X-Message-Number: 16399
Date: Thu, 31 May 2001 22:47:04 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Reply to Epstein #16390

> >
> > >As far as I am concerned,a wish to die is insane by
> > >definition,and the person who has it needs to be
> > >protected from its consequences.Others don't have
> > >a right to wilfully end your life,and NEITHER DO YOU.
> >
> > I support free choice, but certainly I don't like it when people choose 
> death.
>As noted above,I believe they can choose how hard to fight to
>stay alive,but not to do anything where death is a known and
>chosen aim of the act...where death is the thing the person

Again, I support free choice, even if they do choose death, though then I 
don't like it. But someone certainly should choose to be cryonically 
suspended premortem under certain circumstances, though by current legal 
definitions they would be "choosing death" and might be forcibly prevented 
from exercising what ought to be their right.

> > > > > > An anencephalic clone is no person. So it ought not to be
> > > > > > considered "abusive"[to use it as host for a head graft] -- you 
> aren't abusing anybody.
> > > > >
> > > > >Again,there will be people arguing this.Look at the
> > > > >anti-abortionists proclaiming zygotes and blastulas
> > > > >to be citizens with civil rights...they certainly
> > > > >have no differentiated organs at all.
> > > >
> > > > They are not persons either in my view.
> > >
> > >Yet they differ from persons in having the same sort
> > >of lack of sustainable independent existence as
> > >applies to severed heads.
> >
> > This similarity is not what I see as important. In the one case, we 
> have no
> > brain, no consciousness, in the other, both (or potential for it at 
> least);
> > that's a big difference.
>Well,couldn't the same science that created
>anencephalic clones also produce bodiless
>brains?...almost certainly,since you see
>cryopreserved brains as surviving to be


>And couldn't it thus be argued by those who
>define personhood differently that the
>anencephalic clone is "entitled" to have
>a brain created for it-as-person,since the
>ability to grow such brains means it DOES
>have potential-for-consciousness?

Could be. But they see it very differently than I do. A brain, with the 
usual imprinting, defines a person. An anencephalic clone, not having a 
brain, would not be a person and not "entitled" to anything. As for the 
potential to grow a brain, every nucleated cell of my body has that 
potential, if you consider cloning. But that doesn't "entitle" it to such a 

> > >Have there been any cryonics cases where just a brain was preserved,
> > >besides Luna Wilson?
> >
> > Yes. I don't have a list handy, but there have been several.
>All at Alcor,I presume?

No. The latest comprehensive list of cryonics patients, as far as I know, 
is from *Cryonics*, 4th quarter 1998 It shows several brain-only's from 
different organizations. More details if you are interested.

>Is there a published number of how many
>whole-body patients Alcor has preserved?
>Probably MUCH fewer than CI.

I can tell you that Alcor currently has 15 whole bodies (I think CI has 38) 
out of 44 patients overall.

> > > > And all sentient beings have some value as such, in my view, so
> > > > this means you would tender respect toward even severely impaired
> > > > humans who still were marginally sentient.
> > >
> > >Perhaps medical fixes for their impairments
> > >will be developed in due course.
> >
> > I think so.
>But again,as noted,what if anencephaly is something
>for which a fix is developed?

The only way to do that would be to create a new person.

>And it occurs to me that someone who has a body
>that was modified to develop without a brain
>might be at a disadvantage when healing from
>brain injury.How could the genetic modification
>be reversed?

Depends on how the body was modified. Nobody said it had to be genetically 
modified. If it was, you could probably reverse the modification via 
nanotech, shift the atoms around and such. But whatever the details, it's a 
bridge to cross when we get there.

> > > > Of course we, the individuals, will (I strongly hope) live on and on
> > > > instead, having outgrown this earlier phase of our lives much as a
> > > > baby outgrows the crib and diapers. And I'm not saying we should
> > > > repudiate the past either--far from it. But we do want to go on to
> > > > better things.
> > >
> > >I see this impulse as self-destructive.
> > >You do not build upon your foundations by
> > >tearing them out,but by strengthening them.
> >
> > I don't propose "tearing out" the foundations, but I don't propose
> > "maintaining the building" exactly as is either. Yes, we need to 
> strengthen
> > the foundations and build in other ways. In time though, we'll surely
> > outgrow our H. sapiens frame, and I think that time will not be too long
> > in  coming, on the scale of history.
>Where you see us as modifying ourselves,I see us as having an
>unprecedented capability to avoid having to modify ourselves.

Both prophecies could come true. Note you say "avoid *having* to modify 
ourselves." Not *having* to do something you don't want to do should be 
your right so long as reasonable corresponding rights of others are 
respected. What I see is a future where options will increase. Many, if not 
all, will eventually, voluntarily choose modifications, I think, because 
they will feel them advantageous.

>Evolution occurs in response to environments...but we can choose
>and alter our environments in ways no other species ever has.
>That is what makes us the climax of evolution rather than just
>another passing organism.

Not just environments, but our very physical nature is open to our own 

>There are possible improvements in our genes,yes...but
>leaving our heritage behind should not be a strategy.
>Certainly not one embraced by all individuals!

For those choosing not to embrace it, fine, if that's their free choice. I 
very much *don't* intend to leave what I consider important about my 
heritage behind, i.e. discard it. But for me the important part relates to 
my states of consciousness, my memories and so on, rather than genes or 
body structure per se.

>I know you're not the first to talk about this.Greg Bear
>once said we would not look recognizably human in fifty
>years...but about a third of those fifty years have
>gone by since he said that.

So this was maybe about the mid-80s. My guess is that the 30-odd years 
remaining won't be enough, but I'm sure it will happen eventually.

> > >Diversity is a fact of life to be accomodated...not
> > >a positive good to be celebrated.
> >
> > Disagree with you there. I celebrate the magnificent diversity I already
> > see, and hope to see ever more of it. Let there be more of it! (No
> > fisticuffs please, though!) A dull world it would be, with too much
> > conformity.
>A horribly chaotic world it would be,
>with too little commonality.

I expect diversity on some levels will be accompanied by commonality on 
other, I think, higher levels.

> > >Regrettably those who see a need to stop being moved to
> > >violence by difference forget that differences are for OVERCOMING.
> > >We need to make them LESS important to us,not more.
> >
> > Differences may be for overcoming, but they don't have to be for one 
> person
> > or group overcoming some other, in grim Darwinian fashion.
>Nor am I saying that.I am saying that the differences need
>to be treated as less important than they are.
>"Celebrating" them doesn't help do that.

Depends on what differences you are talking about. Two Nobel prizewinners 
may be said to celebrate their separate accomplishments, which amount to 
differences since they didn't do the same thing (I'm not talking about a 
jointly shared prize). In the future I think everyone will be able to be 
world-class in some specialty, and gain recognition for it. But being 
outstanding in different fields need not be a cause of division.

> > Differences could be used for mutual benefit, as in overcoming states
> > of ignorance, overcoming causes of death, etc. (As an example, consider
> > different groups pursuing different interests, such as research
> > interests, in different ways, which I think would increase the rate of
> > progress over all.)
>Likelier if they see each other as part of a single
>project than if they see their own line of research
>as a Holy Grail and their competitors' as pseudoscience
>to be regularly denounced as wasted effort.

Yes, if those are the only two alternatives. But I see others. A "single 
project" could have many participants who pursue different approaches yet 
still feel united at the highest level.

> > >I am very suspicious of the concept of "more than human".
> > >It may have meaning as "human,and ALSO superhuman"...but
> > >the nonhuman must be necessarily seen as subhuman,
> >
> > Why?
>For the sake of humanity,which you apparently don't value
>as much as I do...

I value *people* a great deal, but the present human species, the bodies 
we're in, and so on, are things we'll make use of for awhile, then very 
likely discard for something we are convinced is better.

> > I feel that my memories of where I've been and what happened, etc. are
> > worth keeping, but I wouldn't feel that every detail of being human is
> > similarly to be maintained forever.
>Why not?
As one example, my brain has finite size and is fragile. Maybe it's good 
for a few decades, but how could this lump of stuff be good for centuries, 
millennia and beyond without considerable reinforcement, enhancements, and 
so on? Even if you kept it in perfect repair, the memory space would be 
used up, and I would need something bigger, or made of different materials. 
I suspect when we have advanced further we'll find that other materials can 
perform the functions of brain tissue much better than the original, and 
we'll want to replace it accordingly.

> > And if I became much smarter than I am now, and more kind and loving
> > than people can be, that might be called "nonhuman" but I
> > wouldn't think it "subhuman."
>But if you differed substantially from humans in this state,
>humans would have to think you subhuman,or die in consequence.

"--or die in consequence"? Who's gonna kill 'em?

>(I know,you hope they'll become extinct).

Not so. I never hope the people, considered as individuals, will become 
extinct. The biological entity, H. sapiens, will disappear, I think, but 
only by voluntary choices, as people decide that other, newer housing is 
better for them. I think the day will come when you'll have a hard time 
persuading someone to stick with the kind of body we have now, much as 
today you don't see much market for horses and buggies (in the 
industrialized world).

> > > > Ah, what does it mean to be human? Probably different things to 
> different
> > > > people, as the old saying goes. To me, being human is something 
> that has
> > > > its strong points, but weak points too, and ultimately, some 
> unacceptable
> > > > limitations. So I want to become more than human. In a sense, then, 
> you
> > > > could say that I seek to "destroy" my humanity, but only because I want
> > > > to develop into something higher, like a child wanting someday to 
> be no
> > > > longer a child. On the material plane, I think this will very likely
> > > > involve abandoning the protoplasmic body I am now expressed in. 
> Properly
> > > > handled, it will be no catastrophe but quite the contrary.
> > >
> > >Again,a tree can grow,but it must never be torn out
> > >by the roots.
> >
> > And I don't advocate "tearing out by the roots".
>Abandoning your body is certainly tearing out your roots!

I don't see it that way at all. I've certainly abandoned the body I had as 
a young child. It's the memories that are important, not the physical housing.

> > >To become something divorced from your origin is to
> > >cease to exist...a death as thorough as any other.
> >
> > I don't advocate being divorced from your origin. You should remember who
> > you were.
>But if you are not the same biological entity,you are
>divorced from what you were.

Of course we are speculating heavily here, but I think you could remain 
what you are in essential respects yet not be expressed in the same 
physical format.

>A copy of certain aspects,
>perhaps,but you are no longer human.

Well, you'd be conserving what is really important about the being *you* 
are, call it what you will.

> > >A computer programmed to ape my thinking
> > >is not me...especially if it does not share my
> > >conviction that a computer programmed to ape my
> > >thinking is not me!!
> >
> > To me this is stumbling over semantics. I have a computer programmed to 
> ape
> > my thinking right now; it rests between my ears. (Apologies to those who
> > keep insisting "the brain isn't a computer". I'll grant it's not like the
> > computers we presently build, but it processes information, so I call it a
> > computer.) Another brain just like it, which has just been made and
> > functions similarly, with my memories and so on, could lay equal claim to
> > having been "me".
>No,simply not being the identical one means it is not you.
>Millions of identical coins are minted every year...they
>are not each other.Copies are not originals.

You should read chapter 7 of my book, *Forever for All*, titled 
"Interchangeability." Yes, I know that not everybody will subscribe to this 
point of view. But I see a fundamental difference between considerations 
you might apply to inanimate artifacts like coins, and a person, which is 
fundamentally an ongoing, informational process. Too much to go into here.

> > And I think it's the information processing that counts, not the
> > mechanism that does the processing, so in principle a brain could
> > be realized in a non-protoplasmic substrate. I see no problem with this.
>I think you're blind to the problem with this.
>And consider it important not to be.

I've spent a long time addressing the possible problems, and won't claim 
perfect success, but I think the problems are addressable, and the rewards 
of doing so are great.

> > >And the abandonment of humanity would be a catastrophe,
> > >even MORE so because there would be those thinking it
> > >not to be so.
> >
> > From your perspective. Again, one must ask, what does it mean to be human?
> > To my thinking, it doesn't depend, in principle, on the stuff you're made
> > of but on how that stuff functions, processes information, and so on.
> > Additionally, "being human" is just a stage in the life of a hopefully
> > growing and developing individual.
>Certainly no (non-theological) precedent for that.

Well, there is a precedent, call it what you will. And I think it is 
becoming increasingly feasible to address this issue scientifically, 
without invoking any mysticism.

> > It's the individual that counts, not the
> > labeling of that individual as "human." If we can live to age 1,000 and
> > beyond, then surely our first 100 years will seem like childhood, but also
> > I doubt if we'll still be slavishly sticking to the type of housing we 
> have
> > now. We won't be "human" in any biological sense, but will not have
> > abandoned the beings we were, only developed ourselves to a higher plane.
>If we're not human in any biological sense,we have died.
>The copies of us that linger will only be programmed to
>ape being us.
Here again, we differ. I think we'll have to transcend our biology to 
become immortals such as I myself hope to develop into. If well-managed, it 
will not mean the death of what we are now, but something quite the 
opposite, a fulfillment and forward progress, and I am looking forward to it.

Mike Perry

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