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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wherever possible source information has been given, and no additional information is usually available if you write in.
Sent on 3 February, 1996
The Financial Times of 11 January 1996 said that the payouts on many life policies were being cut, despite dramatic rises in world stock markets over the past year. Bonuses have now been falling for the past five years, the paper says.
It gave no reason for the poor performance of policies in the face of good performance in the underlying equities, but it did report that companies said that bonuses are unlikely to fall any further.
Another practising physician has slammed the protocols used by the medical profession to treat cancer. Dr Julian Whitaker in his newsletter Health and Healing October 1995 [Philips Publishing Inc, 7811, Montrose Street, Potomac, MD 20854, $69/yr] claims that the medical profession took a wrong turning when it institutes slash, poison and burn (SPB) treatments for cancer in the late 19th century. The hide-bound nature of the profession, say Dr Whitaker, has prevented this mistake ever being corrected. Now, the force of violence (through gun touting officials supporting the law of the land) impose this ineffective treatment on the American people and those of most developed nations.
Dr Whitaker suggested that we mentally time-travel back to the 1890s with modern knowledge of the immune system, which was not present at that time in history.
Immune theory suggests that a tumour is a disease resulting from immune system disfunction. Spontaneous remission (ie the disease self limiting without recourse to SPB) is a return to healthy immune function.
It also suggests that the tumour should be left alone as a sort of meter to measure the success or not of a treatment to strengthen the immune system and thereby induce a remission. Once a successful regime has been instituted, it will go by a natural process.
Dr Whitacker accuses his profession of a collective fraud in perpetrating the SPB treatments on the population for so long, and blames financial and professional interests.
On 15 January the BBC's flagship current affairs programme Panorama revealed to the nation a disaster that threatens the collapse of Britain's hospital service. Antibiotic resistant bacteria had appeared in one hospital and spread to many other hospitals before they were noticed.
They are also in the public domain, but rarely infect people unless they suffer a major trauma, such as surgery or invasive diagnosis. There is no point in closing and disinfecting a hospital because the bacteria would soon return on the flesh of patients or visitors.
The disaster, says the programme, has put surgery back into the days before antibiotics were available.
The programme started with a motorcyclist who had a non-fatal injury accident - a simple leg fracture - which normally could have been easily treated by a modern hospital. Then, while in hospital, he caught an infection. But this time the antibiotics didn't work. And the patient died.
The bacteria that killed this man is called MRSA, the antibiotic resistant strain of staphloccocus aureus found mainly in hospitals. It lives harmlessly on the skin, but if it gets in the bloodstream it kills. Some 10,000 people have been affected by this modern plague. Professor Gary French, of Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals, said that half the hospitals in the country have been affected by MRSA. Because this particular epidemic has such a large mass, many authorities think it is now out of control.
Dr Rosamon Cox, of Kettering General Hospital, said that MRSA can sit on the flesh of many people without causing any symptoms at all, and can spread silently before it affects vulnerable people, such as an old lady who had a "routine" amputation.
Patient Janice Crick relates how she was contaminated with the disease when she had a baby in hospital. Fortunately she survived, but her quality of life is now reduced. MRSA16 can easily enter the body through catheters or tubes. A hip replacement patient had an infected wound which resulted in the whole joint being amputated.
Control is virtually impossible, and MRSA is not a notifiable disease. And now the National Health Service psuedo-market is making hospitals keep quiet about the existence of the disease because of the effects on funding.
A woman who was contaminated with MRSA in hospital found that the social services would not care for her when she came out of hospital - MRSA is much easier to catch than AIDS! She was also a danger to others and became "an untouchable" in her own home.
Old people's homes and residential centres are now all vulnerable to colonisation, and occasionally infection of residents and staff.
MRSA doesn't only affect the old. Another young man had a fall damaging his foot. Hospital treatment resulted in MRSA contamination, which has ruined his whole life. He said he is now treated like a leper.
Another bacteria is called VRE - Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus. It usually lives harmlessly in our intestines, but set loose by surgery into the bloodstream of a weakened patient it can become a fast and deadly killer.
Bacteria breed so fast that they can easily out-evolve chemical treatments. It takes 20 years for a human generation, Dr Michael Zeckel of Eli Lilley Research Laboratories said, whereas in a matter of 30 minutes one bacterium can become two. In 24 hours they will have gone through 48 generations. 48 generations of humans take thousands of years.
Dr Zeckel said we have gone back to the situation we had in the 1930s where people were dying within 48 hours of being infected. The profession will be left only with surgery to remove limbs or organs as the only last ditch attempt for a cure. It is likely to be ineffective as new infections are introduced by it.
My comment is that Nanotechnology would probably provide a more effective way of exterminating bacteria, and no amount of evolution would get round it. However the human race may not be allowed to survive long enough to develop it. A global epidemic may not kill everyone, because once mass transit systems fail the diseases will be isolated. But an isolated post technological society, possibly without even electricity, will never develop Nanotechnology.
[1997: Longevity Report author Dr Keith Monnington said that later that this problem had been known for some time and was not getting worse and was not something to create into a panic.]
An article in New Scientist dated 27 January 1996 described the work of Dr Michael Wilson and his team at London University's Eastman Dental Institute. They are developing a method of killing bacteria by using light activated compounds which exterminate bacteria when activated by laser. This provides selectivity, but of course there are difficulties with sites deep within the body.
The concept has not been tried in humans, and human trial are two years off. The first application may be for dental diseases formerly treated by antibiotics. In the context of the previous item, Dr Wilson said that the wide spread and chronic use of antibiotics for dental disease is asking for trouble.
New Scientist of 3 February 1996 reported on another alternative to antibiotics - anti-sense RNA. Eliezer Rapaport and his colleagues at the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical research in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts have found a way of getting anti-sense RNA into tuberculosis bacteria. This exterminates them and it is very hard for them to evolve resistance.
Although TB experts are enthusiastic, they say that much more work has to be done before this technology can be put to saving human lives.
It has (sometimes jokingly) been suggested that colds and flu modify the behaviour of humans to make them more gregarious and hence infect more people.
Another instance of a similar effect has been observed in the malarial parasite Plasmodium Mexicanum which makes its victims roost in warm places in order to spread the disease more widely.
Robert Fialho and Jos Schall of the University of Vermont in Burlington say that the parasite must have found a way of producing a chemical that sets the victim's body thermostat higher. (New Scientist 3 Feb 96) Schall said that it would be a very nice biochemistry project to isolate this chemical.
I would comment that such a chemical may be of use to ageing researchers as well. It has been suggested that setting the human thermostat slightly lower could result in useful life span increases with little side effects.
I had mentioned previously that the change of ownership of Funeral Service Journal did, despite the original statement by the new owners, mean the end of my articles on cryonics. I was, however, given the chance of a farewell article, and I though that readers here may be interested in what I wrote. I was quite surprised that they printed it.
Change is something that is essential to the concept of survival, whether of the individual or of a nation or a concept. Cryonics relies on a great deal of change, changes in technology and changes in the way society thinks, ie the law. Stagnation is often regarded as being synonymous with death and decay.
However sometimes changes are not always for the best and in the case of the concept of cryonics an end to this column is obviously not a step forward. However the new owners of Funeral Service Journal have decided the subject has had fair coverage. They now wish to develop their magazine in new directions which do not include cryonics, at least for the time being. However they have kindly agreed to include an occasional appearance of the column if there is any particularly newsworthy event. Details will be faxed to Funeral Service Journal and an article may or may not be commissioned at the editor's discretion.
If there are other funeral magazine proprietors who read Funeral Service Journal and who would like to continue the series on cryonics on a regular basis in their journals, then please by all means write to me. [None have so far, and it is unlikely that they will now.]
I would urge all funeral directors to keep a note of Longevity Books' address in case material may be needed in future. If people wish to continue to keep abreast of developments in cryonics, a subscription is available to Longevity Report. Samples are free, and as a special offer to Funeral Service Journal readers, new subscribers mentioning Funeral Service Journal applying before 1 February 1996 may receive one year's subscription for £10 instead of the regular price of £20 (£15 by standing order UK only). (UK addresses only for the special £10 price). [Longevity Books, West Towan House, Porthtowan, Truro, Cornwall TR4 8AX, UK, cheques payable to "RTL"] [no one took this up]
I am sure that the cryonics movement in the UK owes a great debt of gratitude to Mr and Mrs Horbury who allowed this column in their magazine for many years. As time moves onwards cryonics will play a part in human history, of that there is no doubt. However the Horburys' action has played an important part in making it available in the UK some years in advance of when it would otherwise have appeared. These few years will mean that several people have availed themselves of the opportunity who otherwise would not have done.
I don't have any doubt that cryonics will work for some of the people who have signed up. The chances of it working for any particular individual are less, as every case depends on so many medical and legal variables. A sufficient number of people have signed up in the UK and Europe now for there to be quite good chances of at least one or two of them being revived into good health. Maybe those fortunate individuals would never have made it without the foresight, openmindness, and courage of John and Jaqui Horbury to publish information on such a controversial subject in which they didn't personally have an interest. They obviously got it right, as the size, quality and circulation of Funeral Service Journal increased substantially during their period of ownership.
It is hoped that the new directions sought by Mr and Mrs Kaye will further enhance the magazine's standing and circulation. [grovel2]
Wire services report 78 persons dead out of approximately 270,000 cases of flu in a five-week epidemic in Hungary. The local newspaper in Budapest is said to have attributed part of the epidemic's size to labour legislation which requires employers to pay for the first 15 days of a worker's illness: Workers continued on the job even while infected with influenza in order not to lose their jobs.
An article in The Financial Times of 25 January revealed that the FDA have finally cleared Olestra, the non fattening fat substitute, for public consumption. However a warning has to be attached to products using it that it can cause abdominal cramping and loose stools. There are also fears amongst some that the product will leach vitamins from consumers who eat it.
No doubt once thousands of people start eating it these controversies will be raised again and again until something is resolved.
Peter James' cryonics novel Host was published in the US in hardback on 16 December 1995. It has been sold to ABC tv network as a 4-hour mini-series and will be filmed towards the middle of 1996 and screened spring/early summer 1997. Hopefully it will increase the debate on cryonic suspension.
I don't know whether any readers saw the film Alive about how some plane crash victims survived by cannibalising the dead bodies. I watched it with mixed feelings, but would comment that it was a good film and a story worth telling.
The theme of a group of people aiming to survive despite social mores has some similarity with cryonics. Also, it is important to note that no people were killed for food.
by Jack Challem, The Nutrition Reporter
Note: This article is copyrighted 1996 by Jack Challem, The Nutrition Reporter. You may make personal copies, but you may not reproduce it in any publication or other type of media without written permission from the author (PO Box 5505, Aloha OR 97006) <Jack_Challem@ortel.org>. The article was reprinted in The Immortalist and Longevity Report with permission of Jack Challem, The Nutrition Reporter.
(Obtained from the Internet)
Scientists at Rockefeller University in New York suggested in October 1995 that the form of a gene you inherit to keep cells repaired is an indicator of how long you could survive if your life is not cut short by accidents, fatal illness or self-inflicted problems due to smoking or bad diet. But experts also caution that lifestyle, the lifespan of parents and what they eventually died of cannot be discounted in predicting how long a person might live.
The blood test looks at what form of protein is produced by the apolipoprotein E gene (apo E for short), whose main job until now was believed to be controlling cholesterol production in the body. The new research suggests that it also plays a central role in determining how susceptible people are to developing a range of health problems as they age.
Most of those who inherit one version of the gene are destined to be cut down by diseases before the age of 80. Those who inherit another version stand a good chance of living a century.
"Housekeeping is a good term. It describes the gene's effectiveness over the years of holding off the health risks caused by wear and tear," said Dr. Serge Gauthier, director of the McGill Centre for Studies in Aging in Montreal, which has been studying the role of the gene for many years.
Everyone inherits one copy of the gene from each parent, but there are three versions of the gene, first identified by Dr. Jean D'Avignon of the University of Montreal about 15 years ago and quirkily numbered E-2, E-3 and E-4.
Dr. Jan Breslow, head of biochemical genetics at Rockefeller, categorized them as like three homemakers with different personalities. Apo E-2 is the fastidious type, which works quickly to see that damage to cells is repaired and clears away debris. E-3 is lazier, giving cells a regular lick and a promise. E-4 is a total slob, allowing the molecular version of trash and dust to collect in cells.
The Rockefeller group compared people who live to 100 years old in several countries. Those who inherit one E-2 gene are four times as likely to live a healthy century than those who inherit an E-4 gene, they found. Even one E-4 dramatically reduces the ability of a body to resist development of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's and brain hemorrhages.
A study done at Duke University found that patients who had an E-4 are three times as likely to die of a haemorrhage as those who had combinations of the other two versions of the gene. Survivors of a haemorrhage who had an E-4 recovered brain function less quickly than others.
A recent study found that while 24 percent of people born in France have one E-4, only 10 percent of people over 100 have one.
The Canadian Study on Health and Aging will screen 10,000 Canadians this year for their apo E profile, Dr. Gauthier said. It will be the largest sample in the world and from it, doctors hope to be able to determine what is the most protective pairing of the genes.
Studies to date suggest that having a combination of an E-3 and an E-2 may be the best, Dr. Gauthier said.
"The combination you don't want to have is 4-4."
Dr. Judes Poirier of McGill and Dr. D'Avignon recently reported that people who inherit two copies of E-4 have a dramatically increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease early in life, up to 20 years earlier than those who have copies of the E-3.
Dr. Poirier found that 83 percent of people who inherit the E-4 gene from both parents will develop Alzheimer's in their 60s, while those who have one copy have an equally high risk of developing it in their 70s. The disease develops as a result of progressive unrepaired deposits and tangles in brain cells.
To say that scientists are excited by the prospects is an understatement, Dr. Gauthier said.
"Every two weeks there's a new report on apo E. Our knowledge is constantly in flux."
The blood test, which a doctor could send to a specialized laboratory for analysis, will show only who is at increased risk and may be the best candidates for preventive treatments as they are developed. However, the prospect of a test is controversial, said Dr. Jonathan Smith, an associate of Dr. Breslow on the Rockefeller research team. "This isn't information that would be treated lightly. It should only be given to people along with genetic counselling."
It is unlikely a gene test will ever predict whether someone can live only 85 years while someone else can make it to 90, said Dr. Alan Roses, a neurologist at Duke University.
"Even if you had E-3/E-4 you could still live to 100 and not get Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Roses said.
A much more important question is how healthy your lifestyle is and how long your parents lived and what they died of, he said. Even if further study found that screening for the gene combinations could predict how many years you have left, "you may not want to know that," Dr. Gauthier suggested. "How many referendums can you live through?" (Toronto Globe and Mail)
Sent March 1996
Health Which?, a magazine for the consumers of medical services, said that medical checks for healthy people are a waste of money and time. However some volunteers though the £300 ($450) was money well spent for the peace of mind it gave them. The woman volunteer said that the tests "weren't as uncomfortable as previous examinations", but the male volunteer said "Not all the tests were exactly pleasant". One of the positive things they said about the tests was that patients had up to 60 minutes to talk with a doctor about their health. This was unheard of in normal medical practise.
Dr Muir Grey, for the National Health Service, said of tests performed by private health insurance organisations "I believe that most private health screens generate work and cost for the National health Service and anxiety for the individual, with no significant benefit." Dr Grey said that false positives and marginally elevated levels of a blood test where the chief reasons for his remark.
The article concluded that if an individual has no symptoms, no family history of disease and no specific concerns, private health check-ups are a costly way to buy peace of mind.
Also in Health Which? is the announcement of a new program to help patients who need surgery. Official information sources provide no help in finding a suitable surgeon. Most people take pot luck.
They have repeatedly tried to get the government and the National Health Service to provide some information about the surgeons they employ, all to no avail. As far as the profession is concerned, they are all gods, perfect, and there is nothing to chose between them.
So they are now using modern computer technology to get the information. All readers who have had surgery are asked to collect information on themselves or their friends and relatives who have had surgery. Once they have collated enough information they will see if they can use it to inform the public.
They will seek the following
The date of your treatment or consultation
The name of the hospital
The name of the specialist
The condition, treatment or operation you had
Did you get a clear explanation of the treatment proposed to you, with risks and alternatives?
Did the surgeon take your wishes and needs into account?
Is there anything you wish now you'd have known beforehand about your surgeon or your treatment?
Would you wish to be treated by this surgeon again? (Yes, no, don't know)
Would you recommend this surgeon to a friend? (Yes, no, don't know)
Any other comments.
Health Which? can be contacted by email <">email@example.com>
It is generally accepted that to drink before driving a car is anti-social, dangerous and illegal. This is because alcohol affects your judgement.
Now, researchers at Bristol and Cardiff universities have shown that influenza (and to a lesser extend colds) can affect your judgement, even some while after apparently recovering. Particularly affected is the ability to judge fast moving objects.
In addition, the effects of alcohol are increased by these diseases, so what may have been a safe level in a healthy person may not be safe in someone with a recovering from a cold. Ordinary colds have an affect on judgement lasting days, for flu it can be months, the researchers discovered.
French research suggests that Alzheimer's disease is not a simple product of the ageing process. Although more people over 60 get the disease, and 20% of 80 year old have it, the prevalence levels off at 40% at age 95 or later. That is to say that someone who lived to be say 120 years old is not certainly going to have Alzheimer's disease. The cause of the disease, whether environmental poisoning or infectious agent, is not discussed in the article.
An article in The Financial Times of 18 February details a point I often make about charges on investments. Many people think life policies and other managed funds are good investment. According to Gillian O'Connor, personal finance editor they are not.
Assume a modest compound growth of 10% compounded for 20 years. Someone who put $100 into a company twenty years ago, and enjoyed 10% compound growth would now have $673.
If however, he would have had to pay a very modest 1% annual charge on that investment, the total return would be $550, 18% less! To make matters worse, if there had been a 5% front end charge on the investment the total return would be $523, 22% less than the gross figure.
Compound interest is the eight wonder of the world, but only when it is working in your favour.
I have been attempting to get an account with E*Trade, but they have failed to answer any more enquiries after the CI trust papers went to their legal department. When anything has to be referred to a legal department the answer is always going to be "no" - these people do more damage to their employers than a terrorist with a bomb.
When teeth get loose due to gum disease dental surgeons in the 1950s just pulled them out in an often vain attempt to prevent the disease spreading. More recently when the gums start shrinking, they cut away more tissue on the basis of like cures like - the bacteria which cause the gums to shrink are also cut away. However the teeth are still loosened, and no way has been found of making the gums grow back. It was thought that a side effect of phenytoin would cause them to grow back. But the bad news is that yes it does cause them to grow, but no it doesn't cause them to attach to the tooth, ie phenytoin treated teeth just get deep pockets, which can attract more bacteria.
Some dental surgeons have now come to believe that the only constructive thing to do with gum diseased patients is to maximise their dental hygiene.
The other problem is the profession has always believed, that whatever one does once bone tissue is lost, that there is no way to restore it. An article in New Scientist dated 24 February 1996 (p11) challenges this belief.
Hari Reddi of John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and Ugo Ripamonti of Witwatersand University in Johannesburg have found a protein which transforms soft tissues into bone. It also regrows ligaments and hard cementum that anchor the teeth in the jaw.
The protein, known as BMP7 is one of a family of bone morphogenic proteins. Reddi manufactures PMPs with bacteria engineered to carry the gene for the proteins. Trials are under way to mend broken bones.
Reddi and Ripamonti carried out dental experiments with 12 baboons and found that results exceeded expectations. They said that it was good enough to start thinking about human trials.
So don't let your dental surgeon pull your teeth out quite yet!
According to Scrip OTC News French collaborators of the anti-vitamin movement have poured huge sums of money into a legal battle in order to have doses of vitamin C over 800mg labelled as a medicine. The magazine, which is aimed at investors, says the market for vitamin C in France is worth $69 million. Therefore I conjecture that the collaboration with people against life extension is make purely for the profit motive and is in fact a Virtual Collaboration.
Scrip OTC NEWS goes on to say that the move enables pharmacies to sell larger does at higher prices than supermarkets, who had been accounting for 26% of the market's volume and 16% of its value. (ie consumers were getting a good deal.)
On the face of it, it appears that people will still be able to buy life sustaining does of vitamin C. However the pharmacists virtual collaborators, the pro-death lobby, will be able to use the situation to get higher dose vitamin C, and other vitamins, banned altogether.
The magazine goes on to say that what they term "safety" limits proposed in France may be enforced by lawyers there:
Vitamin Legal Limit
Folic Acid 600µg
Fluoride 0.04mg/kg body weight
The study highlighted some of the differences across Europe, for example in Germany the legal limit on vitamin A is 17.5mg, with 1mg in France and 0.6mg in the UK.
The French authorities are reportedly planning to ask the European Commission to consider adopting their legal limits for the whole of Europe. No doubt there will be pressure from the pro-death lobbies to extend these to the entire world via Codex, GATT and similar mechanisms.
I am all for world unification, but it should be on the basis that if something is legal somewhere it should be made legal everywhere. The whole world would then have a consensus of laws and then an eventual world parliament could consider extensions if the people of the world agree through the democratic process.
Of course agreement is going to be difficult to achieve, which would mean that there would be few additional laws enacted, making the world a more productive and efficient place.
Imposing laws on other countries by treaties will not be accepted by the electorate, and already military unrest and possible civil war in the USA has been suggested by some as a result of the concept of legislation by treaty.
There has been a vigorous debate going on, on the Internet, in the newsgroups uk.legal and sci.cryonics since February on the subject of the individual's freedom to chose the cryonics option.
One of the points raised against this freedom is that cryonicists are asking for special favours in wanting to be excused autopsy under conditions where such a procedure may benefit the legal or medical professions or the government. In addition it has been claimed cryonicists are also asking for special favours when they ask to be excused the delays, uncertainties and possible injustices of the probate system.
Probate can be dealt with fairly easily by the use of trusts or life insurance, even if, in the case of the latter, at the cost of some investment efficiency. Autopsy is rather more difficult. Legal pressure can and is brought, but ultimately government has the last say, even in the United States where forms of religious objection are available. The Venturists are registered as a Church so that their members can claim such religious exemption.
If you look at future science as a shiny new hospital on the hill with the cure for virtually everything, and cryonics as an ambulance to take you there, then government and its satellite professions can be regarded as non-human highwaymen that stop ambulances on this road, rob the victims of their belongings and eat their bodies!
Yes, "eat their bodies"! I am not suggesting that the pathologist eats the bodies personally, but as he is just a "cell" in the organism known as a government. His cutting up of the body for the information it contains about the cause of death could be regarded as the government eating it. Nor am I suggesting that government are cannibals, after all governments are governments not human beings. Because governments are entities using individual humans as their cells, It is more like someone biting a bit of their fingernail and swallowing it, or biting some hard skin off a spot and swallowing it. Nevertheless I still think that to say a government "eats" a person who is autopsied is a valid analogous use of the word eat. Of course the body isn't consumed, but then neither do we consume every bit of a chicken when we eat that, for example - we leave the bones and the beak! The government leaves all the matter, but is does consume the information and leaves none for cryonics.
This brings into perspective an important issue that the government has kept from us about its laws until now. Although we can own a lot of things, we do not own our own bodies. Our bodies are government property! It just so happens that the government graciously grants us a lot of rights to what it ultimately regards as its property. Because our bodies are government property, we cannot sell a kidney, for example. (That may be a good thing, I am not saying it isn't.) If a lung smoker has to have a leg amputated in hospital because of poor circulation brought on by the habit, (s)he has no right to that limb, it can be used for anything the government wants, sexual perversion even (although this is really very unlikely!) In most instances if the patient wants the limb or organ for burial it is allowed, but as a favour not a right.
Another conflict over our rights to our bodies is the matter of infectious diseases. The government may feel that if too many people use an antibiotic the disease that is controlled by it may develop a resistance to the antibiotic. That would be a bad thing for the country as a whole, as epidemics of bacterial infection would be less easy to control. Therefore in some instances of unrelated outbreaks it may deny antibiotic treatment to individuals. This denial is claimed to be of benefit to the community as a whole, but subjects the individual to preventable suffering.
Another legal point raised was that as we don't own our own bodies we cannot direct what happens to them in the same way we can direct what happens to our other assets on death. We can create separate entities, trusts, to take over our assets, and even get these running during life so that we can make sure that they are going along the paths we set up for them and they do not suffer the publically invasive scrutiny of probate and its attendant costs. But as we don't own our own bodies we cannot put them into the ownership of a trust or corporation because they are not ours to assign!
Really this is a quite extraordinary state of affairs when one comes to think of it. We actually have more rights of ownership over our pets (companion) and farm animals than we do our own bodies. I suppose all this relates back in history through the days of slavery and serfdom and relates to matters which have not become questionable until modern medical technology brought them to the fore.
This is an artificial barrier through which cryonicists must pass in order to get suspended. There are several options. Creative use of the law may find a solution, for example it is possible that a hospital where a person "dies" may have legal ownership of the body, therefore set up a hospital run by cryonicists. This is easier said than done, and would require cryonicists to uproot and move their lives so they are near the hospital and thereby turn most people away from the concept. Alternatively one may decide the law has failed the individual and go outside the law, ie "steal" the body from the government. This is really a non-starter, as if cryonics organisations adopted these tactics they would soon be wiped out by the brute force of government. Another alternative could be to try and educate as many coroners and pathologists as possible that if they prevent a cryonicist getting treatment they are the carnivorous highwaymen on the road to the hospital of the future. As individuals they may refuse to act for the government out of conscience or even through fear of Nuremburg style retribution if the argument between cryonicists and government goes the cryonicists' way by force of scientific advance.
I do not know what solutions will emerge. I do know that even if a solution is not found for cryonics, other medical advances will eventually force change upon the notion that individuals' bodies are property of the government of the country in which they reside.
According to The Financial Times of 2 March 1996, a memo had been circulated around the UK's National Health services marked "For Immediate Action". Running to three pages, it includes "Managers and staff are advised to ensure that all chairs and stools are used solely for their intended purpose and in the correct manner." Chief executives of the NHS are required to "bring to the attention of all who need to know" that "users should avoid misuse such as sitting on the arms of chairs, tilting chairs backwards so excessively as to lift the legs off the floor." Similar admonitions litter the three pages.
All good advice maybe, but surely the allegedly cash and time starved institution has better things to do?
With regards to CI's investment policy, the thought strikes me that the best thing to do would be to invest 90% of the portfolio conservatively and 10% in speculative technology ventures. The figures suggest this would provide a big enough basis for a balanced technology portfolio. I would not advise robbing the technology portfolio to boost the other one for several years, but once the technology portfolio had equalled the conservative portfolio, you could take out from the technology portfolio 10% of its value multiplied by whatever percentage the conservative portfolio had grown, and put that into the conservative portfolio. Thus you are in the technology portfolio "for nothing" and can safely let it go on growing until you need it for revivals.
Techinvest magazine's portfolio 1 of UK technology stocks grew from UKP20k to UKP463k in 8 years one month, ie about 20 times. Its portfolio 2 grew from UKP50k to UKP238k since 1 January 1993, ie four times. The magazine bought stocks for these portfolios *after* it was published and stock jobbers had time to mark up the stocks. Thus it was on a fair equal footing to its subscribers.
A portfolio using the similar California Technology Stock Letter should produce comparable results, and you should get the suggested ten to one gain in of the order of ten years.
Here is the month's news from the stock market, featuring share I own or would like to own in the health sector. I might add the best profits are coming from the communications and computer sectors, but these sectors are not relevant to this magazine's subject matter.
(List of individual company news deleted as it is now of historic interest only)
sent 3 April 1994
The Financial Times reported in its 9 March issue on plans to restrict the insurance companies' freedom to impose medical examinations including genetic testing on customers. Without such restrictions there would be an uninsurable underclass of people susceptible to genetic diseases. The article says that testing would enable lower premiums for genetically healthy people at the expense of those who are subject to, for example, Huntingdon's disease. It also said that some researchers had even found a gene that made its owners more subject to suicidal depression.
I know I have run this before, but the fact that newspapers go on bringing the subject up is of interest. This is beacuse the delays, uncertainties and possible injustices of the probate system make life insurance the cornerstone of the cryonics program.
A litmus type test for various viral and bacterial diseases has been developed by Deborah Charych and Ray Stevens at the Lawrence Berkley Laboratory in California.
Previously, doctors trying to diagnose specific infectious diseases had to rely on lengthy and expensive laboratory tests. With this system, a colour change on a test paper appears even if the concentration of disease particles is only a few parts per million. Test "papers" for flu, cholera and botulism have already been developed, and further diseases will be added to the list. There is a general article in New Scientist 9 March page 22, and more details in Chemistry and Biology vol 3 page 113.
Patents have been applied for, and several companies are interested in developing the test into commercial products. The markets for personal and commercial hygiene and disease control seem enormous. Being able to see results from food and other hygiene procedures will enable unnecessary regulations to be abolished and worthwhile ones to be implemented properly. Hopefully this will reduce the spread of disease and lead to a significant increase in the average lifespan.
Ophthalmic surgeon Charles McGhee (Eye Infirmary, Sunderland) was reported in New Scientist dated 16 March 1996 to have said that there are risks in a new process to cure sight defects.
It involves an injection into the eye to destroy chemical bonds that hold transparent collagen, followed by the placement of a device like a large contact lens to change the shape of the cornea. If the body removes the drug the cornea is set in a new shape as imposed by the mould. These moulds are made following non-contact computer determination of the best possible shape for good vision.
The system, developed by Advanced Corneal Systems, a company in Laguna Hill, California, is described as the ophthalmic equivalent of a dental brace. The corneal moulds are worn for three days initially, and thereafter only during sleep, for a further three months. Diana Schmidt, the vice president of marketing for the company, claims that the moulds are painless to wear.
The new process involves less surgery than radical keratectomy with either a knife or a laser. However Professor McGhee points out that any injection into the cornea is potentially dangerous.
I rather suspect that spectacle makers have nothing to worry about for some while yet!
Another possible contender to fight the influenza virus was reported in New Scientist of 16 March 1996. This is a method of preventing the virus binding to the victim's cells. George Whitesides, of Harvard University, suggests that it would be very difficult for this virus - and indeed many other viruses - to evolve their way around this one as binding is an essential part of their battle plan.
However clinical trials are still a long way off, as the process has only been tried in the laboratory, not on a living subject. No one knows whether the agents, which are large molecule artificial constructions of sialic acid side chains on polyacrylamide, are toxic or otherwise harmful. A reference was given to Chemistry and Biology Vol 3 p 97 if anyone wants to look it up.
An article in New Scientist of 16 March said that the widow of former gangster Ronnie Kray discovered that government agents removed his brain after he died in prison. His brain was pickled and sent to researchers at Oxford University who were researching into brain differences in criminals.
Mrs Kray demanded that the brain be returned, and the Home Office acceded. It was buried in a separate casket next to the body.
The magazine asked how many other brains have been removed from cadavers at the government's instructions and used for research without relatives' or the deceased's consents.
An aggressive, bullish annual report came from the pharmaceutical giant Warner Lambert this year. In 1996 the company plans to offer for marketing approval a new drug for diabetes, said to have the potential to be the company's best selling pharmaceutical. In addition, it is to offer what it claims to be the best lipid-lowering agent ever made.
Two revolutions are sweeping though its research program, one being more powerful ways of testing drugs, and the other being better methods of synthesising them. Previously, their best chemists could only synthesise about 50 new compounds/yr. Now the figure is measured in thousands. In terms of isolating new compounds, the figure has risen from 5,000/yr to 20,000/yr.
Following these statements, the company acknowledges the importance of the diseases of ageing.
Troglitazone is the diabetes drug. It works by improving glucose management reducing or eliminating the need for insulin injections. It may also delay the onset of the disease in people in pre-diabetic conditions. I wouldn't be surprised if it get the attention of life extension authors. [chemical name not given, sorry]
Atorvastatin is another name you may be reading in life-extension publications in the future. It works by reducing LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. They claim that it is a "super statin" and if far better than existing products and can achieve results previously unattainable to patients with severe LDL levels.
Although Carl Sagan's infection with the collectivist meme will eventually kill him (by making him reject cryonics) he is not enamoured with a lot of ideas that are commonly held beliefs.
In A Demon Haunted World ISBN 0 7472 1554 5 he derides alien abductions, ghosts, channelled entities and other X-File stuff with reasoned scientific argument. According to the review in New Scientist 16 March 1996 Dr Sagan is careful not to assume he knows in advance which crazy ideas are false - he carries the readers through a scientific appraisal of each one.
He says that this approach is essential for a free society - not "do as I say" but "take note of what I have explained so you too can understand why I say it." If people are taught the habits of skeptical thought, they may also start asking awkward questions about economic, social, political and religious institutions. Today's mixture of ignorance (amongst legislators and enforcement professionals, presumably) and power is described as "combustible."
My previous partner Karen Griffin came to see us recently and brought some more of the clippings she found in various newspapers.
The Daily Telegraph of 15 March 1996 had an article calling for a radical rethink on the treatment of obesity. It suggested that two new types of drugs will be available in about three years time. One is a appetite suppressant which changes metabolism, and the other inhibits the way the body absorbs fat. No chemical or brand names were given.
In America it has been suggested that by 2030 the entire population will be obese if current trends continue. However Professor James, a nutrition expert and director of the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, is quoted as saying that the concept that people are to blame for their weight is something that has to change. Science has shown that it is not just a matter of self control - properly proportioned people are just fortunate in having the right chemistry.
The Sunday Telegraph of 25 February 1996 suggests that if you get really old your hair and teeth grow back in very exceptional cases. Mr S. Izumi, A Japanese farmer, who died about 10 years ago aged nearly 121 years, had his hair turn from grey to black after the age of 100. This rare phenomenum is now called "anamelanism".
Gould and Pyle in Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine published in 1896 mention 24 cases of a third set of teeth from medical literature. The grandfather of a Dr Slare retained all his second teeth until 80, when they fell out. After five years, he grew another set. His hair went white at 80, but darkened as his new teeth grew. they lasted until he perished aged 100 years. A Bangladeshi woman grew a third set of teeth after being toothless for 50 years.
I would comment that if these strange phenomena have occurred infrequently in nature, then they are obviously possible, and eventually medical intervention ought to make new teeth and hair available to anyone who wants them. Genetic engineering is probably the route that will be used.
The Daily Telegraph of 14 March 1996 reports a study by Dr Kenneth Manton, of Duke University North Carolina. Since 1982 he has been studying the health of 20,000 American men and women over 65. A decline in diseases such as arthritis, high blood pressure, dementia, stroke, blocked arteries and emphysema is said to be accelerating. However cancer and bronchitis are rising.
Some researchers say that the trend is a blip, and will not be sustained. However the proportion of elderly that are disabled will have a big effect on taxation and government intervention in the economy.
Dr Manton says that without the declines, there would be a million more disabled elderly Americans today, at a cost to taxpayers of $200 billion over the period from 1982 to date.
A box to the article said that ageing may be due to free radicals and drugs to counteract these could be effective. WOW, fancy that!
The Times of 12 March 1996 carried the suggestion that medicines maybe be made in fruit by genetically engineering them. The skins of the fruits would be colour coded to indicate the contents. Don Grierson of the University of Nottingham said that fruits could be made that contain extra vitamins or even vaccines. He is working with Zeneca on the non-rotting tomato that is now sold as purée.
The Sunday Telegraph of 26 January 1996 mentions a study starting at an Aylesbury young offenders institution to see if diet improves behaviour. Zinc and essential fatty acids (EFAs) and other nutrients are being added to prisoners' meals, following successes with similar programs in the USA.
The project is being supported by Scotia Pharmaceuticals, who are supplying the EFAs. Dr David Horrobin of Scotia said that a high proportion of young offenders were hyperactive as children.
However the Labour party and other collectivists are against the idea. They claim that prisoners are being used a guinea pigs, and independent companies working in this area are not giving good results. They call for total government control.
I would comment that if bad behaviour is shown to be partly caused by diet and not social background, it takes a big slice out of their dogma that moving assets between citizens by taxation is a good way to reduce crime.
March was another good month for the markets, with further positive news from the pharmaceutical sector. This sector is both technology and benefit-from-technology. New technologies now appearing enables development to continue at a much faster pace, suggesting 20:1 growth in these stocks over the coming decade.
Conventionally conservative stocks, such as catering, hospitality and food manufacture are very limited in growth potential. Despite the 1950s science fiction predictions, it is still very hard to make a machine that will wait at table, clean hotel bedrooms or be a pretty desk receptionist. Companies requiring these employees will drop in value in comparison to companies whose employees can be augmented by new technologies, enabling them to perform (say) twenty times as much work for the same effort.
Fortunately for us as cryonicists, the professionals will not be told, and therefore despite articles such as this (and I am not the only one writing them) technology benefitting stocks will continue to remain at a substantial discount to their worth as seen by hindsight from the future.
However they will rise faster than average, so there is still time to get funds out of general professional management and into specialist technology portfolios, either using a good investment magazine or a specialist mutual fund.
Of course once the benefits appear in balance sheets there will be periodic stampedes into this sector, as we have seen already, every three or four years. At the moment we are a couple of months past an end of a major stampede into computer stocks and about half way through one into pharmaceutical stocks. When this ends I expect there to be a lull before the next computer stampede starts as people wake up to how much more their PCs can do then for the same or less cost than before.
Of course I am on very safe ground re the general rise of technology stocks - if I am wrong I won't be here to be told. If I survive it will be because of technological advances that will have transformed the world as we know it.
(List of individual company news deleted as it is now of historic interest only)
Sent 27 April 1996
Having kept dogs for the past four years, I have observed their behaviour. One aspect of this is that they will eagerly seek to make their internal bacteria conform with that of the surrounding dog population. In addition, they will eat the faeces of horses and pigs if given the chance.
This behaviour is clearly to the disadvantage of the individual, as it will sicken each time a new disease comes into the neighbourhood. As all neighbourhoods overlap, a new disease will quickly spread amongst all the dogs in the country.
Such behaviour is clearly instinctive - they probably get nearly as much pleasure from it as copulating, another instinctive compulsion. Why would such an instinct have any evolutionary advantage?
As far as the individual is concerned, it obviously doesn't. However as far as one species evolving against another is concerned, it has a definite advantage. The collective is purged of all genes that render their owners susceptible to disease. The following generation is more robust against the diseases going around.
Because humans have evolved brains, they also evolved the idea of caring for the sick, and also the idea of antisepsis to prevent the spread of disease. I am not sure whether they also evolved an instinctive revulsion for mercaptan compounds (they give faeces its distinctive smell), or whether this response is learned.
Caring for the sick it actually a prime example of individualism as opposed to collectivism. If people spread most diseases thoroughly, then contrary to science fiction novels the human race wouldn't die out, but the few people with immunity will breed rapidly and soon re-populate the available space. For example, cases of people who are immune to HIV have already emerged. If HIV was allowed to spread rapidly, only the offspring of these people would survive. Of course there could be one disease that kills everyone, and such a disease could have caused mass extinctions in the past. But I am unaware of any firm evidence that this has happened.
It has been seriously suggested (sorry, no reference) that some diseases may actually control the behaviour of the sufferer to make the disease propagate (eg sneezes, increased desire for social contact, increased libido etc.)
I would speculate that maybe within the collective subconscious of humans there is the same inter-species evolutionary drive that makes people want to share their diseases so as to strengthen the human species as a whole by eliminating individuals and future generations that may be susceptible.
An article in The Financial Times weekend supplement 13 April 1995 highlighted a number of high flyers in the financial professions who were leaving high pressure jobs for less stressful occupations.
"People are reflecting on the purpose of their work. They are not seeing their families; they are working long hours and are suffering stress. They wonder: why do I need to do this", the paper said.
Executives are trading in jobs that pay over £45,000/year for jobs that may earn £15,000 or less. Some are starting small businesses such as gardening, photography etc. The only common denominator is that they have swapped something that they do not enjoy for something that they do. One chap quitted a £91,000/year job for that of tram driver. Although why he did that I don't know as he had acquired shares valued at £9million in the company he previously worked for.
The paper also points out that this is the tip of the iceberg. In any large city offices there are workers who dream of getting out, but many just dream on.
Also the paper says it is important to separate these people who have deliberately left with those who have been thrown out. The latter usually pick jobs like double-glazing or life insurance salesman.
I would comment that this is not a comfortable omen for the future. It suggests that the future will be run by overworked people who are somehow forced into the positions they occupy, all the really intelligent people will have long ago left the chains of command.
I do not see why this should be confined to the financial professions. The medical, engineering and science professions could be equally afflicted, indeed more so as the financial compensation of such positions is far less (except possibly for top surgeons or consultant physicians).
The tradition in science and technology of the enthusiastic amateur turned professional is a lot harder to realise today. Yet the major paradigm shifts are often made by such people, as the computer industry has shown.
I was watching a TV program about the computer industry, (Triumph of the Nerds, Channel 4, Sundays) and saw the enthusiasts who built small computers whilst the professionals said it was impossible. Eventually some of these enthusiasts became the professionals of a new industry. There is a parallel with cryonics, but cryonics has never taken off in the same way.
I think the reason must be the dead hand of the lawyers - there were few laws concerning the construction of small computers. You do not need a prescription to buy integrated circuits. You do not need a license or ten years training to assemble circuit boards or write software. There is no kerfuffle comparable to the business of legal death, autopsies, wills, death taxes, and all the governmental excreta that clings to cryonics.
Yet the computer industry has done far more damage to the earning potential of some of the professions that dog cryonics. By automating some of their tasks it has reduced the need for operatives.
The professions have struck back by having their colleagues in the legislatures enact laws that are so complicated man and computer take about the same amount of time to comply, but the damage this is doing is now so extensive that the process will be self limiting as the economy crumbles. A backlash, possibly violent, against over-legislation is an inevitable outcome.
New Scientist of 13 April 1996 page 6 had an article A Painkiller A Day Could Fend Off Alzheimer's. It detailed work at the John Hopkins School of Medicine by Claudia Kawas and Walter Stewart. They announced results of a study which was part of the Balitmore Longitudinal Study of Ageing at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in San Francisco early in April.
A study of 1,686 people living in Baltimore since the 1960s showed a remarkable correlation between regular users of nonsteroidals antinflamatory drugs (NSAIDS) and avoidance of Alzheimer's disease. The effect was specific to Ibruprophen, Naprosyn, and indomethacin. Acetaminophen, which is a pain killer but not anti-inflammatory, did not prevent the disease, neither did Aspirin.
This study throws the effect sharply into focus, although it had been observed before in a study by Joe Rogers or the Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Arizona, and Pat McGeer of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. They discovered that the immune system was involved with Alzheimer's disease in a way that anti-inflammatory drugs could stop. This was borne out by an examination of hospital records of Arthritis people.
Researchers do not recommend everyone start taking regular low doses of pain killers as some do with Aspirin to prevent strokes. Indeed, at the moment the minimum dose required for reducing the probability of Alzheimer's disease is not known. Instead they recommend specific clinical trials to identify who might benefit most and the risks of gastro-intestinal problems. NSAIDS are designed for use over weeks, not years.
However it is hoped that some answers will be found over a shorter period than 36 years.
Also in New Scientist of 13 April 1996 was a report that there were few applicants from couples in lasting relationship for genetic screening for cystic fibrosis. Only 4 people out of 635 were willing to provide blood samples for genetic testing to see if they carried a genetic disease.
Responders to a questionnaire listed the following risks as being the most important reasons for their rejection:
Risk of being carrier 50%
Partner's Opinion 48%
Doctor's Opinion 30%
Giving Blood Sample 25%
Filling Forms 8%
Some also said that they may have been happier if a mouth swab was substituted for drawing blood, and other gave religious objections. [Ellen Wright Clayton of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and an unnamed report in American Journal of Human Genetics are only the reference details provided.]
The BBC ran another of its often maligned "health scare" stories on its flagship current affairs programme Panorama on 22 April 1994.
It concerned a subject I have mentioned before - X-rays. I wrote in the October issue:
"A report in The Sunday Telegraph of 14 May 1995 highlighted work by John Gofman of the University of California on the once fashionable wide spread use of X-rays. He has shown that many cases of breast cancer have been caused by examinations ordered by doctors between 1920 and 1970. Today much smaller doses can be used. The disease kills 300 women/wk in Britain, and the rate has risen by 25% since 1970. Professor Gofman says that most of those cases would have been prevented had the risk from x-rays been recognised earlier. If there had been widespread screening programs in the mid 60s, the carnage would have been appalling, he says. Throughout the 1940s, x-ray doses were up to 100 times what they are now."
Panorama takes this further.
The program started by detailing an investigation made by breast cancer patient Clare Dimmer. She had been diagnosed as having breast cancer, and although she asked her surgeons and physicians how she contracted the disease, no satisfactory answers were forthcoming.
"Whenever I said could it have been because I got this when I was younger, could it be asthma, everyone said 'Oh no, that doesn't cause it.' - according to them. This just did not make sense. I wanted to find out if there was anything that I could do that it would not recur and for my children that they would not get it." she said. Books she read brought up a surprising possibility - could x-rays have caused her cancer, and why had she always though they were safe? Clare Dimmer had had many medical diagnostic tests when she was young because of her asthma.
The risks of radiation was only studied from 1945, after the atom bombing of Japan. Yet the dose many Japanese received was no more than many women get during routine x-ray tests. No one realised that the effects could take 30,40,50 years to appear. Everyone thought that there was a safe dose. No one thought that a single dose of x-rays increased the risk of cancer. A few researchers suggested it, but were ostracised by the medical profession. But by the late 1960s late cancers appeared amongst the survivors. Epidemiological studies began to show correlation between x-ray medical tests and an increased risk of cancer.
Yet mass x-ray campaigns were a feature of the 1950s. Shoe shops used x-rays for fitting shoes. Doctors used them for virtually every disease. The x-ray machine was the tool of the century. Doctors felt the risk to be so small it wasn't worth frightening patients.
X-ray's liberate electrons that rush through DNA like a bull through a china shop, ripping everything apart. After a long interval clones from this cell increase, and sooner or later those cells succeed in killing neighbouring cells and thus appear as a cancer. Each exposure is a ticket in a cancer lottery - the more you have increases the risk of winning the lottery no one wants to win.
The theory is that on average 20 units give rise to a terminal cancer. In Britain a total of 21,400 units are given which means 1,070 people will die as a result of the xray people have in one year. A barium enema bowel x-ray is equivalent in dose to 150 chest x-rays.
However the radiologist profession dispute this. If you drive your car you have a risk of 1:10,000 of dying from a travel accident. If you have a chest x-ray your chance of dying is 1:1,000,000. Surely the chest x-ray is less risky. Radiology offers enormous benefits in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The risks associated with one cigarette equal one chest x-ray. A flight from Europe to Spain gives each passenger the equivalent of 2.5 chest x-rays in cosmic radiation. It is not possible to produce one single patient that can conclusively be proven to have been given cancer by x-rays - it is a statistical risk.
However a radiologists' report in 1990 said:
"A reduction of nearly one-half in the ... collective does ... from medical x-rays might be possible without detriment to patient care."
X-rays are often repeated because the originals are lost, and according to the National Radiation protection board (NRPB) 20% of x-rays are clinically unhelpful. In casualty wards there is pressure from patients to perform x-rays because they think it is an easy route to find the cause of the problem. It is easy to do x-rays, and no one can prove the surgeon wrong if something happens years later.
Fluoroscopy is particularly dangerous, where the x-rays can be on for ten minutes. Patients are seldom told the risks and amount of radiation received. Patients have always gone along with what doctors say.
Doses can vary over 100:1 with the same procedure. No one seems to know why - further studies are occurring, with a view to minimising doses. Some hospitals, such as London's Kings College, tests equipment old and new to minimise the dose. But many do not. Old equipment gives a higher dose for a given resolution, but replacement is a costly business. It is difficult to make it appear cost effective as the time scales are so large.
Second hand x-ray equipment is sold overseas and even bought be medical practices here.
Recommendations have been made that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound be used instead of x-rays and CT scans. There are a growing number of MRI sets in British hospitals, but there would be more if it was not for the high cost. The phasing out of x-ray equipment would be cost saving on the long term. But it isn't an issue because the public still see x-rays as safe and no politician is interested in costs thirty years on.
Radiation treatment for cancer is very inexact, and patients are often left in the dark as to the risks. Patients have suffered damaging side effects, and have sued doctors if they hadn't declared them. But the legal profession have protected the medical profession by making this very expensive, so only the very rich or very poor (with legal aid) can afford it.
The varied range of treatment for cancer suggest a professional uncertainty as to what is best. If you extend that to unapproved treatments the range is even greater - humanity has no solution.
Clare Dimmer as a child put her faith in the doctor. She hopes in the future people will be better informed. She closed the program by stating:
"We still have the hangover from the fifties, when everyone was x-rayed for TB, and it was the next best thing since sliced bread. We now know differently, but we don't act any differently. The medical profession - the health profession - still advise us that it is a good curative and a good preventative and we still use it a lot."
Here is the month's news, in chronological order, of events in the pharmaceutical and health sectors.
At the end, I have included Xerox because it is of interest to us as a company that spends some of its research money on Nanotechnology subjects. I bought shares in it this month, and expect it to remain part of the portfolio for decades to come. It was gratifying to see afterwards that it received a brokers' accolade and the suggestion of a $200 ($50 after 4:1 split) price by the end of the year. Of course such a rise is likely to be the result of more immediate events than any nanotechnological work which as I said will take decades to produce financial results.
I am sure it is a coincidence that Prudential Securities is the firm I invest with and I discussed Nanotechnology with my investment advisor there before investing in Xerox. However once Nanotechnology results look near to being produced, it will be too late to invest. The amateur investor has the edge over the professional when he can take a longer view and stake out positions well ahead of events. However it is worthwhile and psychologically rewarding if there is also some conventional sort term reason for picking the same target. Xerox is in a similar sector to Intel and MicroSoft who have a lot of upside potential within the next decades for what are now being accepted as conventional reasons. However where Intel and MicroSoft will be the other side of the singularity is less certain. Intel may be too close to silicon to make the change, and MicroSoft relies heavily on lawyers to maintain its position as a dominant force in software - a situation that may not be stable in the very long term.
I would speculate that as we approach the technological singularity, nano stocks would rise hyperbolically and other stocks would fall catastrophically (as people sell to raise funds to buy nano stocks) causing severe instability in the markets. I am beginning to consider that people and organisations who haven't invested in nano stocks in advance of the event could have very little funds available when cryonic revivals become technically possible.
Late in April the computer sector rose against a general fall in the market. I am not sure whether this is really a preview, as it is unlikely that people were selling other stocks to buy into the computer sector, but it did ruffle a few feathers amongst professional market analysts.
(List of individual company news deleted as it is now of historic interest only)
sent 6 June 1996
An item in the weekend edition of The Financial Times dated 28 April 1996 detailed an important lawsuit concerning employment in the future.
At present, fiscal pressures direct employers to employ few staff and work them long hours of compulsory overtime. However Northumblerland County Council have just lost a case to former employee John Walker. He was described as "an excellent social worker, a man or normally robust personality who had so much to give". The high court ruled that the council was liable for increasing his stress levels by imposing an impossible work load upon him. He had two breakdowns and was retired on medical grounds in May 1988. He was awarded £175,000 damages.
The case was described as legal history, and the settlement the biggest awarded in a stress case in the UK.
Stress is an important killer, and shortens the lives of many people, such as doctors. If we are revived the future will have certain characteristics that makes such a revival possible. Once could be that there is a radical paradigm shift in the practices of employment. If this shift does not happen, then maybe we are seeing the limits of what individual humans can do when in employment, and hence a limit to the overall advancement and improvement of the human species.
Greenpeace, have world wide web pages on the Internet at
where they give advice for people wishing to give or bequest money to their organisation. One of the options they offer maybe of interest to cryonicists if any of the cryonics organisations are able to offer sauch a facility.
They call it a "planned gift". They say that there are a number of ways you can make such a gift during lifetime which provides you with an income as well as significant tax advantages. They invite supporters to ring them for details on "pooled income funds, charitable trusts, and gift annuities."
I am not sure how cryonicists can obtain more information if they have no intention of donating to Greenpeace, but if they can do it then so can we, I should have thought.
Of course there are risks attached to this - presumably if the receiving organisation were to get into financial or legal difficulty, the donor may lose his income or even his money. But I should expect that Greenpeace is just as likely, if not more likely, than a cryonics organisation to get into such difficulties. Therefore they may have foreseen ways around these objections.
Also, I consider it extremely unwise to have all your financial affairs dependant on one person or organisation. Usually people have some of their money in real estate, some in stocks, some in fixed interest and so on. If you want to have a financial advisor it is best to have at least two, although each one will always try and persuade you to give him total control.
I also have knowledge that the UK's tax authorities do not give tax advantages to funds left to provide income to people then ultimately go to a charity. I know of one such case where the funds were depleted by death tax twice, first on the death of the donor and then on the death of the first beneficiary. To get freedom from death tax you have to give the funds to charity absolutely.
Nevertheless, I should have thought that if the funds were domiciled outside UK jurisdiction and the deceased left no property within UK jurisdiction, then the UK government would have a very hard time collecting tax and probably wouldn't bother unless the sum was very large.
D. Peter Ogden, editor of Erbania writes:
I believe that Edgar Rice Burroughs must have been interested in immortality. In his first book Princess of Mars his protagonist John Carter didn't know how old he was, but was surmised to have already lived hundreds of years. And nearly all Burroughs' Martian races had long life spans. He later gave Tarzan eternal youth, although this may be because his popularity lasted longer than anticipated, as happens with many series characters. Immortality is present in a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs' works though.
[Tarzan fans may get Erbania at $8/4 issues (Europe $10, Air $13, Pacific rim air $14) from D. Peter Ogden, 8001 Fernview Lance, Tampa, Florida 33615. The magazine is now in its 40th year of publication, and Pete says the first 13 issues were Mimeographed!]
The television plays Karaoke and Cold Lazarus by Dennis Potter concern the final months of a writer dying from cancer, and the use to which is neuropreserved head is put in the year 2368.
Karaoke finished last week, and Cold Lazarus starts on BBC television on Sunday. The Radio Times' introductory article included the following quote from the programme's production designer Christopher Hobbs: "It's as if the frozen head is imagining the future of the world, so the design is coloured by his sensibilities." Director Renny Rye said: "The whole point of keeping Feeld's head alive is that it is an obscenity. Death is a part of life and when Dennis [Potter] came to face up to it, it turned out that death, like every other phase of life, was an inspiration."
Feeld's head is apparently kept alive on a machine so that his thoughts can be plundered by profit crazed entertainment executives. The world is based on growing nanotechnological structures - the flickering computer consoles are housed in living redwood trunks that support the roof while actors zoom around on "auto-cubes" - souped up half vegetable half machine wheel chairs steered by thought waves. They look like house trained Triffids, according to the Radio Times. Buildings grow like coral, and everything has a lumpy swirly feel to it. Feeld's memories are projected onto a huge 3D screen which is computer simulated using digitised film footage.
The world is generally that of Bladerunner - heavily polluted and choked with a forbidding cityscape.
Cold Lazarus cost half a million pounds for its special effects, and the script is said to be riddled with nanotechnological jargon. Actor Cieran Hinds said "I was appalling at science at school. The vernacular of cryogenics and biochemistry can be one hell of a mouthful but Potter knew what he was talking about. You just have to say the lines as he wrote them and hope that you're serving his ideas."
Chrissie Loveday writes:
I'm going for the record of being the only person left in the UK who is still watching Dennis Potter's last stand. The only good thing about the play is the title, Cold Lazarus. I do like that. As for the rest, I despair for the programme selectors' sanity. I am watching it because it is about cryonic suspension but I seem to be the only person I know, who didn't give up after the first ten minutes. I gave up thinking the first part, Karaoke, might improve after two episodes. It seems most sane people didn't stick it out that long.
For me, Potter will never figure as a playwright of merit. His inability to create a character who is even slightly likeable, suggests that his jaundiced view of humanity destroyed any possible ambition to live into the future. Nasty people with nasty views, nasty habits and unbelievable ways of living, are best left with Mr Potter's now defunct imagination. As someone said to me recently, "For most writers, death is a good career move. In the case of Dennis Potter, it wasn't".
Maybe the TV producers could consider a very much cheaper unknown writer whose production costs would be minimal by comparison!
"The abolition of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it today. 'Knife' and 'pain' are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the conscience of the patient. To this compulsory combination we shall have to adjust ourselves."
Alfred Velpeau, surgeon, 1839
Writing in Cryonics, 2nd quarter 1996, Steve Bridge highlights the risks due to infectious disease by reviewing two books The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (Random House, 1994) and The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1994). These books detail the risks of travel and migration spreading serious diseases such as the haemorrhagic fevers around the world. Bridge suggests that a future bonanza of Nanotechnology and other advances could be a fantasy even if only 10% of Earth's population was exterminated by infectious disease.
Although he didn't say so, I expect he may have noted that the most brilliant people often spend a fair bit of their time travelling around the world visiting conferences and the suchlike, which events are breeding grounds for such disasters.
He says that spending a lot of energy on libertarianism, digital cash and colonies on the moon aren't going to do much good in such a doomsday scenario.
If the future is going to be like that, there is no hope that in 30 years time ageing reversal will be possible and a lot of us won't need suspension. The big question that remains is will organised cryonics survive either? Will the governmental clampdown that is a feature of all global disasters make it impossible?
If we believe that a biological disaster awaits us, maybe we should take more notice of Douglas Skrecky's proposals for maintenance free chemical fixation and other alternatives and work out a system that has some chance of surviving out of reach of governments until the golden age arrives - if it ever does.
In the meantime, an alternative point of view to all the doom and gloom appeared in June's Longevity Report:
The pharmaceutical companies are often regarded as "the enemy", part of an axis involving lawyers, politicians and the FDA, designed to take money without providing society with any wealth in return.
However their products are used by the life extension and cryonics movements, so if we live to see the future their economic advance will precede ours. They also have other advantages as investments:
They are themselves technology companies.
They benefit from advances in other technologies such as electronics and computing.
They are regarded by the stock market as a safe haven in times of trouble, therefore a portfolio that contains a lot of speculative and volatile technology stocks can be balanced by pharmaceuticals.
(List of individual company news deleted as it is now of historic interest only)
If you are told when you are likely to die and you live longer, death insurance pays out. As far as I know no such product exists. It would be very useful to cryonicists, who could make financial arrangements before death and still have their money if the prognosis was wrong. It could also be useful for probate avoidance and also for making death taxes difficult to collect.
Two recent events have occurred that brings this idea forwards again. One is a court case being brought against the UK's National Health Service by a cancer patient who lived beyond his diagnosis. He gave up his source of income and he and his lawyers now expect the NHS (ie the taxpayers) to support him. Here it is easy to see merit in both sides of the case, and it once again indicates that government and law cannot solve real problems.
Another is a report in The Financial Times 30 June about how annuity companies are offering higher rates for "impaired lives". Even obese people can benefit. A 60 year old obese man can get 11.726% as opposed to 10.63% for a more normally sized individual. (Of course either could get 15% or more and keep their money by investing in a technology unit trust.) However the interesting bit is that the article says a severely impaired life could get far more, and it quoted the Pension Association Friendly Society as a firm to approach. Maybe the man with three years to live could get 25 to 30% which would be worth having.
The article says that the new policies for fat people and lung smokers, run by Stalwart Insurance, require the client to fill in a questionnaire upon which the annuity payment is based. Once the annuity is being paid, the company will seek a medical examination or doctor's report and reserve the right to reduce the payments if this undermines any claims made. This is an excellent arrangement, because these clients may not have much time and it gets things moving fast.
Mike Fuller, Managing Director of the company is quoted as saying: "We are simply reversing the principle that people with lifestyles that may reduce their life expectancy have to pay higher premiums for life assurance."
However Peter Quinton, of the Annuity Bureau, is quotes as saying that Stalwart is not for people with severely impaired lives. However presumably the arrangements with the Pension Association Friendly Society are similar. [No addresses were given for these organisations. Interested readers are recommended to consult an annuities advisor.]
The Sunday Times of 7 July 1996 described a system proposed by Joseph Karwowski, a Russian inventor living in New York. He proposed using egg preservative to preserve a corpse that would then be sealed in a glass parallelepiped.
The article poked fun at the proposal and then went on to refer to cryogenics as the "science of deep-freezing corpses".
It noted that egg preservative would not work on corpses because the mechanism of decay was different.
New Scientist, the UK produced general science weekly known for its statist leanings, has taken a new direction recently. A whole series of unlinked articles have pointed at a future with a new degree of freedom for individuals. Most deal with new sciences and technologies, but one even questioned whether government funding of science is sensible in terms of results achieved. It suggested that low tax economies with no government funding of science actually produce a better programme of fundamental and applied research. Such an idea would have been an anathema to the magazine a few years ago.
In May the magazine ran an article discussing anti-wrinkle creams in a logical and scientific manner - previously such things were a joke. June 8 saw an article suggesting that some heart attacks may be due to a transmissible infective agent - another idea once rejected out of hand.
On 22 June an article Death of Old Age appeared, which discussed the idea of ageing as a disease. The article features the work of the private company Geron Corporation (the shares are not traded on public markets). It is interested in telomeres, non-coding pieces of DNA that sit at the end of chromosomes. Preventing their shortening with age may prevent ageing, say some researchers. Many other ideas, including caloric restriction were discussed. I am not suggesting that there is anything new in the article to readers of The Immortalist, but what is a good sign that that the article appeared at all. If the things we are interested in become respectable to mainstream scientists, then there is a much better chance that work will be done.
This same issue also contained an article Who Owns the Dead? On seeing it I thought it may be going to discuss the issues around compulsory autopsies, but no, it concerned anthropologists robbing ancient graves to gather research material.
The 29 June issue carried the article on state funding of science, together with a lengthy piece on micromachines - nanomachines' big brothers, made on silicon chips. Accelerometers and light beam scanners were amongst the examples given.
A recent post on the Internet discusses whether it is better to take masses of money to the future, or whether it is better to buy your friends suspension agreements. It was suggested that cryonics organisations allow trusts that can grow and collect more and more people on them.
I can see both sides of this. One the one hand such trusts would result in loads of people on the minimum funding requirements, which may not prove to be enough if the future does not go well.
But on the other if you do get to the future money may have little meaning anyway. Things you may really want, such as a home on the coast, may be unattainable, because you are so behind in competition for limited resources, whereas anything that can be manufactured will be virtually free.
Money only really counts in a competition for limited resources. At present manufactured items are a limited resource. This may not always be so.
One can see the trends in computer software. Many people produce it for fun and if you don't need a top-notch product you can often find a public domain program to achieve what you want to achieve rather than pay a manufacturer for a license to use a copyrighted product.
Microsoft, run by lawyer lover Bill Gates, has even seen this point, and in order to establish a lead in web browsers gives away its browser Internet Explorer free of charge. (Although you do need Windows in order to run it.) Netscape, its rival in this field, does offer its web browser as "shareware" and plays on people's consciences to pay for a license to use the program.
If the industry leader in computer software finds it economic to give certain programs away free, then the nanotechnology world in which all manufactured products have the characteristics of software will likely have a lot of free products around.
So there could be a level of wealth over which you can afford scarce natural resources, such as a home on the coast, but under this level money will have little importance. So how can you benefit from suspension money over the minimum suspension requirement?
The answer is to take people. You have two advantages.
1. Some of these people could, if sufficiently enthused, help with your own suspension. (Especially if you don't live on the doorstep of an existing cryonics organisation.)
2. You will have people you know at the revival end.
If you don't know enough people or anyone you want to take with you, then an alternative may be to run things like the Omni competition in your local newspaper.
However if you have chosen this way to proceed, you also need to show a responsible attitude to the cryonics organisation. As said earlier, they may take a dim view if they see many of their members with trusts all adding new people as the totals rise. An answer that I see is to let the trust rise to such an extent that a withdrawal of 5 to 10% per annum will produce the minimum amount and then each year prepay your new person. That way the organisation gets some money coming in and should look more kindly on your venture. In addition your own suspension is substantially overfunded. With CI's fixed minimum and no inflation, and if you invest in technology based industries, this should work easily with CI. The other organisations have higher minima and inflating fees, but even so given longer time scales one should still manage it even if it takes several decades.
If followed in many parts of the world, this should result in clusters of cryonicists appearing. Some may even become large enough to form their own suspension and storage centres, which would strengthen the movement against disasters.
[Note - at the time of writing there is a downturn in the stock market. However my opinion on technology investment remains unchanged. Overall and over decades the trend is still very firmly upwards.]
There has also been much debate on the Internet on the subject of Prometheus, a program to develop reversible brain preservation within 10 years, provable to the satisfaction of the scientific community at large. I understand that editorial material will appear elsewhere in this issue of The Immortalist on this subject.
Most life extension and cryonics projects so far have been based on donations, ie you lose your money regardless of whether the project is a success or failure. This one proposed investments, which means that you only lose your money if the project is a failure, either physically or economically. However the investments have to be pledged in advance and this can provide problems to people who are not wage slaves and whose income is erratic and to some extent based on their assets as well as their abilities.
As a freedom loving person I am much more in favour of investments, even if the chances of success are not ideal. The debate on the Internet also revealed that many members of even the high cost suspension organisations had a similar attitude.
However selling investments is itself an expensive business. In the UK, start up programs offered for sale to the public often lose up to a third of their capital to regulatory and professional expenses. Although the regulatory overload is dressed up as being "support" for the investing public, ie to prevent them being sold dud investments, in practice it is a burden the new enterprise often fails to shrug off.
It is the usual case of the coward dying many times. Collectively people are so afraid of losing their investments that they make the very thing they fear come about by leaching off the capital in regulatory costs.
The US seems to have better rights to contract than the UK, and some organisations have managed to attract public funds without the regulatory burden. This is achieved by using offshore trusts and networks of companies in tax havens. Of course there is some cost in setting this up and some risk, but nothing in this world is totally free of either cost or risk.
Usually such investments allow very small initial participation, such as $200 and also engage in some highly lucrative yet risky activity such as ostrich farming, satellite communications or currency trading. They offer high yields and commission for introducing other members (they never use the word investor). However there are a lot of them appearing, and the level of risk falls dramatically if you invest the minimum amount in several.
The point I am making about all this is that if these organisations remain solvent as the years pass, they could become a model for investment based cryonics research. Of course an immediate interest roll-up may not be possible, but the structuring of the whole thing as an investment rather than a donation may be possible without anything like the regulatory overheads that could be experienced by those who rely on conventional systems.
Another feature of these program is that they remain open to new "members" for a short time and then close. However they go on paying interest to and accepting deposits from existing members. I joined one in April 1994 with $150, introduced 4 others, and now receive of the order of $50/month. Of course I have no idea as to how long this can continue, and as an investor of long standing I am only too aware that high returns equal high risk. [Please do not write and ask if you can join as well - I emphasise that this particular program is closed to new members.]
The thought does occur to me that anyone with the ability to create a cryonics or life extension research project could use a similar structure without offering these rates of monthly return - people already in the cryonics movement could be motivated to join on the basis of the commercial value of the results.
On 28 May, The New York Times published a report from Associated Press, Toronto, that a team of Canadian doctors is planning to open the graves of 7 people who died in the 1918-19 pandemic of influenza, at that time called the "Spanish flu," in an effort to retrieve a sample of the virus. The team said it will use extreme caution in probing the lung cavities of the frozen remains, which are located on a Norwegian island in the Arctic, and transporting the specimens to laboratories, so as not to run the risk of releasing the highly lethal pathogen.
Toronto paediatrician Peter Lewin, a member of the team, said that if they find what they are after, "It will make medical history." If found, the structure of the virus will be analyzed and a vaccine could be made which could prevent similar pandemics in the future.
Paper newsletters, such as The Immortalist, Longevity Report, and Fractal Report are very much under threat from the Internet.
These newsletters are not like magazines sold off newsstands to the population at large. On average they circulate amongst those with higher than normal intelligence and literacy. In terms of the area of paper you receive for unit spent, they offer poor value. People buy them, however, for the content. They buy them because this content is not present in other periodicals.
The groups amongst which they circulate are just those groups that are joining the Internet in large numbers.
Fractal Report, for example, costs more than Computer Shopper. Even if you cut out the advertisements in Computer Shopper there is still more about computers in it than there is in Fractal Report. However people buy Fractal Report because they want to read about fractals. Also it is because those who want to publish their points and ideas know that as it is a small newsletter it accepts virtually everything sent to it.
This mechanism has kept small circulation newsletters going for decades - many people who buy them are motivated by the need to see themselves in print, and they do not get accepted by other larger periodicals. Indeed books on how to start a small business frequently make this point. You don't sell your newsletter or fiction or poetry letter to people who want to read it, you sell it to those who want to write. They will often buy multiple copies to give to their friends to show that they are in print!
Now this is changing. The Internet is here, and growing at some 10% per month. The Internet was actually available to the public some years ago when UK telephone calls were still expensive as the service was run by a company privately owned by the government. Even then some cryonicists here announced that they were only interested in communicating with other people on it.
Now Internet connection is very much cheaper. You could get onto it in a limited way by using a second hand computer costing of the order of $100. I have read of projects starting to develop software to enable people to get full facilities using such primitive equipment. [Processor speed is always going to be above the 28.8kb modem speed. A lot of processor speed is required simply because modern software is written in high level languages.]
Also companies are trying to develop "cheap" purpose made Internet communicators that plug into the television and the phone line. [However I have my doubts whether the prices quoted compete with second hand computers a couple of years old - much more sophisticated than the $100 machines mentioned earlier.]
As more and more people get on the Internet, the entire class which subscribed to paper newsletters will get there. It will get there well ahead of the much larger class that buys magazines at newsagents. More and more of their time will be spent on the Internet. To start with they will read less of the newsletters they receive, then they start cancelling subscriptions. Those that produce the newsletters and write in them will devote more of their time to the Internet, neglecting their paper newsletter. Whatever it is they get from producing their own newsletter is now fulfilled by interactions with other people on the Internet.
Fractal Report has suffered particularly - most of its authors now are eccentrics who have taken a positive resistance to the Internet, and these are far fewer in number to days past. Fractal postings on the Internet, because of the nature of the medium, do not translate so easily to paper.
Longevity Report has fared better. It has been able to use articles from the Internet to improve its quality, but in the long term it will inevitably lose its readership. It is there to serve a purpose, and I have to say that I would advise readers to get on the Internet if they can because that purpose can be served better there.
I am also a subscriber to Terra Libra News and I must say that the Internet has made this almost totally redundant for me personally. At the moment they have something like 5,000 members of whom only 100 or so are on the Internet. But as they propagate by multi level marketing and as a company has started that sells computers by the same method, it is clear that most of their "big hitters" will appear on the net as they find out about it. [By the time this appears in print I will have told them.]
The difficulty Terra Libra will then face is that it is much more difficult to get people to pay for information in its pure form as opposed to buying it on pieces of paper. Buying on paper makes you think you have bought a product. You know it takes money to print and mail a newsletter. Whereas if you buy it as a broadcast or download, then you are aware that the costs of making the broadcast or download per subscriber are negligible.
I have already, as manager (ie editor, printer, collator, publisher and mailer) of Fractal Report received a number of enquiries about taking over other paper newsletters in which their managers have lost interest. Already a number of specialist computer newsletters have simply shut up shop and gone away. [1997- Fractal Report is no longer running but all back issues are available on paper.]
There are limits: You can comfortably print and mail about 100 copies yourself. You can get an outside printing firm to print a minimum order of about 200 copies - it may be more now - at a higher but reasonably economic rate. You still mail them yourself. The financial return is about the same as doing 100 copies, and as there is more mailing the time spent about the same. If the numbers rise further you delegate all the handling and your income rises and you time commitment falls to editorial work only. If you achieve this (I never did) you can make a living at it. Some people in England in the 1980s went on to became pound millionaires over it, mainly with periodicals dealing with investments.
The Internet is going to make all this much harder from now on.
Cryonics organisations have a real problem. If they get a potential recruit from the Internet-illiterate, then he will want paper, lots of it. The commitment to a periodical newsletter will be the only hard evidence that his chosen society has a life (unless he is local and goes to meetings). But if most of the society is on the Internet, and he won't or can't join, and there is no newsletter, then he will probably go away.
One answer may be to produce printouts from the Internet. But this has its problems. The Internet's style comes out strange on paper without editing, which requires lots of time. This is because the Internet is not only a communications media, it is a sort of time control medium. Although everyone is connecting to it in real time, people answer their email and reply to newsgroups in their own time. It is called asynchronous communication, and it is this feature that gives it its real power over talk in a bar or a telephone chatline.
What happens is like this. Someone posts a message on say 8 January. Most people answer it the next day, but someone else answers it on 3 February. In order for everyone to know what the answer is about, the original message is often reflected. Otherwise those reading on 3 February may not have seen the original post on 8 January, or if they did they have fogotten it.
This feature is very powerful. It enables everyone to "butt in" and have their say in conversations. It also enables people to think and compose their answer carefully. In real time communications those slow of thought appear dullards, even if they are really quite intelligent. Of course it also has its downside - a lot of silly messages also appear, but these can easily be skipped over.
The Internet is the future. Ignore it and refuse to learn to use it, then you are like the child that prefers to play in the sand instead of learning to read and write.
This couple of months has seen massive fluctuations in the stock market - I still think the long term view is up for technology stocks and pharmaceuticals, but you can make a lot more if you can judge the short term and go in and out of the stocks without paying capital gains tax. [This means a complicated network of off shore trusts, companies etc.] Unfortnately I do not consider myself to be that cleaver and therefore stay in for the long term. Here anyway is some company news I have picked up off the Internet.
(List of individual company news deleted as it is now of historic interest only)
Plague and pestilence have wiped out millions in the 20th century, but a World Health organisation report out in September 1996 suggests that within 20 years the major cause of deaths will be road travel accidents. In developing countries, where the number of cars and busses per head of the population is low, death rates are the highest in terms of deaths per vehicle. However the costs of road traffic accidents are highest in terms of proportion of gross national product in the highly developed countries.
Political and legal authorities think that the answer is to tax and otherwise penalise road users. However the problem is that often people make journeys not of their own volition but because they are expected to. Governments and lawyers are the worst offenders - they require citizens to physically come and/or to take papers to offices whereas any sensible person would have used the phone or fax to convey the information.
"Just pop" is often the command when you want someone to drive for 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back for a five minute meeting.
An article in New Scientist dated 14 September 1996 describes how appalling road safety is in undeveloped countries. An agricultural research student in some far off land described execrable driving by a bus driver resulting in a serious accident and disgraceful lack of provision of care afterwards. Eventually she got someone to drive her to a mission hospital where she got treatment and needed three separate operations when she finally got back to England. Such things could equally happen to tourists.
The article goes on to discuss perception of safety. People have the "it won't happen to me" attitude until they come a cropper. Governments have the tax and sue attitude, missing entirely the "is your journey really necessary" argument.
Nevertheless it concludes that an answer will be found even if only because of the economic costs of road traffic accidents.
I would comment that I do not suggest that people give up going out for fun if it really is fun for them. But do make sure you really want to do it, and are not just doing it because you think the others with you expect it. If you are in a position to order other people to "just pop" think whether the phone email or fax could be just as effective. If information is all that is to be transmitted, then it will be.
Road travel is not safe, but it is not as dangerous as being a fighter pilot, for example, and the risk is finite. The odds are a lot higher than winning a lottery, for example.
A recent television programme in the Equinox series under the title Death - the Great Leveller looked at death rates depending on people's life style or "class". Within a society, rich people are healthier than poor ones, as one may expect. But rich countries as a whole have worse health than poor ones. Affluent West Germans didn't live as long as their eastern counterparts when the country was divided between individualist and socialist administrations.
It was discovered that those high in social status lived longer than subordinates. Experiments with baboons showed that those lower in the social scale produced more harmful chemicals in their bodies which made them live shorter lives. It is the usual "fight or flight" response. This increases blood clotting, which is sensible if an adversary inflicted an injury. But in modern society, this increases the risk of a heart attack.
In the UK's civil service, rank related to life-expectancy far more than diet, lung-smoking, etc. A case study featured on the program detailed two people with equal general health showed the manager fared far better. The subordinate whose life was controlled and unpredictable, eventually had a heart attack. There were many such studies in a comprehensive program with the civil service.
But could it be that healthy people get to the top, rather than being healthy because they are at the top. The effect that unhealthy people seldom move up is there, but it is not big enough to explain these results. However the study averages results, and it is clear that the lower you are in the pecking order, the more fibrinogen there is in the blood - there to protect you against physical injury. However it increases the risk of heart attack. High density lipoprotein is also present in greater quantities the higher your rank, and this is beneficial.
A scientist at California University called Robert Sapolsky has done experiments with baboons, who are hierarchical animals. He discovered the same results there. Dr Eric Brunner, a biochemist with University College, London, said Sapolsky found exactly the same pattern of fibrinogen and high density lipoprotein according to hierarchy in the Baboon colony as with British civil servants.High ranking baboons get more fruit and healthy foods. Civil servants get big offices and better work places. Low ranking baboons have to show their bottoms to seniors. Low ranking civil servants also have to take orders from seniors. High rankers of both species have to decide what to do and when, low rankers are subject to random violence and have no control. (Civil servants are mentally abused by seniors.)
The problem seem to be the way the adrenal gland reacts to stress. It is what excretes the damaging chemicals. It also turns off all sorts of processes in the body, such as digestion and tissue repair in order to provide more energy to help you run for your life. This dramatic stress response appears whether it is a charging lion or a bad day at the office which threatens us. It makes no sense to secrete these chemicals when you get shafted by the tax man, for example. This process also affects the liver's ability to regulate fat levels.
An important re-enforcement for this idea comes with this excellent experiment. Dr Carol Shivelly took a baboon high in one colony and placed it in a larger colony where it was low in status. Its test resulted in changes for the worse, indicating clearly that the effect is real. She also showed greater atherosclerosis in subordinates.
A high status monkey showed less stress when placed in a box with unusual objects. A low status monkey showed a rapid increase in pulse rate, ie stress. Being of low status made baboons more fearful in strange situations.
However low status baboons can counter the effects of stress by being friendly and supportive of other low status monkeys. However if they are isolated, or if they do not relate to others, then their stress levels are higher. Male baboons who groom females with whom they are not sexually related, or look after babies, are more healthy. Human health seems better in sociable people, the researchers suggest.
They say that unusually egalitarian societies, such as wartime Britain, were healthier (neglecting wartime injury from air raids or conscription, of course), according to Richard Wilkinson, Economic Historian, Sussex University. <R.G.Wilkinson@sussex.ac.uk> He examined a number of unusually egalitarian societies. Life expectancy went up by 7 years (less injuries) in the second world war.
Communist states, at their most egalitarian, were very healthy. As Hungary got richer, it got sicker. Wilkinson interacted with his counterpart in Hungary, Maria Kopp, to produce this result. The strong social bonds that linked people against the brutal Soviet occupation have now gone. The Soviet occupation brought out a "blitz feeling" amongst the Hungarians. However to prevent future uprisings, the Soviets introduced gradual economic reforms and the gap between rich and poor widened. Average health failed, despite economic growth in the economy as a whole. When the economic activity doubled, male life expectancy fell by two years.
The small town of Rosetta, Pennsylvania, 200 miles from New York has another surprise for us. These people were once of the healthiest in the western world. They moved from Europe to escape persecution, and developed a close community bound by ritual. Even today there are some remarkably healthy people for their age. Dr Start Wolfe investigated these people and discovered what is called the Rosetta Effect. Despite a fatty diet, eating 1/5 more in calories and as much animal fat as the average American, they were unusually constipated, but otherwise of good cardiac health. Rosettans who moved away to other communities, developed the usual health problems.
However the young generation wanted to be more like Americans and acquire automobiles for themselves and be more independent, and not subordinate to a community. Dr Wolfe suggested that the overall heath would deteriorate with this change, and his prediction came true.
But do we have to give up our freedoms to live longer? Heart attack victims with close bonds with two or more people stand a better chance of survival. The moral seems to be that camaraderie and togetherness are equally beneficial. Science says that having friends is a good health strategy. How we live affects how long we live. An aggressive hierarchical society may or may not be good for the economy, but it is certainly bad for our health.
On the one hand we have the idea that we need to be in control to have good health, and on the other we need to have little differences in wealth and to spend spare time working for others.
I see an inconsistency here. If this concept is being put forward for a return to state control and socialism, then people are not in control. They are therefore presumably in the state of the baboons who are constantly at threat of being beaten up. In the case of human civilisation, this may take the form of losing one's job, being moved out of (state rented) accommodation, being told that your job has now moved, probably from somewhere you like to somewhere you don't, etc.
I do think that stress levels could be reduced if there is some way those in employment can work more reasonable hours and leave some jobs open to those at present unemployed. Also, this would mean that fewer people would retire early because of stress, now one of the major forms of industrial disease.
The reason why people work long hours is that the tax system makes it much cheaper for an employer to employ a person for 16 hr/day than to employ two people for 8 hr/day.
Yet if the egalitarian society now favoured as a result of the baboons comes to fruition, taxes will be more - a lot more - and obviously people will have to work a lot harder for their homes and families.
Really it shows once again that life is so complex that government does not work. Certainly these results could be used for individuals to alter their lifestyles.
If you are not able to be in control of our life, the programme suggests that you could improve the length and quality of your life if you socialise and do good works. But what if you are the sort of person that simply doesn't socialise easily? Forcing yourself may be more stressful than continuing as you are.
However this work, like caloric restriction, may provide information that fits a few more pieces in the jigsaw of how aging and death actually occur, and provide us with chemical or even nanotechnological ways of defeating them.
Sir Jason Wade writes: <">firstname.lastname@example.org>
Here's my two cents worth of rambleness...
The primary reason health declines in richer countries has to do with the volume of toxic food that individuals have access to eat, plus the increased availability of "modern" hack, slash or burn "medicine". Both are very lacking in poor countries.
It makes little difference if an individual is wealthy or not if there is a Welfare State in richer countries to allow those at the lower levels of the economic class access to same toxic foods and system of "medicine". Welfare recipients can use their food stamps to buy Twinkies, alcohol, cigarettes and the rest of the convenient, devitalized, over processed, nuked-into-nothing "food" you can find in any grocery store. Likewise for the barbaric surgery, chemotherapy bombs, and nuclear radiation via "free socialized medicine", Medicare, or whatever.
Individuals were healthier during World War II on a worldwide basis (including the U.K.) due to rationing of meat, sugar, milk, and flour -- all worthless, dead foods. The Russians, once they ran out of aforementioned foods, actually had to live totally on their chicken feed -- millet -- and came out healthier afterwards!
Some of the largest and most powerful monopolies in the world are the meat, milk and sugar industries. They make sure their agendas are promoted at an early age, as is done in pre-school and kindergarten. Where then are all the hypocritical ultra-liberals screaming about saving the children from this despicable situation??? <resounding silence>
These industries also work co-operatively with the pharmaceutical and medical industries. There are billions, if not trillions, of dollars to be had in promoting and maintaining disease, sickness, and death. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few self-styled elitists controlling these monopolies like there is with central banking. After all, recall that John D. Rockfeller got the pharmaceutical drug ball rolling by selling "snake oil" cures made out of petroleum oil (which LEACHES just about everything vital from your body) back in the early 1900's. However I do suspect, like everything else, it's all ignorance that keeps this stuff afloat, not conspiracies. Life Extension...It is foolish to wish for some "breakthrough" in age reversal or life-enhancement from these same industry sectors. It won't happen because there are enough ignorant individuals in the world to keep the status quo of disease, sickness and death (i.e. that is the largest market). There are funds that have been around for 50 years or more that claim to be finding cures for lung cancer, breast cancer, Down's Syndrome, this cancer or that cancer, this disease or that disease, etc.. One day, will they suddenly discover a cure, cease and desist, and lose their share of that lucrative 50 billion dollar a year cash-flow? What about all the existing cures that's been around for centuries that the funds ignore or squelch, because it also threatens that same lucrative share of the 50 billion dollar a year cash-flow? Because of these factors, real and genuine breakthroughs in life-extension and immortality are only going to occur in the true free market sector of the world. So improve your information!
I believe these results must have come from the 'Whitehall Studies' from the UK, and I would like to add a couple of comments to John's.
First, with regard to stress and hierarchy: one of the findings from the study of British Civil Servants was that the managers and the lower-level employees both reacted to work-related stressors with increases in cortisol levels in the blood. The difference between the groups was what happened after work - namely, that the manager's blood levels dropped back down to normal, while the lower level employees' remained high. It would appear that it is the maintenance of the chemicals that leads to adverse reactions, the heart attacks etc. I would take this as some evidence that being at the top of the social hierarchy contributes to health, rather than that healthy people rise to the top of the social hierarchy. It also fits in with the notion that there is 'good' stress and 'bad' stress. The managers may find their cortisol increases stimulating, since the effect dissipates rather quickly.
Second is the issue of relative deprivation. There is research that indicates people do worse (are less healthy) when there is a large spread between the top and the bottom of the social heap. This may be why some egalitarian communities, though lacking what we might term 'material advantage' may do better than other communities where there is a clear gradient in status. What is less clear is whether relative deprivation only matters when there is a REAL need going unmet. For instance, it may be that social gradients have no discernible effect on health if the lowest levels maintain some minimum standard of existence - with the minimum level determined by the overall wealth of society. In the US, for instance, we all would, I think, expect to have clothing, and shelter, and a telephone, a colour television, electricity, heat, and some disposable income.
I think there are lots of different ways to interpret these data, but one thing that seems pretty clear is that there is a strong interaction effect with human beings. We are not, much as some of us might like to think, entirely independent of one another.
What's the implication for longevity?
That depends on your definition of 'longevity' - whether it is the length of the individual lifespan with which you are concerned, or with the average lifespan. Increasing the former will also have some effect on average life span, but there are very different 'social' implications involved.
Michael Marmot is another man who has done some writing related to baboons and UK Civil Servants.
A couple interesting bits I picked up on review (and I think these are important if you have any interest in the SES implications of this research)
1) the results showed a gradient across the SES hierarchy. That is, as you go down the hierarchy, mortality rates increase, holding age etc constant - it's not just a matter of top half vs bottom half. This is where the idea of relative vs absolute deprivation comes from, since mortality differences between the top level and the 2nd level certainly could not be due to material deprivation. There appears to be a mechanism that works through the pecking order, with negative results if you are lower in that order.
2) these results remain even excluding smoking-related diseases, which we know to be associated with SES. With few exceptions, the gradient appears to have existed across disease causes, and through time.
I keep hoping a discussion along these lines will get picked up on the Internet longevity email list, but it seems to be (for now at least) outside the realm of interest of most of the subscribers. Too bad, but perhaps this will eventually change.....
Kim McGrail <">kmcgrail@CHSPR.UBC.CA>
A recent program in the BBC Television series Everyman discussed the ethics of using genetic information to screen out and abort embryos that would develop into handicapped people.
Some religious people said that it would be unethical to offer this service, as it would prevent the existence of people who would otherwise have come into the world. People who said this were often people with the funds and or contacts to set up care institutions for the handicapped. Whereas such activities are highly worthy when the arrival of such handicapped people in the world is an uncontrollable event, they could cease to be so if we were deliberately withholding technology that would ensure every child is a healthy child.
The natural birth process causes the spontaneous abortion of approximately 70% of fertilised embryos. This process is a natural method of eliminating the production of potential people who would lead impaired lives. It would not be eliminating people, because stopping the production of them is not the same thing as exterminating them when they have been produced. Genetic screening and other processes would merely be augmenting this process.
However there are people who believe that things like this should be left to random chance, which they call "God". You could call it "bananas" and the effect would be the same. They felt that the world is somehow enriched by the suffering of handicapped people.
In the mailing list Cryonet, mention was made of a case where a judge overturned a living will.
If members of the legal profession are going to take huge sums of money for drawing up documents, then there ought to be a hard and firm guarantee that they will work. If not, then the fee ought to equal the value of the document, ie zero.
The guarantee could be met if there was a system whereby any contract or document could be validated, and once validated, no one could break it. The contract or document could be drawn up by anyone, there would be no cartel with special rights to do it. However those more proficient at getting them drawn up would be more likely to produce ones that would be successfully validated. The validation company would only charge a fee for validated documents, ie if it felt that it could not validate the document then no fee is charged. A failed document would have reasons given, so the customer could go back and correct it, thus earning the validation company the fee when it is re-presented. To prevent the possibility of time wasting, only say three re-presentations could be allowed.
Interestingly, the organisations doing the validating need not be bodies with government sanction - they could be anybody [the Mafia even:-) ] with sufficient power to enforce them if one of the parties reneged, or if a third party attempted to overturn it.
Indeed one example of such a system could sit on top of the existing legal system, the "powerful body" being composed of those lawyers so devious that they can convince a court that black is white. Such lawyers are believed by some in the UK to have defeated the government over issues such as the conviction of some alleged terrorist bombers and the Maxwell case of alleged fraud. Both the organisation supporting the alleged bombers and the Maxwell family have very large sums of money at their disposal.
Anyone trying to oppose a validated document would know that billions of dollars of legal fees would be ranged against them, and most would not bother, once the validation company had won a good reputation.
Of course there may be other ways of enforcing the contracts, economic harassment as is employed by credit companies in the existing system for example. It could even be sufficient sanction for someone to be on a database that lists people who try and wriggle out of contracts.
It is unlikely that enough people would use a company that offered physical violence as a means of enforcement, and indeed the existing system is more likely to take trouble to wipe out a validation system that employed methods contrary to laws that most people accept (eg against murder, theft, bodily harm etc.)
In New Scientist of 28 September 1996 an article entitled No Cause for Alarm debated the perception of risk. It was inspired by the BSE crisis and public reaction to it. The most interesting point raised was that people shrug off risks of danger in a "natural" activity, eg surfing. However something seen as totally unnatural, eg a microwave oven, is seen as highly risky.
However risks where there is little knowledge when the danger will strike are also seen as high, thus the microwave oven appears as low risk on this list as you can control whether you have one or not. Nuclear power is seen as most risky, as you have no control over where the authorities put stations or how they manage them.
"Who we trust" is also interesting. People are becoming very perceptive in how they regard government. Out of all institutions, government receives less than 10% trust as opposed to fellow family members whom we trust 88%. Friends and environmental agencies rate at about 80%, doctors 76% (this surprised me), and scientists 60%. Trade unions only received 28%, and the decline was then linear down to government through religions, the media and companies, who were regarded as almost as untrustworthy as government.
The result for companies was interesting - these are actually highly democratic organisations, with people voting with their custom. A company that fails to provide value will itself fail. Although an individual will rate a company badly if mistreated, surely the majority of customers must be satisfied. Maybe the answer is that everyone has had a bad experience with at least one company, and so all are regarded as equally untrustworthy.
I suppose cryonics organisations could be regarded by many people as companies, and hence only a little more trustworthy than government. Perhaps people who are signed up regard them more as scientists (60%) or even doctors. I would suspect though if the same poll was taken of doctors amongst cryonicists the level of trust recorded would be lower. After all, if they had their way the majority of those in the medical profession as a whole would prefer to cut us up for organ donation or autopsy rather than suspension.
An article in The Financial Times of 26 October 1996 suggested that bacteria may communicate with each other using a chemical language. George Salmond of Cambridge University is quoted as saying that this communication is probably widespread and decoding and understanding the language has vast commercial and therapeutic consequences.
It may be possible to treat some bacterial conditions by "persuading" the bacteria not to attack us, rather than exterminating them outright. Putting this statement into a less sensational context, the article suggests that certain actions by bacteria require communication from other bacteria. For example, two different sorts of bacteria have to be present before a certain chemical is produced.
It would seem that bacteria could be used as the building blocks for all sorts of systems. An example was one that emits light. In nature, some bacteria grow in numbers, and when there are enough present they then attack the host. If the signal to attack can be suppressed, it may be possible for people to avoid disease symptoms whilst their immune systems still rid them of the parasites.
Barrie Rycroft and Paul Williams at the University of Nottingham are quoted to suggest that understanding of the bacterial language could control infections. Salmond is more cautious and thinks total extermination may be the only way to treat infections.
An article in New Scientist of 19 October 1996 discussed why some scientific concepts are so difficult to understand. David Bodanis, a social studies lecturer at the University of Oxford open the piece with an anecdote of an otherwise intelligent person who thought that nebulae were situated between the Earth and the Moon. Yet this person was capable of sophisticated programming using high level operators that were once an advanced mathematical concept only Alan Turing and John Von Neumann could understand.
It is a question of familiarity, suggests Mr Bodanis. Once a concept familiar, ordinary intuition can take over. Computer software is an easy concept for anyone familiar with the concept of a soul, he says. However the habit of understanding something in terms of what is already familiar does not always work. The concept of the atom as a miniature solar system is still widely believed, despite the fact that it has been superceded for over half a century.
Evolution is easily understandable by business people familiar with competition. It relates to the concept of progress, even of a divine plan for mankind. However a recent poll in the UK found that 58% of people did not believe that astrophysicists had a clear and experimentally checked vision of the early universe. This is a problem, because if anything like the "big bang" is true then there is no space for a detailed religious plan. People do not want this comforting idea pushed aside.
Promoting a new idea, Bodanis concludes, involves walking it across muddy chewed-up ground, not pushing out logical structures over a kind of empty chessboard.
This, I think, says something re cryonics. Time and time again we have had great difficulty persuading people that present day science cannot revive people but future science could. Lawyers are highly intelligent, articulate, people, but they cannot be made to understand this - otherwise pre-death cryonic suspension would simply be a medical procedure of last resort.
People cling to simple notions about limp defrosted lettuce or turning hamburgers into cows to ridicule cryonics. Again these clearly indicate the clash of ideas Bodanis talks about. "Few scientific concepts are going to be accepted if the threaten religious notions" he says of the "big bang".
Although cryonics does not directly threaten the religious notion of an afterlife, it is in conflict. A nay-sayer says it shows a lack of faith in the afterlife. Arguments about looking after the gift of life are rejected, however logical they may appear to us. Accepting death to them is like falling backwards to be caught by the person who requires you to prove the trust.
To accept cryonics, a person feels they have to reject the notion that there is a god or even natural course of events where they will avoid oblivion.
They also have to reject the notion that their country's medical profession will care for them without limit. (That same profession may decide they are beyond cure and cut them up for autopsy).
Also their country's legal system is pitted against them - it will take serious money for the financial arrangements to be made. Legal problems are a more serious barrier to a successful suspension and revival. Therefore the person who accepts cryonics also has to take on the viewpoint that the "justice" system may one day kill them for no crime.
From the cradle up people have accepted (or been taught to accept) the authority of parents, followed by school teachers, then employers and ultimately the judiciary. Accepting cryonics implies that this authority is not all understanding and all wise - they do not recognise cryonics. The "they" that were almost parent substitutes - the people you could trust to do the right thing if something goes wrong - will not do the right thing when the real test comes - deanimation. Instead they could turn deanimation into annihilation by insisting on delays or even by cutting you up. Laws that once protected you from theft and extortion could rape your estate sufficiently to prevent there being enough funds to meet your obligations and pay for your suspension and that of your loved ones.
Accepting cryonics, then, makes life very uncomfortable, apparently less safe. The familiar become enemies. It is much easier to believe the platitudes about a "sure and certain knowledge of a life hereafter" and that the government has a divine right to govern, which it hands to the judiciary which knows best as to how to deal with your "remains" and your estate. Follow these people who have a direct link to God and all will be well.
No wonder those who say differently get a hard time!
The real nature of altruism has been a subject of debate in The Immortalist for as long as I have been reading it. However recently a lot of outside interest has been appearing. Possibly the fall of communism and the waning or religion, coupled with an increasingly fragile structure of law and order has caused this interest.
Matt Ridley is a freelance writer specialising in biology and economics, and he has written a book The Origins of Virtue published by Viking on 30 October 1996. To promote this book he also wrote an article in New Scientist dated 26 October 1996.
In Born to Trade he discusses how natural selection rewards self-interest, yet humanity is becoming more and more interdependent. At one time someone could gown their own food and be totally self sufficient. Yet today people can rely on others for virtually everything, have nearly half their earnings confiscated by the state, and yet have a standard of living far higher than someone who is totally isolated on his own plot of land growing his own food. If they try to do all the work themselves, there would not be enough hours in the day.
In addition, large portions of the population are in non-wealth creating jobs and professions, such as lawyers. In the UK (population 53 million) only about 3 million people are working in manufacturing. Everyone else, from the point of view of the subsistence farmer, are "playing". Three million people can support 53 million, or three people can support 53, or one person supports 16, not just with food, but their luxuries and all the physical products they own, rent or just use.
This is a remarkable result, considering that one person on his own would have a struggle to support himself with food and rudimentary shelter, let alone things like central heating, television etc. Human civilisation has made the whole over sixteen times the sum of the parts.
The advantages of cooperation are not in doubt. The article goes on to discuss "the prisoner's dilemma" where two prisoners have the choice of giving evidence against each other for a lighter punishment or if they both keep quiet they will get convicted of a lesser charge. As a pair their best tactic is to stay quiet, but as individuals they are better off "lagging".
Similar dilemmas exist in nature. Trees in a rain forest would be better off if they all agreed to grow three metres tall and use the bulk of their resources propagating. Instead the use the bulk of their resources in a fight to get the light, resulting in lots of resources being used to grow tall. Various systems in nature have found such a strategy, though. The cells in human bodies are an example. Liver cells don't take over everything - if they try it is called cancer. The genes in a genome also act as team players.
Humans live in an intensely complicated web of exchange. Maybe this complexity will get impossible. Already the legal system is faltering, with its rigid rules and unthinking regulations making it very difficult to get sound results in many important cases.
However mutual helping results from people doing their own thing that just happens to benefit others. The butcher sells meat not to feed people but to earn money. His customers buy the meat not to help him but to feed themselves.
The article goes on to describe the advantages of a "tit-for-tat" morality and how this has been backed up with computer simulations. An extension of this is the "discriminating altruist". He tries to interact only with people he know will play fair. A society filled with discriminating altruists can expel cheats by ostracism.
The article concludes with the suggestion that humans may have an inbuilt sense of wheeler-dealing which may be the reasons why they have been so successful in harnessing the division of labour to succeed as a species.
I would comment that the other aspect of this is the invention of writing and the scientific method, whereby people can build on the work of contemporaries and other generations.
Interestingly the financially successful companies Intel and Microsoft use this principle of building blocks to further their success in the computer industry. At the time of writing, Microsoft is giving away "Active X" software modules to encourage the use of its Windows95™ operating system. Once fitted into other people's applications, these building blocks will ensure that they use this particular operating system. Giving something away benefits both the recipient and the donor in this instance.
The Financial Times of 24 October 1996 included an article on a remarkable new use of the dental mouthwash Triclosan. Readers of Longevity Report may recall Douglas Skrecky describing Triclosan as being the only worthwhile ingredient of dental pastes and mouthwashes. (More Dental Pharmacology, Longevity Report 48, page 16).
Triclosan works by penetrating the cell walls of single cell life forms, and causing the cells to rupture. It exterminates a wide range of microbes, including the bacterias that are designed to cause foord poisoning, dysentery, cholera, pneumonia, tetanus, meningitis, tuberculosis. It also knocks out every day stomach upsets, sore throats and even body odour (actually caused by microorganisms living in body secretions, rather then the secretions themselves.) Mould, mildew and yeasts such as those responsible for Athlete's Foot are also eradicated by triclosan.
As a cell wall penetrant, it has no effect on humans - multi celled organisms have cell walls too thick for it to rupture.
Now Microban, a privately owned US company, has come up with a method of adding triclosan to the fabric of clothing and bedding such that it will remain there for 100 launderings and the rough and tumble of daily usage.
At first the products were used in medical applications, such as wound dressings. But the plan is to use the triclosan treated fibres in products such as pillows, bedding and clothes. This will be a major advantage for asthma sufferers who are affected by the faces of house dust mites. After a few years of use, 40% of the weight of a pillow can be made up of dust mite faeces and remains. Socks made with the product are capable of exterminating the organism responsible for Athlete's Foot. Chopping boards and high chairs that have been impregnated with it eradicate more than 99% of food borne bacteria. It can be used for conveyor belts of food handling machinery, and it is being used by MacDonald's for food wrappers. It can also be used to prevent mould and mildew in house decorations, such as curtains and carpets.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to buy Microban's stock, but the company has been doubling annual sales for some years, and this year it will be tripling its sales.
Of course the time could come when the undesirable organisms could evolve a defence for triclosan, just as they did with other products. But for the moment this could be another battle won against the little things put on the Earth to trouble us. We should not be too alarmed at the possibility of their evolving past this product - by the time they do we will no doubt have something else to throw at them.
People in cryonic suspension are very vulnerable. Unfortunately we still rely on others to enforce order and fairness. However this is now failing fast, according to an article in The Financial Times of 26 October 1996.
A London man had a number of items stolen from a flat he rented furnished. He though that the paid taxes for a police force to sort this out, so he went to the local police station and reported the theft. He was told that because he had let the flat, the matter was a civil dispute, ie the thief was not a criminal.
The newspaper took the matter to a number of legal agencies for an opinion. Needless to say these opinions differed. The Law Society (the professional body of lawyers) advised the paper to consult a solicitor - it was not prepared to discuss the matter. The Home Office - the branch of government concerned with law and order - said it thought the matter did come under the Theft Act 1968. However they gave no advice as to how citizens could enforce the act.
Enquiries at several police stations produced different results - some say they would have investigated the incident as crime, others not.
It would appear that the professions are well on the way to support a society where crime is what you make it - esoteric crimes that require a lot of fee income to sort out are the ones they are interested in - simple theft is no longer worth worrying about. Unfortunately esoteric crimes often involve the use of new technology, and it is new technology that is the cornerstone of the cryonics movement.
Also cryonics is reliant on financial arrangements, making and keeping money. Many esoteric crimes arise from handling money in ignorance, and to get advice or knowledge requires shelling out fee income to the professions. I think it is worth repeating this analogy: It is like driving through a town where there are no upper or lower speed limit signs, yet touts on street corners will tell you the speed limits for a fee. If you go too fast or too slow, a central authority fines you.
If spelt out to the general public this state of affairs should be unacceptable and those inside and outside the cryonics movement should speak out against it.
The risk of catching AIDS or hepatitis from giving or receiving blood may be small, but it is still greater than for those who do not get involved either way. Ten years ago at the height of the AIDS scares, synthetic blood seemed a far off dream, according to The Financial Times of 7 November 1996. However now it is nearly ready for the marketplace. At least six US companies, in partnership with Eli Lilley, are about to enter into the last stage of the FDA approval procedure. Although the real risk of disease through the blood transfusion system is lower now than it has been ever before, the companies know that the public, and some physicians, are very keen on the concept of synthetic blood. William Freytag, vice-president of Somatogen is quoted as saying "We never know when the next disease may rear its head. If you receive blood substitutes, you don't have that nagging doubt about ten years later that you may have attracted a horrific disease from the transfusion."
Synthetics have a shelf life of six months as opposed to six weeks for human blood. There are no synthetic blood groups - one substance suits all. This can save time in accidents.
The population of those willing to give blood is static, whilst the population of recipients is growing. 7.5 million litres more are needed every year. Human blood is inherently dangerous, Harvey Klein a researcher at the National Institute of health is quoted as saying.
There are, as with any new advance, those who express doubts. Some say that artificial blood can compromise the immune system, and may not remove nitric oxide. The latter could increase blood pressure. There probably will be a few disasters once it is widely used, but eventually physicians will learn from their mistakes and it should become an important step forward in saving lives and money.
The question as to whether the universe is capable of existing for ever, or whether it is closed, may seem somewhat academic for cryonicists at the moment, but nevertheless it is still of some interest. New Scientist of 9 November 1996 discussed the issue in connection with work done in Armenian and Colombian universities.
Vahe Gurzadyan of the Yerevan Physics Institute in Armenia calculated the way light rays would travel in the three possible states of the universe - expanding for ever, expanding and then stopping, or expanding then contracting to a crunch. With the second two types, known as flat and closed respectively, a light ray travelling from one side to the other would be largely undistorted. But with the third type, know as open, the rays would suffer distortion. Spherical objects a long way away would appear as elongated or elliptical shapes.
Sergio Torres of the National University of Colombia in Bogotá has examined the data from the COBE satellite which is said to have picked up background radiation from the afterglow of the big bang, hugely distant from us through space-time. The two researchers say that the appropriate distortions for an open universe are present in the data.
The article says that some researchers are sceptical of these ideas. My comment is that if you are going to say the COBE pictures are distorted, then surely you must know what the image should look like, and how could anyone possibly know that!
The only way of knowing for sure that a patient suspected of having Alzheimer's disease actually has it rather than some other form of dementia, is to remove his brain, section it, and examine the sections. This is only done when he is in ischemic coma past any possible treatment by present day technology. As the diagnostic procedure is fatal it is useless for evaluating the progress of patients under experimental drug routines .
Wilfred Jefferies, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver has discovered that cells near Alzheimer's plaques were producing a protein not produced in a healthy brain, and this protein, p97, is present in smaller amounts in healthy people.
To test the theory, he and fellow researchers took blood samples from 17 patients with strong Alzheimer's symptoms, and 15 people with no signs of disease. The levels of p97 were, on average six times higher in the Alzheimer's victims than those in the controls. In addition, those that had the disease for a longer time had larger levels of p97. [Nature Medicine, vol 2, p.1230]
If the further trials now urged take place, p97 could become a simple routine test for the disease and be an excellent tool for evaluating experimental therapies.
The transplantation of organs from animals to humans looked to me to a big advance from using organs taken from other humans. Admittedly an animal is deliberately exterminated to provide the transplant, but the same applies to food and in any case the ultimate responsibility for the act is the nature of the universe in which we live - it supports indeed requires disease and suffering and a struggle between the species for survival.
Apart from the obvious the other advantage of xenotransplants is that the animal can be prepared pharmacologically to reduce rejection problems in the recipient.
A possible problem, however has been raised in a letter to New Scientist of 9 November 1996 from Peggy Carlson, of the Humane Society of the United States. Obviously there is bias because of the source, but I must say that the comments may bear consideration on their merits.
Ms Carlson argues that animal viruses, and other infectious agents that can cause disease, eg prions, can pass with the transplanted organ. The immune system manipulation that goes on could cause the viruses to mutate to infect humans, and the transplant patient may infect other humans causing new viruses to enter the human biomass.
Another risk is animal viruses merging their interests or physically combining with other viruses to produce new and hitherto unknown diseases.
HIV is believed to be a primate virus that entered the human population. New viruses created by xenotransplants with long latency periods may become well established in the human population before symptoms appear. No quarantine system however rigorous could completely remove this risk, the letter said.
It concluded by calling for
1. increases in organs harvested from humans beyond medical care,
2. education of the public to reduce incidence of diseases requiring organ transplantation as treatment, and
3. the development of artificial organs as an alternative source.
I can agree with the second two and add to the list: the development of procedures to grow replacement organs from the patient's own cells. I have been asked by our new Editor to supply a biography. I am not quite sure how much this will interest anyone, but click here if you want to read it.