X-Message-Number: 10422
Date: Sun, 13 Sep 1998 13:12:34 EDT
Subject: optimism

Thomas Donaldson (#10410) and Jeff Davis (#10418) have provided important
reminders or/and news relevant to potential information retrieval in
cryopreserved (and perhaps otherwise preserved!) brains.

Thomas points out again that most of the information in the brain is generic
rather than individual, and therefore not critical. Mitochondria, for example,
can be replaced as needed, and it wouldn't matter in the least if an
individual mitochondrion were completely scrambled, or even most of them.
Also, the connectivity of the neurons in the brain, a matter of primary
importance, is at a higher level; it is related to not just one but several
kinds of traces; and it is apparently mostly highly redundant. All of this is
encouraging, although of course not conclusive.

Incidentally, although most of us, most of the time, appear to take for
granted the continuing contributions of many individuals, such as that of
Dr.Brown in maintaining Cryonet and of Dr. Donaldson in publishing, editing,
and mostly writing Periastron, that doesn't mean we really don't appreciate
those contributions. I consider my Periastron file a very valuable resource,
and hope it continues for a long time.

Jeff Davis provides fascinating new information about the detailed workings of
neuronal nets, including again strong references to heavy redundancy and to
survivability--yet again very encouraging, although not conclusive.

As to the appropriate balance of optimism/caution, either from an individual
or a public relations standpoint, that is not as simple as it is sometimes
made out to be. 

The dangers in encouraging complacency are obvious. We need all the continuing
help we can get, hopefully more contributions of work and money from existing
members, both for the organizations as such and for the research. Ideally,
that would be proportional to the potential risks and rewards--but that
perceived range varies enormously from person to person.

The dangers in discouraging optimism are also obvious. Without some minimum of
optimism--again, varying greatly among individuals--we will have nothing.
Since we are still in the very early stages of growth of cryonics, it should
be abundantly clear that, among the general public, there is no surplus of
optimism. On balance, then, it is clear in my mind that we need to encourage
optimism. For me, that is easy, since I believe there is ample objective
reason for optimism, even in adverse circumstances.

Is it possible and desirable to take a bifurcated approach--give potential
recruits the impression that their chances are good, and simultaneously tell
existing members that unless they pay up big time their chances are minimal?

Realism must rule. I believe optimism is realistic. In any case, realism
requires that we take what we can get (while continuing efforts to get more).
To quote G.B.Shaw, only a fool sacrifices the good in quest of the best.  

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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