X-Message-Number: 5909
From: John Sharman <>
Newsgroups: sci.cryonics,sci.life-extension
Subject: Re: Virtue of suffering
Date: Fri, 08 Mar 96 22:09:54 GMT
Message-ID: <>
References: <> <>

In article <>
            "Mark Muhlestein" writes:

> John Sharman wrote:
> > 
> > In article <>
> >             "Mark Muhlestein" writes:
> > 
> > > John Sharman wrote:

Hmm. 277 lines already. That's around a third of a "Corley". I cannot in
all conscience continue to inflict this on readers of uk.legal ignoring
their possible unwillingness. So what follows will go to sci.cryonics
only. Apart from my .sig

> > > A common theme of your postings is that
> > > you declare, in many cases quite insolently, that the feasibility of
> > > cryonics is vanishingly remote,
> > 
> > That is simply not so. I say yet again that there are strong arguments
> > for the proposition that it is feasible in the sense that there may
> > come a time when persons who have been frozen at an earlier time may be
> > restored to useful life. I expressed grave doubts as to the prospects
> > for revival of those already frozen (i.e. vintage '95 and earlier)
> Well, prospects for people frozen with today's technology is the focus
> of our discussion, since that is what we have to deal with. So I believe
> my characterization stands.  (But if you must have doubts, I do not blame
> you for having "grave" doubts :-)

Within that limited frame of reference I proposed a chance of success of
the order of 10^-4. In standing by that I take into account the
possibilities of

     1.  Failure of nanotechnology to mature for "internal reasons" (a
         practical barrier or obstacle proves insurmountable or at least
         is not surmounted - ever.
     2.  Funding fails through lack of investment yield
     3.  Funding lost to dishonesty
     4.  Funding lost to act of State (lawful confiscation)
     5.  Continued cryopreservation declared illegal
     6.  Climatic disaster
     7.  Failure of support through pestilence
     8.  Seismic disaster.
     9.  Disaster by way of ionising radiation
    10.  Vandalism
    11.  Riot or similar social disorder
    12.  Sharp relative rise in cost of liquid N2
    13.  Deprivation of liquid N2 due to social or State emergency
    14.  Human error in maintenance procedures
    15.  Nanotechnology develops in other directions
    16.  Nanotechnology forced to develop in other directions.
    17.  Revival possible but prohibited
    18.  Revival possible but nobody's interested
    19.  Essential information/structure lost in mid 90's freezes
    20.  People learn that death is acceptable (war)
    21.  Robert Whitaker thawed - lesson learned - program cancelled.

and that is just a few of the pitfalls. For some of them, the
probability increses over time; for others it does not. The rate of
technological progress (concerning which cryonicists seem immensely and
injustifiably optmistic) is a crucial factor. For myself, I cynically
observe that it is upon social rather than technical rocks that cryonics
will founder in the long term, though item 19, if it applies, is
literally fatal to the chances of today's specimens.

> > >                                  but at the same time contemptuously
> > > brush off anyone who would try to get you to evaluate the available
> > > evidence.

You are the ones with everything to prove. You devise your list and put
some numbers on it.

> > What "evidence" have you of the actual development in future of the
> > techniques which you concede will be necessary if the dream of
> > successful cryonics is to become a reality?
> Motivations for the development of enabling technologies are discussed
> in the cryonics literature.  Briefly, we can be sure that there will be
> strong economic and human incentives to develop nanotechnology and
> other advanced medical applications to help living people.

Where are they? Economics and altruism are uneasy (maybe incompatible)

>                                                              These same
> technologies will form the base from which a revival capability can be
> built.
> > Evaluating speculation may
> > be fun, but all I end up with is my view of your guess.
> If your view of my guess causes you to take action which gives you
> an unlimited healthy lifespan, it could be more than just fun.

I'm not even sure that I want a healthy lifespan. At present I'm
seriously contemplating taking up smoking again after a break of many

> > >            What would you say if you were trying to argue a point to
> > > a judge who had already decided you are wrong, and refused to examine
> > > the excellent evidence you were able to produce?
> > 
> > Usually in these circumstances I try to think very carefully why the
> > Judge (who is likely to be more experienced than I and not suffering
> > from my need to grind an axe) and attempt to work out why he is not
> > impressed with my evidence. More often than not it turns out that he is
> > right. If not, then I appeal. Sometimes I win the appeal; sometimes I
> > don't.
> You are talking about a judge who is not impressed with your evidence.
> I am talking about a judge who refuses to look at your evidence.

Sometimes they have the perspicacity to realise that I have no cause of
action. They don't need to consider the evidence then.

> [poor cryopreservation]
> > "All structure not utterly obliterated" would seem to me to be a pretty
> > fair statement. If I take a mirror and smash it into a million pieces,
> > then I *may* with enormous effort solve the jigsaw puzzle and correctly
> > juxtapose every single fragment. But what I get back is no good as a
> > mirror.
> Failure of imagination.  If you in fact juxtapose every single fragment,
> you will have your original mirror back good as new.  It would be
> unimaginably difficult for a human to reassemble the mirror, but it is
> possible to imagine appropriate machinery which might be up to the task.

When glass shatters, the deformation is such that a "perfect" fit
between the pieces is impossible. Hence there will be an interface for
refraction at every such interface. You remember the way car windscreens
used to shatter before zone toughening? And, of course, what is the use
of a mirror that you cannot pick up or hang on the wall?

> [case of 99% memory loss]
> > It would be less me than an identical twin - i.e. not at all.
> I'm curious why you think *less* than a twin?

Because the identical twin and I would have a greater level of
(subjective) shared awareness/memory.

> > >                                                          There have been
> > > such cases.  I personally know someone that happened to, and I can assure
> > > you that in spite of the fact that he lost almost 100% of his memories,
> > > he is very glad to be alive, and he treasures those few memories he
> > > retains.
> > 
> > But he isn't the same "person". That is not to say that he cannot enjoy
> > a worthwhile existence.
> Of course he isn't the same person.  Neither am I the same person I was
> at age 5.

Well I most definitely am the same person (though at a different stage
of development) that I was when I was five.

>             For us now, it is not difficult to decide what to do if we
> encounter someone so unfortunate as to have lost most of their memories.
> We try to help them the best way we can to recover and go on with life.
> We help them remember, teach them what we can about themselves, and we
> support them in building a new life.

You are assuming that cryo will be able to produce at least 1% memory
recovery. I would be highly interested to know why you think the revivee
will be able even to dribble properly or manage even involuntary

> I'm not suggesting that there is a good chance of restoring someone who
> has been embalmed, disinterred and frozen.  I'm not even saying that I
> feel sure it will be possible to recover even one memory.  But it may
> be possible, and if someone wants to do it, with the rock-solid proviso
> that they fully understand the low probability of salvaging anything of
> value, I have no problem with it.

"May be" summarises in two words the whole philosophy of cryonics or so
it seems. What is and demonstrably will be (to high rather than
miniscule probabilities) must constitute a more worthy object for my

> > > So it is unreasoning fanaticisim for me to say that I am glad my friend
> > > is alive because of modern medical technology?  Since we don't know
> > > how much future technology will be able to do, the conservative thing
> > > is to try preserve the most we can and hope something can be salvaged.
> > > If we fail, we at least have tried.
> > 
> > No. It is unreasoning fanaticism to maintain seriously that you have any
> > real prospects of restoring to their former lives the embalmed
> > disinterred corpses. Your attempt to draw a parallel with a case of
> > severe traumatic memory loss is not successful.
> It only fails as a parallel if no memory is ever recovered from such an
> "embalmed disinterred corpse."

Nonsense. A fragment of memory would be just that. A useless single
shard. But you won't even make it to that and if you can't see it you
have a problem.

> As I mentioned above, I am not suggesting that such a case would result in
> having their former life restored.  I am simply stating that it *may* be
> possible to recover something of value from someone so preserved.  You
> have passed judgement on something on which I reserve judgement.  You may
> be right; only time will ultimately tell.

Well I'm afraid that "May Be's" are a debased currency. We're not
accepting them any more.

> [...]
> > No. The burden of proof does not rest on me. You have *no* evidence to
> > support your assertions. So far you can detect a little electrical
> > activity in the thawed out brain of a frozen cat. What do you get from
> > the brain of a cat that's been lying dead by the roadside for a day or
> > two?
> I have repeatedly pointed you to evidence for my assertions.  You have
> repeatedly declined to look at it.  Now you baldly state that I have
> no evidence.  This is the phenomenon I was referring to in my last post.

Sorry. I missed the book that deals with dead cats by the roadside. What
was the ISBN once again?

> [...]
> > *Prove* to me that nanotechnology will not be able to reconstruct a
> > person from such smoke. Let it back-track every molecule, every atom to
> > its original location. Why not?
> I have not heard of technology that is in principle capable of performing
> such a back-track operation.

You haven't heard? Never mind. There may be such a technology. Surely
you can't be suggesting that there's something that nanotechnology will
not achieve, even given time?

>                               The reconstruction of memories from
> cryopreserved brain tissues, while certainly beyond imagination today,
> *may* be possible, depending on the degree of preservation of the structures
> that turn out to encode memories, and our ability to decode the mess
> that has resulted from the poor preservation.
> > >                                                             If you
> > > want to speak with such confidence about cryonics, you must pay
> > > the price and investigate more.
> > 
> > I am not speaking about cryonics at all. The freezing is an irrelevancy
> > in the circumstances of a days-old embalmed corpse. To describe such as
> > a "late term case" is like saying that Fred West was "not an ideal
> > parent".
> Since you have sure knowledge about this, perhaps you would be good enough
> to explain exactly how memories are encoded, and the degree to which
> those structures are degraded over time, along with a detailed description
> of all future medical technologies.  That way, we can all share your
> conviction.

Sure. The brain is inhabited by fourth dimensional demons. Their
conversation is the phenomenon which you experience as consciousness.
When the host dies they stop talking and start moving out. You disagree?
You prove it ain't so.

> Incidentally, I was not specifically referring to a days-old embalmed
> corpse by using the term "late term case."  In general, I would apply
> that to anyone who has not signed up before they are at death's door.
> I would warn anyone thinking of cryonics against putting it off until
> it becomes clear you are going to need it, because you are seriously
> risking being refused as a client.

Well, I *was* referring to the days-old embalmed corpse. All the demons
moved out. How are you going to entice them back?

> [...]
> > > We are talking about your future life here, not some kind of hobby
> > > or preference.  Does it not seem cavalier to trivialize your possible
> > > future, given that you are operating without the facts of the matter?
> > 
> > I do not consider that I am talking about *my* future life. While I
> > don't care whether or not I'm frozen once I'm dead (though I fear it
> > would upset my wife) I would definitely prefer my family to have the
> > $100,000.
> Right here, you *are* talking about your future life, since you said earlier,
> "If I perceive a huge shortening of those odds during my lifetime, then I
> *may* rethink, but probably not."

"Probably not" Hence "I do not consider ...."

>                                    I suggested you could shorten the odds
> right now just by investigating the evidence that currently exists, to which
> you replied that you don't like truffles.  To me, that implied you consider
> the prospect of an extended future life to be of minor importance to you.
> I can see that that is one major difference in our outlooks, although I
> suspect that if you thought you had a real chance at an extended healthy
> life you would gladly avail yourself of the opportunity.  That's why I
> keep harping on this note.

As I have clearly stated (with examples), I don't like the way I see
things going. I quite seriously think that I *may be* lucky to have only
a modest span of years remaining to me.

> If you were reasonably convinced cryonics would work, I'm sure you could
> come up with a way to put in a few extra hours to somehow get another,
> further $100,000 :-)

No. It's more than just working. Once you've got over that 10^-4 hurdle
you've still got to convince me that it's worthwhile.

> > BTW we are all operating without the facts - and on the basis
> > of differing speculations.
> The facts I was referring to are those detailed in the cryonics and
> nanotechnology literature.

One gerbil would be worth ten times the whole lot of that.


> [direction of human progress]
> > It's an ever-shifting pattern of shade and sunshine. But are we just
> > after dawn or approaching the dusk? In the early 70's I would probably
> > have predicted (perfectly reasonably on the basis of then available
> > evidence) that by the early 21st century nearly all electric power
> > would be generated in nuclear powered stations. The reasons why this
> > will not be true have not stemmed from lack of technology.
> Good point, and all the more reason to try to do what we can to make
> a better climate for cryonics to succeed.  Your comments on the
> uncertainty of future societal developments are very well taken, and
> no one should minimize the seriousness of the threat society poses
> for the would-be cryonicist.  Unlike some others, I find much of value
> in the work done by the legal profession, and I can see that having
> knowledgable allies in the legal arena is supremely important for the
> protection and development of cryonics.

Are you able to explain why cryonicists almost invariably insist on
confusing lawyers with legislators?

> > > If you are willing to say that life can be good, and worth anything, then
> > > cryonics can be seen as a natural extension of that feeling.  You think
> > > it is wildly improbable, based on what you know about it and your gut
> > > feelings.  I again invite you to make some effort and see if you will
> > > validate your first reaction, or perhaps take a little more optimistic
> > > view of the subject.
> > 
> > It's not what I want. I detest opera. Even if somebody offered me the
> > best seat in the best private box, I would still detest opera. A
> > fortiori I would not spend a long time queueing up in the cold on the
> > off-chance that the box office *may* open one day. I ain't buying what
> > they're selling.

But I can recall queueing to buy tickets to see Dylan and the Stones.
That was then. I wouldn't do it now. My life has moved on into a
different phase. I go after what I want. Cryonics is not what I want.

> This is an incredible statement.  The subject of discourse is long, healthy
> life in an interesting future.

"May be". Equally, it may be nothingness. Or an existence as a
pain-wracked island of consciousness in a hell the terror of which you
cannot even begin to conceptualise. May be.

>                                  I'll shorten that to "life+."  I said life+
> sounds good, and you replied (I'll supply appropriate substitutions):
> "It's not what I want. I detest life+. Even if somebody offered me perfect
> circumstances in a perfect body, I would still detest life+.

I detest a life of the kind which you purport to offer. Growing old and
dying is part of my plan. I want to hand the future to my kids. Not to
steal it from them.

>                                                               A fortiori I
> would not expend any time or effort to learn about having such a life on
> the off-chance that it *may* be a possibility."

That's right. By my own lights I have better ways to spend my time.
That's not to say that I shall not read the books. If I think that I may
enjoy the read and if I find the time, then I may read some of them. But
I have a lot of unread books on my list already.

> Since "life+" is in principle like your current life only better, I am
> finding it difficult to believe your statement accurately conveys your
> feelings.  You don't seem to be as down on life as that.  I have come
> to respect you through these discussions, and I will be very sad if you
> tell me your life is so miserable you can't imagine liking a better one.

By using the word "better" you beg the question. I have my own view of
my own life and it is a finite thing of length as yet undetermined but
I've probably got between 30 and 50 years to go (less if I take up
smoking again). I enjoy the passage of time and the changes that it
brings. Though I regret the loss of the metal agility which I enjoyed
when I was younger, yet I appreciate the cunning and facility which I
have gained from experience. I look at my parents, both of whom are
still alive - I don't want them to live beyond their time, much though
they mean to me. Nor do I want it for myself. Now I do not deny that
there may be circumstances in which I would seek to prolong the life
which I have. I'm not suicidal. But I really don't think that it would
be an indefinite prolongation that I would seek.

John Sharman
 |  John Sharman               Internet:    |
 |                             Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1603 452142            |

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