X-Message-Number: 878
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1992 10:06 EDT
From: Ronald Hale-Evans <>
Subject: Macro-damage

I just read the message about the Alcor member who was shot. Clearly, this is a
tragedy, not least because the damage done was to the member's brain. It does
raise a question about which I have been thinking for some time, confronted by
the question on my Alcor application, whether to have whatever remains of my
body and brain collected and preserved if they encounter severe trauma (beyond
"mere" warm ischemia, e.g. as mentioned above). 

I think this is an important question for every cryonicist, and I would like to
hear some opinions on the topic. I will call severe trauma "macrodamage" to
distinguish it from "microdamage" such as cellular damage caused by freezing. 
To remove the debate a little bit from the recent tragedy, what happens if your
head is crushed in an automobile accident? Is your personality then
irretrievable to 2Nth-century medicine? It is my (considered but not
necessarily informed) opinion that it may not be irretrievable. Consider the
analogy of restoration of an oil painting. If the painting suffers microdamage,
e.g.  the paint is randomized on the canvas, it may be relatively difficult to
recover compared to a case of macrodamage only, e.g. the canvas being torn up
into a number of pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. Archaeologists can restore
scrolls that have come apart into quite tiny pieces (macrodamage), but I think
it might be more considerably more difficult even with nanotechnology to repair
scrolls that had suffered severe randomization of the ink on the surface by
water or some other means (microdamage). 

Another question that the issue of macrodamage raises is whether there is
sufficient redundancy in the brain to allow for recovery of personality when a
significant portion of the brain is lost. At the risk of bad taste, what
happens in the above automobile accident when portions of the patient's brain
are scraped off the pavement and disposed of by an ignorant cleanup crew? I
think this is a *very* important question. We may find some partial answers in
the recovery of stroke victims, whose injuries have made portions of their
brains inaccessible. (This holds only for the present; with nanotech,
presumably stroke injury would be relatively easy to repair.)

In *Mind Children*, Hans Moravec suggests that with sufficient computing power
it would be possible to create a model of the Earth and run it backwards,
thereby rescuing the personalities of people who died without cryonic
preservation. Although this may seem blue-sky right now, consider what even a
small portion of neural and genetic material might do for the rescue of a
patient in this scenario, not to mention how biographical and autobiographical
material such as journals might help.

It's not my intention to claim that microdamage is irreparable. I believe, at
least in the case of freezing injury, it probably is not. I do wonder, though,
whether macrodamage is generally as irreparable as it might seem on first
examination. One question I have not considered here is whether a brain
structure that undergoes *both* macro- and microdamage can be repaired. For the
sake of the Alcor member who was just shot, and for the sake of other people
who will undoubtedly meet with macrodamage in the future, I hope it is possible
to repair brains that have met with severe trauma.

Ron Hale-Evans
Editor and Publisher, *Singularity*

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