X-Message-Number: 12104
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: for Gurvinder, about millenia in cryonics
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 23:47:56 +1000 (EST)

For Gurvinder:

Some additional comments to Mike Perry's:
Since I myself believe that some form of cryonics (though the method of
suspension is very likely to change over time, the essential idea of
preserving as well as possible someone whom you do not now know how to
cure IS the basis of cryonics) will continue into the indefinite future,
issues such as asteroid collisions do deserve a bit more attention.

And they're simple. Right now there are moves afoot to keep track of all
asteroids with orbits which might intersect with the Earth's. And even now
with warning it should be possible to deflect the asteroid. Even better
means to deal with the asteroid problem will no doubt be developed in the
future. Why? Because it isn't just cryonicists who are concerned by this
problem. Not only that, but the cost of finding and tracking those
asteroids is not all that great. (I will add that as of now, 10 July 1999,
efforts to find such asteroids are going on in the northern hemisphere.
There does need to be more effort for such asteroids visible now only in
the southern hemisphere).

The only possibility of asteroid destruction comes for about the first
75 years from now, when such efforts have not become routine and our
abilities to deal with such asteroids remain in a primitive state. (I
will note that nanotechnology won't be a lot of help. Asteroids are BIG,
and deflecting them will require some large forces and/or prolonged small
forces over a period of years). However, if such a collision were to
occur in the next 75 years, EVERYONE would have lots more to worry about
than just the problem of aging and revival of cryonic patients. Such a
near-term collision, however, does not look likely. 

And why do I think that the practice of cryonics will persist for
millenia? Because I doubt that we'll ever attain the kind of perfect
control and understanding of matter some people believe we'll reach soon.
To believe in such perfect control is to be apocalyptic, almost in the
Christian sense. We can improve our control and our lives indefinitely,
but literal perfection is something only religions offer. No, I can't say
just where things will go wrong 100 years from now, or 500 years from
now, but they will... even though they will go wrong far less frequently
than they do now. Something will break, something will go haywire.

I remember a science fiction short story I read once. It's not about 
cryonics but about the imperfections of the future. It seems that a man is
brought from the 20th Century forward to the 25th, with his memory of his
former life intact and no attempt to adjust him to the 25th at all. And he
asks why, and what problems they're trying to solve that he might help
them with. Along the way he goes outside in the night and sees that some
stars are missing. Oh, they say, we've solved the problem of war; the
missing stars are only the result of the very last war. And he goes
through all the problems: disease, death, political turmoil, etc etc, and
they tell him all those problems of the 20th and 21st Centuries were
solved hundreds of years ago. So why did they bring him to the 25th?
Well, they told him: we have OUR OWN problems, and we hoped that your
mind would be fresh enough to help us. But we've decided that you will
need to be educated....

And so I would not be surprised at all if cryonics societies still exist
and are still suspending people if and when I am revived. People will get
into "medical" difficulties into the indefinite future. No, those
difficulties won't be any we know now. They are likely to result from
the rare failures of technology which will always happen (yes, less and
less often, but still happen). They may not even use a word such as
"medical" for those problems. 

And that is also why it's realistic to ask about such things as asteroid
collisions with the Earth.

			Best and long long life to all,

				Thomas Donaldson

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