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|Family Values||Robert Ettinger|
|As Others See Us||Sarah Crabtree,|
|Immortality - Overpopulation? Boredom? Hardly!||James Swayse|
|Film Review: Vanilla Sky||Mike Darwin|
|Raspberries over Vanilla||David Pascal|
|The Cryonics Biz - Marketing Cryonics||Steve Harris|
Volume 14 no 87. First published January 2002. ISSN 0964-5659.
by Robert Ettinger, < Ettinger@aol.com >
A third of CI patients are related by blood or marriage to other CI patients. Other patients were friends or acquaintances of each other. There are also some ties to patients of other organizations. What does this tell us?
To begin with, it is unlikely that you will be revived with only strangers around you. Many of us would rather be alive among strangers (at first), rather than dead among friends and relatives; but the (expressed or unexpressed) fear of being alone, or/and leaving others behind ("forsaking" them), is not infrequently felt. If already a third or more of patients have close ties to other patients, then your chance after revival of having companions with a shared past looks pretty good.
We have usually tended to look at the gloomy side of family statistics. Since only a small fraction of the populace is currently very favourably inclined toward cryonics, obviously there will usually be disagreement within families, with the proponents in the minority. These outnumbered pro-cryonicists will tend to be dissuaded, and we have often seen this happen.
But the other side of it is that, if at least one family member is pro cryonics, the chance of other family members coming around is thousands of times as great as it would be for a random individual. This throws additional emphasis on your ability and responsibility, not only to save yourself, but to help save your relatives and friends. Another link between love and life.
Any mixed marriage - Republican and Democrat, Protestant and Catholic, whatever - has extra hurdles to clear. Nevertheless, there are a great many mixed marriages, and many of them do all right. (Every marriage is "mixed" to some extent, since no two people are identical.)
Second, there may be special problems in the cryonics case. The reluctant spouse may not have had advance warning. The unpopularity of cryonics makes negativity easier. Money is involved. There may be family and social pressures.
Yet the actual statistical experience is hopeful. I don't have exact figures handy, but there are many times as many spouses who are tolerant, or even convert, as with random individuals. I don't know of many cases in which the spouse's reluctance actually resulted in failure to freeze.
This clearly stems mainly from three factors. First, the love relationship predisposes less automatic hostility and toward loyalty; she probably wants to give you the benefit of the doubt. Second, the spouse is exposed to much more valid cryonics information than the average person. Finally, it is usually more unpleasant to break up the marriage, or allow a continuing irritant, than to be tolerant at least--it is rarely a big sacrifice.
As to tactics, the following seem to be usually helpful:
Don't ask permission; just explain your choice. If she is reluctant, be firm. Make it clear that, regardless of your love, you will not sacrifice your life for her, and that there is no chance of your being persuaded to give up cryonics. Take it or leave it.
Avoid confrontation or reproach. Pressing the issue, raising your voice or questioning her intelligence won't help.
Make it clear that, if necessary, after revival you will make a new life without her--but it would pain you deeply to lose her, and you would be very much happier if she could share your opportunity.
Occasionally, if it isn't too blatant, implied bargaining can help. Give her something she wants, without explicitly demanding any quid pro quo. Be extra considerate, which is usually a good idea anyway.
If your growing children are available as allies, or other friends or relatives or acquaintances, use them. If she can meet other cryonicists, she is likely to be impressed with their quality.
Be patient, if there is no likely early emergency. Time is on your side (even though nobody knows how much time he has). Her continued exposure to cryonics information, the stream of new break-throughs in science and medicine, and the slowly receding public negativity, should have a cumulative effect.
As Others See us
Sarah Crabtree, Stanley Trevor, Will Daunt
New Hope International Review - http ://www.nhi.clara.net/online.htm
NHI Review, 20 Werneth Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde, Cheshire SK14 5NL
Longevity Report #83
An interesting collection of essays on the subject of Cryonics. Some thought-provoking stuff here which will be of interest to any writer researching into the meaning of life, God and the whole darned Universe.
Perhaps the most poignant piece was penned by Tim Freeman: Who Does Cryonics Or Why More Males? My gut reaction to that question was the old reproductive reason. Cryonics is defined by Yvan Bozzonetti as another brand: It is a gamble on coming technologies. I recall seeing an American TV documentary last year which examined the procedure and issues behind the desire for longevity. Is it really desirable to outlive all your friends and relatives? Who can actually afford to live that long? John Grigg states in his essay, the Alcor Adventure Video Review that in his opinion more people have not yet signed up for cryonics because the procedure is not currently fully reversible! At present there is no guarantee of success in the freezing procedure. Douglas Skrecky is doing a long-term study on flies feeding on different juices. This current issue contains his 36th Update! Intriguing. Personally, I rather envy those who want to live forever. They must have found the meaning of life!
I think I'll settle with making the most of the time I've got left, before it all goes horribly saggy. Just don't tell anybody about that picture I've got in the attic!
reviewer: Sarah Crabtree.
Longevity Report #84
This newsletter is about cryonics, which I had never heard named, although the concept is familiar from the good old Sci-Fi days. The word does not appear in my dictionary, although its derivative base 'cryo' is noted, and 'cryogen' is defined as 'a freezing mixture' by which I understand that 'freezing' is a verb, not an adjective; and 'cryolite' is defined as a brittle fluoride of sodium and aluminium from Greenland (pretty cold there, I guess) all of which leads me to conclude that cryonics is the study of the freezing of organisms and, linked with the concept of longevity, their rehabilitation, not apparently, simply by thawing out, but, according to the author of Cryonics and the Soul, one of the essays in this newsletter: Cryonics is trying to preserve enough of the information contained in a body to allow the successful reconstruction of that body at the molecular level using a future technology. Sci-Fi indeed! Oh, Asimov, wouldst thou were living at this hour.
Nevertheless this is a serious publication presenting, inter alia, the 39th Update of Fly Longevity Experiments, as well as less scientific views on Aesthetics and Cryonics, an argument for preserving frozen persons, and somewhat tangential, although informative, material on Seventh Day Adventists and their embracing of dietary health practices in the interests of longevity, the longevity of consciousness (although, assessed at only 3,000 years, I suspect what this author is referring to is 'self-consciousness' - it seems self-evident that even dinosaurs were possessed of a certain level of consciousness), co-opetetion, (which essay I am afraid seemed to me to platitudinous with little to offer in the way of solutions to the human condition) and cryonics and the "natural order" outlining the importance of homosexuality as a survival mechanism in the machinations of Nature a la the Blind Watchmaker (Dawkins).
It all involves a high degree of vanity - the idea that one's brain, body and life signs are so special that they are worth preserving beyond death for posterity. It seems to me that there are few solutions to eternal questions here, but it is an interesting comment on the diversity of human interests and what is speculated upon ù but, as observed by a previous reviewer, it throws up more questions than it answers..
reviewer: Stanley Trevor.
Longevity Report #85
The readership of the this must be of either a broad church or a narrow spectrum. #85, from the organ of eternal youth, poses more questions than it answers. Parts of this publication promote, accessibly, discussion and research about how and why some of us could look forward to a long and healthy second slice of life. Assuming that this is not some glorious satirical sci-fi spoof which this reviewer is too dense to appreciate, it deserves serious reading. Unfortunately the tenor of the six contributions in this issue is too varied and disconnected to focus the overriding vision.
Scott Badger's How Can You Know Your Life is Real? works very well as a succinct piece of tongue-in-cheek philosophising, which Descartes would have enjoyed. More than half of the magazine is occupied by Steven B. Harris's essay the Return of the Krell Machine. This scientific speculation about the future manages to be lively and engaging, but left this rather earthbound reader behind with some of its references.
Elsewhere there is the continuing story of what happens to flies when they are fed various concoctions - they die - and a parallel narrative which reveals, directly and indirectly, the effect upon the author of concentrating on one kind of foodstuff for a day at a time. Neither experiment is introduced or contextualised.
Other parts of issue 85 are more provocative. Why does the essay on why superstition is the reason ... people reject cryonics direct its rhetoric against Christianity, while forgetting that the concept of an after life is a multi-faith one?
Earlier in the magazine, the Mummy Congress concludes:
At the very most it will only be one or two centuries before we can be reanimated ... Should we start paying into an extra pension scheme now? Shall we all have a cryonic C.V. which will help our offspring's offspring decide if we have any domestic, intellectual, practical or entertainment value when resuscitated? Where shall we live: in young old people's homes? Or could this beautiful future be scuppered by a religious maniac, who when cryonically reanimated, sets about destroying the apparatus and medicines of our impending immortality? A short story in itself ...
Like a meteor arriving unverified, from a place most of us can not conceive of, much less visit, Longevity Report defies categorization and ignores convention. These potential qualities are belied by the lack of editorial comment, and the magazine's reference to Reeves Telecommunications Laboratories, alongside some unusual disclaimers, are at best intriguing, at worst slightly spooky.
Longevity Report clearly aspires to an expanding readership. Therefore, it is surely important that a publication of this kind continually reworks the moral imperative by which it is driven, to prevent the criticism that its subject matter can be reduced to so many ideas of self-preservation.
reviewer: Will Daunt.
I am pleased to see that the quality of these reviews seems to have improved with reasoned discussion of the content. As most people read Longevity Report on the web these days, there seems little point in including a basic primer for new readers. Those who read the printed edition have been long-time subscribers who for whatever reason still prefer printed material. On the web it is possible to relate back to earlier issues of the newsletter and also related web sites, such as http://www.cryonics.org or http://www.lef.org. I agree that the subscription information is long and out of date and have altered it accordingly.
Overpopulation? Boredom? Hardly!
By James Swayse
Got one word for those who think that people need to die to make room for others: NANOTECHNOLOGY. Learn it, know it, breath it if you wish, it is your future and not even your beloved god will stop it. Oh heck I got another one for you too. IMAGINATION!
Now here are some places you may learn what it will be capable of then below I'll help you imagination a little with some things my ilk have been conjuring up a good long while. Where have you been? However, please do take a quick look at these sources so you'll be on the same page.
Try to read everything available here.
And for those wondering about the body wearing out
Future visions of Nanotech
Engines of Creation The Coming Era of Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology: the Coming Revolution in Molecular Manufacturing
Oh and for the brain running out of memory discussion recently I have the following additional tidbit
Nanotechnology magazine--another powerhouse site on nanotech
Smart and Super materials
Ok, I think we'll start here since you are so concerned with living space and such a good mathematician then how many people could live in a 100 mile wide by 100 mile long by 20 mile tall super city made of diamondoid? Simply only a 10000 square mile footprint on the Earth or perhaps Mars or even Venus (yes even Venus) or Europa, which leaves a lot of room for the surrounding area to be wild for a clean and pristine and wild environment. These growing upward rather than outward megacities will be self sufficient for energy, food and all other necessities leaving the environment to heal and live naturally. The real estate poor Japanese are now designing them. To back up my claim that this is possible I'll quote from the immediate above URL:
"Atomic precision construction could produce metal structures devoid of micro imperfections, dramatically increasing strength. Bearings made to (unheard of) atomic precision (every atom in "round") would last far longer, run cooler and bear greater loads. Today's industrial products would benefit greatly, but why bother with first wave industrialization materials when diamondoid super composites are available? Nano-constructed materials can be to material strength and utility what scientific notation is to math. In diamond form, carbon is 50-70 times stronger than steel and and less than one fourth the weight. Buckytubes are 100 times as strong (and conduct electrons like copper, see Buckytube Super Composites below).<--at the URL
Much of the carbon needed to build with is available now from the billions of pounds of fossil fuel burned into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. The raw material delivers itself. "
[Bet you never thought of plain old soot as being able to be made as valuable as a diamond]
So my mathematical friend, how many folks might a few hundred of these megacities hold? How about we go out to the asteroid belt and tame those troublesome dirt clods, constantly bumping into each other getting their orbits changed and then bumping into us. By having nanorobots build struts between them of diamondoid and steel and nickel and whatever else they're mad of, from hollowing out the insides we'll tie them all together. Then lets make cities on the insides of some of the 20-100 square mile sized big rocks.
The entire belt will eventually become a ring world and the struts will be hollow for transportation between asteroid cities and around the ring. The shells they will become will protect from radiation not to mention since even now we can make MRI machines 33,000 times more powerful than the earth's magnetic field, then we can by then surely build magnetic shielding to ward off harmful solar particles. In fact we might collect solar dust for building material and start a Dyson sphere from those rocks. Solves two problems, population and nasty asteroid damage to our precious Earth... and then our precious Mars, Venus, Io, Europa, etc. Can you even begin to calculate how manypeople the asteroid belt made into a ring world could house? How about rotating ring world cities also around the planets? Or even the moon/s?
How about terra forming those planets? Oh and especially that cantankerous hot as Hades Venus... wow look at all the carbon available there for building with and creating life! Now if our nanobots can self replicate how long does it take to cover a planet with them? How long after that to terraform it for life to take hold, indeed even create life. In nanotechnology what we are talking about are machines smaller than viruses that can manipulate matter into any shape you want. If I, in the future, get hungry for an apple I can say, via my embedded augmented AI interface connection, "Nanobots make me an apple from some dirt, some water, some air and whatever available energy you find lying about". Am I violating the laws of physics? No! A seed does the same thing only much slower. If I have a thorough database of the apple's configuration and position of all it's atoms [don't try to invoke Heisenberg here, I'm not talking about electron positions and velocities] I can have my nanobots take the needed carbon, potassium, etc. etc. from the environment and before my very eyes form an apple every bit as delicious as a natural one... and no worms!!
Likewise life will be so jump-started on terraformed planets. When we find appropriate material near a nearby star we will in fact even assemble whole planets to our specifications perhaps from existing accretion disks or undesirable planets already formed or forming. We might even disassemble gas giants for fuel and materials. Sound fantastic? It is! And it will be real! Population problems? Bah! Boredom after living 20,000 years? Bah! If so one deserves to die and the gene pool will do well without one.
Another appropriate quote from the above URL: "Buckytube Super Composites, Fullerene Industry" - Bill Spence (email@example.com)
"The "Universal Assembler" is a hypothetical nanotechnology device that builds objects (the old fashioned way, mimicking biology) one atom at a time. Things built with atomic resolution could have extraordinary physical properties. A look at how extraordinary, may be seen from a material made in the lab today (and on the market, tomorrow).
In a recent interview by film critic Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), with living legend Arthur C. Clark, the grand master of Sci-Fi talks about his space elevator in his novel 3001 and how such an elevator is NOW theoretically possible if constructed from an ultra strong fiber called Buckytubes. "
Why do I want immortality? I know life, death is a gamble. I'm a quadriplegic in constant pain and I don't get a lot of attention from women especially the ones I'd like to. I'm abjectly poor and treated as a third class citizen by much of the general public the government and even some family, but still I love life!! I haven't had a chance yet to be a neurosurgeon or a rock star or an astronaut or any of a million million things that could interest me. Pick anything you admire that others do and you can't do or don't have the time to do and there's your reason to try secular immortality.
If there is an afterlife it can wait. It will always be there. However, I don't believe in a non physical ethereal soul. If anyone here does than I have a question for you. Recently a toddler got away from her mother and outside in the snow and died of hypothermia. Her core temp got too low for biochemical electricity production and so not only did her heart stop but so did all brain activity. She was dead by any modern definition four hours. She is alive today and very much the same little girl she was before her ordeal except for a little frostbite. So, if there is reincarnation how was she able to be revived? Is she now soul less? Should not her soul have left well before the four hours were up? If option two, there's no reincarnation but the soul goes back to god after death, then what makes her so special that hers did not so go back to god? How bloody unfair of god to so many others!
The answer is there is no survival of the traditional* soul after death and her brain was protected by the hypothermia. The neuronal *material* connections that make her "who" she is were preserved from ischemia and once they warmed her enough for her cells to began producing current again a little jump-start to her heart ad some air and her soul [insert] BRAIN rebooted it's program! She and the cold water drownings that have also come back are proof enough for me for materialism where identity and soul issues are concerned. Why should I take a chance on heaven or whatever humanity has come up with over the eons for hope for continuance after death! If I go with cryonics and extropianism secular immortality life extensionism, whatever moniker you want to give it, and it fails then Im just as much worm food, eventually, as if I didn't try it. However, if it all works and there's been no plausible reason why it won't presented to me or my ilk yet, then I'll be dancing, loving, learning... LIVING, doing it my way for as long as I damn well please! Yes secular immortality *IS* for me!
Have I sparked any imaginations? Have I awakened any survival instincts? If not then be worm food, plenty of them are hungry and it leaves more resources for us foreward thinkers.
* Note re the concept of "Soul": The material connections of neurons present the program and data which makes up the individual. There is no evidence for an energy force or ethereal mind which is this program and data. Information cannot persist without the aid of matter. When we are but one cell there is a basis for this program in the DNA which is preparing the shape of the being to have certain instincts to aid survival long enough to procreate. This initial program is certainly not enough to, for example, speak at birth. The hardware is ready to learn such things but in our case the hardware and the software are one and the same, and material - not ethereal or simply energy.
James -- My website
A collection of photos of me and some of my artwork:
A radio interview on Dr. J's ChangeSurfer Radio program with me and the father of cryonics Prof. Robert Ettinger, author of The Prospect of Immortality
A favourite quote:
-- Freewill by RUSH from Permanent Waves available here
by Mike Darwin, < Mgdarwin@cs.com >
Directed by Cameron Crowe. Written by Cameron Crowe based on the film Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos), by Alejandro Amen bar. With Tom Cruise, Pen lope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee, Kurt Russell, Noah Taylor, and Tilda Swinton. A Paramount Pictures release.
The first thing to say about Vanilla Sky is that it isn't a very good movie. The second thing to say is that if you enjoy Cryonet you probably will want to see this movie. Maybe even if you don't enjoy Cryonet you should see it.
Why? That's either a simple or a complex question depending upon the kind of detail you like in your answers. The simple answer comes first: Vanilla Sky is a film about cryonics which isn't focussed on cryonics and doesn't need or try to explain what cryonics is. Since it is a large budget, mainstream film, with an influential Director and a top box office star that says something in itself. What it says is that cryonics and the ideas it takes to understand the basics about it are already embedded in the culture. Nobody feels the need to explain the premise on which the dissonant parts of the film become integrated; it's a given that they are understood.
The more complex answer involves how and why this movie got made. There are only three or four movie stars and Directors in Hollywood who can almost do as they damn well please. Unarguably, Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise constitute one of each.
Crowe is an interesting filmmaker: his Almost Famous showed real promise. He edited Rolling Stone magazine for years and so is in a position to create the feel of the cultural life and times of the people who are choosing cryonics now. Rock has defined the lives of the generation of people Crowe's film is designed to reach (and who are the 40ish people signing up for cryonics). With this fantastic background it is a pity Crowe fails completely to do what he tries: capture the Rock era sensibility as it relates to the big questions in life such as what is real and what isn't, what is love, what is death, and how do we deal with both of them? Not to mention balancing hedonism with responsibility.
Part of the problem is with Cruise and the character he plays. David Aames is a 33-year-old, good looking, utterly superficial and fabulously wealthy heir to a magazine publishing empire. His parents were killed by drunk drivers and he is now in charge of their publishing empire. There's nothing really bad about David Aames, but there is nothing really good about him either. He is rich, likes to have fun, is untroubled by the Big Questions in life and doesn't seem to have been at all scorched by the death of his parents. A typical day is sex four times in one night with a blond beauty named Julia (Cameron Diaz) who seems as superficial and unconnected to anything but the good times as does David.
David's lavish apartment is a virtual museum of recent popular music and culture with paintings by Joni Mitchell, some famous rocker's smashed guitar preserved in a glass case, a life sized hologram of John Coltrane performing to everyone's complete indifference, and, juxtaposed to the Joni Mitchell a painting by Monet; the vanilla sky1 after which the film is named. The movie opens the day of his 33rd birthday party and David is not happy about getting old. He plucks a gray hair from his head in the mirror with determined satisfaction. He feels immortal. The problem is that we haven't a reason in the world to care. This guy relates to the world around himself solely as the merry prankster. We get the impression he has never had a serious question about life since he opened his eyes for the first time. We all knew people like this in high school and while they might have been fun at 15, they are a crashing bore at 33. All they're good for is the money they have and the entertainment it can provide (if they are filthy rich!).
If you look at Tom Cruise's film career it's pretty much the same story. Even in Eyes Wide Shut he fails to draw you into his emotional life. This is OK if you're making action films, but it just doesn't work in this genre. I won't dwell on the hackneyed Jerry McGuire! Near the end of the movie there is clip from To Kill A Mockingbird with Gregory Peck. The film was one of Cameron Crowe's mother's favourites and he reportedly watched it endlessly as a child. To bad he didn't learn from Gregory Peck's great portrayal of Atticus Finch, the lawyer defending a black man unjustly accused of murdering an abused and confused white woman in the small town where the story unfolds while he deals with the complex ripples his actions have on his family, his friends and his community.
The movie has a disjointed and creepy feel to it. At first I didn't understand the many reasons why. The very first reason is that the voice on David's CD alarm clock (this guy must spend all his spare time at Sharper Image and Hammaker Schlammaker stores) is Penelope Cruz's. He problem is (as Roger Ebert points out as well) he doesn't meet her as Sofia until much later in the film.
The Times Square dream sequence is confusing, perhaps intentionally so. Cruise is a Scientologist and may be raising the issue "is all life a dream, or simulation, or an unexpurgated engram? One reason for the confusion is that you only get one brief line explaining that lucid dreaming starts only after revival. You only have to return to the "real" world if you want to. Presumably, you pay extra for the lucid dreaming option and maybe that's why David's fiances are so depleted. Or, maybe like Man Forrester in Fred Pohl's wonderful cryonics novel Age of the Pussyfoot, more things are necessary in the more advanced world and these added things cost more meaning that your money doesn't go as far.
This is an interesting point since if you want to eat food prepared from raw foodstuffs (beans, rice and other staples) and forgo almost all modern technology: cars, cable TV/modems, phones, electricity, and so on, you actually can live for about 25% of what it costs you to live today. In fact, you can, I've been told, live cheaper on a dollar adjusted basis than you could in 1701!
I found the frozen dog sequence somewhat annoying because it reminded me of TransTime's (BioTime's) Miles, the frozen but not really frozen Beagle. However, there was a line where his owner tells Letterman "he not quite as sharp as he used to be." That line was used to describe one of the mildly neuroinjured Alcor/Cryovita dogs "Dixie" in a number of interviews, including a viciously funny one in a major New York magazine whose name I can't recall and is now out of business.
One redeeming thing about this movie if you like movie puzzles (like cult movie hidden references) is looking for all the little "in" things and tip-offs. Vanilla Sky is not only a Monet painting,1 but the title of a George Harrison song,2 and thus a tribute to the recently decreased artist.
The interaction between David and Sofia is the most genuine and interesting thing in the movie from a human standpoint. This probably reflects Cruise's current romantic relationship with her. Sadly, it is not explored or exploited to make any of the characters deep enough to care about. Rent To Kill A Mockingbird and see the difference. And realize too that the budget for the two was even more different. Plus, you get more for you money with the Mockingbird rental than the $7.50 they charge here in Riverside for a feature movie. At least I didn't pay $9.50 in LA.
The film has definitely been touched by Discovery Channel or other footage of Alcor cryopreservations. I don't know if Alcor had much direct input on this film, but I doubt it simply because studios rarely do this and even more rarely listen to you. The best way to get what you want is to suggest the exact opposite. And no, I'm not kidding about this; I've consulted on over 20 films dealing in some way with cryonics and even have props from some here at home!
So, is this movie likely to be good or bad for cryonics. Probably good on the average since it just leaches more of the IDEA into the cultural feeding trough. It stars a high profile Director and cast. It also ends with David deciding to reenter the real world and continue life from there, even with its hardships and problems. Fundamentally, it says, "Cryonics is just a tool to get you where you think you want to go. What you do with it and what you do when you get there to make your life worth living, or your dreams come true is up to you." In the end, David overcame his greatest fear and took the leap into life, both figuratively and literally. Hell, even two hours of confused and vapid dialogue may be worth that point, if anybody gets it.
And yes, I think they will get it at least on a subconscious level. It's too bad Crowe didn't do more to emphasize the take home message that this shallow vain man has decided to really live life and overcome the hardships life sends us all.
Cruise is 39 years old. I don't think its an accident he made this film at this time. I've encountered this same kind of searching involving cryonics from other major, egotistical stars at big transition times in their lives. Diane Keaton made a truly awful film called Heaven. Cryonics was to be a central part of it and I talked with her extensively about cryonics during and after shooting the film. As her film crew said (mistakenly?) "Diane this is the option for you."(referring to cryonics). Heaven is worth looking at too, just don't expect to be entertained by it. Sometimes these movies are made by people with a lot of money and power to explore the big questions in their lives. That the results are so disappointing shouldn't surprise us. After all, how well have any of us done?
Robert Ettinger writes:
The wet blanket is not my favourite role, but no one should get excited about Vanilla Sky, or any other media event, making any noticeable difference to cryonics any time soon.
It's only another movie, for Pete's sake, regardless of big budget and big stars. There have been countless movies, TV shows including documentaries, SF books and stories, magazine and newspaper articles, and radio broadcasts. They have not (by themselves, in the short term) had any noticeable impact, as far as I know, with two exceptions. One exception was my first appearance on Johnny Carson, which had several million viewers and drew about a thousand inquiries, resulting in a few new members for the Life Extension Society, as I recall. The other was the Discover magazine article and contest that, I believe, got a few members for Alcor.
The average number of hits on our web site has not increased since Vanilla.
People just don't take that stuff seriously. It's a snowflake in a blizzard ot information. Beyond that, the information conveyed is just insufficient by orders of magnitude. Saul Kent reportedly said that direct mail needs on average seven letters to produce a sale - and each letter has a great deal of information, and they come at regular intervals, reinforcing each other - and the sales are usually not big bucks either nor difficult decisions, and usually you are selling "something you have to someone who wants it."
It has been said that a movie which just casually assumes the existence and legitimacy of cryonics must be helpful. Well, it has also been noted that most people reject cryonics even when they believe mammals have already been revived after freezing, and when they believe membership is already in the millions and patients in the thousands.
Sure, every little bit helps, or might help, and some day a spark might just happen to strike tinder, but don't hold your breath. Praise the Lord, but pass the ammunition. Celebrities might save us, or extra-terrestrials, but don't count on it. We have to do it ourselves, by plugging away, day after day.Editorial note:
1. The title Vanilla Sky comes from a nickname a character in the film called David Aames has given to the painted sky in an original Monet left to him by his mother. Click here for source.
2. Vanilla Sky was performed by Paul McCartney on the film's CD. see:
Raspberries over Vanilla
by David Pascal http://www.cryonics.org
The problem with beautiful imagery is that it doesn't quite connect with reality. Consider a recent post to Cryonet about the Timeship project. Personally, from a purely business perspective, I am not a Timeship fan. I can't think of anything more wasteful or counterproductive than to spend tens upon tens upon tens of millions of dollars on a projected cryo-hotel for ten thousand cryonics patients when there are barely a hundred such patients in the world right now, and barely a dozen more coming in annually - particularly when expenditures in the mere thousands can get such spectacular results as the HCSP initiative.
The 'Timeship' has the sort of overweening Albert Speer grandiosity that definitely catches the eye. But it ain't smart marketing. In marketing, supply follows demand, or withers on the vine and dies. And it is exactly that part of the equation - demand - that we are ignoring and that we ought to address.
Why don't more people sign up for cryonics? The answer is simple: because most people have absolutely nothing in their mental or media environment that inclines them to entertain cryonics as a real, concrete, desirable, available possibility. The casual viewer of Vanilla Sky, for instance, will not watch it and realize that CI or Alcor are really factually there, ready and waiting to provide services that he can actually afford.
He will think it a sci-fi prop used to explain Tom Cruise's two-hour preceding wet dream. If, by some chance, the viewer does hit on some link to the truth that cryonics is actually available today, he will almost certainly run into the distorted urban legends about the subject first - that signing up costs zillions; that the father of cryonics is not Robert Ettinger, running a solid active organization in Michigan, but Walt Disney, tended to by the seven robo-dwarfs in Disneyland's subterranean bowels; that the people and the providers in it are sort of mysterious Lucite-sandaled loons. And if the person penetrates past that? Then he runs into the real crunch: the fact that cryonics organizations for the most part make the process of joining difficult as hell.
In marketing there is a classic distinction between what are called high-involvement purchasing decisions and low-involvement purchasing decisions. Coke or Pepsi? Big Mac or Whopper? These are low-involvement purchasing decisions. They don't involve a lot of money, or time, or social or intellectual conflict, or brooding existential self-examination.
Cryonics, on the other hand, is a very high-involvement decision. The perception is that you have to pay or arrange to eventually pay a large amount of money; that you have to deal with your doctor and lawyer and insurance agent, who may be unsympathetic; that you may face possible ridicule or opposition from your family, your spouse, your friends, the people you hang around with or work with; not least, that you have to face the real possibility of your own death, and the chance that even cryonics may not pull you through, if circumstances beyond all control dictate it. It is portrayed as, and sometimes is, a difficult and time-consuming and not particularly pleasant process. Whereas ignoring it and putting it off is pleasant - gee, there's so much more other fun stuff to do. It's like cigarettes: a smoke feels good now, and dying from it feels bad thirty years later. Who doesn't want to feel good now? Light up, buddy. It's this basic fact that reveals the crack in the 'white-robed, Lucite-sandaled cryo-priest' model. Would you really feel good now walking up the steps of some Egyptaic cryo-crypt, checkbook in hand, while hooded musclemen thud massive Oriental gongs and unseen speakers thunder out "O Fortuna!" from Orff's Carmina Burana? I'd feel like a complete jerk. Everyone would, which is why this idiot scenario has never caught on with either the cryonics community or the public.
Every problem, properly understood, contains the seeds of its own solution. The solution to the problem of marketing cryonics is simple: we have to change the ratio of immediate displeasure to pleasure.
Signing up ought to be simple, easy, affordable, reasonable, pleasant, sensible. Far from emphasizing the irrational, we ought to be emphasizing the rationality of cryonics. Not the indecipherably technical rationality of K/Na ratios, vitrification solute percentages, and bio-nanomechanics, but the common sense rationality of affordability, openness, protection for one's family, experienced service, reasonable investment, support for humanely directed scientific research.
You reach the public by talking their language, and their language is not the language of cryobiology journals or Grand Guignol architectural sketches, but the language of the pocketbook, of the charitable contribution, of the desire to give the people you love and care about every last chance. Point out advantages simply and clearly and people will see them. Make joining a pleasure, and people will join. The best marketing approach is neither elephantine Ringling Brothers bravura nor marginal elitist technobabble. The best approach is listening to the public and trying to give them what they say they want.
If I had said to people at the Cryonics Institute three years ago, "Three years from now, membership will have more than doubled, we'll have a full-fledged research laboratory with a Ph.D, cryobiologist with twenty years experience running it, and we'll be pulling in more than ten times as many members annually as we did on average throughout the twenty-three years before," the reaction I'd have gotten would not have been a set of enthusiastic nods.
And? Membership has more than doubled, we have a full-fledged research laboratory with a Ph.D. cryobiologist with twenty years experience running it, and we're pulling in more than ten times as many members annually as we did on average throughout the twenty-three years before.
Why? Simply because we've tried to give people not frills or hype or Lucite sandals but affordable care, rapid care, and increasingly improving care. Will Alcor double in size and be pulling ten times as many members three years from now? Maybe. I hope so! The more thriving organizations, the merrier. But it just won't happen if the only options it entertains are B-movie pyramids, or "There is nothing we can do about it".
I did not think much of Vanilla Sky, frankly. Raspberries (Yank slang for a rude noise directed at an object of contempt, for you Euro readers) at this film are fairly understandable. It's not really an enjoyable film, nor an especially well-done one. If you see it (and you probably should) you'd do well to skip the first hour and a half and come in at the end, which is where all the snappy cryonics material comes in. But I was glad to see it up on the big screen, and I consider the net effect of that film, and the net effect that is that film, to be a good thing.
The fact is, in Vanilla Sky, cryonics is presented with at least some degree of accuracy. The cryonics organization there is shown to be professional, available, helpful, and lasting long enough to achieve exactly what it promises: taking a damaged human being from death to fully healed revival. The cryonics people are shown to be competent, concerned, and actively and successfully working to help the member through the process. This is how we want to be perceived. That we should be so presented in the number one box office hit in the country is terrific.
That this should come on the heels of an equally positive and accurate presentation of CI by the number one news program in the country, ABC News with Peter Jennings, and on the more distant heels of a similarly positive and accurate bestseller about cryonics, The First Immortal by James Halperin, is more than terrific: it argues for an increasing acceptance and permeation by society of a positive and desirable and accurate image of cryonics. It isn't everything we might wish -- yet. But we're getting there.
And should we toss it away by slipping into sets of white robes, or to confining ourselves to obscure cryobiology journals read by less than one percent of one percent of one percent of the public? Of course not. As Antonio Gramsci wrote: "We must have a pessimism of the intellect, but an optimism of the will." And what does both intellect and will show us? That it really does seem that people are beginning to react positively to what we've been trying to say all along -- responding on the grand scale in the movies, in book sales, in television news, and (as far as CI goes) even in actual people signing up at record rates. So why all the gorgeously written lamentation that appears on Cryonet? Maybe we should treat ourselves to a good healthy dose of optimism for a change, and reach out to those 'potential consumers' with some respect and some positive expectations instead. More and more, that's how they seem to be reacting to us, and I don't see any cause for complaint at that at all.
The Cryonics Biz - Marketing Cryonics
Steve Harris < firstname.lastname@example.org >
In the discussion of the marketing of cryonics I hope we're not to be caught between two hyper-polarized views: one in which packaging is held to be everything, and the other in which honesty demands that it be nothing. This is the real world, and there are many shades of gray between these extremes.
Our popular cultural image does seem to give us two extreme choices for life: one is the Madison Avenue / Warner Brothers approach, which is to give the "public" what it expects and wants, and damn the facts. On the other, we have an equally romantic 1950's Holden Caulfield/ Richard Feynman approach, which holds that "phoniness" is the worst thing, and The Best People always see right through it. The latter view is backed up, in our minds, by the success of science in the 20th century. Nature isn't fooled by bureaucrats, you see. Feynman, our hero, said that. The opposite view in science-thinking, as we know, is held only by the social-constructionist philosophers of science, who are Evil. We recognize them as the bad guys in Ayn Rand novels, who don't believe that existence exists, and have mushy-sounding names to prove it.
And now, for my own view on the matter.
I believe things are much more complex. The reality is that the world, and nature, is a buzzing, blooming confusion, and we all have tiny little brains and almost no time to make sense of it. Existence may exist, all right, but it's a bitch to figure out in real-time. We've monumentally stupid, and we die early. So we get along much as the lesser animals do, because when confronted by the infinite complexity of nature, we humans are in a fix not that much different than other animals are. The way lower animals deal with the world is largely on a first-impression basis, with binary division of decisions into "approach" or "run," with perhaps "ignore" as the third default when neither basic response has been triggered. Closer investigation of "approachable" or edible things is done when warranted, but otherwise time is not wasted. Fight is triggered when flight doesn't work. And so on.
We humans do it in much the same way. We need broad clues. We pay attention to very simple facts. Down at the base, our nervous systems are constructed on two poles, one which triggers fight/flight, and the other which triggers feeding and f... well, reproductive behaviour. The rest we ignore at first level, because we have little choice. In scuba they say that the ocean contains three basic categories of animals:
1) Stuff you can eat,
2) Stuff that can eat YOU, and
And scuba is a metaphor for life in general. We swim with sharks all the time, of course - even at the office.
The result of all this is that we make most judgements at a superficial level, based on obvious proxy markers for (what we fondly hope are) deeper realities. And this works well enough to be a successful strategy. The pea-hen looks at the peacock's tail and doesn't do that badly on that criterion alone, because the length and colour of the tale gives information about health and strength. Humans do similar things when it comes to looks, dress, and social position. If the schmuck can't figure out how to buy a coat that fits, perhaps he can't do other stuff, either-so we think. Such snap judgments can be wrong, but they're not as bad as random guessing, and they give at least some traction where there is no time to do better. So (yes) we judge books by their covers (the colours, the jacket blurbs, the typeface). We stereotype other people in many ways (some of which a neural network would do also). We see movies on the basis of a single bit of buzz. We're not "supposed" to do any of this, according to some philosophies, but a little thought will show that in practice, we have no choice. The worst fools are not those who do it (for we all do it), but those who don't think they do it. These are champion rationalizers with whims of iron, and they can be a royal pain.
But what about science, you may ask? What about this, the most precious epistemological tool we own? Well, science does work to give probabilistic information of the future behaviour of the world, which is the only workable objective definition of the word "knowledge" (the success of engineering is otherwise hard to explain). The problem is that science, like the legal system, is slow. The wheels of scientific judgment grind so finely and so glacially that individual lives and endeavours are often lost in the works. The history of science is littered with notations and footnotes that this or that fact was actually discovered or first stated by Dr. X or Y who we've never heard of, but who had the bad luck or judgement to publish in some obscure place. Or in complicated language which wasn't understood until somebody else independently did it better, and allowed a clearer look at the past.
In the real world of science, it turns out, whether or not you're the first to a discovery can depend on silly things. Like whether or not you develop photographic film in contact with dark fluorescent rocks when you shouldn't get anything, according to theory. Or whether you happen to do your experiments with neutrons on an Italian marble table, instead of an ordinary wooden one. Or whether you happen to be in the same campus as another scientist who happens to have secret X-ray diffraction data from DNA, which you can steal. All these things feel random, and are. And some things in science which aren't random, are instead more akin to advertising. They are words or metaphors that stick, like Darwin's word "evolved" or his phrase "natural selection." Or Gell-Mann's quarks.
So which is correct? Is science the logical and inevitable search for an objective truth, which is independent of the foibles of individual scientists? Or is it more like the world of fashion or art, where things run on reputation, like something by Andy Warhol, and there is almost no objectivity at all?
The answer is, I think, that both views are true, but at different time scales. On the short time-scale (weeks or months) science looks very much like fashion or art, and social constructionists get their material here. On this scale, your grant funding may depend on who you know, or how well you write, or what metaphor you pick. On the phases of the moon. However, on the very long scale (centuries) the individual details and lives cease to matter so much, and it becomes clear that science is self-correcting, and that it narrows in on reality like a homing torpedo. And that if one scientist hadn't had some flash of insight, somebody else soon would have. Feynman, for all his griping about cargo cult science, of course knew the realities of short-term competition of ideas. He was a consummate showman in lectures, and he did his last public demonstration of the thermal weakness of space shuttle booster O-rings at a public hearing, using simple off-the-shelf hardware-store tools. All of which got his picture in the national press, front page, as he knew it would. Further, he had been set up to make the "discovery" by a General who already knew what the problem likely was, but who also knew that a Nobel physicist would be best presenter of the data to the public. Showmanship at every step.
So how do we use this information personally? The worst difficulty with judging science as an objective enterprise comes on the time-scale of years or decades, which happens to be the one on which we live our lives (probably not coincidentally). On this scale, the human social enterprise of science is a mixture of both fashion and objectivity, and sometimes it seems that science proceeds only funeral by funeral (as Planck said). This can be hard to deal with, but deal with it we must.
Example. On Cryonet, we've recently had the suggestion that we should be forgetting Vanilla Sky, and seeing instead the movie A Beautiful Mind, based on the life of mathematician John F. Nash, Jr. This is fine, but may we see the hands of anybody who'd ever heard of Nobelist John Nash before this movie? If it wasn't for this movie, would we seek a documentary of Nash's real life? Probably not. He doesn't look like the actor who plays him. In real life, his wife divorced him when he had had one too many psychotic breaks. Not very romantic. And Nash's real life wasn't so neatly illustrated. In the movie, our noses are rubbed in an example of win-win game theory involving a sweltering summer classroom with construction noise that prevents opening of the windows. (How do you get both silence and breeze? Answer: Throw a beautiful girl at the construction crew so they stop what they're doing). Later we get the same message illustrated with the problem of picking up women in a bar. Sexual dynamics gets our attention-aha, we understand this. Had it been presented in the movie as the dry math which it actually came packaged in historically, even Russell Crowe couldn't have saved it. That's all showmanship.
In the real world, it was much the same way. Lacking pretty girls for visual aids, nobody understood the theory in time to give Nash a Fields medal before he went psychotic, and latter (when economists had prettied the idea up with lots of real-world examples) nobody dared. The truest part of the movie was the scene in which the Nobel committee scopes out Nash to see if he's a madman still, or is fit to have on the stage to give the Nobel Prize to. Concern for presentation is the key again. Nash, however, had gotten better. So he got the prize. But if he hadn't been presentable, he would not have. Without Nash's Nobel, there would have been no recent biography, and with no biography, no movie. And with no movie, most of us reading this would not know of Nash or his theories at all. See how it works?
Finally (hope you're still with me) we come to cryonics. Cryonics is a powerful idea-- quite as powerful as any of Nash's-- but its time has not quite come. It is known broadly now as science fiction, like Star Trek's warp drive, but that is all. Eventually it will rock our society to the core, as a lot of people begin to realize that they've been taking the most precious things on this planet (human brains) and burying them like old garbage, when they could have been saved. Wups. But the technology to make people understand that at a gut level, has not yet arrived.
Meanwhile, how long will it take? In part, I propose that that's a matter of presentation. Cryonics seems destined eventually be as much a part of our culture as any piece of modern medicine, but whether that happens in 20 years or 50 years is probably largely a matter of salesmanship. That may not be fair, but that's the way it is. Do you want to see it happen in your life-times? Then you'd better start worrying about how it's sold. The 1950's are over. No longer can you get away with just good service, quality, white shirts and dark ties, like IBM once did. In 1981 IBM started selling Personal Computers using Charlie Chaplin, remember? Packaged with MS-DOS by Microsoft, because a year before, Bill Gates gave them a flashy show, which covered-up the fact that he had no operating system at the time, and had no idea how he was going to get one. But he did have a tie, because he'd bought one on the way from the airport. And the end of that story is that he sold them something he didn't have at the time, but was confident he could get. And did. And is in consequence now the richest man in the country, and gets to have a major say in the future. That's how it's done these days. If you don't do it, somebody else will, and they'll eat your lunch.
And how do you do that with cryonics? Well, I can't tell you, of course. If I knew how to sell cryonics, I would have done it by now. But I do think we can see some clues in the movies. People apparently don't expect to see Timeship type pyramids. They do like the cryogen vapor and the capsules (windowed or not), and they expect a cryonics corporation to have a physical presence (and security presence) at least as imposing as that of a modern biotech or pharmaceutical development firm. And we know that people do like to see a bit of Las Vegas/ Disneyland in everything public (as we see in our downtown cities, which are all rapidly being Disney-fied.) These are clues.
Timeship or no Timeship, I suggest only that we spend time finding out what people expect to see in a cryonics organization, and (so far as money permits) give people something of what they expect to see. Art imitates life (as we saw in the last Cruise movie), but life must imitate art also, to some extent. It's not enough to give people paperwork and scientific explanations. Let us have a focus group or two, and see what else they are looking for. At minimum, we need attractive metaphors; even science cannot escape them. "Knowledge must be adorned," says Lord Acton. "It must have luster as well as weight, lest it be mistaken for lead instead of gold." A nice self-illustrative statement. Listen up.
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