Volume 11 no 68. First published November 1998.
The Newsletter of Longevity Books, West Towan House, Porthtowan, Truro, Cornwall TR4 8AX
The Guru of Genes Suresh Rattan, Knud Wilhelmsen
Comment on Near Death Experiences
Selling Cryonics Jeff Davis
Cryonics As Religion George Smith
Cryonics TV Commercials Jeff Davis
Logic and Selfishness R.C.W. Ettinger
You Haven't Changed a Bit! Chrissie Loveday
The Guru of Genes
Interview/profile of Suresh Rattan,
who does research on ageing at the University of Aarhus, by Knud Wilhelmsen I am pasting below a copy of an interview which appeared recently on www.mediaage.net and me be of interest to the readers of Longevity Report
"When nature has created something so complicated like a human being, one wonders why at the same time it did not give us some genes which could work longer than they do."
The Indian born biogerontologist Dr. Suresh Rattan, Ph.D., D.Sc. has spent 24 of his 43 years researching on genes and the cells which assure us life.
During the first three-four decades of life, the cells function without much complain. When children fall down and make a hole in their knee, the body tends to repair the damage because the cells can repair and maintain themselves. But when we come up in age, these mechanisms become weaker and weaker, and we are hit by various diseases.
"The question is why can't we keep on living the beautiful life we have before", says Suresh Rattan.
Together with a number of Danish and foreign colleagues, Dr. Rattan does research on the issues of ageing. He got interested in the subject during his studies in India, and developed it further in London where he got his Ph.D. in molecular biology. Now, he is a part of a team at the Danish Centre for Molecular Gerontology, at the University of Aarhus. These researchers have taken several steps forward in their understanding of how our cells can be strengthened. The breakthrough in treatment, however, is still awaited.
In the meantime, he is not in any doubt that he and his colleagues will, within a few years, take the first effective step and thereby give the elderly people a better life with fewer cancers, cataract, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and dementia.
"I can't promise you an eternal life," he stresses, "but I can promise you a better life when you become old."
The Molecular Gerontology centre is placed in the Science Park in Aarhus, where one afternoon we met this charismatic and engaging scientist who after 14 years in Aarhus prefers to speak English even though he has a good command of Danish language too. He says that he can better express his thoughts in English which he also uses when he teaches at the university. We can poorly fit into his small office, and he gently requests two lady students to leave although they are busy on his microscope solving the mysteries of weaker cells and genes.
Students call this internationally recognised researcher "the guru", a title which he naturally takes as a big compliment. "Perhaps they do so because I like to philosophise over the subject," he explains.
"Cells," he returns to the subject of discussion, "have a capacity to maintain themselves, and that is why we can live. We could not survive for a single day if we were not able to fight off infections. Such a system works fine for 20, 30 or may be 40 years during which time we grow up, mature and develop into what we are. We achieve an age what I call the meaning of life. And what is the meaning of life seen from a scientific point of view? The meaning of life is to grow up and to pass on our genes to the next generation - to reproduce. Genes can, in principle, work for ever. There is no biological law which says that they cannot do so. The reality, however, is that that does not happen. And here we have a paradox."
Light and darkness
Now Dr. Rattan becomes philosophic.
"When genes become 40-50 year old, they appear to be realising that they have done their job, and they say bye bye. During the last 30-40 years, scientists have been concentrating on a view of genes which hinder us from continuing to live. I do not believe in this notion. I do not think that any particular genes kill us. There is no angel of death. If my heart can beat just one more time, I am not yet dead!!
It is like light and darkness. One cannot make a machine which can spread darkness. I can press on a button and switch off light, but I cannot create darkness; that is impossible. In the same way, there is nothing in us which says that now we should die. The body tries its best to live. Until our last breath we try to live. The problem is that an organism or a human being is such a complicated and complex system that too many things can go wrong with it, and the life can be stopped."
The short and stout Indian, who has got Danish citizenship, takes a piece of paper and a pen in order to explain it better what goes wrong. In a human being there are about 100,000 genes, and only about 50 may be critical in this process of ageing and death.
"These 50 gene processes work in criss-cross interactions and influence each other in so many combinations that we have to put 15 zeroes after 1. Things can go wrong in chemistry. That is the only law of nature that no chemical process is 100 percent accurate all the time. If it was so accurate, there will be no life because there would have been no evolution. There may be 50-60 buttons to press and each one has its role. We do not know what exactly each one of these does, but together they maintain life. However, sooner or later, something goes wrong and we cannot live for ever. Furthermore, the body is not even designed to live for ever. I am not talking about what God has created, I am talking about what the evolutionary processes have created. Different organisms live in different ways, and the time taken to reach an age where they can reproduce the next generation also varies."
Even then some people, depending up on their living conditions, become very old. About two generations ago, people were quite satisfied if they could attain 50 years. Now most of us expect to live 75 or 80 years. A French woman became 122 years, 5 months and 14 days - that we could see on a little note that Dr. Rattan had set hanging on a blackboard. "But she was one out of 6
billion people in the world!", he comments. With scientific progress it can be expected that average lifespan will be increased. Suresh Rattan does not think that this is of any dangerous consequences seen in the context of overpopulation and hunger in the world. This is because, irrespective of the research results, the extension of lifespan will only be to a limited extent.
"In the best instance, a human being can become 150 or may be 160 years," he continues to say, "but that will be applicable to very few. Majority will never become older than 80-90 years. Today, less than 1 percent of the people cross over 100 years. May be it will become 2 percent in the future. We are never going to be 500 years old. And the goal of our research is not to make people very old. Our goal is to make life better for them."
Almost all major diseases which ultimately kill us appear in old age. "That is why our research is about understanding why and how we become old, particularly when for several years we could live such a good life because our life genes, vitagenes, were working perfectly," he continues. "I want to understand why these genes cannot work for a longer time. Only basic research can give me the knowledge which I can then use to interfere."
Body is a friend
"First of all, we have made significant progress in understanding what we should concentrate on. As I said before, it should not be on the genes which kill us. We should concentrate on those which keep us alive. Researchers in the USA mostly focus on the idea of killer genes because then it is easier. You just make a pill to fight them. But the body is a friend who does its best for us, and so we should find ways to help the good genes which keep us alive."
"Research has already shown that one can prolong the lifespan of cells if some heat stress is given to them. Little stress is good for the body," says Dr. Rattan.
"The critical question is when a stress becomes too much. Only further research can give answer to that. Experiments in the laboratory have shown that if the temperature of the cells is raised from the normal 37 to 41 degrees for half an hour two times a week, the human skin cells do not become old to the same extent as they normally do in the lab. In the next four-five years we will know much more about it. The principle is the same as with vaccines where the body is exposed to a little bit of the sickness so that the defence system is stimulated."
In contrast, Suresh Rattan keeps away from the American miracle pill which could prolong the youthfulness.
"There is some talk about the growth hormone which often has various side effects," he explains. "For example, women can get facial hair and there can be an increased risk of developing cancers. No, the real way forward is the basic research."
Up with humour
There are other ways to a better life, and in reality these are the simplest. To change your life style, to maintain weight, to exercise, and to keep up the humour.
"The last one can be a difficult one for the elderly because we live in a society that focuses on youth and beauty. One can become tense and stressful because the society does not like it. Psychological tension badly affects the quality of life and can shorten the lifespan. We do not know much about how psychology affects biology, because almost no cross-disciplinary research is done. On the other hand, if one thinks positively and takes care of oneself, the body gets affected by this. And when the body is healthy, that strengthens the mind.
The body will still become weaker anyway, and we cannot expect to see a 100 year old person running around and playing badminton with a much younger one. However, we can definitely help in achieving that the elderly do not spend their last 10-20 years in old peoples' homes." The quality of life is the main driving principle for ageing research. Scientific calculations and projections have indicated that even if all diseases associated with the heart and the bone are eliminated in the elderly, this will only add three-four years to the life, not more. "Possibilities for a better life are fantastic with all the progress we hope to make in the near future," points Dr. Rattan. About how long can he continue to do research at the molecular gerontology centre, he has no clear idea. The Research Council gave 35 million Danish Kroner (about 20 crore rupees) for a 5 year period. Of this, the centre's daily-leader, an English Professor, Brian Clark, has an annual budget of about 1 million Kroner which is used, among other expenses, to pay for Suresh Rattan's salary.
"That is my personal tragedy that I am famous, but I still do not have a permanent position," he says. "I am only assured a few years at a time. If the centre is closed down after its present 5-year period ends in the year 2001, I will be in the unemployment-financial help union. The problem is that there is no main stream regular research on ageing in the universities. So, let us see!"
Before the students begin to queue again at his office door, Dr. Rattan once more begins to philosophise.
From copy to the original
"Look outside the window. Now it is the spring time and most of the trees and the bushes are green; they are all alike. But when autumn will arrive, each leaf will be different, because no two die in the same manner. It is exactly the same for people. All children are born equal, but when we grow up, our genes undergo changes, and we become different. There are no two persons who become old in exactly the same way. We begin our lives as copies of our parents, but we end up becoming the original." The original Suresh Inder Singh Rattan, who was born in the Punjab-province, is included in several editions of the Who's Who. He has also written a book for children, which is sold widely in his home country. "When my father died two years ago, my son asked me why do people die, what and why do we do all those rituals with the funeral, and so on. The scientist in me could give only a few answers. The rest came from the Indian culture. That is what I have written about. I would very much like to bring it out in Danish also. What I miss is somebody who would like to publish it. Do you know one?"
(Translated from the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, May 17, 1998)
Reprinted in Longevity Report by kind permission of:
Dr. Suresh I. S. Rattan, PhD; DSc
Laboratory of Cellular Ageing
University of Aarhus
DK-8000 Aarhus - C
Tlf: +45 89 42 50 34 Fax: +45 86 12 31 78 or 45 86 20 12 22 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Comment on Near Death Experiences
Comment on Near Death Experiences(attribution lost)
The problem is: when does neural activity quit? When the heart stops, or you're exposed to vacuum, or your brain vessels are clamped or cut (beheading, hanging, etc), neurons run out of oxygen in about 15 seconds, and that's when you check out, active- consciousness wise. Whether some residual or diminished consciousness continues for a time after that, as in sleep, is a question yet to be resolved. It's not unlikely. Neurons don't run totally out of anaerobically generated ATP until about 2 minutes into ischemia, but it's impossible there are any electrical impulses after THAT of any kind (EEG goes totally flat long before, but considerably after 15 seconds-- usually between 1 and 2 minutes).
Thinking after no electrical activity seems unlikely, unless you postulate metaphysical processes for thinking. If these are possible, tho, how come you can't think or dream under hypothermic anaesthesia, which also stops your EEG totally?
I really doubt if NDEs occur in body bags, unless somebody didn't check to see that the BP really was "zero" (it's actually about 10 mm at clinical death, going from there to zero over the few minutes, again as ATP runs out and fluid is sucked out of the vascular system by leak from capillaries, due to ATP pumps quitting. But there is no circulation, because the same pressure is on the venous side also).
The idea that the person does not continue if thought does not continue, is wrong. The person is software. Reboot from hardware, and the person still exists. That happens long after 2 minutes of death. Conventional wisdom says 6 minutes, but I've seen dogs recover after almost 17. And you can culture live neurons out of the brain after 12 hours of normothermic death. Who knows what future resuscitation technology holds?
Some Greeks figured there were three types of "soul". One for vegetative life (basically: metabolism); one for animal life (basically: motion), and one for human life (basically: intelligence and moral action). But note that it's only the last that confers humanity. Most Christians (After Aquinas, I suppose) equate the last Greek stuff to be the "spirit" (psuche or psyche-- wups, no Greek letters) which is the root of "inspiration," and caries the idea of both breath and divine infusion of living essence. The Hebrew word for wind and breath and soul "Ruach" (gee, no Hebrew letters. either) is basically the same idea, and the verse in the OT where God "breathes" the "breath" of life into the nostrils of Adam and he becomes a living "soul" uses the same word throughout (so I'm told-- I'm no Hebrew scholar).
Throughout most Christian existence, stillborn babies who did not draw breath were not considered people, and were not buried in churchyards or anything else. No funeral mass for spontaneously aborted clots, either. It's only in the last century and this one (with better artificial abortion technology) that the Roman church, then the fundamentalist protestant sects) have started coming up with the idea that the essential soul or spirit of humanity arrives long before, at fertilization. New theology which the ancient scriptures (not knowing about fertilization) somehow forgot to mention. The God of ancient scriptures is amazingly dumb about basic physics and biology. It's not as though many such concepts cannot be explained to an intelligent (but ignorant) 10 year old. They can be. It's that the God of the ancient scriptures doesn't even try. It's almost as though "He" doesn't know anything more than the people he's talking to. Strange to say <g>.
by Jeff Davis <email@example.com>
WARNING: the following may not be suitable for all audiences. Proceed at your own risk.On April 28th, Saul Kent offered his essay on the failure of cryonics, in which he wrote:
"Another myth that has permeated cryonics from the beginning is that there has never been a really good effort to promote cryonics by a professional promoter/publicist/sales person, and that if we had the right promoter and enough money to do the job right, there would be rapid, accelerating growth in the movement. I contend that this is the exact opposite of the truth."
I disagree. No myth; truth.
Consider. Someone is offering for sale perfect health, perpetual youth, and an opportunity to experience all that the future has in store, in a society at least as good as the one we've got now, and probably much, much better. He hires a salesman and sends him out. The salesman comes back, shakes his head and say, "No one's buying." Which of the following possible conclusions seems most likely?
(1) The product is unsalable.
(2) The salesman's approach is inadequate.
(3) The salesman's approach is monumentally inadequate.
When asked about his approach, the salesman says, "I tell them, ' We wait till you die, then we flush out your blood, pump you full of anti-freeze, freeze your corpse, inflicting some damage in the process--but no matter--then we keep you frozen until we learn how to fix you, then we restore you to life, youthful and healthy, and send you on your way. So give me a hundred grand and I'll sign you up.'"
We begin to see the problem. Now let me state the obvious. The character of the product in question is unprecedented, as is the marketing challenge. A systematic analysis conducted according to proven methodologies of market research (a fascinating project, possibly breaking new ground in the field of marketing) would be really helpful. Without it we have cocktail party conversation. (Though real breakthroughs have been known to appear on cocktail napkins.)
Saul goes on:
"... there is a long history of competent promoters, entrepreneurs and sales people committing themselves to the growth of cryonics,..."
Again, I disagree, and Saul's own phrasing seems to support me, characterizing them, largely, as a passel of hucksters. "... the slickest, most persuasive promoter I've ever met.", "... two fast-talking promoters", one of whom Saul quotes as saying: " I've taken care of it all. The first person will be frozen in a few months on international TV with the Pope and other celebrities in attendance. After that, Juno (the cryonics company) expects to be freezing thousands of people a year, with the company going public right after we freeze a Nobel-prize winning scientist."
The Pope. You betcha. He'll get the word out. He has a long history as a competent promoter. And then a Nobel-prize-winning scientist--yahoo! You can't GET a better endorsement than that. We're talking world-class credibility here. Noble-prize-winning smart, and cooperative enough to die right on schedule. Now that's planning! Dang! I'm impressed. How surprised and saddened everyone must have been, when, as Saul observes, "... none of this happened." And the remaining cast of sales professionals: the oil speculator, the real estate speculator, the crack insurance salesman, the almost-governor of Texas...look, I love ya Saul, baby, but this is no professional sales effort, it's a flippin' circus. (Saul, don't hate me forever, you're doing a good thing, and, besides, humour is a blessing.)
A professional marketing plan begins with research to identify specific market segments, and a sales strategy tailored to each segment, some psychological analysis, some pilot strategies, some test marketing, some focus groups, some follow-up evaluation, some fine tuning, and then perhaps, a gradually expanding effort. Absent evidence of such a plan, I'd say it's time to return to the original question, "How do you sell cryonics?"
But before I do that, I think I'll take a moment to cut the pioneers some slack, and show some respect.
In life, timing plays a big role. For at least 40,000 years before Dr. Ettinger published "The Prospect", humans had come to know death as a certainty, so it seems reasonable that it should take them a while to get over it.
In the early 60s, to an unsophisticated America, cryonics could only have been seen as the most outlandish of science fiction. There was no genetic engineering, no computers, no organ transplants, no cloning, no space travel, no hint of nanotechnology, no idea of a technology for cellular repair or for the need of such a technology. Cryonics was a dream, an alien meme. Newly minted it would be, by definition, ahead of its time: unbelievable, unacceptable, unsalable. In short, cryonics would have to wait for the world to catch up.
Meanwhile there was work to do. To "sell" cryonics would take the formation of a core group of advocates, and their promotional efforts over many years, in the face of substantial ridicule, to lay the groundwork for a wider acceptance. It would take time and science to bring the world to a level of technological sophistication where the techniques of cryonic suspension could be seen as achievable. It would take a population so accustomed to the ever-accelerating pace of technological progress, that the death meme, ancient and entrenched, might become vulnerable to the meme of technological possibility. Can that be the state at which we have arrived today? I suggest that it is--if not now, when?--and that the perception of cryonics marketing as a failure is at least partly about timing. Visionaries are always early and impatient.
On May 1st Saul wrote:
"... I think most people are aware (to one degree or another) of the following perceptions, which strongly influence them in deciding not to sign up for cryonics:
1) No major human or animal organ has been cryopreserved, thawed and transplanted successfully.
2) No human or large animal has ever been revived after cryopreservation.
3) Animal and human tissues are seriously damaged by freezing and thawing.
4) It is not possible to restore people to life after "death".
5) Virtually all mainstream scientists say that "Cryonics won't work!"
I think that these perceptions contribute collectively to the opinion that cryonics won't work, and that this opinion is the number one reason people don't sign up."
Again, I disagree, but beyond that, if you look closely at the above, you might just find, hidden in plain sight, the main reason for the cryonics marketing failure.
The above is a "rational" argument. Putative factual elements, mobilized and presented in logical fashion to compel acceptance of a conclusion. Facts. Discovery of facts. Ordering of facts. Assessments based on facts. Decisions based on facts. This is rationalism. Most cryonicists think of themselves as rationalists, and as a consequence, individually and even more so collectively, they misread human nature. Human beings are creatures of passion, profoundly so; and consequently, profoundly irrational. The cryonicists' failure to grasp this fundamental truth lies at the heart of their marketing failure. They have addressed the sales problem as a problem of persuasion by rational exposition, when, in fact, it is a wholly emotional event. Rationality is only the thinnest, most insubstantial veneer, overlaid on a billion years of instinct and passion.
Salesmen know. You sell the sizzle not the steak.
So what then is the reason people don't sign up, beyond a concept too new, and unenlightened salesmanship? Let's look at the psychological basis for rejecting an idea, and see what it implies about the wide range of reasons given for rejecting cryonics.
Group social structure evolved because it has survival advantages. Advantages against predators and advantages against competing groups of the same or similar species. When humans developed the capacity for cognition and abstraction, the herd became the tribe, and the patterns of perceived reality became a belief structure. A belief structure held in common is the membership card to the group, with all that that implies for individual identity and survival. Consequently, any idea which conflicts with an individual's belief structure, threatens survival, and is rejected reflexively. Thus when a Frederick Pohl, who clearly possesses the intellectual qualifications to embrace cryonics, says vaguely, "It doesn't seem right", you're seeing an example of that reflex in action. And in considering all the anecdotes of cryonics rejection, I am drawn to the conclusion that most all of them originate in that reflex. (Could it be that all human contentiousness over ideas is a manifestation of this primitive reflex?)
So what does this have to do with the reality of cryonics sales? Well, the empiricist tries stuff till he finds something that works. The theorist seeks underlying principles from which he hopes to fashion a more deliberate approach. (What's this called? Let's see...ah, yes. Science.) Consider the rejection reflex as the underlying principle.
So the question becomes, how to penetrate with a "foreign" idea, a belief structure protected by a strong, pre-rational, rejection reflex? A nerdy formulation, but hey, that's science!
So here are some general approaches.
Plant the idea before the defences are built, ie. when they're young and impressionable. As the twig is bent so grows the meme. (Forgive me, I just couldn't resist.) Disguise the idea and sneak it in (fable or folk tale or TV series). Escort the idea in with a trusted emissary: mom, Doc Smith, cultural icon, Walter Cronkhite. Hitch the idea to a powerful force: love, sex, money, freedom, fear. Seek and exploit a moment of enhanced vulnerability, ie., when the defences are breached by circumstance.(More on this later.) Attack the defences with deliberate violence: Enlightenment and life, or ignorance and death? Your choice. Find a back door/unguarded entry.(More later.) Lay siege and wear them down. Peaceably persist, persuade, assist, insinuate, assimilate, and convert. (Current cryonics strategy?) Innovate.
Here are some tactics. Seduce, don't persuade.
The harder you try: the more needy you look, the more it seems that you're trying to sell a bill of goods, the more they resist. Less is more. Tease them. Tempt them with the juiciest rewards cryonics has to offer--health, youth, sex, money, power, immortality-- and then turn and walk away. The less you try the more they will chase after you and the harder they will work to persuade themselves.
Pull them with temptation, and push them with insecurity, fear of rejection, or fear of loss. "It's not for you", "Not for the stupid", "If you crave a hole in the ground, go for it", "You say God wants you in Heaven? Please, please, don't let me keep you or God waiting!" "We have FIVE BILLION candidates, we don't NEED you." "If you need convincing, do it yourself; we don't have the time." This approach is orders of magnitude more powerful than any tedious list of facts. Exclusivity
People want what they can't have. They opened a club in New York. It was called Studio 54. They put a staff member at the door to screen patrons so that only the "right" people would be allowed in. In no time at all the line stretched around the block and the rest is history.
Greed. "Greed is good." GG
God forgive me (just a phrase), but I do love this one. Greed is just so,...reliable. Can anyone dispute this one? An individual spends a lifetime fighting to build something only to lose it to decrepitude and death? Not! Now, you CAN take it with you. Need I say more? Fear, Anger, Stubbornness, Outrage.
The dark side of the force. We don't like to talk about them, but there they are. And like greed, they are reliable. And jam-packed with emotional energy waiting to be tapped.
Now here's one we like to talk about. But since it is key to three markets which, in my view, are immediately exploitable, and whose exploitation can bring about the immediate breakout of cryonics, I'll simply employ it as a segue to the discussion of those opportunities.
Eventually, cryonics will grow into a broad spectrum of career, lifestyle, and investment opportunities. But for now, in its formative stage, simple public awareness, acceptance, and some prospect for a growing revenue stream to support research would be a realistic goal. While the identification of and focus on high demand markets would seem to be the logical approach, I do not see it being applied. Instead, there is an unfocused dissemination of the idea to everyone, and no one. (Am I wrong? Then set me straight.)
The first market is, at the risk of seeming foolish:
Pet owners. Now don't check out on me too quickly. I realize that most people, even pet owners themselves, view the extremes of devotion of (other) pet owners toward their pets as silly and embarrassing (it's embarrassing because they know that secretly they feel the same way). Pet cemeteries is a bit much, right? Wake up and smell the opportunity! Pet suspensions would be a revenue stream; an opportunity for fully-funded research, development, and clinical experience in legal pre-mortem suspensions; and an unparalleled opportunity for leveraging human sign-ups--"Benji will want you to be there when he wakes up." The power of the bond between human and pet is as powerful as the pet cemetery is incredible. I absolutely love exploiting human foibles. It's so,...human.
Scoff if you must, but then don't bitch and moan about the moribund state of cryonics and the threat this poses to your eventual successful suspension. Pride goeth before the fall.
Also worth noting in this context is the "Missyplicity Project". Scratch the surface and I think you will find a carefully orchestrated and professionally executed plan to cash in on pet cloning, complete with web-based publicity. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned here.
Human beings idealize the lives of those they love, projecting onto them their own hopes and dreams. Perhaps it's just a fluke of evolution, but not necessarily a tragic one, that it is easier to love another than to love oneself. Enter the life insurance salesman, and it is no wonder that people will pay for the comfort of believing that their projected hopes and dreams are secure. I thank George Smith for bringing this to my attention. We will often more readily pay to save others than we will pay to save ourselves. Which brings me to my second market, which I call
The Society for the Preservation of Cultural Treasures.
What is a Frank Sinatra worth? A George Burns? A Barbra Streisand? A Pablo Casals? A Lauren Bacall? An Oprah Winfrey? A Michael Jordan? An Albert Einstein? These people, and others like them are (or were) loved by MILLIONS. Millions who would readily pay to "save" them.
Don't misunderstand. Some of these people are dead. Most could afford their own suspensions. Most would, presumably, in light of the current perception of cryonics, reject the idea of suspension, with one of the usual explanations. That's not the point. Ordinary people will break down their own defenses and readily embrace cryonics if it is linked to something so personally heroic and emotionally compelling as saving those they love and idolize. From there it is a small step to embracing cryonics for themselves.
Moreover, these cultural icons--stars if you will--are the energy source at the center of the the human cultural experience. Thrusting cryonics into that fire--a step that seems at some point inevitable--will emblazon it incandescent in the public imagination. Which is precisely where it should be.
So the SPCT solicits funds/donations from fans for the preservation of their idols, for research, or for later use by the donor as a prepayment for their own suspension. In the process the "It'll never work" meme is transformed into the "I am committed to making it work" meme.
There are those who will express concern over the firestorm of controversy that this must inevitably provoke. But cryonics will not grow without a helluva a fight. So if not now, when?
Which brings me to the last of the immediately exploitable markets. It is at once the largest, most obvious, most accessible, most challenging, most dangerous, and most controversial.
One of the original applications of cryonics was for the treatment of currently untreatable medical conditions. Get to the future and get cured. The reality of disease and death from which this idea originated is still with us. At the following internet address
you can find the statistics for 564,000 people who will(?) Succumb to cancer in 1998.
Where is the outreach program to inform these candidates of the cryonics option?
When we talk about missed opportunities to promote cryonics, this one regularly suggests itself to me. Beyond the missed opportunity, however, is what has often struck me something of an ethical lapse on the part of the cryonics community. Every day, in oncology clinics around the world, people are being given a death sentence. The doctor describes two options: we can make you comfortable, or we can experiment on you. Most people are aware of a third option--the Kevorkian option--but few know of the cryonics option. In light of the staggering numbers, the terror and tragedy, the pain and suffering and expense, if cryonics had no more to offer than buoyant hopefulness it would be a blessing on that basis alone! But it has SO MUCH MORE to offer!
Success is a near certainty. We cannot be cowed or diverted from our ethical duty by disapproval, small mindedness, or lack of vision. We should be pursuing cancer victims like a cheap lawyer on his way to a hundred-car pile-up.
I personally favour pre-mortem suspensions at any time as a matter of choice. The idea that the govt. should control this matter is unacceptable. It stems directly from the fact that the world is dominated by irrationality and governed largely by default. Find a jurisdiction that allows pre-mortem suspensions and conduct them there; or invent such a jurisdiction; or ... do what you have to do.
At great personal risk Dr.Kevorkian has demonstrated the courage to act on his convictions. He has weathered the legal assault of the state, and been exonerated by both the people at large, and by the juries in whose hands he had the courage to place his fate. In so doing he has set legal precedent and shown the way for others to follow. As Dr. Kevorkian fights for the rights of persons to choose death, can we cryonicists do less in the struggle for the rights of persons to choose life?
The easy answer is yes. In fact, that is what we have done so far, and cryonics has not prospered with the choice. People, creatures of passion that they are, honour justice and courage, which is why Dr. Kevorkian has prevailed. The success of cryonics awaits only a similar commitment of courage, and a willingness to undertake the fight of your life. But hey, isn't that what cryonics is all about? Which is why the hard answer is "If not us, who?"
"Everything's hard till you know how to do it." Ray Charles
Cryonics As Religion
by George Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A few weeks ago, Professor Ettinger reviewed a "portion of the discussion" regarding the concept of using religion as a model for "outreach", to help grow the cryonics movement.
The concern I have read in the Cryonet regarding the issue of avoiding the appearance of legal fraud and not misleading cryonics prospects with imbalanced information is valid. But, as Professor Ettinger wrote, "A religion is free to make dogmatic assertions without objective evidence."
These words bear deep consideration, in my opinion.
The promise of life after death has been a part of many religions. The ancient Egyptians seemed almost obsessed in regard to preparing for death. As Christianity (and more specifically Roman Catholicism) today has the largest number of members of any religion in the world, and as it has survived for two millennia and, finally, as it remains accepted as the cultural "backdrop" to most Western modern societies, Christianity is worthy of careful attention as a model or "underpinning" for a successful religion of Immortalism. I will have more to say shortly regarding this issue of "underpinning".
The message in brief? Many people fear death and Christianity offers them hope.
Yet life after death is not a necessary component in a successful religion. Buddhism in at least three of the four major popular versions of that religion (Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana versus Heavenly Realm forms of Mahayana) does not posit that the individual self even exists.
Theraveda "enlightenment" consists not of "salvation" through personal survival, but the realization that the concept of a separate individual self is a psychological illusion (much as there exist optical illusions). Most Mahayana and Vajrayana versions include this view but posit a wider attainment for the individual personality (not individual "self") which is transhuman in nature. Nevertheless this is just one traditional example of a successful religion based upon personal transcendence without any promise of personal survival. Buddhism shows us that personal transcendence can be a successful motivation as well.
The message in brief? Many people want to grow and become more than they are and consider this to be "spiritual".
Both dealing with fear of death and personal transcendence are issues which cryonics deals with in a slightly different manner because of the scientific hope it relies upon, but these are not unique in human history. The Egyptians seemed to hold that by properly preparing the mind before death and the body after death, not only would the individual survive death but would become one with the gods (transcendence), rising to the stars to join Osiris (later seen as the constellation Orion).
There is the attraction of the exotic in the spread of most successful world religions. The popular author, Robert Ringer (Winning Through Intimidation and Looking Out for Number One), referred to this phenomenon as the respect almost always given to "the expert from afar". Or to take the opposite tact, to quote Christ, "A prophet is without honor in his own country". Or again the old saw, "Familiarity breeds contempt".
The trappings of the exotic (which is whatever is foreign to your culture) cause the masses to generally treat with special attention what is offered in such trappings. In this regard, any religion of Immortalism might be best served by assuming at least some of the symbology of ancient Egypt. The symbol of the Egyptian "ankh" seems to be one of the oldest in this regard and resonates quite well with the Christian cross. I would propose that the ankh be the symbol of Immortalism for this reason alone.
Earlier I mentioned Christianity as being perhaps used as an "underpinning" for a religion of Immortalism. By this I mean that Western culture, especially in the United States, tends to accept unthinkingly many of the precepts and mores of general Christianity. Yet there are thousands of varied sects and differing church theologies everywhere.
For example, when Spiritualism was all the rage in Europe and the United States in the 1930s, you would see it presented almost universally as "Christian" Spiritualism. Spiritualist churches sported crosses and portraits of Christ, ministers wore standard clerical garb and church services were virtually indistinguishable from what one would find next door at a more conventional Protestant house of worship. People then felt more comfortable superimposing their "new" beliefs (mediums can speak to the dead in seances) upon the underpinnings of their cultural upbringing.
Today, the situation is quite different. Fewer people go to a church (especially if we include Europe). Secular life is the norm and not the exception, as in earlier generations. To better grasp the difference, I would suggest that the so-called "New Age" movement demonstrates the changes better than most. New Age churches (such as Unity) retain most of the Christian underpinnings, but tend to be more open to lectures, open meetings and study groups, rather than the more traditional Sunday sermons and prayer meetings.
Along this line a recent phenomenon has sprung up with the "Art Bell Chat Clubs". The New Age radio host personality, Art Bell launched this year a coordinated effort to line up speakers to travel the country (and world) going to locally-based "Chat Clubs" to give talks on everything from the coming destruction from "Y2K" to "The Mars-Egypt Connection" (with UFOs thrown in, of course). I attended recently just such a meeting and saw what I feel to be the future of modern religion. The personal touch of having a local "fellowship" group is balanced with contacts with "experts from afar" (national speakers). The feeling was absolutely religious also in that there was no questioning of facts, but acceptance of dogma (mostly that the earth is about to undergo some enormous apocalyptic crisis killing some/most of the people).
(And, I might add, they were selling rather expensive survival equipment and supplies. Not too different from selling a technological answer to survival and transcendence called cryonics, it seems to me).
My point is that a religion of Immortalism would be well-served to model this approach. No need to buy or build expensive church buildings. Rent hotel rooms for meetings and form local "chat groups" (the resonance to Internet chat groups is clear here). I would suggest that members of Immortalism could keep their "basic" religious beliefs but add the promise of survival and transcendence. The New Age is thrashing around for something solid to lean on. The New Age movement shares only a few themes, and I find these themes to be shared by Immortalism through cryonics. These themes include reincarnation, guidance from transhuman beings (via channelling and prophesy), coming transformative earth changes, taking personal responsibility as a part of the world community and human transcendence as a spiritual goal.
For example, take the New Age belief in reincarnation. Immortalism can offer CONSCIOUS reincarnation. The sense I have is that personal responsibility requires that the usual amnesia of "traditional" reincarnation be bypassed. In this sense alone, cryonics can be seen as a part of personal spiritual development or, if you will, a "spiritual path".
The issue of the NDE (near death experience) was treated by James Halperin in an evenhanded way in his brilliant novel "The First Immortal". (I kept feeling that he had intended to do something a bit different with the NDE, just as Arthur C. Clarke led us on in his film 2010 to expect something "wonderful" and then only ended up offering mankind more real estate near Jupiter). Yet what I don't see being dealt with in the New Age community is a very simple issue. A five-minute NDE produces profound psychological changes according to some very serious scientific investigations. What would be the changes we would find in someone restored to life after a 25-year NDE?
I have no intention of arguing this issue with skeptics nor 19th Century-style materialists. I am discussing here a theological issue regarding the concept known in Hinduism as the "avatar" - the incarnation of a god-being as a human. Those who embrace Immortalism could well expect as an article of religious faith that the NDE is a cumulative experience which produces change in those who pass through its doors. Today's under-one-hour NDE subjects testify that their lives are changed - and careful psychological studies back up their claims. Would it be so strange to expect that years, decades of "NDE" would produce change even more than a few minutes?
The dead shall return to earth and, finally, tell us about the beyond. Up until the recent years of the NDE, no one was "supposed" to be able to tell us anything. The dead do not return, we were told for years. Yet with cryonics, they will. What will they tell us? The ten-minute NDE-ers already write volumes on their few minutes of experience. What will 25-year NDE- ers say and do? (As with everything connected with the future of cryonics, it is hubristic to assume that they will all return from an experience of nothingness. You can't prove in advance of the fact that this will be the case. As an issue of faith, I find it easier to accept that the ten minute NDE experience won't hold a candle to a ten-year NDE.
Christianity is based upon not merely survival and redemption (whether through "absolution" or "salvation"), but upon the promise that the Messiah will return and the earth will be transformed "in the twinkling of an eye". This is the aspect of transcendence which is often overlooked when we consider Christianity. We forget that it is a religion based upon an expectation for not merely a better future, but a transcendent future when the "Kingdom of Heaven" arrives on earth. This is treated in the Bible especially in regard to "the Elect" - a specific number of human beings who will be taken up by Christ at his return, removed from this world entirely, and then returned empowered to institute the transformation of all life on earth.
It does not take a great deal of thinking to note how an extended NDE due to cryonic suspension matches the above scenario remarkably well. The individual dies and yet, because he will be restored to life, he will return with the changes of a "super-NDE". And/or he returns because nanotechnology (or its equivalent) has transformed the world such that there is now "a new Heaven and a New Earth" (space travel and a restored home world).
I realize that many who read these words will feel distaste regarding the issues of spirituality and religion. Yet, like it or not, your perspective is unpopular and your numbers are few. The masses of the world seek survival and transcendence, right or wrong. And I find that the prophesies of several current and historical world religions remind me in very strong ways of the same future which technological futurists like Eric Drexler and Hans Moravec have projected. It is as if primitive people were trying to describe a future we are only now approaching through technology while they had only the metaphors of their primitive world to draw upon in describing it.
But, it is pointless to proselytize for a religion not yet created. (Besides, if you are signed up for cryonic suspension, this is quite literally "preaching to the choir"). What I wanted to do here was to point out that Immortalism could, with relatively little effort, come out of the scientific closet and function as a rather powerful religion.
Professor Ettinger suggested in his message (#10356) that such a religion would require "fellowship, dedication" and "symbolism/liturgy".
Fellowship comes out of the united vision of a future which is coming. Not everyone will join "The Elect" but all are welcome to do so. Dedication results from social commitment to the movement. We stand together to open the new future for all. We renounce personal transcendence until it is available to all (the oath of the Boddhisattva, the being who forestalls personal enlightenment to work for the enlightenment of all other living things first). The symbol? The ankh, the cross whose head(piece) is open, the single eye through which we can gaze into the future, that ornament worn over the head and above the heart, the symbolic promise for five thousand years of eternal life, the key to immortality held in the hands of ancient gods and goddesses restored to its rightful place on the breasts of their children for whom "death will have died".
The theology of immortalism could be embraced by a single quote, brought into light after two thousand years of waiting, "I come not to destroy, but to fulfill." Immortalism as a religion could be seen as the fulfilment of all the major religions of the past. Only now we can see the shape of things as they come, and the prophesies of the ages shortly to be fulfilled. The Extropians refer to this time, I believe, as "The Omega Point". How curious that the founder of Christianity said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega."
Religion comes from the Latin "religare" (ligament), meaning to bind back to strongly, to powerfully return. Those of us who take the liquid nitrogen plunge will return and we will be different. I feel that this is the essence of religion. Immortalism. Eternal return and powerful transcendence.
Cryonics TV Commercials
by Jeff Davis <email@example.com>
I've been working on a few tv promo spots for cryonics. Here are three of them for your viewing pleasure. Any assistance in getting these produced would be welcome. Please email Jeff Davis <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The Game of Life.
The scene: Wide shot, centre court, an empty basketball arena. We hear the sound of a basketball bouncing on the wood floor echoing through the large empty space. The sound comes into the frame from the right, brought by a shrunken old man, bouncing the ball. He is wearing a basketball uniform
which is many sizes too large, hanging down and about him all comically.
Slightly to the left of centre in the frame and the court, he dribbles the ball around, with his gnarled hands and gaunt arms. It's almost funny, almost poignant, not the least of which because he is stern and serious: a
He is joined gradually by nine others, ancient and similarly dressed, and all serious, and finally, one more in an oversize referee's uniform and whistle. They gather at centre court for the tip off. The camera zooms in.
The camera follows the ball as it is tossed. The two old men leap with the toss. The arena lights drop down through the top of the frame, a bright, broken line - two, three, or four clusters - in the background, which
washes out the darker details of the empty arena. The foreground is brightly lit.
As the men leap, time slows, so that at the moment each of their hands contact the ball, time has almost stopped. (This allows the moment to have a much longer duration.)
As the men leap, they and the ref, "morph" and "swell" into young, strong athletes (who fill their uniforms). When time has almost stopped - the morphing complete - at the moment when their hands touch the ball, there is a brilliant flash of light (which blinds the frame in brilliant white), and sound. Instantly, as the flash fades, and the action resumes full speed, we hear the roar of the crowd, and the arena, hollow and empty moments before, is filled with the roar of life.
The camera backs out of the glare of the arena lights, to the wide shot of the game, crowd, and arena, feverish with life. Then, across the screen appears the word CRYONICS, and then, below it, after a beat, appear the words, "Get back into the game".
Copyright 1998 by Jeff Davis, all rights reserved.I call this one "Death and Taxes".
The cryonics family (Like the Adams family) is gathered at home for a domestic scene indistinguishable in tone from what we know today. Mom, dad, their daughter, her friend, and the family dog (a large black sheepdog - I must insist, for personal reasons related to thematic continuity). All
look mid-twenties to early-thirties in age.
They're talking about whatever, mom is preparing some edible delights, the vid screen on the wall is showing something, the dog is hanging out near the chow activity, waiting for a snack - life at home - when on the vid screen comes a talking head behind a desk. The daughter's friend reaches for the remote, to change the channel, but the daughter says no don't do
that. The friend is puzzled and asks why anyone would want to watch this boring thing which comes on the screen regularly every month or so. The daughter says it's something of a family tradition, dad likes to watch it.
The friend asks why. The daughter says dad is an "old timer" who remembers when things were different, so now he never tires of seeing this "piece" on the vid (dad uses the old term: "tv").
The friend wonders--and there's some discussion about how old dad actually is, and the daughter tells us he's 232 years old. The friend is surprised, says to the daughter, "But you're only 90, same as me..." The daughter explains that dad waited till the "second time around" to have a family.
All this discussion of age, of course, is to show INDIRECTLY the consequences/implications of cryonics without being heavy handed, ie without making it the central point of the piece. Life is about life, not about cryonics.
All the while the talking head is making a pitch for donations - like a pledge break on public television, but, as we watch we discover that the donations will be for the government. The government has to beg for its money.
The talking head is cheesy - much like the pledge break mc's on public tv - he is not professional on camera talent. And the pitch is equally cheesy, further contributing to the impression that anything government is inherently second rate.
Dad meanwhile is at the dining table working on a jig-saw puzzle or little hobby project, but able to see and enjoy the vid screen at the same time.
As the pitch comes to an end, he puts down his stuff and gets up from the table. The daughter says to her friend, "This is the part he likes best."
On the vid screen comes a disclaimer--like the WARNING on the side of the cigarette package--that says something like: "All donations are strictly voluntary and may only be used as specified by the donor. The government has no authority to coerce payment, or punish non-payment. Any attempt to do so should be reported immediately to your local community council"
(You may modify the wording of the above WARNING to suit you own tastes. But you get the idea.)
As the WARNING appears on the screen dad says to his daughter, "Sweetheart, would you be so kind as to turn on the com link." She says, with an exaggerated formality, "Certainly, father." Dad turns around. Mom observes a little light go on at the top of the vid screen, and says, " We
have an open channel, my captain." Whereupon he says "Please accept my
donation", and moons the screen
The sound track turns to laughter by all, the word CRYONICS appears across the screen, beneath which, after a beat, appears the old saying:
Nothing is certain but death (death gets crossed out as soon as it appears) and taxes (likewise gets crossed out).
The scene and the old saying fade to black,
leaving only CRYONICS, and rollicking laughter.
Copyright 1998 by Jeff Davis, all rights reserved.
On the Beach
Three women are gathered on the beach. Jana, Brazilian lithe; Lisette, French "haute" child woman; and Ariel, California aerobics blonde. Tanned, oiled, shades, bikinis. Model perfect. Towels on the sand. Beach chairs. Accessories. One empty towel for a forth who has not yet arrived. It's Southern California, Hermosa Beach. The sand is wide, maybe two hundred feet from the paved bicycle path to the water. The girls are 30 feet from the path--"The Strand". Thirty feet beyond them, at the left of the frame, is a group of Adonis's playing volleyball. The camera is low to the ground, intimately among the women, looking out toward the ocean. You can see only half of the volleyball game--only one side of the net--and you can only see the men--the action--from mid-chest on down. They're non-persons, objects. The women are guy-watching, and critiquing, with a delicious directness. Glowing, fully aware of their dazzling sexuality, basking in their glory, each in her position, posed and motionless. Lionesses dreaming of the hunt. Only their lips move.
Beyond them the beach is empty except for one little girl, seven-ish, off to the right, sitting in the sand, playing quietly with bucket and shovel, counterpoint to the women's fierce maturity, and the shimmering expanse of ocean beyond, cut off by the right edge of the frame, small in the distant mist far out to sea, is a crystal dome (ie., the future).
Jana: Who is he?
Lisette: I don't know.
Ariel: And she wouldn't tell you if she did.
Jana: Neither would I.
Lisette: I love his legs.
Jana: I love his butt.
Lisette: Well, now that you mention it, I kind of see his butt as part of his legs, the upper part.
Jana: Right! The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone. Look, you like legs, you get legs. I got dibbs on the butt.
Ariel: You girls going to eat here, or do you want that order to go? (laughs all around)
Jana: Reminds me of the one about the eight hundred pound gorilla?
Ariel: Okay, I'll bite.
Jana: You know, "Where does an eight hundred pound gorilla sleep?"
Ariel: (anticipating) You got that right.
Jana and Ariel: (With an almost imperceptible glance/head turn toward each other to synchronize) Anywhere he wants.
(giggles all around)
Jana: It's the way he moves.
Ariel: How old do you think he is?
Ariel: Older. Much older.
Jana: Something about the way he moves.
Something I've never seen before.
Do you think Marney knows him?
Lisette: Is he a primitive?!, (then correcting herself, and using the more "polite" term) I mean, is he an ancient, like Marney?
Ariel: Ask her yourself?
Marney enters: The camera pans right, up the beach, sweeping into a scene of the crystal city reaching into the sky, the crystal dome being only the most extreme seaward element. Marney moves down the beach out of this backdrop. She is a buff Rita Hayworth. A goddess of poise in motion. The universe stops to feast on her entrance. Every movement is Bottecelli perfect. The little girl, now in the left of the frame, stops and looks up.
Lisette:(looking at the guys) It must be true. They are like gods!
Marney: Ask me what?
(Looks over towards the game, with realization) Oh. (With care not to show her excitement) He's here.
The camera now swings out around her, as she turns in to face her friends, back to the ocean, until it is viewing her from behind as she stands before her friends and removes her sun jacket., she stretches=85 just enough to catch a glimpse over her shoulder, then she turns and sinks slowly to her knees onto the luxuriant beach towel. Everything is quiet, the game has stopped.
Marney: Is he looking over here?
(Marney performs the ritual: kneels on the towel, throws her hair back, shakes it, gathers and secures it, as Jana speaks.)
Jana to Ariel: You ask her.
Jana (unwilling to wait): Is he really a primitive?
Marney: (Turning, knees planted, from the waist, for a very deliberate inspection. Then she turns back and answers, in a mixture of affirmation and appreciation) Mmmmmmmmm.
Lisette: He's coming over.
A tanned biceps appears from behind the camera at the left., and we see a small tattoo of a winged volleyball with a ribbon below on which is inscribed "bump, set, spike".
Man's Voice: Marney?
Marney:(Not looking up. She knows who it is.) Jeff? Is that you?
Jeff moves forward into the frame. We see only his back. The camera pans right to Ariel sitting absolutely still, next to Marney, facing straight out to sea past the camera, and fixes on her face. Then, as Jeff moves forward and down to Marney the camera moves in to the lens of Ariel's sunglasses, to an extreme close-up, and we see both Ariel's eye behind the lens, watching the scene covertly, and, reflected in the lens, Jeff leaning forward to Marney.
Jeff:(kneels and kisses her behind the ear.)
I dreamed you would come today.
In Ariel's lens.
Jeff: (Reaches past her holding the sunscreen/lotion where she can see it.) May I be of assistance?
Marney: (An affirmative response, as she stretches out prone onto the towel.) Mmmmmmmmmmm.
He reaches with slow deliberation for the snap that secures her top, and with two fingers, unsnaps it. At the moment the snap opens, across the screen, centered on the point of visual focus (ie.,the snap) we see the word "Cryonics". The letters glisten and flash like the rippling surface of water under blinding sunlight. This remains on the screen as Jeff goes through the ritual of opening the container, doling out the balm, closing the container, setting the container aside with deliberation, and rubbing his hands together. As he does this he recites the Shakespearean Sonnet..
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
When in this state, myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, then my soul,
Like to the lark at break of day
Arising from sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate.
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Then, as he applies the sunscreen in one fluid motion from waist to shoulders, below "cryonics" appear the words " because the future is a long time." Simultaneously, Jeff says:
Jeff: I will love you for a thousand years.
(Some notes on the above: I'm after an over-the-top quality of vitality, shimmering in the brilliant sunlight; a larger-than-life aesthetic of youth and health and beauty. Sensuality, certainly, but rising out of, and deriving its power from, a deeper source. The two characters, Jeff and Marney, have a LONG history of love, the depth of which can only be hinted at. Thus the love poem, and "I will love you for a thousand years." It's a combination of the Calvin Klein's Obsession and the International Coffees commercials. One note: the dialogue between the women is totally cheesy and must be reworked so as to be classy yet playfully bawdy. Also, the sound track will help. Perhaps Ravel's Bolero before Marney appears, then Thus Spoke Zarathustra(the theme to "2001") as she comes on the scene, and then some "deep and abiding love" music for the end. What do you think? Are we having fun yet?)
Copyright 1998 by Jeff Davis, all rights reserved.
Best, Jeff Davis
"Everything's hard till you know how to do it." - Ray Charles
Logic and Selfishness
by R.C.W. Ettinger, <email@example.com>
In its most extreme form, selflessness becomes "I am unworthy and insignificant and should not steal space or resources from future generations or intrude my useless and disposable self."
There are many answers.
The cryonics mindset is highly salutary for society. Those who expect to be around a long time must emphasize responsibility and the Golden Rule. It is the short-timers who are likely to be reckless and desperate.
Loyalty should go to individuals, not to abstractions. Ideologies and institutions can and do change or disappear; it is particular people that will (we hope) prove permanent. Of course, this is the opposite of the traditional view, and not an easy sell.
If someone is really caught in the altruism mindset, he has a tough job explaining himself (and the world) to himself. Why are you still relatively comfortable while others are miserable? Why aren't you Mother Theresa? And if everyone were willing to be Mother Theresa, who would produce and distribute the food and medications etc?
"From each according to his ability; to each according to his need." It never made sense, and it never worked.
All this requires deeper and more rigorous investigation, which is one of my major projects. But common sense should save some of us.
You Haven't Changed a Bit!
By Chrissie Loveday , <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I heard this phrase used extensively recently. I'd have loved to believe it, especially when someone used it about me. Yes, I attended a reunion. Forty years on, since college days. I had kept in touch with a mere handful of friends but enough to give me the courage to join the group with the confidence of knowing at least some folk
Picture the scene. There is a hum of female voices (in those days, it was an all female college), punctuated by shrill squeals of recognition. We all suspended our middle-aged personas for the day and were once more eighteen-year olds, peering into faded eyes, in the hope of seeing that long forgotten student we once knew. The changes in hair colour were an obvious problem. None of us had been grey in those days but many now were. There were many other new shades to be seen as well ... why not indeed. But it did make it difficult to recognise the girl who lived in the next door room. As usual, it I found that it was the eyes I could look into and see the girl I once knew.
As the day progressed, the 'do you remembers' flowed. I wonder how many people pretended to remember things when they were described? I'm sure I did. The time when ... facts suitably altered to make it a better story. It was hilarious when ... sounded much more mundane with the added years between. One thing we all agreed on. We were at the start of the women's revolution, at least here in the UK. Those heady days of the sixties when we were finding our feet and realising we could speak out and be heard. It is a sobering thought that many of us had now retired and were at last, doing all the things we had wanted to do for years, with time enough to do it.
I wondered what the young (oh so young!) waitresses were thinking, as they watched us eat and talk. A load of old women, has-beens, past-it. Maybe. Writing romantic fiction gave me something of an edge ... people were curious to know why and how I had taken that route. Surprised ... shocked in some cases. At one point, people at my table mentioned death, cremation etc., can't even think how or why. I found myself cheerfully saying that I hope to be frozen and even mentioned cryonic suspension. Really, was the reply and the subject was dropped. Well, I did mention it very matter-of-factly. Must go with the romantic novelist image!
The whole event did make me think, however. I know only a few cryonicists. Apart from John, I see others only infrequently. If and when we are revived, will I know anyone at all? The hopes we hold for nanotechnology will make things even more difficult. If I can't remember some things accurately for forty years, how will I ever understand anything in this amazing future we hope for? Maybe the whole process will produce entirely new people ... won't it be great? We can all learn a whole new set of things. Just like my reunion, we can meet people who are almost recognisable but there's something different about them. A shared past and shared desire to see the future will give the same sort of common bond as I felt with my fellow students.
'Gosh! you've changed,' may be the most commonly heard phrase on that occasion.
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