ISSN 0964-5659


Volume 9 no 52. First published September 1995. ISSN 0964-5659.

e-mail: Internet

Roxithromycin and its Uses Dr Keith Monnington

Human Longevity Past, Present and Future Dr Leonid A.Gavrilov et al

The Brave New World Brian W. Haines

Feedback in Cryonics Brian Wowk

Bed Time? Sleep Time? Chrissie Loveday

Assisted Suicide Laws Steve Bridge

Evolution and the Human Condition Jim Rice

The Politics of Breathing John de Rivaz

The Tech Singularity - The Timescale of Nanotechnology Dani Elder

Life Extension - an Orthodox Medical View Part II Dr Keith Monnington

Religious Memes Jim Davidson and others

A Possible Cure for Osteoarthritis Douglas Skrecky

As Others See Us New Hope International

Wine Drinking and Lifespan Dr Keith Monnington

Cryonics, Cryptography, and Maximum Likelihood Estimation Dr Ralph C. Merkle

Roxithromycin and its Uses

by Keith Monnington, M.D.

Editorial introductory note

As Roxithromycin is available on the "own use import" market, I felt that the following information would be of value to those contemplating using it. It is not a good idea to use any antibiotic frequently because apart from being expensive it will help the bacteria in your environment evolve an immunity to it. All antibiotics should be taken as prescribed and the course should be completed even if you feel better before finishing it. Roxithromycin is usually supplied in a "one tablet twice a day for five days" course.

Roxithromycin's main use in practice is in ear, throat, sinus and lower respiratory infections, also dental and skin infections, especially in penicillin allergic persons. Culture and identification of bacteria is not routinely performed by general practitioners in uncomplicated infections as above. It is also used to treat Campylobacter enteritis where the illness is severe or prolonged (mild cases are self limiting). It is used to treat Chlamydia infections in pregnant women and children in whom tetracyclines, the antibiotics of choice, cannot be used.

It is effective against Legionella, Campylobacter and Mycoplasma spp. where it or Erythromycin (a related antibiotic) is the treatment of choice. Also effective against Chlamydia and Ureaplasma spp.

It is an alternative to Penicillins in the treatment of Staphylococcal and Streptococcal infections.

Other sensitive species are Neisseria meningitidis, N. gonorrhoea, Bordatella pertussis, Moxeralla catarrhalis , Listeria monocytogenes, Corynebacterium diphtheria, Clostridium spp., Pasteurella multocida Helicobacter spp., Gardnerella vaginalis, and in in-vivo rabbit models, Treponema pallidum and Toxoplasma gondii.

This information was sourced jointly from an antibiotic guide published by Medlab (independent of any pharmaceutical company ) as well as information supplied by Roussel who developed and manufacture the drug.

Human Longevity

Past, Present and Future

Natalia S.Gavrilova,Ph.D., Yulia E.Kushnareva,Ph.D., Leonid A.Gavrilov,Ph.D., Victoria G.Semyonova,Ph.D., Anna L.Gavrilova, Natalia N.Evdokushkina, Evgeniy V.Lapshin A. N. Belozersky Institute, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia. (electronic mail:

A crucial point in all debates on future extension in human life span is the question whether previous historical improvement in living standards, health care and medical progress is associated with any increase in human longevity. The fact of significant increase in human life expectancy is obvious but the problem is whether the historical increase in life expectancy is associated with real increase in human longevity or it is caused by trivial elimination of premature deaths at young ages.

The previous studies on this topic by other authors are not satisfactory since they are based on life tables and vital statistics although it is well-known that the data on mortality at high ages are very inaccurate and are often the result of extrapolations and graduations rather than real measurement. Thus, we need to find more reliable although not so numerous data for analysis.

In search for reliable longevity records life span data for men (23,927 cases) and women (6,830 cases) born in 1700-1899 were extracted from Russian genealogical publications, biographic dictionaries and encyclopedias. The data were computerized, sorted by birth year (in decades, 1700-1709, 1710-1719, etc., up to 1890-1899) and 40 cohort life tables (20 for each sex) were constructed. Expectation of life for the oldest-old (those who reached age 85 years) was calculated for each cohort life table and was used as an indicator of any changes in human longevity. The total number of the oldest-old males under study was equal to 1,468. The total number of the oldest-old females under study was equal to 740.

It turned out that life expectancy at age 85 is equal to 4.1 years for men (89.1 years if calculated from the birth date), 4.4 years for women (89.4 years if calculated from the birth date) and was NOT changed significantly during for the whole 2 centuries of Russian history (see tables 1 and 2 for details). For comparison: these values, calculated for historical cohort life tables are close to modern data based on cross-sectional life tables: 4.3 years for men and 4.9 years for women in 1985 (former USSR). The results support the idea that historical increase in life expectancy is NOT associated with significant increase in human longevity and is caused mainly by elimination of premature deaths at young ages. The obtained results are also consistent with our previous observation that historical increase in human life expectancy is associated with age-independent component of human mortality while age-dependent (biological) component of human mortality is historically stable1.

Thus, the future of human longevity is not associated with simple improvement in living standards and health care but should be linked with some fundamentally new approaches.

The research described in this paper was made possible in part by Grants SBI000, M7E000 and N7X000 from the International Science Foundation, by INTAS grant #93-1617 and by the President of the Aeiveos Corporation (Seattle, USA), Mr.Robert John Bradbury.


1. Gavrilov, L.A., Gavrilova, N.S. The Biology of Life Span: A Quantitative Approach. 1991. Harwood Academic Publishers. 385p. ISBN: 3-7186-4983-7.

Table 1.

Historical evolution of human longevity (column 4) for Russian males. Data are for the cohorts of the oldest-old males (those who reached age 85 and above).

   Date of Birth    Cohort Size   Standard       Mean Age  
    in Cohort                     Deviation of   at Death  
                                  Age at Death             
       1700-09              7        4.60         91.14     
       1710-19             12        3.26         89.42     
       1720-29             14        4.49         88.50     
       1730-39             31        4.83         91.19     
       1740-49             25        8.79         91.28     
       1750-59             31        5.21         89.03     
       1760-69             39        4.09         88.64     
       1770-79             44        3.42         88.66     
       1780-89             41        6.24         89.73     
       1790-99             65        4.39         89.68     
       1800-09             41        3.71         89.00     
       1810-19             65        5.52         88.32     
       1820-29             54        8.92         88.76     
       1830-39             32        5.00         89.94     
       1840-49             37        3.41         88.19     
       1850-59             63        5.72         89.06     
       1860-69             89        4.52         90.04     
       1870-79            170        4.21         89.29     
       1880-89            275        3.55         88.84     
       1890-99            333        3.45         88.86     

Table 2

Historical evolution of human longevity (column 4) for Russian females.

Data are for the cohorts of the oldest-old males (those who reached

age 85 and above).

   Date of Birth    Cohort Size   Standard       Mean Age  
    in Cohort                     Deviation of   at Death  
                                  Age at Death             
       1700-09              7        7.41         90.71     
       1710-19              5        8.26         93.80     
       1720-29              2        0.71         85.50     
       1730-39              7        4.31         88.71     
       1740-49             19        4.08         89.21     
       1750-59             12        6.93         90.00     
       1760-69             11        4.60         89.18     
       1770-79             19        6.02         90.05     
       1780-89             20        4.11         89.40     
       1790-99             33        3.27         88.73     
       1800-09             35        9.83         90.80     
       1810-19             35        4.28         89.31     
       1820-29             30        2.91         88.03     
       1830-39             23        3.70         88.83     
       1840-49             27        2.44         88.63     
       1850-59             43        4.21         89.14     
       1860-69             46        3.76         89.26     
       1870-79            105        3.57         89.71     
       1880-89            136        3.42         89.71     
       1890-99            125        3.52         89.01     

The Brave New World

by Brian W. Haines

I seem to have hit a sensitive nerve somewhere out in the old American West. Just offer a criticism of God's Own Country and the defenders of the faith leap to the rescue. In this case one Patrick El-Azem who in an article littered with quotations from equally obscure authorities seeks to find some merit in the crude obsession with material power centred in the United States.

It is to my mind very important to decide what sort of a world we want to see in the next century. It is no use looking for extended living programmes merely to end up in the same unhappy cycle of subservient slavery conditions we have today.

[section on colonisation of America and extermination of native tribes deleted on the grounds of lack of relevance to immortalism and being unnecessarily offensive to our US readers. - ed]

In Western society it is easy to lose sight of any other form of government or social structure other than that which is based upon individual ownership. The early settlers to America took with them the pre-existing notions of freedom to buy and sell land. They took with the feudal structure of society, they took to the idea that there is some merit in the acquisition of wealth and position. Above all there was the concept of conflict, the idea of a struggle between the forces of good and evil, the constant battle to prove who was the best.

At all levels Western Society believes in the adversarial system for the resolution of dispute, of pleasure and of personal relationships. Clearly marked in the American psyche is the battle between the sexes. It is impossible for any media event emanating from the United Sates not to be marred by reference to an inherent adversarial contest between the sexes, or between youth and old age. All forms of recreation contain the same seeds of conflict. It is manifestly absurd for two people to continually fight for supremacy in a game, and yet this forms the sole topic of conversation while such gladiatorial contests are tediously fought day in and day out.

There is another entrenched value sacred to the American dream. This is the work ethic. Everyone must have a job. Everyone must be in servitude to some-one else. The original settlers could not accept an indigenous race who apparently did not see a need to enslave each other. They were called lazy if they did not want to accept foreign servitude , or dangerous killers if they wanted to resist the theft of their lands.

In the world of tomorrow should we be thinking of the perpetuation of the myth that American corporate life is the solution to world problems? Should we accept the great McDonald culture as being the ultimate destiny of the human race? Somehow I don't think so.

Perhaps before it is too late we should be looking to see what the more simple life styles of nomadic peoples have to say about living. Surly we could move away from the strange and unhealthy obsession with Middle Eastern religions and look towards a newer philosophy, a philosophy that is not so bound in to the pyramid of power.

It is possible there are now no natural lifestyles we could use as an example. The whole world has been subjected to the malign influences of human industrial processes for far too long. Too many races have been eradicated in the name of progress to leave anything but the barest echo of their beliefs and ideas. But we still have some indications of what could be an alternative view.

It is hardly more than a hundred years since the native Indians were swept to virtual extinction. The same may be said for some of the tribes of South America and the Australasian continent. We know they did not think in terms of jobs and bosses. They did not think of holidays with pay, they did not think of mortgages and fine houses. A simple life circulated round some other philosophic creed.

No one is advocating we give up the great advances made in medicine, or in cultural enjoyment or that we take a couple sticks to rub together to keep away the winters' cold. What we could do is stand back and take a good look at what is happening to our society, to look at the propaganda pouring out of the United States, and judge it for what it is saying.

Do you really feel a society that chains people together in a chain gang for the most trivial of offences is one that has a monopoly upon humanity. Do you feel a society that electrocutes people, that gasses people, that injects people with lethal drugs is one you want to run your life? Is this a society you would find ideal if you came back in re-animated form, or were able to live to 150 years old and beyond?

We can change hearts, make artificial limbs and imitate the actions of organs in the body. Perhaps brain implants will extend lives to undreamt of dimensions. What will they enjoy, will they be mere clones of soap opera heroes with no more individuality than a CIA agent? Will they have lives worth living? Or will it back to the tread mill.

We have to choose now for the future because the future belongs to us. There is no one else.

Feedback in Cryonics

by Brian Wowk, President CryoCare Foundation

There is no true feedback in cryonics until revival is attempted a century or more in the future. This problem helps give rise to all sorts of half-baked ideas on how to preserve people, like mummification or chemopreservation. As long as revival is such a distant prospect, who can say what is the best method?

There are some conservative, indirect forms of feedback available today. We can, for example, study the microscopic and ultrastructural appearance of preserved tissue and compare it to controls. Most importantly, we can study the functional viability of preserved tissue. We can ask, how well do frozen and thawed cells and tissue function if we restore them to a physiologic environment?

Current state-of-the-art cryonics procedures use 7 Molar glycerol as a cryoprotectant, introduced into the circulatory system on a gradual ramp of increasing concentration to minimize osmotic shock. According to the above feedback criteria, we are doing pretty well. The appearance of brain tissue frozen with this protocol and then thawed is almost indistinguishable from control tissue on light and electron microscopic levels. Individual brain cells and synaptosomes can be restored to function after freeze/thawing with even poorer cryopreservation protocols than this. Recently it has even been shown that electrical activity can be recovered in brain slices after freezing to -90oC.

If research continues, I believe we may be less than 10 years away from demonstrating complete functional recovery of intact whole brains from low-subzero cryopreservation.

Once this milestone is reached, there will be NO DOUBT that cryonics is a viable route to the future. A strong legal case could even made that cryonics patients are alive and should be accorded the same legal rights as comatose patients in hospitals today.

Yes, there will still be severe damage to tissues other than the brain. It will probably take many more decades of research to perfect cryopreservation of all organs simultaneously (if this is even possible without advanced nanotechnology). But this doesn't matter. If we can preserve your brain perfectly, then we can hold you-- the essential you --in stasis as long as is necessary to develop the advanced tissue regeneration technologies needed to revive you as a healt7hy whole body.

While I believe very few readers of this newsletter will see ageing definitely conquered in their natural lifetime, I believe almost everyone here can live long enough to see brain cryopreservation perfected. So support your friendly neighbourhood cryonics organization-- your ultimate defense against the grim reaper!

Bed Time? Sleep Time?

by Chrissie Loveday

Have you noticed how very strange it is that when you are extremely busy and tired, you don't seem to sleep very well? We have recently been doing some redecorating and building work and every night, I collapsed exhausted into bed, only to wake at four a.m., ready to start all over again. Fortunately, it coincided with hot weather and I was glad to be able to work in the cool part of the day.

It does seem to me that the older I get, the less sleep I seem to need. Other people have told me the same thing and have added that they find it difficult to stay awake during the day. I must say, I am often tempted to take a nap myself but the chance rarely presents itself and I am usually waiting till I can relax in front of the TV, before I settle to sleep properly! I am pleased that I can get up and do things instead of lying awake, wondering if I shall remember all the things I think of in the middle of the night. I once decided my best ideas all happen in the night and thought it would be a good idea to write some of them down for use later, at those frequent times when themuse goes missing. I did try writing down these wonderful ideas for a while but discovered that my brilliant ideas, so clear in the dark, turned into utter gibberish in the morning light. It even looked like some obscure foreign language, one which no-one could possibly speak.

If it was entirely left to me, I think I might often invert my day and get up at odd times and go to bed when I felt like it. Why is it considered to be so bad to stay in bed all morning and work at night? Of course it becomes difficult when other people are involved and in teaching, it would be quite impossible. I suppose my current excuse for reasonably early rising is the dogs; guess who faces the consequences if I don't get up when they shout! I have occasionally returned to bed to catch up on sleep after a particularly disturbed night but rarely mange to sleep more than a few minutes and then wake thoroughly disorientated and woolly headed. I dread to think what I might be like if I had to do night work! It must be a case of what you get used to but it does make me think that if we are truly in charge of our lives, we should be able to sleep and wake when the mood takes us ... using our natural bio-rhythms. We seem to need to justify what we do and make explanations (excuses?) if we are doing something out of our normal routine.

What will the future bring? With the promise of an increase in our leisure time and more and more automation at work, we should be able to catch up on work whenever we feel like it and ignore everyone else and their routines. Apart from my days at college, when I have to conform to other people's timetables, I could have breakfast at noon; lunch at five and supper sometime in the middle of the night. So excuse me if I phone at three in the morning and fail to reply to you when you phone at what may be considered a normal time but this could be the start of Chrissie Time. Our answerphones could be on the brink of becoming more friendly! Trouble is, how do I explain this to the dogs? Perhaps I shall have to postpone the new regime for awhile.

Assisted Suicide Laws

by Steve Bridge, Alcor

There has been some nervousness expressed that tying cryonics with euthanasia could be destructive to cryonics. Frankly, this is not our experience; but some qualifications are required, especially as to language. In the United States we rarely use the phrase "voluntary euthanasia." In fact, "euthanasia" has taken on a strong negative connotation of involuntary death -- the phrase "mercy killing" is commonly used as a synonym. So in the United States the term "assisted suicide" is most common for those circumstances where a terminally ill person chooses -- on his own volition -- to terminate his life.

Alcor has some unusual experience with this because of the Thomas Donaldson case in 1990. Thomas has a brain tumour, currently in remission. But someday this tumour may begin to grow again; and, if it cannot be halted quickly, will essentially destroy Thomas's memory and identity long before it induces "legal death."

When Thomas discovered this in late 1989, he decided --in concert with Alcor-- to seek judicial permission to go into cryonic suspension before legal death, as quickly as possible should the tumour start to grow again. Since one cannot place oneself into suspension, such a procedure would come under the heading of "assisted suicide."

It is legal to attempt suicide in all 50 states of the U.S. In 1990 it was illegal to *assist* someone to commit suicide in all 50 states (as far as we knew then; Kevorkian had not yet raised our awareness of the fuzziness in Michigan law). Thomas could simply have done something to end his own life, of course. The real problem was that a suicide would have become a coroner's case; and (especially that soon after the highly publicized Dora Kent investigation) an autopsy and many legal delays in suspension were extremely likely. So Thomas also sought an injunction against an autopsy. (Please pardon the necessary simplification in order to move on to the basic points of this discussion.)

The California Superior Court and Court of Appeals refused Thomas's request, on the grounds that they could not overturn the assisted suicide act and that such relief would have to come from the legislature. Fortunately for Thomas (and for all of us friends), he is still doing pretty well. But the key point here is the reaction of people at the time.

Alcor did an immense amount of publicity concerning the Donaldson Case, including a number of major print articles, dozens of radio interviews, and an appearance on the Phil Donahue Show. Even though some of the listeners were not convinced that cryonics would *work*, the amount of empathy for Thomas's situation was incredible. For the first time, many individuals were able to see themselves in a situation where they themselves might choose suicide and might even choose cryonics.

And just about everyone seemed to understand the choice. Thomas was faced with death -- possibly what most people would label as an "horrible" death. He wanted to have control of his situation. People did NOT see cryonics as a type of suicide or death wish. From my experience at that time and since, it is very clear to most people that cryonics was not an attempt at suicide. They understand very well that we may be forced to use the laws dealing with suicide to accomplish our aims. Americans are very much aware that one tries to use the law in your favour even if that was not the original intent of the statute in question. We are a country of laws, for good or for ill.

In short, I do not believe that cryonics will gain a bad image if we use the various new laws which permit assisted suicide in terminal cases. These people are dying and have no other choice. Allowing pre-mortem cryonic suspension of terminal patients will enhance the image of cryonics to a degree that we might all have trouble imagining, as long as we handle the decisions in an ethical and professional way. And, of course, if we continue to explain the differences between cryonics and true suicide.

Certainly, if we encourage people to go into suspension because they are depressed or mildly ill or somewhat inconvenienced, then we will have image difficulties. But as long as we restrict premortem suspension to people in definitely terminal conditions, most people will see us as attempting to preserve life.

Contrary to some opinions, I think it is possible that eventually the Catholic Church will view cryonics as a permissible medical technology. Several priests have already told us that they see no religious conflicts. I also speculate that the Catholic Church may even view pre-mortemcryonic suspension as something other than suicide. The intent is completely different. Suicide is wilfully choosing death when other options exist. Cryonics is wilfully choosing life when the only option left is death.

In any case, I am delighted to see Australia's Northern Territory passing a law allowing assisted suicide.

Yes, if it is practical, Alcor would be happy to use that law for our benefit, as well as any other similar laws passed in the United States. I cannot at the moment speculate on the different technical approaches that might be used. Others will have a better idea than I of the possibilities. However, the legal and social aspects are in my territory, and I firmly believe these favour us using whatever laws may be best for our patients. That kind of caring attitude and respect for life -- even if we have to use the appearance of death to save lives -- will gain respect for cryonics. Book review:

Evolution and the Human Condition

by Jim Rice

An outstanding, groundbreaking book on disease, ageing, and human design as viewed through the new field of Darwinian Medicine has been recently published. Called, innocuously, Why We Get Sick (by Nesse and Williams, Random House, ISBN 0-8129-2224-7), it discusses using evolutionary logic to explain facets of the human/biological condition. We are the way we are because of specific selection pressures. Each of our physical/metabolic characteristics serve a specific function. Or did, at one time in your personal past or our species' past.

It contains many items of information of direct use in preserving bodily function. Just two examples:

Inflammation serves as a defense against infection, by raising the body's temperature local to an injury/insult, and making the area less hospitable to bacteria optimized for living in a lower temperature. Reducing that inflammation (by taking aspirin, say), while it may make you feel better, is likely to render your body's defense effort less effective.

Morning sickness by pregnant women peaks at the exact time in a fetus's development cycle (2.5 months after conception) that it is most susceptible to developmental damage by toxins. Most foods contain toxins of some kind. Due to morning sickness-induced food aversion nausea, a woman eats LESS during that critical time, and avoids particularly toxic foods. Thus, giving a woman a drug to reduce morning sickness could lead to higher birth defects by circumventing a natural defense mechanism (and not because of the drug itself).

One key to longevity will be determining why we are the way we are, before we can with open eyes begin modification attempts. If we don't have that information, as the above examples illustrate, intervention attempts can have effects opposite to their intended goals. This is not to say that simply letting the body do it's thing ALL the time is appropriate, either. In the case of cold viruses, sneezing and watery eyes and sinuses are apparently mostly a virus-induced virus propagation scheme and NOT a body defense mechanism. Drugs to reduce this (antihistamines, etc.) have no effect on recovery time, and make the patient feel better.

The point being that we must have the knowledge to intervene intelligently. This book is a large step in the right direction.

The Politics of Breathing

an open letter by John de Rivaz

to Chris Tame, Director, Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Tobacco

Thank you for your mailings on Libertarian issues which you have been sending in exchange for Longevity Report.

I would like to make a comment about FOREST, the smokers rights group. I do appreciate the point that financial contributions from tobacco companies enable you to campaign on freedom issues, but you have certainly failed to convince me that people should have a freedom to do something that can harm others. Personally, I think that lung smoking, whether with tobacco or other addictive drugs presently considered illegal, should be done only by consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes. I wouldn't do it, but I respect others' right to do it if they want, provided they don't limit my freedoms, for example to breathe.

Farting is more natural than smoking, but I do not think that someone who had severe flatulence would be welcome in most public places (or for that matter in many private homes!)

I also appreciate that you express doubts about the evidence that most people accept that lung smoking is not only damaging to the perpetrator's lungs, heart etc but also those of bystanders. But surely you cannot say that this evidence is zero? After all, if I were to drive at 100 mi/hr the chances of having an accident are quite small, but the majority believe that they are high enough for this activity to be anti-social.

You may not have come across a recent paper Wells AJ, (1994) Passive smoking as a cause of heart disease 24 546-554 J Am Coll Cardiol. I have not seen the paper itself, but a review article I have read suggests that 3,000 Americans are dying a year through passive smoking related heart disease. It also says that unpleasant symptoms can develop quickly during a brief exposure to smoke.

If you were to campaign for the right to be maintained for people to smoke their lungs in their own homes, then I would agree. But no one has suggested, as far as I know, that this should be curtailed.

Incidentally, you rightly mention the issue of people owning their own bodies. Surely:

1. If people own their own bodies, then they have the right not to have them damaged by other people's recreations.

2. You may like to look at issues surrounding autopsy - many people object to this on religious or other grounds, but they are not permitted in the UK to make arrangements to uphold this objection.

I know that you have not made arrangements for your cryonic suspension, but I would be astonished if you were to agree that no-one should be allowed to do this if they wanted to. Yet autopsy, probate, death taxes and no doubt other state sponsored money making rackets impinge on this freedom. These rackets mean that we do not own our own bodies. If you can change this, I am sure far more people would be grateful than if you encourage people to have the right to harm others.

Mr Tame said that he did not have the time to answer properly, and he wrote by hand some comments on my letter, as reproduced above. It was difficult to read or reproduce them exactly, but the main point of his argument was that the scientific evidence that passive smoking is "junk science" and the evidence is "minimal". He did not see the parallel between farting and smoking, although someone on the Terra Libra Internet mailing list said that he made a point of farting near smokers at open air events.

Mr Tame said that "Wells AJ, (1994) Passive smoking as a cause of heart disease 24 546-554J Am Coll Cardiol" is more junk science, and that anti-smokers have been campaigning for tobacco to be made totally illegal.

On the subject of people owning their own bodies, he agreed about autopsy, but said that the evidence of harm by smokers to non-smokers was insufficiently proven for it to be a freedom issue.

Another Internet article said that "Claiming that second-hand smoke is harmless is crazier than proclaiming a flat Earth". Mr Tame responded by saying that this is total hysteria and that the numerous sceptics who dispute the passive smoking research can hardly be dismissed in these terms.

I remain unconvinced, but if you would like to learn more of Mr Tame's ideas, then write to him at 2, Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0DH. You can also get details of the Libertarian Alliance from him as well if you want.

Late news: British Medical Journal reports on survey of 10,000 heart attack victims: Lung smokers in their 30s and 40s are five times more likely to have heart attacks than non smokers of the same age. The risk drops quickly if you give up the addiction.

The Tech Singularity-

The Timescale of Nanotechnology

By Dani Elder

I responded to this comment on the Internet: "Stay alive for about another twenty years, and molecular nanotech will keep you around long enough to discuss rats with your great-great-great grandkids," with "Are we really going to get that in 20 years time?" Here is what Dani Elder wrote in response, reproduced with permission:

No, the tech singularity is due in about 40 years. This is based on a spreadsheet projection that takes into account number of scientists & engineers and rising computer power, and the positive feedback of progress.

The "tech singularity" is the time of fastest technological progress, whether that progress is hyperbolic or s-shaped (levels off). After we reach the tech singularity we will either have reached speed of light and Planck's constant type physical limits, or we will have found ways to transcend them. Either way, life extension should be possible by then.

The critical factor in when the tech singularity occurs is when do computers reach, and then exceed human-brain equivalent power. At that point, with projected computer production rates, you will be adding hundreds of millions and then billions of brain power per year to the world, with those brain power as smart as the accumulated software can make them. Instead of taking a generation to train, the computer based brain power becomes productive as fast as you can load the software. With the explosion of brain power, progress should suddenly speed up tremendously.

The human brain contains roughly 1011 neurons, 104 synapses/ neuron, and operates at about 100 Hz , for a total of 1017 bits/sec. A 100 MHz Pentium working on 32 bit data is 3.2x109bits/sec, and you can buy about 100 computers for what you pay one engineer, or 3.2x1011bits/sec. So we have about a factor of a million to go to be able to buy a human brain in computer power for about what we pay a human today.

Computer power doubles every two years, so in 40 years you get that factor of a million, hence the date I projected. If I am off by a factor of 10 in how much you need, that only affects the expected date by 7 years.

The killer question (literally) for me is whether we can get the factor of a million improvement in computers. The next few generations of chips are in the mill already, but will there be a limit too soon, in which case we will be limited to human brain power, in which case biotechnology may not advance fast enough to let us live a long time.

Something else that points to 2035 as a date of significance can be gotten by plotting human population on an inverse scale versus time. It turns out that for the past 400 years or so the trend has been a straight line with a intercept around 2035. What that means is the human population has been on a hyperbolic growth trend that goes vertical at that time. If you count computer brainpower as well as human brainpower, then the curve might be correct right up to the end.

Life Extension - An Orthodox Medical View part 2

by Dr Keith Monnington, M.D.


There is no drug which has been conclusively shown to improve life expectancy for all. If there was it would be in general use. Several medical drugs have significant benefits in clearly defined groups who have existing disease.

Inhibitors of blood clotting.

Aspirin has been shown to reduce the incidence of myocardial infarction and sudden death by around 30% in persons with established coronary artery disease, and reduces thrombotic stroke risk in persons with carotid (neck) artery disease and some forms or heart disease ( eg atrial fibrillation - an irregularity of heart rhythm) but there seems to be little benefit in healthy persons. There is a small increase in the risk of haemorrhagic stroke associated with aspirin.

Warfarin, an anti-coagulant commonly used as rat poison, is more effective than aspirin, but the risk of haemorrhage is greater and constant monitoring by regular blood testing is required. It is used in high risk cases of atrial fibrillation and persons with artificial heart valves.

Dypyridamole (Persantin) has been claimed in the past to be more effective than aspirin. This is now disputed. It's combination with Aspirin is also under scrutiny.

Ticlopidine has similar activity to aspirin but is more toxic (and expensive).

Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

ACE inhibitors have been shown to prolong survival in persons with heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and associated cardiac enlargement. They also delay the onset of kidney failure in diabetics. Originally introduced as blood pressure lowering drugs, these benefits became apparent with increasing usage. Examples are Captopril (Capoten) and Enalapril (Renitec). These drugs are safe with a low incidence of side effects but sometimes cause an annoying or occasionally intractable cough. A recent report states that Sodium Chromoglycate (Intal, Chromolyn), an asthma preventer, stops the cough.

Lipid lowering agents.

Although it has been well established that elevated cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and premature death, the corollary that lowering cholesterol levels with drugs reduces the number of heart attacks and increases overall survival has remained controversial. Recently the results of a large Scandinavian study were recently published in the Lancet. This trial showed a significant reduction in the number of coronary events, invasive procedures and deaths in the group treated with the cholesterol lowering agent Simvastatin (Zocor) compared to the group given the placebo. There was no significant difference in non-coronary deaths. Simvastatin is a safe drug with a low incidence of side effects. If further trials are able to reproduce these findings, then drug treatment of those persons with a high cholesterol level which cannot be lowered by diet alone will become more commonplace. (Lancet1994; 344: 1383-89)

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

The use of HRT is associated with a reduced incidence of heart disease in post-menopausal females. It is also protective against osteoporosis which can lead to hip fracture, an injury which often signals the end of active life for its victim and may eventually lead to death. Bone densitometry at the time of the menopause can distinguish those women at higher risk of osteoporosis. These women will gain the most benefit from HRT. The question of breast cancer risk in women taking HRT is controversial; it seems that there is a small increase in the risk.

Compounds which may improve longevity

Selegiline (Deprenyl, Eldepryl) is a selective mono-amine oxidase B inhibitor which also has an inhibiting effect on the re-uptake of dopamine into nerve terminals and blocks pre-synaptic dopamine receptors, thereby potentiating dopaminergic function in the brain. It has been shown to prolong the lifespan of rats. It is used in humans to treat Parkinson's disease. Claims have been made that vitamin C, vitamin E and KH3 all have a number of benefits in prolonging life or survival in a wide range of circumstances, effects which are not explained by any known pharmacological action. Selegiline will be reviewed in a forthcoming article.


In industrialised countries, trauma is the leading cause of death in the first 4 decades and the third commonest cause overall. The risk of trauma is increased by alcohol and risk taking behaviour but many people receive serious injuries simply because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The U.S.A. with its Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) program and the Early Management of Severe Trauma (EMST) courses in Australasia are training doctors in the essential principals of life support in the "golden hour" after a serious injury. As well as teaching the principles of life support, these courses place great emphasis on the importance of not causing or aggravating injuries in the course of performing life saving manoeuvres. The old ABC (airway, breathing, circulation) mnemonic has been replaced by :-

A- Airway maintenance with cervical spine control.

B- Breathing and ventilation.

C- Circulation and haemorrhage control.

D- Disability; Neurological status.

E- environmental control.

A critically injured person is totally dependent on others for his survival. Recently a rugby player died in a New Zealand ambulance on the way to hospital after sustaining a fractured larynx in a tackle. His life would have been saved by an immediate cricothyroidotomy operation (a procedure beyond the expertise of most ambulance personnel). Unlike the situation with most surgical operations, doctors do not get the chance to perform life saving procedures regularly. However if the situation arises it has to be done correctly first time. Regular updating of skills is essential.

Total co-ordination of rescue services at regional level is essential. The correct personnel, equipment and vehicles must be despatched immediately the alarm is raised. Life saving measures at the scene followed by rapid transport to the nearest major trauma facility with life support en route are required. Upgrading of first aid skills within the community will be necessary.

Mathematical models have been developed to predict survival from blunt injuries (the type usually sustained in motor vehicle accidents). The revised trauma score is based on initial observations and measurements at the scene of the accident and on arrival at hospital. The injury severity score is based on severity of anatomical injury. These are combined to give a patient survival probability. Cases where persons are predicted to survive but die, and vice versa are examined closely. (Penetrating injuries- gunshot and knife wounds are less predictable).

Arthur C. Clarke has envisaged a future in which every person is equipped with a comset linked to a geostationary satellite and equipped with an emergency button. The increasing popularity of handheld mobile phones is the first step in this direction. Recently, again in New Zealand, an aircraft crashed in dense fog in rugged country. Most of the people on board survived after a passenger used his mobile phone, firstly to alert emergency services, and secondly to guide helicopters to the scene.

If the human species achieves significant life extension or immortality, trauma services will play an increasingly important role in society as life becomes more precious.

Religious Memes

by Jim Davidson, President, Houston Space Institute

with comments by Michael Riskin, John K. Clark, and Robert Ettinger

There is a test of education of which I am fond which can be stated quite simply: Is this person educated enough to realize that formal education is not the only way to acquire useful knowledge? It is a great weakness of American society that the formally educated often discriminate against the talented and knowledgeable but without University education. So while I was being facetious, I did consider it an honour when I was complimented by someone on the Internet who is widely recognized in our community as talented and knowledgeable about matters biological.

Mike Darwin said on the Internet, "The question I asked Dawkins after his talk (referring to creationism -ed) was in effect, "well if these lies are so damaging, how come they not only exist, but predominate, are present in all human cultures and in fact no human civilization exists without them?" Here I was speaking of religion, which Dawkins pretty directly and indirectly attacked repeatedly during his presentation (and is what is clearly what's driving the Creationists).

"Did it ever occur to the Master Evolutionist that there might be a very good EVOLUTIONARY reason why everybody wants to believe in this crap?

"By the way the talk was very good and Dawkins is a gifted speaker as well as a brilliant scholar.

"Anyone want to know his answer?

"Anyone want to know mine?

"Anyone got some of their own that Dawkins and I haven't thought of?"

One of the best theories I have heard about why people believe in the tenets of organized religion and large government and other irrationalities was expressed by Randy Dumse. In his "Return Theory" he discusses the emotional, spiritual, and physical satisfaction of returning to the conditions of childhood.

Dumse points out that biology provides many examples of such behaviour. Salmon return from hundreds and even thousands of miles after years of swimming at sea. They return to the stream of their childhood and spawn there, and only there. Migratory birds return to the same nesting grounds every year. Sea turtles return to the same beach from which they were hatched to lay their eggs. What drives this biological urge to return to the exact location of childhood?

Seems quite simple: any creature which survives long enough to reproduce must have had many advantages. If one of those advantages was being born in the right place, then it can only confer that advantage on its offspring by returning to that place. A built-in instinct for returning home may have evolved because, despite the Copernican Principle, there are special places in the universe.

With a built-in biological urge to return to the conditions of childhood, how do humans respond? We often create conditions as similar as possible. Many of us return to our home towns to raise our kids. Some never leave those environs. Others re-create those conditions as best they can, which must do a great deal to explain the continuing success of hand-built houses when factory fabrication offers such economies.

But there are many aspects of childhood, especially early childhood, which are difficult to reach. If we are to return to our nascent state, we must find ourselves in the situation of an infant: a mother to care for us, a father to guide us, a breast to feed us. All of our wants and needs cared for, all of our errors swiftly punished, all of our good deeds rewarded, a path clearly defined for our actions, decisions made on our behalf "for our own good," and every good idea carefully presented to us with repetition.

If the biological urge is very strong, it can overcome all rational thought, all intelligence. The evidence for Dumse's Return Theory is all around.

We find breasts in architecture: Domes are immensely popular and widely considered beautiful. Why was Christopher Wren such a heralded architect? The huge dome of St. Paul's Cathedral in London was his idea. Why is the Capitol in Washington, DC so widely recognized as a symbol of good government? Its prominent dome feature plays a central role. Where else do we find humans creating large, reassuring round objects? Balloons are a favourite with children and adults, not entirely because they float. Light bulbs that produce a reassuring warm light have that telltale shape. Don't take my word for it (nor Randy's), look around. Is feeling a cantaloupe in the grocery store really the best way to determine its freshness? No, thumping it to hear its sound and touching its stem is better, but there is a whole lot of cantaloupe groping going on. How do we account for the immense popularity of Playboy magazine in the 1950s? It revealed what everyone had seen before. Why are sports such as basketball and soccer so popular? Those bouncing breasts, er balls, have much to do with it. I'm sure you can come up with dozens of examples on your own.

What about the very large figures which dominate our infancy? Mother and father are hard to get back. As we grow older we find them fallible, infuriating, and even infantile. But the image is strong: A large human shape that takes care of us, guides us, teaches us, punishes our wrongs, rewards our good wonder we find belief in gods so widespread. St. Paul speaks of the mother church. The Christian church speaks of "Our father who art in heaven..." and "Holy Mary mother of God." And what do these institutions and beings do? They take care of us, teach us, guide us, punish us and forgive us when we are wrong, reward us when we are right. It is into their embrace that Christians seek to go when they die their final death.

Similarly, being taken care of by government is a dominant theme in human history. A king to guide, judge, punish and reward. Later a more shapeless, indefinite entity, shaped as a bureaucracy, to care for the poor and needy, heal the hurting, feed the hungry, house the unsheltered, police the streets, punish the guilty, reward the virtuous, educate the masses. Always look at the mythology: the Fatherland of Germany, "Mother Russia," even "Uncle Sam." The images are of adults of great power and wisdom, caring for their children, the wards of the state.

Of course these ideas are irrational. The idea of a socialistic, all-caring state implemented by self-interested and often corrupt individuals is nonsensical. So is the idea of an anthropomorphic being of astronomical heft. But to say they are irrational is not to dismiss them, not to me.

Humans are capable of great rationality and of great irrationality. Many of our favourite things are, at best, arational. We seek "happiness" and "contentment" which are emotional states. Is there a rational path to happiness? That would be like finding a royal road to mathematics. Even our most intellectually oriented scholars seek "beauty" in nature while there is not an opthamologist on the planet who can actually find it in the eye of the beholder.

Our emotional component is an essential part of our humanity. It seems most closely related to our biology. And while many of the constructs of emotion and biology defy rational analysis, they don't defy evolution, for they provide survival value.

We are creatures that organize in packs. So we enjoy pack behaviours: bonding with beer and television, obedience to pack leaders, sporting events which are nothing more than pack dominance games. We can learn the value of the individual, we can recognize intellectually that the second-place team in the National Basketball Association is an incredibly excellent team, but it is hard for us to see that emotionally. Thus, the Rockets are Red, the Magic are "blue"...

There is great potential in human intellect. It seems that particular potential is far greater than the potential of any other aspect of our species. So we extol its virtue. And thus we have over the centuries been able to increasingly recognize talented individuals for their skills without attributing all their greatness to the aid of gods. Today, we even recognize individual achievement in selected athletic events.

From time to time, our politicians recognize the rational nature of achievement and make statements, such as that by John Quincy Adams in noting that the power of a group is only a product of the powers of the individuals in the group, and that the nation in which the individual is most free will have the most power in proportion to its population. But such rational statements are still intermittent, and have long since ceased to be a theme in America. The urge to return to the conditions of childhood is so strong, that even the most liberty-minded will agree that governments should provide certain things.

Being an adult means taking responsibility for your own actions. That is a very great burden. So we have created institutions which take many burdens from us. You are individually responsible for your actions, but there is a church to reassure you that you are doing right. You are personally responsible for the education of your children, but the state is there to take care of it for you. You must make your own choices about fitness, diet, and medication, but there are government agencies to promote fitness, ensure the quality of packaged foods sold, and limit your access to medicine "for your own good." You must provide for your own financial success, but there is a church for charity and a state for social welfare, so you will feel taken care of even if you can't work out how to put groceries on the table. All these things help create conditions that are familiar to infants.

Perhaps that explains why cryonics is not wildly popular yet. A cryonicist accepts personal responsibility for his life and death. He establishes conditions to prolong his life, refusing to rely on the myth of an after-life. Rather than seeking to "go to heaven" and finding there the eternal happiness of the infant with all wants and needs provided for and all suffering eliminated, we want to go on living. We seek in a rational, intellectual way, to conquer death. Death has always been for all creatures the one thing that reduces us to infants, levels all social classes, terrorizes our every move.

Most people revert to childhood, "return" to the state of infancy, when faced with death. They seek explanation in the arms of the Church, redemption in the eyes of God, eternal happiness for the virtue of their behaviour. For their heirs, they seek the care and understanding of charitable entities and of the state. Perhaps because of the emotions that surround death, little attention has been paid, even by libertarians, of the incredibly vindictive inheritance taxes in the US. Is it rational to seize 65% and more of a person's wealth because they become clinically dead? No. But it meshes nicely with return theory. The individual wealth returns to the state, which takes care of the survivors and may even manage the public cemetery. (ed note:- at the time of editing this, the British Prime Minister, John Major, has announced his long term intention to abolish death and capital gains taxes. If he succeeds, then there will be pressure all around the world for countries to similarly liberate their citizens.)

I am very interested in Dawkins's thoughts and Mike Darwin's thoughts on the subject. For comparison purposes, I am much more interested in such issues than in who screwed up what in which cryonics society. A discussion of why we do what we do and why others do that which they do is far more likely to lead to a revelation about how to make cryonics work financially and publicly than a discussion of the internal and intramural politics of cryonics groups.

However, I'm aware that much of what we do is irrational. So let me plea that in our irrational discussions, we add that chemical of courtesy and the almighty shroud of respect. For if anyone is to respect us for the stand we take against death, let us be clear that we must respect each person who shares that common stand.

Myth and Purpose

The are many nice threads on the Cryonet list. I'm responding in part to Ettinger on fear, Darwin on evolution, Harris on myth, and Helweg-Larsen on perspective.

Fear is a natural, normal emotion, clearly having value for individual survival. Like most individual-survival instincts, it is overridden by larger issues (eg, species survival). I have fear and anxiety, but overcome it. For example, I have a peculiar dread of falling that is almost certainly intense enough to be a phobia. That doesn't prevent me from rappelling off tall buildings in Houston.

A healthy fear of death is exactly what motivates my interest in cryonics. I am much more interested in dietary supplements, exercise, nutrition, and medicinal intervention therapies to keep me alive. Indeed, when my casual interest in life extension became an active one around 1988, my first step was to initiate a high dosage vitamin supplement regimen, followed by an exercise program. I'm just now getting around to signing up for life insurance to fund suspension.

Darwin notes, "Contrary to Dawkins, I do NOT find the idea liberating, gratifying or otherwise reassuring that I exist only for some 4-base pairs to keep on making copies of themselves. He seemed to find this plenty enough reason to get up in the morning!"

Curiously, I find myself with Dawkins on this one. That idea of self-replication is incredibly motivating to me. However, I see the idea of my genes being replicated in a much larger context. For example, I'm very active in the space settlement community, very active in the sea settlement community, somewhat active with the life extension community, and very interested in issues relating to liberty. All these things, it seems to me, relate to not only my personal gene replication potential, but survival for my species.

My space settlement activities are not only motivated by species survival but also, by extension, the survival of terrestrial life in general. It is my view that carrying life with us to other planets is the only way to ensure our own very long term survival, and incidentally provides nicely for the survival of plants and animals we find familiar. Ultimately, the only way to protect terrestrial life from extinction due to the demise of our sun or the near future supernova of a troublesomely nearby white supergiant (Sirius at 8 light years is unlikely to remain on the Main Sequence for more than 100 million years and might blow quite a bit sooner) is to spread our species among the stars.

If providing for my own particular genes' replication were sufficient to motivate me, I would spend much more of my waking hours engaged in procreation. As it is, I see the long term potential for my own particular replication as irrelevant if adequate provision for the larger species survival and terrestrial-type lifeforms' survival is not established.

In the largest scheme of things, I am in favour of life because it is the only force in the universe that deliberately fights entropy. While life clearly makes its own contribution to entropy by adding more chaos elsewhere to collect and organize matter and energy in its own locale, it contributes to extropy as well. Few non-living systems contribute to extropy.

Dr Harris notes that myth serves the purpose of answering questions such as: "* Who am I?

* Where did I come from?

* Where am I going?

* What is the far future going to be like?

* What is expected of me?

* Who are the heros? (What is the Good?; What defines Cool?)

* What's going to happen to me when I die?"

I note that science also serves these purposes. The science of cosmology attempts to answer questions about our origins and what the long term future will be like. The sciences of biology, palaeontology, and anthropology attempt to answer questions about who or at least what we are and where we come from. Obviously, the cryonics community is attempting to provide a rational, scientifically valid answer to what will happen to us when we "die."

Of course, science and mythology aren't the only ways to answer these questions. Literature works wonders, too. Douglas Adams's answer to who I am reads something like, "He's just this guy, you know?" Science fiction literature did a great deal for me in helping identify what was expected of me, where I was going, how to identify a hero (from a long way away), and what the near future is going to be like.

Literature and science are both products of reason. Mythology may have origins in reason, but is mostly based upon tradition. It is often the case that mythology predates literature, and as Julian Jaynes points out in his seminal treatise _The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind_, written language may be the catalyst for what we understand as consciousness. I mention this only to suggest that mythology need not be derived from reason.

Very early literature seems to be nothing more than the codification of existing mythology. That certainly seems true of The Bible and The Iliad and The Odyssey, to name a few. However, literature has built on these mythological beginnings, and has, from time to time borrowed directly from science and deliberately employed reason to create answers for the great questions. It is the ability to create a long-term work which can be referred to and built upon which establishes literature as distinct from mythology. It is literature that makes possible the development of philosophy.

I do not believe the life extension movement could have come into existence without a large body of scientific and literary achievement that predated it. Keep in mind that it was a scant 370 years ago that a few learned folks in Europe began to recognize the value of the scientific method. Although one can almost certainly trace the origins of scientific reasoning to the 13th century, its ability to more clearly explain real world phenomena was not widely recognized until the early 17th century. It took the work of Kepler, Galileo and others to demonstrate that science was better than mythology or traditional wisdom.

Personally, it is refreshing that these early scientists also recognized the potential of space settlement. In a delightful letter to Galileo, Johannes Kepler wrote, circa 1620, "Create ships and sails capable of navigating the celestial atmosphere, and you will find people to crew them, people not afraid of the vast emptiness of space." It is also important to consider that acceptance of scientific methodologies was becoming more widespread, even within traditional institutions such as the Catholic Church. In 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for heresy for suggesting that stars might be suns with planets and those planets might have people on them, people for whom the Incarnate Word was not yet revealed, and people with shapes different from that of humans. Galileo, by contrast, merely got house arrest for his contributions.

Thus I come to Helweg-Larsen's comment on perspective. We occupy a special time in the history of humanity (again, making nonsense of the Copernican principle). We are just ahead in time of what Vernor Vinge has described as a singularity in human activities. (see article The Tech Singularity - The Timescale of Nanotechnology in this issue).

A set of amazing things is happening or about to happen.

We are about to see human beings' lifespans extend radically, almost asymptotically approaching infinity.

We are about to see human beings make a sustainable, permanent break out into space.

We are about to see amazing advances in the level of freedom enjoyed by large populations.

We are about to see the "land" surface area available for human civilization on Earth double.

We are about to see revolutionary advancements in all areas of science brought about by the ability to manipulate matter on the nanometre scale.

These various developments are all related. They are made possible by the widespread acceptance of reason, the scientific method, the principles of capitalism, and the ideal of enlightened self-interest. It is enough to make a scientific humanist very, very happy.

Michael Riskin writes:

There are unpopular/minority beliefs and behaviours among humans to deal with death. Such people as cryonicists and the suicidal fall into this category. The majority of humans however, appear to both attempt to cling to life at great cost, and, keep religious salvation as the fallback solution to dying. Fear is a fundamental motivator. To truly contemplate the reality of death is to know ultimate fear (from a survival of the species POV). Without God and religion to save us, suicide becomes the rational mandate in order to maintain self control over our destiny. Being out of control with our own death along with deaths reality is a cosmic combination punch. In order to avoid the only apparent responsible option of suicide, and to keep up the evolutionary press to exist, it seems pretty reasonable to hold fundamentalist beliefs. Got a better solution? The human mind understands perfectly well that death, unless dealt with, is a permanent end to ones existence...while also understanding perfectly well that one has no current means of avoiding it. What a dilemma.."I'm gonna be dead forever (I know that for sure) and I can do nothing about it (I know that for sure also)". Hard core cryonicist are among the most frightened people I know. And, also among the most tending to depression. The fear stems from seeing the spectre of death clearly. The fear drives the committed effort to make cryonics work. The fear drives despair and depression when one feels overwhelmed by the task, and underwhelmed by support from even their own cryonics community. the evolutionary reason for religious hereafter beliefs. Most religions have a peculiarly similar set of moral imperatives. The ultimate hook is that if you follow the rules you get to go to heaven. That's a pretty good survival of the species and evolutionary aid. Why? Well, to go to heaven, you cannot harm other people, steal their property, screw with their wives....That's particularly good news for the weak ones...and good for the population in general. Yes... there are plenty of weak ones and plenty of general population getting bumped off by bad asses as it is. god aint perfect, but I bet there are plenty of other lives that are being saved. Just ask the right to lifers. Now, how does this fit in an evolution scheme? Well...humans on the one hand have the ability to kill just for the hell of it. Now...the older, powerful, rich.....who got the women and who got the comforts and got access to natural resources may find it useful to regularly bump off contenders. Not so good for a species to evolve. But, if enough of us believe we don't get to go to heaven if we violate gods law, then the species is safer from frivolous or mean spirited killings. Fear motivates. We may be afraid of dying...but we are more afraid of not coming back. Makes sense to me. The latter is a hell of a lot longer than the time frame we lived before we died. Fear motivates, but as I said it can also lead to despair. It also makes people angry...aggressive...stupid... obsessed....and sometimes compassionate. The very thing that avid cryonicists often have in common...fear... is the same thing that on occasion makes them bear arms against one another. Why there are actually cryonicists, by golly, who believe that other cryonicists hinder the way to freezer immortality. Some have even hinted that their own life would be enhanced by the untimely demise of the others.

So, while Mike Darwin in an earlier post referred to the general set of religious beliefs as "crap" and pondered the basis for the craps existence, I don't think it is crap at all, if the definition of crap is "useless, meaningless, or incorrect information". The really bad part of the crap in this case, is that its' promise is so great, its requirements so few, and the consequences of violation so great, that ideas such as cryonics that also, philosophically, serves the identical survival of the species and evolutionary purposes as religion is a hard sell and a hard belief. Cryonics wont work because one is moral and follows rules. It will work for the same reason antibiotics and bypass surgery works. Seems to me there once was a lot more mystics and faith healers. Especially in the west. Well, the benefits of medicine and surgery have been damn hard to ignore, and the failure of prayer alone has been damn hard to ignore. Cryonicists have said that we will be "popular" when we can demonstrate that it works. I think cryonics will be popular when the people come to know that religion doesn't work. Its' the fear thing. Want more sign ups? Want more research donations, investments? Got to strike the fear of god into them, which translates as strike the fear of cryonics immature technology into them. We are in a rotten situation. When talking to a fundamentalist religious advocate, the standard fall back position is always "can you prove god doesn't exist..."or its' equivalents of other negatives one cant prove. They are not put to the proof test. On the other hand, because we are rational and scientific, we don't ask "can you prove cryonics wont work?". Instead, we say "I don't know if it will work" when challenged. is frightening not to know things...especially when the things involve ones own existence. Lacking knowledge, it feels better to make up a reason. Before we knew about the solar system, we had a god of the rising sun...or of the crops..or rain...The most important things in life occur without us knowing how. Cryonicists are an evolutionary aberration for now, the missing link as the future will describe us. Some cryonicists are the most aberrant (or advanced..take your pick). These are the leaders, the inventors, the innovators, the investors, the genuinely hard devoted workers, the ones that day in and day out struggle with the obstacles in all its forms, and love or hate their fellow aberrants who are ironically more similar to them themselves than different. You know who you are and maybe don't like being put in the same pot together. Fair enough but you may end up in the same dewar together someday.

John K Clark writes:

Imagine for a movement that religious people are correct and a Christian God does exist. Here we have an all powerful demon addicted to flattery who can read your every thought and will torture you, not for a billion years, but for ETERNITY if you take one step out of line or break one of his many rules, and that includes thought crimes. To make matters worse you are not even sure exactly what all his rules are so you never know if you are going to be tortured. Now that is depressing! I'll take an indifferent universe over a sadistic one any day.

Robert Ettinger (Cryonics Institute) writes

Michael Riskin says on the Internet in the religious memes discussion: "Hard core cryonicists are among the most frightened people I know."

This doesn't square with my observations, and it also plays into the hands of our detractors, who say (among other things) that our excessive fear of death leads us to embrace a fraud and prevents us from coming to terms with death in a "normal" way.

I can't read the minds of our members, but, as far as I can judge from their words and actions, they are, if anything, less fearful than others.

Maybe it's partly a matter of age. Young people tend to be more fearful (even though also more reckless, a seeming contradiction). I don't think I ever had an unusually high fear level--although I did, when young, have a rather high anxiety level associated with pride or shame in performance.

Now--although admittedly I can't speak for my subconscious--I seem to have very little of either fear or undue anxiety. It's probably partly hormones, but I think I have succeeded in internalizing some intellectual lessons, i.e. turned cerebral convictions into emotional convictions to at least a substantial degree. I'm not afraid of death, first, because death is nothing painful--it's just nothing (to a high degree of probability); and, second, there isn't any POINT to being frightened--you do your best and let the chips fall where they may. Being fearful is basically a HABIT, and habits can be changed.

We know there have been some depressed and suicidal people in cryonics, and there have been some people attracted to cryonics for the wrong reasons. That's par for the course, but not really material. When I look around at the people in cryonics I know and have known, there are very few visible signs of unusual fearfulness.

On the contrary: while no statistical study has been done, I have a clear impression that cryonicists tend to be risk-takers, both physically and in their enterprises. In particular, if you look at the leaders and former leaders, you find (for example):

Curtis Henderson, who trained as a fighter pilot and still rides motorcycles;

Saul Kent and Bill Faloon, who battle the FDA;

Mike Darwin, a sky-diver;

Richard C. Davis (a Cryonics Institute founding member and director), who once captured three armed hoodlums in a shootout when they tried to rob him;

Art Quaife, who once kept a lion in his apartment;

Yours truly, who kept his cool as an infantry officer under fire in Germany;

Walter Runkel, Cryonics Institute Vice President, who died slowly and calmly of pulmonary fibrosis before being suspended, and kept his sense of humour....

I'm sure I've omitted many interesting people, to whom I apologize. But the point is clear: it would take a great deal of evidence to convince me that cryonicists are more fearful than others.

In fact, MOST people are less afraid of death than of many other things, such as arousing the disapproval of the neighbours or accepting unusual responsibility. If that were not the case, our "business" would be booming.

A Possible Cure for Osteoarthritis?

by Doug Skrecky

Editorial Introduction:

We have been fortunate in getting a review of this article from a practising doctor - obviously he will express an opposing point of view, and I would urge everyone to read it with an open mind, especially what he says about pharmaceutical patents and motives. I suspect that a lot of the hostility between longevity enthusiasts and the profession whose territory they invade is through lack of communication, which is possibly attributable to lack of time by the established profession. We have now been given some of that time - let's use it wisely and openmindedly.

Here is Mr Skrecky's article, the review follows it:

There exists no effective "drug" treatment for osteoarthritis1. Medications such as aspirin which provide temporary pain relief, actually make the condition worse in the longterm2. Since neither drug companies nor medical doctors have anything to offer one, one might suppose that there exists no effective treatment for this disease3. One might suppose that the profit motive of drug companies as well as the Hippocratic oath of medical doctors would insure that any proven treatment would indeed be offered to patients suffering from osteoarthritis. However unfortunately this is not the case. Neither drug companies nor doctors as a group truly care about the suffering of patients4. Drug companies will not spend a nickel on developing any treatment no matter how effective it is, if this does not involve a patentable drug. The drug companies really have no choice in this as they are responsible to their shareholders. However the violation of the Hippocratic oath of doctors is another matter5.

There does exist a treatment which has been proven to be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis by 6 double blind trials conducted in Italy, Portugal and the Philippines. This treatment in all cases resulted in progressive reductions in joint pain and improvement in movement, with no side effects. There exists no doubt that this is the ONLY proven effective treatment for osteoarthritis6. Unfortunately since in most countries this treatment is sold as an over-the-counter supplement and is non-patentable it has been completely ignored by drug companies7. No trials have been attempted in any English speaking country. The supplement in question is glucosamine sulfate, which is used orally at a dosage of 1.5 grams/day.

The silence regarding glucosamine by medical doctors is puzzling. It seems one can divide the vast majority of doctors into two camps. A few doctors of course know all about this treatment, but refuse to offer it since it is in their best financial interests to do what drug companies want them to8. However the vast majority of doctors appear to be truly ignorant and are only blindly following the lead blazed by their less ethical brethren. Unfortunately most doctors seem to have been brainwashed into believing almost anything drug companies, the AMA or the FDA say, without checking the facts9.

What is needed is some action to force doctors to adhere to the Hippocratic rather than the Hypocritical Oath. Perhaps a mass action suit by suffers of osteoarthritis is in order.

The Neglect of Glucosamine as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis - A Personal Perspective323-327 Vol.42 1994 Medical Hypotheses

Commentary by Keith Monnington M.B., Ch.B., M.R.N.Z.C.G.P.

1. If he means curative treatment then he is correct as it a degenerative condition affecting the articular cartilage. However it is a painful condition and a doctors role is not only to cure illness but also to relieve suffering and improve quality of life. Advanced osteoarthritis especially of the hip and knee is very successfully treated by joint replacement surgery which can restore normal mobility in severely affected joints.

2. Aspirin is not commonly prescribed for osteoarthritis.

There is some evidence that some non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which are widely prescribed may accelerate degeneration of the articular cartilage if used for long periods. These drugs can also cause gastric erosions and haemorrhage. There is a gradual trend away from these drugs, with other analgesics being used as first line agents. However where there is an inflammatory component they are valuable, effective and if used carefully, safe drugs. In elderly patients with limited life expectancy, relieving pain takes precedence over protecting articular cartilage.

Examples of NSAIDs are Diclofenac (Voltaren), Naproxen, Ibuprofen.

3. Physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, drugs, joint replacement as above. Not curative, but can all improve quality of life for sufferers. A lot to offer!

4. This is a false generalisation. General practitioners and rheumatologists care greatly and provide advice and make treatment decisions for individual patients.

5. Incorrect! If a drug is effective, there are profits to be made from sales regardless of patents. Many non research and development companies exist by manufacturing and distributing drugs without patents or whose patents have expired.

6. ONLY proven treatment? Where is his evidence for this? Glycosamine does not cure arthritis any more than NSAIDs do.

7. If it is so effective and available without a prescription, then why aren't people buying it by the bucketful, with information as to it's benefit being spread by word of mouth?

8. Rubbish! Doctors earn fees from consultations, time spent with patients and operative procedures they perform personally. Unlike some other healing professionals (eg naturopaths, homoeopaths) they receive no profit from the sale of treatments they recommend. Patients take their prescriptions to a pharmacy.

9. This is a completely unfounded generalisation. Mr. Skrecky demonstrates his total ignorance of the nature of general medical practice especially outside the USA.

This is the abstract of the article from which Mr. Skrecky has extrapolated his argument. Note carefully the title.

McCarty MF The neglect of glucosamine as a treatment for osteoarthritis--a personal perspective. In: Med Hypotheses (1994 May) 42(5):323-7

Osteoarthritis results from progressive catabolic loss of cartilage proteoglycans, owing to an imbalance between synthesis and degradation. Standard drug therapy is only of palliative benefit and may exacerbate loss of cartilage. Glucosamine is an intermediate in mucopolysaccharide synthesis, and its availability in cartilage tissue culture can be rate-limiting for proteoglycan production. A number of double-blind studies dating from the early 1980s demonstrate that oral glucosamine decreases pain and improves mobility in osteoarthritis, without side effects. Nevertheless, medical researchers and physicians in the US have totally ignored this rational and safe therapeutic strategy. By mechanisms that are still unclear, the natural methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine also promotes production of cartilage proteoglycans, and is therapeutically beneficial in osteoarthritis in well-tolerated oral doses. These and other safe nutritional measures supporting proteoglycan synthesis, may offer a practical means of preventing or postponing the onset of osteoarthritis in older people or athletes.

Comment on the above synopsis by Keith Monnington.

Reichelt et al1 investigated the efficacy of glucosamine in 155 patients and found it to be at least as effective as NSAIDs and well tolerated. This was the only significant study I could find.

Three other trials involved small numbers of patients over short periods of time. Whilst these showed that glucosamine was effective, I would not consider them as being conclusive2,3,4.

Glycosamine is marketed as Dona and Viatril by Rottapharm (Italy) and Anartril by a Spanish company. An injectable form (Dona 200-S) is manufactured by Opfermann (Germany). It is not available in Australia or New Zealand which is why doctors here do not use it. This answers Mr. Skrecky's final statement in respect of these countries. I do not know if it is available in the UK or USA.

Finally I would refer you to the following article.

Spencer-Green G Drug treatment of arthritis. Update on conventional and less conventional methods. In: Postgrad Med (1993 May 15) 93(7):129-40

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs comprise an important class of medications that reduce the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They bring relief to millions of people but do not eliminate underlying disease. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs also bring relief, but these drugs are often ineffective and not well tolerated. Failure to provide long-term benefits combined with the high toxicity of most of the disease-modifying agents has prompted a search for more effective treatments. New methods using modern technologies have generated much enthusiasm and hold promise for the future. In the meantime, administration of nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory drugs and judicious use of disease-modifying agents remain the cornerstone of therapy for arthritis.

All comments pertaining to current medical practice refer to the situation in Australia and New Zealand.


1. Reichelt A Forster KK Fischer M Rovati LC Setnikar I Efficacy and safety of intramuscular glucosamine sulfate in osteoarthritis of the knee. A randomised, placebo-controlled, double- blind study. In: Arzneimittelforschung (1994 Jan) 44(1):75-80

2. Lopes Vaz A Double-blind clinical evaluation of the relative efficacy of ibuprofen and glucosamine sulphate in the management of osteoarthrosis of the knee in out-patients. In: Curr Med Res Opin (1982) 8(3):145-9

3. Pujalte JM Llavore EP Ylescupidez FR Double-blind clinical evaluation of oral glucosamine sulphate in the basic treatment of osteoarthrosis. In: Curr Med Res Opin (1980) 7(2):110-14

4. D'Ambrosio E Casa B Bompani R Scali G Scali M Glucosamine sulphate: a controlled clinical investigation in arthrosis. In: Pharmatherapeutica (1981) 2(8):504-8

As others see us ....

A collection of reviews from New Hope International Review.

(20 Wenerth Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde SK14 5NL)

Kelvin M. Knight writes:

Longevity Report 46 has 13 articles on a wealth of subjects all intricately interwoven with age. Living for Old Age by Brian W Haines had me spellbound. Thankfully although only in my 2Os I actively participate in all he advocates. Yvan Bozzonetti's Cryonics Recovery continuing an article from The New Scientist had the fires of my interest burning, whereas the Project Mind Foundation Announcement although pointing a finger at me left me cold, uncomfortable and wondering why? The technologically correct but reader unfriendly Does Beta Carotene Increase Lung Cancer Risk left me in a daze but I agree with Douglas Skrecky's proposals. A copy should be sent to a key if not a relevant Minister of Health.

Elizabeth Hilman writes:

#47 This has a long article discussing the differences between scientific and New Age attitudes and the place of matter in the cosmos, and a shorter one on Cryogenic [sic] Suspension (fantasy) vs. cryogenics [sic] as a science, both articles deploring the great stumbling block of the public's fear of the unknown, which slows the expansion of ideas and scientific progress. Other articles consider such subjects as Vitamin D as a preventive for baldness and colds, and an interesting view of Magna Carta its real meaning and its influence on the U.S. government.

Wine Drinking and Lifespan

by Dr Keith Monnington, M.D.

The notion that a low or moderate intake of alcohol may be associated with increased life expectancy (the so-called J-curve) is a popular one. Two recently published studies lend further weight to this theory.

The first studied 6051 men and 7234 women in Copenhagen and examined the effects of the three types of alcoholic beverage on cause specific deaths over a period of 10-12 years. Smoking, income, education and body mass index were all measured. The researchers concluded that a low to moderate intake of wine (3 to 5 glasses daily) reduced the risk of dying from cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease and lowered overall mortality.Beer drinking did not affect mortality whilst an equivalent intake of spirits increased the risk of dying. There were no significant interactions with any other measured factor and the effects of the 3 types of drink were independent of each other. (Whether the wine was red or white was not specified). The second involved 85,709 women in the USA aged 34-59 years without history of heart attack, stroke, angina or cancer who were followed for 12 years. An intake of 5 to 30 grams of alcohol per day was associated with reduced risk of death, and a higher intake with increased risk. The type of alcohol was not specified. Moderate intake reduced cardiovascular mortality whilst a higher intake was associated with increased risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver and breast cancer. The alcohol benefits were greatest in older women (>50years) and those with risk factors for cardiovascular disease.


10 grams of alcohol is equivalent to about 1 glass of wine. Previous studies have shown an increased risk of breast cancer in women who drink. Women reach a higher blood alcohol level than men for a given intake, even after allowing for body weight. The second study strengthens the advice given by heart foundations in several countries that women should limit their alcohol intake to 2 or at the most 3 standard drinks per day. The first study is interesting in that it compared the 3 different types of alcoholic beverage. It could be argued that the numbers were rather small for such a detailed study. There is increasing evidence that wine has a beneficial effect on some cardiovascular risk factors and these studies provide further evidence of the benefits of a glass or 3 of wine with dinner.


Gronbaek M Deis A Sorensen TI Becker U Schnohr P Jensen G Mortality associated with moderate intakes of wine, beer, or spirits. BMJ 1995; 310:1165-9

Fuchs CS Stampfer MJ Colditz GA Alcohol consumption and mortality among women. N Engl J Med 1995;332:1245-50

Cryonics, Cryptography, and

Maximum Likelihood Estimation

by Ralph C. Merkle,

Xerox PARC, 3333 Coyote Hill Road, Palo Alto, CA924304.

This paper was published in the Proceedings of the First Extropy Institute Conference, held at Sunnyvale, California in 1994.


Most people, if they think of cryonics at all, think of Woody Allen in Sleeper, Sigorney Weaver in Aliens, or Mel Gibson in Forever Young. The hero, after spending decades or centuries in the deep freeze, thaws out gradually and somewhat painfully. Rather stiff from the cold, the warmth of the new era slowly penetrates into their chilled limbs until they at last stretch and look about the world with renewed interest and vitality.


The damage done by the cryonic suspension (and the probably poor condition of the patient before the suspension even began) are quite sufficient to insure that nothing even remotely resembling these scenarios will ever take place. First, there are fractures in the frozen tissues caused by thermal strain -- if we warmed our hero up, he'd fall into pieces as though sliced by many incredibly sharp knives. Second, suspension is only used as a last resort: the patient is at least terminal and current social and legal customs require that the patient be legally dead before suspension can even begin. While the terminally ill patient who has refused heroic measures can be declared legally dead when he could in fact be revived (even by today's technology), we're not always so lucky. Often, there has been some period of ischemia (loss of blood flow), and the tissue is nowhere near the pink of health. The powerhouses of the cells, the mitochondria, have likely suffered significant damage. "Flocculent densities" (seen in transmission electron microscopy) likely mean that the internal membranes of the mitochondria are severely damaged, the mitochondria themselves are probably swollen, and cellular energy levels have probably dropped well below the point where the cell could function even if all its biochemical and metabolic pathways were intact. The high levels of cryoprotectants used in the suspension (to prevent ice damage) have likely poisoned at least some and possibly many critical enzyme systems. If the cryoprotectants didn't penetrate uniformly (as seems likely for a few special regions, such as the axonal regions of myelinated nerve cells: the myelin sheath probably slows the penetration of the cryoprotectant) then small regions suffering from more severe ice damage will be present.

All in all, our hero is not going to simply thaw out and walk off. And yet the literature on freezing injury, on ischemia, and on the other damage likely caused by a cryonic suspension forced me to conclude that cryonics would almost surely work: how can this be?

Molecules and people

Fundamentally, people are made of molecules. If those molecules are arranged in the right way, the person is healthy. If they're arranged in the wrong way, the person is unhealthy or worse. While a surgeon's knife does indeed rearrange molecular structure, it does so only in the crudest fashion. The living tissue itself is what really arranges and rearranges the intricate and subtle molecular structures that underlie life and health. When the tissue is too badly damaged, when intracellular levels of ATP are too low to provide the energy the tissue needs to function, when its own internal structure is disrupted, it can no longer heal itself. Today's surgical tools, gross and imprecise at the cellular and molecular level, can no more aid in this process than a wrecking ball could be used to repair a Swiss watch.

Technology advances, though. The Third Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology (Palo Alto, 1993) was attended by almost 200 research scientists, chemists, computational chemists, physicists, STM researchers, and other research scientists from a range of disciplines. By a show of hands, almost all think we will develop a general ability to make almost any desired molecular structure consistent with physical law, including a broad range of molecular tools and molecular machines. Over half think this technology will be developed in the next 20 to 40 years. A medical technology based on such molecular tools will quite literally be able to arrange and rearrange the molecular structure of the frozen tissue almost at will. The molecules in frozen tissue are like the bricks in a vast Leggo set, bricks which in the future we will be able to stack and unstack, arrange and rearrange as we see fit. We will no longer be constrained by the gross and imperfect medical tools that we use today, but will instead have new tools that are molecular both in their size and precision. Repair of damage, even extensive damage, will simply not be a problem. If molecules are in the wrong places we will move them to the right places, hence restoring the tissue to health.

Information theoretic death

This ability, awesome as it will be, will not let us cure all injuries. Before we can move a molecule to the right place, we must know what the right place is. This is not always obvious. Consider, for example, what happens when we cremate a person and stir the ashes. There's more than damage. We can't tell where anything was nor where it should go. We haven't a clue as to what the person looked like, let alone the structure of the tissues in their nervous system. This kind of damage will be beyond even the most advanced medical technology of the future. A person who has been cremated is truly dead, even by the criteria of the 21st or 22nd century.

This true and final death is caused by loss of information, the information about where things should go. If we could describe what things should look like, then we could (with fine enough tools, tools that would literally let us rearrange the molecular structure) put things right. If we can't describe what things should look like, then the patient is beyond help. Because the fundamental problem is the loss of information, this has been called information theoretic death. Information theoretic death, unlike today's "clinical death," is a true and absolute death from which there can be no recovery. If information theoretic death occurs then we can only mourn the loss.

It is essential that the reader understand the gross difference between death by current clinical criteria and information theoretic death. This is not a small difference of degree, nor just a small difference in viewpoint, nor a quibbling definitional issue that scholars can debate; but a major and fundamental difference. The difference between information theoretic death and clinical death is as great as the difference between turning off a computer and dissolving that computer in acid. A computer that has been turned off, or even dropped out the window of a car at 90 miles per hour, is still recognizable. The parts, though broken or even shattered, are still there. While the short term memory in a computer is unlikely to survive such mistreatment, the information held on disk will survive. Even if the disk is bent or damaged, we could still read the information by examining the magnetization of the domains on the disk surface. It's not functional, but full recovery is possible.

If we dissolve the computer in acid, though, then all is lost. So, too, with humans. Almost any small insult will cause "clinical death." A bit of poison, a sharp object accidentally (or not so accidentally) thrust into a major artery, a failure of the central pump, a bit of tissue growing out of control: all can cause "clinical death." But information theoretic death requires something much worse. Even after many minutes or hours of ischemia and even after freezing we can still recognize the cells, trace the paths of the axons, note where the synapses connect nerve cell to nerve cell -- and this with our present rather primitive technology of light and electron microscopy (which is a far cry from what we will have in the future).

It is interesting to note that "The classical methods for tracing neuronal pathways are histological methods that detect degenerative changes in neurons following damage. These staining methods provide a remarkably accurate picture of neuronal projections in the central nervous system" [5, page 262]. Such degenerative changes typically take days or weeks to develop. In many cases, the actual nerve fibre need not be present at all: "Some injuries, such as the crushing of a nerve, may transect peripheral axons but leave intact the sheath that surrounds it. In such injuries the sheath may act as a physiological conduit that guides regenerating axons back to their targets"[5, 264]. Thus there are multiple sources of information about neuronal connectivity, the actual neuron being only one such source.

If we can tell where things should go, then we can in principle (and eventually in practice) restore the patient to full health with their memory and personality intact.

Clinical trials to evaluate cryonics

How can we tell if information theoretic death has taken place? How can we tell if someone has been so injured that they are beyond all help, both today and in the future? The medically accepted method of evaluating any proposed treatment is to conduct clinical trials: try it and see if it works. The appropriate clinical trials to evaluate cryonics are easy to describe:

(1) Select N subjects.

(2) Freeze them.

(3) See if the medical technology a century (or more) from now can indeed revive them.

The clinical trials are ongoing (contact Alcor at 800-367-2228 or the Cryonics Institute at (810) 791-5961 [in the UK, ring Barry Albin on 0171 237 3637] if you wish to join the experimental group -- no action is needed to join the control group), but we don't expect the results to be available for many decades. Which leaves us with a problem: what do we tell the terminally ill patient prior to the completion of clinical trials?

This is not an entirely novel situation for the medical community. Often, new and promising treatments are undergoing clinical trials at the same time that dying patients ask for them. There is no easy answer, but in general the potential benefits of the treatment are weighed against the potential harm, using whatever evidence is currently available as a guide.

In the case of cryonics, the potential harm is limited: the patient is already legally dead. The potential benefit is great: full restoration of health. The medically conservative course of action is to adopt the strategy that poses the least risk to the patient: freeze him. If there is any chance of success, then cryonic suspension is preferable to certain death. This is also in keeping with the Hippocratic oath's injunction to "do no harm."

If cryonics were free there would be no dilemma and no need to examine its potential more carefully: we would simply do it. It is not free, and so we must ask: how much is it worth? What price should we pay? Part of this question can only be answered by the individual: what value do we place on a long and healthy life starting some decades in the future? How many dollars would we pay to see the future?

We will leave these rather difficult questions to each individual, and confine ourselves to a simpler question that is more accessible to analysis: what is the likelihood that current suspension methods prevent information theoretic death?

For information theoretic death to occur we would have to damage the neuronal structures badly enough to cause loss of memory or personality. The structures that encode short term memory seem particularly sensitive: they are likely not preserved by cryonic suspension. The electrochemical activity of the brain is stopped when the temperature is lowered significantly (as in many types of surgery that are done after cooling the patient) so it is certainly stopped by freezing, with probable loss of short term memory. But human long term memory and the structural elements that encode our personality are likely to be more persistent, as they involve significant structural and morphological changes in the neurons and particularly in the synapses between neurons. Thus, we would like to know if the structures underlying human long term memory and personality are likely to be obliterated by freezing injury.

The evidence available today suggests that the freezing injury and other injuries that are likely to occur in a cryonic suspension conducted under relatively favourable circumstances are unlikely to cause information theoretic death.

Not all cryonic suspensions are conducted under "favourable circumstances;" some circumstances have been decidedly unfavourable. When should we give up? How much damage is required to obliterate memory and personality in the information theoretic sense? What level of damage is sufficient to produce information theoretic death?


Which brings us to cryptanalysis: the art and science of recovering secret messages after they have been deliberately distorted and twisted, ground up and then ground up again by a series of cryptographic transformations carefully designed to obscure and conceal the original message. In cryptography, the person who wants to send a secret message transforms it. The Caesar cipher, for example, changed each letter in the message by "adding" a constant. "A" becomes "C", "B" becomes "D," etc. Modern cryptographic systems are more complex, but the principle remains the same.

Of course, enciphered messages are meant to be deciphered. We know that each step in the scrambling process, each individual transformation that turns "Attack at dawn!" into "8dh49slkghwef" is reversible (if only we knew the key....). Surely this makes freezing and ischemia different from cryptography! However, the basic "transformations" applied in a cryonic suspension are the laws of physics: a physical object (your body) is frozen. The laws of physics are reversible, and so in principle recovery of complete information about the original state should be feasible.

Reversibility strictly applies only in a closed system. When we freeze someone, there is random thermal agitation and thermal noise that comes from the rest of the world: this source of random information is not available to the "cryptanalyst" trying to "decipher" your frozen body (the "encrypted message"). In cryptanalysis, though, we don't know the key (which, as far as the cryptanalyst is concerned, is random information mixed in with the plaintext). The key can be very large: "book codes" use an agreed on piece of text (such as a book) as the key to the code. In addition, some cryptographic systems add random information to the plaintext before encryption to make the cryptanalysts job more difficult.

So the question of whether or not we can revive a person who has been frozen can be transformed into a new question: can we cryptanalyze the "encrypted message" that is the frozen person and deduce the "plain text" which is the healthy person that we wish to restore? Are the "cryptographic transformations" applied during freezing sufficient to thwart our cryptanalytic skill for all time?

It is commonplace in cryptography for amateurs to announce they have invented the unbreakable code. The simple substitution cipher was once described as utterly unbreakable[1]. Substitution ciphers can be broken quite trivially, as we are now aware.

This weakness is not confined to amateurs. The German Enigma, to which the Nazis war machine trusted its most sensitive secrets, was broken by the Allies despite Nazis scientist's opinion that it was unbreakable[1].

It is also well known that erasing information can be much more difficult than it seems. The problem is sufficiently acute that DoD regulations for the disposal of top secret information require destruction of the media. (This poses an interesting question: if a person with a top secret clearance is cryonically suspended, is this a violation of security regulations? Would their cremation be required to insure destruction of the information contained in their brain?) Against this backdrop it would seem prudent to exercise caution in claiming that freezing, ischemic injury or cryoprotectant injury result in information theoretic death (and hence that cryonics won't work). Such prudence is sometimes sadly lacking.

Rotor machines and Maximum Likelihood Estimation

We now consider a particular method of cryptanalysis, the application of Maximum Likelihood Estimation (MLE), and discuss how it might be applied to frozen tissue.

The purpose of MLE is to determine the most probable configuration of a system, given many individual (and possibly correlated) observations about the state of that system.

MLE has been applied to World War II rotor machines[2]. While the connection between cryptanalysis of rotor machines and inferring the neuronal structure of frozen tissue might at first be obscure, the parallels are often compelling.

Rotor machines are designed to "scramble" the characters in a message by transforming each individual character into some other character. Rotor machines use a more complex transformation than the Caesar cipher. In particular, they use a series of rotors. Each rotor, which resembles a hocky-puck in shape, is a short cylinder with 26 contacts on each face (for a total of 52 contacts on the rotor). Each contact on one face is connected by a wire to a single contact on the other face. If we assign the letters A through Z to the contacts on one face, and do the same to the contacts on the other face, then connecting the "P" on one face to a battery might make a voltage appear on (for example) the "H" on the other face. A single rotor thus is a hard-wired permutation of the 26 letters.

In the examples, we will pretend that the alphabet has not 26, but only 5 characters: A, B, C, D and E. This will make the examples that follow much more manageable. The reader should be aware that real rotor machines have the full 26 characters and contacts, and that we use 5-letter rotors only to illustrate the concepts.

If we put several rotors next to each other (like a stack of coins), the contacts on one rotor will make electrical contact with the contacts on the adjacent rotor. If we apply a voltage to the letter "E" on the first rotor in the stack, we will be able to read off the voltage from some contact on the last rotor. The electrical signal, instead of going through a single wire in a single rotor, will have travelled through several wires in several rotors. Connecting the 5 contacts on the last rotor to 5 lightbulbs, we can see at a glance which output has been activated by our input signal.

If we just stack several rotors together and pass an electrical signal through the stack, the result is actually no more complex than a single rotor, e.g., one rotor with the proper wiring would produce the same permutation as a series of rotors. The value of using several rotors becomes apparent if we rotate individual rotors by different amounts, thus changing the electrical connections in a complex and difficult to analyze fashion. Various mechanical contrivances have been used to move the different rotors by different amounts, but the important point here is that the result is a complex and changing network designed to defy cryptanalysis.

The application of MLE to cryptanalysis of a multi-rotor system is rather interesting. We assume, for the moment, that the series of motions that each rotor goes through is known (which is usually true for such machines) but that the pattern of wiring in the individual rotors is unknown. Thus, we don't know which contacts on opposite faces of the rotor are connected, although we know the general structure of the machine.

Rotor machines usually came with a set of pre-wired rotors. By selecting which rotors were used and by setting the initial rotational position of each rotor in the machine, the user could select a unique and hopefully difficult-to- cryptanalyze cipher. In what follows, we will simply assume that the permutation described by the wiring of each rotor is initially completely unknown, and will not attempt to take advantage of the fact that each permutation was in fact drawn from a relatively small set of possibilities.

The information typically available to the cryptanalyst is the ciphertext. Fundamentally, to determine the plaintext from the ciphertext the plaintext must contain redundancy. In English, for example, "e" is more common than "b." If the cryptanalyst proposes a set of wirings for the rotors and says "Aha! this is the solution!" then we would expect, upon deciphering the ciphertext, that there would be more "e"s than "b"s. If, when we deciphered the message, we found that "e" and "b" were equally common (particularly for a long message) then we would likely conclude that the cryptanalysis was incorrect. More generally, if the frequency distribution of the 26 letters obtained by "deciphering" the ciphertext with a proposed solution is "smooth," i.e., if the distribution could reasonably have been produced by chance assuming that all 26 characters were equally likely, then the proposed solution is almost certainly wrong. If, on the other hand, the "plaintext" produced by a proposed solution is "rough," i.e., the distribution of letters has the unlikely peaks and troughs of English text, then the proposed solution is very likely right.

It would seem, however, that to use this "smooth" versus "rough" method, we would have to try all the different possible rotors until we found the right ones. The wiring in a single rotor encodes one of 26! different permutations, and three such rotors encodes 26!*26!*26! different possibilities. Simple exhaustive search would be rather expensive.

The problem that we face (common in cryptanalysis) is that the possible keys are discrete, and different keys produce very different results. Thus, a "small" change to a single rotor might produce a big (and hard to predict) change in the deciphered message.

This can be overcome by mapping the discrete cryptanalytic problem into a continuous cryptanalytic problem.

In the discrete case, either "a" is connected to "c" or it is not. There is no halfway about it, no partial connection. In the continuous problem, we will represent our state of knowledge of the rotors by allowing "partial" or "probabilistic" connections. We might have a 40% chance that "a" is connected to "c," and a 60% chance that "a" is connected to "e." Or there might be a 20% chance that "a" is connected to "c," a 33% chance that "a" is connected to "e," a 12% chance that "a" is connected to "b," and a 35% chance that "a" is connected to "d." More generally, we can assign probabilities that any letter is converted to any other letter. For our 5-character alphabet, we can assign a probability to the connection between "a" and "a," "a" and "b," "a" and "c," "a" and "d," and finally "a" and "e." This would give us a vector of probabilities, such as: (10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 0%). Instead of percentages, we will adopt fractions, so that the preceding vector will be denoted by (0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.0).

If we wish to describe the connections between all five input characters and all five output characters, we will need five vectors. Thus, we can describe a single rotor using a 5x5 matrix. The particular rotor described is actually a specific real rotor, for each row and each column of the matrix has a single 1 with all other entries being 0. The "1" in row A column C means that the input A is connected by a wire to the output C. This matrix notation lets us describe all possible real rotors.

rows=plain text, columns = ciphertext


A 0 0 1 0 0

B 1 0 0 0 0

C 0 0 0 0 1

D 0 0 0 1 0

E 0 1 0 0 0

A 5x5 matrix describing the rotor discussed above.


A 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2

B 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2

C 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2

D 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2

E 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2

A 5x5 matrix describing a rotor about which we have no information.

The great advantage of this notation is that it also lets us describe our uncertainty about a rotor. For example, if we don't know which wire is connected to what (the state of affairs when we begin cryptanalysis) then we could use the matrix of figure 3. In this matrix, all the entries are 0.2. That is, any input is equally likely (a priori) to be connected to any output. We don't know what's connected to what, and this uncertainty is captured by the matrix. The reader should note that this matrix does not correspond to any "real" rotor. In some sense, it describes the probability that a specific physical rotor is the "right" rotor (physical rotors are rotors whose matrix has a single "1" in every row and column, with all other entries being "0").

How does this help solve our original problem? Yes, we can now use the three "we don't know what's connected to what" rotors of figure 4 as the rotors in our machine, but what does this gain us? How do we "decipher" the ciphertext, and how do we decide if the resulting "plaintext" is smooth or rough?

When we decipher a given letter with a physical rotor, the result is another letter. When we decipher C we get A. When we decipher a letter with a matrix, we get a probability distribution over all letters. When we decipher C we might get a 20% chance of an A, a 10% chance of a B, a 30% chance of a C, a 15% chance of a D, and a 25% chance of an E. In vector notation, we get (0.2, 0.1, 0.3, 0.15, 0.25). When we decipher many letters with a physical rotor, we get a probability distribution over our alphabet. When we decipher many letters with a non-physical matrix, we also get a probability distribution over our alphabet. We know how to measure "roughness" and "smoothness" in a probability distribution: if all the letters are equally probable, the distribution is smooth. If the letters are not equally probable, the distribution is "rough."

Our method of cryptanalysis is now clear. We start by assuming non-physical rotors (as in figure 3) which represent our initial state of knowledge: all permutations are equally likely. We can "decipher" the ciphertext with these rotors, and compute the distribution. Initially, of course, the resulting "plaintext" distribution is smooth. We can now make a small perturbation in our matrix. We might, for example, make the connection between A and C slightly more likely, while making other connections slightly less likely. We can again decipher our ciphertext with this new (slightly modified) rotor. If the distribution of the resulting plaintext is still smooth, we're no closer to the answer. If the distribution is somewhat rougher, then we're moving in the right direction.

In short, we can now make small changes and ask "Are we moving in the right direction?" If the distribution of plaintext is rougher than it was, the answer is "yes!" If the distribution of plaintext is smoother than it was, the answer is "no!" Instead of playing a game of hide-and-seek where you only know if you've found the answer when you actually stumble on it, we're now playing a game where we can take a few steps and ask "Am I getting warmer or colder?" As the reader might appreciate, this makes the cryptanalysis much easier.

There is actually greater sophistication in picking "good" directions than is described here, but the additional mathematics involved is all based on the same concept: we can tell when we're getting warmer or colder, and move in the appropriate direction.

This type of method has been used to successfully cryptanalyze rotor machines with three independent rotors over an alphabet of 26 characters on a rather small computer in the late 1970's[2]. A larger computer should be able to handle more than three rotors, although as the number of rotors increases the cryptanalysis rapidly becomes more difficult. Generally, methods like this either succeed or fail completely. If there is sufficient information for the algorithm to start moving in the right direction, it will usually succeed. If things are so confused that it can't even make an incremental improvement, then it will fail utterly amid data that is totally confusing.

This appears to be a special case of a more general phenomenon. Hogg et. al. said "Many studies of constraint satisfaction problems have demonstrated, both empirically and theoretically, that easily computed structural parameters of these problems can predict, on average, how hard the problems are to solve by a variety of search methods. A major result of this work is that hard instances of NP-complete problems are concentrated near an abrupt transition between under- and overconstrained problems. This transition is analogous to phase transitions seen in some physical systems."

Maximum Likelihood Estimation and cryonics

How might this be applied to cryonics? In general, frozen tissue can be analyzed to determine its structure. The most information that can usefully be obtained about the frozen structure is the location of each atom. (Purists might argue that we also need information about electronic structure, but the electronic structure can almost always be inferred from the locations of the nuclei. For those few cases where this might not be the case, some additional information might be used, e.g., the state of ionization of an atom). Future technologies will almost certainly be able to give us information about the frozen tissue that approaches this limit: we will know the coordinates of essentially every atom when we begin our "cryptanalysis." Even today, SPM (Scanning Probe Microscopy) methods already image individual atoms, thus demonstrating the feasibility in principle of this kind of analysis. Economically producing a sufficient number of sufficiently small instruments able to scan a sufficiently large volume should be feasible, based on published proposals for molecular manufacturing systems[3]. The kind of information this gives us is shown in figure 4. Figure 4: Frozen tissue at low temperatures can be fully described by listing the coordinates and types of the atoms.

REMARK An example of the Brookhaven (or Protein Data Bank)

REMARK file format. This file format includes the type of

REMARK atom, the X, Y, and Z coordinates, and other

REMARK information (not shown).



HETATM 1 C 4.345 1.273 -12.331

HETATM 2 C 4.588 2.559 -13.195

HETATM 3 C 5.207 1.273 -11.095

HETATM 4 C 4.587 -0.015 -13.194

HETATM 5 C 2.967 1.273 -11.724

HETATM 6 N 3.431 2.503 -14.246

HETATM 7 C 4.375 3.884 -12.439

HETATM 8 N 6.121 2.503 -13.491

HETATM 9 O 4.947 -0.028 -10.418

HETATM 10 O 4.947 2.575 -10.419

HETATM 11 C 6.673 1.273 -11.440

HETATM 12 C 4.375 -1.339 -12.437

HETATM 13 N 3.431 0.041 -14.245

HETATM 14 N 6.121 0.041 -13.490

HETATM 15 O 2.836 -0.028 -11.011

HETATM 16 C 1.894 1.272 -12.781

HETATM 17 O 2.836 2.574 -11.012

HETATM 18 C 3.585 1.271 -15.031

HETATM 22 C 2.982 3.838 -11.807

HETATM 23 C 7.069 2.560 -12.244

The computational load implied by this approach is enormous. Again, extrapolation of future computational capabilities strongly supports the idea that we will have more than enough computational power to carry out the required analysis, even when it quite literally entails considering every atom in our brain[4, 6].

Analysis of the frozen tissue will, on a local basis, allow the recovery of what might be called local neuronal structure or LNS. If the suspension took place under favourable circumstances, the LNS will be substantially correct with little ambiguity, that is, we will be able to assign a single interpretation based on local information (e.g., this synapse connects this neuron to that neuron; this axon carries information from one well identified location to another well identified location, etc.). Under adverse circumstances, the LNS will become increasingly ambiguous. An axon might have one of two possible targets, which cannot be fully disambiguated based only on local information. Which axon a synapse is connected to might not be distinguishable based on the remaining local structure. This will result in a situation where the LNS will not be a single, specific neuronal structure, but will instead be a set of possible structures with initial probabilities assigned based on local information.

Our experience with MLE suggests that ambiguous local neuronal structure can be disambiguated by global information (just as ambiguous information about a single rotor can be disambiguated using the ciphertext and the redundancy of the plaintext). As in cryptanalysis, the fundamental observation is that neuronal structures are redundant. We can use this redundancy to correct errors or omissions in the LNS. We consider as an example the neuronal structures that process visual information (not least because this system has been extensively studied, and hence we have some reasonable idea of what's involved). The retina is exposed to photons which describe the visual scene. This information is processed initially in the retina, then transmitted along the optic nerve to the lateral geniculate nucleus and from there to the primary visual cortex in the occipital region. The output coming from the primary visual cortex is highly characteristic: the image has been processed and basic image elements have been isolated and identified. From our point of view, the interesting thing is that certain types of input to the retina (a spot of light, a line, a moving line, etc) produce characteristic outputs from the primary visual cortex. We have, in short, "plaintext" (the input to the retina) and "ciphertext" (the output of the primary visual cortex), a great deal of knowledge about which "plaintext" can correspond with which "ciphertext." and some knowledge about the structure of the "key" (the possible structures of the neural circuits in the retina, lateral geniculate nucleus, and the primary visual cortex).

Given that we have knowledge derived from the frozen tissue about the LNS in the retina, the lateral geniculate nucleus, and the primary visual cortex, we can then enter "plaintext" (images on the retina) and observe the resulting "ciphertext" (neuronal outputs from the primary visual cortex) If the "ciphertext" is inappropriate for the "plaintext," we can incrementally modify the descriptions of the LNS and see if the resulting plaintext-ciphertext pairs become more or less reasonable. If the result is more reasonable, we are moving in the right direction and should continue. If the result is less reasonable we are moving in the wrong direction and should stop and try some other direction.

More generally, the brain has many cortical areas connected by projections. The processing in each cortical area and the information that can pass along these projections is characteristic of the function being performed. When inappropriate responses are observed, we can incrementally change the relevant LNS in an appropriate direction (e.g., we can change the initial probability vector which describes the state of the LNS by taking a small step in the multi- dimensional hyperspace).

The high degree of redundancy in the brain is evident from many lines of evidence. One of the more dramatic is the ability of the embryonic and infant human brain to correctly wire itself up. Initially, the "wiring diagram" of the brain is quite rough. As the brain receives input, the growing neurons utilize the characteristic patterns of neuronal activity to quite literally make the right connections. Individual neurons can determine, based only on local information, that they aren't wired up correctly. They will either change morphology (often dramatically) or (in the case of roughly half the neurons in the growing brain) will actually die.

The same redundancy that allows the growing human brain to wire itself up can be used to verify that we have correctly inferred the neuronal structure of the frozen brain. If the characteristic neuronal behavioral patterns (simulated, of course, on a computer) are inappropriate, then we have somehow erred in our analysis and need to incrementally modify the LNS until it is appropriate.

This approach will let us start from a state of partial knowledge of the original neuronal structure (perhaps caused by as much as 24 hours of warm ischemia followed by a straight freeze in the absence of cryoprotectants) and successively improve that partial knowledge until we have fully reconstructed a neuronal structure consistent with the original data.

If there has been so much damage that we are unable to infer sufficient local structure to allow even an incremental improvement in our description of the system, then this approach will fail. Published work on the cryptanalysis of multi-stage rotor systems has already demonstrated an ability to infer the wiring of the rotors even when there is no knowledge at all of the wiring in the intervening stages. In the case of the frozen human brain, there is typically a wealth of information about the neuronal wiring (or LNS) unless the structures involved have quite literally been obliterated.

Or, as experience with erasing top secret media has demonstrated, it's hard to get rid of information when sophisticated means of data recovery are employed. And we'll have very sophisticated means of data recovery available to us in the future.


1) The Code Breakers, by David Kahn, Macmillan 1967

2) Maximum Likelihood Estimation Applied to Cryptanalysis, by Dov Andelman, 1979, Ph.D. Thesis, Stanford Dept. of Electrical Engineering.

3) Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, by K. Eric Drexler, Wiley 1992.

4) The Technical Feasibility of Cryonics, by Ralph C. Merkle, Medical Hypotheses 39, 1992, pages 6-16.

5) Principles of Neural Science, third edition, by Eric R. Kandel, James H. Schwartz, and Thomas M. Jesse, Elsevier 1991.

6) The Molecular Repair of the Brain, parts I & II, by Ralph C. Merkle , Cryonics, 1994; Vol. 15 No. 1, pages 16-31 and Vol. 15 No. 2, pages 18-30.

7) Phase transitions in constraint satisfaction search, Tadd Hogg et. al.,

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