Volume 9 no 52. First published September 1995. ISSN 0964-5659.
e-mail: Internet firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
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: email@example.com)
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.
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 Standard in Cohort Deviation of at Death Error for Age at Death Mean Age at Death
--------------------------------------------------------------------- 1700-09 7 4.60 91.14 1.74 1710-19 12 3.26 89.42 0.94 1720-29 14 4.49 88.50 1.20 1730-39 31 4.83 91.19 0.87 1740-49 25 8.79 91.28 1.76 1750-59 31 5.21 89.03 0.94 1760-69 39 4.09 88.64 0.65 1770-79 44 3.42 88.66 0.52 1780-89 41 6.24 89.73 0.97 1790-99 65 4.39 89.68 0.54 1800-09 41 3.71 89.00 0.58 1810-19 65 5.52 88.32 0.68 1820-29 54 8.92 88.76 1.21 1830-39 32 5.00 89.94 0.88 1840-49 37 3.41 88.19 0.56 1850-59 63 5.72 89.06 0.72 1860-69 89 4.52 90.04 0.48 1870-79 170 4.21 89.29 0.32 1880-89 275 3.55 88.84 0.21 1890-99 333 3.45 88.86 0.19
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 Standard in Cohort Deviation of at Death Error for Age at Death Mean Age at Death ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 1700-09 7 7.41 90.71 2.80 1710-19 5 8.26 93.80 3.69 1720-29 2 0.71 85.50 0.50 1730-39 7 4.31 88.71 1.63 1740-49 19 4.08 89.21 0.94 1750-59 12 6.93 90.00 2.00 1760-69 11 4.60 89.18 1.39 1770-79 19 6.02 90.05 1.38 1780-89 20 4.11 89.40 0.92 1790-99 33 3.27 88.73 0.57 1800-09 35 9.83 90.80 1.66 1810-19 35 4.28 89.31 0.72 1820-29 30 2.91 88.03 0.53 1830-39 23 3.70 88.83 0.77 1840-49 27 2.44 88.63 0.47 1850-59 43 4.21 89.14 0.64 1860-69 46 3.76 89.26 0.55 1870-79 105 3.57 89.71 0.35 1880-89 136 3.42 89.71 0.29 1890-99 125 3.52 89.01 0.31
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 "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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
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 deeds...no 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
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
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
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
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
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
We are about to see the "land" surface area available for human civilization on Earth
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.
So...to 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. Ok...so 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.
Well...it 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
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.
by Doug Skrecky
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
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
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
All comments pertaining to current medical practice refer to the situation in Australia and
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. 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.
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
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. 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
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 B C D E
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 B C D E
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
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. 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. 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).
REMARK Atom X Y Z
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
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.,ftp://ftp.parc.xerox.com/pub/dynamics/constraints.html
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