X-Message-Number: 5951
From:  (Thomas Donaldson)
Subject: For Merel, Soreff, Owen Lewis, and John Clark
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 1996 00:02:10 -0800 (PST)

Hi again:

1. To Peter Merel:
   What matters in terms of the number of people that Tasmania (or wherever)
   can support is just how many THEIR technology can support. To us, 
   Tasmania is quite large enough to support a whole country. To the 
   original Tasmanians, it could support far fewer people. I'd have to hunt
   up the reference, but I understand that even without the arrival of
   Europeans the Tasmanians were slowly decreasing in number and would have
   eventually become extinct.

   If you want to claim that ALL civilizations destroy themselves, then 
   I don't see how you can argue that case from past history. Certainly 
   civilizations can change, and in that sense destroy themselves, but those 
   which make their milieu impossible for any successor to survive are much
   more rare. One country (or civilization) has, of course, destroyed or
   severely damaged another by damaging its environment, but that is yet a
   different case (I think of the extensive irrigation system in Mesopotamia,
   apparently kept working for thousands of years until the Mongols invaded
   and destroyed it). 

   I will, however, make one point close to yours. I do not believe that 
   human beings will last indefinitely unless they go into space, eventually
   in a big way. We are close to pushing the limits of the planet Earth:
   not so close as environmentalists claim, but close in terms of hundreds
   of years. I don't see any essential problems to settling space, but
   it's not something for the next 5 years. Nanotechnology or not, we will
   run into resource problems if we do not (nanotechnology, of course, may
   may going into space much easier too --- it may have already started to
   do that, with the Martin-Douglas reusable rocket, one stage to orbit, 
   that they are testing now). But if we do not we will enter into a long
   decline and finally die out. 

   And perhaps to annoy some readers, I'd say that many environmentalists
   would probably oppose any idea of going into space, just as they opposed
   nuclear energy and various other things which would make the world a
   cleaner place and decrease our load on the ecosystem. Fundamentally, 
   some environmentalists seem to want our extinction to happen, as soon
   as possible --- perhaps so the birds and fish can continue their 
   Darwinian activities until the next asteroid strikes the Earth.

2. About freezing damage, for Jeff Soreff:
   I don't know of the specific article by Mike, but I will say this. His own
   recent work at Biopreservation, as discussed in the 4 July issue of 
   CRYOCARE REPORT, looks to me to be a good deal more friendly. If we have
   1 micron pieces of tissue broken off, then they won't be able to move far
   just because they are surrounded by other tissue remains. It's not as
   if (even when thawed) this tissue is diluted by water. Instead you would
   have a very thick slurry, with corresponding limits on how fast any 
   piece could move. Even in the worst case discussed in that article, the
   damage, however, didn't look to be the kind you describe. 

   Furthermore, if we DO expect such a thing to happen when someone is revived,
   we would do the obvious thing to stop it from happening: while it is 
   thawing, put into the mix something which makes the pieces move even 
   more slowly. This would take a lot of biochemical/chemical knowledge to
   design such a solution, but the normal fixatives for biological preparations
   provide a start. Other cryonicists have suggested much more complex systems
   which might actually work on the tissue before it thaws; just how far we
   need to go here (I believe) remains an open question. (If we devised a 
   suitable gell which was at the same time accessible to our repair systems,
   that would solve the problem even at temperatures in which water was

3. To John Clark:
   You talk as if Deep Blue were a responsible agent. Deep Blue comes nowhere
   near to being a responsible agent; it is just a big and fast computer. 
   Those who programmed it are the responsible agents here, and Kasparov
   beat them and not Deep Blue. And if you believe that any computer that
   now exists is a responsible agent, golly, you're pretty far gone. I say
   this not because I believe that we cannot SOMEDAY devise computers/machines/
   devices of some kind which ARE responsible agents, but because we have not
   yet done that. (The fact that Deep Blue could beat them in chess means
   nothing: my Apple IIGS can calculate faster than I can, but remains a 
   tool, not an agent).

   As for intelligence, I don't believe it can be compared to "elegance". 
   That is the key point I was making: we really do need to understand it 
   better before we can have any hope of manipulating it. Your simile of
   an elegant proof actually reinforces my point: anyone who can see that
   a proof is elegant must first understand a great deal about the mathematics
   involved. Otherwise the proof is not elegant, it is meaningless.

   Not only that, but again: if you were asked to write a program which was
   elegant, with no other restrictions, I suspect that you'd think a bit
   and ask for something more in terms of specification. Sure, you'd think.
   I can write an elegant program, or at least one which looks to me like
   its elegant. But will this contractee actually pay me for it? Why should
   he do so when he can just turn around and claim that it's NOT elegant
   and I haven't fulfilled the contract? Who is to decide and how are they
   to decide? 

   There is a very big gulf between common ways of speaking about how we
   think and the chemical and electrical processes which take place in living
   brains. We have several different kinds of memory, to start, not just 
   one (the number hasn't yet been worked out). We and other primates have 
   special circuits to recognize faces of members of our own species,
   and elaborate circuitry to see (some) colors and (some) shapes. We have
   lots of other modules to carry out other processes. Special circuitry 
   for social interaction is present, too. One consequence of that, seen
   in people with damaged brains, is that sometimes these abilities become
   dissociated from one another in spectacular ways. If I cannot recognize
   anyone else's face, but can do vector calculus, am I or am I not 
   intelligent? Or suppose that I can see and remember far more than the
   normal number of animals and plants, but find it quite impossible to even
   understand and remember the appearance and use of a hammer or screwdriver?
   Or suppose that I have ONLY learned numbers, not figuratively but 
   literally: I know and recognize nothing else, have to be fed by a 
   caretaker, dressed, taken to the toilet by a caretaker: but can give
   you a very fast answer to whether or not a BIG number is a prime? And
   see Fermat's Last Theorem as obvious, but cannot explain why to anyone?
   Is that intelligence? (I just described something which comes close to 
   an actual case: two twins in an institution who sat by themselves and
   told prime numbers to one another, nothing else, all day long. And those
   prime numbers were not obvious, but very large). Is such
   a person intelligent?

   And when we start thinking of other animals, or of computers, the 
   number of possible processing grows tremendously. Where is the intelligence
   in all of these abilities? Or do you want some other brain module, as yet
   undefined, to do something we don't yet understand? And if so, what?

4. To Owen:
   I doubt that you have had any of the experiences to which you allude
   when you say that some things can be worse than death. You are only 
   thoughtlessly repeating something you have heard many times. 

   Not only that, but those which come to my mind, and which I have come
   close to having, if anything reinforce my aim to be cryonically 
   suspended. I refer to such things as losing my ability to think while
   still kept alive (just what my brain tumor threatened to do). That is
   exactly why I fought the lawsuit, in fact: I wanted to be suspended 
   before that could happen. 

   Certainly I can imagine other problems, but none of them is likely to
   happen: what if someone could take control of me, for instance, forcing
   me to do what they wanted rather than what I wanted, as if I were their
   toy. And (again hypothetically) I would risk a great deal, including my
   life, to avoid that. But hypotheses hypotheses hypotheses: I know of
   nothing REAL or LIKELY that would make me choose death over suspension.

			Best, and long long life,

				Thomas Donaldson



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