X-Message-Number: 1043
Date: 22 Jul 92 13:12:27 EDT
From: "Steven B. Harris" <>
Subject: Begging for Donations

Dear Cryonet:

    Charles Platt suggests that all we need, in the case of a
certain very, very wealthy member ($200 million) who is distress-
fully holding onto his money instead of giving any to us, is to
fashion some better business proposals for him.  And what then,
we ask?  Will our wealthy member be transformed thereby into the
Daddy Warbucks of Cryonics, happily subsidizing our little orphan
freezer campaign into happily ever-afterhood?  Answer: I doubt it
very much.   You see, I have observed the following about self-
made men who are rich: they love money--often above all else--and
they are in general loathe to part with any of what they're
earned.  That is, after all, usually how they got to BE rich.

   There is an old joke to the effect that if you go with
athletes all the time eventually you will wind up in better
physical shape, and that if you hang out with scholars eventually
you'll learn something; but if you hang out much with rich people
all you'll ever do is pick up the tab for them, and die broke. 
Believe it.  Wealthy tycoons are often very skilled at letting
other people work for them for free in HOPES of eventually
getting some of their wealth; Ross Perot (for a recent example)
manipulated thousands upon thousands of people into giving him
months of their lives in volunteer time.  But when it *finally*
comes time for them to actually sign that big check, as it
eventually came time for Perot, the wealthy tend to balk.    

   If all those rabid Perot volunteers had come to me first for
my opinion before they took such a big gamble on Perot actually
writing his name one day on that $100 million check, I could have
saved them a LOT of time <g>.  As it is, maybe I can save Mr.
Platt and Alcor some time.  My advice: put your effort to better
uses than the maddening task of wheedling the wealthy.  If you
persist in this kind of thing you'll not only eventually annoy
our rich members, but you'll also waste needed resources fruit-
lessly putting together "proposals" and flying back and forth
across the country to provide free education for emotionally
uncommitted tyros.  You should know that Alcor has been doing
this for years with essentially no result, while all the time the
organization itself has actually been kept afloat by committed
people of (often) much more meager means (and, yes, some small
contributions from rich people).  We should learn from this.  

   Unless, of course, it gives you all a special feeling of
*purpose* to be a free tutor to the rich.....  

     For the wealthy, remember, merely signing up for cryonics
may not represent much commitment to the idea, because it is so
relatively cheap.  We should not let it, therefore, send the
wrong signal.  As an organization, Alcor needs to understand that
the emotionally uncommitted wealthy can be a liability if we
misuse them by automatically expecting too much of them.  Unless
handled properly (i.e., with minimal special consideration), such
people can be a drain on an organization's capacity (not to say
its nerves) in much the same way as last-minute suspensions.  I
don't like to see disappointments like the Phoenix building
debacle-- the "draft Laughlin" campaign there again reminded me
of the "draft Perot" campaign.  But so long as we foolishly
expect reluctant zillionares to save us, that kind of thing is
going to happen to us again and again (both as a country and as a
cryonics organization).  It's time for a little realism. 

    Alcor is a community and social club.  Also a philosophy. 
Also a technical achievement, a self-help group, and a labor of
love.  It's not large enough, impersonal enough, or composed of
employees dull enough to be a simple service-for-fee organization
(though we certainly let members who insist on using it that way,
and do not want to become involved, have their illusion).  In
practice, Alcor is people (including unpaid volunteer people)
facing the risk of fatal infection or imprisonment, in order to
help each other stay alive.  In a sense, Alcor is a sworn oath of
blood between confederates in the face of Grim Death.  Alcor in a
larger and more spiritual sense is a challenge flung at the uni-
verse-- a message from its members proclaiming that they matter
individually and potentially eternally, and including the promise
that (whatever happens) they're NOT going to meekly accept what
Nature has in store for them, without using intelligence and
reason to first cast one last scientific harpoon at the evil
white whale.  

   Thus, Alcor is many things; what Alcor is NOT, however, is
just a business investment.  Nor are people who insist on seeing
it primarily that way, simply engaged in an equally valid alter-
nate point of view-- rather they have failed to grasp the basic
thought and ideas that built the organization in the first place. 
In other words, they are people who just don't get it--- I don't
care how wealthy they are.  

    Once and for all: cryonics is not about making money, and
probably won't make much legitimate money for quite some time. 
Rather, cryonics is something one gladly and spontaneously
supports with donated time and money out of self-interest, out of
empathic connection to one's fellow human beings, and even (as I
have said) as a universal gesture of defiance at the biological
status quo.  Some people of wealth will understand the emotional
guts of cryonics, while others perhaps never will (one suspects
that the wealthy elderly man who spends his last days in a mad
pursuit of getting more and more money, with no thought for what
to do with the money, will likely never get it).  But this kind
of understanding of Alcor as more than a business, when it does
come, is not something than can be effectively rushed.  

    In the mean time I submit that Alcor, as an organization, has
better things to do than force its rationale down the throats of
members who may not be suited to it.  Mr. Laughlin, for instance,
now knows about freeze cracking in LN2, and knows that he's
likely to crack long before the rest of us, and that as things
stand he's going to crack even if he were to leave the entire
$200 million fortune to Alcor in his will, because research takes
time that he won't have.  If none of this bothers him, there's
not much anyone can usefully say.  If he looks at the cryonics
situation as merely buying a product from "them" instead of a
team effort where he's part of the team, and he is satisfied with
the product, then he's going to watch from the sidelines.  Okay,
fine.  The sense of community necessary to change that kind of
thinking (and perhaps the foresight and internalization of the
problem as well), are things one imbibes gradually.  Or not at

    Finally, I would add that the last thing we need to do at
this point is to sell our integrity as an organization by
pandering to the narrow views of the kind of acquisitive people
whose only philosophical goal may be adding to a giant investment
portfolio.  (Leave that kind of thing for ACS, I say.  It's a big
market.)  Our logical main research goal for the next few years
must be human brain vitrification, something that has just about
zero commercial application.  If none of our wealthy members want
to pursue it out of pure and narrow self-interest (their own
brains, or their loved ones'), or for the general good of mankind
(the brains of everyone Alcor suspends), then trying to lure them
with talk of commercial applications is not the answer.  Rather,
in that case, it's simply not worth taking up any more of their
time because they're just not ready for these ideas.  We owe this
(not taking up any more time) to them and us BOTH.
                                      Steve Harris

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