Thinking About Cryonics

I think it goes without saying that all minority interests suffer from credibility gaps. We humans are hardwired to be skeptical when we look in on something said to be good but not indulged by many people. It's a defense mechanism, most likely, but it does mean that when you do have a genuinely good, new idea, you'll know by the way you have to work hard to get anyone to listen.

Cryonics, the low temperature preservation of the fine cellular structure of the body and brain at the end of life, is a good idea. There's a non-zero chance you'll be repaired and revived in a future of wondrous technologies, with the chance to live on for a very long time in a fascinating era. That compares favorably with the other options open to the dying, but cryonics remains a fringe practice. It hasn't yet bootstrapped to the level of participation that prevents knee-jerk rejection from most people.

In this vein, a couple of recent posts from the community I'd like to draw to your attention:

A Few Cool Quandaries

I've recently found out just how "weird" and even "crackpottish" the idea of cryonics seems to Most People. I actually always saw it as one of the less weird things a person might conceivably find intriguing. But apparently that isn't the case.

The Daily Mail Tackles Cryonics

The Daily Mail, a UK tabloid legendary on the Internet for its dense celebrity reporting, has finally taken on the coolest topic of all - cryonics. Like many articles about freezing yourself solid to be revived in the future, this one is negative.

Or is it? The Mail is a media outlet renowned for its disdain for facts in an industry renowned for its disdain for facts, but here, possibly accidentally, it turned out an article that might actually give a net positive impression.


Overall I still definitely think cryonics is an intriguing and potentially viable research avenue. However, I think what really needs to happen (in order to establish legitimacy in a concrete fashion) is successful de-vitrification of a mammal. I think if that happened, there would be a LOT more interest in cryonics. Some may disagree, but I really think it's primarily a lack of concrete data keeping cryonics on the fringes. I mean, hardly anyone thinks twice about using a defibrillator now despite the Frankensteinian images the very notion of such a thing probably sparked originally.

Posted by: AnneC at March 30th, 2009 10:04 PM

This is proof positive that the idea of cryonics has taken hold in the mainstream consciousness.

During the past several years, I've watched my health return via a relatively new (and, in the beginning, obscure) medical protocol, and as a member of the study cohort, I've watched the protocol and its science grow toward mainstream acceptance. It's getting its big break right now--the discovering scientist and his team have no less than five articles going to press in major journals. One can probably guess that members of my patient community have gotten some knee-jerk reactions and taken some personal flak, but the mainstreaming, instead of helping, seems to be making it worse.

We've seen the usual fluff, some trumpeting of the failed common "wisdom" by the popular media (which makes us look more crack-potty for going against it), and some blog discussions that show how badly information gets distorted when it's passed around second hand. But in particular, there was an inflammatory article written by a certain alternative health guru and published in his newsletter. It poked fun at our appearance (avoiding light exposure is part of the protocol), made ad hominem attacks against the discovering scientist, and of course, gave a distorted account of the protocol science and questioned our judgment for following it. The article received a lot of attention, and reinforced a lot of misconceptions that we will now have to answer for.

We know that we can expect to see a lot more of this sort of thing as time goes on. As much as we hate it, though, we remind each other that it's a good sign and that it's free publicity.

Posted by: shegeek at March 31st, 2009 4:55 PM

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