Comments on: The Kurzwild Man in the Night A revolution in time. Thu, 11 Apr 2013 01:11:28 +0000 hourly 1 By: Mark Plus Mark Plus Mon, 24 Dec 2012 01:28:00 +0000 Kurzweil’s new job at Google might reconnect him to reality for awhile, unless Google hired him for symbolic reasons without expecting him to produce. His career seems to illustrate the problem Peter Thiel keeps drawing attention to: Kurzweil’s view of “the future” emphasizes computing, computing and even more computing because computing received exemption from the political restrictions on progress in energy and stuff that geeks have faced since 1970 or so. These restrictions would explain why we have tablet computers and smart phones right out of science fiction, but we live in cities which look more and more like the “After” photos of a zombie apocalypse.

Unfortunately cryonics has become a casualty in this loss of freedom to innovate, along with transhumanist visions of the transformation of human biology to make us into immortal supermen, to coin a phrase. I don’t see much awareness among transhumanists of the political and social context which determines what kinds of ideas can possibly turn into real things and what ones can’t.

By: cath cath Thu, 15 Nov 2012 22:33:17 +0000 I can’t provide a link, but general reading in psychology supports the conclusion that mild pessimism provides the most realistic outlook on life coupled with sufficient drive to do practical work. This glazed-eyed technological boosterism always seems, well, insane, and lacking the most basic insight. And, coincidentally, arrogant self-belief makes the most successful psychological outlook for the salesman. Maybe I’m getting cranky in my old age, but isn’t it reasonable to set off alarm bells WHENEVER one feels that schmalzy inner glow of “feeling good”? Isn’t this just basic self-knowledge? One of the best things a psychiatrist ever said to me was “not everything you think is true”. The second best was “the universe is an unfriendly place, and a LITTLE paranoia is quite justified”.

A friend just says “They are making me feel so good I’d better hang onto my wallet”. Same dog, different turd.

By: Mark Plus Mark Plus Wed, 14 Nov 2012 16:50:54 +0000 >A couple of years ago, I confronted a cryonicist from your (Max More’s) cohort who so buys into the idea of the Singularity that he honestly expects robots will more or less shown up on his doorstep with immortality in hand for him – and soon (several decades)! Thus, he has only to stay alive along enough for this blessed event to occur, which is believes, like Kurzweil, is eminently doable by the expedient of taking large doses of vitamins! It is this kind of effect that has made me understand why religions, philosophies and ideologies so jealously guard their territories; even the best and brightest are susceptible to ideological poaching by a Messiah with a no-load, “sit on your butt and wait for salvation” message.

Economist James D. Miller, who teaches economics at an all-women’s college (what does that say about his status in his profession’s dominance hierarchy?), wrote a nearly perfect example of this self-defeating singularitarian thinking in his book Singularity Rising:

Miller even argues that because of the singularity, you can just slack off instead of exerting yourself to study useful things like Chinese and medicine.

Uh, James, how can you get excellent health care from here to the singularity if people follow your advice and abandon the practice of medicine?

And suppose you want to date Chinese women, especially if you think fathering children with them makes sense for eugenic reasons (a minor these in Miller’s book)? You’d have better luck at that by knowing how to speak their language instead of relying on some translation app in your advanced smart phone.

This tendency to link cryonics with geek fads really bothers me, and I agree with Mike that it continues to damage cryonics’ credibility when the promised technological apocalypse doesn’t arrive by the predicted date.

By: Mark Plus Mark Plus Wed, 14 Nov 2012 15:56:29 +0000 Ray has gone on another of his media circus tours to promote his new book:

By: Tony Tony Mon, 01 Oct 2012 22:09:45 +0000 In fairness to old Ray. He does admit that his predictions could be off by decades but he feels he is certainly not off by say 1000 years.

By: Taurus Londono Taurus Londono Fri, 28 Sep 2012 14:45:11 +0000 Gah, “angles”=”angels”…it was a rough night.

By: Taurus Londono Taurus Londono Fri, 28 Sep 2012 14:44:11 +0000 How many angles can dance on the head of a pin?

IMHO, it’s worth keeping the “efficacy and harm” issue in context- The pharmaceutical industry may have to jump through a fair amount of hoops for approval, but these drugs are typically crude enough to be the equivalent of using an axe when a scalpel would be more appropriate. Unfortunately, the scalpel doesn’t exist yet, so consumers are left to consent to the litany of hilarious side-effects rattled off when these drugs are advertised to them *directly* (a practice that’s relatively unknown elsewhere throughout the world).

I’m always reminded of Happy Fun Ball.

Of course, the “scalpel” doesn’t exist yet, but not all FDA-approved drugs are “created equal.” Godsends many of these drugs may be, some arguably have less empirical basis for efficacy than at least some of the OTC products sold by LEF.

…and speaking of OTC, people who aren’t otherwise familiar with the history of LEF should understand that they’re “true believers” and that they have a long history of “putting their money where their mouth is.” I personally know at least one other (brilliant) individual who consulted LEF; efficacious products or not, they’re no medicine show.

And that’s more than can be said for *some* of the products being put out by *other* companies that are happily stocked and sold by nationwide chains to unwitting dupes. A pharmacist will be filling out prescriptions for FDA-approved drugs while homeopathic remedies are on the shelves just a few feet away from him. I don’t think the situation is much fundamentally different today than it was 50 or 100 years ago in that the choices of consumers (of purported remedies of all kinds) are no more informed than they ever were. They are not based on even a vague mechanistic speculation of *how* a product (regulated or not) will “work.” They don’t even know how aspirin “works,” not really. People place their trust in groups, and that makes sense; Betty and Bob love Geritol, but importantly, it’s apparent that they haven’t been poisoned to death. Rats overcome their neophobia if they see that their “compatriots” are safe; they follow suit.

The consequence is that the Emperor often has no clothes; I don’t think it’s that they’re stupid, they’re just built that way.

Skewing away from drugs here, but I think this is relevant to attempts to “convince” people that cryonics is not akin to UFOlogy. People do not accept scientific findings because they understand why they’re valid; they “believe” in them the same they believe in that LEF supplement they’ve been taking with no apparent ill effect for the last five years, or that homeopathic remedy sold OTC at the local pharmacy.

By: admin admin Sat, 01 Oct 2011 08:45:14 +0000 I thought Shermer’s review was very on point and possibly even excessively fair. Certainly it shows Kurzweil a lot more sympathy than Shermer has granted to cryonics, or cryonicists. If anything, Kurzweil’s ideas about recovering the dead are deserving of both skepticism and harsh criticism . The idea that person hood can be reduced to, or reconstructed from a handful, a room full, or even a whole warehouse full of the scraps and bits left over after a life has been lived, is pernicious. This is a cruel deception for those who buy into it, and far worse, an abdication of any real responsibility to the deceased to truly restore them to life, if that is demonstrated to be possible.

The one point on which I disagree with Shermer, and heartily agree with Kurzweil, is on the issue of whether there is a god or not. My answer has been (since I was a teenager) the same as Kurzweil’s: “Not yet.” — Mike Darwin

By: admin admin Sat, 01 Oct 2011 08:34:35 +0000 I think Cutler’s speculations about ALA “mobilizing” endogenous mercury stores and redistributing the metal to the brain are interesting. But they are just that, speculations.

I also know of no quality evidence that ALA causes mobilization of mercury from dental amalgams, and thus is contraindicated in people who have silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings. I’d be very interested to see such data. One of the frustrating things about chronic mercury intoxication is our inability to at all measure the levels of mercury in the brain and spinal cord. Mercury in the CNS is tightly bound to protein and, as I’m sure you know, mercury in tissues (in general) is so well sequestered that blood, urine and hair concentrations of the metal give little or indication of the extent of mercury intoxication under conditions of chronic, low level exposure. It’s all well and good to posit that that disruption in the normal flow of metals/minerals in the body is pathogonomic for chronic mercury intoxication; however, once again, this requires solid, empirical evidence. I’d be very interested in any direct data that supports this contention.

To be clear, I do take very seriously the problem that mercury and other heavy metal intoxication represent. I also think that mercury containing dental fillings (of which I have many) are unacceptable and should be discontinued – especially in children! I’ve long been astonished that in all the studies done on mercury exposure in the setting of restorative dentistry, no one has bothered to measure the acute exposure to inhaled mercury vapor that occurs when fillings are initially placed (and shaped with a high speed drill) and subsequently, when these amalgams are drilled out and replaced, as they inevitably must be – often several times during the life of the patient. All studies of which I’m aware have considered only the (relatively) small amounts of mercury vapor generated as a result of the mechanical action of chewing food.

I also understand that ultimately, heavy metal intoxication is the certain fate of any truly long lived human. Evolution does not provide for effective disposal of heavy metals at the rate they are accumulated over a lifespan of 40, 50, 60 years, and longer. For the last ~8K years, human technology has mobilized comparatively vast amounts of heavy metals – most notably lead, mercury and cadmium and these are now inexorably making their way into our foodstuffs. Live long enough, pretty much regardless of WHERE you live, and you’ll accumulate deleterious levels of heavy metals – and if you are meat eater – possibly iron, as well. I’m also open to the hypothesis that some fraction of chronic illness, including mood disorders, may be caused or exacerbated by chronic, low level heavy metal (primarily mercury) intoxication. I suffered extensive heavy metal poisoning as a toddler as a result of ingesting something in the vicinity 0.3 sq meters of lead painted, arsenic containing wallpaper adjacent to my crib. My parents found this pica amusing and did not act to stop it until a large area of the wall had been denuded of covering and ingested by me.

Finally, the statement, “I would not take ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid) for any reason other than for heavy metal chelation,” is unsupported and, in my opinion, likely unsupportable, as well. ALA is a highly effective therapeutic agent for otherwise untreatable diabetic neuropathy and it is also very useful in the management of HIV, especially in patients on HAART. There are extensive clinical data documenting ALA’s utility in these, and a variety of other diseases (see below) — Mike Darwin

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By: Abelard Lindsey Abelard Lindsey Fri, 30 Sep 2011 23:59:10 +0000 Michael,

I would not take ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid) for any reason other than for heavy metal chelation. ALA is a very powerful chelator of Mercury and other heavy metals and is harmful if used improperly. I have chelated with ALA for more than 3 years and found the effects to be profound.

My friend, Andy Cutler, wrote the book on ALA chelation. I suggest contacting him if you are interested in this issue. His website is