X-Message-Number: 10016
Date: Wed, 8 Jul 1998 14:43:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: Charles Platt <>
Subject: Plausibility

On Wed, 8 Jul 1998,  wrote:

> Is there any historical evidence to support the hypothesis that because
> something is 
> scientifically demonstrated to be "true" or "workable" that it is then 
> embraced?

You force me to state the obvious: If a process is NOT "true" or
"workable," obviously people will be less willing to pay money for it. 

As I have pointed out here before, the introduction of any new technology
almost always follows the same pattern. First, a few lone individualists
develop it despite skepticism from orthodox scientists, and may use it
themselves experimentally. (Currently cryonics is in that phase.) Once it
has been _proved to work_ and is endorsed by scientists who are considered
reputable by journalists, media coverage becomes more positive. At this
point, early adopters start getting involved. Over the next couple of
decades, if the price goes down and the technology proves genuinely
useful, gradually it _may_ achieve widespread acceptance. 

Incidentally, by "scientists who are considered reputable by journalists,"
I mean Nobel prize winners in an appropriate field. Sorry, but this does
not include Eric Drexler, Ralph Merkle, or Marvin Minsky, much as I
respect these people myself. They are computer scientists, not biologists 
or physicians.

Examples of technologies that have followed the pattern outlined above
include the airplane, television, personal computers, radio, fax machines,
and (very relevant to cryonics) CPR and the concept of paramedics (i.e.
medical emergency teams that go out into the field rather than just
waiting for patients to arrive at the hospital). This concept seems
extremely obvious to us now but required a testing-and-assimilation
period lasting at least two decades before it was widely adopted. 

I'm really tired of reading, again and again, that "many people already
believe dogs have been revived after freezing, but these people still
don't sign up to freeze themselves, so therefore it won't make any
difference if cryonics procedures are improved." There is a huge
psychological gap between someone believing vaguely in a hypothetical
animal experiment, and the same person applying the technique to his own
body as a medical procedure that costs a significant sum of money. Most
people need a _lot_ of reassuring proof, and many authoritative
endorsements, before they can cross that psychological gap. Cryonicists
are extremely atypical in that they are willing to take a blind running
jump across the gap, propelled by desperation, naivety, hope, and/or faith
in future science. So long as cryonicists fail to realize that they are
highly unusual in this respect, they will never understand why other
people don't sign up for cryonics. See my article in the previous issue of
Alcor's magazine, CRYONICS. 

It is true that an increasing number of patients are using unproven
alternate therapies for terminal diseases such as cancer. In this case,
however, a) the patient faces imminent death, not hypothetical mortality,
and is thus more desperate, and b) there are many reports of patients who
were supposedly helped by the various therapies. Cryonics is not in a
comparable state. We cannot point to anyone and say, "Look! We cured him!"

What we are more likely to say is, "Look! We just administered our own
home-made medical protocol that would have killed the patient if he had
still been alive--which he wasn't. To save a little money, we cut his head
off. Then we froze the head, which we know for a fact inflicted brain
damage that cannot be reserved by any current technique. We hope someone
else may be able to undo this catastrophic, destructive procedure, but we
can't tell you who, how, or when." 

And you really expect large numbers of people to pay $50,000 or more for 
this service? I mean--you have to be joking!

> On a more popular level, the so-called "face on Mars" might have been 
> the first solid evidence 
> for extraterrestrial life, but NASA scientists didn't
> even want to look because they somehow 
> "knew" (oh, to be omniscient like
> them!) that it couldn't be artificial.

This is another reason why the acceptance of cryonics will be delayed
pending authoritative endorsements. So long as it is promoted by people
who are willing to believe in the Face On Mars, we have a real problem,

--Charles Platt
CryoCare Foundation

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