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Is consciousness only 3000 years old? George Smith
Cryonics vs. God's Promise Yvan Bozzonetti
36th Update of My Fly Longevity Experiments Douglas Skrecky
The Uses of Low Dose Aspirin Dr Keith Monnington
Comments on Partners and Religion George Smith and Scott Badger
Theological Questions Raised by Cryonics Shiva
Another Look at God and CryonicsYvan Bozzonetti
Aesthetics in Cryonics Steve Harris
Human Identity - A Mix of Hardware and Software George Smith
The Alcor Adventure Video Review John Grigg
Who does cryonics or Why more males? Tim Freeman
Contents are provided for information only, under the right to free speech. Opinions are the authors' own. No professional advice is intended. If you wish others to be legally responsible for your health, life or finances, then please consult a professional regulated according to the laws of your country.
Volume 14 no 83. First published May 2001. ISSN 0964-5659.
Is consciousness only 3000 years old?
By George Smith < firstname.lastname@example.org >
I have been re reading Princeton psychology professor Julian Jaynes' 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness In The Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. I had forgotten what an amazing hypothesis he suggested and supported. In essence, Jaynes proposed the idea that up until about 3000 years ago, human being were not conscious at all.
He described in some detail how numerous mental and behavioural activities do not require consciousness, drawing from research available up to that time and carefully defined consciousness as the arena of "internal" mental dialogue from which modern human beings derive decision making, free will, etc. Jaynes concludes that consciousness came as a function of language but was accidental and not evolutionary. We didn't need to be conscious to survive.
Jaynes outlines how the "bicameral mind" of our ancestors was divided between the (usual) right hemisphere which would make decisions in unusual situations (not habitual) and then cause voices and sometimes visual hallucinations to convey these decisions into the awareness of the (usual) left hemisphere. Jaynes suggested that the human being would unconsciously react to these hallucinated commands and identified these commands as (in the case certainly of Homer's Illiad) "gods".
Whether or not Jaynes fascinating hypothesis about the past is correct or not, this suggestion that it is entirely possible for human beings to exist, make and use tools, read and write, and build entire civilizations without consciousness is something which should be of no small importance to us here.
For some time there has been an ongoing debate on the the Internet email list Cryonet about whether "something vital" could be lost in duplicating the human mind in another medium (such as a virtual reality in a digital computer). The possibility that our ancestors could have exhibited all the usual human functions of thinking, emotions, problem-solving etc but may have lacked consciousness makes this book very important to be carefully read and considered by cryonicists in my opinion.
For the "near" future, with restoration of life to biological bodies with cryonics this is not a critical problem. However, the arguments that we might upload into a conscious state seems to me to have more weight IF Jaynes suggestions that a "bicameral mind" is possible and especially so if he is right and consciousness was absolutely absent from the human race until just 30 centuries ago.
Cryonics vs. God's Promise
by Yvan Bozzonetti Azt28@aol.com
This message comes from some thought after reading the "Fitz" presentation in The Immortalist issue of Jan. Feb. 2001.
For many, when the hour has come, any afterlife is in the hands of God. At the end of time, all souls must live again. Cryonics is another brand: It is a gamble on coming technologies. The time involved is on the century scale, may be one or two.
Can we test God's promise in the same way? When will the end of time come? Surely, some will tell you it is for the next day or month, but can we try to get a firmer estimate than that?
The first epoch is when the equilibrium between oceans and atmosphere will break down, the temperature may get very hot, similar to that on the planet Venus. This will be in around one billion years' time. Well, big technological solutions could be found so that Earth would remains a livable planet far beyond that epoch. This is not the end of time.
This next stop is five billions of years away. When the Sun will exhaust its hydrogen fuel in its centre, it will ten expand into a red giant and our world will be vaporized. There may be some technological remedies to that, for example mixing the Sun mass with a brown dwarf impact. Some billions of tons of quark nuggets could turn our star into a fully convective body and the energy source would then last for more than 500 billion of years. This is not the end of time...
The next step is when all stars will have burned their hydrogen, this is the start of the dark age of the Galaxy. This puts us at least ten trillion of year from now. This is not the end of story either, because gravitational potential energy could be extracted from bodies spiralling towards black holes. The same technology would permit the production of beamed energy for interstellar travel.
The next stop would then be a big crunch of the Universe's event horizon. Our universe expands continuously and its observable limit recedes at the speed of light. At any time, a big mass may enter our horizon limit and produce a universe collapse: The Big Crunch. Given the measured smoothness of the large scale mass in the universe, a collapsing mass can't enter our event horizon before 10^18 yrs. This is the first possible end of time. That is so the minimum time you would have to wait to see the God's promise.
Do you want to bet on 10^18 years? Well, this is not very long if we see it against eternity, on the other hand it seems very long as seen against cryonics alternative. How could two so different things could even put on the same list of choices?
36th Update of My Fly Longevity Experiments
by Douglas Skrecky
This is the 36th update of my fly longevity experiments. In this run I investigated the longevity promoting effect of Knudsen elderberry nectar. To see if more was better, some of this nectar was partially frozen, and the ice slush was decanted to yield a fluid that was roughly double strength. Since the main ingredient of elderberry nectar is apple juice, both antioxidant-rich Santa Cruz apple cider (with apple skins), as well antioxidant poor Sun-Rype apple juice (without skins) were tested. Since elderberry nectar also has a small amount of boysenberry juice, another juice (Santa Cruz berry nectar), which also has a small amount of this juice was tested. Black Cherry juice was retested since the last surviving fly in Run #12 (65 days) was fed this juice. Sun Rype apple juice had been tested back in Run #11, where it offered a minor benefit. However this was before I started adding citric acid to eliminate pathogen growth in the fly food. The result with this juice this time is rather hard to believe.
In the present experiment an average longevity of about 40 days for the controls was doubled to about 80 days with Sun Rype apple juice. Maximum lifespan was also dramatically increased by 47% from 73 days for the controls, to 107 days for the apple juice. This breaks my previous record for maximum longevity, which was set in Run #7 at 88 days. Extreme effects like will have to be replicated before I will put much credence to them. The modest benefit with antioxidant-rich apple cider, indicates that antioxidants are unlikely to be the active ingrediant in Sun Rype apple juice. This time elderberry nectar performed about the same as in the past, with a good increase in average longevity, without any significant effect on maximum survival. I taken by surprise by the effect of double strength elderberry nectar, which like Sun Rype apple doubled average longevity to 80 days, and increased maximum survival even more (62%) to 118 days. A further census at day 124, found that this last sole survivor had at long last perished. In Run #18 I found that survival was better with 1/4 tsp citric acid added to 20 gm 4-24 fly food, than 1/8 tsp.
It what may be a major slip up, I failed to test yet higher dosages of citric acid. No evidence of pathogen growth was noted at the lower dosage of citric acid, yet this does not mean that pathogens are not still limiting the survival of the flies. When the flies die, their corpses are not removed from the milk bottles that house them. Possibly some juices lengthen fly lifespan, by providing additional acid, without inducing toxicity. Experiments are in progress examining this possibility.
Percent Survival on Day
In Freezer Run #8, I tried a slightly different experimental protocol. For long term longevity experiments I use milk bottles to housethe flies, and add 20 grams of fly food, with 5 tablespoons of water. Such a large amount of fly food is used, to delay the time it takes to dry the food enough to adversely affect the flies. For this freeze experiment I used 5 grams of fly food, and used plastic bags as containers. Flies were treated to various supplement conditions for 5 days, before being placed in the freezer. The time in the freezer was reduced because flies would be under greater temperature stress when not protected by milk bottles. I retested pycnogenol, as a positive control, though this time no significant benefit was observed. Two sources of additional protein were tested to see if extra amino acids offer any benefit. The null result with soy, indicates that the benefit of whey protein is not due to amino acids. Green tea polyphenols offered a significant benefit, which even eclipsed that of whey.
|Freezer Run #8||
Percent Survival After minutes
|supplement/20 gm food||0||30||46|
|betaine hydrochloride 2000 mg||93||14||0|
|green tea polys 300 mg||100||44||25|
|oleuropein 272 mg||93||20||0|
|pycnogenol 300 mg||100||15||0|
|resveratrol 400 mg||100||7||0|
|soy protein 4 tsp||96||8||0|
|whey protein 4 tsp||100||39||4|
The Uses of Low Dose Aspirin.
By Dr Keith Monnington < email@example.com >
New Zealand's Marathon and Road Running Guide
There are 3 issues with low dose aspirin.
The opinions expressed are those of the author, and are based on conventional medical practice in NZ, and that individuals should consult a practitioner of their choice for personal advice.
Comments on Partners and Religion
These comments from Cryonet are reproduced by permission of the authors:
From: George Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Steven Lacher asked about the issue of having someone you love deeply who does not sign up for cryonics, what to do, how to handle it, etc. Consider first challenging the reasons for your choosing cryonics from an atheist-theist perspective. Consider coming from the view that cryonics has nothing to do with the existence or non existence of God, heaven, hell, an afterlife, etc. If your partner feels that by signing up for cryonics she is undermining her faith in her religion, THAT is the real problem here.
Start to discuss cryonics with her from ONLY the standpoint of taking the next step in emergency resuscitation. Would she permit an ER team to give her CPR if she were injured and not breathing? Would she want them to use the paddles to start her heart again if it stopped? Would she accept heart surgery to save her life? If you can cause her to view cryonics as nothing more than a future extension of current medical procedures and remove this debate from the realm of religion, she may have no problem with signing up at all.
I would add to this that I really can't see how cryonics proves or disproves anything about theology any more than our current medical life saving procedures do. I think it is extremely useful to not equate cryonics with atheism or theism. Consider how much easier it might be to have your partner join you in this grand adventure by helping her to realize that it is just what people will be able to use for emergencies in just a few more years anyway. (Maybe sooner, maybe later).
It has nothing to do with religion unless we pretend otherwise. I think this is the truth of the matter.
So first consider freeing yourself from believing otherwise and your partner will have a much easier time seeing her way clear to doing the same. Hang in there
From: Scott Badger
My theist girlfriend supports my decision but she won't sign up. She'd just as soon die and join her god. This world doesn't impress her and the future scares her more than excites her. She yearns for the peace she believes will come with death.
I've heard the argument that cryonics is compatible with religious views, and that's true for the most part I suppose but the fundamental concept underlying cryonics is life-extension and what does a Christian do in a future where science has learned how to stop the aging process? If you're not going to die, you're not going to heaven and you're not allowed to kill yourself so you're trapped in the physical world...cut-off from your god. I suppose one could make the choice to not take advantage of medical technology and go ahead and age "naturally". But wouldn't that be another form of suicide? How do Christians define suicide? If you have a choice between life and death and you choose death...how is that not suicide? What if you refuse medication that will save your life? What if you choose a life style that puts you at high risk? Putting a gun to your head is faster and more dramatic but we make lots of life-shortening choices all the time. It's just a matter of degree. Anyway, I just wondered how Christians deal with the paradoxical prospect of indefinitely extended life spans.
Theological Questions Raised by Cryonics
Organization: Priests Of The Woodlands Nations
[I must strongly caution those who would read this that "Priests Of The Woodlands Nations" are not priests of any Christian Church. Indeed, the first Catholic missionary to encounter my culture said our religion was "pagan." This confused my ancestors somewhat as they didn't know what religion was and thought thier family histories were somehow displeasing this strange man. We say priest because that English word comes closest to meaning makadewikonayewinini. I am a priest in the same sense a Shaolin monk is a priest and a theologian because I have modest training in that discipline.]
The theological questions that are raised by a notion as profound as reviving a cryogenically preserved human are not simple. These belong to such august bodies as the College Of Cardinals, the faculties of philosophy departments at respected universities, the theological seminaries of the Roman Catholic Church...the credentialed and published theologians of our (and future) time. Among those who believe the soul leaves the body and proceeds as a sentient entity when the body dies, cryonics raises the most profound of questions. These are not the realm of the local Deacon nor can they be addressed by a layman with a bible in one hand and a Catholic Catechism in the other. The Nazarene himself may have anticipated cryonics (...last shall come first...); the great apologists and philosopher/theologians did not.
If cryonicists are someday successful: if a human who has been legally dead, with an internal temperature way below the freezing point of water, someday gets up and walks it will be stunning. If he is self aware and has his memory intact, it would seem at a glance to defy Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox beliefs. If he has the ability to do abstract reasoning (the "knowledge of good and evil") it may establish his soul is present (or did not exist in the first place).
However, theology isn't done at a glance. If these things happen they may actually confirm the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and they may confirm the words of John the Apostle, as written on the Island of Patmos (location recently contested), around the year 66 CE. That is, the whole body has been resurrected, is in perfect health, is incorruptible (handy things those nano-doohickies) and the soul has returned to it.
I do not wish to suggest that I adhere to such a notion. I suggest that until the Vatican, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Cosmopolitan take a position, cryonic attempts cannot be said to challenge faith or beliefs of anyone claiming Christianity. Protestants may object to my preferences for authoritative source but this is not about religious practice or organizational identity; it's about theological construct begun by Paul in Rome, but dependent at its roots on Judaism all the way back to "Genesis." The Vatican is authoritative in these matters because that's where the head librarian hangs out.
The conclusions which are drawn and actually published by the Holy See are not intended for today and tomorrow. They must stand the test of centuries. In this case, the questions cannot even be formally addressed until the event occurs. As to whether or not the attempts themselves are a failing of faith, the Vatican has not spoken. I am not aware of any pronouncement to the Bishops of the Catholic Church that interment in liquid nitrogen is to be condemned. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent a Catholic priest from conducting a requiem mass for a new cryonaut while standing at the chamber. Whether or not the cryonaut is going to get up and walk again is not relevant to the proceedings and Catholic dogma says he is going to do just that anyway.
The next time you are tempted to respond to a "Christian" who challenges cryonic attempts on religious grounds in a newsgroup, try to hold yourself in check. Your antagonist has not the Papal Imrimatur and you probably don't know too much about it either.
Another Look at God and Cryonics
By Yvan Bozzonetti.
First, how long you expect to live? Assume you are frozen and some day you get out in a world where nearly all biological problems have been solved. If that was done today, you could live for 3000 years or so. In that time span, you would have a 50 percent probability to fall the prey of the most common man's predator: The Car. You would be very lucky to live for 10 000 years or so. Beyond that, you could be uploaded in an information processing system... This is out of the realm of basic cryonics, so I don't comment more on it here.
So, your time horizon is somewhere between 1 000 and 10 000 years with cryonics.
Now, assume you are religious and hope God will bring you to life at the end of time. From the hard knowledge of the Universe, the end of time(s) can come only in a cosmological "big crunch". This is possible only if a big mass enter our cosmological horizon (we see it today at 16 billions light years or so) . The smoothness or the horizon forbids a big crunch before at least one billion of billion of years. This is the minimum time the Universe such we see it will endure. So, at the minimum, God ask us to wait for that duration. Whatever you may think about God, why not take a very small slice of life with cryonics, after all, 10^4 years is nearly nothing against 10^18 years to wait for God.
Frankly, I don't understand why to bother with something as the God idea: Billion of billions of years is too much for my understanding.
Aesthetics in Cryonics
by Steve Harris, email@example.com
I suspect that for some people the aesthetics of cryonics (not necessarily confined to visual aesthetics) has played a far more powerful role than they themselves may have realized. This is true for both the boosters and the detractors of the idea.
On the booster side, remember that deliberate mummification as a technology came originally from an extremely aesthetics-oriented society, where just about every aspect of life was connected with the visual arts. Since most aspects of putrefaction are aesthetically unappealing, we might imagine that the Egyptians simply applied themselves to this problem with the same exquisite aesthetic taste that they brought to their writing, their building, and everything else they did. The idea that the Egyptians thought they had to mummify bodies for religious reasons may be true, but it also may not have been the initial driving force. We know of many cases where body preservation is done for artistic sake by people who by no means believe that if your body decays, then you are somehow out of luck when the last trump blows. Consider the inordinate amounts of money spent on metal sealer caskets, even today. The modern practice of embalming as we do it now (dating from mid 19th century) also essentially comes out of aesthetic/practical considerations, in order to at least preserve a body long enough for transport by train, or for mourners to be transported that way. Preventing something from smelling bad certainly comes under the heading of aesthetics; though if it's an art it's a minimalist one at best. But fixing or preventing the bad smell is only a small part of the much larger act of proper presentation of a corpse for mourners, which is certainly an entire complex artistic field (albeit one of commercial and performance art, rather than fine art).
On a larger view, I think that one of the motivators in much of art is the drive to preserve something in a timeless way, so that it can continue to convey the artist's original message to viewers, each time they experience it. Almost all artists are vitally concerned with issues of preservation. If they use biological materials as part of the art, they think about degradation all the time. There is a certain artistic power in capturing a piece of the world, stopping time for it more or less effectively, and then displaying it. This may one of the primary artistic impulses ("Hey-- look at that! I wish Ungghthmm could see it"). Drying flowers and embedding things in acrylic plastic are very popular artistic hobbies in today's world. And I suspect it's not coincidence that cryonics from its inception has been frequently portrayed with people frozen into solid blocks of ice. Aesthetically, how can we deny that this is more appealing than hanging upside down in liquid nitrogen? That an ice-block "embedment" has never happened in the entire history of cryonics is quite interesting, considering the number of images generated of it. Aesthetics surely drives this dichotomy between image and substance.
The revulsion from its detractors that has dogged cryonics from the beginning has also been partly aesthetic revulsion. It's one thing to be dead; it's something else to have your body carved up or invaded, and presented in the open. Worse still to have this happen to someone who is NOT dead. For now we have the potential for suffering from social alienation. I've written before about this theme in the writings of Poe and Lovecraft. And Frankenstein's creature who started all this, of course had the same problems. In Shelley's book, the creature is strong, intelligent, and has the kind of sensitivity to suggest it very much has a soul. What makes it a monster is entirely the fact that it's aesthetically displeasing-- a poorly executed work of art which its creator takes no responsibility for. So the monster spends its time cast out of society, looking in from outside, being lonely ---an unusual type of orphan, and certainly a victim of child-abuse. All the creature really wants to do is get married; it wants a mate which thinks it's not ugly. Thwarted in even this, the creature turns murderous and destroys its creator's wedding and his creator's own chosen mate. We might have no difficulty in guessing that this novel was written by a motherless 19th-century teenaged girl, to whom entry to society was heavily based on looks alone. The plot of Frankenstein is pure outsider teen revenge. We've seen it (to pick one modern example) in Stephen King novels from the very first (Carrie, Firestarter, They Come Back, etc).
BTW, I think that a good deal of very basic aesthetics seems to be hardwired into us. Smells we find distasteful are associated with decay, vomit, excrement, and so on, and this seems to be somewhat universal and somewhat utilitarian. Visually, we like symmetry (in both our engineering and our faces), and our monsters are certainly always asymmetrical, are they not? We have a definite taste for sunny savanna-like parks with grassy meadows and trees, and we create such spaces wherever we can (even, ironically, when our allergies have forced us into the desert to escape them in the first place). Our monsters come out of other environments (the sea, the jungle, the fog, the dark). We don't like spiders and snakes and heights. We share all these tastes with our primate cousins, who (as we know) are born with them as instincts. We don't like the sight of severed or dismembered body parts, and this kind of thing puts universal dread into chimpanzees, so it's probably genetic, too.
Severed heads and skulls are a special source of terror. And there are severed heads, of course, throughout all famous literature and history. Readers will remember Poe's Adventure of the German Student. And one of the reanimated corpses in Lovecraft's Reanimator stories carries its own severed head tucked underneath an arm. Heads get attention. If you can raise the image of eight heads in a duffel bag, your movie might sell on title alone. In popular culture we all know more about Henry VIII than we do about Henry VII (or even Richard III), and so on.
We humans are basically gregarious primates, and can't get away from our origins there in some of our aesthetic tastes. Like monkeys, we like fruit, flowers, nuts, and bright colours (colour other than green means ripe fruit!). Like monkeys we fear snakes, dismembered body parts, insects, heights, and the dark. Unlike any other animal with the possible exception of the domestic dog, we love fire, are hypnotized and fascinated by it, and have been cooking with it long enough that (I suspect) we have a genetically inbred taste for char, smoke, braze, glaze, toast, caramel, and other food-browning products (dogs seem to like cooked food also, but then they've been sharing our fires for a long, long time, and possibly come by their tastes the same way we have). Things like these go into our artistic and aesthetic values. So genes are partly destiny, when it comes to beauty. Creatures able to see only a couple of colours, perhaps because they eat meat and not fruit, cannot be expected to appreciate rainbows as we do. And rotting meat cannot smell the same to flies and vultures as it does to us.
We humans also fear alienation, because we are pack animals, and there is safety in numbers. One of our typical creation stories features snakes and fruits in forbidden trees (the attention-getters of the tale), and then the pain of being cast out and alienated to wander outside the savanna-like garden, never to find the way in. When we want to be terrified here in the 21st century, we sit in movies (sipping cola-nut and fruit-flavoured drinks, of course) and watch stories full of flames, heights, danger in the dark, giant creepy-crawlies, and the ugly un-dead. We watch the socially isolated hero or antihero trying to find a way back to acceptance, or a way to make society pay for refusing admission. We are fascinated by, and at the same time fear, long journeys. The archetypal wanderer who battles monsters in order to get home, draws us into his story. Other than the social sitcom story*, the "journey with monsters" adventure story is probably the main story we tell each other (see the recent movie Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? for a fun and open retelling of Homer's Odyssey).
[*Social sitcom story/comedy: hero wishes to impress society or potential mate or both. Deception is called for, since he/she has few special skills. Initial attempts go awry and cause him or her to appear childish to exactly the wrong people. Eventually, however, at the end of the tale she/he succeeds in being accepted.]
So yes, there's a lot of aesthetic sensibility associated with cryonics, but the news isn't all good. In a message to Cryonet a few years ago I reminded readers about the aesthetic power of stories dealing with these button-pushing devices. Fear of alienation is not a matter of aesthetics per se, but it's directly connected to it since aesthetics drive so much of social interaction for us, at levels too basic to change (think of Frankenstein's monster again). The idea of being made into something ugly and socially unacceptable generates anger and fear of the finest grade, and that kind of shiver is what gets stories remembered, from the plight Lawrence Talbot the wolf-man, to the problems of poor Dr. Jekyll. Of course, other primal aesthetic elements help. (For a homely sensory example, there is a Stephen King short story, immortalized as a sub-story in the movie Stand By Me, about the revenge of an outcast fat kid who gorges at a pie-eating contest and then vomits blueberry
pie onto a whole town. Consider the smell. Consider the colour...)
My earlier example from the art of horror used American author Washington Irving, who wrote dozens of short stories, but is remembered 180 years later for just two of them. Why these particular two? The answer is illustrative. One is the story of Rip Van Winkle, a hunter who encounters in a deep glen the shades of Hendrik Hudson and his murdered officers, sleeps 20 years from a draught of their ghostly whiskey, and returns to his town to find himself alienated in a novel way - he's out of his time, an anachronism with no way back. Also, he's now much older, with the aesthetic questions of instant aging to deal with. I don't think Irving intended this story to really be a horror story (it's rather a kind of Dutch ghost story, but the ghosts are only a vehicle to discuss the way things change). But the image of poor stranded and befuddled Van Winkle was too powerful to be remembered as anything but horror. Time-travel (cryonics!) is aesthetically a two-edged sword, and if it's one way, the traveller always faces terrible potential alienation. He might find himself, for instance, among the beautiful Eloi, eating fruit and lying about in the sun, like English gentle-people. But down below in the dark there might also be the Morlock industrial lower classes, who are ugly and who like Eloi meat. H. G. Wells probably intended this one for social commentary, too, but (as in Sinclair's The Jungle) the original socialist message got lost in the impact of the story's adventure and cannibalism. What readers found more interesting in The Time Traveller, in other words, was a more timeless message, and the same one we saw in Rip Van Winkle: if you're lost in time you're really LOST.
The other Washington Irving story is of course The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which is about the headless horseman who is waiting to chase the unwary through the forests of the night. The original Irving story was intended as a wry situation-comedy rather than a horror tale (there is no suggestion that the horseman was real), but that is not what we remember the story for, either. If an author uses an image this potent, he must be prepared to pay the consequences.
Of course, such stories are all now in our cultural memory. Cryonics organizations therefore encounter these Frankenstein archetypes immediately. Cryonics advertising says, in effect: "We'd like you to think of yourself when you are dead. How do you like that aesthetic image? No? Doesn't pass the sniff test? Okay, but just wait and see if you like this part: we'll remove your head, perfuse some unappealing stuff into its vessels, and then send it (but not the rest of you) into the far future where you may wake up in any condition, and perhaps as helpless as you can imagine. And, of course, possibly irreversibly alienated from everything you know and love in your present life. And no, wiggling your ears won't help."
"Oh, and, by the way, all this will cost you a lot."
It isn't the cost that gets people's attention, it's the negative aesthetics. Aesthetics explain some of why cryonics can't even be given away to most people, who react to it rather like the stories of Poe, Lovecraft, and Shelley. Or the images of Irving, or even King's blueberry pie story. It does no good to argue with them about the aesthetics of what will surely happen to them with NO cryonics. We never said aesthetic sense was rational, did we? People already have their mental defences in place about death, and most of these are irrational. These prior defences would need to be torn down first, for the cryonics idea to penetrate. And that process would involve mental pain and wrinkled noses all the way.
Human Identity -
A Mix of Hardware and Software?
by George Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
John McCrone has written two excellent books summarizing issues regarding the nature of mind and identity. These are The Ape That Spoke and The Myth of Irrationality (ISBN 0-7867-0067-X). Much of this work stems from the efforts of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky and those who have followed in his footsteps.
In crudest summary, human consciousness including the sense of self arises not as a natural nor inevitable consequence of biological evolution but through the interplay of language and the brain. Examples from which this hypothesis arose include the virtual inability of feral children to learn language as well as an entire body of research conducted first starting in the 1930's in Russia.
Cryonet readers may recall how not that long ago I had written about Julian Jaynes' hypothesis that human consciousness is only approximately three thousand years old and that our earlier ancestors were not actually conscious at all (no internal mental "space" nor dialogue for decision making). McCrone's summaries of these obscure but significant Russian research studies point to the critical issue of both consciousness and "self" requiring a particular interplay between brain structure support (providing imagery, recognition, association and perception) and cultural learning via language (inner "voice", recollection, emotional attitudes and consciousness).
In essence, McCrone suggests that whereas Western civilization has promoted a split mind model (rational/irrational, left hemisphere/right hemisphere) the evidence actually supports a layered mind model with an "animal" physiological platform lying "beneath" a cultural language-based collection of skills. Only the interplay between the two can result in our particular form of human consciousness and sense of self.
The significance is that, if this hypothesis is correct, uploading the human mind would require also uploading isomorphic "structures" to duplicate the brain's physiology as well as the specific cultural interplays learned in the first five years of life which are apparently required to develop and sustain consciousness as well as a sense of "self". The support for such a view has wide evidence ranging from observations derived from stroke victims and numerous other studies over the years.
Put simply, the common perspective on what constitutes consciousness and "self" may very well require copying not only "logic circuits" and "data" but the structural interplay between the two. I suspect these issues can be overcome (after all WE are here right now, yes? The flesh machinery works, yes?) but my concern would be in assuming we know all that is required to do the job and end up leaving out consciousness and the sense of self.
Fortunately with relatively "simple" cryonics we bring back hopefully both portions: organic substructure as well as the learned skills.
The Alcor Adventure Video Review
by John Grigg < email@example.com >
I have viewed The Alcor Adventure Video six times so far and now feel ready to discuss it. An excellent investment at $25 considering how it would be an excellent primer to show curious friends and family. I hope everyone on this list purchases a copy from Alcor!
Having read the article in Cryonics by the video's creator Billy Seidel, I knew it was quite a challenge for him in deciding on the right approach as well as viewing length. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his hard work.
As the video progresses, Billy Seidel walks the viewers through the process of considering cryonics in the various ways one must (price, odds of working, ethics/religion, what experts say, which org to join (oddly it wasn't CI or ACS) and then a "signing up" is done at the end. In this way many of the questions and objections a curious newcomer might have would be answered and a feeling of resolution would be reached.
He does this all in a very systematic way as in one scene we see him check off the following...
good idea? yes
can I afford it? yes
is my religion ok with it? yes
have recent technological advancements made cryostasis even more possible? yes
The video starts out with a view of Billy's hands at a desk with him as the narrator(not Charleton Heston or Patrick Stewart!) He starts out with, "this is going to be difficult, because what I'm thinking about may not even be possible at all." I was surprised by his candor in starting out.
He explains with a chart he draws how someone born this year may never die from disease or old age but those older (us!) will need something to get us over the hump. If we can only make it to the time a hundred years hence when medical technology is so advanced that what kills us now won't kill us then. As Billy puts it "so, the big problem is getting to the future!," and he then states "Alcor says they can do it with biostasis." Finally, he declares "I'd better give them a call." And the adventure begins...
He reviews some reports and graphs done by various people to show we do have some chance of making it via cryonics despite the hazards of things such as fire or natural disaster.
Max More is the first person interviewed (very briefly!). Max very matter of factly explained how a sensible person should carefully study the matter and then make a decision. Max admits there is no guarantee but as science progresses things look tremendously better that cryonics will work. He gave an example of how many cells and tissues can now be frozen and then brought back.
The graphic at the bottom of the screen introduced him as a philosopher. While, he is this by education I would think "President of the Extropian Institute" and/or "business consultant" could have also been good titles. Maybe, he just wears to many hats to label with just one like many people today.
Natasha Vita-More is next up. I especially liked how she explained cryonics should be seen as a form of insurance and the ultimate safety net. Natasha shot down the notion that cryonicists are "thrilled" in some fetish-like way at the idea of being frozen.
Natasha's graphic for her career was "metaculture." My mother wanted to know exactly what a metaculturist does! I thought maybe "artist" and/or "media personality" would have been better for people to understand.
Natasha is such an attractive woman but the lighting was bad for the interview. Her eyes were dark holes due to shadows which really bothered me. I wish more attention had been paid to lighting. I realize Billy Seidel had limited time and resources, but still ...
Rudi Hoffman, our resident insurance pro, shared that cryonics is not just for the wealthy because of the incredible leverage one can get with life insurance. How did I just know that Rudi would bring that up? I loved how on his shirt were embroidered the words "cryonics insurance!" :)
I really chuckled when Rudi said cryonics was not just for the rich or "the lunatic fringe of high-tech wierdos!" I sure hope no one here is included in the latter group!! I think in some people's minds all cryonicists and transhumanists are given that label but times are changing.
While poor Natasha was covered in darkness, Rudi was aglow like a star. Either it was his very sunny personality, luck or he knows how to position himself for an outdoor interview.
Louise Gold was interviewed with Peter Voss. Peter Voss simply stated that cryonics is experimental but what do we have to lose anyway?
I liked Louise Gold's enthusiastic comment that as good as life may be now it could be so much better in the future if you have faith that science and humanity can work together for good. And with that in mind cryonics is the thing to do.
At one point Billy showed a number of books which have been prominent within the cryonics world. Giving due respect, he showed Robert Ettinger's Prospect of Immortality first and then a pile of other books. I smiled at one title which went something like, The Boomer's Guide to Living Forever!
As the narrator Billy Seidel asked why more people had not yet signed up for cryonics. Kathleen Cotter, the Alcor cryostasis team coordinator, explained that most people haven't joined because they don't understand what cryonics offers. And that in time we could be living centuries.
Matthew Sullivan, the Alcor facility operations/patient care manager, stated society has taught us death is both desirable and unavoidable.
And Dr. Terry Grossman (author - Boomer's Guide to Living Forever) said he is surprised more people have not yet signed up. He felt this way since many people say they so badly want to see how the future develops.
Personally, I tend to think more people have not yet signed up for cryonics because the procedure is not currently fully reversible! But, that would not make for inspiring public relations.
When Alcor's three year plan of renovation has been successfully implemented and the Timeship is being used then we will really have something to catch and hold the public eye. Not as good as reversible suspended animation but still impressive.
I would hope a follow-up video is made several years from now where David Pizer's Venturist community will be mentioned and lauded. Perhaps, even a brief interview with Robert Ettinger to give credit to the father of cryonics. Of course, his "children" at Alcor have gone their own way ...
I loved every glimpse given of the Alcor Asilomar conference panels. The panel on myth-cracking was shown with Natasha Vita-More moderating. Ralph Merkle gave the best answer he could think of in explaining why a religious person could consider cryonics acceptable and even imperative. Merkle's argument was that we are here to do God's work and have an imperative to live longer and healthier lives to carry out the almighty's work. Merkle said this was the most compelling argument on the matter which he knew of though he himself is not religious.
It was funny seeing Merkle shrug in a self-conscious way when Greg Fahy explained how cryonics was gaining prominence with such scientists as Merkle lending their support. He didn't seem so terrible then!
Fahy also explained how transhumanist/cryonicist subjects such as nanotech were know getting respectful treatment and it was so refreshing considering how just a few years ago Scientific American had slammed the infant technology. Then the Scientific American article which discussed Alcor (including a big, glossy pic of Linda Chamberlain standing next to dewars) was shown.
This video gave the needed attention to vitrification and how it far surpasses the old way of freezing. A panel excerpt showed Wowk and Fahy explaining the leap forward which it is. Photos were displayed to show advantages in cell and molecular integrity. This really helped get the idea across.
Dr. Rob Newport also very succinctly told how vitrification is so much better over the structural damage freezing would cause. It was another of the "mini-interviews" which Billy Seidel used throughout.
Finally, Kathleen Cotter, Alcor biostasis team coordinator, shared again the facts regarding vitrification's superiority over conventional freezing. The point was definitely well made by several people! lol
Dr. Max More (he is a doctor of philosophy) made me really chuckle when on a panel he said that people who would say they would be bored with a 1000 year lifespan would also be bored now and not know what to do with themselves next week!
One person who stood out to me in the video was Dr. Jerry Lemler. He really struck me as a caring and zestful person. I loved how he talked about how being free of disease/angst/money worries/travel restrictions in a future post-reanimation world would be so wonderful and almost unimaginable in today's world. Dr. Lemler said he loves every precious moment of today and wants that second journey.
Dr. Greg Fahy as a panel speaker stated things will change and get better as time passes for immortals, and it would actually take effort to stay bored in those circumstances! I don't think he knows some of my friends! I think some people think it's cool to be "bored."
I got a big kick out of Jack St. Clair! He had an infectious English enthusiasm which I found very warm. He had a sort of "everyman" feel to him which could touch someone otherwise unaffected by the other speakers. I could see Jack being a game show host. :)
As things progress for Jerry Seidel in the video(as he explores cryonics and decides to join up) he pays a visit to Alcor. Linda Chamberlain greets him with a warm smile at the door and whisks him to the conference room.
Linda gives a little history about Alcor and explains a matter of paramount importance to their organization. That stabilization/standby teams are the key to stopping decay from the moment the heart stops. This she feels sets Alcor apart among other organizations.
Stem cell research was brought up here in her interview(and earlier in some detail) to show that biological regeneration really is not science fiction but coming our way soon.
She pleaded that people not try to sign up friends and relatives while they are on their deathbed or right after death! Linda explained the whole procedure takes time and so don't procrastinate.
And Linda relieved any people's worries out there of coming back as old and infirm people! With nanotech, she explained, if they can bring you back at all then making you young will be a breeze by comparison.
Next, Fred was interviewed. Billy hit him with the question of whether the money given over to Alcor is safe from dishonesty. Fred explained that a board of five people separate from the operating organization board preside over the care of these funds and that at least three members have family in biostasis (I'm trying to not say "suspension" anymore!).
I noticed Fred Chamberlain has definitely been working out and had a proud set of biceps. Only he and Natasha got to show off this way!
Billy asked Fred about the "immortals who might get very bored" question. Fred replied that even now people can opt out by committing suicide with a gun!! So, don't worry about getting bored! This resulted in laughs on the video but made my family and I feel a little awkward... I understand that a little dry gallows humour can be stress-relieving sometimes, especially for a person who runs an organization which must deal so much with death.
Fred shared that a variety of people from different walks of life are signed up for cryonics. I guess some people stereotype cryonicists. I have read articles saying those signed up are usually "single and lonely white males who are atheistic computer programmers and live in silicon valley!"
Fred discussed vitrification and how it can benefit cryonicists even before it helps the general public in the form of organ transplantation. Vitrification certainly got good coverage in this production!
Toward the end we see Billy reading a letter from Alcor congratulating him on having joined. He says "well, that's it, I made it!" Billy goes on to tell "I have everything in place and my lifeline to the future is complete."
Photographs are shown of people who are currently in biostasis. Most I did not recognize but FM-2030 was one I certainly did. As this very touching sequence played out Billy stated "I feel like I really belong someplace, I belong to a community that stands for something important and not just for me but society as a whole."
"We have lost too many valuable individual's to the war with death, how much more could they have contributed to the human race if they had had more time?"
"I know I made the right choice."
We then see Billy walking across the desert in twilight to signify the journey we have taken together.
The ending of this production was so strong. I do not see how someone could not have been deeply touched by it. He took cryonics and really showed the humanity behind it.
During the closing credits a corner of the screen shows various bits from interviews done. Kathleen Cotter says she chose Alcor because they are simply the best.
Dr. Newport goes on a flight of intellectual fancy and states he might want to come back as an intelligent butterfly! Now, what kind of people did Rudi say are sometimes attracted to cryonics? Personally, I want to be a dolphin that can change into an eagle. I mean to say a dolphgle!
Dr. Lemler stated Alcor was the most stable and secure cryonics organization and that is why he chose it for he and his family.
Lastly, Jack St. Clair puts forward a very warm and forthright invitation to the viewer. "Simply contact Linda or Craig and come and join us! We want to save our lives and so why don't you save your own as well? There couldn't have been a better final person for it.
To conclude things, Billy Seidel had an Alcor contact information graphic run for a LONG time. I mean you could go eat dinner, come back and there it would still be! So, if you have someone in your home who says "don't ever rewind the VCR because you will wear it out!" Don't worry, Billy has you covered! :)
I wish just a few things had been different. Real film instead of video would have been so nice (superior in image resolution) but I realize the production price would have been very prohibitive. I just hope the next production for Alcor is done with film or a digital tech so advanced it does not matter.
Lighting was a problem. I did not like seeing things/people in shadows so much or looking somewhat washed out by light. Again, I realize both money and time was limited. Things were done "on the fly" at the Alcor conference. I just hope next time this will be corrected.
I wish the production had been maybe fifteen minutes longer to flesh out some subjects. Funding of cryonics comes to mind. I'm sure Rudi would not have minded! I could tell the interviews had been heavily cut and I wish more of what was said had been included. I felt a little "editing whiplash" as I saw The Alcor Adventure.
The public today is so used to seeing very glossy, professional and entertaining productions on network and cable television. I was concerned that this video's minor shortcomings in production will lesson the impact and opinion of some newcomers to cryonics and Alcor.
I realize the serious investigator will look past such things but some people are superficially judgmental. Making judgements strictly based on how another person is dressed is a good example.
Ultimately, it was still an excellent production and my total congratulations to Billy Seidel. If you want a short and concise video which will cover all bases in introducing cryonics and Alcor; well, this is it.
Who does cryonics or Why more males?
By Tim Freeman < firstname.lastname@example.org >
Matthew S. Malek asked on Cryonet "looking at the larger cryonics community, is it true that we are mostly male?"
Yes. My mom and I came up with a theory about what it takes to do cryonics when we went to the Alcor conference in Asilomar recently. (I want to give her credit for participating, but she hasn't signed off on what I'm about to say, so hold me solely responsible if you disagree!) Based upon the people we watched while we were there, these personality traits seem to be required:
1. You can't care what other people think. (You should see how I dress; it's obvious that I fit this one!) 2. You have to have enough financial and emotional stability to do the paperwork and pay the money. 3. You have to have optimism about the future. 4. You have to be able to think rationally about death.
I don't have research to support it, but I believe that women have a lesser tendency to fulfill criteria 1 than men, and perhaps 4 as well. I could rattle on about evolutionary psychology and make this seem a plausible consequence of the different roles that the sexes have in the reproductive process, but that's not research either and it's too easy to justify too many things that way.
People can sign up if they don't satisfy criterion #1 if they have friends who are signed up for cryonics. This worked for my mom and her fiancee and my ex-wife and it looks to be working for my present wife too. (As you can tell, serial polygamy is alive and well in my immediate family tree.)
Most people aren't signed up because of their friends because there are so few people signed up, and because the people who go first because they don't care what other people think tend to be socially isolated anyway.
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