X-Message-Number: 32630
From: Gerald Monroe <>
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2010 14:27:59 -0500
Subject: Hello everyone


   My name is Gerald Monroe, I am 28 years old, and I am starting medical
school this fall.  I hold a master's degree and I have spent some of my
lifespan on things like becoming an Army medic, which is why I am starting
medical school so late in life.

 I've become interested in cryonics after taking a human anatomy course.
 The first cadavar I had to work on was a man in his late 50s who had been
in decent physical condition when he died.  All the muscles and nerves and
everything looked just fine - he had been embalmed recently, and so all his
parts looked like they would still work.  Probably would, if it were not
from subtle damage at the molecular level to all those cells.  When we
opened his chest, we found that his heart was wired up with a pacemaker,
a defibrillator, and had several bypass grafts.  Heart surgeons and a whole
crew of professionals had labored on this man for many hours but ultimately
there he was on the slab, all his memories and personality and everything
else lost forever.  I thought to myself : what's the point of being a heart
surgeon if it only delays this outcome by a few years?  No matter what the
surgeon had done, he would have ended up here eventually.  As a side note, I
found that his left ventricle was so hypertrophied that there was only a
tiny cavity remaining for pumping blood.  He needed a new heart or an LVAD
to have lived any longer.  Everything else looked just fine : an entire man,
brought down by a single faulty part.

   Upon realizing that nearly all of established medicine cannot do anything
but delay death, I'm wondering if anything meaningful can be done to fix
this problem entirely.  What's the point of a procedure that extends
someone's life by a few years if in the end all of the experiences that
person enjoys or suffers through over the gained years is lost at death?
 I'm not a very religious person, and upon seeing these dead bodies in the
tanks, I've realized that as a scientist I cannot deny the cold hard reality
in front of my eyes.  There's no evidence for heaven or hell, but there sure
as heck appears to be evidence that these people are dead, and that all
their memories and personality have been destroyed just as soon
as sufficient damage was done to their brain tissue.

So I started thinking about the technical elements of it.  If you froze
someone's brain, how would you rebuild it into a working state?  You'd have
to have some kind of machine that scanned in every single atom and then used
the information to design a brain that would live again.  Sounds totally
impossible, there's 10 to the 24 or 25th power particles in a human brain.
 You'd need a machine like a scanning tunneling electron microscope to look
at every single atom individually and then remove that atom to get to the
ones below it.  Such a process would necessarily be destructive - you'd end
up with a pile of separated atoms somewhere, and a computer file containing
the information that had been in the person's mind.  Plus, a scanning
tunneling microscope is terribly slow - it would probably take eons to
finish the job.  Being reduced to a computer file doesn't sound like a valid
continuity of existence.

On the other hand, the human brain is terribly noisy and inaccurate, and
cells die all the time.  The cells clean up old proteins and swap in new
ones to replace them constantly, even at the synapses.  The only thing
that's held constant between now and all my memories from 10 years ago is
the information itself - not the atoms.  If you could somehow speed up the
process of scanning in a human brain, maybe being reduced to a high fidelity
data file would be the same as still being alive.  If we have souls, and
there is no evidence for this, then God presumably would associate our souls
to that data file in His secret realm outside of ours.

Well, then I read Eric Drexler's blog.  He has a prototype design for what
looks an awful like a scanning tunneling micrscope head but reduced to a few
thousand atoms.  You could fit trillions and trillions of these heads per
square centimeter in a big array.  All the control electronics for each head
would be composed of molecular circuitry, replacing what is currently a rack
full of circuit boards with a few hundred thousand atoms.  But how could you
manufacture something like this?  If the heads were a sufficiently complex
machine, they could replicate themselves.

Suddenly, it all seems readily achievable - an inevitable progression of
technology.  At some point in the future, technology will reach the point
that making an atomic 'print head' will be a genuine possibility.  This will
be a machine that through some mechanism will be able to arbitrarily place
and bond atoms to a molecular surface.  To solve the problem that Richard *
Smalley** **raised, the molecular heads will probably actually have a
metallic surface that clamps down on the surface under construction, and a
molecular piston would force a charged and reactive intermediate onto the
surface.  A chemical reaction would occur, and a single atom is bonded to a
molecular surface.  All this would be happening at very low temperatures
inside a vacuum chamber.  (the metallic surface is needed to clamp
everything into place...Richard Smalley's main objection to nanotechnology
is that existing cellular nanotechnology in cellular enzymes needs water to
act as a cage to prevent the reactive species from escaping).  *

Building the first atomic print head would be difficult.  It might takes
thousands of scientists and engineers, and many many experiments where each
component of the head would have to be tested separately.  Billions of
dollars later, you'd have a single working head that could only be seen with
a scanning tunneling microscope.  But with such an achievement, most of our
current human problems would be over.  You'd give the head the instructions
to make a copy of itself, and those 2 heads would copy themselves, and so
forth.  Even if the heads were very slow and took a week to replicate
themselves, with exponential growth you could have enough to cover the earth
in a little over a year.

The next step in the technology would be to reverse the process.  Make the
print heads able to pick up atoms instead of place them, thus slowly
disassembling a solid object at a low temperature.  This would be easy -
making a 'scanning' head would be trivial once you have the technology to
print any arbitrary molecular design, and you can simply tweak the design of
a print head to work in reverse and to report back which atoms it picks up
and what bond they had.  You could also print out molecular computers with
enough memory to actually store the coordinates of every atom in a human

Phase three would be to use the technology on the human brains of volunteers
and to use the synaptic organization and strength data to build an
artificial intelligence.  With molecular circuitry capable of running a
human scale neural network billions of times faster than real-time, even a
crude and imperfect simulation of the human brain would probably still
result in a super-intelligent entity.  Said entity, once trained and
educated, could redesign the molecular manufacturing technology to be far
faster and efficient, and could also solve the problem of how to turn a
molecular scan of a dead human mind into a blueprint of one that would
return to life once warmed to operating temperature.

Phase 4 : those human beings who were frozen with enough of their brain
intact and who were kept preserved long enough would awaken into this
strange and possibly frightening world.  We would be revived for the same
reason that archaeologists today put together the jigsaw puzzles of
shattered human skeletons and burial death masks - curiosity.  I don't know
what a world with exponentially growing nanotechnology and super-intelligent
entities would be like to live in, but I suspect it would be an environment
that none of us would be adapted for.  But I do think that being alive in
such a strange place would be better than what currently appears to be our
fate : oblivion for eternity.

So that's how I see it.  I think something like I just went over is flat out
inevitable.  No law or public protest can stop it.  Any nation that
developed a working high speed molecular printer would rapidly develop an
overwhelming advantage over the rest of the world and could act with
impunity.  It would make nearly every industry on the planet obsolete in a
matter of months.

The key is for those of us not fortunate to live to see this happen is to
avoid brain destruction.

    Dangers - any sort of disease or accident that results in brain
destruction.  Unwitnessed episodes of sudden cardiac death, alzheimer's
disease, and stroke are high on the list of dangers.  I'm wondering - has
anyone found a state or country that would allow voluntary euthanasia of
alzheimer's and stroke patients?  This would allow us to freeze these
patients while they are still neurologically intact rather than waiting for
their brains to destroy themselves internally.

   Second danger - anything that destroys the cryogenically frozen patients
during the decades it will take for the revival technology to be developed.
 I thought of a solution for this - a rocket launch to the L2 point where
the temperature is about 50 kelvin.  Since a human head is only about 5
kilograms, this might be fiscally practical in another 20 years.

    Anyways, I've decided that for my own life, I want to make the maximum
contribution possible to this effort.  Any other field of medicine is
pointless if there actually is a realistic possibility of solving the
problem of death for most human beings.  So my tentative plan is to reach
the maximum possible level of academic achievement in medical school, with
the goal of entering a specialty where I might be able to lend some
credibility and funding to this effort.

                                                     Gerald Monroe

p.s.  I read today's digest, and I understand your frustration.  Human
beings are incredibly short-sighted creatures by design.  Evolution has
warped our thinking in this way.  It will never be easy to make cryogenics
popular until we are much closer to having the underlying tech for a


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