X-Message-Number: 2522
From:  (Thomas Donaldson)
Subject: CRYONICS Re: importance.of.research
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 1994 21:45:50 -0800 (PST)

Hi everyone:

I have an important apology to make first of all. In my posting about the
importance of research, I got mixed up the relations between Biopreservation
21st Century Medicine, and the other organizations involved directly or 
indirectly with cryonics work. I have never given any money to Biopreservation.
Please take note not only of that, but also that Biopreservation has been 
paid for by Mike Darwin and Paul Wakfer out of their own pockets. I HAVE
contributed to 21st Century Medicine, but that would be at best an indirect
contribution. Furthermore, Biopreservation aims not to do research as such
but to perform and assist cryonic suspensions. The organization which is
directed at CRYONICS research is Cryovita.

I apologize very much for my misconceptions on these matters.

Nor did I intend anything I said in that piece to be directed to Mike Darwin or
Paul Wakfer, who both have held very fast in their attempts to get some of
the needed cryonics research actually done. Apparently 21st Century Medicine
has not received nearly the amounts hoped for, and even Mike and Paul have
found research on cryonic suspension (as opposed to research on, say, means
to suspend people at a "high", above 0 temperature for surgery etc) very 
hard to do without money.

HOWEVER, I do NOT retract the main point of my comments there: there has been
far too little attention paid to supporting research directed at OUR problems.

1. It is not true that nanotechnology alone will lead to means for revival.
   In the first place, many nanotechnologists think that the kind of machines
   Eric Drexler talks about are unworkable and may never be built --- and if
   they are built, they will serve the same purpose as the mechanical 
   computer recently built in England: an exhibit in a museum. But even more
   important, it simply is NOT enough to leave the problem of revival to
   some future technology, however powerful. WE DO NOT PRESENTLY KNOW THAT
   is, and it is even a reasonable GUESS, that it is, but look here, we're
   dealing with our LIVES here. Just how would you feel if you went in to
   see your doctor and he said, "Well, the treatment I'm going to administer
   might even make you worse, but I have a reasonable guess that it will
   probably work..." and that was the ONLY thing he could say about his
   treatment? No successes, no experimental support, just a "reasonable

   Without a good deal more research both to improve our suspension methods,
   and to find out IN DETAIL just what has been preserved and what has not,
   and how that might or might not relate to the things we feel are important
   about ourselves: our consciousness, our memories, personality, and so
   on, we are fundamentally in the dark. If we really want to be assured 
   that those frozen brains and bodies still contain PEOPLE rather than
   dead meat, there's a whole lot more we're going to have to do.

2. Just who is it who is doing anything now? The hard truth is that almost
   no one is doing a thing. Virtually all the interest in nanotechnology,
   either Drexlerite or more generally, aims not at reviving people after
   cryonic suspension but at making more powerful computers. Computers
   alone won't bring back anybody, no matter how powerful they might be.
   At a minimum, they will need a program, and devices to act on us, both
   of which now require KNOWLEDGE THAT WE HAVEN'T GOT.

3. What kind of research needs doing first of all? That's a hard problem,
   since there's truly a LOT of things we need to learn before we can
   come anywhere close to assured success. I will give some ideas, and
   put forward one as one that I think most important, but I do reserve
   the right to change that opinion on short notice.  

   We would want, first, to know much more about the damage caused by
   present suspension procedures. That's not easy; right now whenever
   we talk about revival we're fundamentally theorizing in the dark.
   We want DETAILS. And yes, those details might bother a lot of people.

   Is there any way to effectively work on reviving people right now?
   Certainly not without much more understanding of the exact damage our
   repair methods must repair.... not that such knowledge would be
   really sufficient.

   Second, we want to improve our suspension methods. Currently it looks
   like VITRIFICATION will greatly improve suspension and may actually
   allow us to produce viable frozen brains. But that is yet unknown.
   Nobody has gotten that far. MONEY has been the main problem, though
   there's also a distinct lack of the kind of expertise needed in the
   cryonics community itself. (Money means nothing unless there's 
   someone who can make use of it).

   Third, we need to know a lot more about just what must be preserved for
   revival to EVER happen at all. Neurobiologists have been studying memory,
   for instance, for years now. As yet we have no full understanding of
   how our brains remember and think (yes, our ideas are a lot better than
   even 10 years ago, but I wouldn't call them a full understanding). It's
   now painfully evident that we definitely do not think and learn in the
   ways computers "think" and "learn" (if you want to extend those notions
   to computers). But to seriously consider just what suspension must
   preserve we must know a lot more about, say, things like just how much
   destruction will genuinely destroy a memory (if that is easy to quantify)
   and most particularly, what KIND of destruction.

   This last question may deserve more explanation. Let's suppose that 
   (as some neurobiologists presently think, on reasonable experimental 
   grounds) that memories involve growth of new connections between already
   existing neurons. For suspension we don't just need to know that as a
   general truth: we need DETAILS. What biochemical processes cause this
   growth? What might inhibit it? Are there other things going on elsewhere
   which are important to this growth (ie. it goes wrong or doesn't happen
   without them). What neural structures (nucleus, synapse, and other) play
   a part in such growth? How are the new connections MAINTAINED? If somehow
   all of the new connections were destroyed, what would happen to the 
   memory? What if 50% of them were destroyed? Which 50%? (And notice that
   all of these questions start from a simple assumption which may turn out
   not to be true, or to be only a half-good approximation to the truth). 

What if we had $300,000 to spend on research? That's unlikely to solve our
problems, but it WOULD be a good start. My own best guess for what to start
with would be vitrification of brains.... but don't be surprized if even
that project isn't complete by the time the money runs out. (I think IF
we had someone already familiar with that field, who did not first need to
be educated into it, then we could make a big dent in the problem). No one
would really claim this would solve the problem since after all nobody wants
to come back as a disembodied brain. But it would help a lot if we could
PROVE, not just hypothesize, that those frozen patients in there really 
were THERE. From what I know about vitrification research, it looks to me
that we could actually reach that goal, though it might take more than

The neurological studies of memory which I discuss would actually allow us
to show some other very important related things. MOST SUSPENSION PATIENTS
NOW HAVE NOT BEEN VITRIFIED ... not to mention the fact that they haven't
even received the best treatment we can provide. One way to establish that
they are still there is to show definitively that treatment like that which
they have received DID NOT destroy "too much" memory, etc. Thus an understand-
ing of the damage of current methods would help to assess such things. But
of course we have to understand that such work might just show that our
attempts at preservation DID NOT succeed --- or more likely, that something
was there, but by no means was it the whole person who was suspended: the
best even highly advanced methods of revival could do would be to bring back
someone who had forgotten very large parts of his/her former life. All the
rest had been permanently and irrevocably destroyed.

I hope that these comments, which went on much longer than I expected,
may answer some of the questions asked.

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