An Interview with Stephen Valentine

Stephen Valentine is the architect on the ofttimes seemingly dormant Timeship project, which drifted back into the news recently. It was suggested at the time that the goal is less to build something for the cryonics industry and more to provide a tax shelter for those who seek to take advantage of cryonics, which might explain some otherwise puzzling aspects of the initiative. Cryonic providers are not at the vanguard of a wealthy industry by any means, and the Timeship seems out of place in in scale and goals when compared to the ongoing, practical work of small foundations and businesses in this narrow marketplace.

In any case, here's an article that includes thoughts from Valentine:

No one's claiming that human reanimation is within our grasp yet, although the Cryonics Institute claims that insects, vinegar eels and human brain tissue (not to mention human embryos, as shown by the growing success of IVF treatment) have been stored at liquid nitrogen temperature, at which point all decay ceases, and then revived fully.

"No one's saying, 'Hey, we cryopreserved a dog and brought it back,'" says Stephen. "The breakthroughs come at a slow, slow pace, but the advantage with being cryopreserved is that you have time. If they can work it out in 100 or 200 years, you're not going anywhere. You're on ice for a while..."

The early part of the procedure is now certainly feasible, thanks to a process called vitrification. Before, one of the main stumbling blocks to freezing bodies was the damage caused to tissue by ice crystals (think about how inferior a steak that's been in the freezer tastes: that's because of molecular damage caused by crystallisation).

Not surprisingly, Stephen is optimistic. "Many scientists are saying that this is going to be considered the century of immortality," he says. [Meanwhile], he insists that life-preservation is not just for the elite few. "This is no exclusive club," he says. "It's affordable to anybody, because it can be paid for through life insurance. Most people around the world can do it if they want."

Irritated that doubters still see life extension as a crackpot notion, Stephen points out that every major scientific breakthrough in history was once deemed unthinkable. "When Christiaan Barnard did the first heart transplant in 1967 in South Africa, they thought the guy was an unethical monster," he says. "Today, thousands of heart transplants take place every year and - rightly - no one questions the moral or ethical issues of it."

The international cryonics community certainly has no shortage of widely celebrated scientists on its side. Marvin Minsky, the pioneer of artificial intelligence, is a supporter; Ray Kurzweil, the author and inventor, has signed up with for preservation with Alcor; molecular nanotechnologist K Eric Drexler is an advocate; as are prominent stem-cell researcher Michael West and Aubrey de Grey, a prominent gerontologist (the scientific study of ageing).


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