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cryonics

Eugene Leitl Eugene.Leitl at lrz.uni-muenchen.de
Wed May 28 12:37:06 EST 1997


On Wed, 28 May 1997, J. A. Kiernan wrote:

This is my last post on cryonics in this newsgroup -- we should really
take this discussion to private communications (agreed, Mr. Kiernan?).
This is not an attempt to reintroduce a yet another flame war on this
controversial topic. Apologies to all. 

> 
>       No. "No" as in "No they don't have a chance."

I'd like to point out that several "It can never happen" statements had
turned out to be wrong even while being uttered (space travel, etc.). 
(Admittedly, there is little danger with this when it comes to such
outlandish matters as raising the dead by technological means). 

Superficially, cryonics is a nut case. I have investigated the matter for
several years now, and I think there is a very real possibility. HOWEVER
requiring a set of certain mildly optimistic assumptions, and ridiculously
progressed state of technology. Assuming future progress remains 
exponential instead of going sigmoidal due to saturation, we should see 
some pretty wild SF things occuring during our lifetime (30-40 years).

>       The frozen corpses of the rich and gullible are

Two minor quibbles: not frozen, nowadays vitrified. Not exactly rich: a 
neurosuspension costs about 40 k$, and is paid by life insurance. I don't 
think only rich people have life insurance nowadays.

>       no more amenable to resuscitation than they

This is not "resuscitation", but a reconstruction at the molecular level.
How's that for 21-century ICU? The damage at structural level is
surprisingly low btw (both macro and nano, look up some suspension
protocols available on the web, and also have a look at some EM pictures),
though cryoprotection agents (polyols, DMSO, DMF, etc.) have considerable
toxicity, and sufficient ischaemic damage ensues upon devitrification to
render the result nonviable. However, crudely desuspended cat's brains
shew artefacted EEG after many days storage at unfavourable conditions. 
Experiment by Suda et al., a 1966 Nature paper. 

>       would be if they had been buried or cremated.

Lacking divine intervention (Tiplers Omega in "The Physics of
Immortality") the latter both are irrevocably lost. Consider a persona
space: the space of all possible persons. Due to irreversible scrambling
in the cryosuspension process some information is lost, when
reconstructing them I must choose one particular point of persona space
from a largish chunk of it. Ad libet, I don't know the information has
been lost. If a person is cremated, all I have is some calcified ash, and
lots of carbon dioxide. Virtually all information has been lost. From the
decomposed corpse I can obtain some heavily fragmented DNA, in theory I
could reconstruct the entire genome from the overlapping pieces. In theory
I could produce a clone of the diseased, which excludes certain areas of
the persona space (if this concept is too vague, consider the space of all
possible neural structures resulting in more or less functional humans). 

>       Any science fiction-type gobbledygook written

In the 18th century virtually everything we now take for granted was
science-fiction type gobbledygook. Maybe you should look into what
proximal probe microscopy (in vivo AFM, machine-phase chemistry by STM,
etc.) can even now do. Even if Drexlerian technology ("Nanosystems") is
infeasible, we could still have molecular circuitry (3d integration of
cellular-automaton like computers in one cubic micron/cell),
molecular-resolution volume scan (destructive methods (vacuum sublimation,
photolytic etch, AFM abraded surface scan), or xRay, or electron
holography) and numerical neural modelling. But of course numerical
simulation using anatomical data is science finction. Do a web search. 

>       to make it sound possible is just that: fiction,
>       made up by the con men who rent out their freezers.

After several years of virtual communication with them I have the
impression that the majority of the CSPs are actually of a pretty high
moral integrity.  Their funding is measly (you know, they are so filthy
rich), and their science is substandard (any cryobiologist with suspected
ties to cryonics must fear a quick excommunication from the scientific
circles), but the persons in charge are no crooks. Weirdos & kooks there 
are plenty in the cryonics haze circle, but no crooks.

Regards,
Eugene Leitl
 
P.S. Future communications please off the list/newsgroup.

>                                      John A. Kiernan
>                                      Department of Anatomy
>                                      Univ. of Western Ontario
>                                      LONDON, Canada  N6A 5C1
> 



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