X-Message-Number: 11997
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1999 17:15:42 EDT
Subject: Making It So 

In a reply to Mr Robin Hanson, I noted that asking the question, "Why Isn't 
Cryonics More Popular?", invariably gets a number of smart people to exercise 
their wits answering it to the best of ability, thus producing reasons 
calulated to sink the cryonics reader into even further gloom and paralysis.  
Sure enough, one of the very smartest, Saul Kent, read Mr Hanson and moseyed 
on over to load yet four more weights on our already staining backs.  They 
bear examining.  Said Mr Kent:

>          I believe the primary reasons people
>  favorable to cryonics don't sign up are:
>          1)  The prevailing scientific opinion 
>  that cryonics patients are preserved so badly 
  that it won't be possible to restore them to life.

Actually, the prevailing scientific opinion about all presently incurable 
diseases is that they are all presently incurable;  curiously that does not 
prevent billions of dollars from flooding into study, research, and 
experimental cures, nor further billions from flooding into every patently 
absurd long-shot 'cure' from snake handling to crystal power.  People sign up 
for implausible nonsense all the time; cryonics membership problems would 
seem to lie elsewhere.  (I note in passing that the 'prevailing scientific 
opinion' Mr Kent alludes to excludes --  needless to say --  prevailing 
scientists who think cryonics patients have a damn good chance of making it 
indeed.  I guess the PhD behind Eric Drexler's signature must stand for 
'Pizza hut Delivery'.)

>          2) The scientific evidence showing 
  that cryonics patients *are* preserved badly.

Even granting that, the question is not whether they are preserved 'badly'.  
It is whether they are preserved incurably. If, like stunt man Eval Keneval, 
you jump canyons in your motorbike and have broken every single bone in your 
body repeatedly, you are treating your body 'badly'.  But every broken bone 
in Mr Keneval's battered frame healed.  And so he's walking - and breaking 
the speed limit - today.  Scientific evidence shows without question that 
chemotherapy patients are treated 'badly':  chemotherapy means poisoning a 
patient's cells to the point where all the bad ones, such as cancers, die, 
while (hopefully) enough good ones survive to drag the pathetic victim back 
from the brink.  Is that 'bad'?  Of course.  It's horrible!  But maybe it'll 
work, so we do it anyway.  Most all medical intervention 'injures' - how are 
you going to operate on a heart without hacking open a chest to get to it?  
But we engage in it nonetheless because we have reason to believe that the 
damage caused can eventually be repaired, and that causing that damage is 
better than the alternative of certain death for the patient.

The question for cryonics is not 'damage' but:  do we have reasons, evidence, 
statements from eminent mainstream scientists and doctors and researchers, 
that such damage is repairable - that eventual help for cryonics patients is 
really possible?  Sure we do.  Ralph Merkle, Marvin Minsky, Robert Frietas, 
the numerous doctors and neurologist members of various cryonics 
organizations (not to mention Mr Kent's own 21st Century Medicine team) - 
these guys aren't The Flintstones.  And they give us a guardedly optimistic 
thumbs up.  The simple fact is, if so much as one single cell survives of a 
cryonics patient today, it should be possible to produce, at minimum, a 
perfectly healthy cloned body and brain.  Is it reasonable to suppose that 
the vast wealth of neurological data further preserved in even the most badly 
preserved current patient will preserve absolutely no memory or personality 
whatsoever?  There is no evidence that that is the case, and - frankly - even 
phrasing the idea seems intrinsically self-contradictory.  Does preserving as 
much brain structure as possible destroy every bit of it, irretrievably and 
forever?  That's like saying that taking as meticulously accurate a 
photograph as possible of someone destroys all possible resemblance to the 
sitter.  It does?  Even a fuzzy photo of Bill Clinton looks like Bill Clinton 

>      3) The paucity of evidence that it 
>  will someday become possible to restore 
  the identity of today's cryonics patients.

In point of fact - as Ralph Merkle points out in his Molecular Repair Of The 
Brain - a document search will show that there are no scientific or medical 
papers - not one -- arguing that cryonic revival is flatly scientifically 
impossible.  There's a 'paucity of evidence', all right -- on the side of the 
opponents of cryonics, not us.  We, after all, have innumerable planaria and 
newts and insects and frozen embryos shaking off their liquid nitrogen and 
getting on with their lives, and even the redoubtable Miles The Beagle to 
display.  OK, I grant you that that's not rock-solid 
revelation-upon-Mount-Sinai mathematically-irrefutable total and absolute 
certainty.  But, hell, we don't have that kind of certainty with regard to 
any medical treatment whatsoever.  Nailing such an implausibly high standard 
to cryonics is what makes the whole approach of this statement weak.  In 
essence, Mr Kent is saying:  we haven't solved it, ergo there's no hard 
evidence we ever will.  Well, this holds true for every disease ever cured 
and every project ever undertaken.  We had no evidence we could stop polio - 
till we did.  We had no evidence we could land on the moon - till we did.  We 
had no evidence we could pick up and move individual atoms, as Eric Drexler 
forecast - till (in 1989) we did.  Saul:  people don't decide to go do 
something until *after* they do it.  That's silly.  The questions are, do we 
have any reason to believe that the problem is soluble?  Do reasonable and 
respected doctors and scientists, who've studied the issue for years, say 
that a way can be found?  Are there any research directions that we follow?  
Are the published pro-cryonics arguments and evidence stronger than the 
anti-.  The answer to all the above is yes.

>          4)  The lack of evidence of a
>  scientific, well-financed effort to improve 
  cryonics technology.

The best (and most soundly argued) scenario for the revival of patients 
currently in cryonics suspension is that of nanotechnology.  When nano works, 
cryo will work - or so the top scientists in nanotech say.  How much money is 
going into nanotech research? A British parliamentary report states that some 
80 billion dollars in private corporate funding alone will be pouring into 
nanotechnology applications by the year 2000.  Research is taking place at 
Yale, Princeton, MIT, Washington, at Hamburg, Switzerland, Japan, by the 
departments of the U.S. Army and Air Force, NASA, the National Science 
Foundation, the National Institute of Health, and the Departments of Commerce 
and Energy - not to mention 21st Century Medicine.  Lack of evidence?  
Doesn't lool like it to me.

Now what is Saul telling us in the above four points?  He's saying that 
scientists don't think it'll work, that there's no evidence it'll work, and 
that on top of that we're pretty much broke.  This is why people aren't 
crowding into cryostats like salmon.  There's only one problem with his 
statement.  Scientists do think it'll work, there's some evidence it'll work, 
and billions are pouring in.

So why is he saying it?  I guess because when you hear the same arguments 
dinned into your ears over and over for thirty years, they're hard to shake.  
Mr Kent's four points are dead accurate - for 1967.  Post-Nanosystems and 
Nanomedicine it's another story.  But then it's tough for an honored and 
honored veteran of some of cryonics' toughest years to shrug off the pounding 
of decades of abysmal marketing approaches to the public, and the 
(inevitable) abysmal marketing results.

Be it noted:   I want to make it crystal clear that I am not trying to pan 
Saul Kent.  On the contrary.  With the exception of Robert Ettinger, I can 
think of no one in cryonics that I respect more.  Because Saul Kent has found 
the solution to one of the biggest problems of cryonics.  He just hasn't 
noticed it.

You see, years ago, Mr Kent founded one of the earliest cryonics societies, 
and - unfortunately - it didn't take off.  Saul Kent could have taken the 
usual tack, and cursed them for a pack of backward religious morons 
manipulated by 'death memes'.  Since most Americans don't know what a meme 
is, this would be a pleasant and safe way to pass the time.  But instead he 
took a wise and responsible pause.  He said to himself, "Well, people don't 
seem to want this cryonics stuff.  Hmm.  What do they want?"  He went out and 
looked.  And he found out that people like vitamins and health food and life 
extension stuff generally.  And since that's what they wanted, he went out 
and gave it to them.  Not surprisingly he made some profit in the process, 
and now is putting some of that profit into the cryonics movement and into 
cryonics-related research at 21CM.  Here too the wisdom of Saul Kent was 
radiant as firelight.  He didn't go to backers and say, "Gimme money to cut 
off your head and thaw it better 100 years later!" He said, calmly and 
reasonably and truly, "Research into cryobiology can produce widely desired 
medical benefits such as organ and cornea preservation, improved emergency 
resuscitation practices, and better hypothermic surgical techniques, all of 
which are not only worthy humanitarian goals but can -- obviously -- result 
in great profits for the wise investor."

And so they can - and for the cryonics movement as well, which Mr Kent (God 
bless him) has supported in every possible way.  

But, alas, his wonderful rhetorical ear when applied to his own business goes 
cold stone deaf when applied to the cryonics business.  There, it isn't a 
matter of talking about the value and plausibility and humanitarianism and 
profit of cryonics.  It isn't a matter of talking to people in their own 
language and presenting cryonics to them in a way in harmony with their 
values and beliefs and budgets.  It's a matter of chanting 'failure'.  He 
gives people reason after shaky reason not to support it, and then is 
surprised and sorry to report that not enough people support it.  It's no 
surprise to me.  Cryonics isn't a failure:  the marketing of cryonics is a 
failure.  And that's no surprise to me either.

Why not?  Well - I expect that if you were to go to the leadership of most 
all the cryonics organizations till very very recently, something like the 
following conversation would have taken place:

 "So tell me.  Who does your marketing?" I said.
"What professional marketing agency do you use?"
"We don't use any."
"Well, who does your marketing director get to handle your public relations?"
"We don't have a marketing director."
"Well then who runs your marketing staff?"
"We don't have a marketing staff."
"Well -- then how can you maximize your marketing budget?"
"We don't have a marketing budget.  It all goes into research.  Labs!  Test 
tubes!  Science!"
"Then how do you reach your public?"
"We don't.  They reach us."
"How?  Uhh "

I confess I would gladly trade one hundred of the PhD's in cryonics for ten 
solid MBA's, and all its research funds for a one-year deal with Ogilvy & 
Mather.  I sometimes think that the greatest loss of life in this 
blood-drenched twentieth century may one day be ascribed not to Hitler or 
Stalin or Mao but to the fact that a bunch of guys in California circa 1970 
didn't pool enough funds together to hire a good mid-level New York marketing 

But -- crying over spilt milk is not the note I want to end on.  I want to 
end with a few facts, not on might-have-beens. 
Question:  where was cryonics a little over thirty years ago?  I'll tell you. 
  Solely in the head of one man:  Robert Ettinger.  There was no 
nanotechnology, no virtrification, no nanotech, no Internet, no cryostats, no 
cryonics providers, no patients, no members.  The very word 'cryonics' didn't 
exist.  Scenarios for revival weren't even conceived.  Publicity was 
nonexistent.  Funding was zero.  The 'prospect of immortality' was null.  The 
only hope any of us had lay in one single moving pen in the hand of one man, 
Robert Ettinger, sitting at his table late at night, putting one word 
carefully after the next.

Today?  We've got money, members, organizations, patients, supporters, 
contributors, and resources.  Books are out, newsletters and magazines are 
published, we're in the press, on radio and TV, on the Net and on the Web. 
Some of the most highly respected scientists in the world not only support us 
publicly but have joined us. For all our groaning about memberships and funds 
and research, memberships are up not down, funding is up not down, research 
is progressing not standing still, breakthroughs in vitrification and 
nanotech have already taken place, and predicted breakthroughs are coming 
closer and closer.
Granted!  We've haven't conquered the world - yet.  But *how* can anyone look 
at this arrow of progress and achievement and call it 'failure'?  The only 
failure we should fear is a failure of the will to try, a failure of effort 
and spirit.  We don't have to cry because everything hasn't fallen into our 
lap today. To get to the finish line we only have to do one thing:  keep 
going.  Keep heading in the right direction.  Everything I've read, seen, 
studied, leads me to the conclusion that cryonics is in fact theoretically 
and practically possible.  But eventual success, in science as in public 
relations, isn't going to simply fall into our laps.  If we want it, we'll 
just have to, as Picard says, 'Make it so'.

David Pascal

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