X-Message-Number: 23367
Date: Mon, 02 Feb 2004 22:52:25 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Re: CryoNet #23354 (Paul Wakfer)

On the whole I liked Paul Wakfer's comments and found them to be "on the 
mark" and well put. As for his differences with Thomas Donaldson, I leave 
that for the two of them to deal with. I wanted to comment on this remark:

>... there will also always be
>situations which are so devastating that restoration to life is truly
>impossible (this is so in spite of Mike Perry's and other's belief to
>the contrary).

This is quite correct, _for those who hold certain views of personhood, 
identity and survival_, and very many do hold those views, though, as you'd 
expect, mine are somewhat different. Death to me is simply a matter of 
sufficient loss of identity-critical information. I think many cryonicists 
agree, though others insist that death occurs with loss of 
identity-critical _structure_, that is to say, original material. In 
practice today the two are essentially equivalent--lose the structure and 
you also lose the information--though of course there is a difference. In 
any case death is certainly going to be possible for the indefinite future, 
given the type of universe we seem to be in, laws of physics, and so on. 
Just think of cremation which, if done at a bit higher than usual 
temperature, leaves _no remains at all_. If you had _enough_ information 
from other sources you could still reconstruct an exact copy of the 
original person, which would leave you with the philosophical problem of 
whether you "really" had that original person or "just a 
duplicate"--something we have thrashed out in no small measure before. But 
of course you don't have this information, even in a more usual case of 
cremation with some charred remains, so this is one time when death 
certainly occurs. And no doubt it occurs under conditions of less severe 
but still catastrophic loss, as in conventional burial, where the brain 
disintegrates. So death--at least the possibility of it--will always be 
with us. The loss of information will prevent any "restoration" to life _in 
the usual sense_ and many might discount any prospect of ever, in any 
reasonable sense, returning the deceased person to life. (I should mention 
here that some, on the other hand, think that all "lost" information will 
eventually be unambiguously recovered, but this is a view I do not share.)

The possibility always exists, however, that in some fashion an exact or 
near copy of the original individual could be recreated, even if only 
through guesswork or random, unintelligent means, without knowledge of the 
original at all. In the sort of reality that we inhabit, in fact, that 
prospect is arguably inevitable. That's what I argue in _Forever for All_, 
invoking some ideas of multiple universes, so that many things indeed could 
be happening. And, based on my view of personhood, I would accept a 
sufficiently close copy as (an instantiation of) the original person, not 
"just a copy". Others, of course, will see it differently. If you don't 
think the chance occurrence of a double of a person would constitute 
survival of that person (and aren't into mystical souls and such), then 
maybe you'll agree 100 percent with Paul Wakfer's position. As for me, I 
think that death is not an absolute--but still it makes a difference 
whether one opts for a straightforward restoration to consciousness through 
cryonics (and gets good preservation!), or takes one's chances with 
alternatives. In my book I have a chapter that argues the case for 
cryonics--it is definitely the better choice, in my view. Anyone interested 
can read it and/or email me privately.

Best wishes to all,
Mike Perry

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