.
A more serious difficulty is the energy consideration. It may require very large inputs of energy to operate a time destructor. All ideas for time travel devices, such as the one reported recently in The Immortalist, require the movement of astronomical objects through space - hardly projects for the average individual to use in his own home. However these concepts do show that maybe it could be done one way, and if it can be done one way them there is always a chance it can be done another.
A difficulty that has been touched upon by science fiction writers is that anyone using a time destructor would age according to their body time, not the universe's time. Therefore to a bystander although they would appear super efficient and unflustered, they would age quickly. Of course the complete absence of stress (practically all stress is time- related, or at any rate could be relieved by a time destructor) would lengthen body-time lifespan measurably, but nevertheless if they used the device a lot they would age quickly to an observer. However this difficulty is more apparent to our level of technology, as one capable of making a time destructor would most likely have conquered ageing long before.
In a society where time destructors were commonplace, individuals would live in their own universes, connecting to the common time-stream only when they needed further input from others, or to present the results of whatever task they were performing.
This would be in complete contrast to the present world, where devices like the telephone and cell-phone allow others to intrude upon our lives, regardless of whatever we are struggling with at that moment. An interesting corollary to people living in "the time age" would be that if you wanted to contact someone and he was in his own "time-bubble" you wouldn't have to wait for him to come out of it, as he would leave it at the same instant he entered it, according to the main time path. As long as you were on the main time path yourself, then you can contact your friend.
More on Aging In electronics, engineers use devices with transfer characteristics. For example, the word transistor is based on "transferred resistor". By varying the current between the base and emitter, one varies the resistance between collector and emitter. In an ideal world, the relationship would be linear, ie the current would be directly proportional to the resistance regardless of its value. In reality, this is never so. However there is a range of values of current over which the resistance is directly proportional, and it is this range that can be used for engineering applications such as analogue amplification.
Life could be regarded as an engineering construct of a large number of processes. The input analogous to the current in the above example is time, and the output a particular individual. Between birth and death, the processes have a desirable characteristic, and death represents that point in time when these characteristics become useless. If this hypothesis is true, then it will be impossible to maintain a human body with pills and potions much beyond the three score years and ten held by the establishment to be an acceptable lifespan.
The only ways to an extended lifespan will be a totally re-engineered vehicle for the mind, (which could be in something that looks and feels like an ordinary body) or alternatively a periodic regrowth of a new body every 75 years or so, by the sort of processes Dr Segall suggests in his book Living Longer, Growing Younger.
I hope I am wrong, and that someone will find an elixir that conveniently switches off a death hormone or whatever. But I don't think so. Certainly vitamins and minerals and life extension drugs will save many people from hospitalisation and surgery during their lifetime. They will help people to attain the maximum biological age possible, and that limit may well move upwards as science advances. But it will never reach infinity.
Body Lost on Flight According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, a body in a coffin went astray on a flight from Fiji to Sydney while relatives waited in Fiji to hold a funeral. The story was repeated in Funeral Service Journal. Cargo handlers in Nadi failed to find the coffin, which was stacked beneath cartons of vegetables. The body went to Tahiti and subsequently to Los Angeles.
Mizar Gets Facility Building Mizar, the UK offshoot of Alcor, announced several giant steps towards cryonics capability in its latest newsletter. Mr Alan Sinclair has purchased a brand new industrial unit near his home in Polegate, Sussex. The interior layout is based on plans drawn up under the directions of Alcor, and encompasses 2400 sq ft, including a 21ft by 23ft operating room. He has also ordered the equipment necessary to perform a perfusion and cool down to the solid state as per the Alcor specification.
A special container has been ordered for the shipment of cooled down patients to Alcor's facility in Riverside. The design features 4" of polyurethane foam insulation sandwiched between two glass fibre walls, vented to allow the escape of carbon dioxide gas.
Mizar and Alcor have also established a Fax link. This has proved invaluable in the rapid turnaround on questions concerning the building, the shipment container and equipment list.
Mizar has established a minimum funding requirement of 35,000 pounds ($52,000) neuropreservation and 125,000 pounds ($187,500) for full suspensions. And this doesn't include sign up fees, annual dues, or lost investment opportunities and legal expenses incurred in meeting contract requirements.
An article in The Biostasis Letter, Mizar's aperiodic newsletter, concerned these costs. It covered the point I am always pointing out about life insurance and inflation, without offering a real solution. It also discussed the question that in order to be state of the art suspension could be very much more expensive, mentioning hyperbaric chambers and eutectic solutions. [Also see The Immortalist October 1989 p29, item 1.]
It was pointed out that every successful technological innovation, from the motor-car to the VCR, started off as the preserve of those who were rich enough - or enthusiastic enough - to put up with high prices and questionable benefits. The article concludes: "Right now cryonics is where the automobile was around the turn of the century (and remember, the automobile had been around then for about as long as cryonics has been around now.) All it takes is a Henry Ford ..."
My comment is that the Cryonics Institute is appropriately situated near Detroit to take on that role, and its pricing seems to fit the bill as well! Scanning Tunnelling Microscope images DNA in New Mexico
According to a report in New Scientist for 18 November, the first images of DNA were obtained using a scanning tunnelling microscope at the University of New Mexico, and detailed in Nature vol 342 page 204. The achievement was cited as the closest step yet towards the goal of sequencing DNA with a scanning probe microscope.
Archetyping the Cryonicist
Writing in Cryonics magazine, Max O'Connor typified the average cryonicist as "venturesome". In World Out of Time Larry Niven's cryonics science fiction novel, the cryonicist was described as the "born tourist".
Max O'Connor is certainly venturesome. He founded the UK's only cryonics organisation, Mizar, which offers Alcor services there. Finding the pace too slow, he resigned his chairmanship of Mizar and emigrated to the USA to be nearer the action.
Science fiction readers usually fall into two groups:
1. Those who are outgoing and who have a wide social life, attending conferences around the world, and 2. Those who more closely resemble Dr Isaac Assimov's character Dr Urth, who never travelled further than he could walk yet allowed his mind to roam infinity, solving problems throughout the universe by remote control.
I would suspect that Larry Niven falls into the first of these, and hence makes his characters the same. Also the same may be said of newsletter proprietors. Certainly I would fall into the latter grouping, and it is interesting to note that I seem to identify with the majority of Longevity Report readers. Yet on the other hand, the readers of Cryonics and The Immortalist seems to be more "venturesome", judging by the success of the conferences and other activities held by the respective organisations.
It may well be that the average introvert rejects Cryonics and The Immortalist and accepts Longevity Report, and visa-versa. Certainly when it was free Longevity Report went out to about 300 people, which figure dropped to about 80 when they were asked to pay five pounds for it or make a written contribution. However maybe only 80 of the 300 ever read it. I don't myself feel that the article content of Longevity Report is particularly introverted. Nevertheless it is certainly true to say that the articles tend to be libertarian and anti-authority, and if you are going to get out and about, particularly involving international travel, you have to accept quite a bit of authority and surrender a lot of control. (Unless you're a lone yachtsman like Ev Cooper.)
Anyway, in case you are wondering what the point of all this is, the fact remains that it may be very dangerous to try and typify the average cryonicist from a group of people to which cryonics has successfully been marketed so far.
It could well be that the best grouping has yet to be found. On a global scale, all cryonics publications are insignificant. Even broader publications like Omni or Omni Longevity reach a tiny proportion of the world as compared to a popular national newspaper.
Is Cryonics a Cop-Out?
In an earlier edition of Longevity Report one of my readers said he though cryonics was a cop-out. I think he meant that people could make cryonics arrangements and then not bother to look after themselves because they'd know they had another better life coming. I think that I rid him of this idea when I explained how difficult it was to make cryonics arrangements. (I don't mean the actual actions are difficult, but it is difficult to integrate them with other aspects of prudent living.)
However this comment does raise some points for discussion. One is that should cryonics be a cop out? If it were possible to make arrangements as easily as opening a bank account, say, would it matter if people lead short reckless lives until such time as they were stored and reanimated in better fitter bodies?
In a way, this question has plagued Christianity. It promises an idyllic post mortem existence, yet it has somehow to prevent all its followers from immediately committing suicide in order to experience that existence. For a long while suicide was made a sin, and indeed countries like the UK had suicide listed as a crime, with attempted suicides being punished as common criminals. The fact that modern more relaxed rules about attempted suicide haven't lead to a rush to the pearly gates suggest that either most people don't believe in them, or that the self preservation instinct is stronger than religious belief.
One would suspect that the same would hold true if "cop-out" cryonics were available. Indeed, the "creed" of cryonics is NOT that it is certain to work, but that there is a finite probability that it will work, and it is better than doing nothing. This is very different to the weekly repeated statements about "true and certain knowledge of a life hereafter" made by churchgoers, in order to make a faith appear like fact by reiteration.
So it would appear that there is no harm in making cryonics "a cop-out". Would it do any good either, ie would it save more lives?
I would say it certainly would. If you have had a hard struggle to persuade someone to accept cryonics, and then have to get them to accept the arrangements needed to sign up, then your chances are pretty slim. In the UK at least a large portion of the population can't even be persuaded to make a simple will.
Of course at the present stage of cryonics it could be argued that one can't accept passengers - each person who signs up is more in the position of someone going on an adventure holiday in the Antarctic as opposed to a fortnight in Florida.
But I would expect that as time progresses and more people sign up with the various cryonics organisations, signing up will become progressively simple and less likely to be at variance with prudent investment. Even if it does produce a hoard of cop out passengers, they will at least be people who have the foresight not to kneel to the axeman, and hopefully their presence will add to the credibility of cryonics and its financial stability.
It is usual in industry to get initial customers to pay development costs, ie the produce is marketed to the very rich, and the profits made thereby pay for further development so that the product is available world wide to the much larger middle classes, and finally it gets to the poor. Television sets, for example, can be found in the poorest of homes, and even in shanty towns. At the start of television, sets were very expensive allowing for inflation -they cost about the same as now in money terms. The choice of programs was very poor value for money. In the UK it was a couple of hours a day, I think.
This procedure I find strange in a capitalist society inasmuch as surely it should be the shareholders who pay for development, and the customers for the product. But nevertheless it is also a free market society and presumably that free market has allowed this system to evolve as the most profitable from the overall point of view.
In the case of cryonics, it is not so much a case of paying for development as paying for marketing. If many more people were involved costs could fall, unless the dead hand of bureaucracy loaded costs onto the system in order to find jobs-for-the-professional-boys. One way this could be arranged would be to have a second class suspension membership where one trades cost for risk. I would be dubious of choosing this scheme for myself, but if the choice was between this or nothing, then the proposal has merit.
The proposal is that a cryonics organisation would allow group memberships. The group of say 20 people would put up the money for two suspensions. When one of the members of the group is suspended, they have to have a collection to replace the funds, so that there is always two pre-paid suspensions per 20 members. Of course the group would be encouraged to add to its size in order to reduce the individual cost, and each group may have different ideas as to who to allow in.
I know that in a way I am re-inventing life insurance, but if it could be arranged informally between groups of people who know each other the very high professional costs associated with life insurance (ie the difference between the return on a life policy and comparable investments made elsewhere) would be avoided. This idea needs a lot of work before it becomes practical, but it could be a way in for some people.
Investment after the Cold War
The introduction of democracy in Communist countries could be a major advance for immortalism. There is, of course, a serious risk that the professional interests of those in the armaments industry could actually cause some lunatic to try and precipitate a war to discourage disarmament. However the risks of such an action in the nuclear age are so high it is less likely to be initiated.
It is unlikely that governments would be willing to relinquish control of all the tax money they collect for military spending. Instead they will probably instigate massive environmental and civil engineering programmes, and therefore I would look to those industries as being worthwhile subjects for investment over the next decade. Health spending is likely to rise, which should bring more profits to the drug companies, who may well also be in the forefront of anti-aging research.
I have favoured investment in drug companies for the past year or so, and take-over speculation has seen some good short term gains. However it is the long term prospects that attract me.
A collapse of the military market will probably mean electronic companies will find it more difficult to show the phenomenal growth of the 1980s. I like Intel because it provides the chips for IBM computers and clones and somehow manages to keep its prices up. Once developed, a chip costs little to produce, so it must be doing well as long as it can sell 80386's at around $400. (So are the distributors, who get about half!). Intel has some good chips in the developmental pipeline, with the 80486 just appearing in development quantities. Its neural network chip may be released for the civilian market in a range of computer products quite unlike anything we have seen so far.
A reader from my newsletter Fractal Report is studying neural networks, and proposes some articles in the future. If this works out, I hope to be producing a companion newsletter on this subject sometime during the next decade.
Cryonics organisations aren't the only one to have problems over getting paid for irreversible services. An item in Funeral Service Journal detailed the plight of an Aberdeen monumental mason. He supplied and fitted some stone angels to a grave, only to find that his customer had paid with a stolen cheque. He was unable to remove the angels as they were concreted in. The customer finally did pay, and was fined £50 by Aberdeen magistrates.
Cryonics organisations may find the arrangements made a by an Englishwoman nearly 200 years ago for her family vault to be preserved of interest. The family vault and tomb of Miss Mary Gibson is inspected every year on 12 August as part of a ceremony prescribed in her will. She left money to St Nicholas Church in Sutton, Surrey to carry out the procedure, and to hedge her bets she also left money to the governors of Christ's Hospital to ensure that they did. A back-up hospital was also given. The article in Funeral Service Journal that describes this says that she wasn't famous and didn't live in Sutton, but in London. However she was rich. Also her will ordered that no more people were to be buried in the vault after her. It doesn't relate whether her remains were treated in a manner that would win the approval of Mr Olson, (The Immortalist October 1989) but if they were maybe one day she will be in for a surprise.
"A Religion for the Future"
An article in the Financial Times gave coverage for an idea designed to provide economies for religions suffering a drop in numbers. Entitled The Deventer Project the proposal is a design for a universal religious facility or church which could be used by any religious body or indeed individual seeking a refuge for reflection on their ultimate destination or similar matters.
The chairman of the project, Mr Robin Waterfield, wrote the article and seems very articulate and logical. He likens religions to cars and other modes of transport in which people drive to the seaside, the seaside being the ultimate meaning of existence. Religious bigots are likened to people who never get past discussing their cars or journeys. More enlightened people of whatever faith can have meaningful discussion on ultimate topics without getting hot under the collar about differences of religious procedure.
A design is given for a universal church based on "numerical laws representing the descent of utter simplicity into relative complexity in which simplicity is nevertheless comprehensible."
The project is attempting to gain charitable status, which is quite difficult under British law. It requires from a religious charity specific doctrines or specific forms of worship, which is the opposite of the aims of the project. Their address is 2, Gondar Mansions, Mill Lane, London NW6 1NU (UK).
The Costs of the Law
Another article in the Financial Times over the holiday period discussed the problems of the rising costs of tax collection. Combining the costs borne by the authorities and the corporate taxpayer, they at present amount to 1.5% of the gross national product. The article points out that this does not take into consideration the very real psychological costs on private individuals nor their costs in complying with the law. (As their costs are not tax deductible, there is no record thereof.)
Considering all the fuss that there is when similar portions of a gross national product are spent on some scientific project, the waste of resources that this represent should be the subject of considerable public complaint.
I don't know what the comparable figure is the United States, but I wouldn't be surprised to read that it is higher.
There is a problem with the free market system in that the overpayment of lawyers and accountants has caused highly talented people to flock to the profession. The profession has become an entity with a will of its own (cf Drexler's "governments as intelligent entities) and created self- serving money making systems that create no real wealth for society as a whole. We need to redirect this remuneration to inventors, and discoverers - scientists and engineers, for it is only these professions that can design what is needed to conquer ageing and death. Even if all the lawyers in the world would work for the cause for no payment they could never find a solution if there were no scientists.
The treatment of witnesses by the legal profession may be logical. Lawyers are paid more than anyone else, therefore it makes economic sense to minimise time wasted by lawyers as opposed to the rest of the world. Therefore witnesses are called sometimes days before they have to give evidence. Although they are compensated, this amounts involved are seldom enough. Also in British courts there have been tales of witnesses held in waiting rooms together with the defendants of the criminal cases.
The effects of this is that members of the public are often unwilling to report crimes on the grounds of the legal ramifications. Unable to change the law, police forces are now setting up anonymous tip-off telephone lines for people to report crimes. Although these reports don't provide hard evidence, they often gives sufficient information to enable hard evidence to be collected by police officers. In areas where this system has already come into operation, there have been dramatic improvements in the solution of crimes.
The relevance of this story to immortalism is that although it may appear that the money making systems of lawyers have a stranglehold on society, where there is enough initiative they can be circumvented to produce good results.
There will always be a need for lawyers and the law, but their costs, both financial and otherwise, should be kept in proportion to their value. The removal of spurious systems, such as wills and probate, will enable the creative individual in the legal profession the chance to deal with life's real problems, not problems invented by his profession to make money.
An example is that at Christmas time there are always news items about people living in cardboard boxes with no home or jobs. An addendum was added this year that many are males who have been stripped of their homes and income by divorce. They are unable to afford decent accommodation or to attire themselves at a level required by their employment, and lose their jobs. They then get thrown out of their rented accommodation to roam the streets, and become unable to meet their commitments under the terms of their divorces. It is clear that the legal system is not solving this problem, but creating it.
Undoubtedly there is a problem to be solved in split ups, whether of marriage relationships or indeed between employee or employer. I certainly don't know of a solution, but I do think that society ought to try something different to impossible "redundancy payments."
Here we had a ludicrous situa tion in a local hospital where some people were given too much radiation therapy for cancer. The professional who sets the dose is described as a "physicist". The physicist concerned was dismissed, and received a dismissal payment vastly in excess of the damages received by each patient!
Lifequest - a Reader Coments
A reader of my newsletter Longevity Report, Mr Mike Zehse, sent in these comments about the immortalist story publication Lifequest:
I enjoyed the Lifequests. A Place by the Sea (issue 2) was particularly impressive; it was so powerful and mesmerising one almost got the impression of reading the same pages twice over. Are the Rockwells of defense technology fame? [No. They are pen names. -ed] Leigh could consider submitting Save the Whales (issue 3) (possibly re-titled A Christmas Story?) to a cat fancying magazine if she could find one where the editor had a good sense of humour. (Apparently cat magazines have a surprisingly large circulation!) or some more general pet magazine, circulation ditto.
As a firm chipmunk supporter I was delighted to read Grandpa Chippers (issue 2). Wasn't there a 1950s pop group called The Chipmunks? If this sentimental story was ever serialised on the radio they could use their music as background. [end of reader's comment]
Unfortunately the take up on Lifequest in the UK has been very poor. It is possible that serious immortalists feel that it is a poor use of their time reading stories. However the publication has value beyond the mere entertainment of immortalists. It is designed to inform others outside the movement of immortalists ideas. Considering that many of the stories are of good quality, it is a pity that they don't get wider coverage.
Issue 6 included a further good crop of stories, including, as far as I am aware, Dr Thomas Donaldson's first fictional piece. Mass on Christmas Day, 8936 AD makes interesting reading as it contains a message about the ultimate truth of the Christmas Story. Leigh Rockwell returns with another cat story, and further contributions by Lee Corbin, David Pizer, Douglas Quinn and others makes this another good issue.
Douglas Quinn's story Saviors has plenty of suspense and action, and whilst it by no means paints a relaxed and contended human race in the future, it does give a gleam of hope. Of course it was written before the collapse of Communism, so it represents a timeline that doesn't follow from the present. Nevertheless the depiction of a future America made mad by religious fundamentalism and intolerance could unfortunately still follow from the present position. At the time of writing the position taken by the Vatican on behalf of a deposed dictator wanted for alleged drugs offences may weaken the credibility of religion, but we shall see.
Click here to read Lifequest
Secular Funerals in Demand in UK
The London based British Humanist Association has set up its first district outpose to deal with enquiries for secular funerals. They have 87 officiants, but say that they need a hundred times this, and are receiving 400 enquiries a week. People are beginning to realise, usually by word of mouth, that they can have the kind of funeral ceremony they want. Qualifications for officiant are minimal. The association wants sensitive people, prepared to work in harrowing conditions for $37 a service. They must be prepared to put in long hours counselling the bereaved and write individual scripts for each ceremony.
They have to respond to "the most outlandish whims of clients" without turning a hair. Last year when someone who was interested in ballroom dancing had their remains burned, the mourners had to end with a tango to taped music. The crematorium officials were taken aback, and none too pleased.
Surprisingly, perhaps for people who believe in no afterlife, almost all secular funerals involve burning the remains. Although I suppose there is not a lot to chose between the options unless one has some morphostatic plans.
Bizzarre Music at Cremation
When the remains of Mr Eddie Oakley were incinerated, the arrangement was to play his favourite tune Every Time We Say Goodbye. Owing to a misunderstanding, the organist played instead When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
Stockbrokers Predict Expensive Funerals
Stockbrokers Phillips and Drew have predicted an increase in funeral costs because of the Green Movement. They cite controls over emissions from crematoria and a desire to save land from becoming burial plots.
I should have though that cemeteries would have been something the Green Movement would be keen to preserve. After all, they are a habitat for wild life and provide areas of vegetation where otherwise there would probably be concrete.
Discount for Dead Passenegers
No doubt holiday makers stranded at airports may wonder whether they'll live long enough to get to their destinations sometimes, but strikebound Eastern Airlines has something different in mind when it offered a 50% discount to dead passengers. The promotion is aimed at funeral directors who are being offered the discount for the shipment of remains. Funeral directors also earn "Air-Miles" in relation to the amount of business they can place with the airline. The Miami based airline filed for bankruptcy protection in March 1989 after its machinists union members withdrew their labour.
Vegetable Life Extension
A BBC television programme Food and Drink offered this recipe for good health:
Vegetables can have a beneficial effect in helping prevent cancer and other diseases. It is also accepted that olive oil (high in mono-unsaturates) helps prevent heart disease.
450g/1lb white cabbage, 225g/0.5lb
carrots, roughly grated, 100g/0.25lb
spring onions chopped, 1 red apple cut into small pieces.
For the dressing:
125ml/4 fl oz olive oil,
50ml/2fl oz grapeseed (or other oil),
juice of 1 lemon,
1 garlic clove
crushed, 1 heaped tspn runny honey,
1 tspn Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
Cut the cabbage into quarters, cut away the thick core and finely shred the leaves with a sharp knife.
Mix the cabbage, carrots, onion and apple together thoroughly in a large bowl.
To make the dressing combine all the ingredients in a blender or whisk in a bowl. Pour over the vegetables and mix well. This salad is best refrigerated for a few hours (and even overnight) before serving.
Alpha 1 News
Mr J.J. Finkelstein in a bulletin from Alpha One Biomedicals Inc., the Thymosin company originally promoted in Anti Aging News, (now Life Extension Report) announced that in October the company gained FDA approval to export Thymosin to Sclavo S.p.A., an Italian pharmaceutical company. This will enable Sclavo to conduct clinical trials with a view to obtaining Italian marketing approval for the treatment of the following diseases with Thymosin:
Chronic active Hepatitis B
and for its use as a vaccine adjuvant for influenza and hepatitis. These trials are also being repeated in the US with a view to getting approval there for it's use for similar purposes.
The company has also had a patent accepted for a Solid Phase Process for Synthesizing Peptides. This process enables the production of large quantities of Thymosin.
An AIDS vaccine being developed by Viral Technologies Inc., a 50% owned company is currently underdoing trials in London. 15 out of 24 planned participants have been recruited for the study, and no toxicity has been observed as of the date of the report. The vaccine is based upon a highly conserved region of one of the internal p17 core proteins of the AIDS virus and has been named HGP-10. The State Versus Your Health
This is the title of an important series of articles currently being run in the Journal of the Mega Health Society. Regular readers will know of the jaded view I have of the way professions as entities independent of the individuals working with them develop a self serving system of money making without giving value for their service. It would appear that Mr Scott Moyer has this view of the medical profession at least and backs it up with a very well researched catalogue of appalling historical facts.
He catalogues how the profession has sought to reduce the number of physicians per head of the population in order to keep fees up. They make qualifications unnecessarily difficult in order to prevent more people entering the profession.
I would strongly urge every member of The Immortalist Society to obtain a copy of this article and read it. It is contained in issues 24 and 25 of The Journal of the Mega Health Society. To buy these as back numbers, send $6 to
The Mega Health Society,
P.O. Box 60637,
Professional Fees Halve Bristol Myers Squibb Profits
Shareholders of the Bristol Myers Squibb drug company, formed recently after a merger between Bristol Myers and Squibb, saw the quarter's profits halve due to the professional fees associated with the merger and subsequent re- structuring. Mr Sam Islay, of Mehta and Islay, a New York based consultant to the drug industry was reported in the Financial Times as being shocked by the $690 million charges. They were particularly unjustified, he said, as the merger supposedly came about as a result of informal and friendly conversations between two old friends, Mr Richard Gelb, chairman of Bristol Myers, and Mr Richard Furland, chairman of Squibb. He also said that the merger was supposed to have been between two strong companies, that have now landed themselves with a serious financial problem.
However the figures did not deter the market, and on the day they were announced the share price rose by $0.50 to $56.50.
This should be seen in the context of the fact that the company's estimated annual profits, without taking this loss into consideration, would have been $1.5 billion on a revenue of $9.25 billion. Clearly they can shrug off what has been a disaster in just one particular quarter.
However should a cryonics or life extension company be faced with such a problem, it may not be so easy to shrug it off!
New US Newsletter for Life Extension Drug Enthusiasts
As regular readers will know, most countries allow their citizens to import prescription only medicines for their own personal use or for that of a member of their household. Unfortunately this freedom is not extended to those of the US, who are compensated by having the freedom to own guns. (You can see where the US authorities' priorities lie!)
However this does not stop companies trying to export such products to US citizens, and provided the operations are kept low key most packages usually get through.
A US newsletter has been set up called Offshore Medical Therapies which details products available from a number of such companies. Although it is only sold in America, a reader has kindly forwarded some copies to me for review. (Presumably it is not sold elsewhere, as people living in the source countries may try applying for products originating in their own countries, which is definitely illegal. Products may not be despatched from the same country to which orders are sent.)
The newsletter uses the same paper size as The Immortalist although it only occupies four sides, and comes out four times a year.
There are two to four articles in each issue on specific therapies, and a list of scientific references are printed at the end of each. The Charter issue listed three different suppliers, two in Canada and one in Germany. They didn't link any particular supplier with any particular product, so presumably you have to write and ask for a price list.
I approve of this, as these companies do come and go, and such address lists can become quickly out of date. If you write and don't get a price list, then all you've lost is a stamp.
I would advise people not to send large sums of money to these companies until they have proved themselves capable of delivering small orders and a relationship has been built up. I would also be grateful if anyone does have any problems dealing with them to get in touch with me c/o The Immortalist so that their difficulties can be published to warn people off any dubious concern. (The name of the customer can, of course, be kept confidential.)
The charter issue was a little bigger than the two other issues I was given. It has eight sides, and covers Gerovital H-3, RN- 13 Cell Therapy, Hydergine, Centrophenoxine, Retin A, Isoprinosine, Conjunctasin-A, and Ethoxyquin. None of these articles had references, though.
The second issue and third issues seemed to have better written articles, probably by someone different and more knowledgeable. Issue numbered 2 - Spring 1989 covered Piracetam, described as a powerful drug to enhance memory, and had nearly a page of references, although one was in German. It appears that it is also useful in helping alcoholics recover, which is something I didn't know before. A shorter article on Feverfew was on the back page, with three references. Surely you can get this in the States?
Number 3, Summer 1989 had a major article on Deprenyl, and a shorter one on Arcalion 200, a B vitamin derivative said to help with sleep problems and give energy.
Deprenyl is the drug that life extensionists have been waiting for. In animal tests, it has extended MAXIMUM lifespan, not just the average lifespan. Although it is expensive, the life extension dose is so small that the monthly cost is quite reasonable. In the UK, the National Health buy it in 5mg tablets. For life extension purposes, you only need to take two or three per week, so a 100 tablet bottle would last you nearly a year. Deprenyl is also known as Eldepryl, Jumex and Eldepryn. Eldepryl is the name it comes under in the UK. They don't tell you it's chemical name in the article. It's selegiline hydrochloride.
It has a mean plasma half life of 39 hours, which makes two a week possible, although clearly not optimum. It would be worthwhile for smaller dose tablets to be produced for life extensionists. However for this to be done enough people have to be supporting the product in this dosage for it to be worthwhile for the manufacturers. It may be possible to grind the tablets up and mix the resulting powder THOROUGHLY with vitamin powder or a bulking agent to reduce the dose that way, but personally I don't know whether thorough mixing is practicable for the average life extensionist or whether there would be other objections to this idea.
Deprenyl is probably the most important product ever to have appeared for the life extensionist to date, and it is obviously important that it is used safely and wisely. I hope that those knowledgeable in this subject can give us all their opinion. The more different opinions and articles there are, the easier it will be for people to make up their minds as to whether to use it.
Cryonicists, especially older ones, often feel that life extension is a waste of money and the only answer is cryonics. But if life extension can make some improvement in lifespan, then when suspension occurs it will be with more advanced methods, both physically and organisationally. By extending maximum lifespan, Deprenyl looks as though it could be a sensible choice for cryonicists as well.
Issue 4, dated Fall 1989, consisted of four pages packed with eye opening material. The main article was on Aminoguanidine - introduced to UK television viewers a few years ago on Tomorrow's World as helping to stop cross linking caused by the sugar cycle. A number of remarkable claims are made, such as possible prevention of senile cataracts, thickening of the arteries, kidney failure, thinning bones, osteoarthritis, skin wrinkles (not pre-existing) and all other signs of aging due to cross-links. The article recommends the use of the hydrochloride, not the more commonly available bicarbonate, and a dose not exceeding 300 mg/day divided into two doses. 7 references are given.
Another substance covered is Xanthinol Nicotinate. Advantages are claimed for brain and other energy, conversion of "bad" to "good" cholesterol, and improvements in short term memory. 3 references are given for this one.
The newsletter ends with a short item on Hyperforat, a natural plant derived medicine that has attracted interest for use against AIDS and other viruses. A full report is promised in a future issue. Other uses are given as follows: depression, anxiety, lack of drive, automatic nervous system disturbances, migraine, overstimulation and insomnia. A warning is given against those with light sensitive skin using the product.
No references were given, but no doubt they will be to follow with the next article.
Offshore Medical Therapies costs $19 per year, (U.S. only) and was available from PO Box 833, Farmingdale, NY11737. They'll probably send you a sample copy if you ask nicely! It is no longer available as far as I know. Many of the articles were reprinted in Longevity Report
Pathologist Responds to Pym
In The Immortalist December 1989 I reported upon an article that appeared in Funeral Service Journal on the subject of autopsies. Readers may recall that an embalmer, Mr David Pym, MBIE, DipFD, IFT, Affil RSH, MBIFD, criticised the unrestrained manner in which autopsies were performed.
This brought a rejoinder from a consultant histopathologist in the January 1990 edition of Funeral Service Journal. Mr J.V. Clark, BSc, MB, BS, FRCPath gave his reasons for autopsies, and indeed called for more frequent and more thorough autopsies to be performed in future. His reasons were as follows:
1. When death is unnatural it provides evidence for proceedings in court. "These are legal requirements that cannot be questioned." he says. (Good axe- kneeling stuff, that!)
2. Pathological findings may be compared with clinical findings. This benefits future patients.
3. If familial or inherited diseases are found at autopsy, it can benefit other family members who can be informed that they are at risk. (How can it benefit them? Surely most such diseases will be untreatable until nanotechnology or genetic engineering treatments become available.)
Mr Clark goes on to say that pathologists "reconstruct the body" so it does not present a grizzly slight to mourners. He says that with refrigeration provided by funeral parlours, there is no real need for embalming of bodies at all. Perfusive embalming is impossible after a properly thorough autopsy, he says.
The editor gave Mr Pym the chance to reply immediately following Mr Clark's letter. Unfortunately he tends to grovel. He starts by praising Mr Clark's team's efforts at reconstructing bodies destroyed by autopsy, but criticises others with doing "hatchet jobs". He now accepts the legal and medical "advantages" of autopsy. However he defends his frequent use of the word mutilation, as being accurate. Mr Clark describes it as emotive.
He says that refrigeration is not the answer when bodies are required for viewing at funeral ceremonies. Often the body is viewed at different times, and if it is cooled and warmed over and over again this is an ideal breeding state for bacteria which rapidly destroy facial features.
Curiously, this exchange in Funeral Service Journal appeared in the same issue as an article of mine introducing the ideas of Mr Olson to the UK funeral industry.(The rest of this section will also appear in Funeral Service Journal in a slightly altered form.) The juxtaposition of these two articles has brought to light a serious dilemma between the living and the dying. If we accept the realities of dying, ie that death is a process that occurs after a person is declared by the medical profession to be beyond their help, and that a person is only dead when the program and data in his brain is irrecoverable regardless of present or future technology used, (eg after cremation) then we have a serious problem.
At what point does a dying person become a resource to be used by the living? The transplant lobby clearly has a great interest in this issue. But if one were to carry the arguments of Mr Clark to their logical conclusion we get this argument: A man aged say 75 and with only a few years of life left presents for treatment with an expensively treatable condition, but a sound heart. Do we spend a lot of money saving his life for just a few years by treating his condition, or do we "harvest" the heart and fit it into a younger man with many more years of life, sacrificing the older one? I am sure that Mr Clark would favour treating the old man. Yet if one accepts the promises of cryonic suspension or chemostasis, then that is exactly the choice he is faced with when considering the question of autopsies.
It may well be the motivation of many scientists who reject cryonics, yet fail to give serious scientific arguments against it or enter into scientific debate with those that propose it, that they regard it as a threat to scientific progress in that it will cut them off from the source of knowledge that autopsies provide.
Mizar's Sunday Sport
Mizar Ltd, which provides Alcor services in the UK, has changed its name to Alcor UK Ltd. Readers may recall that they charge £35,000 ($56,000) for neuropreservation and £100,000 ($160,000) for whole body suspension.
On 21 January 1990 an article appeared in Sunday Sport, a sensationalist British newspaper which focuses on women's mammary glands, concerning the cryonic arrangements of Ms Vicki Little, Ms Tina Burnett, and Ms Gert Buckett. All these women are dangerously obese, but Ms Little appears normal except for a 73 inch bust. (This may be a photo-graphic illusion created by the newspaper.)
It was claimed in the article that Alcor UK is arranging the construction of specially reinforced dewars to house these women. (I consider this to be extremely unlikely.) Mr Garret Smyth is quoted as stating that Ms Little and Ms Burnett "will need to have their casks specially designed at the front to accommodate their incredibly large breasts."
The article includes a box in which Sunday Sport readers are invited to write to the newspaper if they are interested in cryonics, and all enquiries will be passed to Alcor UK.
In case readers are wondering how I came by the article, it was found in a London dustbin by Longevity Report reader Mike Zehse and subsequently sent to me.
Alcor UK Facility Completed
Alcor UK's facility has been completed in an industrial park in Sussex, a county about 50 miles south of London on England's south coast. The facility appears to be of a good quality construction and similar to Alcor's in the US. They have also purchased an ambulance for recovery of their clients in England's south east (the most densely populated part of the country) and plan to start training sessions in April.
Sterile perfusion will be carried out at the unit, situated in the seaside retirement town of Eastbourne, and the patients prepared to dry ice temperature. Then the patients will be shipped to Alcor's US facility in the specially designed container, packed in dry ice.
Dry Ice Curtain Breached
The barrier between Alcor and the rest of the cryonic world seems to have been breached by arrangements made by Alcor UK Ltd to ship the body of Bredo Morstoel from Norway to the US, for suspension by Trans Time Inc. Alcor UK announce the operation as a test for their especially designed overseas shipping casket, but clearly this could indicate a thaw in the relationship between the organisations.
How UK Accountants Get Rich From Bankrupts
Returning to the subject of the abuse of the public by professions, a recent UK television program revealed how firms of accountants were taking (typically) $27,000 from people who went bankrupt owning $3,000.
The trick is to find a bankrupt who was never discharged many years ago for some relatively trivial debt. Even if the creditors have forgotten about it, the firms of accountants can take up the case, work out compound interest at extortionate rates back to the date of the bankruptcy, add this on and then add on a hefty percentage for fees and disbursements. They can even do this in cases where the bankrupt has unofficially paid back his debts in full, but has not been cleared by the courts. They do not need the permission of the creditors to proceed.
Armed with all this legal power, they then descend upon the hapless bankrupt and destroy what remains of his life, just to earn themselves some fee income.
The programme showed one case where the axe kneeling bankrupt meekly found and offered ten times what he originally owed only to be told it couldn't be accepted as he now owed a further $2,700 for postage and letter writing. By not accepting his offer, they could go on charging interest rates that they could certainly never get from any bona fide savings institution.
For the benefit of any new readers, I am not against individual members of professions who persue their professions honourably and give proper value for money. However I am concerned as to the power available to the professions as whole entities to extract wealth from the world as a whole which could more usefully be spent elsewhere.
I feel that cryonics is particularly vulnerable, as events at Alcor have shown. If it wasn't for the generous legacy from Dick Clair and the support from the Life Extension Foundation, Alcor would never have survived.
I hope that if the bogey of Communism is finally laid to rest by the end of the century, then the power of the professions will be the next target of public unease. Already in the UK, the Freemasons have come the subject of increasing public concern, as they are an organisation that is said (rightly or wrongly) to amass wealth for its members as the expense of the rest of us.
Secular Funerals in Demand in UK
The London based British Humanist Association has set up its first district outpost to deal with enquiries for secular funerals. They have 87 officiants, but say that they need a hundred times this, and are receiving 400 enquiries a week. People are beginning to realise, usually by word of mouth, that they can have the kind of funeral ceremony they want. Qualifications for officiant are minimal. The association wants sensitive people, prepared to work in harrowing conditions for $37 a service. They must be prepared to put in long hours counselling the bereaved and write individual scripts for each ceremony. They have to respond to "the most outlandish whims of clients" without turning a hair. Last year when someone who was interested in ballroom dancing had his remains burned, the mourners had to end with a tango to taped music. The crematorium officials were taken aback, and none too pleased.
Surprisingly, perhaps for people who believe in no afterlife, almost all secular funerals involve burning the remains. Although I suppose there is not a lot to distinguish the options unless one has some morphostatic plans.
Bizarre Music at Cremation
When the remains of Mr Eddie Oakley were incinerated, the arrangement was to play his favourite tune Every Time We Say Goodbye. Owing to a misunderstanding, the organist played instead When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
Stockbrokers Predict Expensive Funerals
Stockbrokers Phillips and Drew have predicted an increase in funeral costs because of the Green Movement. They cite controls over emissions from crematoria and a desire to save land from becoming burial plots.
I should have thought that cemeteries would have been something the Green Movement would be keen to preserve. After all, they are a habitat for wild life and provide areas of vegetation where otherwise there would probably be concrete.
Discount for Dead Passengers
No doubt holiday makers stranded at airports may wonder whether they'll live long enough to get to their destinations sometimes, but strikebound Eastern Airlines has something different in mind when it offered a 50% discount to dead passengers. The promotion is aimed at funeral directors who are being offered the discount for the shipment of remains. Funeral directors also earn "Air-Miles" in relation to the amount of business they can place with the airline. The Miami based airline filed for bankruptcy protection in March 1989 after its machinists union members withdrew their labour.
UK Funeral Costs Update
In an article in the Financial Times dated 17 February 1990, Ms Sara Webb decried the escalating costs of a funeral in the United Kingdom. Funeral costs in England and Wales have shown a savage increase in the past year. This emerged from a recent survey by market research company Mason- Shakespeare. Burials now cost $1,500 up 24.8%, and cremations $1,200, up 12.9%. The average inflation rate was only about 7%. Burial plots vary from $100 to $1,000 according to region - understandably they are more expensive in high concentrations of people.
The cost of burnings are higher too in densely populated areas. Whether this is due to increased need for environmental precautions, or whether this is merely due to the higher costs of services in these areas is unknown.
The current costs for transportation abroad were also quoted in the article. Spain to UK is given as $5000, and California to UK is given as $4,500. Why the longer journey is cheaper is anyone's guess. Mine guess is additional Spanish jobs-for-the- boys bureaucracy, having read Cryonics' account of the Laura Tomás suspension.
Ms Webb complains that the cost of transporting a dead body is far more than a one way economy class air ticket, and concludes by advising readers travelling abroad to make sure that their insurance includes the cost of repatriating their remains if they perish whilst abroad.
Bizarre Funerals in Birmingham
According to a report in the Birmingham Evening Mail, regulars in ten Midlands pubs have been offered the ultimate resting place. Provided they have their remains burned to ashes, they can be buried under the bar in their favourite pub. To qualify, tipplers have to put money in a special trust via their wills. The organiser, Mr Colm O'Rourke, said "Instead of being stuck in a cold graveyard, the deceased would be surrounded by friends who would have a permanent reminder of them." Mr Jack Haywood, his solicitor, said that he could find nothing illegal in the idea.
And for a Footballer
The British Humanist Association recently arranged a cremation in which the deceased's last wishes were met. His instructions were that his remains were to be placed in a spherical coffin made like a large football, and then consigned to the blaze.
And no doubt these people think cryonicists are mad!
The New Cannibalism
Turning now to more serious matters, an important article in the February issue of Funeral Service Journal discusses the ownership of remains and body parts. It starts off by saying that if the international trade in hallucinatory drugs is the new slave trade, then the growing trade in body parts is equally repugnant.
It claims that there is an organisation in Germany writing to those recently bankrupted offering $50,000 cash if they give up a kidney for transplant. Impoverished migrants from the Middle East are only offered $8,000. In Latin America unwanted children are being sold for spare parts, and in some countries such trade is said to have government sanction.
The article concluded that some hospitals may demand spare parts from the deceased in order to pay unmet bills.
However as I have said before in these columns, the upside of this is that theoretically there are more than enough spare parts in the average body left after a neuropreservation to pay for that and leave a lot of cash spare as well. Whereas most people will regard this trade in spare parts with disgust, I think it is no more disgusting than many accepted surgical practises, as long as no one is the loser from it. Obviously it is irrational to complain if spare parts are used rather than left to rot or burned, especially if that use could save a life or ease suffering.
I think it would be a difficult concept to offer the public in the present climate, but maybe one day all neurosuspensions could effectively be free if there are any useable parts left. Certainly it is a topic that could be discussed by surgeons in the secrecy of their profession once they come to accept cryonics.
Right now it could be a bargaining point between neurosuspensionists and obstructionist authorities, especially if it could be angled to the popular press that the authorities had prevented a life saving transplant by obstructing cryonics.
Cremation - A Green Funeral?
The popularity of cremation took off at the beginning of the 1950s. Great Britain increased the number of its dead treated this way from 15% then to 69% now. The Roman Catholic countries only considered it after 1963, when it was accepted by the Pope. The European average for burnings remains at "only" 28%
Having made the above points in an article in the February issue, Funeral Service Journal then goes on question whether cremation is really such a sociable and green idea after all. Large amounts of poisonous fumes and smokes are vented to the atmosphere in large doses, whereas in burials the disposal is a slow, gradual and natural process and is confined to the ground. It goes on to list the output of gasses and smokes per blaze: Personally I would question the accuracy of this, as a burning process should combine the oxygen, and I would have thought that there would be quite a lot of halogens as well as phosphorus and cyanide molecules in the discharges.
A test run by Leeds University revealed dioxins in the flue of Leeds crematorium. Dioxins are the most poisonous substances known, and the findings included 2,4,5-T and Agent Orange nerve gas. It was commented that cremation is an inexact science, yet a complete combustion should yield no obnoxious products. A number of countries, including the US, now insist on catalytic converters being fitted to crematoria.
As I have said before, burial in the ground provides areas for wildlife and vegetation that otherwise would be concreted over, and may therefore be considered a greener option.
Interferon used for Hepatitis
The Schering-Plough corporation has filed for US approval to use Intron A, its brand of interferon for the treatment of hepatitis in the B C and forms. On November 20, The New England Journal of Medicine published three articles pertaining to this use.
The company has also licensed a unique one a day oral nitrate drug for angina pectoris, Imdur, or isosorbide-5 mononitrate. It is currently used in Europe, and awaits the FDA in the US.
Their antihypertensive Levadil is being introduced into Japan, and it will be marked in the US under the name Dilevalon after FDA approval. Again a one per day treatment, the drug works through vasodilation. It has also been approved in Portugal, and further approvals are anticipated soon.
Warner Lambert Attacks Alzheimer's Disease with new CNS drugs
Warner Lambert have regarded Alzheimer's disease as a major market some years ago, and their portfolio of drugs under development are claimed to be likely to have a substantial impact on the company's fortunes in the next few years. Top level management are taking steps to speed up development.The list of names manufactured by the company's Park Davis subsidiary will not be unfamiliar to life extensionists.
T he co m pa ny is al so working on products to deal with anxiety and that will control gastric secretions. It is well known that the human body is designed in a peculiar way so that anxiety increases gastric secretions that increase anxiety etc. That is why there is such a large industry concerning stomach ulcers. A compound that gets at the root cause of the problem, before ulcers even develop, will be a major breakthrough.
In the meantime, Warner Lambert markets Rolaids antacid, an OTC product that reduces stomach acid and is calcium rich rather than containing sodium.
Warner Lambert is one of only a few pharmaceutical companies that sells both regulated and OTC products. It is actively pursuing a programme of obtaining approval for the marketing of some of its regulated products over the counter.
Regulatory Problems Hit Ribavirin Research
Readers of Mike Darwin's account of his trip round Europe last year in Cryonics will recall that, in common with most travellers, he was stricken with a number of illnesses to which he had no immunity. Readers will also recall his account of the dramatic effect of the virus killer drug Ribavirin on one such disease. This drug is manufactured by a subsidiary of the company ICN Pharmaceuticals, to which I was introduced by an article in Cryonics describing its plans with Eastman Kodak for an anti-aging research program valued at $40 million.
In ICN's annual report for 1989, it has announced that the Kodak deal has been curtailed. Although the money will be spent on research as originally proposed, the joint venture company set up with Kodak has been closed and Kodak has paid off its commitment under the original plan. The research "to the extent conducted" will now be performed by Viratek Inc, the Ribavirin subsidiary.
The company has written off $56,551,000 of its $63,485,000 goodwill valuation of Viratek Inc this year, because of regulatory difficulties over Ribavirin. The Canadian government has now chosen another drug for its anti-AIDS studies, and Ribavirin is the subject of litigation. According to the annual report: "The company is currently cooperating in certain government investigations, and has been named as a defendant in certain consolidated class action lawsuits relating to Ribavirin and the company's and its subsidiaries businesses."
All I can say is that if Mike Darwin's anecdotal account of the drug is anything to go by, it will be a great loss to humanity if lawyers, in order to earn fees, stop research and development of this product.
On the other hand, obviously if there is something wrong, then it needs to be sorted out. However I would wonder whether a biochemist rather than a lawyer might be more suited to this task!
More Offshore Medical Therapies
I have recently been sent the winter issue of this newsletter, of which I reviewed the earlier issues a couple of months back.
It starts with a review of an eugregoric that acts on the chemical processes of the brain to prevent the loss of alertness and depression that occurs with increasing age. (eu=good, gregor=arousal) Adrafinil is claimed in the article to be the first of this new class of drugs, and to be safe and non-addictive. It works on directly on special receptors in the brain called the postsynaptic receptors.
The article claims the following advantages of a course of Adrafinil:
After 8-10 days:
Increased "get up and go".
After 15 days:
After 1 to 3 months:
Improved intellectual function, in particular idea formation and recall.
The drug has been used successfully in France to arrest Alzheimer's disease. It is said that it can be of use to increase performance of computer enthusiasts, creative artists and students, and increase social skills. (How on Earth this can work I don't know, as social skills surely rely on knowledge of a society rather than innate mental ability. An agile mind could help, though!)
The article concludes with dosage information, and a heavily emphasised list of cautions. In particular people are advised not to continue with unsupervised treatment for more than five months. There are ten references, many from French publications.
Candida Albicans and fungal infections frequently come under attack from alternative and self help therapists. Presumably the medical establishment has problems with diagnosing and treating these conditions. The next topic in this Offshore Medical Therapies is Amphotericin, an antifungal antibiotic. This product is produced by microorganisms that live in the soil. When taken orally it is effective against Candida Albicans, Thrush etc., and these fungal infection do not appear to build up a resistance to it. The following organisms are exterminated by it: fungi, algae, protozoa and flatworms. Bacteria and viruses are unaffected.
There are no undesirable effects with the oral form of the drug, although there have been problems reported with the injectable version. Eight references are given.
The final item in this issue is Centrophenoxine or Lucidril. This is widely used by life extensionists for its mental and life extending properties, and contains DMAE. Enough has already been written about this product to make it unnecessary for me to go through it all again now, suffice to say that Offshore Medical Therapies does its usual good job and includes the usual cautions and a list of ten references.
The issue concludes with a whole page inviting people to renew their subscriptions and detailing what they are planning for the following volume. They list the following countries as being the subjects of searches for new medical ideas not previously presented to English speaking audiences: France, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain. Switzerland, Germany. They are also planning further reports on mental abilities, libido increase, and hair re-growth in addition to their general coverage of anti-aging substances.
A subscription to Offshore Medical Therapies is $19 per year, and US residents may apply to PO Box 833, Farmingdale, NY11737 for a subscription. Perhaps if you take their recommendations you'll no longer be taken in by advertisers trying to make a $20 item look $10 cheaper by "nine pricing"! (Well, at least it wasn't $19.99.) No longer available - most of the articles appeared in Longevity Report
Sussex University Research Reduces Professional Justification for Brain Slicing
One of the main reasons used by pathologists for removing the brain of deceased people and cutting it into slices is research into Alzheimer's disease. However researchers at Sussex University are now working on a test that can be performed on nasal tissue, which can be taken from live patients under local anaesthetic.
This will also be of benefit inasmuch as people just starting the disease can be identified and possibly treated to lessen its impact.
According to an article on page 30 of the 31 March issue of New Scientist Barbara Talamo At the Tufts Medical School in Boston made a discovery last year that changes in nasal cells are produced by the disease. Lynne Maine and researchers at Sussex university in England plan a larger scale program of research. They will obtain samples from elderly Alzheimer's patients undergoing other operations, and will also seek relatives' permission to take samples within three hours of death. If these sample correlate with autopsy findings, then they will have demonstrated a viable test for the disease.
Cells high up in the nose are unique amongst nerve cells in that they regenerate throughout adult life, and are the only cells of the central nervous system that are accessible for sampling from a live patient.
As well as assisting in the detection of Alzheimer's patients for general research purposes, the test will enable the efficacy of drugs to combat the disease to be investigated.
Ms Mayne also plans to culture Alzheimer's cells as well as ordinary cells to subject them to different environments, so as to test various theories about the disease, such as aluminium in water.
However Gordon Wilcock, a founder of the Alzheimer's Disease Society, suggests that the test is too impractical for most people, and looks forward to other tests in the pipeline that cause less patient suffering. However he welcomes the test as a stepping stone in the right direction.
If We Could Restore a Severed Nerve ...
New Scientist of 17 March 1990, page 36, carried an item of interest to neuropreservationists. George Bittner and Todd Crause at the University of Texas in Austin used polyethylene glycol to fuse nerve cells of flatworms together. Mr Bittner compared the method to melting two candles, sticking them together, and allowing them to cool. He is now testing the method in rats and other vertebrates. If he succeeds, he expects the method to be used in humans within five years. For the benefit of professional readers, the primary reference is Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences vol 87, p1471.
More from -1
Alpha 1 Biomedicals, the company originally promoted in Anti Aging News (now Life Extension Report) has issued a further press release on the activities of its jointly owned subsidiary Viral Technologies Inc. Dated 6 March 1990, it detailed the clearance received for trials of a new AIDS vaccine, HGP-30. The vaccine works by targeting the protein P-17 that is common to all the different AIDS viruses. It is claimed that this protein doesn't mutate like other parts of the virus. The vaccine contains no live or dead virus components, so there is no chance its administration will contaminate people with the disease.
24 healthy HIV negative volunteers at medical centres in Los Angeles and San Francisco will receive escalating doses of HGP-30 and will be monitored for at least one year following the first injection.
Idea for Promotion of Immortalism
I have written previously of the benefits of direct investment in pharmaceutical companies.
I have recently received the annual report and accounts of The Bristol Myers Squib Corporation, Inc. It came in two lavishly produced books. The smaller of the two is termed Notice of 1990 Annual Meeting and Proxy Statement. Of interest to Immortalists is that fact that shareholders of this (and presumably every other American company) are able to send in proposals to be printed in the proxy statement and discussed at annual general meetings. Many of the proposals are routine, such as the re-appointment of the company's auditors and directors.
However some of the proposals appear frivolous, and often come from people with very little stock. For example, Mrs Evelyn Y. Davis of Washington holds 120 shares and requests that all the directors be re-elected annually instead of the stagger system that was recently adopted. This received two pages of print in the booklet, her reasons for the proposal, and the directors' reasons why it should not be adopted. Members of the Gilbert family, some of whom were dead(!), who hold 972 shares between them, requested something called cumulative voting which apparently a number of American companies have adopted. The directors complained that this system would give power to vociferous small groupings of shareholders controlling less than a majority interest, and so advised shareholders to reject the motion.
A holder of only 40 shares tabled a motion against animal research, which together with the directors' reply, filled eight pages of the book!
As far as I understand at present the shareholder has to attend the meeting personally to read out the statement. I do not know whether it is possible to appoint a proxy top do this. If it is, then people like Saul Kent may well think it worthwhile to get themselves appointed proxies of as many shares as they can find to propose motions such as:
RESOLVED : That the shareholders of Bristol Myers Squibb Company, assembled in annual meeting in person and by proxy, hereby request the Board of Directors to take the steps necessary to research a means of slowing, halting and reversing the basic processes of aging as a means to more swiftly rid the world of cancer and other degenerative diseases that affect the elderly.
RESOLVED: That the shareholders ... etc ... steps necessary to support research into cryonic suspension so that people alive today can take advantage of the future discoveries of this company in the fields of medicine.
Depending on how many shares are owned by individual Immortalists, it may be possible for the elected spokesperson to present formidable support compared to the aforementioned before he even starts!
As far as I can understand, you can add as much waffle as you like to support the motion.
It is clear that as long as one of the people proposing the motion is present, it can be presented. A motion against involvement in South Africa was tabled by a page full of shareholders. After their names it said "... have informed the company that they, or any one of them, intend to present to the meeting the following motion..."
Stockholder proposals relating to Bristol Myers Squibb's 1991 Annual Meeting of Stockholders must be received by the company at its principal executive offices, 345, Park Avenue, New York, NY10154, FAO Corporate Secretary, no later than 15 November, 1990.
I would suspect that using company meetings as platforms by small shareholders for publicity will be a loophole that will be closed sooner or later, so if this idea attracts immortalists, it should be followed up sooner rather than later. It will state our case to people who have money and influence.
More on Capital Punishment
There was an interesting letter in Cryonics of April 1990. An unsigned letter from an opponent of capital punishment on page 21 suggested that people who were likely to commit pre-meditated murder had differences in brain chemistry to normal people.
It went on to say that such differences could be generated artificially during the upbringing of children. In particular it cited "failure of intimate physical affectionate bonding" between mother and infant, and "failure of intimate sexual affectionate relationships during adolescent and adult development" as being responsible for a violent and possibly murderous individual.
It is interesting to note in this context that both the United Kingdom and Germany have favoured rigorous and spartan education of children from an early age in single sex schools, and these countries engaged as major opponents in two world wars before the first half of the century was completed.
Another article was quoted that showed that in primitive cultures where there was low degrees of physical affection, and pre- marital coitus was punished, there was also an excess of violence over those where the converse applied.
Anyone interested in criminology will find this letter and its references of interest, and I would urge them to read it.
Of course there are instances where the law would regard killing as murder where on any rational basis it isn't. The concept of self defence, for example is not clear cut in law. Similarly in warfare there is always someone who starts it.
But nevertheless these ideas do bear looking at, and may once again show how the "selfish gene" will stop at nothing to reproduce itself. Ultimately it is going to be the action of this "selfish gene" that could turn out to be the biggest enemy of the immortalist.
The Authorities as Automata
Following that letter was an interesting article by Dr Steve Harris, that suggested that the authorities, such as those who persecuted Alcor, are merely automata acting without emotion on behalf of the state. He cited as example how ants will treat other ants that had been covered with a chemical given off by a rotting dead ant as though they were dead, even though they were alive and kicking.
He suggested some solutions based on solving the problem as an anthropological one rather than by direct conflict.
I must say that this ties in with what I and others have been saying about the professions, their charging structure, and their symbiosis with the legislature to keep costs artificially high.
Again, this article is well worth getting hold of if you are interested in this subject.
Alcor to Accept Non-Member Suspensions
Following the increased public interest in cryonic suspension, Alcor have bowed to the inevitable and worked out a procedure to accept non-member suspensions. The basic idea is that nothing should be done to prejudice the safety of the signed up membership, and indeed the proposer of the non-member suspension should be made to pass through a barrage of "Negative Selling" before being accepted. Everything that was suggested seemed very sensible to me.
Change of Mind on Wills
Some readers may think that I have set attitudes that will never change. However those that have followed my writings since the earliest days will have seen a lot of mention of wills and my attempts to find a way to fund cryonic suspension through this means. After all, it is much more painless to write a will than fund cryonics by the accepted processes.
However readers cannot have failed to notice that I tend to seize upon any news item that shows up the professions in bad light. My failing regard for the integrity of the professions has gone hand in hand with a loss of faith in the professions to honour a will that is any way out of the ordinary. After all, making a will is an act of faith in the legal profession as a whole that it will be honoured. A professional system that earns its members fee income by "breaking" wills that someone has paid the profession very substantial sums in good faith to set up does not to me seem honest.
It is now my view that the only sensible way to leave one's affairs is with a nil estate. But as yet I am a long way off finding a way to do this without losing control of it or losing a great deal of money in the process.
A Change of Logo
Rather than print the same old map of Cornwall every month, I though I'd have a change of logo to varied Cornish scenes. Cornwall could lay claim to being one of the first parts of the UK to be settled, as it is the first bit of land traders travelling by sea would have reached, coming around the French coast from their native lands. Mining would have been their reason to visit Cornwall, and this scene shows the partly restored ruins of a steam engine house at Levant, which was worked for copper from 1820-1920. Cornwall was once in the forefront of technology, with the development of steam power through the work of Richard Trevithick, and it also boasts the first house ever to be lit by gas, in the town of Redruth. It is possible that the unhurried lifestyle and relatively unpolluted environment may make the Duchy a haven for creative people in its future as well.
BSE Spreads to UK Cat Population
BSE, or "Mad Cow Disease" has been observed in a cat, dissected on post mortem in England. Most pet food manufacturers claim that they have removed offal from their products some years ago. This could indicate that the disease is now endemic in wild life that cats naturally hunt, or that the incubation period is longer than the self imposed ban. The authorities point out that this is one cat in a population of seven million, but it is yet to be seen whether this is the tip of an iceberg or just an isolated incident.
As the disease is caused by a "virion" or agent smaller than a virus, it may be extremely difficult to deal with. Nevertheless it would seem a matter of urgency to devise means of dealing with it. It is, as Mike Darwin mentioned in Cryonics some months back, a much more serious threat than AIDS. Yet there are almost daily a flood of news stories about developing treatments for AIDS.
I would also comment that diseases like this add fuel to the contention that this universe could not possibly have a benevolent creator. If someone deliberately set out to create a disease that would thwart cryonics, then I cannot think of a better design to use than BSE.
An Ideal Immortalist Investment
Sorry, I am not going to describe an investment product that exists, merely what I as an individual would like. Maybe there is someone out there who is willing and capable of taking on some of the ideas into a real product sometime in the future.
First, a bit of background. From an engineering point of view the most efficient process is one that has few stages. It is also known for example that copying deteriorates the information depending on the number of times a copy is made. It is a test of the fidelity of photocopiers to copy a sheet and then copy the copy and so on until the result is illegible. On this basis, therefore the number of stages an investment has to be handled, reduces its performance. The most efficient investment is direct ownership of stocks. The inefficiencies come in from the costs of buying and selling and taxation.
Of course you may feel that you can do better by paying someone to pick the stocks for you. Here then is one level of inefficiency - the chooser's wages come out of your profits, and you probably have to pay his taxes (sales tax, VAT etc.) and your own taxes on the money you have handed over to him.
You can go one further, and select a mutual fund. Here you are paying for someone to pick the investments, and also for someone to manage the fund.
You can go further still, and choose life insurance. This has all of the above plus an actuary to work out the risk and the risk itself to pay for, and someone to manage the whole thing as well as the fund manager. In additional life insurance pays very high finders fees to those who arrange it. All this money does not come out of thin air - it comes from your investment profits, or indeed your capital if the investment chosen for you don't do well.
As you can see, we now have an army of highly paid people each taking their cut from your profits. There is only one way you can win from this - that is if the choice of investment made for you is orders of magnitude better than you could do for yourself.
But even if this is so, you can cut out most of the steps by going for a mutual fund. (They are called unit trusts in the UK.)
There is, of course, one serious objection to this from the immortalist point of view. That is that ordinary holdings in any mutual fund go straight into the management of the legal professional who sorts out your estate. He and his colleagues representing other individuals, whom his colleagues in the legislature say have claim on your estate, will decide whether the will for which you have paid in good faith is sound. This is, as so often previously stated, not sound enough for the funding of cryonic suspension.
Mutual funds and indeed individual stocks can be held in joint names, so that when one partner perishes the holding becomes the property of the other. This has I believe been used for cryonics purposes, but events at Alcor have suggested that even this is open to abuse by the legal profession and bureaucrats, at least in the US. If a person becomes incompetent through illness, then his affairs can be taken over by someone else, and this person can then spend the money in these accounts in order to maintain the person over his last few days. Even some life insurance policies have been broken by such people, who are often officials more motivated by the fees they can extract themselves than any consideration of the patient's welfare. (Reference for this statement - Omni Longevity June 1989 Savage Guardians by William Sherman pages 40-45.)
It would be somewhat inconvenient to have a special agreement for each stock owned in a balanced portfolio. However a brokerage account is one where a stockbroker holds all the stocks to the owner's account. An ideal arrangement would be such a brokerage account in joint names with the following terms agreed by all parties concerned.
1. The account shall be in the joint names of (the proposer) hereinafter described as the Owner, and the Cryonics Institute, hereinafter described as Residual Beneficiary, and managed by stock brokers hereinafter called The Managers.
2. During his lifetime, the Owner only will have the power to add to or remove funds or securities from the account, or alter these terms.
3. The Residual Beneficiary may at any time ask for and receive from the managers a statement as to the funds available in the account.
4. Upon presentation of a Death Certificate for the Owner, or a certified copy thereof, the Residential Beneficiary will become the owner of the funds in the account, and be able to withdraw any or all of them at any time.
5. The Owner (and therefore his estate) guarantees that there will be sufficient funds in the rest of his estate to meet any death tax (currently termed "Inheritance Tax" in the UK) requirements, and guarantees to reimburse the managers for any expenses that they may incur upon his death in respect of government enquiries.
6. The Owner will undertake to report all transactions within the account subject to taxation to the tax authorities, and pay all taxes thereon.
7. The Managers will provide a letter signed by a Director or authorised representative that they will implement the terms of this agreement.
8. In the event that The Owner be declared bankrupt, medically incompetent to handle his affairs, or become the subject of litigation, he or his representatives or trustees shall have no control over the account until such time as the bankruptcy, incompetency or litigation is resolved. Should the Owner die before the situation is resolved, the account will pass to the Residual Beneficiary as hereinbefore provided.
(Overseas CI members would need a slightly different set of clauses to allow for taxation by their own government and to assure that they don't also get taxed by the US government.)
At the time of writing I am awaiting a response from my own US brokers as to whether they would agree to such terms attaching to a joint account. If any other reader of The Immortalist with a brokerage account is interested in doing the same, it would certainly be worthwhile for him to approach his broker and see what results can be achieved. Not all brokers are the same, and if one says no they won't necessarily all say no.
No doubt there are possibilities I may have left out with these proposals, and hopefully debate in the columns of The Immortalist could further improve these terms in the future.
Further Comment on Investment
Although some people may be able to do deals with other individuals or even members of their own families to their own advantage, I have found that the impersonalisation of stocks is the only way to get real profits.
If you put money into the business of someone you know and hope that if he does well you'll get some profits, the likely outcome is that any profit he has made he will see as the result of his own hard work and not your investment. Any suggestion that his hard work would have come to nothing without your investment will be met with the comment that he could just as easily have borrowed the money elsewhere, conveniently forgetting such things as interest or collateral. Indeed people who make a rule of never lending money to their friends may have a point if they need return on their funds.
Lending money to someone personally usually means GIVING them the interest, which is fine if you are willing to do this. If you have other ideas, then the transaction is likely to lead to a broken friendship.
The anthropic principle states that the coincidences in the universe that make life possible happened because we are here to observe them. Examples of these coincidences includes the fact that there is a planet in the narrow sphere around the sun at which the heat balance makes water liquid. Another is the fact that there exists within the periodic table of elements an element like carbon whose chemistry is sufficiently complex to make life possible. I also understand that the initial conditions at the Big Bang are critical for there to be any matter in the universe at all.
When cryonicists are revived, the universe will be observed by them because they are there and because the steps necessary for revival have taken place.
These steps involve an industrial base which includes nanotechnology and a greatly advanced chemical and pharmaceutical industry. It would be fair to say that these industries will have advanced beyond the expectations of professional investment analysts employed by mutual funds and insurance companies. Therefore the current prices of relevant stocks will not take into consideration these advances, and therefore are cheap relative to their levels at these future times in real terms.
Suppose you have invested with a view to growth over 100 years and with a foreknowledge of any great technological advance, think of the vast profits you could have made compared to those investing without this knowledge.
The point I am trying to make is that cryonicists have an advantage over other people. As time travellers they can only arrive in a future where certain things have happened, therefore if these things don't happen they will never arrive.
Therefore from the point of view of the revived cryonicist, he knows things for certain which give a substantial investment advantage.
It has been suggested (Longevity Report 21 Comments on International Cooperation by Alan Sinclair) that as growth over the past 80 years has averaged only 2.5% that cryonics funds should be invested very conservatively to yield this growth. There may be a case for such conservative investment, but even if only a small portion of the funds were invested in companies capable of giving what I am going to term Anthropic Growth this would be worthwhile. In the case of the Cryonics Institute, most suspension members should be able to provide a sum over the modest minimum funding required, and the surplus could be invested anthropically.
Leasehold profits for Immortalists
If you own your own house, selling the freehold to your suspension fund, with a 99 year lease to yourself at a nominal ground rent, say $10 per year, could be a wise move. When you die there'll still probably be some years to run on the lease, and these years can in themselves be a saleable asset. The legal costs of working all this out will be very high, but if cryonics societies and reanimation organisations collectively do the work on behalf of their members, then a standard document can be prepared.
An additional advantage accrues to people who seldom stay more than five years at the same address. Rather then renting, why not buy the house, sell the 99 year lease to your suspension fund, and then when you move sell the 94 year lease to the next person. You'll get nearly as much as the freehold price, yet each time you move you'll be building up a substantial portfolio of properties in your fund. As you'll probably be in suspension when the leases terminate, the fund will accumulate a number of valuable reversions.
(Note 1997 - since the above was written, the freedom for UK citizens to enter into binding contracts to lease properties for long periods for a single premium has been removed by the legal and political professions.)
In the April edition of Which? Way to Health page 44 it was suggested that the Japanese will soon start to market what is termed functional food. This food is marketed as medicine, ie with claims to help with curing disease, aid in immunity, and even reduce ageing.
One company has already introduced Fibe- mini, which contains water soluble dietary fibres. It sold 240 million bottles during its first year in Japan. Another product is a chewing gum that contains something to improve the calcium content of teeth, and cinnamon to aid digestion.
However the article suggests that the price of these foods may put some people f.
Marion Merrel Dow to Convert POMS to OTC.
Marion Merrel Dow Inc, the pharmaceutical conglomerate formed by the recent merger of Merrel Dow and Marion Laboratories, plans to convert two of its most widely sold medicines from prescription only to over the counter.
These are Carafate (through an agreement with Schering Plough) and Seldane.
Seldane is a non sedating antihistamine. Histamine release is an important mechanism of allergy, and as the world gets more stressful and more pollutants are added to the environment, more people are suffering from allergies. Undoubtedly the best way to deal with the situation is to reduce stress and keep away from polluted environments such as cities, but for those who can't or would prefer not to for other reasons an OTC anti-histamine may be safer than submitting to a barrage of invasive tests and possibly a (discredited by some) de-sensitisation procedure.
Carafate is also another product that should sell well amongst stressed customers. It is to treat ulcers. I have written before that it is curious to those that believe in a benevolent universe that the human body is designed to present distressing symptoms of gastric disturbance when the individual is stressed, which symptoms add to the stress and so on.
Following on from last time when I showed (as a masthead picture in The Immortalist, not on Internet) a Cornish engine house, this month I show a drawing of the works. The Cornish were at the forefront of steam technology. The macro technology of steam power has a strange link with nanotechnology. Both technologies were greeted by writers as heralding the end of work!
More on Professional Qualifications
Following my coverage of Journal of the Megahealth Society's article on medical qualifications, I thought that readers may be interested in a similar article that appeared in New Scientist on 21 April 1990. Writer Jon Turney, who works for the Times Educational Supplement, says that perhaps Britain suffers from a severe shortage of professional physicists because it is too difficult to get a degree in the subject. This is also the view of Sir Sam Edwards, Cavendish Professor of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
His report to the University Grants Committee at the end of 1988 said that courses were too difficult for all but the brightest students to complete, and even then some of these only had a hazy understanding of the subject, and feeling of (unjustified) inferiority. The problem isn't the level of material, but the quantity crammed into the course.
Also, some students drop out after taking two years of the three year course. Therefore it is being suggested that physics is taught in two year sections. The first two lead to a general degree, the second a masters' and the third a doctorate. However, some ideas point the other way, to a four year first degree.
The article concludes by suggesting that no consensus or solution is in sight.
Global Warming - The Facts
There has been a lot written about the so-called "greenhouse effect", and recently politicians have felt that there are votes to be had by introducing all sorts of regulations to counteract this, not to mention a greater control over the individual. These regulations will, of course, make everything more expensive, and a reduction in individuals' buying power also gives politicians more control.
However Roy Spencer and John Christy, of the Marshall Space Flight Center and University of Alabama respectively, write in Science (vol 247 p1588) that satellite measurements provide a more reliable guide to global temperature measurement than ground based instruments. Their data shows that during the 1980s two strong "El Niño" events produced a sharp warming, which was counteracted by a colder run of temperatures from 1984 to 1986.
However measurements made from space during the 1980s show that there has been no overall warming during the decade. The TIROS-N satellite measurements have produced monthly averages with variations of less than 0.011oC.
The headline in New Scientist read "Satellites search in vain for global warming." (7.4.90)
In a letter to the Financial Times, published on 7 June, Mr A. Doll- Steinberg comments that one can get as many scientists to reject evidence for a greenhouse threat as one can find to support it. He also mentioned that since the middle of the last century the increase in the human population would have accounted for an increase in carbon dioxide of the order of a billion tons. This never seems to be mentioned in alarmist calculations designed to get jobs, budget and salary increases for committees and quangos dealing with the subject. He suggests the reasons for this omission is that population growth is not part of the Western industrialised capitalist system. He also says that we know very little about the effect of the oceans on carbon dioxide equilibrium.
Omni of May 1990 carried a chilling article elucidating the threat hovering over the human species from viruses and virions. It outlined horror stories of how ruthless killer viruses eliminated African villages and were stopped - just. Yet the writer complains that governments were cutting back on funding for disease control. Once can only hope that the article was written before the current military cutbacks, and that now more funds will be available for this important civil defence.
The article also stressed the danger of travel in spreading such diseases, especially now that exotic holiday destinations are more widely marketed.
It even queries the building of townships in the American North East infringing on natural deer habitats. A deer-borne tick is claimed to be responsible for Lyme disease - a debilitating arthritic condition. As more and more areas of rain forest are disturbed, there is a constant risk of unleashing a doomsday bacteria upon the world.
The Mega Cities of the tropics are breeding grounds for new diseases, or mutations of current non lethal illnesses. Most mutations are harmless, but there only has to be one a billion that is not, and it could run like wild fire through such cities, and thence on to the rest of the world.
Limited Liability Individuals
The Limited Liability Company was introduced in the late middle ages when investors were reluctant to put their entire life savings at risk in order to invest in companies.
With increasing litigation in our society with ever increasing complexity, there seems to be a case for a financial product that places an individual's assets safely out of harm's way. A trust such as I suggested in an earlier issue could well have value well beyond cryonic suspension.
Admittedly if the individual was sued he would be cut off from his assets, but this would happen anyway, so he has lost nothing. The great advantage would be that he would not be worth suing as it would be impossible to get at his assets by a lawsuit.
Of course there is the risk that the litigant might try and break the trust. This could be prevented by what I would term a "cluster trust". The analogy is with the cluster bomb or missile, that when detonated bursts into a number of small bombs. The cluster trust would be designed so that if attacked the assets would be automatically distributed in very small amounts to a large number of beneficiaries. It would then be very costly to re-assemble the assets again.
I can envision a scheme where say 100 suspension members set up a fund for the suspension of members who have made arrangements but have later suffered bankruptcy through litigation. Selection of members for benefit would be entirely at the discretion of the group, and they would just so happen to select only those members whose cluster trusts had "exploded" to make them the beneficiaries. What in fact would be happening is that the concentrated and therefore vulnerable fund is diffused so thinly that the law is powerless to mop it up, yet when the member dies it can be re-constituted to pay for the suspension.
As with many of my ideas, it would take someone more knowledgeable than I to actually make something practicable that would work, but they do indicate a principle - in this case of diffusing funds so much that confiscation would be virtually impossible.
A report in the Canadian Funeral Director details a growing practise in Tennessee mountain regions for people to hold their own funerals and be present thereat in late old age. However prediction of death can be hard - Mr Paul Blevins held his funeral in 1976, but lived on until 1987 when he was buried in a casket he made himself.
Recent coverage in Venturist Monthly News of a serialised interview with Robert Nelson reminds us of the Chatsworth Disaster, but similar events occur with monotonous regularity in society as a whole. Regular readers may recall the ordeal of a Mrs Gwyther whose husband's grave in Wales was disturbed in order to take further remains, which became the subject of a television programme. (Not in Internet version) Now, the Funeral Service Journal reports a similar event concerning the Louisville Crematory and Cemeteries Company. A 60 item indictment alleges that remains were unearthed so graves could be reused in their Eastern Cemetery, which records indicated was probably full in the early 1900s. It had room for 18,000 bodies under current industry standards, but 51,000 are now estimated to be buried there.
In Japan, such activity is being considered for government approval, where it can cost around $30,000 for a grave in Tokyo's cemeteries. It is being proposed that only 30 year leases are allowed on graves, after which time they are opened up and re-used.
Letter to Comments from Cornwall
Following my comment on wills and lack of faith in the legal profession, Mr Tim Freeman of Pennsylvania very kindly wrote in. This what he said:
In the May 1990 edition of The Immortalist you mention that wills are an unreliable way to fund cryonics, and that you would prefer to legally die with an empty estate. I believe this is possible (in the US at least) by using a living trust. A living trust is a separate legal entity you control to which you give all your assets. When you die, the assets owned by the trust become the property of the beneficiary specified in the trust without going through probate (the legal process in which many wills are broken). When you give your assets to the trust, you don't lose control of them because you control the trust while you are alive.
This is discussed in great detail in It's Easy to Avoid Probate by Barbara R. Stock, which may be available at your bookstore, and may be ordered by looking up the publisher in Books in Print. It can also be ordered from Loompanics Unlimited, PO Box 1197, Port Townsend, Washington 98368, USA, order number 73061, for $21.98 outside the US or $19.95 inside the US. Incidentally, the Loompanics catalogue is the most interesting book catalogue I have ever encountered.
Thank you very much for taking the trouble to mention It's Easy to Avoid Probate. Some years back I bought a copy of How to Avoid Probate (without a lawyer), and investigated its applicability to the UK situation. This book contains a number of legal forms and explanatory text. It is published by Crown Publishers Inc, 1, Park Avenue, New York, NY10016 at about $20 when I bought it. This company will supply by mail, but (in my case at least) require a lot of handling charges as well as postage and are not very quick at answering letters. That said, it is a big book for $20, and may cost much more now.
In response to my investigations, the legal correspondent of the Financial Times replied that in the UK judges would be likely to "set aside" any arrangement designed to avoid the laws of probate. Also, another article in The Financial Times said that trusts in the UK require two active trustees (ie no "successor trustees"), and that a trust of £50,000 or less would cost as much to set up and run as a small new foreign car to buy and run. As trusts have been used for tax planning in the past, (particularly avoidance of death taxes) there are now severe tax laws that penalise trusts, inhibiting growth of any assets maintained therein.
The UK Consumers' Association is very much against the laws about wills and probate in the UK, and I support their campaign to get them changed. However it will be a long struggle, as these laws form the mainstay of lawyers' income, and lawyers are over represented in the legislature. Most people only come up against the laws concerning dying when they are bereaved, and they are not in a fit state to start complaining about the system at that time.
Cornish scenes - the church at St Keverne.
The closeness of religion and superstition amongst the Cornish possibly indicate that they fulfil a similar purpose in human psychology. The legends surrounding St Keverne don't put his character in line with that which religious people would expect of a Christian saint.
The reason why no metallic minerals are available on the Lizard - that peninsula forming the "heel" of Cornwall and the southernmost part of Britain - is said to be that the Saint put a curse on the land because of the impiety of his parishioners. He declared that "no metal would ring within the sound of his church's bells."
On another occasion, he was visited by St Just, who stole a chalice (vessel used for the service of Holy Communion). Discovering his loss just as St Just left, St Keverne threw boulders at him until he dropped his loot. This is said to explain the presence of rocks at Germoe, some miles distant, that geologists say have no business being there.
In reality, as the continents moved in geological time Cornwall was a very active region, and the land masses that form it came from different places, hence the rich and varied mineral structure of the duchy.
Move Over, Hydergine
I sometimes get the feeling that if one could pick up the human species and shake it, the secret of immortality may well fall out of the results of previous research.
While Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw were mere children, events in the then Communist state of Hungary were taking place that will affect immortalism in the later 1990s and beyond. If these events had been uncovered by the movement earlier, possibly history may have been a little different.
At the time of the Suez crisis in 1956, the Hungarian pharmaceutical company organised an investigation of local plants in search of undiscovered chemicals. On analyzing vinca minor they discovered the chemical they called vincamine, which could be used to treat mental decline with some success.
By the early 1960s, just as man was beginning to probe into space, they were marketing a drug called DevincanTM which was successful but for several unwanted side effects. Despite this, the treatment is still available in France, Spain and Korea.
In 1968, Dr Cs. Lorincz found out how to make an artificial derivative of vincamine, which was better in its positive effects and had no side effects.
The slowness of the Communist bureaucracy may have been partially responsible for the disgraceful fact that the drug, known as Vinpocetine, didn't appear for another ten years. It is marketed in Hungary as CavintonTM. It is also available in Japan, Korea and Czechoslovakia, but nowhere else!
Its positive effects are claimed in Offshore Medical Therapies to appear more quickly, be more noticeable, and last longer than similar effects produced by Hydergine.
Offshore Medical Therapies in its summer issue goes on from here to discuss the scientific issues, give a long list of references, and give some hope that the product may become available at a reasonable price within a year or so. It was available from PO Box 833, Farmingdale, NY 11727 for $19 per year. The article is also part of the Internet version of Longevity Report.
Identity and Death
Long time Longevity Report reader Mike Morley has become interested in cryonics, and I think it will interest members of the Immortalist Society to read some of his comments in correspondence. Recruitment is still a problem with immortalism, and therefore any chance to share the thoughts of someone who is starting to take it seriously should be of interest and value to all concerned. I apologise to those few readers of The Immortalist who also subscribe to Longevity Report for presenting them with a repeat, but I hope that they will agree with the importance of my reasoning.
This is what he writes:
I have been re-reading the article called A Possible Cure for Death by C.B. Olson. [(Originally appearing in Medical Hypotheses, this was reprinted in The Immortalist and details brain plasticisation as an alternative to neuropreservation.] I have also read various items by David Pizer and Mike Perry in Venturist Monthly News. I am trying to piece all this together with my thoughts on identity/consciousness, after going to see The Fly film recently.
It seem to me that there are a number of rather subtle differences between chemopreservation in plastic and cryogenic freezing. I can understand that a computer program can be run through two different computers and come out exactly the same but surely this isn't quite the same thing as "self-consciousness"? I'd already begun to think about the question of identity/consciousness after seeing the film The Fly about so-called matter transmission from box A to box B. It seems to me that when an individual goes into the transmitter at A, to be disintegrated and remanufactured a moment later in receiver box B, what you end up with is an incredibly detailed copy, but a copy nevertheless, of the original, right down to the memory of stepping into box A - so detailed a copy that everyone else including the copy leaving box B thinks it is the same individual. The person who steps out of box B knows he is the same as entered box A because his memory tells him so.
The atoms are so organised in box B that their configuration is totally identical to their original position in box A, so personality/memory and the machine brain which produces the are duplicated exactly. But, and this is the problem as I see it, aren't we really concerned that there should be a continuation of consciousness, even if there's a break or pause in between as in cryonic freezing? Do I, (my self-consciousness which is now involved in writing this letter) get transported across the room from point A to point B, or similarly in case of suspension by chemical means, across the centuries? I think not. I think that when an individual enters box A and his body/brain/memory are all broken down into their component atoms he is totally disintegrated and actually dies. I think that the disintegrated individual no longer experiences anything at all, ever.
What The Fly films would have us believe is that when he is disintegrated in box A the retransferring of details (information / memory / position of atoms to build up an identical physical brain) into some sort of storage system (computer) causes his consciousness to move along with the information, and from there into box B to take up residence in the new physical container just built up there.
Similarly I think the idea seems to be that when a present day brain is preserved by chemo/plastic means, it itself becomes the storage system and is then used to furnish information for an identical brain to be built in the future and that somehow the original consciousness awakens in the new brain. I can't see how that would happen. Surely building up an exact duplicate and replaying the same program merely results in a very clever copy who thinks mistakenly that he is the original, but it in no way transfers consciousness from the original to the copy.
If I were the person entering the transmitter A in The Fly films, I'd certainly think twice about it for the reasons given and I'm rather feeling the same about having my brain atoms solidified and fixed in a block of plastic for similar reasons. I don't think I would survive unless the original brain material is involved. In the case of cryonic freezing it would be, but in chemopreservation, if I understand it correctly, it wouldn't.
I think that attempts at matter transmission, or rather transmission/continuation of consciousness clothed in matter using a disintegration/rebuilding process would fail, due to total destruction of original matrix. The best and easiest and workable means of matter transmission is simply to walk from box A to box B, which means the original brain carries the information with it and uses the same physical brain to do this with.
If you want to extend the analogy to cryonics let's have the guy knocked unconscious at point A and dragged over to point B where he recovers and is indeed the original (his loss of consciousness would be like long-sleep in cryonics). I think this latter is essentially what cryonic preservation seeks to do and may succeed in giving me a continuation of my present day consciousness, whereas a detailed copy of the brain produced by referring to a chemo-preserved brain would produce a new consciousness which would mimic me exactly but wouldn't be me. My consciousness surely dies for good when my brain is chemopreserved.
One could say one survives in one's children or in a book or painting one leaves, or even in a future cloned facsimile, but that's not quite what I mean when I say "I want cryonics to help me survive". I want my consciousness to survive even after a great gap. If there is no jumping of consciousness across this gap of years between preservation and resuscitation then I think it's false to say "I have survived". Without continuation of consciousness, I die and what follows is merely a facsimile.
Due to these thoughts and feelings, I'll be opting for neuropreservation and will leave chemical preservation in plastic well alone. As I see it these two processes are quite different and have entirely different results.
I can see that over a period of time my whole body changes the atoms which make it up. Cells die, some are replaced, some are not, but this gradual replacement means I experience a continuation of consciousness. If I have, for the sake of argument, 1000 atoms in my body and in any one week ten of these are replaced, I always have 990 at any one time which are stable. My mind/identity/memory grows and changes, surely, by changes at an atomic level which is parallelled by changes at a cellular level. As I learn, more atoms change position to make cells change and information to flow to file things into memory, but the way this works is as a gradual process - like a huge city lit up at night with all its lights on. From time to time a whole street is plunged into darkness, but the main body of lights still shines. The off lights come on again shortly and some go off somewhere else, only to reappear again after an interval and so on. So there would be a twinkling effect, rather than total darkness.
Now if I were cryonically frozen wouldn't that mean in a sense the process of lights going off and on, of cellular death and replacement, was merely slowed down toward and eventually to reach, absolute standstill? Then, when the debris is cleared out from the brain by nanotechnology, the same process starts up again gradually, at an ever increasing rate, until the brain and consciousness is as it was before.
Substitute rebuilding of streets instead of lights. If the city changes, in this way gradually as cities do it's still the same city undergoing metamorphosis like our bodies and brains do. But if all the city was cleared away at once and rebuilt in one fell swoop it wouldn't be the same city, no matter if you named it by the same name, it wouldn't be the same.
I think the computer program simile is also inaccurate because though a program could be run on a second or infinite number of similar computers and read out exactly the same, whilst it would look and react the same we cannot ask either that program or the street lights or the rebuilt city how they feel about the situation. If we did, the second running of the program, if identical, would be misled into thinking it were the first. The only solution to this problem is by direct experience. Only the guy entering box A knows if he survives. Only a person at the end of the cryonic freezing/reanimation process will know if he survives, by whether his consciousness continues or not. Doesn't consciousness represent a special case? It is not just identity, behaviour or personality or even information, but something to do with a continuing process, which stops dead at death, pardon the pun.
We could ask the individual in box B or the one at the end of cryonic suspension/reanimation what they think, but my point is that they would speak from the only experience they have - their false memories - and they would say there was continuation of consciousness. Isn't chemopreservation rather like being totally destroyed by a bomb, (or being in box A) whilst memory/personality are stored in a computer, or even as the written word, then the memories fed into or dictated to another person, maybe an amnesiac, who would thinks he was the same person who got blown up, which demonstrably isn't the case. Even if it were a clone of the original and the machinery/cloned brain could be made to match the original atom for atom I'm still not sure this would mean the consciousness would jump from A to B - from the original to the duplicate. Doesn't the person who gets blown up stay dead? - Whereas the more gradual displacement and reconfiguration of atoms and cells on a slower basis results in our consciousness continuing from day to day but ever changing.
I can see how cryonic freezing might result in a kind of forward time travel for the person involved. Whereas I feel chemo preservation in plastic would result in a total annihilation of the individual at the time of death. If they could clone me now they could make any number of duplicates facsimiles, all looking and behaving exactly like me, and if they could codify and extract all the memories and information from my brain and transpose it into theirs, they'd all think each was the original, but wouldn't my consciousness stay right where it is, in the original brain?
An amnesiac has no memory of his past, but enters new ongoing experiences which may even build up a very different personality and different behaviours to the original, but it's the same entity who experiences this world. Isn't this because the process continues in the same (original) brain material? I wouldn't mind waking up in 300 years with some holes in my memory, as long as it's me which wakes up, and I define me as this process which is happening now, rather than memories alone.
I quote from a recent newspaper article: Tycoon Malcom Forbes and fashion designer Halston left samples of their flesh after their deaths - in a bizarre bid to be reborn as clones. the pair, who were obsessed with living again in the future, hoped scientists will recreate their bodies from single cells. They got the idea from their ailing pal Elizabeth Taylor, who wants her head frozen after she dies.
I think Elizabeth Taylor has a good chance of survival, but that the consciousness of the two men was extinguished permanently when they both died. (End of first letter)
* * *
There have been many discussions like this relating to survival by various scientific processes. To me they merely prove that what we consider to be self, or our consciousness, may well be just an illusion.
Nevertheless, it is the only one we have, so it is best to preserve it in any way that is practical. I have seen arguments similar to Mr Morley's in favour of whole body against neuropreservation, and one wonders whether presented with that choice, and not Olson plasticisation, he would have taken a similar stance in favour of whole body.
He is quite right in saying that the only person who one could ask is the person suspended / reanimated and even then one may get the wrong answer!
Therefore the best solution to the problem is to allow people their own personal choice as to the best survival route to follow.
After all, surviving from one day to the next is almost an analogous process. If we don't eat or drink today we can probably still get through the day and save a bit of time. Why bother to waste time eating so you-tomorrow won't feel weak? Indeed one could eat nothing for about a fortnight and survive. The experiences gained through a fortnight may make you-after-a- fortnight a very different person to you- today. Therefore why bother to eat, as you-after-a-fortnight may be totally different and you-today may not even like you-after-a-fortnight.
We certainly all eat, and we certainly don't eat the same food. So why should we all take the same route to the future where death is optional?
Further comment from Mike Morley
Yes indeed, I do agree with your point - whether identity is an illusion or an actual entity seems irrelevant - if it's an illusion then it's a damn good one and I for one would like to preserve the "illusion" as long as possible. I suppose that Dr Blackmore and the Zen Buddhists and Eastern Mystics just about stand on common ground on that one - "Don't worry about dying - there is no self to lose - it is all an illusion" seems to be what they are saying.
I've spent a good deal of my life very interested in comparative religion - particularly Eastern stuff and anything to do with Near Death Experiences - R. Moody et al and I am fairly convinced we do have a transcendant nature, but one per cent of doubt about that encourages my interest in cryonics. Besides which, why not have both!? If there is a spiritual world, then we'll all get there in the end I guess. But I like the idea of "hopping into the future" via cryonics also.
Surely I'd invest in a pension, because although the old-me I will become will probably think differently and act differently to me-today, there will be continuing consciousness between these two distinct but related "selves", and me-today gradually turns into the other. "His" well being is directly influenced by choices "I" make now. Isn't that the same in cryonic suspension by freezing? Hopefully my now-consciousness will awaken in the future and continue to change and grow - but only if I make provisions for that future now. Whereas the point I was trying to make was if it's merely a clone in the future, or an exact duplicate of my present brain my now- consciousness won't actually be there, in which case I'm not all that interested.
I still have a gut feeling that "my" consciousness is the same when I wake up in the morning, or after a "gas" visit to the dentist or general anaesthesia because there is continuity of structure.
I read Dr Blackmore's analysis of out of the body experiences and disagreed quite a lot with her conclusions.
Well, I must apologise for rambling on at such length. There's very few people in my neck of the woods to discuss these matters with.
I'm still a bit unsure about your saying that chemical brain preservation has the advantage of cheapness and durability whereas cryopreservation of the whole body has the advantage that it is a little bit less draconian. Neuropreservation becomes between the two, nearer the chemical brain preservation than to whole body cryonics, I should have thought.
I see chemical preservation being cheaper and whole body less draconian and can see physical similarity between chemical brain and neuropreservation because only the head/brain is used, but it seems to me that neuro is still closer to whole body in that in both the same "brain matter" is unfrozen at future date (maybe by nanotechnology) so there is in both those the continuity of structure. But if I understand chemical preservation, once chemically preserved the actual brain tissue is only used as a map to furnish details of how to build up an identical brain, the original then being dispensed with.
Please reassure me that if I opted for neuropreservation instead of whole body the idea would be to clone a fresh body around the original grey matter. As I read in Jim Yount's article on page 4 of Longevity Report 21 "plenty of American Cryonics Society members also are 'concerned by the various aspects of neuropreservation and have reservations with the idea of uploading.'"
Would it be possible to encourage Jim Yount to elaborate on this in a future letter/article?
I can't say that I agree with Mr B.W. Haines' letter really - So what's wrong with genetic engineering? If we can eradicate gene-carried diseases, mongoloid babies, people with the awful crippling diseases carried in their genes, surely that's a good thing? That's not equivalent to saying that I don't care about such people when they do exist - obviously they do need the best possible care and support when they are in that position. But if by tinkering about with genes etc we can prevent things which obviously don't function as they should, surely that's good and OK? I agree it's no good bring people back by cryonics if their quality of life in the future would be dismal and their life-style unhealthy, but surely if technology arrives to bring people back a parallel technology or means of remaining healthy will also have arrived. If Eric Drexler's ideas come to fruition, old age and illness will be a thing of the past. That great boon and the technology to revive cryonicists go hand in hand. Please keep publishing cryonics and similar writings and articles. I think it's that which makes Longevity Report so interesting for me. There are plenty of "health" journals around, but not many in England with cryonics interest. [Longevity Report is the only one in regular publication. Mizar (now Alcor UK) did send out it's own newsletter at one time, but there's really little point as we'd always publish any announcement they wanted to make. - Longevity Report ed]
We should be looking at longevity now and in the future, and hope that cryonics may get some of us into that future. Extend longevity to its ultimate and you get "immortalism". Just as you say in your response to Mr Haines' letter, if we push back the limit from three score years and ten to 200 years, why stop there?
I am amazed that people with millions - Marlon Brando - and other aging film stars, don't invest in cryonics and equally amazed at the (as yet) small numbers of people who are actually signed up. I felt the majority of the "anti-" lobby in the television programs showed a singular lack of imagination. Their attitudes were either derogatory in the extreme or else they went for cheap laughs. If they could publish Eric Drexler's book in England in a paperback or cheaper edition as well as the Ettinger volumes maybe cryonics and nanotechnology would reach a wider public more quickly. Is there any possibility of this?
The scientist on television with the frozen lettuce was pathetic! He also went for a cheap laugh and still didn't seem to see the difference between present and future technology. He ended up to my mind about as wilted and stunted in hope and imagination as his old lettuce leaf.
It is good to see Arthur C. Clarke thinks cryonics has a good chance of working. I thought the article by Bob Brakeman was fascinating. I hope Liz Taylor gets suspended also - also Michael Jackson I think has expressed a similar desire?
I am trying to "spread the word" re cryonics at the hospital where I work but most people dismiss the idea as "cuckoo"! I have put leaflets and Alcor booklets in the library at the hospital in the hope of drumming up some interest. So far, no luck! I'll have to give these ideas of a recruitment drive some further thought.
Are you aware if Drexler's ideas for assemblers and replicators and nanocomputers are being picked up by the scientific community at large? I am hoping so much that the sort of technology he describes will eventually be created. His description of the growing of an engine in a vat of assemblers sounded really beautiful. I am wondering what your personal opinion is on these things one day becoming possible? If not does that leave a big gap in technology needed to repair damaged brain tissue of suspended?
I may buy another of the Drexler books soon to lend out to people in the hope of stimulating some interests, though I am amazed at the number of people around here who seem more concerned with their daily pint of lager and happenings on TV soap operas! Maybe I'm just buttonholing the wrong people!?
Further Longevity Report Editorial Comment
I am grateful for Mike Morley to share his "ramblings" with us. No doubt many readers have had these thoughts when considering cryonic suspension, and many committed cryonicists will benefit by knowing how at least one person thinks as he looks into their world from the outside.
Unfortunately no-one can give any assurances about how cryonic revivals will be performed. Certainly there is more than one way of going about it. Dr Paul Segall in his book Living Longer Growing Younger, available from the Immortalist Society in hardback, suggests an entirely different method, and this does suggest a way round the problem of no nanotechnology.
"Medical Tyranny" update
I have given coverage to the Journal of the MegaHealth Society's discussion of the US medical profession and its arrangements to keep its numbers down and hence their fees up. In the latest issue of the Journal of the MegaHealth Society it is reported that they had expected some complaint from their physician readers. They were pleased and surprised to find them supportive of the claims made in the articles. In fact they were described as being most enthusiastic and encouraging.
Journal of the MegaHealth Society is available from PO Box 60637, Palo Alto, California 94306. Single copies are $3, and a six issue subscription costs between $15 and $22 depending on location and class of mail.
In the same issue, they carried an article with commented that the laws against fraud would apply to false claims made about medicines. However with these laws the defendant is innocent until proved guilty. In the case of laws about practising medicine, defendants are usually guilty until proved innocent. This means that many beneficial therapies are thrown out together with the fraudulent. Who cares as long as the administrators of "justice" are paid?
The problem of medical hours worked in the UK received a further airing on Channel Four recently. A junior doctor claimed that juniors who had complained at the hours earlier in the year had subsequently been victimised. The profession knows that if there are too many doctors salaries will fall. In addition, if there were enough junior doctors to work reasonable 40 hour weeks, a smaller proportion of them would be able to take the highly paid consultant surgeon's posts.
However in order to satisfy this greed, the public has to run the risk of being treated by a doctor in hospital who has worked up to 80 hours with no or little sleep! No matter how many degrees they have got or facts they have memorised, it is highly likely that they will make serious mistakes under these conditions, and many do.
It is interesting to note that commercial drivers and pilots have their working hours limited by law. Also, commercial pilots do not rely on memory when flying airliners - when performing pre- take-off checks they have to tick off every step in a book, at least according to documentaries I have seen.
Anti Software Copying Lobby Avoid Legal Problems.
There is in the UK a powerful lobby that is against illegal copying of computer software. The organisation FAST (Federation Against Software Theft) has placed advertisements to get schoolchildren to report anyone selling computer games cheaply. If it turns out that these are illegal copies, then the informer gets £1,000.
Despite the large reward, people were unwilling to come forward, because of the risk of being made to appear in court as a witness. Although the actual time spent giving evidence is short, the witnesses often have to spend hours or even days in the court waiting to be called. It has been known for the witnesses and the defendants to be detained in the same room as each other, even in criminal cases. Obviously if a child came to harm or was even assaulted under these circumstances, FAST would receive appalling publicity.
FAST didn't kneel to the law's demands though. The have adopted a circuitous approach whereby the informant gives them the information, and they then send one of their employees to make a test purchase in order to gain evidence against the offender.
This all goes to show that legal difficulties, like Communism, are not insurmountable!
The Universe Considered as a Computer
An article in New Scientist of 12 July discussed the possibility that the entire universe can be regarded as a computer system. It discussed the nature of reality and whether because the universe can be described mathematically means that it could be considered as a computational process.
In my view it waffled needlessly about whether a computer could be big enough. The point to my mind is irrelevant - if the universe is a computer simulation then obviously there is no way we could ever find out for sure or get outside the computer. The point of the idea as I see it is that if we CONSIDER the universe as a computer, does it help us to understand it better?
It got back onto the point when it discusses the idea that in the laws of physics the arrow of time can be set either way for the laws to work, but a computer can't. For example a (NAND) gate can have a 1 and 0 as inputs and give a 1 as output, but the output can't tell you which input was 1 and which input was 0. However the article says there is nothing to stop one building a gate that provides three outputs, two of them being the same as its inputs, but I wonder why anyone would bother! If all computers are functionally equivalent, (as Turing's work suggested) then you can't model the (theoretically) reversible universe on such a machine.
Some chess playing programs allow you to do something like reversing time. If you make a move that you regret a few moves further on, you can wind the moves back and then continue playing from that point, after altering the regretted move. These programs run on perfectly ordinary computers - they don't require silly gates. They work by recording all the positions of the game.
Some problems, we are told, are insoluble. Can a computer examine a computer program, and in finite time tell us whether it could ever enter into a perpetual loop? We are told it can't if the program is more than a simple one.
The article claims that computers can't handle paradoxes like the statement "I am a consistent liar." But humans can. Does this make humans something different to computers? Roger Penrose of Oxford University is reported to suppose that somewhere out there, there are an infinite number of "truths" that are excluded from computers because of the nature of computational processes.
The brain though can understand them, and could this mean that the brain is not a computer and operatesby some different principle, therefore does not obey the laws of conventional physics. Quantum computers are then wheeled in, but it is pointed out that no one has found any useful examples of problems unsolvable conventionally being solved by machines that are alleged to be quantum computers.
I am not sure exactly what a quantum computer is supposed to be, but obviously if it is meant to do things impossible on a real computer, then it cannot be simulated on a real computer! I view with scepticism a claim made that Charles Bennett has invented a "form of encryption" at IBM Yorktown Heights that is supposed to offer a limited form of quantum computing.
There was a scheme afoot in the 1960s which the author obviously hadn't heard about. This is to use white noise for computing, and to use the laws of probability to do arithmetic. This was in the days when it was very difficult to multiply two numbers electronically. White noise does it easily because if you mix two probabilities the result is the product not the sum.
From what I understand of quantum mechanics it is all about probabilities and therefore I suspect that the stochastic computer, as the 1960s contraption was known, may have been the quantum computer now proposed in a different guise.
I am not clever enough to find the flaw in quantum mechanics, but I feel confident there is one, and one day a new Einstein will find it. In the meantime we are entertained with interesting speculations, and certainly it's mathematics have provided a consistent basis for some engineering applications.
There are some people who believe that given enough power and speed a computer could mimic the universe in detail. The article ends with a scenario where people are offered an electronic heaven where their brain program and data are fed into a universe simulation to live ideal lives for ever.
Or until there is a power cut.
With regards to "consistent liars" and similar paradoxes, I suggest that they are analogous to trying to divide by zero or product a sum or product bigger than the largest number the computer's high level language can accommodate. Computers can be programmed to handle this sort of situation, and presumably the human brain works in a similar manner. If you ask a computer to divide by zero it sends an error message and stops. If your program is likely to give divide by zero errors, you can install error trap code that detects each time this condition arises, and takes whatever action you the programmer want it to.
It is programs that are important, not computers.
More Quantum Mechanics
One of the aforementioned entertainments about Quantum mechanics is a book entitled Parallel Universes by Dr Fred Alan Wolf.
The parallel universe interpretation of quantum mechanics has always interested me because if time travel backwards in time is possible, then there have to be parallel universes to avoid time travel paradoxes. Dr Alan Wolf includes detailed information on how to build a machine that can be used to travel forwards, backwards and hover in time. (The last option being relevant to my "time destructor" ideas.)
The components required are 100 neutron stars 12½ miles in radius fitted together to form a neutron cylinder 40 kilometres across and 400 kilometres long. (The mix of units is his not mine!)
You have to mess about with it until all the neutron stars are rotating together at 10,000 rev/sec, when the outer surface reaches 75% of light speed. You then get various zones around the cylinder through which you can fly in a space vehicle without injury to get different time effects.
The whole thing would be so disruptive to the surrounding area, that Dr Alan Wolf advises building it in intergalactic space, at a point of gravitational neutrality between galaxies.
Less fun, perhaps, is the possibility that curious anomalies may be observable at the nanoscopic level (cf microscopic). It is alleged that an experiment can be performed, where light (or other particles/waves) are directed through two slits at a screen. You get distinct interference patterns. If you close one slit, then the particles reach points on the screen they didn't reach before. Yet how can a particle going through one slit know the other is there?
An alternative is to set up two telescopes so that each one focuses on the output of one of the two slits. Then you send one photon through the apparatus. It arrives at one or other of the telescopes. But if you put a screen up, it passes as a wave through both slits and gives interference patterns. Then what happens if you put the screen up after the photon has left the slit before it gets to the telescopes? As it goes through the slits it "thinks" it is a particle and goes through one or other. But then it finds a screen, and has to behave as a wave and if it has gone through both. If this is a real experiment then surely it could be used to send information back in time, albeit only by a few nanoseconds. Certainly you can detect individual photons in a dark room with a good photomultiplier - they can be made to operate a speaker and sound like geiger clicks.
The question I ask is: has anyone sent one photon through a slit and seen it give interference fringes on a screen? The book certainly doesn't say so.
The books has subtitles such as "using parallel universes to predict the stock market", whereas the actual text is vague to say the least. Mention is made of a computer program that takes two days run time to predict one day's prices. I would point out that the run time depends on what machine it is run on. If someone has really written a program that will predict the stock market in two days, then give him a faster computer! The books suggests other solutions to the run time problem, using parallel universes. As my solution is more practical, I suggest that the program doesn't exist! The subtitle is likely to be effective in getting book store browsers to buy the book, though.
I bought the book by mail after reading a review in New Scientist and enjoyed reading it. I think that a study of these matters, such as quantum mechanics and parallel universes, may give handles to two problems - that of identity and time. But we need to find the flaw in the quantum theory - if there is one - or alternatively a practical experiment that can be performed by anyone that demonstrates it properly.
Not mentioned in the book, but an important aid to understanding is to cease the misuse of the word dimension.
A dimension is a mathematical entity to describe an object or process. The space we live in has three and only three directions, left/right front/back and up/down. One may wish to describe some process in it that encompasses four dimensions, ie time plus three directions of length. To that extent time is the fourth dimension, and entropy could be the sixth and enthalpy the seventh if you are interested in a thermodynamic process. But time, entropy etc are not directions.
You could have a process with four independent variables. If you like you could try and confuse and mystify the fact by talking about it existing in four dimensional space. But all it is, is what I said it was: a process with four independent variables - indeed it could be four thousand.
The programming of computers makes this abundantly clear by BASIC's DIM (dimension) statement. DIM(5,6,7,8) means set up eight books each of seven sheets of tables each consisting of five rows by six columns. DIM(5,6,7,8,9) could be regarded as the previous example with nine libraries each of ... DIM(5,6,7,8,9,10) could be ten lorries each containing nine libraries ... DIM(5,6,7,8,9,10,2) could mean two lorry parks each containing ten lorries ... I know I have laboured the point, but I hope I have demystified the dimensions!
Our Cornish scene this month marks the start of a series of line drawings by Bob Acton, author of a number of local walk books. We are privileged to have received permission from Mr Acton to reproduce these drawings from his excellent series of books.
Shown in The Immortalist was Richard Trevithick's cottage. He was the most famous of Cornish engineers, and was responsible for the development of high pressure steam systems. He produced the first railway locomotive that ran on smooth rails - some 20 years before George Stephenson, and invented the paddle wheel.
His inventiveness and pioneering spirit will be the same as that required by those who will apply nanotechnology to transform the world of the future. Superconductivity News
A Silicon Valley start up company, Conductus, has a mission "to commercialise superconducting electronics in a way that will provide significant benefits to society and bring a substantial return on investment.
Potential products include sensitive sensors for astronomy and medicine. Next year they plan to market a bolometer, a device to measure heat radiation.
The company aims to generate revenues of $1.2 million in 1990 growing to $3.8 million in 1991. It should be into profits in four years.
Body Freezing Wins Growing Interest
This was the heading used in The Daily Telegraph to herald an article announcing the training of Alcor UK's suspension team. They said that there are 13 people now signed up in the UK, 9 having whole body and the remainder neurosuspension. It claimed that 500 were signed up in the USA, and that mystery still surrounds Walt Disney's ultimate fate.
Mr Bill Bald of the Wolfson Institute at the University of York made his usual bald statement that the process is just another method of burial, and that freezing destroys cells.
However Mr Sinclair was quoted with the statement that the capabilities of future science is the matter in question and not present science, and he said "It may be only 1,000 to 1 chance that it'll work, but if you're cremated or buried there's no chance at all."
Controlling Offspring's Sex
Experiments at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) and The National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in London in July have revealed the sex determining gene. It is called SRY, for sex-determining region Y. The scientists, lead by Peter Goodfellow at the ICRF and Robin Lovell-Bade (NIMR) say that although they don't have conclusive proof, they are quietly confident that they are right. They have to remain cautious, as other clams to have found the gene have been made before, only to be disproved later.
The first application of the research will be to produce a transgenic bull that will produce only male offspring.
The scientists said that they felt it would be unethical to use the knowledge to control the sex of human children. However once the discovery is made, this may well happen. Without education, this could result in an over preponderance of male children, particularly in countries like India.
I would like to propose that instead of the practise of children carrying the male surname, female children carry the mother's surname and male children the father's. This would remove at a stroke the nonsense (in a biological sense) that you can only preserve "the line" by having boys.
Wills on Wheels
A London woman who trained as a barrister (a lawyer who is allowed to appear in the British high courts) but never practised as a result of marriage, has used her knowledge to start a home business that has flourished.
When a friend asked her to write a will she declined on the basis that she had no professional liability insurance. However later she enquired to find that the insurance would cost her £280 per year provided no estate was in excess of £300,000. Fellow professionals, such as an accountant friend, and various investment consultants, agreed to put business her way and she worked out that she would have to write a will a week at £35 to cover her insurance costs. However in practise she found she could write four a day, and she also discovered that the market would tolerate a price of £50 per will. This is still much less than a solicitor would charge.
She has also held a "Wills party" along the basis of "Tupperware Parties" and it proved a success, grossing £450 in an evening.
She uses a computer loaded with a number of common will clauses, but surprisingly, according to the Financial Times, she sends her draft wills to a professional legal typist for final preparation in legal form. This seems daft to me! Why not get the computer to do the whole job and charge clients proportionately less? Other people's money, I suppose, why bother!
Milk is Good For You
Cows are unique in that their milk contains not only antibodies for cow diseases, but can be made to contain them for diseases that affect other species as well. The US company Stolle Milk Biologics has developed a system in New Zealand (no prizes for guessing why not in the USA) where cows are injected with certain organisms and allowed to develop immune responses to them.
The milk from the special herds is converted into powder under carefully controlled conditions and the antibodies carefully extracted. One of the antibodies so produced is for tooth decay causing organisms, and it is to be added to toothpaste.
Other organisms under threat from the new process include those that cause gastric disorders, diarrhoea and vomiting, and acne. Also antibodies that help reduce blood pressure and which fight arthritis inflammation will be also made this way. [Financial Times, 26 July 1990 p 16.]
I had thought for a long time that genetic engineering was something used to improve the next generation, and therefore of no interest or importance to immortalists. However this is a complete misconception of the concept.
Genetic engineering can alter the genes of existing people, and therefore improve them or cure them of deficiencies. A long article in The Financial Times of 9 August emphasised this point.
Dr French Anderson, of the US National Institutes of Health has been granted permission to correct a rare inherited defect in the immune system, known as ADA deficiency. This will be the first instance of gene therapy on human patients, and will be carried out later this year.
Dr Stephen Rosenberg, another NIH researcher, hopes to use the treatment against melanoma. He says that if his techniques work, they should be applicable to many other forms of cancer.
Gene therapy has been available since the early 1980s, but human trials been held back by the regulators, during which time people have been suffering and dying from cancer surgery. According to the Financial Times, researchers have had to face a "formidable" barrier of regulations, but FDA approval, the last in a line of many, is expected within a couple of weeks.
Some opponents of genetic engineering have tried to block it on the grounds that it is unwarranted interferences with natural or god-given process of life. (I suppose surgery isn't?) They are also concerned that gene therapy will lead to irreversible transformation of the human species, ie they were in the same error that I was as indicated by the first paragraph in this section. However gene therapists point out that the treatment of diseases affect only the individual patient, and is much like in organ transplant in that respect. None of the inserted genes would be passed down to succeeding generations.
An experimental "gene gun" that fires tiny capsules of DNA into cells was tested at Duke University, North Carolina. Du Pont, the giant US chemical company, has commercial rights to the process.
Dr Anderson chose a politically appealing therapy to try for his first application. ADA deficiency is a genetic disease that affects children, and leaves them defenceless against infection. ADA is an enzyme essential to the development of the immune system. This therapy corrects an inherited defect. Presumably, though, those who were treated would live to pass on the defective genes, so there must come a time when correction of the germ line would be appropriate.
Another genetic defect gives a susceptibility to heart disease. This also could be treated.
The melanoma treatment is not correcting a defect. It is in effect a radically new drug delivery system. It modifies the immune system to deliver a protein called tumour necrosis factor to the cancer cells and exterminate them. When the process is proved efficacious, it can be applied to other cancers, and indeed other diseases. It would be more effective than the present pharmaceutical process, where medicines are manufactured outside the body and fed or injected into it.
The Immortalist Society has commissioned some cartoons by Len D'Aoust which appear for the first time in this issue (not on Internet). These cartoons are intended to be labels for particular characters that appear over and over again. There is the "axe kneeler", the person who meekly accepts death, the god-groveller, the person who tries to gain favour with his god by trying to justify natural atrocities such as disease and aging, the self-flagellator, who believes in making suffering even if it doesn't exist.
Dr Thomas Donaldson Starts Science Newsletter
An interesting new newsletter Periastron has been started by Dr Thomas Donaldson, to explore the scientific issues surrounding cryonic suspension. He intends that the journal will discuss the scientific issues, and plans to publish most articles sent to him, and let the readers debate them. The first issue appears to contain material he has written himself, and this includes an appreciation of the perspectives of the Wall Street Journal, Nanoelectronics, LTP Outside the Hippocampus, Synapsins, Some Thoughts on RU486 (The abortion drug) Glial cells and memory, Gene Sequencing by STM, Calcium Binding, Astrocytes, and a number of shorter items. The intention of making the science understandable to non-scientists seems to be met in the first issue, and the editor will ask for difficult to understand material to be re-written. There is also a precis at the end for rushed readers. The newsletter is the same page size as The Immortalist and runs to 12 pages. It is $2.50 per issue, and subscriptions may run for as many issues as the reader wants. ($3 outside North America.) PO Box 365, Sunnyvale, CA94087. A leaflet describing the full subscription arrangements is also available. This is one worth following.
Our Cornish scene this month in The Immortalist was the second of a series of line drawings by Bob Acton, author of a number of local walk books.
Carn Brea Castle, now used as a restaurant, is visible to the south of West Towan House as a blob on the distant skyline of Carn Brea.
Its construction shows how the ancient builders made best use of local stone - to the extent of supporting it on an huge outcropping of boulders, seen to the lower right of the picture.
This shows the advantages of using what's there in order to start a new project. The development of cryonics in countries outside America is another example of this. They can start by using existing American facilities, and when they have enough members to warrant the expense develop their own.
A Vasopressin Story
As a writer I hate to see anything go to waste, and having produced an obituary for a local eccentric was disappointed that it never appeared. Therefore I though I would include it here, and also, for the benefit of readers of The Immortalist take a look at the realities of the situation.
As regular readers will know I live with my girlfriend Karen, (when this was originally written) and she befriended this man some years ago, as she used to look after his cat. Although he spent most of his time preaching Jesus, they had a tacit agreement that he would not try and convert her. When he perished, (he had a heart attack whilst bathing during the hot summer), Karen was one of the first to be told, and she arranged for his relatives to attend and wind up the estate. She was shocked by his demise, as although he was a pensioner, he was healthy for his age, and looked as though he had another 20 years in him. She decided that she would write an obituary, and asked one of the girls who rents grazing from me who is also a newspaper reporter on a local paper if she could arrange this. However when it came to it, she found it difficult, so I did it instead.
I decided to try and state the facts without upsetting anyone, and I think I managed most of it, although Karen did "red pencil" some of my remarks. Surprisingly she allowed me to leave in "while people still have to grow old and die", possibly because she didn't see the immortalist implications - the sentence is ambiguous.
I also said that Roy was privileged in that he died quickly knowing very little about it. I spelt this out, making remarks about dying slowly in hospital in order to maintain a futile hold onto life.
Cryonicists in stating that 80% of deaths are forewarned are also stating that most people won't die quickly knowing nothing about it. They are also stating that if a cryonicists dies in this way, his suspension will be less satisfactory than if he had taken the slow and arduous route. I am sure than many people do not want to hear this, and this may be a reason, even if subconscious, why they reject cryonic suspension. (Of course making cryonics arrangements doesn't guarantee that you'll die slowly, but people may subconsciously think this is so.)
The other point of relevance is the last paragraph about versions of truth. It has been pointed out before, notably by Thomas Donaldson, that many of the Immortalist truths are encompassed in Christianity. Whereas ideas of a personal caring god do not hold up to scrutiny, (even if they do make a good selling point and meet people's wishful thinking), some of the ideas of religion may hold universal truths, that can equally be expressed in other ways.
Roy Mee claimed that he was converted to Jesus in a sudden event, that occurred at a time of stress during the last war. It is known that the body releases large amounts of Vasopressin in stress, and that one of the effects of this substance is to give what are regarded by some as religious revelations. His life was shaped by that sudden release of Vasopressin, which is why its story would well have been subtitled "A Vasopressin Story."
Keep off Fats
According to New Scientist of 25 August, an article has appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine that upholds what Pearson & Shaw and other immortalists have been saying about the craze for polyunsaturated fats for some years. The conclusion is that low fat intake is the order of the day, not an intake of particular fats being better than others.
Dead Patients Left in Hospital Beds
In Funeral Service Journal of August 1990 a press report is included where it is alleged that bodies at the Cortorphine and Northern Hospital, Lothian, Scotland, are being left lying "for hours" in hospital beds because of health cash cuts.
Salmonella bacteria may have been created in order to cause suffering and disease, but now scientists have found a way to modify it for the opposite purpose. A team from Cambridge University, working in conjunction with Wellcome Biotech have developed a system where salmonella bacteria are modified so that they can only survive for a very short period in the human gut. They are also genetically engineered so that they make the human produce antibodies to a range of conditions and infer immunity to them.
The claimed range of infections include those which are viral, bacterial, toxic and parasitic. Trials are said to be underway in the US to protect people against typhoid by this process.
Glaxo Gets Accolade in New Scientist
The anti vomiting drug previously reported in these columns ondansetron developed by the British company Glaxo received a favourable comment in New Scientist on 25 August, following a presentation at the 15th International Cancer Conference in Hamburg.
Given in conjunction with chemotherapy, the drug prevents nausea and vomiting in many of the cases. It works by blocking the action of the neurotransmitter 5- hydroxytraptamine on receptors of the vagus nerve.
The conference was impressed by the reported lack of side effects with the new treatment.
Given that most cancer patients have a limited lifespan, I had often wondered whether surgery to sever the vagus nerve might be appropriate. But I comment from ignorance. Maybe it has some other vital function. Obviously drug treatment will be far better.
Anti Pollution Mask Risks.
People living in cities using anti-pollution masks have been warned to replace the filters regularly, as otherwise they could actually increase the amount of pollutants being breathed in. This is because after they are saturated with them, the actually release them to the airstream once again. One reason why people are not changing them enough is profiteering by the distributors. The filters cost 10p to make, yet are retailed at £6 by some outlets.
Mass X-ray Screening Could be Cause of Cancer Death Rise
An article in The Lancet (vol 336, p 474) drew attention to the fact that the incidence of some cancers are increasing so rapidly in the developed world that urgent investigation of the cause is necessary.
The team responsible for this report are drawn from two research institutes in the US and the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys in London and the World Health Organisation in Geneva. They conclude that "the changes in cancer other than lung cancer are so great and rapid that it would be imprudent not to investigate their causes aggressively." Cancers of the brain and CNS have more than doubled in people over 75.
Obviously this is a serious threat to cryonicists.
More on Time
Imagine a dark and stormy night, the wind howling and freezing rain falling to leave a sheet of ice on the ground. Police warnings have told people to stay at home. A turbo charged sports car roars up the freeway, driven by a maniac, foaming at the mouth. He has just escaped from an isolation ward in a mental hospital. Already committed for insanity after killing a number of people in motoring offenses, he now is suffering from rabies and knows he is dying. He is determined to travel as far as he can get, taking every risk imaginable regardless of the consequences to others before he kills himself in a last ecstasy of speed. That man is a careful, considerate driver compared to the speed at which god drives time!
Measured by some hard to define intuitive parameters time is moving faster and faster. It is not just my fantasy, others have commented on it too.
One possible reason for this is the increasing complexity of society, and the increasing range of opportunities for people. Maybe the increase in time-speed is a "pollution effect" from this growing richness of the world.
Immortalists and others have speculated upon the possibilities of artificial worlds inside computers, and indeed this may be a way to explore systems without time as we know it.
After all, you can meet someone "under the clock at the railway station." you specify a place, and think you specify the time. However if you have number of things to get done beforehand (as well as get there yourself), then time is in control, not you. However if time can be considered a direction not a flowing stream then it is just as easy to get to a specific time as it is to a specific place, regardless of what is to be done in the intervening moments.
At the moment people are stuck in and struggle in time, like ants covered by glue or treacle by a sadistic child. The elimination of the problem of aging and death looms large in our minds now, but the total destruction of the restrictions of time will be another great step for mankind.
Periastron and Chemopreservation
Top marks must go to Dr Donaldson for including an article on chemopreservation by Ben Best in the second issue of his newsletter Periastron. Obviously he personally is committed to Alcor cryonics, but the inclusion of this article and his comment - that although chemopreservation comes nowhere near cryonics yet it is only early days - shows that the newsletter will contain a balanced view of the scientific issues.
The rest of the newsletter contains a mix of science reports on ischemia, Alzheimer's disease, growth hormones, and memory and learning.
The first issue printed the wrong address: the correct one is PO Box 2365, Sunnyvale, California 94087, and subscriptions cost $2.50 per issue.
If you pay for many issues in advance, you avoid any possible price rises. If the newsletter does not continue for any reason, unused subscriptions will be refunded with interest!
Our Cornish scene this month of a landscape of ruins of tin mines, with the Carn Brea monument in the background, is the third of a series of line drawings by Bob Acton, author of a number of local walk books. These appeared in The Immortalist.
No doubt at the time they were working the tin mines were an eyesore on the landscape, with clouds of black smoke coming from their tall chimneys. Now they have mellowed into the environment, and their ruins are seen as an important part of Cornwall's heritage.
Alpha 1 AIDS advance
Alpha One Biomedicals, the company first promoted in Anti-Aging News (now Life Extension Report), has announced further progress in its joint venture with the CEL-SCI corporation on an AIDS vaccine.
French and US researchers report in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 17 September that the HGP-30 AIDS vaccine elicits the production of CD8+ killer T-cells which recognise the same targets as CD8+ killer T-cells obtained from HIV infected individuals. CD8+ killer T-cells are the major defence mechanism by which the body eliminates virally-infected cells. The paper concludes that the P17 "core" based HGP-30 AIDS vaccine "may be an important candidate with other subunit vaccines ... against HIV infection."
In their quarterly report dated 30 June 1990, Alpha One Biomedicals announced trials of HGP-30 AIDS vaccine in California this autumn. The test will be on healthy seronegative volunteers, and has FDA approval.
Although the company reported a loss of 8 cents per share in the quarter ended 30 June 1990, they say that their ambitious plans to obtain full regulatory approval for Thymosin Alpha One and continue their AIDS trials are on schedule and their goals attainable.
Book Review - Heads by Greg Bear
I found this 125 page novel a disappointment. It concerned the fortunes of some cryonically preserved heads 200 years in the future. The jacket also regarded it as hard SF, and I expected something like Larry Niven's World out of Time.
Heads concerned the political struggles of humans who still bicker in the same way they do today 200 years in the future. They appear not to have learned that death and time are the enemies, and the abolition of death and creation of a universe without the constraints of time are the common aims that should unite the species. Virtually all the pages were taken up with the bickerings and political manoeverings around a thinly disguised Church of Scientology whose leader had no faith in his own preachings and opted for neuropreservation with "StarTime". Of course the existing rulers of the church were desperate that the news of his neuropreservation didn't get out, because it would debase their religion.
The protagonists didn't believe cryonics would ever work, but had access to a system, using a QL computer (! does Sir Clive Sinclair know about this? I wish my QL could do things like that!), that can read off the memories in the suspended heads, such as words and images spoken just before death.
The novel ends with some rubbish about temperatures below absolute zero and some sort of mystical mumbo jumbo that is not complimentary to the ideas of cryonics.
All I can add is that I sincerely hope that those heads at Alcor don't end up in this sort of mess!
I have now sent my copy to Alcor for further review, and it will be interesting to see what their impressions are in Cryonics.
Heads did make comments about religions and their leaders and founders that I agree with. Scientology, (or Logology as it appears in this novel,) was founded as a joke and a comment on other religions that grew serious. It seems to be the nature of humanity to require irrational legends, for example consider the popularity of the resurrection myth, extended even to people such as Elvis Presley.
Scientific Comment - Temperature is the measure of the kinetic energy of motion of molecules. Absolute zero is attained when the molecules are perfectly stationary. Now you cannot have a molecule that is more stationary than absolutely stationary, therefore you cannot have a temperature below absolute zero.
Letter to Comments:
Your recent article on the difficulties of getting our assets into the future is very informative. Ironically, getting ourselves into the future may be difficult for the same reasons - people's beliefs and attitudes.
If you look around you, the people that are so ready to take away your rights concerning reproduction today are members of organisations that may want to take away your rights concerning immortality tomorrow.
Such organisations thrive on the promises of heaven or (without their support) hell. An immortal "afterlife" on Earth and the planets would make them irrelevant and just wouldn't fit in with their plans!
For cryo time travellers, I believe the development of technology for future reanimation and immortality is very nearly certain. I am much less comfortable about who or what will be guarding the gates.
Thank you - Samuel A Tice.
[Mr Tice also had a problem with getting a response from Offshore Medical Therapies re back numbers. - I have taken this up with the publishers on his behalf.]
With regards to rights about reproduction, I assume that he is referring to the debate about abortion, surrogacy and "test tube" fertilisation. Socialists and communists could have stamped out poverty ages ago by limiting families who require taxpayers' support to one or two children per family, but nowhere in the world did this happen. (I don't think countries that do control their population's birthrate limit it to poor people, but I may be wrong.) The right to reproduction by natural means seems to be inviolate beyond all other dogma.
I would certainly agree with his point that technology which makes cryonics work will appear, but the question of whether it will be smothered by vested legal, clerical or political interests is very much open to debate.
Misleading Consumer Reports
Dr Linus Pauling announced to the press on 28 August 1990 a strong criticism of Consumer Reports for its continued denial that vitamin C has any value in controlling the common cold. He lays the blame for the erroneous attitude of the consumer protection organisation on their medical advisors, who, he says, are ignorant about recent advances in the field of nutrition and seem to be biassed against vitamins.
Consumer Reports in advertising its health letter states that vitamin C can't prevent or cure a cold. This statement is not correct. Twenty good studies have been carried out, all showing that vitamin C has a protective effect, sometimes stopping the development of the cold and sometimes greatly decreasing the symptoms.
Consumer Reports also states that large doses of vitamin C can be dangerous and have serious side effects. Dr Pauling says that in fact the only side effect of vitamin C is its laxative action, which is not dangerous. No cases of formation of kidney stones or other harmful effects of vitamin C have been reliably reported.
Dr Pauling urges Consumer Reports to follow the lead of the American Cancer Society, which for many years stated that vitamin C had no value in preventing or treating cancer, but this year has reversed its position, and now advocates an increased intake of vitamin C to help control the disease.
Dr Pauling is carrying on research on vitamins and health in the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in Palo Alto. He is well known as the recipient of Nobel prizes in Chemistry and in Peace and also as an advocate of increased intake of vitamin C to improve the health and well being of everyone.
The above is a news bulletin from the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine.
I would remind readers that many studies that suggested vitamin C was harmful or ineffective were carried out in a stupid and careless manner, by giving the vitamin to animals dissolved in water. The solution was left to stand long enough for the vitamin to dissociate into its oxidised form, which can be harmful. It is better to see that the animals drink (or eat) all the vitamin as soon as it is put before them. Studies showing it to be no good for colds or cancer in humans were often inaccurate because people know that it is beneficial, and were dosing themselves in excess of the vitamin or placebo given them. This had the result that many of those on placebo were in fact taking the vitamin, which of course reduced the placebo/main group differences.
In a circular letter, the Executive Vice President, Dr G. Richard Hicks, said that the National Institutes of Health sponsored its first international symposium on the vitamin. They are hopeful that it will improve the U.S. government's attitude.
Dr Harakeh, Dr Jariwalla and Dr Pauling have also had a paper, on the value of vitamin C in treating AIDS, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They received no funding from either the government or AIDS foundations for this work, but their work shows that the vitamin may have a profound effect on both the treatment and prevention of AIDS. Dr Hicks said that they have lost financial support from some people who object to research on AIDS, but he points out that three million women and children will perish in the pandemic during the '90s. Also 10 million children will be orphaned by the disease. He also says that viruses mutate in unpredictable ways, and if AIDS is modified so it can pass by inhalation, then the entire human species could be at risk.
Dr Hicks also gives a brief note on their research on cardiovascular disease, and a clinical study by Dr Rath in Europe.
New Star Trek on British TV at Last!
After a delay that had Trekkies boiling with rage, the BBC has finally started showing the Star Trek - The Second Generation, albeit at an "antisocial time" when people are still travelling home from work.
The first feature length episode introduced a powerful alien character "Q" who threw his weight about just like his counterpart "God" in The Old Testament. The comments made to him by the captain met with my full approval!
Lawyers may be choking software development
According to an important article by Dan Charles in New Scientist on 29 September, lawyers try to fit software into a system of words and precedents ill-suited to the technology. Mr Michael Kapor, founder of Lotus Development, says that the U.S. constitution establishes copyrights "to promote progress in the arts and sciences" - not to earn lawyers and their clients money.
Recently lawsuits have made it illegal for programs to copy the command screens of other programs. This is like saying that only one manufacturer can use the standard layout of a typewriter keyboard, says Mr Charles, and he invites his readers to speculate on the development of typing if every machine had a different layout of keys. He also speculates on how amusing it would be if the brake, steering control, clutch and throttle of a car were in different places for different makes. (I know there are only four items, but they could be fitted to the roof, doors, dashboard etc.!)
More seriously, Mr Charles implies that lawyers are killing people by preventing well debugged sections of code in applications such as hospital or aviation equipment being used by different manufacturers. The process of writing new code and debugging it is so time dependant and prone to error that fatalities are bound to occur. If this process is repeated many times because of the legal requirement for fresh code every time, then these fatalities are the direct responsibility of the legal profession. I must add my own comment here that it is the profession as a whole that is being discussed. I don't think that Mr Charles meant that one can point the finger at any particular lawyer and say that he went out to work one day with the intention of putting lives at risk in order to earn fee income.
The law has allowed software manufacturers who produce a program using particular code to ban any other company producing a program that gives the same result using different code. Mr Charles points out that this is like limiting autos to one manufacturer, so there will be no diversity between a Ford hatchback and a Cadillac limousine, say. All autos after all get you from A to B, but what is important is how they are made and what is under the hood.
One could have two spreadsheet computer programs, for example, that give the same screens, but one could run twice as fast and with greater accuracy on a specific machine. At the moment, the lawyers are preventing another company developing the fast and better program. If someone does develop a better program, he can't use layouts and keys with which users are already familiar, but is forced to use different ones, with the result that clients have to waste time learning the new ones, and are possibly confused by the changeover.
Small companies that develop software sometimes grow large, and that involves introducing professional managers, who like having legal departments. These legal departments are removed both physically and intellectually from the programmers themselves, and they have little real understanding of what computer programs are or how they work.
As well as invoking copyright laws as though computer programs were books or works of art, programs are sometimes patented. This causes further havoc, as the time delays in the patent process are over two years, and within the space of two years many programming ideas have been invented independently around the world and been improved and superseded by something similar but better. Some programmers have commented that things that are quite obvious have been granted patents, which are only supposed to be awarded for genuinely new inventions that advance the state of the art.
Many inventions are simply a result of a mixture of a need and knowledge of existing facilities or components, within a human brain, to produce a new idea. To a certain extent it is a lottery as to whether your brain gets fed with the need and relevant knowledge at the right moment to be first with a worthwhile patent. If you can afford an appreciable fraction of a million dollars for a patent agent (or can find someone to lend it to you) then you can gamble on the chance of a patent being granted. If it is, then you can sell the idea and make your fortune. If you are lucky enough, that is, not to have to defend a number of expensive infringement cases first! The last bit of luck seem to be in selling your idea to a big firm for what to you seems a lot of money, and then they'll deal with further legalities.
I don't have much sympathy for inventors whining because they have thought up a good idea and expect the world to drop a fortune in their lap. I believe that most fools can come up with ideas - the real pioneer is the person who makes sure it is his name that sticks with it, and the work involved with that makes the task of invention and development trivial in comparison.
The Free Software Foundation
In a lemma to the abovementioned article, New Scientist details this foundation run by Richard Stallman, from a room at MIT's artificial intelligence laboratory. He was awarded a quarter of a million dollars by the McArthur Foundation, who give such awards to talented people to do with as they please. (Sounds like a good idea.)
His foundation currently distributes GNU EMACS, a programmers' text editor, together with its source code, so that budding programmers can see what a well written long program looks like.
Mr Stallman says that "an avalanche of greed" has choked the software industry, making it very difficult for the world to develop new programming talent.
This is the nub of my reason for including these two items in my column in The Immortalist. Although computer software is of interest to many immortalists, it isn't an essential part of cryonics. However the growth of knowledge is vital, and anything that slows it down could be a disaster for individuals in suspension. If (crying for the moon) the human race could only unite in an all out war against death, and leave the money grabbing for later ... Perhaps with a thriving nanotechnology and death and possibly the restrictions of time abolished, humanity may find that there is more to existence than petty squabbles.
Our Cornish scene this month in The Immortalist was of a "daymark" - a navigational aid on the Cornish coast. It was built a couple of miles west from West Towan House, at what was once the important port of Portreath (sandy harbour). Welsh coal and timber were imported here, and tin and copper exported. Remains of a harbour built in the sixteenth century have been found, but the main harbour was built between 1760 and 1860. In 1827 it was described as Cornwall's most important port. One of Cornwall's famous tramways connected it to Cornwall's industrial centre. However the more sheltered south coast eventually won the day, even though it was much further from Wales. The last big ship docked at Portreath in 1960, but the seas are now considered too rough for safe docking there.
Another 1 Newsflash
Alpha One Biomedicals Inc has announced the completion of its agreement with Eugene Tech International for the development and future marketing of Thymosin Alpha 1 in the Republic of Korea. Under the terms of the agreement, Eugene Tech International will seek to undertake clinical trials and regulatory approval of Thymosin Alpha 1, whilst Alpha 1 Biomedicals will retain manufacturing rights.
Also, Alpha 1 has completed the purchase of certain rights in the United States for Thymosin Alpha 1 from Hoffman-La-Roche, which I have detailed in a previous month.
The report ends with a hint that Thymosin Alpha 1 increases the usefulness of influenza hepatitis vaccines in elderly and immunocompromised individuals, and in treating several kinds of cancer.
It is probably crass for a man who never travels more than a few miles from his home to comment on international affairs, but maybe I can offer some lateral thinking to a virtually insoluble problem.
My reason for including it at all in this column is that Mr Saddam Hussein has reported to have applied to ACS for information about cryonic suspension, and therefore it is in this light that I propose to comment.
To start with, we have an intolerable situation in the Gulf, and clearly he shouldn't have invaded Kuwait. But the fact remains that this has happened. At the time of writing this war has not broken out, and despite the baying of the trash press around the world for blood we really ought to consider very carefully whether we should lose hundreds or even thousands of lives to rectify this wrong.
I have said to a reader of one of my other publications who works for the British foreign office that what the rest of the world must do is to find a way for Mr Hussein to pull out without losing face. He said that was a very tall order, and so it is. But if it isn't done, then there will be yet another blood bath in that area that has been renown for blood baths for the past four or five thousand years. Have the human race learned nothing over all those years? Can the cryonics movement solve this problem? Maybe it can. It certainly won't by refusing the overtures already made.
If Mr Hussein is serious about his interest in cryonics it might suggest a way of reforming his views on the world. I say now that he should not only be encouraged to apply for suspension, but even offered it free. (I know the news stories mentioned cloning of cells, but they probably got it wrong - you don't need a cryonics society for that pointless exercise anyway.)
It should be pointed out to him that cryonics will never work in a bloodthirsty world. Cryonicists will have to lead exemplary lives, for any wrongdoing will be found out. If the world is to support cryonics, then warmongering must cease. Therefore he should use his influence and instruct scholars to expose ideas such as "if you die in battle you go to heaven - no questions asked" as heresies.
Most religions are based on peaceful origins, and I am sure that with some scholarship that warmongering memes which have attached themselves to them can be shown to be just that - later attachments, ie heresies.
This continual conflict between the Semitic races (ie Jews and Arabs) must be terminated. This can be achieved if the warlike aspects of the various religions involved are removed, and this could be done by the respective leaders of these peoples if they wanted to. The sympathy the rest of the world has offered Israel since the last war is wearing rather thin as their behaviour is reported in an unfavourable light each night on the television news.
What better motivation could middle eastern leaders have for reforming their religions than being signed up for cryonic suspension with the very real possibility of facing a future judgement on their performance?
Also, my scant knowledge of the Semitic religions (ie Islam and Judaism) suggests that they do not hold strong views on an afterlife as say Christianity, and therefore they may be able to assimilate immortalism more easily.
Another general comment : If one considers the idea that nation-states are living entities in themselves using humans as "cells" of their bodies, then humans of all countries should unite against these monsters that threaten their lives. Why should hundreds of thousands of humans die as the nation of Iran squabbles against the rest of the world's population of nations?
Mr Hussein is a human being, not the sole consciousness of the Iranian nation. Get him on our side (ie the human as opposed to American or Iranian side), and his undoubted influence over the Iranian nation and the middle east should prove invaluable.
Speaking of Monsters
The film Aliens was shown for the first time on British television early in November. I was surprised that this blockbuster movie wasn't wheeled out at Christmas or Easter as opposed to being unceremoniously broadcast one inconspicuous Saturday evening. It is probably well known to all readers of The Immortalist, and of course for its aside incorporation of cryonic suspension as a means of spaceflight.
However there is a little scene within it that says something about the rest of the world's attitude to death.
NEWT: I don't want to sleep - I have scary dreams.
ELLEN RIPLEY: Well, I bet Casey (Newt's doll) doesn't have scary dreams. Let's take a look - no nothing bad in there. See? Maybe you could just try to be like her.
NEWT: Ripley, she doesn't have bad dreams because she's just a piece of plastic.
The monsters in the Alien films actually fed and nurtured humans just as long as they were useful in incubating baby monsters.
Religions are memes that exist by feeding humans ideas about afterlives that have as much sense in reality as the idea that because dolls don't have bad dreams then their child owners shouldn't either. Wishful thinking promises about afterlives should be treated in just the same way as Newt treated the dreamless doll false reassurance.
Nations are also parasitic monsters that feed humans to a certain extent, but at the same time they are quite happy to sacrifice them in war. We the human race need Ripleys and Bishops to fight our monsters, and drive them off the planet, shrieking and flapping wildly as they are sucked into the void of outer space, so that we can lead our individual lives to our own benefit. Bishop, as film watchers recall, was an artificial being, and many immortalists believe that the creation of artificial intelligence is a vital step on the road to our goal of making death optional.
This rural Cornish scene of the tiny village of Gwithian, some ten miles from Porthtowan, belies the fact the local mine, Wheal Prosper, achieved fame as the one where Richard Trevithick's first condensing steam engine was used. Once again the area is steeped in history. The village is named after a 6th century Irish missionary, Gothian, who landed at Hayle and travelled that same afternoon to a place called Conetconia, where he and his followers were martyred. 16th Century archaeologist John Leland described Conetonia as "sumtyme a great toun now gone" as it vanished below the sand dunes that dominate the area. Excavations in the late 1820s revealed evidence of St Gothian's chapel dating from the 9th or 10th century. The present church, seen in Bob Acton's drawing, dates from the 13th century, when it was built further inland and more sheltered from the sand storms. It was enlarged in the 15th century and restored in the 19th, as were many Cornish ecclesiastical establishments. The building in the foreground to the right is a Methodist thatched chapel, which has a congregation of just three!
Deprenyl to be Used for Pet Life Extension
The Canadian company Deprenyl Research Ltd., which I introduced to my portfolio following an item in Databank in The Immortalist, announced in its nine month report that it plans to introduce the active ingredient of Deprenyl - selegiline - into the small pet market. This will be through its subsidiary which deals solely with animal health.
The report also mentioned that the third quarter sales of Deprenyl were four times that in the same quarter last year. It sells the drug under the trade name of Eldepryl.
The chairman, Dr Morton P. Shulman, MD, also mentioned in his report that he plans to delegate some of his responsibilities in order to devote more time to travel and his grandchildren. Previously he had worked a 6 day 50hr week for his company. However the level of delegation will not be that intense. Although he has drawn his old age pension for six months, he plans to head the company for the next 35 years. He has had Parkinson's disease for 8 years, but thanks to Deprenyl he has been healthier now than he was three and a half years ago.
The company also plans to expand the number of drugs in its portfolio, and reports a modest income, for the first time, from something called "Prolopa".
Major News on Sleep
Following an item in Journal of the Megahealth Society with detailed the use of melatonin in sleep regulation and life extension, rumour has it that supplies are to be marketed within the United States by mail. I am sceptical as to whether the authorities will tolerate this, but maybe as the substance is a natural hormone the vendors have found a loophole.
Efficient sleep patterns is something that will save most people a lot of time, and so clients will get immediate and cost effective benefits from taking melatonin in the evening.
It will also be available in Europe and for despatch by mail to the US, in January. It was to be March, but owing to the immense public interest the date has been brought forward. Further news will be given in this column as it comes in. It is my personal view that if the claims made are valid, then the distribution of melatonin will make mega-fortunes for the people involved and may play a major role in dealing with the problem of time in the foreseeable future.
Unlike simple life extension, where the benefits are years ahead, melatonin offers efficient sleep. In many cases this will result in less hours spent sleeping, and therefore bring immediate fulfilment to those using it. This contrasts with the "investing for the far future" aspects of taking vitamins or arranging cryonic suspension.
"Happy Girl Pic" Heralds new Anti-Depressant at Lilly
A full colour picture of a smiling happy woman on the front page of Eli Lilly's third quarter report (A full colour newsletter about the size of The Immortalist) fronts an item on their drug Prozac. In less than 3 years, they say, the drug has emerged as a major treatment for depression. The report mentions the case of several women of differing ages and backgrounds who have had their lives transformed by the treatment.
The US economy loses $16 billion a year from depressive illness, much of which is undiagnosed. Only 30% of cases are treated, say the company. After investigating natural substances that are associated with depression, Lilly scientists came up with Prozac. The previous treatment of choice was using drugs known as tricyclics, which had poor patient acceptance due to side effects. Although some patients reported side effects with Prozac, these were less frequent and seemed to worry the patients less. Also Prozac is a one-a-day tablet and is relatively safe in overdose.
There has been some adverse media publicity suggesting that some patients become suicidal after taking Prozac. However Lilly refutes this pointing out that only six people out of millions using the drug were involved, and that they had case histories of suicidal impulses before starting the treatment. It described them as being very seriously ill before treatment started. Also, 20-40% of depressed people experience suicidal thoughts and behaviours so it is hardly surprising that as a group there are more suicides amongst them than the average population. Because humans are not all the same, any drug, however good, will not help everyone with a particular condition, especially one as complex as depression.
Prozac has been tested in double blind studies involving huge groups of thousands of people, and it has been proved that on average suicidal thoughts are reduced in those taking the drug.
The company also points out that adverse media publicity for Prozac has resulted from a campaign by the Church of Scientology, who are dogmatically opposed to the practice of psychiatry and to the use of psychotropic medications. As company policy, they do not take part in media debates. However they continue to educate the medical profession on the use of their products, and claim that the feedback they have received for that quarter is encouraging - they know what is good for their patients.
On other matters, the company reports massive research expenditure as it considers we are entering into a "golden era" in the life sciences. Their R & D spend has risen from $178 million in 1979 to $605 million in 1989. Last year, Lilly invested 14.5% of its revenues in R & D. This spending on research must make the shares worth buying and holding long terms, which is why I personally have done this.
Longevity Drugs and Cryonics
This is the main topic of discussion in the November issue of Periastron, Dr Thomas Donaldson's newsletter. After the article on this there is a major review of Deprenyl (Selegiline hydrochloride). Sold by mail from outside the US as Jumex, this drug is widely used by many cryonicists.
The other major topic is a review of several papers on growth, development, brain repair, and memory. Dr Donaldson says that some of these papers may be seen as very significant in future years.
For further details of the newsletter, the address is Box 365, Sunnyvale, CA94087, or CompuServe 73647,1215.
A Thought on Rehabilitation
In an early issue of Lifequest a story described a computer generated world in which reanimated people were "revived." It appeared that they were "revived" into this world, only later to determine that it was not the real world, but merely a rehabilitation training exercise. The thought has occurred to me that a better way may be to make the artificial world appear as though it was the real world prior to death, and the "story" continues from a point just before death, so that there are no memories of dying and death. This way the experience of death is avoided absolutely.
Maybe it is the fact that cryonics does not rid us of the experience of death that makes it so difficult to recruit people.
Of course, the fully rehabilitated and therefore balanced individual may at some point choose to reactivate the lost memories of his final hours, but that would be a free and informed choice.
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