X-Message-Number: 19800
Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2002 10:41:09 -0400
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: to Steve Harris

To Steve Harris:

Hi Steve. And please remember: 1. I respect your intelligence and 2. I
continue to disagree with you about assessing the "probability of 
success of cryonics".

I added more to my first message on this issue later in Cryonet, so
some of this is repetition.

In any case, there are TWO kinds of probability assessment. In one,
which is that which we use for assessing the weather, working out 
who may be elected, etc etc, we actually have a substantial number
of previous cases on which to work. Lots of weather, lots of elections,
lots of card games, etc. It's reasonable in such cases to use 
probability: after all, we can do the simple thing of (say) counting
up the number of thunderstorms that happen per year in the city
in which we live over a period of at least 100 years, and then use
that to calculate the probability that a thunderstorm will happen
tomorrow. (With the weather we can do even more than that, but 
I won't get into that issue because it's irrelevant to what I'm

The other kind of probability assessment tries to work out the 
probability of an event which has never happened before. I mean
this literally: we can work out the probability, say, of a 
large asteroid hitting the earth because such bombardments HAVE
happened in the past, though hardly the recent past. As for revival
or ourselves, or ANY cryonics patient, we have no previous or
even similar case on which to base our calculations. None. Zilch.
Any assumptions (and they ARE assumptions) we make about the 
probability of events required for the event whose probability
we want to find out can fail so easily that they mean nothing at
all. Most important, we don't even have the information required
to know just what we don't know: how does our memory work? Just
how it works can radically affect the time taken to repair us,
and at least in that way make any estimate of revival meaningless.
We DO know that our memory does not require constant electrical
activity to survive, but compared with cryonic suspension that's
hardly very strong. For that matter, our probability of remaining
in suspension is affected by many factors, not one of which we
can really work out well enough to make probability other than
dreaming. Would the revival of someone cause lots of people to
join, or cause religious revivals against the irreligious idea
of keeping alive for longer than God's given span? Don't ask
me, I can't claim to know.

You can play Drake on this question as much as you want, but
your assumptions for your Drake equation can't be established
even as well as those for the original Drake equation ... which
as we've seen, was hardly very well. 

It's not that I think that thinking about the prospects of 
cryonics are useless. I think instead that anything I or others
can do to better those prospects is very worth doing. Nor do
I think that the success of cryonics can be worked out by
Draking probabilities. The best thing to do is to work on 
the problem, one way or another. If (as seems likely) vitrific-
ation becomes fully successful, we've changed the probabilitty
of success a good deal. And just how society reacts to cryonics
depends not on some roll of dice but also on how we ourselves
behave. We are not just rolling dice or drawing cards here,
what we do can affect the outcome. Even the likelihood of
reviving EARLY patients depends on the work we do now, on
getting a more precise idea of the damage, and on how memory
works, and so just how that damage may have altered or 
erased their memories.

Yes, and someday we may well find intelligent races among the
stars. Their history will trace back to a small planet called
Earth, after thousands or millions of years of separate evolution.

		Best wishes and long long life to all,

			Thomas Donaldson

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=19800