An Article on Cryonics and Alcor

I noticed a press article on cryonics and the Alcor Life Extension Foundation today:

With medical advances, many put faith in freezing

Leis studies geosciences at the University of Arizona and works in the school's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, helping study high-resolution images of Mars. Meanwhile, he's paying $22 a month into a life insurance policy that would provide $250,000 if he dies young.

That's enough freeze his body at minus 196 degrees Celsius and store it indefinitely at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation here, waiting for medical advances that could bring him back to life.

...

Leis, the University of Arizona student, said he's happy to have the option to be preserved until someone figures out how to revive and cure him.

"The technological breakthroughs in cryopreservation suggest that we at least have the ability to preserve biological matter relatively well for a longer period of time," he said. "Whether or not we will be able to do anything with that biological matter down the road remains unseen."

Alcor uses vitrification these days, a process that is very different from freezing and which causes far less damage to tissue.

There's the standard humbug from a bioethicist in the middle of the piece, sticking with the party line of pulling nonsense objections from thin air in response to every endeavor in medicine. If they couldn't at least make the pretense of finding fault, they wouldn't have a job, after all. It's just a pity that bioethicists aren't engaged in more useful work, such as actually getting something accomplished:

Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said those considering being frozen should think about what it would be like to come back. For example, a person revived in the future wouldn't have any relationships or ties to that time.

"Who we are isn't just defined by what's in our heads; it's also by our relationships,"

...

Rafal said he disagrees with Caplan's concerns about a revived person fitting into a future culture. "A reasonable person would find a place in society and have a new life with no difficulty," he said.

Which is exactly the case. You can go through life making up dumb reasons not to forge ahead, or you can forge ahead. I know which approach I prefer.

Comments

This article contains comments by a known bioethicist, Arthur Caplan, that really rubbed me the wrong way. Here is a copy of the response that I posted in the comments section on the AZ Republic's website. You are free to reuse them if you so choose:

Arthur Caplan's comments about relationships:

"For example, a person revived in the future wouldn't have any relationships or ties to that time."

"Who we are isn't just defined by what's in our heads; it's also by our relationships,"

Have got to be some of the most stupid comments I have heard with regards to cryonics and life extension. I will also say that I feel justified in using the pejorative "stupid" in describing them.

Twice, I have picked myself up and have moved to a radically different location and culture and created a whole new life for myself, including making new friends and contacts. The first time was when I moved from Spokane, WA (where I grew up) to SoCal in 1985, after graduating with an engineering degree from WSU. The second time was when I moved from Phoenix, AZ to Tokyo, Japan in 1991.

Both times I have met new friends and have created an entire new life and happiness for myself. Any immigrant to a new country will tell you that they have done the same thing. For Arthur Caplan to suggest that cryonics, if it should happen to be successful, is a bad thing because you end up in a future where you have to create a new life for yourself including making new friends and finding new lovers, has got to be about the most stupid, most offensive comment that could be made to any of us who have already done such a thing. People who are hung up on cryonics because of this issue do not deserve to even live in the future.

The comments about having to learn new things in order to be economically competitive in the future society are somewhat less dumb. Yes, this is an issue. However, you can always learn new skills and figure out ways to be economically productive. Ask the nearest Vietnamese or Cambodian "boat person" immigrant who came to the U.S. in the late 70's or early 80's if the lack of marketable skills was an impediment to them coming here. They will tell you that they came here and, once here, did whatever it took to become economically productive in this society. Having to struggle for a while was certainly better deal than the certain poverty and possible death (especially in the case of Khmer Rough Cambodia) if they had remain in their home country.

The fact is that the people who seek to make it to the future are the same kind of people who come to the U.S. as immigrants. Yes, we know that there will be many personal challenges if we happen to make it. However, we will do WHATEVER IT TAKES on a personal level to meet the challenges and, not only survive, but thrive in this future society. Just like people today who do WHATEVER IT TAKES to create whatever life they seek for themselves. I would never, ever allow the fear of overwhelming challenge or possible failure keep me from doing whatever it takes for me to create what life I want for myself. It is this desire to "immigrate" to the future and to pursue the wide-open personal possibilities offered by infinite human lifespan and the desire to overcome the attendant personal challenges is the whole reason why we are interested in cryonics and radical life extension in the first place. In other words, we are opportunity seekers. We are not about to let the fear of possible personal challenges prevent us from pursuing the opportunity in the first place. This "can do" attitude is obviously alien to people like Arthur Caplan.

I, for one, have no patience at all for the petty concerns of people like Arthur Caplan who think that we should not pursue the future because, oh gee, I might not be able to make any new friends there.

Posted by: kurt9 at December 10th, 2008 1:35 PM

I guess it's always better to be alive than dead, even if it's a life without friends. it's a matter of survival, (not necessarily happiness).

the only doubt I have is: will cryonics companies be able to stay in business during the current Great Economic Depression and any future Depressions -- to stay in business long enough to revive an repair those who are dead and frozen.

Posted by: niki at December 10th, 2008 7:41 PM

I guess most people, at least in this society, have become so emotionally immature, so infantile, that they are incapable of going out into the world creating a new life for oneself and making new friends in the course of doing such. As I stated previously, I have done this not once, but twice, with my most significant relationship today, my marriage, being a result of the second time.

I honestly don't know any other way of saying this such that most people can get it. I guess the perspective and character one develops from having lived in different places and done many things is simply not comprehensible to those who have not done such.

Posted by: kurt9 at December 11th, 2008 8:52 AM

I can imagine all kinds of awful "worse than death" science fiction scenerios in which future malefactors could make use of your preserved remains, none of which would be to the benfit of the deceased.

Posted by: Chad Wooters at December 11th, 2008 3:06 PM

Bioethicist, n. An individual who flunked out of a premedical or scientific program, defaulted back into the fuzzy, undemanding liberal arts, and now does his best to hold his more successful classmates back, when not actively demonizing them.

See also "Peter Singer."

Posted by: Kevin R.C. O'Brien at December 11th, 2008 3:07 PM

As cryonics advances and looks increasingly likely to work, more and more people will sign up, eliminating Caplan's bogus scenario. The only people who will wake up to a world of strangers are the cryonics pioneers. We've already had one good run as oddball outsiders; I, for one, am prepared to do it again.

Posted by: fat tony at December 11th, 2008 5:37 PM

This issue brings up related thoughts about space colonization. The same people who say that they would never consider cryonics because they feel that they are unable to make new friends in a new life are highly unlikely to go into space when it becomes an option (O'neill style).

Instead, I think it will be the Chinese will will undertake large-scale space migration. Consider that the Chinese are not only natural-born traders and entrepreneurs, they also have the inclination to uproot themselves and go to new places to pursue new opportunities. Consider that most cities in the world have a "chinatown" and that the Chinese are going into Africa in a big way right now (I can cite stories about this, if desired). The Chinese are not afraid to leave home and create a new life (with new friends) in a totally new place.

O'neill style space colonies will be city-states in terms of social, political, and economic organization. The city-states that come to mind as I write this are Hong Kong and Singapore, since I have been to both. Both of these are created and populated by Chinese people. So, I think it likely that the bulk of space colonists will be comprised of the Chinese.

Posted by: kurt9 at December 15th, 2008 10:25 AM

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