X-Message-Number: 2565
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 94 12:34:16 EST
From: Stephen J. Van Sickle <>

Mr. Darwin:

Thank you for your kind (and funny) reply to my posting.  In my
sometimes not too clear way,  I was refering to cryonics as it is
currently practised.  Our patients are clinically, legally, and
socially dead.  Cryonics, to the uninformed, is an attempt to
reverse this.  It is a very small leap to the I-word.

So long as cryonics stays this way, it will be small and relatively
safe.  To most we are macabre loonies who are wasting our heir's
money.  But this country has a long tradition of tolerating the
harmless crank.  What if we stop being perceived as harmless?

I believe that as our technology advances, there will be a "window"
of danger from society.  There will be a point where suspension
technology will be powerful enough for public perception to move from
"crazys longing for Immortality" to, as you say "trying not to die".
Brain cryo-preservation and/or the right to pre-mortem suspension
is probably enough.  Death will have lost its certianty.  It will
no longer be the great equalizer.

The much maligned Kubler-Ross pointed out that those who have
very strong beliefs, either in an afterlife or that death is the end
and there is no more, deal best with dying.  The more successful
cryonics becomes, the more we erode people's certianty, and the more
danger we are in, as much from the secularists as from the religionists.
This danger will continue until the restoration of certianty by
fully reversable suspended animation and the blessings of the medical
establishment.  We must work hard to make our institutions strong
and flexible enough to survive this period.

This not only effects society as a whole, but also cryonicists themselves.
I have been aware of the basic ideas of cryonics for so long, I have
forgotten where I first heard of it (the earlist I remember is reading
The Jameson Satellite when I was about ten or eleven, and it was not
new to me even then).  I never took it seriously, until I read Engines
of Creation in 1986.  The chapter on reversing freezing injury was one
of the most unsettling things I have ever read.  Death was no longer
certian extinction for me.  This was the point for me where cryonics 
changed from "crazy seekers of Immortality" to "live just a
little longer".  Despite being intellectually convinced of the rationality
of the idea,  it was over *Five Years* before I could bring myself
to even sending for information from a cryonics firm.  And it took
the deaths of six co-workers in an 18 month period to force me into
suspension arrangements.

I am a reluctant cryonicist.  I still grapple with the implications of
this new path I have choosen for my life.  I miss the quiet secular
certianty that my life is a brief light in a sea of darkness, and that 
I will soon return from where I came.  I miss knowing that everything
was done that could have been done for those I love who are no longer
here.  I know that many I now love will die and be buried or burned,
a fate I used to consider reasonable and normal.  I can no longer 
watch a news program without hearing of the death of someone whose
life and work I deeply admired, and feeling all the more strongly that
a little more of the light has gone out of the world.  Above all,
I know that when my time has come (all too soon!) I will not know what
to expect next.  Oblivion? A new life? A world I have no hope of 
comprehending?  Friends?  Strangers?

I often resent this.

We deal with this by searching for certianty elsewhere.  We look to
"Nanotechnology" and "our friends of the future".  We reassure each other
that only a fabulously wealthy society will revive us.  We write long
dissertations on the power of compound interest and the slow, steady
march of medical science.  This is our new mythos.

I do not mean this in a derogatory way.  We are still human; it is not
shameful to need crutches.  But we must recognise them as such.  I fear
that the slow progress in suspension research may be due to this in part.
Research is inherently uncertian, and some of the most recent indicates
we may not be doing as well as we thought.  It is easier to sweep
it under the rug and talk of "information death" and trust in the future
than it is to do the hard work and run the risk of proving that we have been
fooling ourselves for 30 years.

I'm sorry.  I ramble.  I just wanted to point out that cryonics is *HARD*.
It has costs other than money.  This makes finding new members extremely
difficult.  I believe that as our technology improves we will find more
reluctant cryonicists (we're much more numerous than the instant variety)
but we will also be much more of a target.  We must prepare for this.

Dr. Donaldson:

You're quite correct.  We must keep things in perspective.  Paranoid as I 
am, I only expect cryonicists to be lynched by other cryonicists. ;) 

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