X-Message-Number: 12021
Date: Sun, 27 Jun 1999 12:56:27 EDT
Subject: Honesty, Sanity, & Cryonics

Recent posts on recruitment move me to muse a bit on cultures and cryonics. 
As usual, please forgive any rambling.

One of the most melancholy features of our current culture is the prevalent 
PR mind-set-or what we might ironically call CPR, Competitive Public 
Relations, which tends to kill the customer. Strata of society differ in 
culpability, with politicians among the worst, but almost everyone with an 
agenda feels compelled to put maximum self-serving spin on the ball. If you 
don't, the other fellow assuredly will--and if he is dumb enough not to, or 
does it ineffectively, then so much the worse for him and better for us. 

I think cryonics organizations are among the most honest and open segments of 
society--probably well ahead of physicans and pharmaceutical companies--but 
we still can further restrain our impulses to trash the competition. The 
Cryonics Institute web site has links to all the other organizations, so 
browsers can easily see what each has to say for itself, and we strongly 
recommend that each be explored in painstaking detail. (This cannot be done 
in a few hours, or even a few days, but your life is at stake and you need to 
make the effort.)

O.K., we understand dishonesty--more or less--but few of us understand 
insanity. We seldom remember that our species has always teetered on the edge 
of madness, and often fallen off the edge. It's not just the wars and 
crusades and jihads of more primitive times or benighted places, but right 
here and right now. 

A couple of high school boys in Colorado kill a bunch of people, and then 
kill themselves--for what? For a dramatic gesture! Purest insanity! This is 
what my son David calls the "dramatic fallacy" in the thinking of allegedly 
"sane" or "normal" people--that what survivors will think of them somehow 
compensates for personal oblivion. 

And the recent Federal Building bombing, and the World Trade Center bombing, 
the cult suicide pacts, etc. But that in some ways is not the worst--the 
worst may be what we consider "normal" or even admirable.

I sometimes think the biggest and most tragic mistake of recent history was 
the American Revolution. Were the Colonists justified in killing and dying to 
break from the Crown? Sure, they wanted things better, but with a little 
patience they might have gotten what they wanted without blood, and much more 
besides. The tail would have come to wag the dog soon enough. If America 
north of the Rio Grande had remained part of the British Empire, there might 
have developed a Pax Britannica so powerful and beneficent that there would 
have been no World War I, no World War II, no Russian Revolution--with the 
Russian Empire, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the 
Japanese Empire restrained, contained, and gradually progressive. 

Dave Pascal has said that we need to focus more on the social or cultural or 
world-wide and class-inclusive benefits of  cryonics and immortalism. 
Idealism and zealotry have all too often been harnessed for destructive 
purposes, but that doesn't have to be the case. Our viewpoint has the 
potential not only to save individual lives, but also to bring sanity and 
stability to societies. 

The craziest and most dangerous people are those who think they have little 
or nothing to lose; the prospect of much longer and much better life changes 
all that. The Golden Rule becomes much more obviously utilitarian when we 
individually expect to be around a long time and repeatedly face all those 
with whom we have dealings. The Problem of the Commons and the Prisoner's 
Dilemma have happy solutions in this context.   

As a matter of actual experience in cryonics, it is very common for people to 
be more interested in saving their relatives than in saving themselves. By 
extension, it seems likely that many will also be more motivated by 
"altruistic" feelings than by "selfish" ones. 

I know, "altruism" is a bad word to some. I even agree that true altruism is 
PHYSICALLY impossible, because "motivation" MEANS what YOU want. But, as 
usual, the case is not so simple, and enlightened self interest can include 
what looks and even feels like altruism. We need to learn how to use this 
potentially powerful tool.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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