X-Message-Number: 25066
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2004 05:28:23 -0800
Subject: Chances for Success (to Christine)
From: <>

Dear Christine,

You wrote:

"You state your estimate on the odds of the soul surviving 
freezing, and provide numbers. Now I only pose this question / 
comment in my sincere interest in knowing your thoughts on this- 
not as an attempt to be hostile.. I do not understand how you can 
quantify the odds of a soul surviving if the concept of soul is not 

A soul is some neural circuit in the brain. Freezing does not 
appear to preserve any neural circuits at all, and if this is true, 
it is rational to conclude it does not preserve the qualia 
experiencer. The micrographs of frozen brain matter look extremely 
bad. Whether or not from the data in a frozen brain we can 
reconstruct a replica of the undamaged brain is not relevant to 
survival of the original.

I think we may be able to reconstruct the 'qualia experiencer 
circuit' based on inference, but such reconstruction is identically 
equivalent to building a new experiencer circuit. This will be 
helpful to friends and family of the deceased, but not to the 
deceased person, whose subjective inner-life will have been lost 


You wrote:

"The numbers you provide therefore can only be a wild guess."

I am sorry, I did not mean to imply these were objective numbers. 
They are only my subjective (Bayesian) evaluation of the 
probability of these methods preserving the soul, based on what I 
know about both the soul and the cryonics methods.

In any case, I have mentioned I am an Alcor member signed up for 
vitrification, even though I am not confident even Alcor's 
vitrification will preserve the soul. So this can tell you I think 
even 5% is a worthwhile chance to take, considering the 

You wrote:

"If we discuss the concept of soul as our innate experience and 
sense of continuity of self, derived from a complex blob of neural 
tissue, rather than an entity independent of biology, then the 
can be easily boiled down to the preservation of structure and 
chemistry of brain matter."

Yes, I agree.

You wrote:

"You have no evidence, as you cannot gaze into a crystal ball, that
those that are currently in suspension are irretrieveable."

Again, I think this comes down to how much has to be infered, and 
how much has been preserved. Preservation = good, inference = bad.

When you infer from neural circuits that do not exist, even if you 
infer correctly, it does not change the fact that the neural 
circuit was destroyed (or otherwise it would exist). Building a new 
one from your inferences doesn't help the old circuit that was 


You wrote:

"In fact, who is to say, given current theories in physics, and 
given enough time, that time travel into the past won't one day be 
possible, and that even those that weren't frozen won't be able to 
be retrieved. (ok the last comment is outside of cryonics 

Many things are possible. It is good to hope for wonderful 
possibilities. Yet we do have to make decisions about how to 
allocate our time and resources, and what choices to make, and we 
are better served if we do not count on our hopes to be realized.

You wrote:

"My point is that I feel that it is disturbing and arrogant, in my 
opinion, that so many people deem that just because something is 
impossible based on current knowledge and technology, that it will 
*always* remain an impossibility."

Here is the crux of the issue: once something is destroyed, you may 
be able to build another one, with exactly the same atomic 
arrangement, but it still will be another one. It won't be the same 
one that was destroyed. Technological progress cannot change this, 
unless it goes in directions inconceivable to us now. Which may be 
possible, but this doesn't mean you should sign up for freezing.

You wrote:

"It is almost cliche that so many of our current medical and 
scientific marvels were once deemed impossible too. Personally, 
based on what I know about medicine, and what I know about 
cryonics, I think that our chances are very good. And I can assure 
you that this is not just deluded wishful thinking."

I think that given maximum technological progress, the chances of a 
frozen person being emulated (poorly, due to loss of information) 
on a computer are good. But the emulation will not have a 
subjective inner life. The computer probably will (in a way totally 
incomprehensible to us), but how does this help the qualia 
experiencer that was destroyed? It doesn't.

Similarly, I think that given maximum technological progress, the 
chances that a frozen person can be 'reconstructed' (again, poorly) 
are good. But building a new qualia experiencer, even from the 
atoms of the old one, still results in a new qualia experiencer, 
one which is not the one that was destroyed. This is helpful to the 
friends and family of the deceased, but not to the deceased person.

Now I hope I am wrong. I hope that freezing preserves more than I 
give it credit for, that the neural circuit responsible for 
experiencing qualia is more robust than others, or that 
technological progress brings us in directions that are 
inconceivable to us now. But I'm not counting on such things to 
happen. This is reflected in the subjective probability I assign to 
these events.

Best Regards,

Richard B. R.

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