X-Message-Number: 2820
From:  (Thomas Donaldson)
Subject: CRYONICS.comments.on.recent.netmessages
Date: Sat, 11 Jun 1994 23:00:48 -0700 (PDT)


I should apologize for my absence and failure to answer or reply to a number
of arguments which involved me. 

In any case, I have read and reread Robert E's postings about values and as
yet they don't really discuss the central point that bothered ME about them:
that is, is it possible to validly claim that one set of values was preferable
to another, and if so how and why?

In my last posting, I did point out that incoherence and contradictions were
one reason we might claim one set of values superior to another. Yet that still
leaves the issue of deciding such a claim when BOTH sets of values were 
internally consistent.

It is far from obvious that even if all human beings share (at an animal level)
the same basic desires, they will then, if consistent, adopt the same sets of
values. To be primitive about it, suppose I claim that Robert Ettinger owes
me a living, and he claims I owe him a living. (Of course, we can devise fine
sets of values, philosophical and otherwise, which lead to these conclusions.

One good postulate, of course, would be something like: "I am the most 
importantperson in the world, and all other people have worth only insofar as 
have worth to me."). Clearly as a set of values if I try to pursue them I will
meet with LOTS of opposition ... funny about that. And we can note that lots

of national groups even now come close to believing such ideas about themselves.

Naturally when values conflict in this way, the conflict can also be settled by
force. But force is not an ARGUMENT. Just how do we conclude that my values (or
Ettinger's values) are preferable to his(mine)? Or those of some Indian peasant
in Maharashtra state? Or a tiger's, or a cow's?

nanotechnology and Nanotechnology

I have written about this issue a good deal, and some people replied. Perhaps
by doing so they have convicted themselves (nanotechnology is the technology,
full stop. It has uses but in no sense is to be deified or thought to be
all-powerful; Nanotechnology is exactly the deification of nanotechnology, the
belief that it will so obviously solve all our problems THAT WE NEED TO DO

Apparently both people have a computer science/electronics/physics background.
That's fine. However cryonicists, no matter what their background, must 
understand exactly why biotechnology bears so strongly on them. I hope they've
noticed it, too ... if they haven't, they have a severe problem which I
cannot deal with simply by argument. What we notice about all of us (funny!)

If we are to understand just how to freeze our brains, we must necessarily
do a good deal of biology to understand what happens to our brain when it is
frozen. And for the Nanotechnology people, even worse, we have no chance at
all of reviving others or ourselves unless we understand AT LEAST brains and
how they work. How are we supposed to read the information in our brains into
a computer unless we first understand how it is stored and where it is stored?
Remember: cryonics doesn't just freeze everything in place. Oh no! It causes
changes; and from those changes we need to decipher the original.

The evidence that we may be revivable to date consists of papers in neuro- 
biology about the workings of our brain and in cryobiology about the effect of
suspension on living tissue. NO nanotechnology has been used to date even to
evaluate such evidence. I do not understand how any cryonicist can even 
decide to become so without first acquiring some understanding of the 
biochemistry and anatomy involved. (Yes, there have been arguments to the
effect that the structure can be STORED in a computer memory of such and such
a size. But that doesn't revive anyone or anything. To do that we must find
a way to infer the former structure from that which suspension has produced:
and THAT too requires a knowledge of neurobiology at least).

Now a Nanotechnology person may simply leave that to the Nanotechnology of the
future to work out. He may feel that he need not bother with any of that dirty
smelly biology because it will all be handled for him by his virtuous and 
intelligent Machines. But there is more: anyone who actually reads the work
on cryobiology of brains (such as it is!!) and reports of suspensions knows
that right now there is some uncertainty as to whether we really ARE preserving
enough information ---- by which I mean, the information required to work out
what the original structures and neurobiology was, regardless of how powerful
a computer may be put to that job. Not only that, but not all suspensions 
give the same result: sometimes the patient isn't reached for hours, sometimes
something goes wrong, and the methods cryonicists have used have changed over
time. So all right: are you revivable if they only get to you 3 hours later,
3 hours after your heart and breathing stop? We don't even KNOW even in the
best case that sufficient information is currently preserved.

Furthermore, there ARE other methods to produce VERY strong evidence that this
information survives. If we fully understand the neurobiology of memory, then
we can look for the structures that preserve it, and for their survival, in
experimentally suspended animals. It is not absolutely necessary to revive a
brain to show that the essential information has NOT been destroyed. This is,
of course, all biology. And it may interest anyone who hasn't followed this
question to hear that neurobiologists have been drawing closer and closer to
such an understanding. At the current rate of advance in brain cryobiology,
that will probably happen some time before we can actually revive a working
brain from the very low temperatures required. Biology. Biology.

As to the publicity effects of cryonicists actively working to improve their
methods NOW, I don't see how it could be anything but favorable. And if we
do such work, we are certain to discover all kinds of problems with previous
suspensions. That is part of progress; as Paul Wakfer has said, and I concur,
on the issue of survival we must be brutally frank and open.

If all your training has been in physics, mathematics, and the so-called
"hard" sciences (so deciphering DNA is not hard? so supramolecular chemistry
is not hard?) there is much more to say. First, people like Watson and Crick
came OUT OF physics and mathematics. That was the origin of molecular 
biology. Ettinger came to his conclusions as a PHYSICIST. For that matter,
though I don't intend this to be a comparison between me and Crick, my own
background is as a MATHEMATICIAN. (Yes, with a lot of programming too). So
just what grounds are there to believe that you can't contribute because
you aren't in the right field? --- not to mention that there is a field
called biophysics which may have a lot to say, or that the immediate activity
of brains is both chemical and ELECTRICAL.

Finally, as for nanotechnology, in terms of dealing with brains rather than
producing computers, the biological side of nanotechnology is far in advance.
After all, we already have nanotechnological machines in active use. We call
them modified viruses, and the only reason they have not been applied directly
to human beings (there has been one very successful recent application. Cf
the latest issue of PERIASTRON) is political rather than technological. They
have been very widely applied to animals. And plants, including tomatoes (is
that a lesson for cryonicists too?). Nor is it true, as at least one person
in this discussion has claimed, that before Drexler wrote his nanotechnology
book cryonicists had not thought about means for revival and repair. (Those
who believe that might reread Drexler himself, when he discusses the thoughts
of cryonicists on this issue).

Ultimately I don't really care what anybody believes about the future. The
future will come and be what it is, probably surprising all of us. But I do
not believe that our own survival will be helped at all by a feeling among
cryonicists that revival is a SOLVED PROBLEM to which they need devote no
more work HERE AND NOW. And for that matter, given the present state of
nanotechnology, that work will inevitably involve biology. It is particularly
frustrating to know, as Wakfer has mentioned, that brain vitrification may
be very close, yet cryonicists have as yet done little to move toward it.
And if any cryonicist feels that they cannot contribute except by giving
money, nanotechnologist or not, then they have a project to which they can
give money.

Long long life,

	Thomas Donaldson

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