X-Message-Number: 12083
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 1999 16:40:46 EDT
Subject: Pascal, Smith, Pearce etc.

Thoughts keep churning concerning recent posts by or about Dave Pascal, 
George Smith, and David Pearce. 

Pascal and Smith seem to favor, among other things, a more calculated 
attempt, in recruitment, to emphasize the benefits of cryonics to family and 
to society as a whole, rather than focus narrowly on saving the life of the 
potential recruit and on details of scientific feasibility.

Pearce's book, THE HEDONISTIC IMPERATIVE (available on <hedweb.com>) 
envisions a long term goal of total elimination of suffering in all living 
creatures on earth, and for humans (or post-humans) an ever-more-sublime 

There seems to be a fit here--but only if Pearce's vision can be made to seem 
less speculative and remote. 

In my 1972 book, MAN INTO SUPERMAN (available on our web site), I did not go 
nearly as far as Pearce, but I did make some points that are pertinent here. 

For example, superhuman traits seem not so far out of reach when we consider 
those traits that ALREADY exist, either as rarities in humans or in other 
animals. Consider the role of fear in the human psyche:

Superficial thinking might tell us that fear is not only useful, with an 
obvious evolutionary background, but an indispensable rein on otherwise 
reckless conduct. Superficiality also endorses the common "wisdom" that 
courage lies not in the absence of fear, but in overcoming it. These things 
are only partly true.

Fear is sometimes useful, certainly, since in the wild it can save life by 
motivating flight. But it can also paralyze judgment and impair action. There 
is little reason to doubt that calm, alert evaluation of dangers and 
opportunities can serve us better than fear.

As for courage--well, I have had considerable exposure to danger, up to and 
including mortal combat. I have seen people overcome fear, and sometimes I 
have done so. I have also seen people who did not seem to have any fear at 
all, but faced danger coolly and calmly--or even with zestful enjoyment, and 
on occasion I have done that too. In the extreme case of legend, the Norse 
berserkers loved nothing better than bloody battle. 

So it seems clear enough that we can get by without fear--but how do we shed 
it? Mr. Pearce envisions the main changes to come through genetic 
engineering, with nearer term partial reliance perhaps on psychotropic drugs. 
But it can also be done, at least in part, simply by training and practice. 

I think George Smith understands much of this, since his interests include 
karate and Zen, I believe. We also recall that remarkable (if controversial 
and perhaps only temporary) changes in outlook have occurred in group therapy 
and retreats of various kinds. At any rate, it is reasonably clear that a 
social-interaction element can be important, as well as solitary practices 
such as meditation.

Finally, remember that we need alliances. Cryonics as a stand-alone goal is 
unlikely to be as successful as it might be in alliance with others. People 
who find we share some of their goals are more likely to be open to cryonics.

Yes, all of the above is just preliminary and tentative, and it may turn out 
there is nothing very practical in it. On the other hand................

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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