X-Message-Number: 14282
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2000 11:02:09 -0400
Subject: Crippling Vitrification

There is something about truly bad marketing that is almost painful to
watch.  It's like seeing someone dying of thirst trying to drink out of a
sieve.  The means are so futile and counter-productive that watching it
makes you wince.
What brought this to mind for me was reading some recent posts from Mr.
Paul Wakfer.  Apparently looking for funding from people in the cryonics
community, he gave us an update on recent developments in vitrification
at 21CM and INC.   He then favored us with his view of cryonics (quote,
'a fringe group', 'fragmented, cultist, inbred, ingrown and navel
gazing', a 'very small pond in which all these frogs are croaking to each
other');  of CryoNet postings ('99%' of which are 'busy with brain
masturbation'); of cryonicists ('short-sighted, head-in-the-sand,
money-hoarding', half ' busy counting the number of identities on the
head of a pin, and the other half are waiting for the Nanotechnology God
to save their asses'); of cryonics organizations ('all jealously guarding
their own "territory"  ) ; and, lastly, 'the intransigent, pig-headedness
and/or power lust of the major cryonics leaders (of Alcor and CI)' who
'don't really want to live in a world where some upstart can succeed
where they could not' and who 'were and still are masters of the art of
political rationalization, casting doubt, and making false arguments just
logical enough that they are believable to naive, trusting souls'.  (Mr
Wakfer nonetheless conceded that 'If I become terminal in the near-term,
I plan to toady-up to the whatever bastard is leading the most scientific
cryonics organization at the time', despite the fact that in the future
he expects 'all the current cryonics organization will either be out of
business or as insignificant relative to the rest of the world as they
are today').

Now I expect the bastard in charge of the most scientific organization at
the time, or even the bastard in charge of the second or third most
scientific, will probably let bygones be bygones and haul up a bucket of
liquid nitrogen for Paul somewhere or other, but I have to confess I
don t think it will be for his PR contributions to vitrification.  As far
as fund-raising and public relations go, I find his general approach in
that area to be   how can I put it?  -- poorly conceived.  The substance
of his post seems to be that, as he puts it, 'perfected whole body
suspended animation could be "just around the corner", if we could only
get these, quote, 'short-sighted, head-in-the-sand, money-hoarding
cryonicists to fork over the necessary cash'.   Laudable goal!  How do we
do it?  Answer:  violent personal abuse. Well -- true, that is one
possible technique among many.  The only question is -- does it work? 

Suppose a nanobiotechnology researcher at Cornell (where twelve doctoral
candidates in the subject were recently admitted, incidentally) were to
send Mr. Wakfer a public open letter and go, "Dear Mr. Wakfer, you
bastard:  you are a short-sighted, money-hoarding, inbred, ingrown, navel
gazing, intransigent, pig-headed, fringe cultist masturbator waiting for
the Vitrification God to save your ass:  give me several thousand dollars
for research!   Dazed at the clarity of this appeal, would Mr. Wakfer
pull out his check book and start scribbling zeroes?  I think all that
the researcher would get would be more examples of Mr. Wakfer's extensive
collection of adjectives.

But, worse, suppose that you are an actual potential investor looking for
a place to put your money.  You stumble across Cryonet and read Mr.
Wakfer s post -- period -- and nothing else.  What do you learn about the
state of vitrification from it?

Is there a place for an investor to get hard data on where their work on
vitrification stands at the moment?  Wakfer:   There is no site where
this is all summarized. The information is very scattered, and/or not yet
written down.    Has research in vitrification procedures such as the use
of a high pressure chamber to prevent crystallization been successful? 
Wakfer:   This was only an interim step during the research which Greg
Fahy was doing to reversibly cryopreserve kidneys. In fact, not only was
it always deemed impractical for whole body humans, but he very soon
found that the pressure itself induced additional unrecoverable damage,
and soon after abandoned the pressure approach.   Has 21CM in fact done
any actual brain research at all?  Wakfer:   21CM is not working with
brain slices. That it the research project of the Institute for
Neurocryobiology's Hippocampal Slice Cryopreservation Project (HSCP) in
full cooperation with 21CM, of course. What you have read about 95% is
that *rabbit kidney* slices have been loaded and unloaded   .   Does that
mean they re viable?  Wakfer:    "viability" is not assessed in terms of
"functionality" since that cannot be done for kidney slice, which are no
longer "functional" by definition.   Is the procedure at least applicable
to the human brain, then?  Wakfer:    it does not measure all cellular
function nor does it measure intercellular functionality which is crucial
for brain tissue.   21CM is at least looking for ways to apply it to
human suspended animation, correct?  Wakfer:    the pronouncements and
policies of 21CM on the subject of suspended animation research changed
back and forth so many times that even I, a relative insider, could not
keep track of them.    At least funding attempts, like the Prometheus
Project, are getting the project some interest and support, right? 
Wakfer:   PP was pure pledge campaign to attempt to garner sufficient
support to perfect suspended animation. It was never intended to collect
any money until it has sufficient pledges to do the project, and it never
received a cent.   Well um where does that leave whole body suspended
animation then?  Wakfer:   just around the corner"!

Now let me be plain about this:  I m not opposed to vitrification.  On
the contrary!  I think Paul Wakfer is absolutely right to push for
research, and absolutely justified in appealing to people in cryonics for
funds.  I don't even think Paul Wakfer is a bad guy.  Indeed I think he
is a good guy, a fine man trying to do a very good thing.  I mean,
really: it would be nice if vitrification were here, and any Cryonet
reader not busy brain-masturbating might be very well advised to send Mr.
Wakfer some spare dough towards that end.  But is there anyone likely to
do so after hearing such a string of abusive and self-destructive
statements like the above?

If a person is serious about getting funding for a project, there are
four things he needs to do.  One:  find and talk to the people best
capable of providing it.  Two:  give them plausible reasons why it will
benefit them directly and monetarily.  Three:  listen and respond
respectfully to any criticisms or hesitations or objections on the part
of the potential investor.  And four:  remain pleasant and courteous if
you lose the sale   after all, nobody bats a thousand, and the person who
turns you down today may very well change their mind tomorrow.  Of the
four, perhaps the most important is the third:  showing a willingness to
listen and address people s objections.  It doesn t matter if those
objections seem stupid to you:  they don t seem stupid to the investor,
and they re the ones with the money.  The campaign to fund vitrification
deals with all these factors disastrously; but nowhere so badly as that
third factor. 

Why has vitrification not taken the world of cryonics by storm?  Mr.
Wakfer's feeling seems to be that it's because cryonicists are by and
large morons.   Well, OK, perhaps not everyone is in Mensa, but I think a
simpler reason may be that, dumb as they are, even  cryonicists are able
to grasp the simple fact that preventing damage (however fine a goal) is
not the same thing as repairing it.  If absolutely perfect vitrification
procedures were developed tomorrow, what would it mean?  It would mean
that you come out of cryostasis in about the same shape you had going in.
 So, if you happen to have a stroke and fall downstairs and lie there for
several hours or days before being reached by a trained funeral director
or traveling team, you enter cryostasis with brain damage, spinal damage
(assuming your spine isn't lopped off and thrown away entirely via
neurosuspension), and severe ischemia.  And that's how you come out. 
What does vitrification do to get you up and running as before?  Well -- 
nothing.  But wouldn't vitrification prevent further damage, isn t
prevention good?  Sure it is.  Is prevention the same thing as cure?  No.

Of course, perfected vitrification procedures may be applied perfectly
and in time.  But what are the chances of that?  I believe a recent post
of Mike Darwin stated that over two-thirds of cryonic suspensions are, to
put it delicately, 'less than ideal'; Jim Yount put the number at 70%; I
myself think that an examination of the number of current cryonics
patients receiving 'ideal' suspensions would be even less than that --
0%, if we take the much-heralded but as-yet-undeveloped-and-unavailable
vitrification as the ideal.  But, going with the earlier numbers, this
means that three out of four people being suspended are going to be in
pretty bad shape going in.  Such bad shape that only nanotechnology or
something damn close to it will be able to help them.  Tylenol or shiatsu
just won t do. 

And will the number of people able to get  ideal  vitrification treatment
even be as much as that?  At the moment it looks as though vitrification
will cost even more than current options, and be even more complex and
difficult to implement.  Mr Fred Chamberlain has said that vitrification
may kick the price of neurosuspension alone up to $120,000, and that
Alcor members may be forced to choose between that and a  second-rate 
(ie the currently available) version.  What does whole body come to then?
 A quarter of a million?  Ten times $120,000 -- the equivalent of ten
heads?  Twelve times?  And who implements it?  BioTransport alone? 
Which, as Mr Wakfer puts it,  now seems to be going nowhere, at least on
the topic of cryonic suspension - . 

All these problems may work themselves out.  Let s hope so.  But right
now, at this moment, vitrification does not work, is not available, and
doesn t seem like it will be in the near-term.  Even if it is developed
at some point, it may not be affordable, and it may be so complex to
implement that it may more often than not prove impossible to apply in
real-life situations. All that may change, and I hope it will, but given
all this, is a cryonicist necessarily a buffoon, a clod, a villain, for
not viewing INC as the Second Coming and offering up his bank account

But we have no choice, it s said.  What s the alternative?  Not brainless
blind religious faith in the laughable medieval rubbish calling itself
 nanotechnolgy , which every right-thinking man of science abhors, right?
 I m afraid this objection is not a very compelling one.  The (now
defunct) Prometheus Project may have 'never received a cent', but
nanotechnology is getting funded to the tune of over $80 billion dollars;
one of the Joint Chiefs, nay, Al Gore himself has interviewed Eric
Drexler for Congress; Bill Clinton this year announced a $497 million
dollar National Nanotechnology Initiative; literally hundreds of
organizations around the globe, nations from America to Australia to
Germany to Japan, universities from Harvard to Yale to Princeton to MIT,
labs from Laurence Livermore to IBM, companies from Xerox to Zyvex, are
pumping time, money, and personnel into nanotech.  How much is
vitrification at INC getting?  Wakfer:  "...at the time Ben made his
donation of $10,000 INC had $19,200 in its bank account (or very soon
after - we were waiting for a $12K+ refund check on a piece of

Now vitrification is a fine thing, don't get me wrong; but is it really
surprising that someone contrasting these two pictures   nanotechnology
awash in funding, publicity, scientists, researchers and support, and
vitrification sitting outside the post box waiting for a refund check  
might feel that just possibly there might be a little something to
nanotech?  When project A gets billions and project B gets near-zero, one
is tempted to conclude that project A will probably cross the finish line
first.  OK, maybe it won't:  the tortoise did beat the hare and Truman
did defeat Dewey.  Long shots sometimes come in.  But though 'the race is
not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong', that's the place
the bets get put.

What does Paul Wakfer know that the Joint Chiefs of Staff don t?  Well,
he knows that vitrification is a good thing, and he s right.  But he also
seems to feel that calling nanotechnology ridiculous every chance he gets
will somehow further his noble cause.  Maybe this is so, but *is there
any concrete evidence* that this is so?  Has every assault on the
 Nanotechnology God  been followed by an influx of checks?  Has *any*? 
There seems to be this unexamined assumption that if you dump on
nanotech, dollars will sprout in your garden like Dutch lilacs.  But
although Cryonet seems to be the only place in the world where nanotech
is consistently panned and nanotechnologists consistently insulted, the
people panning and insulting seem to be more starved for funds than the
homeless.  I mean, cripes!  According to the Times, even a panhandler can
make 40K a year!  And less than even that is what's going to put
reversible whole body suspension "just around the corner"?
Me, I am contentedly waiting for the Nanotechnology God to save my ass. 
But that does not mean that I think vitrification research is not worth
supporting or going after.  It most certainly is!  Of course reducing
damage -- if possible -- is good.  Of course the spectacle of someone
going into cryostasis and coming back out would be a historic boon to the
cryonics movement.  The best thing about vitrification, in my view, is
that (quite apart from cryonics) it will enable the cryopreservation of
human organs for transplantation, and thereby save hundreds of thousands
of lives.  Sure, this is a good thing.  And we ought to support it.  But
we can do so reasonably.  We don t have to harbor illusions about it.  
Vitrification is not the Holy Grail.  Its advent   even its appearance --
does not mean that cryonics has arrived.  It means that someone who goes
into cryostasis young and healthy (and rich enough to foot the bill, and
lucky enough to have all the circumstances fall exactly into place) comes
out young and healthy.  Those suffering ischemia or stroke or
Altzheimer's or a fatal traffic collision don't come out young and
healthy.   The poor'   those untermenchen without $120,000+ -- don't go
in and don t come out at all.  Vitrification is a step forward, and steps
forward are good; it s just not the step that puts us across the finish

But the bottom line is that for most of us it's going to mean nanotech or
nothing.  By a happy circumstance, Princeton and MITI and Xerox PARC etc.
etc. etc. are pouring money into just that field, so we have if not
assurance, then reasonable hopes.  And while the promise of vitrification
is an alluring complement, the actuality is that it's bitterly
underfunded, and understaffed, and undersupported, and -- worst of all --
handicapped by a virulent rhetoric that boomerangs and cripples and
isolates it. 

I support research into vitrification and Mr. Wakfer's efforts
specifically.  I too think that people ought to give.  Admittedly, I
think perfected vitrification is only 'around the corner' if the corner
you are talking about is on Mars -- but we can get to Mars in a few
years, and I would not be shocked to find out that we've gotten to
vitrification in a few years too.  I think vitrification's usefulness is
only going to matter to those people rich enough to afford it, and lucky
enough to not die before the usual Keystone Kops operation of dragging a
horde of vets and Linux programmers cross-country manages to arrive. 
Most people are not going to fit into those categories, and they know it,
and so vitrification does not set them on fire.  Myself, I don't see it
changing in the near future -- indeed I see it worsening, as prices shoot
through the roof, and complexity makes application become increasingly
undeliverable.  Frankly, I think putting research money into more
incremental improvements in what we can offer now, such as Robert
Ettinger suggests, is not a bad idea at all by comparison.  But
vitrification -- if it comes to pass -- may very well help some people,
certainly people needing organs for transplants, and that is good, and it
will get cryonics generally a tremendous PR boost, which is good too.  It
merits support.  And the problems it faces getting support are by no
means problems that can t be overcome.

But the plain fact is, they aren t even being addressed!  A crazy
technophilia reigns:  the sense that the only problems we face are
technical or monetary.  Throw enough money at a problem and   poof!   it
vanishes.  Social factors   courtesy, persuasion, reasonable dialogue,
mutual support   are out the window.  Who need people?  Money!  Give us
money!  But it s the people who have the money, and if you alienate
enough of them you end up where vitrification seems to be hovering   on
the verge of non-existence.

Bad manners are not the exclusive property of any single faction in the
cryonics movement, alas, but I think it is not completely unfair to say
that the vitrification wing hasn t exactly shamed the rest of us with
their jovial cameraderie.  There are fine admirable exceptions in that
camp   Ben Best, Greg Fahy, Saul Kent, have always seemed to me at to act
like reasonable and decent gentlemen.  But some of the other comments
from there   well, I don t want to add to them:  I only want to ask a
simple question:  has that sort of approach *worked*?  Has it helped
people working for improved cryopreservation achieve their goals? 
Looking back over the wreckage, I can t help but notice that
BioPreservation is gone, CryoCare is  on ice , the Prometheus Project
 never raised one cent , CryoSpan seems to be on its way out, and INC's
perpetual underfunding seems to be starving it to death.  Has bashing
nanotechnology and attacking the leaders of CI and Alcor and engaging in
name-calling gotten any of those groups, or vitrifaction itself, the
support and money it needs?  Or has it, on the contrary, *cost* it
support and funds?  Is the biggest problem facing vitrification funding? 
Or is the behavior of certain vitrificationists?

God knows, cryonics can be a frustrating business, and frustration breeds
anger and aggression.  But anger and aggression don t solve the problem. 
Why not try something that does?  In science you learn as much from
failure as from success.  Well, BioPreservation and the Prometheus
Project and CryoCare have failed, and CryoSpan and the funding
initiatives of INC seem to be failing.  The scorched-earth policy has
produced a desert.  Isn t it time to sit down and rethink strategy?  When
something doesn't work, try something else!  

Like what?  Take an example.  The Cryonics Institute.  I am a very happy
CI member and one reason is, that it seems to be the only organization
with even a modicum of toleration.  As far as INC goes, despite a long
record of verbal abuse at CI generally and Robert Ettinger personally,
CI s electronic newsletter Long Life came out with an appeal for
donations to INC weeks ago; its web site links directly to INC; its
publication, The Immortalist, not only mentions that appeal in its
Cryonet Digest section, but (even after an direct attack on the  bastard 
in charge) is willing to run Wakfer s unedited article.  Isn t this a
rather saner model to emulate than the torch-all-heretics approach we
seem to be getting elsewhere?  Is it pure coincidence that this courteous
approach has been accompanied by a doubling of assets and a near-doubling
in membership, as opposed to the flat collapse of the Prometheus Project,
BioPreservation, CryoCare, and the perennial fiscal starvation of INC? 
Courtesy seems to have worked.  Why not try something that seems to
*work*, instead of tearing down the house, and vitrification along with

Is there anything more concrete than courtesy that I might suggest? 

1.  Why in the world would someone looking for research funding go to the
one-tenth of one-tenth of one-tenth of one percent of possible
contributors that make up the Cryonet readership?  Stop trying to get
money from people long-alienated already.  You want money?  Go to the
public.  An idiot could put together a simple and effective Direct Mail
campaign -- 'Hi, we're INC, we're a non-profit medical research group
trying to save the lives of men, women, and children.  Won't you help
with a tax-free donation?'  Corny?  All right, it's corny.  But over $195
billion -- yes, that's ' 195 billion' -- dollars was spent on charitable
contributions last year.  Is it really possible that a worthy project
like vitrification  -- presented less acridly -- could not tap some tiny
part of it?  The fact is, if sending 100 letters returns a ten dollar
profit, sending 1 million will return a hundred thousand dollar profit. 
That's a lot of stamps to lick, but it beats 'a few hundred dollars of
support from Roy Yowell'.

2.  If you want investors, why not try to find some real ones?  
www.businessfinance.com lets you submit your companies vital stats and
the (free) search engine matches you up with potential investors. 
www.nvca.org (the National Venture Capital Association site) can link you
to virtually every venture capitalist in the business.  What, no  real 
investor would want to put money into organ preservation?  The total
amount of venture capital applied to biotechnology in 1999 came to $1,182
*billion* dollars   up 14.8% from the year before.  I suspect even INC
might be able to get some backing if they approached the right people. 

3.  Stop bashing nanotechnology.  There s $80 billion dollars plus,
streaming into nanotech.  Which means that if there is *any* faction of
the cryonics movement that promises to be capable of providing you with
investors and writing you a check, it s the nanotechnologists.  And they
have consciences -- I think they'd be open to the argument that
vitrification might cryopreserve organs and thus save lives before
nanotech gets to the point of producing them directly.  So be nice. 
Maybe they ll buy you some test tubes.

But most of all, it seems to me that we would all do a lot better simply
by toning down the rhetoric and accepting the fact that there is no one
and only, pure, perfect, exclusive, sole approach to cryonics. 
Differences in approach ought to be respected and tolerated, not reviled.
 All roads may not lead to Rome, but more than one road may lead to the
revival of current cryonics members and patients.  Nano may do it; vitro
may do it; who knows, something out of left field may come down the pike.
 Why tear alternative approaches   and each other   down?  Rodney King
got it right:  can t we all just get along? For the life of me, I cannot
see one single reason why people in the cryonics movement have to be at
each other s throats.  We gain nothing by mutual recrimination, and
everything by mutual support.

The fact is, progress is occurring on all fronts in cryonics.  Yuri
Piguchin seems to be making progress in vitrification despite all the
harangues.  Nanotech is awash in research and funding.  Membership is
booming at CI and rising at Alcor as well.  What's wrong with this
picture?  As near as I can tell --  nothing!  Personally, I have no
trouble in supporting Paul Wakfer and Eric Drexler, Ralph Merkle and Greg
Fahy, Charles Platt and Robert Ettinger, and all the others.  The success
of any one of these people and organizations helps all of us, and all of
those around us.  We re not playing some zero-sum game where one person
winning means another losing.  There would be nothing better for all of
us than to see a string of breakthroughs in nanotechnology *and*
vitrification, there would be nothing better than to see the Cryonics
Institute *and* Alcor *and* 21CM flourishing, there would be nothing
better than to see all of us succeeding and progressing.  And that
actually seems to be what is happening!  So why this endless grousing and
bile and negativism?

Hurting each other only hurts ourselves.  We'll go a lot farther a lot
quicker if we help each other instead. 

David Pascal    

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