X-Message-Number: 11015
Date: Sat, 2 Jan 1999 11:18:36 EST
Subject: reminders

Partly in response to several recent messages, perhaps I should post some
reminders, to help orient newcomers and to refocus some others.

First, as to the cracking problem in general, and the lack of observed
cracking with procedures applied to sheep heads and cat heads by Cryonics
Institute and by Ukrainian researchers:

1. As previously noted, cracking is not necessarily one of the major problems,
in part because, in some cases at least, cracks may be relatively "clean,"
like separated pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Nevertheless, we would like to avoid

2. The sheep and cat reports are available in full on our web site, except
that only a sampling of the micrograms are shown. The caveats should be
obvious, but I'll run down a few of them anyway:

a) Human brain results might be different.
b) Not all brain regions were sampled, so there is no guarantee that there was
no cracking anywhere.
c) There are other kinds of damage, which conceivably might mask cracking. For
example, if there is an ice hole, possibly in the absence of that hole we
would have seen a small crack.

Now a bit about "philosophical" questions and probability estimates. These are
not merely relevant, but of major importance. 

For example, I don't buy lottery tickets, and many others don't--and wouldn't
even if the expected value were positive, even if the state paid out more
money than it took in. My time and trouble would still be worth more than the
expected (average) return. Similarly, it is (or can be) rational not to bother
with cryonics if you think the odds against success are long, despite the
enormous payoff if you luck out. (On our web site I have a long discussion
intended to show that the odds in fact are not unfavorable.) (The preceding
only scratches the surface of the discussion, of course; a full understanding
of motivation and reward needs a very extended treatment, which is one reason
for my current book in progress.)

The problem of identity, or of criteria of survival, and guesses about the
nature of nature, the interpretation of quantum mechanics, even cosmogony and
cosmology--all of these could be highly relevant to your personal decisions
right now or next year. It won't do simply to shrug these problems off as "too
hard" or "premature"--you are compelled to make timely decisions, and can
rationally do so only on the basis of your best current guesses or estimates.
Passivity or inaction is just one choice among many, and sometimes the worst.
For inattentiveness or laziness, the penalty may be death.

Next, some reminders about cryonics and cryobiology:

First, don't get lost in technical details, even if you are confident of your
mastery. Some of the overarching facts are:

a) that freezing (or other suitable form of stasis) can limit present and
future damage; 
b) that  future repair capabilities are unknown but almost certainly much
greater than any we can now envision in any detail, so that presently
"irreversible" damage may prove reversible; 
c) that global conservation of information may be a fact of nature, possibly
implied by quantum correlations among other considerations; 
d) that many important biological structures, including DNA, and to a lesser
extent synaptosomes,  are very freeze-hardy; 
e) that most of our structures are generic rather than unique to the
individual and hence potentially easily replaceable regardless of damage or
even "total" destruction; 
f) that even much individual information might be available externally (e.g
from written records and photos) as well as internally in the preserved brain
g) that the brain has in many respects a great deal of redundancy, so that
information effectively lost from one region might still be available in
h) that regardless of any theoretical considerations, many biological
specimens, including even some solid (although small) mammalian organs (e.g.
rat uterus and rat parathyroid), and some whole insects, have survived
freezing and storage at cryogenic temperatures;
i) that much structure--including that of human brains--is preserved with
routine freezing, which explains the usefulness of brain banks and others;
j) that Pichugin achieved coordinated electrical activity in networks of
neurons in glycerolized, cryogenically frozen, and thawed rabbit brain pieces;
and finally
k) that your own efforts and commitment--and the timeliness thereof!--can
influence the odds and the outcome for yourself and for all of us.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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