X-Message-Number: 23937
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2004 22:45:45 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Relevance

Scott Badger, #23292:

>I must be missing something. How is this long, rather
>cryptic discussion about Godel relevant to cryonics?

To start, here's what I said the other day (#23892, 4/15):

>To tie this in to cryonics: we are machines, of a certain sort. Certain 
>analogies hold. Cryopreservation puts the system, the human, a type of 
>machine, "on hold" so that skilled "mechanics" of the future, possessing 
>knowledge and techniques we don't have today, can get it restarted, 
>provided the preservation itself is adequate. Goedel's results may, if 
>misunderstood, cast doubt on whether we, creatures with minds, can be 
>considered machines, open to repair and restarting as with a car or 
>computer. This need not follow, but we want to give credit where it is 
>due, and note the profound implications and significance of these results.

Restating and going from there: people have used the Godel (I'll spell it 
that way) results to argue that there is something inherently 
un-machinelike about the human mind. This is because a machine "always 
operates within a formal system," and Godel showed there are truths 
knowable by humans that must baffle any formal system. Or did he? 
Admittedly this is not relevant to the nuts and bolts of cryonics *today* 
but may have more relevance in the future when it comes time to consider 
reanimation and other then-available options. Cryonics is what we hope will 
be our lifeline to immortality, and that in turn involves us in many things 
beyond today's basic procedures. Besides the reanimation problem there is 
the issue of whether robots ("machines") could have minds equal to humans, 
and whether humans could actually be uploaded into and "inhabit" said 
robots as software, and continue that way as, for all reasonable intents 
and purposes, the same individuals they were before. Or whether an 
artificial construct could replace a significant portion of the human brain 
(for reasons of durability, say, as a convenience for reanimation or a 
better life afterward) without sacrificing the individual.

The arguments over Godel I think started when Robert Ettinger made an 
assertion that Godel's results were not very significant, and thus 
apparently, by implication (though he didn't actually say it) we don't have 
to worry over some of the problems raised about machines vs. humans. But 
many of us give more credit to Godel--his results, including the basic 
undecidability argument that parallels the liar paradox, we feel are *not* 
simply insignificant. Yet we still find plenty of reasons not to worry 
about being hampered, in the future, by any inherent limitations of 
"machines" (however you want to define it) or formal systems.

Unfortunately, the possible ties to cryonics--what it is really 
about--often do not come through as the various arguments run their course. 
We can also raise the issue of how relevant are other topics such as 
politics, which admittedly does have some relevance. Yet I don't think most 
readers want to see endless material, all too easily encountered, in which 
cryonics is never mentioned or hinted at though other things are most 
strongly. Sometimes it's really hard to separate what should be considered 
off-topic and discouraged from what should not. Opinions will vary, and 
some will be unhappy no matter what is done, including just advising to 
skip what you don't find interesting, though that is something to consider.

Mike Perry

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