X-Message-Number: 10709
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 22:07:41 EST
Subject: Comments on "Hamburger Helpers"


In the current issue of CRYONICS (Alcor's quarterly), Charles Platt has a
piece called "Hamburger Helpers." I think a few comments will be
intelligible without extensive quotation from the article.  

First, I emphasize that no one disputes his main thesis--that
immortalists/cryonicists should do more to help themselves, and reduce the
burden on the future, both in the research arena and elsewhere. But some
of the associated statements and attitudes appear skewed.  

The article speaks of a "…naïve faith…[that]…benevolent strangers in the
future will repair freezing damage, clone new bodies for neuropatients,
and throw in some rejuvenation and longevity treatments as a bonus."
(Later on, he does acknowledge that, "if we're lucky," we may not need to
rely on outsiders.)  

Actually, the general scientific advances needed will be products or
spinoffs of mainstream science,  not the special gifts of "strangers" to a
particular set of beneficiaries. The resources to apply them to
cryopatients will be supplied by the patients themselves or their
organizations--conceivably with some contributions by elements of society
or government. (After all, private and public agencies do offer benevolent
interventions right now, and to some degree always have--not only for
people, but even for domestic animals.)  

And we must remember that both the difficulty and the costs--relative to
resources--are likely to diminish, eventually to near zero. Drexler has
estimated (in a recent issue of CRYONICS) that, in the not extremely
distant future, restoration of a current cryopatient will be on the level
of a high school science project. No guarantees, of course, but we are
talking about sober readings of historical trends.  

The article also speaks of the human capacity for callousness and
exploitation, with the possibility that cryopatients might have their
parts sold or might be the subjects of "hideously painful experiments."  

But the kind of future in which that might happen is not the kind of
future in which cryorepair is likely to come about in the first place.
Further, it makes no sense on the basis of simple economics. In that kind
of nightmare future, the exploiters and torturers would find it much
easier to use living people than to go to the trouble of capturing,
reviving, and using frozen patients. Further, it is highly likely that,
well within the next century, all biological experimentation will be done
by computer simulation.  

"Lesson 1. The rift between cryonicists and cryobiologists is rooted in a
fundamental difference of philosophy, training, and attitude toward

This is oversimplified. After all, many physicians, and to some extent
even the FDA, do recognize the logic and humanity of using unproven
methods when there is no other hope. And several prominent cryobiologists
were initially relatively friendly, when they thought we might contribute
money for research. Logical and humanitarian pressures will continue to
work in our favor--at an uncertain pace--as will the tide of history.  

"Lesson 2. …..we should recognize that something about cryonics makes it
unappealing not only to scientists, but to venture capitalists. Maybe we
should ask ourselves why."  

We have asked ourselves (and others) why, ad nauseam, and have plenty of
answers. The first thing to remember is that cryonics is MORE appealing to
scientists than to others. We have disproportionately strong
representation among scientists, physicians, and technical people
generally, as well as entrepreneurs and e.g. Libertarians--in short, the
people who are best informed or/and the most independent. This is
sometimes obscured by the fact that the absolute numbers are so small.  

It should be perfectly clear that the main negative for particular groups
is primarily the same as for the general population--viz., tradition or
culture (and to some extent even genetics) expressed through a variety of
psychological mechanisms. The immortalist revolution is so profound, the
wonder is not that it is taking a long time, but that it is moving at all
and no one has been lynched.  

"Lesson 3. Cryonics also remains unacceptable to 99.995% of Americans…Even
when celebrities such as Arthur C. Clarke, William Shatner, or Stanley
Kubrick have endorsed cryonics, this has not triggered substantial
growth…Consumers…want a product that works."  

All of those statements are misleading.  

"Unacceptable" is not synonymous with "unaccepted." Little as I trust
questionnaires, all to date indicate that substantial numbers--far above
0.005%--are reasonably sympathetic, and could plausibly be sold. Further,
we know of many who have told us, "If only I had known about you a month
ago, when Mother died!"  We also know that the concept of life insurance
took a long time to build; that the risks of smoking required long and
hard consciousness raising, and this process still has a long way to go;
that the simple prudence of saving money finds wide resistance--on and on.

The celebrities named did not endorse cryonics--they merely made one or
two somewhat favorable public statements. I don't know whether a genuine
main- stream celebrity, making a genuine public commitment, would make a
measurable difference--but this has not yet happened.  

Consumers want a product that works? There are countless counterexamples,
both of "products" that sell but don't work (astrology, Elliott Wave
Theory, psychic readers) and "products" that work but don't sell (quitting
smoking, saving money, the Edsel). (Incidentally, the Edsel was preceded
by major marketing studies by top professionals.)  Further, a surprising
percentage of people already think cryonics does work--that animals have
been revived from liquid nitrogen--and they still don't buy.  

Certainly I was laughably (or cryably) wrong initially about the pace of
growth of cryonics. (But who knows what might have happened if, in 1967,
the LIFE issue with Bedford had not been canceled in mid-run, with all the
major population centers getting the astronaut fire story instead of the
Bedford story.) Mass psychology is a mine field, which is why no one can
consistently predict the stock market in the short or even intermediate
term. But in the long run the fundamentals are decisive, and the
fundamentals are on our side.  

A couple of minor factual notes: (1) Fred Pohl did not introduce me to
N.Ypublishers. My brother Alan heard of a philosophy professor at an
eastern school, who might be sympathetic; the professor introduced us to
his nephew, Thomas J. McCormack, then an editor at Doubleday, and that got
things going. (After moving to St. Martin's press, Tom also got MAN INTO
SUPERMAN published; last I heard, he was president of St. Martin's.) (2)
To my recollection, James Bedford was a psychologist, not a biologist.  

Robert Ettinger Cryonics Institute Immortalist Society

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