Porthtowan Vantage Point
by John de Rivaz
[This introduction sent in April 1990]
I was flattered to have been asked by David Pizer to do a regular column for Venturist Monthly News. Although I have written much in The Immortalist, have a monthly cryonics column in Funeral Service Journal (which reaches 60% of the UK profession) and run my own newsletter Longevity Report in the UK, I am not the average cryonicist type at all. I more closely resemble Dr Issac Assimov's Dr Urth, who stayed at home and yet let his mind roam time and space, as opposed to Larry Niven's Jerome Branch Corbell, the "born tourist" cryonics hero of World out of Time who "flitted around the universe like a ping pong ball" as one reviewer put it. Judging by the proportion of the movement that attend conferences around the world, Larry Niven's character seems more appropriate. (Compare this with say the total number of people in the IEEE and the number who attend functions. The British Wind Energy Association can sometimes have an attendance of about 4%, for example.)
Having had an engineering education, I am always very keen on efficiency, and this is reflected in my view of the financial world. Whereas when I complain about my accountant's bill and he suggests I put up my prices to compensate, I find this idea an anathema, considering the acceptance of money from people for goods or services to be money taken in trust, and one of my first duties being to keep customers' costs to a minimum for whatever it is they want. I believe it would be a better world if people could strike against costs, not for more salary. My economic and investment ideas may seem strange to some cryonicists, but hopefully a few of the better ones may filter through and be of use and benefit to the movement.
Possibly one reason, apart for wanting to be in control, why I like to stay at home is because I am a true "teckkie" which trait is probably popular amongst cryonicists, and like my technology. I hide my own shortcomings by the use of machines, notably computer systems, which have resulted in a very substantial improvement in my writing standards. I expect to bring to this column various technological news items and insights that appear appropriate. Next month, I will feature the application of fractals to cryonics.
I hope that readers of Venturist Monthly News will enjoy this column and find topics about which they can debate and write their own letters to the journal.
[sent in May 1990]
In Scientific American of February 1990 page 35 there appeared an article on fractals, and as a reader of Longevity Report knew that I also publish a newsletter for computer users called Fractal Report (it gives short fractal programs for people to try and modify), he sent me a copy. [1997: Fractal Report is no longer running, although all back numbers are available.]
One very interesting aspect of Chaos and Fractals in Human Physiology was the fact that the authors proposed that the variation of average heartbeat with time obeys the laws of fractal geometry, and that a relatively simple process can display the attractors or "basics" of those laws. What you do is to sample the heart rate at intervals. If you plot a graph of these samples against time you get an apparently random waveform. However if you plot the period at time t against the period at time t+n, then you get fractal figures which represent the attractors of the heart rhythms. These attractors were found to give an accurate prediction as to when death will occur.
Many fractal images have a lifelike quality, and indeed methods have been found to use fractal geometry to reduce the information content of video transmissions and recordings by substantial amounts. An article appearing on page 77 of the March 1990 issue of Scientific American, a copy of which Fred Chamberlain kindly sent me, showed how a device is to be marketed that translates pictures of 3M Bytes to only 5.8k bytes, 30 times a second.
Most fractal computer programs produce fractal images by taking a point x,y and subjecting it to a transformation, which produces another point. The new point is subjected to the same transformation and so on. This repetition is known as iteration. Another method, as is used for the famous Mandelbrot and Julia sets, is to apply the transformation to the point a large number of times and then plot the original point with a colour depending on whether after iteration it approaches infinity or settles down to oscillate within finite limits. The mean of these limits is known as the attractor of the iteration. The transformations can either be obtained from data, such as in the image system, or from equations such as many of the examples studied by fractal enthusiasts.
The Mandelbrot set is produced by iterating a complex number z [=x+iy, where i is the square root of minus one], by squaring it and adding it to a constant. The basic set looks like a black beetle, but surrounding it are colourful swirls, which can be magnified to infinity producing many strange life like objects.
The fractal appearance of biological features suggests that fractal geometry may describe the basic processes of life, and therefore it's understanding could be a crucial part in developing the nanotechnological programs to recover the program and data from cryonically suspended human brains.
[sent in June 1990]
An old science fiction film The Aliens are Coming was reshown on British television recently. I wouldn't call it particularly memorable, except for one instance when it made a point that crystallised a thought in my mind about a certain aspect of religion.
In order to illustrate the point it is necessary briefly to describe the plot - I may almost say genre, as there are many films and tv series similar to this film. Aliens from outer space land on Earth and replace the program and data in human brains with that from their own in order to colonise the planet. (Yes, I know that then one may ask what is the point of colonising ... but I didn't write the plot!) The main character of the film is a scientist who is investigating UFO reports etc. The aliens just get on with taking over people and a program of general mayhem, using hypnosis to make anyone who gets in their way commit suicide.
An incident in the film has the scientist confronting two of the aliens-in-human-bodies who are both intent on killing him by physical violence, as the hypnosis doesn't work very well with him. He throws the first over a gantry, but as he fights with the other he begs him to "Talk with me". The alien steadfastly refuses.
The link I see with religions is that many adherents want to talk with God, despite all the terrible things he does to humans (like aging and death) and indeed they often engage in a one way telepathy experiment called "prayer". If you want to found a religion the best way to go about it is to have a convincing story that you have talked with God. Thinking about it for a moment I don't know of a religion that isn't founded on such a basis, (except possibly Venturism if you count it in the same league.)
Dr Carl Sagan speculated in his novel Contact that if there is an intelligent creator he may have left clues such as images in surds, such as pi. The enormous public interest in what has for the past fifty years or so been an obscure branch of mathematics now known as chaos theory started in the last century by one Gaston Julia may in part be due to a desire to be able to use home computers to look into the innermost fundamentals of the universe. Certainly fractals images have a strange lifelike quality, and indeed as I have reported in a previous Porthtowan Vantage Point, the science of chaos may be useful in predicting the future course of heart illness. My own newsletter Fractal Report focuses on getting practical results on your home computer, and has received a lot of reader support for this stance.
Humans have attempted to communicate with other beings on the Earth, such as dolphins, with little success. Maybe the desire to communicate with aliens is a uniquely human trait, or maybe there is a barrier of comprehension that is difficult to cross.
Certainly Venturism gives people the chance to communicate about the promises and problems of cryonic suspension, and this must be of mutual benefit.
[sent in July 1990]
Would you like to receive every quarter a colour magazine on subjects of interest to life extensionists, and every year a bumper annual one? Sure, many of you would. Would you like to be paid to receive it! Well, you can if you invest in any of America's major pharmaceutical companies.
It if often thought that you have to buy 100 shares in a company, which can prove expensive as some cost around $100 each. But you can, if you wish, buy a smaller amount. You will be subject to an "odd lot charge" but this is not that severe. In addition to the aforementioned mailings, you get quarterly dividends and capital growth on your investment if held long term.
Many investment pundits tell you that a detailed knowledge of the stock market and timing is essential to making any profit. This is certainly true if you are trying to get a quick profit over a few days or even months. But if you invest over many years, and provided that there is no major war or global calamity, then investment in a spread of stocks will yield an growing income and your capital will increase ahead of inflation.
"Investing" in life insurance is very definitely not the same thing. For a start the fees and commissions that are paid to intermediaries amount to thousands of dollars, which is why life policies have such a small cash-in value during the first five years. So what, you may say, you have to pay commissions to buy stocks. Yes, but the life companies have to pay these as well when they buy their stocks, so you pay them both ways! Also there is the little matter of life risk.
Those who perish prematurely cause the life companies to make a loss, and how is this made up? Well, from the profits of stocks invested for those that live out the term, of course. With AIDS, the increasing popularity of long distance travel and high risk leisure pursuits, life claims are probably on the increase with resulting drains on investment profits. Also life companies' investment managers will be on astronomical salaries, which represents another cost the individual investor doesn't have.
All professional investors, including those that work for life companies, have to work on a short time scale. They need to get results for their year's end reports and to please their bosses. Therefore their investment criteria are completely different to an immortalist who is looking for results after possibly hundreds of years. Also most professional investors don't understand the outcome of life extension and immortalist technology. They haven't comprehended what will happen when nanotechnological ideas start to bite. They haven't fully appreciated the results of genuine life extension drugs appearing on the market.
Any immortalist has time to spare and if investments in pharmaceutical companies, and related industries, don't perform well, then they'll probably never be revived from cryonic suspension to find out. The reason for the underperformance will be failure of the technology!
So when the opportunity arises to open a LifePact or Reanimation Foundation account with stocks, choose blue chip pharmaceutical and any industry that is likely to benefit from nanotechnology, select your companies and then stick with them. I guarantee that you will make a fortune in time. Because if you don't you will never be alive to know!
[1997 note: the author's portfolio, based upon the above ideas, grew by a factor of four between August 1991 when it was set up as a Cryonics Institute trust and December 1997. At 3% fixed interest, it would have grown by a factor of 1.2. (1.03^6). Also see http://www.nanothinc.com for news of companies involved with nanotechnology.]
[sent April 1991]
Most religions have their members spending a large portion of their free time and money in the pursuit of worship of their god, or supreme being. [I use a small "g" throughout so as not to single out any particular object of worship of any particular religion.] Acts of worship involve the repetition of creeds, or beliefs. Now it is well known that any statement, if repeated often enough, becomes to be accepted as fact, regardless of the realities of the situation.
In times past, acts of worship involved sacrifices of people and later animals as acts of appeasement. The idea being, that if one presents god with enough suffering, then he may be satiated and not dole out suffering at random. By choosing those who will suffer and die, the adherents to these religions believed that they had achieved some control over their universe.
It may be that the concept of god as requiring suffering as an animal requires food is nearer the point than the benevolent deities of more modern religions. Indeed the original version of Christianity, if I remember correctly, had as its basis that Christ had to suffer in order to cleanse the world of its sins. It was as if their God required a penalty of suffering, and his son took it upon himself, that is to say there was a father-son argument!
When asked to define god, an ESP enthusiast once suggested that a simple answer was "the sum total of everything". This seems a good answer. Everything that happens is god's will by definition. It is therefore impossible to thwart his will. It could be argued, for example, that Hitler, Christ, The Grand Inquisitor, and any petty criminal or good citizen you care to choose are equally efficient at doing god's will. This doesn't rule out free will of the individual, because god's will is the sum total of the free will of all individuals plus the net effect of all other objects in the universe. Even if individuals' wills act in opposition to each other, this doesn't matter. (For example, in a boxing match there is the joy of the winner, disappointment of the loser, and combined pain, suffering, and cumulative brain damage. All these are net results, although two individuals acted against each other.) In our definition of god, all we are interested in is the net result.
When we turn to the creation of the universe and everything in it, it does not really matter whether there is physically an old man in the sky who "began with the word" or indeed any intelligence that one could pinpoint and find. One can postulate that such an intelligence exists and then extrapolate its character from the nature of the universe. Whether the universe as whole has intelligence to the point where one could call it up on the radio and have a talk is an interesting speculation, but entirely irrelevant to the central definition of god as "the whole of everything".
Looking at our part of the universe we find such things as aging, suffering and death. We observe diseases like cancer, AIDS, and BSE. Many religious people say that life would be unbearable without good and bad, joy and suffering. They also say that we are too inferior to god to be capable of contemplating his whole plan. For example, the excesses of Hitler may have been a necessary part of the establishment of the state of Israel. Would the world's nations have allowed the modern state of Israel except as an act of compensation and guilt appeasement to the Jewish people for the National Socialist atrocities?
I would suggest that it is equally possible to conceive of a universe that does not need disease and suffering to balance joy, and does not need violence and cruelty to be an interesting place. To go further, the introduction of personal immortality is the first step to the evolution of this universe into such a condition.
Therefore the Venturists could justifiably claim to be the first group who can really deliver what mankind has been seeking for all its existence. To satisfy any rational thought, existing religions need to separate out their object of worship from the absolute totality of everything. (As I believe early Christianity did, making Jesus a sort of mediator with God, but I think the concept of worshipping Jesus only does not have a major part of modern worship.) Who in their right mind would worship the creator of BSE, for example, except as an act of grovelling appeasement?
Whilst these diseases still exist, I feel that all people should cease acts of blind worship and spend their time and energy and seeking rational solutions to the world's problems, or in supporting those that do. I would like to make it quite clear, even if only from grounds of efficiency, it is counter productive to ban or even ridicule worship. The
presentation of calm, rational argument against it is the only sensible and effective way to proceed.
[sent May 1991]
I have written previously of the benefits of direct investment in pharmaceutical companies. This time I propose to review the 1989 Annual Report of the Bristol Myers Squibb Company, Inc.
This is presented as two colour printed glossy booklets. The larger of the two runs to 104 pages, the same size as Venturist Voice. The first 80 are in full colour, discuss new drugs and contain feature articles such as Special Report on the Scientist. The remaining 24 is are accounts.
The smaller of the two is termed Notice of 1990 Annual Meeting and Proxy Statement. Of interest to Venturists is that fact that shareholders of this (and presumably every other American company) are able to send in proposals to be printed in the proxy statement and discussed at annual general meetings. Many of the proposals are routine, such as the re-appointment of the company's auditors and directors.
However some of the proposals appear frivolous, and often come from people with very little stock. For example, Mrs Evelyn Y. Davis of Washington holds 120 shares and requests that all the directors be re-elected annually instead of the stagger system that was recently adopted. This received two pages of print in the booklet, her reasons for the proposal, and the directors' reasons why it should not be adopted. Members of the Gilbert family, some of whom were dead(!), who hold 972 shares between them, requested something called cumulative voting which apparently a number of American companies have adopted. The directors complained that this system would give power to vociferous small groupings of shareholders controlling less than a majority interest, and so advised shareholders to reject the motion.
A holder of only 40 shares tabled a motion against animal research, which together with the directors' reply, filled eight pages of the book!
As far as I understand at present the shareholder has to attend the meeting personally to read out the statement. I do not know whether it is possible to appoint a proxy top do this. If it is, then people like Saul Kent may well think it worthwhile to get themselves appointed proxies of as many shares as they can find to propose motions such as:
RESOLVED : That the shareholders of Bristol Myers Squibb Company, assembled in annual meeting in person and by proxy, hereby request the Board of Directors to take the steps necessary to research a means of slowing, halting and reversing the basic processes of aging as a means to more swiftly rid the world of cancer and other degenerative diseases that affect the elderly.
RESOLVED: That the shareholders ... etc ... steps necessary to support research into cryonic suspension so that people alive today can take advantage of the future discoveries of this company in the fields of medicine.
Depending on how many shares are owned by individual Venturists and members of the cryonics societies, it may be possible for the elected spokesperson to present formidable support compared to the aforementioned before he even starts!
As far as I can understand, you can add as much waffle as you like to support the motion.
It is clear that as long as one of the people proposing the motion is present, it can be presented. A motion against involvement in South Africa was tabled by a page full of shareholders. After their names it said "... have informed the company that they, or any one of them, intend to present to the meeting the following motion..."
Stockholder proposals relating to Bristol Myers Squibb's 1991 Annual Meeting of Stockholders must be received by the company at its principal executive offices, 345, Park Avenue, New York, NY10154, FAO Corporate Secretary, no later than 15 November, 1990.
I would suspect that using company meetings as platforms by small shareholders for publicity will be a loophole that will be closed sooner or later, so if this idea attracts immortalists, it should be followed up sooner rather than later. It will state our case to people who have money and influence.
[1997: As far as I know no one took up this idea.]
[sent June 1991]
Some people may we wondering at the title of this column. Porthtowan is the name of the village near which I live. The name comes from Cornish words Porth=port and Towan=sand dune. However there are no boats here now. It is probable that only small fishing boats were ever operated from here.
There has recently been a showing of the tv film series in Britain of War and Remembrance. As would be expected, it detailed a lot of the life of Adolf Hitler, and had a lengthy scene at his bunker during the final defeat of the National Socialists at Berlin in 1945. It was interesting to note that the Fuhrer was depicted as showing character traits which are generally believed to be good. Rather than run away and hide, as his generals and other assistants were recommending, he remained at Berlin to the last, and exterminated himself only when the generals advised that his bunker could not be held for more than 24 hours. In addition, he ordered that his remains be burned beyond recognition.
Of course, it is possible that all this was a very efficient cover up and he survived to die of old age. No one can prove beyond all doubt that this didn't happen, but it seems to be highly unlikely.
Assuming though, that he did obliterate himself and did not escape, as obviously there would have been plenty of opportunity as the war drew to a close, one must agree that this is a character trait that is normally regarded as good. Yet Hitler is regarded as the embodiment of evil incarnate.
What this suggests, therefore, is that some approved character traits are supportive of evil people. It is necessary for psychologists and sociologists to consider this point, and whether patriotism is just another form of racism, for example.
Once death is optional, the very concepts of good and evil may need changing. Many ideas of evil acts originated from ages when the planet was sparsely populated. The human species could have become extinct if it didn't have customs that focused people's sexuality on reproduction. Once death is optional, irresponsible procreation will be the evil, whereas sexual play will simply be a psychologically healthy activity no more remarkable than jogging.
From the individual who is killed, any war is a major disaster. But the possibility of a world war started by lunatic-religion countries, or even a small war that threatens the world via nuclear or biological fall-out, could mark the end of the cryonics program. Any major disaster that befell the Earth would lead to such a loss of individual freedom and spending power that it would be impossible for cryonic societies to continue to operate.
From this point of view, then, loyalty to a specific country or religion could eventually turn out to be a serious threat to immortalism both from the point of view of individuals or the movement as a whole. Equally there may well be other so called virtues that will become vices in the world of immortals.
[sent July 1991]
I met an uncle I hadn't seen for many years one day in May when he came to Cornwall to see with my parents. He expressed an interest in vitamins etc. Despite the fact that he had worked for Roche, he was interested in Life Extension Mix, and Life Extension - A Practical Scientific Approach, for which he insisted on paying, despite the fact the he is a relative.
I also mentioned cryonic suspension, and he asked me what I felt about the chances of it's working. I said that technically I thought the chances were excellent, but legally I felt that there were many obstacles. He brushed aside the legal objections, and asked me further about the technicalities. I told him about nanotechnology, and he seemed to accept it. But he said that he felt that cryonics wasn't for him, and rejected a copy of Prospect of Immortality. Then the conversation went on to other things.
Later it went back to cryonics, and I mentioned that when people are revived, they will come back as young rejuvenated people, for example as at age 25. Then he became extremely interested and accepted a copy of Prospect of Immortality.
The interest of this little story is that people talking about cryonics may well be totally unaware of conclusions to which the listener has jumped - in this case, that suspended people are revived as rickety old men. To anyone who has studied cryonics for a long period, such ideas are so ridiculous that we no longer felt it necessary to mention them.
But a newcomer is likely to be in tune with conventional medicine, which spends a fortune in money and makes the patient spend a lot of time and undergo a lot of suffering merely for a tiny life extension as expressed as a percentage of lifespan. Thinking this way, it is easy to make the mistake that the purpose of cryonic suspension is to reanimate the patient into a very similar state to which he was suspended, only to perish again shortly afterwards. No wonder so many people think cryonics insane if this is the way they look at it.
I have written in the past that it is difficult to categorise people as good cryonics prospects. However I am beginning to realise that myself I am very unusual in that I think as I do, yet approve of cryonics. I don't meet many people who are what Larry Niven describes in World out of Time as "born tourists" because like most humans I tend to associate with people of similar interests etc. However when I talk to "born tourists", I find that they do appear receptive to cryonics. This uncle is a case in point - his main activity is leisure travel now he is retired!
However I find that the video material presently available to promote cryonic suspension often jumps straight into scenes of surgery, and only later focuses on the individuals involved. This has caused many prospects to turn off the video and the idea as a whole. Particularly this comment applies to Alcor originated material such as the Equinox programme The Living Dead.
I would like therefore to propose a new approach to programme making, showing many varied people talking about why they want to live a long time, or indeed for ever, and showing their lifestyles and interests. If the prospect identifies with them, then he is more likely to persevere with the technicalities and the severe legal costs and restraints later on.
[sent August 1991]
One of the serious problems with introducing new people to cryonics is that people frequently come in pairs. Convert one of the pair, and the other often isn't impressed, and that is sufficient to lose you your convert.
I therefore applaud the initiative being suggested by ACS (The Immortalist August, page 11) suggesting that the society as a whole recruit females for its predominantly male membership.
In addition, I observed two lonely hearts advertisements, both from males wanting females, in the August issue of Alcor's newsletter, Cryonics. I doubt whether they'll receive a reply as that organisation too probably has a predominantly male membership, but I may be wrong.
And finally, writing in Canadian Cryonics News 12, page 14, Ben Best describes how he got his friend Courtney interested in cryonics at the Detroit Conference of October 1989. At this conference Courtney met Brenda Peters who became his girlfriend and presumably she hurried him into signing up.
As the membership of cryonics societies is predominantly male, then it is likely that the membership of the Venturists is likewise. It would appear that in most cases it will be the men who will get women who will then sign up. But instead of "love me love my dog" it will be "love me and agree to live forever".
I have recently parted from my female companion and am seeking another. I have started my own lonely hearts club on a local basis, using novel ideas. At the time of writing, it is breaking even after three months operation, and looks as though it could go on to be a commercial success. If the formula stands the test of time I plan to offer it as a franchise elsewhere. As well as offering a listing service, I also offer some self improvement books. One is Mae Ettinger's The WOT Position - Self Actualization for Women, another The 180 Degree Theory (the self-improvement book by the dental surgeon who was struck off for exposing malpractices in his profession and later re-instated after a lengthy court battle.) The third book is none other than The Prospect of Immortality. In the description no mention is made of cryonics or freezing. Instead I have said " A remarkable book written by the second and present husband of the above writer. (WOT is listed above it) It is of interest to those who like science fact and speculation, and seek a purpose in life beyond ritual and superstition."
As my business Longevity Books has a large number of these books, obtained in a surplus deal with the defunct British Cryogenics Society, headed by Geoffrey Pearl, we are able to offer them for only three pounds including local postage.
I hope to incorporate some of the ideas from WOT as the project develops, such as the Laswell "SAMPLE" personal love attitude profile.
When I offer the franchises, they will be cheap, (the world is a big place in relation to the size of "local areas"!) but the buyers will have to have access to a PC with publishing software and a good, preferably laser, printer and be prepared to put up a few hundred pounds (or local equivalent) in start up advertising costs.
If by the time the project is franchised SAMPLE and similar ideas are incorporated, it could be highly competitive and effective at producing lasting relationships. As it would be a loosely knit franchise operation, it would be virtually impossible to stamp out by other sectors of society whose interests may be threatened.
On a similar theme, contact sheets for heterosexual special interest groups interested in non-penetrative disease free and child free sex substitute activities could prove both a money spinner and a source of new Venturist people. There have been a number of television programs put out by the BBC and Independent Television on this subject recently, and a US based worldwide contact sheet of this type has over 1,000 listings. It sells annually at no less than $30 a time, with a half yearly update sheet at $15! Admittedly there was a severe shortage of females in the sample I saw, but this could be put right with improved and targeted marketing.
Any Venturist with interest in small business and wanting a purpose made family for cryonics purposes should watch this space for further news, or contact me direct care of The Venturists.
[1997 - PICS only ever attracted five men and one woman after spending a lot of advertising. I did find a companion by using another agency, and she is now also a suspension members of the Cryonics Institute. Brenda and Courtney's relationship did not last.]
[sent September 1991]
I have written before on the subject of worship, complaining how it was a waste of time and energy and diverted effort from important activities such as the eradication of death and suffering. In that essay, I omitted one important point, and I feel that it is sufficiently important to come back to the subject.
That point is that worshipping god is also making the statement that the worshipper is not only satisfied with existence as it is, but is actually enraptured by it. He is therefore saying that he is delighted with the existence of death, disease and suffering. Any attempt by a god-worshipper to change the world by even a small amount is surely contra to the act of worship, which is an act of acceptance. This is not to say that many god-worshippers don't change anything, but that any change they do make is contra to the logic behind the act of worship.
On the other hand, Venturism is the opposite. It is a statement of a fervent desire to change the most fundamental feature of all life - it's finite duration. Venturism is not just content with encouraging people to make arrangements for them to be preserved at the point where present medical science is no longer able to help them, for future reanimation in youth and good health. It also proposes to support any viable project that will reanimate all of humanity's dead, in accordance with ideas first proposed by a Russian philosopher, N.F. Fyodorov.
However acts of worship in death-accepting religions involve activities which many people find uplifting in the pursuit of their religions, such as sing-alongs or listening to performances of music. Music is also used by those other purveyors of death - the military - to encourage their members or conscripts in their duties.
At the Venturist meeting on 7 July 1991 a recording of an early version of a piece of anti-death music, Say Goodby to Death, with lyrics by David Pizer, was played to a Venturist gathering. As this piece and others with titles like We Gotta Smash Time are developed and polished it is hoped that they can be released to the public. They are intended to inspire people not to accept suffering and death and worship it's creator, but instead to help the universe to evolve to a state where these evils no longer exist for all sentient life forms.
[1997: Say Goodby to Death and We Gotta Smash Time were never progressed beyond demo tapes.]
[sent October 1991]
One thing cryonics societies and religions have in common is that they ask their supporters for money. Religions have no specific price tag on what they offer, but cryonics has two basic requirements: A minimum payment for suspension services, and then additional payments are often requested for various good causes, such as the war with the legal authorities or basic research.
These additional payments have more in common with the payments made to religious authorities.
One of the features of religion is that payment should hurt. This is explained by the parable of The Widow's Mite. In this parable, the widow who gave her "mite", all her wealth, little though it was, to God, got more "Brownie Points Up There" than the rich man who gave a small fortune but didn't notice its loss. To get the same number of points, the rich man would have had to have given all his wealth to his religion. The religionists make the point that it is not the value that is given to the church that counts, but how much it hurts the giver!
This is part of the notion of sacrifice. This has been the centre point of religion since the dim and distant depth of history. Originally, religious people would kill other people, in the belief that God would not kill them as he would be satisfied with the death given to him. Later this was replaced with animal sacrifices. In Christianity, Jesus asked God to forgive the sins of the world, and when he wouldn't, he offered his own life as a sacrifice in exchange for forgiveness of the sins of the world. This sacrifice is the centre pin of Christian belief, and is repeated twice to each person individually during their main religious service. (The Body of Christ who died for you: The Blood of Christ who died for you, as they eat a wafer and drink wine to signify the body and blood of Christ.)
Donations of time or money to Immortalist causes should be regarded in a totally different light. If a rich man can give $1,000,000 and not notice it, then this does NOT demean the gift. In fact, this is the best way that immortalism can be funded - by rich people who can do so without really noticing it. If a poor man would have to struggle to give $1, then I think that most immortalist organisations would suggest he keep it. Close examination of the newsletters of immortalist organisations with overseas groups indicate that the parent organisations in the USA recommend that members of local organisations concentrate their wealth in their own countries, for it is there that their own interests will best be met.
There are many ways the cause of immortalism can be supported other than by payment of money. Writing articles and letters to newspapers, is a good example. Indeed, if you can get a regular column in a professional magazine, you may make it easier for cryonicists to deal with these professionals. Funeral magazines have been known to be receptive to cryonics articles, even if not from a member of the profession. Those suitably qualified who can get a column in medical and legal journals would be well advised to make the time to write a column. This could do much for the cause.
Another way is by recruitment of friends. Even if you recruit only one person in your entire life, you never know who that person may in his/her turn recruit, and you could be a link in an important "dynasty" of members.
The basis of sensible donations to immortalism is not sacrifice. It is enlightened self interest, and donations should be made in an atmosphere of logic, not superstition and blind faith.
[Sent January 1992]
Christmas is just over as I write this. The date chosen for Christmas is supposed to be the birthday of Jesus Christ, but historical scholars now believe that the person around whom the religion evolved was born in March. In fact in the last days of the Roman Empire as the state adopted Christianity as the state religion, the date of Christmas was chosen to replace a mid-winter religious festival of the previous state religion.
One account has it that the Caesar of the time arranged a meeting of around forty bishops of conflicting versions of Christianity, and they could not agree on a common format for the religion. He therefore gave them 48 hours to come up with something or face execution. It was under these circumstances that December 25 was chosen as the date for the festival that we know today, when religious and commercial interests whip the public up to a great state of expectation that is never fulfilled. Instead of peace and goodwill, there are more divorces and suicides at that time of the year than any other.
Venturism seems to be providing many of the trappings of religion, just as Christianity adopted many of the trappings of its predecessors. Possibly the anniversary of the date of the first successful freezing, as mentioned in Venturist Monthly News 37, could become a festival. Maybe in order to synchronise it with secular arrangements already in place for existing religions the event will be commemorated on December 25, who knows!
But if this does happen (come to pass?) then we should learn the lessons of Christmas, which really should be regarded now as a failure in its stated aim of bringing good will to all men. We should not start by depriving children of toys etc except at Christmas, so that they learn to build up this ridiculous sense of anticipation. We should not bring the whole of commerce and the world's mailing system to a virtual standstill for three weeks leading up to the date. We should not make it the season of fertility for respiratory diseases, by spreading them around like confetti. We should not make it a feature of the occasion that people struggle to buy expensive but unwanted products and give them away to people who don't really want or need them, yet are too thoughtful to actually say so. If you want to give your partner or child a present, why not do so when an occasion of need arises, rather then wait until God says you should?
But after all this negativity, what positive thing could Venturists do at their annual anniversary? It should be enjoyable, sure. It should also be useful. I don't have what I consider to be a really good idea, but one answer could be to make it a time of inviting friends and relations round (or going to see them) and making presentations about cryonics and immortalism. Presents could be subscriptions to immortalist material, or vitamin preparations. I don't think these ideas are all that original, but I hope that this may open up a topic for discussion in Venturist Monthly News.
In the meantime, my advice to everyone who is depressed at Christmas because of all the turmoil and the nagging belief that they are missing out, is to realise that a high proportion of the population feel exactly the same. The cure is to regard Christmas Day as though it was Friday, 13 February. Even if you don't believe that no 13 is unlucky, you should take care on the 13th, as many people become so convinced that they will have an accident that they will, and it will be bad luck on all rationalists who happen to be in the way. Pussy-foot your way through Christmas, take great care not to pick arguments, take risks, especially with travel, and avoid people contaminated with bacteria or viruses. Then you will survive. Remember all this next year. Happy Christmas 1992!
[Sent July 1992]
One reason for the initial lack of enthusiasm shown by the cryonics community to my Perpetual Immortalist Contact Sheet may be the fact that the laws in most countries (including the old Soviet Russia) make forming a relationship a risky business. Lawyers say that if a rich person marries a poor person (and in some particularly authoritarian countries marriage also means just living together in the same house), then the rich person faces the risk of losing over half of his or her assets if the relationship fails. This penalty is as severe if not more so than for several serious crimes. Indeed until very recently, even gangsters selling hallucinogenic addictive drugs faced a lighter financial penalty!
Writing in The Selfish Gene Dr Richard Dawkins devotes a section showing how this practice arose as a money making enterprise by the legal profession. It was not specifically designed by any one person, but evolutionary forces amongst professional institutions caused it to appear. The lawyers have individuals in a no win situation. The unhappy couple are forced into more and more confrontation, whilst the lawyers syphon off substantial portions of the family's assets as fees. In the UK, many fair minded people refuse to take up their legal "rights" and consider more their duties to their previous partner. Unfortunately I do not know whether right thinking people take this option in the USA, but nevertheless I do consider it "kneeling to the axeman" for someone to forego a relationship because of fear of lawyers. Many people were afraid of Hitler, and of Communism, but all such systems, however unstoppable they seem at the time, eventually fail. Dan Quayle, himself a lawyer, said that the profession's money grubbing is seriously damaging the economy of the United States. I would go so far as to say that the world economy as a whole will fail unless the application of law is substantially simplified and its cost made commensurate with the earning power of real wealth creating activities, such as design or manufacturing.
Maybe immortalists feel that there will be time enough for relationships when they are transported into the future by cryonic suspension, and if they remain single there is no risk that some evil minded person will rob them of their suspension funds under the cloak of professionalism. But it must be remembered that no cryonics organisation, even Alcor, the most powerful and successful one of them all, guarantees success. People should not forget that although cryonics gives the best chance of surviving death, it does not offer "true and certain knowledge of the resurrection of the body." Unlike religion, it does not even claim this. What it does claim is a non zero chance of revival, which is quite a different thing.
This means that if your suspension fails, then you will never have experienced a relationship except in your dreams. Although technically cryonics is almost certain to work for some people, this is very different to singling out a particular individual and saying that it will work for him and her. There are so many variables, so many people and groups standing to make money from the suspension not going ahead, such as pathologists, relatives, lawyers and the government of the country where the person lives. Some immortalists spend a large portion of their income with the legal profession trying to work out unstoppable legal directives to suspend their "remains". But this money does not buy certainty. At best the name of a respected law firm on your documents may serve to frighten people off attacking them.
I would like to draw your attention to the positive side of entering into a relationship with someone else who is sympathetic to immortalism, from the point of view of ensuring your own suspension. You will have someone with whom to discuss problems and strategies. You will not be totally alone against the world. Although cryonics societies are supposed to fill that gap, in practice they have to get the best deal for their members collectively, and that may not include your personal case if it is in any way outside the average. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss other positive aspects of relationships, but I would say that it is known that people live longer who are in a satisfactory relationship.
[sent August 1992]
One objection frequently raised by people when confronted by the cryonics idea is that money spent on such a speculative venture is "wasted" and could be put to better use feeding the poor or helping the disadvantaged. (What they really mean, of course, is that they would prefer it to be given to them in a legacy and they could spend it on partying, hollidaying, drinking, smoking, gambling and fornicating.) However let us look at whether money spent on cryonics is really wasted as far as the rest of the world is concerned.
If the suspension funds were treated in the way the establishment prefers, they would be passed on by legacy to private individuals to spend as they please. They may buy furniture, for example. In this case the money would pass to the sells of the furniture and the makers of the furniture as wages and expenses. If no one bought furniture, then those people would be on welfare, or at best would be in jobs that had displaced other people who would be on welfare. In addition, those people whose wages were represented by the expenses of the furniture makers and sellers would also be out of a job and so on. The same argument applies whatever the legatees spend their money on, even if it is spent purely on a service, eg a holiday.
Instead, suppose the funds are spent on cryonic suspension. Some of them are paid out as wages to the suspension personnel and their expenses1 - just like the furniture makers in fact. So far the result to the rest of the world is the same as a simple legacy to a private individual. But part of these funds are also invested so that the income therefrom can be used to top up the dewars with liquid nitrogen and provide over overheads relating to the storage space used.
Even if invested in fixed interest securities, invested funds are rather different to spent funds. No business can run without capital. At one time people could build up a business on their own without capital, just using the strength of their own hands. These days are nearly over - in order to compete today one needs capital. This can be obtained by borrowing or by selling shares in the business. Borrowing has the advantage that if you are successful you can pay back the loan from income and then own the business yourself. But if your business fails and you have to go back to working for someone else, then you have to pay back the loan. Selling shares has the advantage that if you are not successful, then you don't have to pay the money back. But if you are successful then the shareholders expect, in return for the risk they have run, to share in the financial rewards of your success. Either process is essential to a thriving economy. Even big companies need to raise money by these two methods from time to time. If no one invested money either into shares or fixed interest loans, then the economy would grid to a halt.
The only way you could really destroy the money, and even this is arguable, is to order your personal representatives to buy gold, dissolve it in acid, and tip the resulting solution into the sea. (This may be an interesting clause to a cryonics will - "if my suspension does not go ahead for reasons of interference by person or persons rather than practical impossibility, then I direct that my trustees buy gold .. etc.")
In time of economic difficulty, governments often try and encourage people to save rather than to spend, so the savings can be invested in industries that provide work and make useful things. Cryonic suspension arrangements encourage people to save, and by result of the fact that part of the suspension money remains invested, they should boost the economies of which they are a part. Cryonic suspension money is not destroyed, it actually benefits society far more than money spent on the ordinary retail purchases of potential legatees.
1 The Cryonics Institute uses volunteer labour for suspensions, citing this as one of the various reasons why its fees are only $28,000 for a whole body suspension.
[sent December 1992]
Cryonics ideas often provide insight into the workings of the world as a whole. One example of this is the much vaunted dictum that even the poor of today are better off than the very rich of centuries ago.
For example, consider access to music. In most houses one finds at least a radio if not a television or VCR. A monarch in the middle ages may hear music at home if players are bought to his palace, or he may have had palace players. But there would have been no symphony orchestras. The music would have probably been rather tinny thin renderings of religious material. Contrast this with today's poor person, listening to his radio with a multitude of channels to suit all musical tastes. A visit to a local market or garage sale or car boot sale will yield a second hand hi-fi set up which still works for about $10-$20. A few years ago such quality would only have been available to purchasers willing to buy new and pay $500 or more.
Consider someone in a low socio-economic grouping who is in a regular job, and compare him with a similar grouping in the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages person's experience of music would probably be limited to sing songs in the local inn. Today the comparable person would have a library of CDs.
And so we get back to the monarch, with his troupe of palace entertainers. Imagine travelling back in time. Take him a portable "ghetto blaster" with CD and play him a symphony. Would he not want to change places with the person with access to that sort of entertainment?
This argument is used to suggest to people that the future will be better off than the present. It also suggest something else. That is that it is progress, not social engineering, that enhances the lives of the poor. Social engineering can be defined as taxing the majority and distributing the proceeds to governmental projects that are sold to the voting public as helping the less well off. In reality these projects pay high salaries to government employees. They promote them, consciously or unconsciously, for that reason. The trouble with most of these projects is that they do not solve the problems they are set out to alleviate. They certainly to not create wealth in any global sense.
If on the other hand tax-payers' money is spent on creating an environment where people can create real wealth, then the overall standard of living will rise, and along with it that of the less well off. Projects that consume capital and funded by money taken by force (you go to jail if you don't pay your taxes) have the opposite effect. They slow down overall progress.
One should therefore conclude that the barest minimum of government produces the fastest progress and therefore the best deal for the disadvantaged as a whole. Of course one may single out individuals who don't do as well in either system, but on average I would suggest that a "minimum intervention" system will produce fewer such individuals.
[not sure when this was sent, around the end of 1992.]
Marriage is a subject that is relevant to Venturism as the Society is empowered under US law to conduct wedding ceremonies. However do the legal consequences of marriage have any real bearing on the way we live now, never mind in the future where death is optional? Can individuals sensibly and realistically promise to stay with one partner throughout all eternity?
In past centuries, on average, people died after as little as twenty years of marriage, which was just enough time to bring up children. It was only in the last century that the average lifespan began to rise and we can observe appreciable numbers of people remaining married for fifty years or more.
The pace of change has also accelerated. In "the good old days" there was little to interest people and take up their spare time. Therefore the chances of a couple remaining interested in the same sort of things was relatively high. Whereas today there are so many possibilities for recreational activity it is almost inevitable that sooner or later one party to a marriage will take up some activity that is an anathema to the other.
Also general attitudes to life can change. Maybe over twenty or even fifty years such changes may be slight, but over longer periods they could become quite substantial.
It ought to be worthwhile for the Venturists to look at causes of divorce and see if they are likely to be exacerbated by a longer period (centuries? millennia?) of marriage.
And what of divorce itself? At present most developed countries seem to regard a marriage as a ceremony of ownership of one person by another. The only other parallel in history is the ownership of slaves. Here in the UK some people have been left with only £5 a week to live off after legal process has sequestered their assets and salaries after a divorce settlement. They are expected to go on working and hand their salary over to their previous partner. Working for no or an absurdly low salary is, I should have thought, a definition of slavery.
A recent government department has been inaugurated to prevent divorced single parents getting state support - instead it gets it from the other partner if they have any assets or income at all. Although in theory they should be left enough to live on, in practise this is not so. According to one rumour I have heard, the head of the department is paid on results.
A recent case history had a man commit suicide because he had no chance of building another life after his divorce. Another concerned a woman who had never scrounged and had worked all her life for what she had, yet was foolish enough to get married and divorced twice. The legal profession forced her to take on a former husband's £100,000 business failure debt, and pay a pension to another husband who had neglected to make his state pension contributions. She will die in abject poverty.
As usual, state and legal interference in people's lives is not solving any problems, it is merely switching problems from one person to another, extracting fee income for itself on the way. There are always losers. If there was no state interference, then this fee income would not be extracted from society and therefore society would have a higher rate of growth. The nett amount of suffering would be less. With a generally higher level of affluence, the loser wouldn't be so hard hit.
Therefore I make the following suggestion. If, after investigating, The Society for Venturism decides that the present system of marriage and divorce is not compatible with indeterminate length of life, then it incorporates into its ceremony some wording that indicates the parties will remain together because they want to, and that they both agree not to recognise the state's laws on the matter. Of course I appreciate that this has no legal effect at the moment, but it would bring ethical pressure on individuals as to whether to try and get an unfair advantage through the courts if something does go wrong.
This idea is hardly novel, as many couples enter into pre-marriage agreements, although these often serve to achieve nothing more than earning a fee for the lawyer who draws them up. It is a matter of some controversy as to whether they could be "set aside" by a court. In the UK, court rulings agreed to by both parties to a divorce have been set aside by later court rulings after intervention by the government's special agency.
Nevertheless, incorporating these concepts into the Venturist ceremony will show to the world in general that the Society for Venturism is serious about immortalism and the consequences on existing customs and institutions.
Letter to Porthtowan Vantage Point:
From Mr Mark Aristos Plus:
I would like to comment on your "Good Old Days" column in the Jan 1994 Venturist Monthly News. In my research into the productivity problem I have come across Peter F. Drucker's recent book Post Capitalist Society (Harper Collins 1993: ISBN 0-887730-620-9) which I strongly recommend, though I think Drucker is wrong about certain things.
First, a word about the title. Drucker argues that developed societies are "post-capitalist" especially the U.S. not because of socialism but rather because the major holders of capital today are no longer individual capitalists but pension funds. We ought not to be put off by Drucker's neologism of "post-capitalism" any more than non-cryonicists ought to be put off by the idea of "post humanity".
With that disclaimer out of the way, I found the most important passages of the book regarding our economic future to be 32-40, discussing the invention of the modern concept of "productivity" by Frederick W. Taylor in the 1980s, and pp 83-96, discussing the productivity problems of knowledge workers and service workers.
Drucker argues that our revolution in lifestyles really began about a hundred years ago when Taylor studied sand shovelling and other manual operations, broke them down into their components, and then reorganised them into greater efficiency. The resulting increases in productivity created a larger and larger pool of wealth out of which workers' wages could be paid, resulting in the raising of their living standards. In developed countries today this productivity revolution has reduced the percentage of the workforce needed for manufacturing from a majority just a few decades ago to less than 15% in the U.S. and other developed countries. With continuing automation this percentage will continue to shrink, so that manufacturing productivity will become less and less important in the overall economy.
The other 85+% of us have perforce had to become knowledge workers or service workers, as most cryonicists are. But as Drucker points out on p 83, our "productivity, rather than the productivity of the people who make and move things is productivity of a developed economy is abysmally low. The productivity of people doing knowledge work and service work may actually be going down rather than going up.
Then Drucker on p 84 makes an even more remarkable assertion: "Unless we can learn how to increase the productivity of knowledge workers and service workers, and increase it fast, the developed countries will face economic stagnation and severe social tension. People can only get paid in accordance with their productivity. Their productivity creates the pool of wealth from which wages and salaries are then paid. If productivity does not go up, let alone if it declines, higher real incomes cannot be paid."
Drucker then discusses some organisational models and examples which he contends will raise knowledge and service productivity, Here is where I part company with Drucker. While no doubt knowledge work requiring data processing could be made more productive, (1) a lot of service work faces human motor limitations while (2) other service work requires social interaction.
Regarding (1) Drucker refers to a company "outsourced" by a hospital to perform cleaning tasks, which has figured out how to change the sheets on a bed in a third of the time it used to take. Very well but no matter how much experience this company accumulates, it won't be able to change the sheets on a bed in a fiftieth of the time it used to take, which would make its productivity growth comparable with what we've seen in farming and manufacturing. (Since I manage a motel I am familiar with the kinds of cleaning problems involved.) So this sort of service productivity faces some obvious limits.
Regarding (2) the productivity of retail clerks and waitresses hasn't increased in decades, and won't increase for decades to come, simply because of the nature of human social interaction. And in the U.S. today these kinds of workers outnumber factory workers. When you add in the barbers, receptionists, masseuses, dental hygienists etc., you are seeing
a growing mass of people with essentially mixed productivity. Hence I don't see the potential for the poor "serviciate" class getting indefinitely richer.
So having found and independent confirmation of Owen Paepke's scenario, though using a different line of reasoning, i am incredibly sceptical of the view that future societies will tend to grow arbitrarily wealthy per capita. While libertarians tend to look for villains, - attorneys, socialistic politicians, environmentalists, I think a good case can be made that the plateauxing of economic growth is a spontaneous order.
I wonder whether these analyses Mr Plus is reading are looking at the wrong problem. I find what people seem to worry far too much about who or what does something, or how they do it, rather than whether the something is done.
Take the question raised about the productivity of bedmaking. If you make a bed with blanket and sheets it takes a lot of time compared to using a duvet. In fact the inefficient service industry of bedmaking is transferred to the more efficient manufacturing process of duvet manufacture. Consider dusting a room in a motel. As long as you employ someone to dust it, true the productivity hits a limit. But suppose a nanotechnological carpet and curtains are used that controls the dust on a molecular level? Again the service is removed to a factory - a molecular one in this case.
You may well ask, in connection with the living standards of the poor, why they are not having more difficulty in finding work as all the simple jobs are being given to relatively skilled workers in factories or indeed scientists in nanotechnology labs. However new jobs are appearing.
Also I think that in terms of productivity one must realise that most people are, in terms of creating wealth, already unemployed. An industrialist I spoke to last summer said that in the UK the number of people involved in manufacturing roughly equalled the number of people unemployed. That means out of 56 million people there are only three million really working (= creating wealth). The rest are on state support, children, retired, or being paid to do nothing of any intrinsic value. The latter I would class with those on state support. Their jobs often exist because the state forces, by law, people to have need of their services, just as the state funds those on support by taking money by force of law from the other citizens. (The equation becomes more chaotic because the no-value jobs' income also pays some of the taxes.)
I hold the view that the poor ratio of people working on creative pursuits is slowing growth and hence our chances of surviving until ageing has been conquered, or at least until cryonics is more acceptable. However the problem is not simply one of numbers, but remuneration - the best talent follows the money, and it is not people who are creating wealth who are well rewarded. Whereas people seem prepared to accept that a lawyer can charge a few dozen clients a total of a million pounds in a year, they (in this country at least) throw their hands up in horror if an industrialist who is providing jobs for hundreds if not thousands of people, and growth for thousands of shareholders, and products for thousands more people, gets half a million a year in salary.
Specific jobs are mentioned - cleaners and bedmakers I have done. Retail clerks - drive in hypermarkets reduce the number per customer. A receptionists' tasks could be performed by machine, but a person is employed for aesthetic reasons. You can already get a massage machine, but aesthetics also apply. Dental hygienists will eventually go when the pharmaceutical industry can develop mouthwashes and toothpastes that really work.
But talking of new jobs - dental hygienists are relatively new - only about 10-20 years ago a Michigan dentist was struck off for employing one!1 The dental profession as a whole wanted to keep the work, and fee income, within its cartel. Paramedics and paralegals are also appearing as the main professions price themselves out of the market.
Limits to growth may exist, but I would look to physics and thermodynamics for them. Any other limitation is surmountable, even if it takes revolution (eg with communism) to achieve it.
1 Money by the Mouthful, Dr R.O. Nara, DDS, Oramedics International, ISBN 0-933420, 1979.
This piece follows with regards to the response made by Dr Perry to my recent column about the poor. He said that he would like a device whereby he could be uploaded and transmitted over optical cables to wherever he wanted to be. This describes how this could be achieved using present day technology - well almost!
A number of new technologies have appeared recently that can be put together to make a remarkable family of devices, which will probably be as near as we will ever get to Star Trek's transporter.
The initial or basic offering will be relatively crude and consist of a transmitter and receiver that can be plugged into telephone sockets anywhere. The receiver will be a virtual reality helmet,1 with stereo headphones and two video displays with arrangements to focus them as a stereo pair to the viewer. It will be connected to a box that decodes the video and audio data from the fractal compression2 system used to send it down the telephone system. The transmitter will be a head sized object with binaural microphones and a pair of television cameras, and the data will be fed via a fractal compression unit to the telephone line. It will probably be sold at high prices to business users so that, for example, someone can be shown round an office or factory in order to decide whether they are sufficiently interested in buying it to visit it in person.
Being shown round with this set up would be a bit like a quadriplegic being wheeled around in a wheelchair. Although you would have the feel of being there, you would have to look where your head was pointed.
The next development would be to arrange for the receiver to send to the transmitter signals representing the azimuth and bearing of the "head", so that the viewer could turn his head around and look where he wants. But the head's location would still be moved by the people the other end. This would be more like a paraplegic being wheeled around in a wheelchair.
The stage on from this would be to mount the "head" on a small airship type flying machine, and set its computer to keep it at head height. Then directional signals could also be sent to it from the receiving person. I suggest that a flying machine would be easier and cheaper to make than a walking machine. The buoyancy could still be obtained by a cylinder, held vertically by its flight control system, equal in volume to a body and legs and it only need float a few inches above the ground. It may look a bit like an Dalek or animated dustbin, but it would do the job and should be easy enough to mass produce.
However as it stands people would not be able to use this product to visit each other, as the person receiving the visit would still see the "animated dustbin" or whatever the transmitter looks like where his friend was supposed to be. But a simple trick could be used to get over this. A camera at the terminal of the subscriber making the virtual visit would record his appearance, and the person being visited could also wear a virtual reality helmet. However his helmet would display his home image, except instead of the "animated dustbin" it would display the image of the person making the visit. It could not be impossible to edit out the VR helmets the two people would be wearing, so each would see the other as if they were a real person.
Of course there will be naysayers who will suggest that this can never replace travel and it would be bad for the soul and so on. However I can see no technical reason why it would not happen, and in reality it could well have uses to enhance travel rather than suppress it. Never again could the travel agent suppress the fact that the hotel is between the crematorium and the abatoir, if his customers expect a quick VR tour before laying out their money for the tickets!
1 Division Group, 19, Apex Court, Woodlands, Almondsbury, Bristol BS12 4JT
2 Iterated Systems Ltd., Wyvols Court, Swallowfield, Reading, Berks RG7 1PY.
[Sent February 1994]
Following the publication of my further comments on future progress in the February 1994 Venturist Monthly News, someone anonymously sent me copies of articles from Consumer Reports and Los Angeles Times, for which many thanks.
The Consumer Reports article (June 1992) analyses the cost of products, services and taxes in terms of hours worked at the average wage. This is extremely revealing, as it shows that manufactured items such as television receivers fall in these terms, whereas compulsory appropriations such as taxes, or unavoidable expenses such as housing either rise or at best have an uneven profile.
The level of authoritarianism in government can clearly be seen in the table for federal income taxes. In 1962 people had to work for 50 days to pay federal income taxes, and this fell to 48.3 in 1972, rode to 63.8 in 1982, only to fall back to 49 in 1992. Of course this is equivalent to the government making people work for this number of days in the year for zero pay, a situation known as slavery. (No doubt in the days of more blatant slavery there were "good" masters who used the proceeds of the work of their slaves for "good works" such as restoring the local church. This equates to the portion of taxes spent on social engineering, building government buildings etc.)
Also professional services were seen to rise out of all proportion, the most disgraceful example being child delivery from 15.5 days in 1962 to 62.2 days in 1992. Unfortunately legal services were not in the table.
The article concluded that if one looks at what you can buy with average wages there has been little overall improvement since 1973. However I wonder again whether this misses the point. The argument is based on an overall picture, which includes escalating service costs and falling costs of manufactured items. If in future an item can be removed from the service category and placed in the manufactured category, then this produces a boost in the standard of living for everyone.
Another thing that would produce a substantial rise in the standard of living for everybody would be a falling birth rate - child delivery and education were the fastest rising items of cost in terms of days worked in the list. It seems that a falling birth rate is happening around the developed world, and in undeveloped countries the prevalence of AIDS is enforcing it in a different way. Of course this could in extremis lead to a worsening of the average standard of living if there are not enough working (as opposed to young or retired) people to run the world.
But one must remember that there are relatively few people actually creating wealth now, in the UK it is about 3 million out of 56 million. If there is a serious shortage of people then spurious service industries will be forced to shed labour to essential work by market forces. There is a risk that this could then give rise to price increases as the workforce would not be willing to give up the high pay associated with their previous employment.
So far, the most efficient method known of directing working capital to enterprises capable of creating wealth is the stock market. In the second article, from the Los Angeles Times of Sunday, 6 February, it was suggested that accountants and lawyers who organised takeovers and mergers have creamed off financial savings made by these processes and left nothing for consumers, workers and shareholders of the companies involved. Often the company making the takeover has paid cash which it has borrowed, and it meets the interest by slashing wages. (In the UK markets this is less frequent. Government legislation levies a severe penalty on the shareholders of the company which is taken over if cash is paid, whereas if they are paid in shares of the new combination there is no penalty. However if the market doesn't like the merger, then the share price is marked down by the market makers, even if no shares are actually bought and sold on the market, and the new shareholders suffer that way.)
Another problem for Americans the Los Angeles Times mentioned was that of wage diversity throughout the world. Any manufacturing task (including such work as design) gravitates to areas where wages are low. For example, most electronic goods are made in Taiwan or Korea. The paper points out that Americans have no monopoly in skills, and cheap countries can easily develop skills such as India's computer software designers. It has been suggested in immortalist publications that Russian scientists could be recruited for research projects at a small fraction of the costs in western countries. This has an overall effect of slowing down any increase in real wages in the United States or other developed country.
However I would argue that this effect is transitory. It is a part of the world changing from an area of nations to a single economy.
The government in South Africa prevented its citizens from moving around the country to live or work, and this attracted protest from the rest of the world. If one looks at the world as a whole from the standpoint of an individual, one can group all governments together as "the authorities". And what do we have - "the authorities" won't let a UK resident travel to the US without a passport and visa, or the other way without a passport, and neither country will let the citizens of the other work without a lot of trouble and expense being taken by the individual concerned. Therefore from the point of view of the individual, at present the world's authorities (seen as one group) are behaving in exactly the same way as the despised Apartheid government of South Africa. This cannot continue, and already we are seeing attempts, such as the European Community, of breaking down barriers in larger and larger areas.
Once the process is complete and humans can move freely about their planet the concept of an average global wage will begin to have meaning. And then we will see a steady rise in prosperity as items are moved from the service to the manufacturing sector.
It is also possible that a means of directing capital superior to the stock markets could emerge. Such a method could still use individual investors, but they would be directed to enterprises in which to invest by a computer system that has no human operators (who are at present alleged to cream off the savings made). If this were to happen, it could result in a further real cut in the cost of manufactured goods, of up to about 30%.
So despite warnings about fundamental limits to growth, deprivation due to "rent farmers" or "rent seekers", I remain confident that theoretically progress can be maintained. But whether it will is, of course, up to people as a whole. Whether they will tolerate high taxes and compulsory service costs, or whether they will direct their money towards the increasing number of opportunities offered by the manufacturing sector, remains to be seen.
[sent March 1994]
As society is presently constituted, those opting for cryonic suspension are placing themselves very much in a minority. It is acceptable to consume the bulk of medical resources used over an entire lifetime in the last few months in order to gain a short reprise from death. However spending a smaller amount in order to gain a chance of revival in good health is seen as eccentric no matter what logic dictates.
Just as with other frontiers of science, legislators are now seeing the growth of cryonics as a chance to make money or make a name for themselves, and this has started in Canada.1,2 The province of British Columbia has enacted laws which prohibit the marketing and selling of cryonics services. The Cryonics Society of Canada and Alcor Suspension Services Manager Tanya Jones have written to the British Columbia Minister of Labour and Consumer Services appealing that the law be withdrawn. Minister Moe Sihota made a defensive reply and refused to reconsider the law.
The Canadian government (in common with most others) also refuses its citizens the freedom to end their suffering in terminal cases. The case of Sue Rodruigez attracted much publicity in the country. Suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, she asked a parliamentary committee, "If I cannot give consent to my own death, then whose body is this?". In September 1993 her request for an end to her suffering by voluntary euthanasia was denied by judges and lawyers in a 5-4 decision in the Canadian Supreme Court. In February 1994 her physician assisted her to die, and the death was witnessed by sympathetic MP Svend Robinson. The government may take action against him. However the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Cretien, has now agreed to a debate on the issues.
The last paragraph is most interesting inasmuch as it appears that a government may be going to attack one of its own MPs over this matter, and it brings into focus some important philosophical issues as to exactly what are individuals and what are governments. One can consider a government to be a living entity that uses individual people as its cells, or possibly one could say as neurons or even just thoughts in its "brain".3,4 If a thought is an anathema to the overall personality of this entity, then it is thrown out, just as with the processes within an individual's brain.
Therefore we as individuals share the planet with entities which not only threaten us but also use us as "cells" or units within them. At the time of writing there is a lot of debate as to various government agencies that are springing up, who have powers sometimes in excess of those of the Police. The Child Support Agency was introduced by the government in order to chase fathers who would not support their children after divorce or separation. Instead of doing this, they are alleged to be attacking those that are supporting their children and increasing the penalties levied on them after fair trials in the courts. Despite media attention, no effort has been made to remedy the situation. A television programme on BBC2 alleged that the British Government and the world's state run airlines conspired to destroy Laker Airways, even managing to prevent an anti-trust case being heard in the US courts. In the past these entities or governments have even exterminated individuals within their curtilage. The most famous example was the National Socialists in Germany, but conscription to any war can be seen in this light.
Most humans consider themselves to be at the top of the food chain, ie nothing will farm them and eat them. Of course they can get eaten if they stray into wild areas where there are dangerous animals, but this is of academic importance only to most people. Assuming for a moment that cryonics is proven to work, governments that either forbid it directly or indirectly by insisting on autopsy could be regarding as feeding on their citizens. They would argue that autopsies are desirable as they increase scientific knowledge and more importantly organisational knowledge. (The cause of death could be illegal, murder, suicide, recreational-drug induced etc.) Therefore they feed on the knowledge that is obtained. Remember that governments are pure thought entities. They can die suddenly or violently (such as Communism or National Socialism), or wither away (such possibly as Liberalism in the UK). However there is no set age of three score years and ten or whatever. Hitler's 1,000 years of National Socialism wasn't unreasonable on that score. Humans won't eat animals or plants unless they are "ready" or "ripe". Government won't usually eat humans unless they are ready, ie dead. Exceptions are conscription etc as aforementioned, but such governments are unsuccessful in the evolution of government, and therefore tend to fail.
Ultimately the success of cryonic suspension may not depend on matters such as whether people can afford it or whether future science can revive the clients into good health. It will depend on whether allowing it is a successful trait in the evolution of governments.
We have already looked at how cryonics can be unsuccessful. Governments that allow it will receive less information on their citizens from autopsy. Individuals who form part of governments will not be able to make financial or political capital out of attacking it. Individuals need to benefit themselves from being members of governments (ie assisting them), otherwise governments die through lack of officers.
But are there traits that will make cryonics desirable, ie governments allowing it, even promoting it, will be stronger than those that don't? I think that there are plenty.
Governments use up resources in educating individuals. Cryonics preserves that education. (If it works)
Cryonics encourages savings and investments, not consumption. (Whether it works or not!)
Cryonics encourages people to lead lawful and responsible lives. (Whether it works or not!) (If you are going to live for ever, sooner or later any wrongdoing will be found out. Even if you only live a long time, the chances of being caught are much higher.)
If an individual's government has supported cryonics, that individual is likely to support that style of government when revived, thus adding longevity to it. (If cryonics works.)
Unfortunately although you can write to MPs, the Sue Rodruigez case tells us that you cannot actually communicate at all with governments as entities. No one can tell governments that cryonics is beneficial (or indeed that it isn't). Only the sum total of actions of individuals, promoted either by personal greed or personal survival, will make up governments' thought processes. Both greed and survival are very strong drives. People with long time horizons are more likely to be survivalists, and those with short term goals will see the other options. It will be some years before we know whether governments "decide" that cryonics is a beneficial evolutionary trait.
Notes for further reading:
1 Canadian Cryonics News 23. [$14/yr quarterly from PO Box 788 Station A Toronto Ontario M5W 1G3 Canada ($10 Canada)]
2 Funeral Service Journal October 1991, page 59 [£20 per year sterling cheques or Eurocheques only: 112, London Road Knebworth Herts SG3 6EX UK (£13 UK)]
3 The Selfish Gene Richard Dawkins, Oxford, 1989, ISBN 0-19-217773-7.
particularly chapter 11 in 1989 edition.
4 Engines of Creation Eric Drexler, Doubleday, 1986, ISBN 0-385-19972-4
particularly chapter 13, 1986 edition. Drexler writes "In the organism known as a democracy the conscious level roughly corresponds to debate in the mass media." Interesting. Note that (a) Those in authority are known by psychologists to have a high sex drive, (b) Debate in the mass media at least at the moment seems to concentrate on the sex lives of politicians and those in authority. (c) Sexual reproduction is an important part of evolutionary theory. However, on the analogy proposed here, we are referring to the sex lives of the "cells" making up the body politic. Could it be that by attacking the sexuality of the cells of the government, individualism is attacking the lifeblood of collectivism. Now we have two "isms". Things are getting quite chaotic!
[sent April 1994]
In his letter published in Venturist Monthly News April 1994, Paepke accuses me of being agenda driven. I am not quite sure what this means, but as it is preceded by quite simply I expect it is derogatory or at best dismissive. In other correspondence Paepke wrote of me as being beyond worthwhile discussion because I noted on my company letterhead that the company had previously been Limited, but had ceased to be so because of audit costs.
Paepke is a lawyer, and therefore is a member of the well paid group that earns large fees for activities other than wealth creation, and therefore he is likely to be dismissive of my arguments. (Although writing books is obviously creative of knowledge and therefore wealth creating, but book writing is not a prerogative of lawyers.)
However, as Mr Frederick Mann of Terra Libra has noted, not all lawyers are bad guys. Some are still individualists, such for example as my company auditor who actually advised and encouraged me to take the steps that I did. The message at the heading of my paper is not therefore a condemnation of all accountants (a form of lawyer) as individuals but of government and the profession as a whole. Mr Eric Klein, in a promotional brochure for The Atlantis Project, wrote: (In Oceania) "Your accountant can help you obtain a better bottom line ... not jump through government tax hoops."
Another example is barrister Brain Haines, who has two law degrees and has practised different forms of law in several countries. He proposes a future where the law becomes a manufactured product, and what is more one that is issued free of cost to all citizens.
In a 20 page report, which he wrote after taking representations, he has suggested that law is re-worked so as to be understandable by the citizens who have to obey it, and is imprinted onto a compact disk ROM. Such a ROM should be made available to every citizen in the country. Machines to use the ROM will be available in public libraries for people that don't own them. Using an expert system, the law can be understood in relation to whatever the citizen is doing. The profession of lawyer won't be totally extinct, but it would be reduced in volume of trade. (A similar system is used in France instead of a telephone directory. Every telephone user was given not just a disk but a whole computer that linked with a bulletin board with initially just telephone numbers on it.)
In addition, Mr Haines proposes that compulsory education include inculcating a greater understanding of the new, simpler, laws. The CD ROM would be updated annually and re-issued. Citizens will be far more aware of the legal implications of proposed actions than they are at present.
Imagine driving through a town where there are speed limits, and you can be fined for driving too fast or too slow down particular roads. However there are no signs enforcing these limits. But at every street corner men are standing who will tell you what the speed limits are ... if you pay them a hefty fee. That is how the law is today. What Mr Haines proposes is more like the existing road system, ie society expects the individual to observe certain (traffic) conventions but keeps him fully informed as to what they are. In the UK, this is done by publishing The Highway Code at nominal cost, and the erection of street signs at public expense.
... Some of the proposals contained in the Haines Report will be seen as very radical and even impossible. It is not so. The study of history shows a remarkably small change in social attitudes over the last few thousand years. Technology has made great advances. The time has come to give to all the benefits of that technology so that the there is no longer a class called the privileged.
It is hard for those brought up in a tradition of a fixed hierarchy to accept absolute equality. People in positions of authority and power quickly come to believe their lives are worth more than the humble dweller in the streets. The law can redress the balance, the law must change to do so.
[sent May 1994]
The debate on progress continues. Is it intrinsically limited by the laws of physics, or is humanity shooting itself in the foot by allowing growing fee earning professions to divert wealth from productive research and provide nothing in return?
Mr Mark Plus has kindly sent various audio cassettes of economic debates and phone-ins on American radio shows, and also mainstream magazine articles. It is apparent from these that I am far from alone in my distrust of the professions, and the concept of physical limits also has considerable support. Nevertheless reality is not democratic - the world wasn't flat when most if its population believed it to be so. Even if everyone distrusted the value of the professions it doesn't make them untrustworthy in any absolute sense, and likewise universal belief in physical limits doesn't create any where none exist.
As far as the professions go, what we need to examine is whether the resources that they consume create something of comparable value that adds to overall human progress. Just recently in the UK the most expensive trial of its class has just finished. Upjohn Inc received £50,000 damages against the BBC over a television programme concerning the drug Halcyon. However the legal costs ran into millions of pounds. From the point of view of the lawyers, one might argue that the millions of pounds spent were well spent in debating the issues around the product and its use. The results of the debate have added to knowledge, they will say. This is true up to a point, I suppose, but one could also ask how much extra wealth has been created by this knowledge and if the money had been given to research scientists rather than lawyers. Could they have produced some new knowledge about something else that would have been of more value? There can be no easy answer - a lot of scientific research results in the conclusion "this will not work", which has little value in its own right (except it may prevent others following a blind path.)
The concept of a blind path brings us on to physical limits. One type of limit, favoured by Mr Paepke and others, is the productivity of personal services. A barber has been given as an example. I have suggested that if you don't worry who does a job, and by that I include classes of people (such as barbers), then productivity can be regarded as increasing. Suppose someone discovered a drug that stops hair from growing longer, and instead makes it last longer. Such a drug would become universally popular (unless suppressed by sectional interests.) Barbers would go. It is a case of lateral thinking. What is the object of being a barber. It is to cut hair or is it to keep people's heads fashionable. If you take the first option, then the productivity arguments may apply. If you take the second one, then clearly the new drug represents substantial progress.
Hotel proprietors and staff are another example. People stay in hotels because they want a base from which to explore new territory, whether for recreation or business. An article in New Scientist dated 28 May 1994 suggested that it is possible to make a rocket plane that can get people from anywhere to anywhere (on Earth) in an hour. New materials and technologies are making such a concept more economic and more realisable, with environmental advantages over conventional transport. Such a development could reduce the need for the use of hotels (especially for business trips.) Also virtual travel would have a similar effect. Again one has to look not at just the job of hotel operation, but at why people need it in the first place.
Once one gets into the habit of looking at why people need specific services, then the concept of the limit to progress based on one-on-one services gets rather shaky in my view.
Unfortunately there is another type of limit. This is the laws of physics. For example, our present understanding of science suggests that there is a universal speed limit in the universe that affects many things, from plans to colonise the universe to the speed of operation of personal computers and communication devices. But these laws only relate to our present understanding of science. They may be true in relation to the technologies we at present use (such as electronics) but what of future as yet unknown technologies? Does anyone claim that our present understanding of science is absolute, or nearly so? The Victorians thought their understanding was absolute. How wrong they were!
[sent August 1994]
Regular readers of Venturist Monthly News are aware of Terra Libra. If other Venturists did as well as I did out of it, then the Society will have had a worthwhile addition to its income, as it does just as well as its members, such is multi-level.
Personally, I have ploughed it all back in further promotion of Terra Libra, as I am convinced that their ideas will attract people who will be more sympathetic to cryonics than the general population of the world. I have a regular column in Terra Libra News on cryonics matters.
However on attempting to promote Terra Libra to Libertarians in the UK, and to cryonicists on the Cryonet, a number of people have expressed reservations about the founder, Frederick Mann's, honestly. When pressed, they refuse to go further. This looks to me like a typical Dallas JR type smear campaign. It may be that a multi-level libertarian organisation is seen as a threat by other organisations that just spend their time with the begging bowl out for donations.
Of course multi-level is not a sure fire way to riches. I always advise people to only buy a ML product if they want it, and regard any money making as a bonus. I also suggest that these schemes are only economic if you already have a business where you mail people, and can put the leaflets in for no extra cost. If you have to pay to mail people, or pay for advertising, then it may not be economic, never mind make a profit! As I feel that Terra Libra may be a way to recruit cryonicists, I think it is worth spending money promoting it, but only for that reason.
If Terra Libra survives for many years and its financial institutions gain credence, they may one day become valuable vehicles for funding cryonic suspensions. But at the present time I would not advise anyone outside Terra Libra to join it and put sums of money in their institutions they cannot afford to lose. If people already in Terra Libra who have invested large sums of money, and there are some, wish to use them to fund cryonics, then as long as the cryonics provider approves that is up the them.
As to the specific aspersions made against Mr Mann, I have to disregard these unless someone is willing to come forward and make a clear statement, preferably backed un in some way. Maybe he has failed in business before, but that doesn't make Terra Libra a scam. People can fail for honest reasons. They can fall prey to legal adventurers, for example, or be forced out by currents in the economy, such as inflation. Surely it is not the American way to refuse a failure a second chance? I should have though the experience of failure may well make him a better businessman in the future.
[1997: Terra Libra was passed to new management who ceased the old commission arrangements retroactively. Frederick Mann started LifeMoneySuccess which he passed to someone else to manage, together with loads of debt. Members ceased to receive commissions due to them as of February 1997. The new managers blame computer problems and the state of the company when they took it over, but say they will resume commissions sometime in 1998 - that is, if the people at the bottom of the tree are still paying subscriptions!]
[sent September 1994]
Recent articles sent to me (presumably by Mark Plus) from the LA Times suggest that although the US economy is improving according to the statistics, but the average family is having to work longer hours for the same wages and benefits.
The paper says that since 1979 benefits have fallen along with real wages. It goes on to say that no one knows the cause of the problem. Well, it is pretty obvious to regular readers that I am now going to say "lawyers" or more precisely rules and regulations. I am far from the only person who says that, so presumably the newspaper has disregarded it for logical reasons, or possibly because a lot of its readership comes from the professionals of authority.
What is needed, though, is not just gut reactions but clear scientific evidence (if sociological and economic statistics can be called scientific!). There are important gaps in my knowledge which hopefully other readers may be able to fill.
How exactly is the GNP worked out. Is it manufactured goods only or does it cover all economic activity?
Is there a measure of the percentage of the economy occupied by the legal and other enforcement professions over each year between 1979 and the current date? If there is, can one separate out basic enforcement, ie robberies etc, from enforcement of more esoteric rules, such as selling GH-3 for example? Terra Libra has a code, and this defines a crime as when you hurt somebody, (eg physically, or by robbery etc.) not when you disobey their rules (eg they decree that certain scientific experiments are invalid, without giving scientific reasons or references).
Then one has to consider the cost in terms of loss of manufacturing output caused byf agencies such as the FDA. We in the immortalist movement hear a lot about them, but there are probably other similar agencies that choke back progress in other fields.
The world can never be totally safe. There will always be groups of people who suffer. In a society with the barest minimum of laws, those groups may be different, but in all probability a similar number of people would be involved, taking into consideration the general overall affluence of such societies.
The LA Times articles said that the conflict between the overall performance of the US economy and the expectations of people is likely to get worse. Families will no longer be able to maintain their standards of living by increasing hours of work - there won't be enough hours. The paper says that politicians and institutions will become less trusted as a result.
Maybe if one replaces the word "institutions" with "closed shop professions" one will see the glimmer of a solution!
[sent October 1994]
My views on progress and the reasons for the lack of it still seem to interest Mark Plus, who continues to send me newspaper clippings, for which I am grateful.
The latest of these (at the time of writing) concern the problem of house (real estate) prices and availability of low wage labour. In *Time* of 5 September 1994 the town of Telluride, Colorado is taken as an example. A 40 hr week at even *double* the minimum wage is insufficient to provide even rented housing.
The article says that this problem is a trend that is affecting all of America - working class jobs no longer pay enough to live off.
I would comment that this is a problem of economics, not a basic problem of scientific progress. Of course if "working class jobs" were subject to higher wages, (double or treble comes to mind) then eventually this would filter though into the price of professional fees and eventually land prices. Manufactured goods would never rise quite as much, as science and technology tend to provide economics. The cost of building a house is a special case - few houses are manufactured and then delivered to a site, although many firms have tried to introduce this method. Nevertheless, the price/quality ratio of new houses has improved with labour saving techniques.
I would suggest as a solution to the problem is not to increase working class wages, but to reduce the price of the necessities of life by deregulating and focusing the costs on producing them to the basic costs as dictated by the laws of science rather than artificial costs introduced by the laws of man. I see this as *the only practical solution* and I don't write this as a "write to your congressman and tell him" tirade, but as a *prediction* of what will happen if the problem is ever solved and humanity does continue to advance and not turn its back on the universe into a perpetual dark age followed by racial extinction. I am quite safe in making this prediction, because if it does not come about, then no one will be here to say "You were wrong."
Of course, it may take a while for the world to wake up to this fact. The sooner it does, and we can all get back to work, the better. Therefore for that reason it may be worth writing to your Congressman! I don't know what the position is in the USA, but In England the population is so apathetic that if a Member of Parliament gets more than 10 letters on a subject he considers it to be a matter of national importance.
The Communists' fall was (partly anyway) influenced by Chaos Theory showing that a regulated economy is impossible and unscientific. It is this line that one should take when trying to influence legislators, rather than motivations of professions. If individuals in professions can be made to understand that eventually they will destroy the host that is providing them with their fee income, then if they have any sense they will get out whilst they are on top. Most of them are intelligent enough to see this if presented correctly (and no doubt better than I can!). The unintelligent ones are the enforcers with guns down the chain of command, but these people take orders, so if you can make the people giving the orders change their attitude, then these underlings will fall in line.
[sent November 1994]
I write this at the time (in the UK) that the authorities in their benevolent wisdom have given us an extra hour in the day - ie the clocks go back an hour so as to make the winter evenings dark.
This earlier fall of darkness brings to mind that the flow of time in day to day life is just as much our enemy as the ultimate victory of time in the grave or crematorium - or the pathologist's slab. Indeed, people often fall out over time, and then fight with each other rather than time.
Conventional religion tells us to bottle up anger, to love our enemies, forgive those which trespass ... etc etc.
I would like to suggest an alternative and better solution to the destructive force of anger. That is to direct it at an abstraction. I recall a story of a tennis player who was chided for cursing God when he missed a shot. "Well, God can take it, and the wife and kids can't," was his reply. Today, many people don't believe in God to curse, so it has to be the wife and kids - unless you can vent your anger against time.
Regular readers of my columns may note that I seldom have a good word for lawyers, but from time to time I point out that it is the profession as a whole not individuals in it that I criticise. Again, the anger is not directed at people. Indeed, Terra Libra's Frederick Mann hates lawyers in mass, but comments that amongst them are individuals who are important fighters for freedom.
For the past few months I have been a subscriber to Cryonet, the area in Internet for discussion about cryonics. It has been apparent to me that since the Cryonet opened megabytes of venom have passed between people over their differing views on how cryonics should be presented and performed. On occasion, there have been postings suggesting that the opponents are really good friends and that such outpourings are common to such people and don't mean much. However it does not encourage any new people who are simply curious and who sign onto the net for a few days.
Death as an object of hate is in a way an abstraction, but it is also something that we as a movement are trying to deal with. It is reasonable therefore to hate death and to hate time, and direct anger at these rather than each other. That way, the anger becomes constructive rather than destructive.
In PVP in the December issue I was definitely unclear about my ideas about time. The problem is with language - "Give me more time and I'll do it" implies that time is a valuable commodity to be desired - like money. I had been referring to time as a system whereby people are faced with more "input" before the activity in hand is done.
Imagine playing a video cassette, and some other event occurs that needs your attention. You can press pause and the video stops while you deal with the other event, and you then press a button and the video starts up where you left off.
Unless you are God, you couldn't to that to the rest of the world, but if you could put yourself and your immediate surroundings outside time it would seem as though the rest of the world had been put on pause, although to the rest of the world it would seem that you were moving impossibly fast. Of course this is not a novel concept - it has been explored many times in science fiction. A classical example is H.G. Wells' The New Accelerator. Professionals achieve it by taking time from clients. They put their clients in waiting rooms and interact with the clients in a sequence the professional determines. (The fact that lawyers do this makes it difficult for them to get people to appear as witnesses in court unless they are forced (ultimately) at gunpoint, a process known as a subpoena.)
However we have no way of manipulating time physically outside of fiction - the universe just isn't made that way. Time therefore in this sense is a restriction that is preventing us form finishing one thing before starting another. The universe could have been made another way, where this restriction doesn't exist, but then the laws of physics would be very different. However there are some other ways of chipping at the problem besides taking time from other people. One method is using cognitive enhancers to improve the speed and accuracy of thought. Another is to use equipment that enables tasks to be performed more quickly, or to correct errors generated by cutting corners. As we move further into the future, the availability of such methods will increase.
We are fighting back the barriers of time, but we must remember not to fight each other over time. We are all under its stultifying grip. People are very good at fighting a common enemy, but unless one is perceived, they fight each other, which is definitely counter productive. I believe that time should be perceived as such an enemy. So many relationships, whether personal or professional, break up over some time related issue. If people perceived time as the enemy, then they would not fight each other. I hope that someone can pick this concept up and improve on it, as it undoubtedly needs improvement to get people to accept it, but basically I am convinced it is sound.
[sent Feb 1994]
I recently fitted a new hard disk to my ageing computer, and had trouble because the BIOS wouldn't accept such a large hard disk. After a lot of messing about, I eventually found a little piece of software called ANYDRIVE by Christoph Lameter that modifies the boot file of the hard disk to bypass the BIOS. It is shareware, and registration costs only $5. It is available on CompuServe and many ftp sites such as ftp.demon.co.uk in the directory /pub/ibmpc/anydrive. This is a major saving over a new BIOS ($75) or a special disk controller card that bypasses the BIOS ($100 or so).
After registering, I got into email correspondence with Mr Lameter, and it transpired that he is into religion, but had an interest in cryonics as a younger man before he found God. He is a native German, but visited the US in order to read theology at a university.
The essence of his belief is in the "virtue" of unquestioning faith, from which all else follows. Mr Lameter believes that cryonics is a sin because it represents a lack of trust in God's ability to provide an afterlife. In order to get him to read Thomas Donaldson's "Jesus was an Immortalist" I agreed to read St Luke's Gospel, so it seems that I can now follow Thomas Donaldson with a commentary.
I last read the Gospel of St Luke about 35 years ago when I was still at school and a Christian too young really to have a proper opinion.
This time my first impression of the story (as a science fiction reader) was how unassuming and unremarkable it is. I suppose the Elizabethan English of older versions gave it a grandeur that it does not merit. It is also unremarkable because there are many similar stories, some obviously fiction (such as a parody in a recent X-files), some claiming to be historic, such as an account from Pharonic Egypt, to today's Elvis Presley myths-in-the-making.
Another impression I got was that people have changed very little. The way people rush to a healer is echoed in the way people like Saul Kent with his Life Extension Foundation can build up a very large following. There is the persecution of Saul Kent and Bill Faloon by the FDA because they oppose the FDA's "gods" of the medical and legal professions. Professions are very like Gods - they are entities that have no substance, yet are composed of the minds of their believers. I suppose we have progressed because the FDA don't propose (at least as public policy) to torture Kent and Faloon to death, but the parallel of new versus old is obvious. Perhaps they will be executed, go into cryonic suspension, and then rise from the dead?! I hope they won't be executed, but talk about history repeating itself. (Is history a fractal? - Fractals are self similar.)
There is little in the Gospel that indicates the environment in which people live, therefore the story is very easily read as though it is happening today. That may be part of its power - its timelessness.
Dr Donaldson has covered the obvious aspects of Jesus healing the sick and raising the dead. This is what the Venturists, cryonicists, Fyodorov supporters etc want to do. It should be rubbed in though. If dead people are going to have a much better life hereafter, which did Jesus bother to raise Jairus' little girl (5,21) from the dead when by not so doing she would carry on in the hereafter in a life of bliss? Why did he tell his supporters to go and do likewise, ie heal the sick and raise the dead? If being dead is such an enviable state, why raise them?
For that matter, unless God is mad, then it is God's will that all the people Jesus met had the afflictions that he cured. Wasn't Jesus going against God's will by curing them? I suppose one could argue that God made them ill so Jesus could demonstrate his divine power. But wait a minute, in a lot of places Jesus refuses to give people demonstrations, saying that they should believe without such proof, or their faith is worthless. And anyway, what sort of a God is it that makes people ill so he can show his power in curing them. If a doctor did that he'd be locked up!
This is the problem I have with all of this: It is teaching people blind obedience. Blind obedience is very dangerous when the leader makes a mistake. If they are blindly obedient to God, and someone comes along and convinces them it is God's will to exterminate people, then what happens. (Sieg Heil etc.)
In fact I wonder about Jesus. Did he really say that he is God etc., or were these words given to him by wish fulfilment seeking people in later years? Or possibly even authoritarians who saw the power of Christianity and decided to channel it to enforcing State control.
Just before Jairus' little girl was raised from the dead, a woman with a haemorrhagic lesion jostled her way through the crowd to touch him, and was cured. He said "It is your faith that healed you."
Suppose someone highly intelligent who had an insight into how faith healing works passed a comment it could well be to the effect that faith healing somehow activates the body's ability to repair itself. Once someone gets a reputation for healing, then it is this placebo effect that does all the work. Is this what Jesus' comment really was - later people added the idea of faith?
One of the mainstays of cryonicists' arguments is that when they are declared dead to the satisfaction of lawyers so that suspension may proceed and not be called murder, they are not dead in absolute terms, therefore could be reanimated by an advanced technology. When people are dead, Jesus included, it is merely an opinion of onlooker. If this opinion is wrong, and they revive, and that happens to coincide with the presence of a holy man, then we say a miracle has occurred.
I wonder how many times Jesus failed to produce miracles? They are probably not recorded. They wouldn't be, as the Gospels are all written by people with a message they want to get across.
Anyone else recording history at the time would regard the Jesus phenomenum as important as we regard the many small cults that exist today. As few people could write and record history - there were no newspapers, books etc except handwritten papyri (like a roll of wallpaper that you read by scrolling from end to end like a tape) for the very well off, many such events considered trivial at the time must have been unrecorded. After all, there are thousands of faith healers around today, particularly in the USA, blatantly running it as a business.
The Crucifixion is described at the end of the Gospel. (15,42) It states that Pilate was surprised that Jesus should be dead so quickly. This brings to mind the question as to whether Jesus was really dead! Assuming he wasn't, then this was the most remarkable stroke of luck his ministry could have had. Assuming that also God wouldn't disobey his own natural laws, this also suggests a mechanism by which it happened if you still want to go on believing in God.
One can speculate that maybe Jesus took a terrible gamble and organised the whole thing. Someone of extraordinary intelligence would indeed appear as a god to the people of the time, most of whom were little more than savages.
If Jesus was of above average intelligence and had worked out a workable model of how faith healing works he probably could also have developed a method of appearing dead. After all, it is undisputed fact that people can put themselves into trances like states where very strange physical things can happen to their bodies. The Roman soldiers at the crucifixion were probably, like all those who do governments' dirty work, an ignorant rowdy lot, and it was the end of the week's work, with the prospect of a weekend of drinking, gambling and whoring. I don't suppose they had much idea of judging whether a man is dead or not. As long as he doesn't moved if kick or prodded or speared, then he is dead, I should think is their criterion. They certainly wouldn't have any method of measuring electrical brain activity. Bearing in mind that the circulation of blood wasn't discovered until hundreds of years later, they may not even have known how to look for a pulse.
Whoever Jesus was, he has had a profound effect on human history. It is possible that he really did try to do his best to improve the human condition, and it may well be that the only way he could see of anyone taking any notice of him was to generate a lot of rubbish about virtue in unquestioning child-like faith. However towards the end of his ministry he obviously had doubts. I speculate that these doubts were really as to whether he had done the right thing. Already he saw how people were squabbling over him. Maybe he tried to warn everyone about this, but instead, in order to preserve the authority aspect, the story was turned around and made into a prophesy about wars etc., and the doubts presented as something much simpler - doubts about whether he could go through with the crucifixion.
Unless we can invent a method of transmitterless reception from the past, we can go on speculating for ever as to what really happened. If unquestioning faith makes you happy, then go for it, but it will be a shame if as a result you have lost the opportunity cryonics offers to learn so much more about the universe.
[sent March 1995]
As I write in March 1995 there is currently showing on British television a drama series surrounding the lives of people involved with an English cathedral. The cathedral in question is in serious need of repair, and the costs involve millions of pounds. The drama concerns how the people involved find the money. One possible avenue open to the characters in the story is to elicit help from the local authority, another is to borrow money and so on.
Once of the characters is a member of the local government authority who is a self admitted atheist, but he comes to the cathedral because he likes the music. The theists who run the cathedral are concerned that their affairs may fall into the hand of an atheist, however many financial problems this may solve.
I am sure that this series is very much true to life, and I am concerned here about the vast waste of resources all this involves, multiplied around the world from the great cathedrals to the smallest of chapels in country villages. A god that requires worship is a very primitive concept. Logically I would look at it in two ways:
1. If God is the benevolent creature of wishful thinking, then he would not require worship, and indeed he may well be embarrassed by it, especially as it diverts resources from caring for the sick and elderly.
2. If God is the creature whose character we can extrapolate from our present knowledge of the universe, then he would be sneering and laughing at us for worshipping him. Just watch one or two of those excellent natural history programmes on television or video. Look at those "cute cuddly little animals" and the lives they REALLY lead. If this was deliberately created, then the creator has a very sick mind indeed and is certainly not the benevolent avuncular helper and guide of popular myth.
Suppose for an short moment that we lived in the universe of all things bright and beautiful, the universe of myth, with cute little bunny rabbits all cuddled up in their little holes etc etc. Suppose then that people started creating computer simulations of a universe where cute rabbits were savaged by foxes, who in turn were savaged by hunts, with vultures circling overhead to get scraps, or simulations where sheep who stumble and can't rise get their eyes plucked out by ravens whilst they are still alive. Would not such people be sent for psychiatric treatment?
Of course the origin of worship is appeasement. Primitive people certainly viewed god (or gods) as a mean and cruel tyrant who was appeased by worship. The idea of a loving god originates from within recorded history and it is quite hard to imagine how such a switch from logic and observation was possible.
It may well have originated once civilisation became established. With civilisation comes privileged classes, and to such classes the world may well appear more like the myths that many religious people perceive as reality. Children of such people were often shielded from unpleasant things, such as ravens plucking eyes out of living sheep, by their nannies and minders. When they became adults, they were often despotic rulers or under-leaders of some sort and they had gangs of minders who kept the world well at bay. They saw religion as a means of controlling the classes under them. For example, the Romans soon decided that Christianity was ideal for the purpose. The idea of a kind god who can also turn sour if you do wrong is a powerful weapon of propaganda and mass control.
Concentrating children into schools for education is quite a recent phenomenon which became popular in the early 19th century and later. Although the upper classes were still privileged, children were no longer pampered but sent to rough schools to learn how to govern the British Empire. My conjecture is supported by the fact that this era also saw a rise of atheism, and people felt free to speak about it in public places.
The concept of the benevolent god to be praised is taken to extraordinary length. In extreme cases people who are seriously handicapped will spend money visiting places of worship that have legends of miracles associated with them in the hope that god will cure them. I wonder why they never think that god must have made them ill in the first place. If he is the absolute ruler of the universe every single thing that happens is his will. But possibly attempts to acquire divine healing are really just an act of appeasement, although no one recognises them as such any more.
Going back to the television programme, one can view the activities surrounding a cathedral as simply a work of art, a combination of architectural grandeur dramatic music and pageantry. But if this were just art, then there would be far less compulsion to contribute. It is this emotional blackmail that worries me. If people want to build and maintain vast structures in which to perform music as a communal work of art that is their right and freedom of choice. But if they do so out of irrational fears about unproven supernatural ideas, then that is a form of compulsion that I cannot agree with.
And I must end this with a comment that was made some years ago by a BBC television programme about cryonics. They said it was "worship in the laboratory". I think it is important that people try and persuade their friends to learn about cryonics, and then make their own choice. People should not be coerced into to making arrangements by emphasising about how terrible annihilation would be otherwise. I know that cryonicists feel that they are being cruel to be kind etc., but the state of our movement is still fragile enough to be damaged by any backlash that could so result.
On 1 April 1994 there was a radical change in the United Kingdom's welfare system, which removed one of that country's advantages for cryonicists. Until then, the National Health Service had paid for every medical need of the country's citizens, regardless of their means. After that date, it only paid for treatment that effects a cure - or fails to. If someone needs long term care, resulting in no change in condition, this has to be paid from the patient's own funds until they are to all intents and purposes exhausted. This change passed relatively unnoticed for most people. It is likely that many other benefits of welfare states will become means tested in future as people become more and more reluctant to pay taxes.
US cryonics organisations had always recommended making arrangements irrevocable to the extent that they could not be ceased just for care costs - this now spreads to the UK, which has one of the largest concentrations of cryonicists outside the USA.
The gradual collapse of the UK's cradle to the grave welfare system is due to its funding system. Although called "insurance" it is in fact a Ponzi or pyramid scheme, with benefits being paid out of income. It relied on more members being recruited as a result of tax and allowances being slanted to encourage people to have children and thus increase the population paying the compulsory "national insurance". However living space and other constraints caused the population boom to subside and now the population's average age is increasing.
In genuine insurance the premium income is invested and the benefits are paid from the results of the investment. The company needs to start with a huge fund of shareholders' equity to be viable, because until premium income has built up it has to have equity. The income from this equity pays the claims. When the UK's welfare program started, the country was undercapitalised because of the losses caused by war, and a genuine insurance program would have been impossible.
Now many countries are abandoning their welfare system for insurance based systems using the world stock markets as a source of funds. Chile, for example, has made its entire pension system insurance based, and other countries are no studying it with great interest.
The other advantage of an insurance based welfare system is that market forces rather than government diktat control how the funds are invested. This provides for the flow of capital to businesses who are the most prolific wealth creators, which benefits everyone.
These facts have actually been mirrored in the history of cryonics. The early organisations had ludicrously uneconomic prices, possibly hoping for a massive influx of members whose fees would support their first clients. Following this, economies of scale would make the whole process cheaper. However this influx never came.
Now cryonics is largely supported by life insurance of quite large individual sums - the movement as a whole has placed millions of dollars worth of business with the life companies. Because there is no life insurance available which indexes increases made by Alcor and most other cryonics organisations, people have to estimate the cost of a suspension when they are most likely to need it and insure for that amount. [The Cryonics Institute doesn't increase its fees, but it does suggest that members allow a greater amount than the minimum of $28,000 recommended. In addition it cannot guarantee that it won't increase this minimum in future.]
Just as with say motor insurance you can avoid paying the premiums if you deposit capital with government agencies (certainly in the UK, presumably elsewhere as well), some cryonicists can use trusts and pre-payment as an alternative to paying premiums. This does, of course, mean that the sum total of payments made is less unless the client dies young, and investment should be able to keep up with costs of cryonics unless there is a major change. Such a major change could occur if cryonics is regulated in the same way as medicine, for example. The regulatory burden would have to be met by the clients.
Nevertheless, however governments structure the cost of care of the elderly, the proportion of people in manufacturing or wealth *creating* industry to those in care or working in wealth *moving* professions is causing concern. According to the insurance company Scottish Amicable, by 2050 75% of the population may be supported by the remaining 25% in any form of work.
Confiscating the fixed assets of people who need care is only a partial solution - most people are in pairs, and the remaining partner still has to be supported either by being allowed to keep his/her capital or otherwise by the state if first bankrupted for his/her partner's care. Also, if a lot of houses are confiscated, the value of houses will go down and the money will not even be raised for the care. Empty houses are of no use to anyone - they have to be sold or rented out. At present 40,000 houses/yr are sold in the UK to pay for the care of one or the other of their occupants.
If one allows for the possibility that only 8% of the workforce will actually be involved with creating wealth, then 98% of the population will be supported by the remaining 2%. Maybe with Nanotechnology advances by 2050 this won't happen (ageing is abolished) or won't really matter because of the enormous productivity of that 2%.
But one cannot count on these advances until they actually happen. If they are too late, the world may never have the surplus funds to pay for the necessary research even if it would have eventually been possible.
Fortunately some speculations as to when the "technological singularity" (artificial intelligence being use to accelerate progress in Nanotechnology) arrives puts it before this date.
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