Ben Best on the SENS4 Conference

Over at Depressed Metabolism, cryonics luminary and "inveterate scribbler" Ben Best reports on the recent SENS4 longevity science conference. He appears pleasantly surprised by the level of interest in cryonics amongst the younger generation of advocates for engineered longevity and researchers:

SENS conferences attract scientists who are eager for science to achieve rejuvenation, and who have a strong belief that science has the capacity to do so. Not surprisingly, such people are often receptive to the idea that future science may be capable of reanimating humans who have been well cryopreserved.

Recently I have heard regret expressed about the aging of the cryonics community and the absence of a next generation of cryonics activists to replace the current ones. My experiences at the 2009 SENS conference dispelled much of my concern about this.


I was astounded when a British student approached me and said that he would be devoting all of his graduate school work to the problem of cryoprotectant toxicity.


A number of people from KrioRus were at the conference, notably Igor Artyuhov, who is their technical guru. The group also does life extension research. Igor showed me their poster showing extended lifespan of mice administered heat-shock protein through nose-drops.


To my surprise, one of the presenters, Dr. Gunther Kletetschka, had a poster and an oral presentation dealing with eliminating the cracking problem in cryonics.

Cryonics is important yet sadly much underdeveloped as an industry. It is the only presently available method of providing even a chance of cheating death, in this case through the low-temperature preservation of the fine structure of the brain. The many hundreds of millions who will die prior to the advent of true rejuvenation biotechnologies might be given a shot at a longer healthy life in the future through cryonics, were the industry a thousand times its present size and influence.


"It is the only presently available method of providing even a chance of cheating death,"

Please don't use the phrase "cheating death." The expression frames cryonics as an inherently immoral or unethical activity.

Posted by: Mark Plus at September 15th, 2009 2:01 PM

Funny how perceptions can differ. Folklore and myth presents "cheating death" as an admirable goal of heroes - and death as a villain entirely deserving of comeuppance - as often as the tales present death as fate and fate as rightful.

It wouldn't occur to me to see the phrase as in any way tainted, but each to their own.

Posted by: Reason at September 15th, 2009 3:34 PM

Setting aside the anthropomorphic and animistic aspects of the phrase "cheating death," do we approve of "cheating" in general? How would people view medicine if we renamed trauma centers in hospitals "cheating centers," for example? We have proverbs like "Cheaters never prosper" for a reason. The cognitive linguist George Lakoff has argued that we have to "frame" carefully the language we use to try to change human behavior because of the limited number of metaphors the evolved human mind can handle. The idea we inherited from the 17th Century -- that a logical argument compels the acceptance of the conclusion, regardless of the language we use to express it -- doesn't work in dealing with real human minds.

Posted by: Mark Plus at September 16th, 2009 7:51 AM

Your point was taken, be assured of that.

I should note that "cheat" in the context of the phase cheating death is used in the sense meaning "to elude, or to deprive of something expected" - it's an old word with many uses. Perhaps "elude" or "deny" would be better words to use for a modern audience.

Posted by: Reason at September 16th, 2009 8:58 AM

In this context, "cheat" carries the connotation of noble defiance. The connotation flows from an underlying assumption that an entity has only as much power over us as we are willing to grant it. There is a touch if irony in it, as it plays off this assumption to imply that the entity had no claim on whatever it is being "cheated" out of.

When "framing," remember that these varying underlying assumptions give rise to our differences in perception. My assumption is that death (and yes, I'm anthropomorphizing here, for linguistic purposes) is a presumptuous tyrant and that it is appropriate to take back whatever power that we can from it, by whatever means possible. It does not play fair with us, and we should not play fair with it.

Posted by: shegeek at September 16th, 2009 11:41 AM

> The group also does life extension research. Igor showed me their poster showing extended lifespan of mice administered heat-shock protein through nose-drops.

In fact, this particular research has been conducted (among other organisations) by Institute of Biology of Aging, rather then by KrioRus. I take part in both of them.

Posted by: Igor Artyuhov at September 18th, 2009 10:51 AM

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