Doing the Time Warp

By Mike Darwin


It’s astounding;
Time is fleeting;
Madness takes its toll.
But listen closely…

Not for very much longer.

I’ve got to keep control.

I remember doing the time-warp
Drinking those moments when
The Blackness would hit me

And the void would be calling…

Let’s do the time-warp again.

             — “The Time Warp,” Rocky Horror Picture Show by Richard O’Brien.

Yesterday, on Cryonet2, a post caught my eye and ended up having a special resonance for me. The subject under discussion was a media story about a man who had been in prison for ~20 years and who, upon his release, found it so difficult to adapt to the technological and social change that occurred during his time in confinement, that he set fire to an abandoned building in order to be returned to prison for a good long time. The person commenting on this article wrote, “I find the story is bit hard to swallow, having some familiarity with the general issue. Prisons have televisions. Cell phones are commonly smuggled into prisons, and computers are common in prisons, including some for prisoner use.”

At first blush, his incredulity seems justified, and even with deeper consideration his skepticism may seem appropriate, because people from Bronze Age cultures can and do adjust just to cultural change and displacement far more massive than that prisoner experienced. For example, some of the Hmong People from Vietnam successfully made the jump to the US at the end of the Vietnam War (by 1978 some 30,000 were living in the US) and many actually out-competed their new compatriots in the US.

Figure 1: The Hmong people of South Vietnam lived a culture suspended in time between the Stone and Bronze and ages in the 1970s. Above is a typical Hmong village from that time period.

Figure 2: A Hmong village in southern Vietnam in 2004.

Nevertheless, the phenomenon of the culturally and temporally displaced prisoner who is unable to adjust to a changed world is, in fact, a commonplace that has been observed for many years in US prisoners who’ve served long sentences – certainly, since the 1940s. It is very real, and television and conversation with other recently interned inmates does little to relieve it, at least in some people. There is a huge and material difference between seeing a novel technology in use, and experiencing the transformative effect it has, not only on your life in general terms, but on your way of thinking and behaving. The science fiction author Larry Niven captured something of this when he posited “flash crowds” as an unforeseen social effect of teleportation technology. As it turn out, Niven’s “flash crowds” didn’t have to wait teleportation: the development and widespread application of smartphone and social networking technologies have not only created flash crowds, but enabled flash mobs that propel revolution forward (the Arab Spring) or coordinate riotous looting (the London Riots of the Summer of 2011).

This phenomenon should arguably be of special interest to cryonicists , because we propose to cross many decades or even centuries or longer, without even the advantage of network television programming, or tales of the outside world told by the newer inmates on our ward, or cell block. Because the average person is inescapably enveloped in and carried along by the time stream of the culture he inhabits, it is unlikely that he will have any experience of what it means to be cut off from technological advance and the enormous cultural change that accompanies it.

It’s so dreamy, oh fantasy free me.
So you can’t see me, no, not at all.
In another dimension, with
voyeuristic intention,
Well secluded, I see all.

With a bit of a mind flip

You’re into the time slip.

And nothing can ever be the same.

You’re spaced out on sensation.

Like you’re under sedation.

Let’s do the time-warp again.

                    – “The Time Warp,” Rocky Horror Picture Show by Richard O’Brien.

You can get a potentially deadly taste of this by traveling back in time by the expedient of “geographical atavism,” which is what I call going to places on earth where the technological level is decades, centuries or millennia earlier than the present, and then living there. This is getting difficult to do, since even the lepers in India now have cell phones.

You can also do it by virtue of living off the street, either in the US, or preferably in a “foreign” country. At first, you try to reach for all sorts of technology that isn’t there, and only gradually do you stop doing this and realize that you are now fundamentally different from them – e.g., all the other people in the world. You can no longer communicate effortlessly any further than you can shout. There is no medical care beyond basic first aid, and every step you take is taken with the knowledge that a misstep could be lethal. You are hot when it is hot, and you are cold if you haven’t prepared well, and you are still cold often even if you have prepared. If you can’t find food to eat you are hungry, or you have to ask (beg) for food.

Figure 3: Marks and Spencer was originally a moderately upscale department store chain in the United Kingdom. In recent years they have branched out into selling high quality foods, including “luxury” sandwiches and prepared meals under the brand name of M&S Simply Food. M&S adheres to a rigid policy of discarding most unsold prepared foods at the end of each business day, as well as to discarding baked goods, chocolates, flowers and most other food items at, or just beyond their peak of freshness. This creates the opportunity for “no cash outlay” gourmet meals for those with a dustbin key, a thick hide and a near total lack of “normal” social inhibition.

Figure 4: In the UK, as opposed to the US, dustbins (aka dumpsters in the US) are typically locked with a mechanism that looks a bit like a 3-sided Allen wrench (inset photo at left).  It seems deceptively simple to open, say with needle nose pliers, but this is not the case. The triangular post that operates the mechanism has rounded edges, is recessed and requires substantial force to turn. It is thus highly desirable, if not necessary, to have a “dustbin key;” an item which can be procured at some £ (dollar) stores for  £ 1 (about $1.60 US). This locking mechanism on UK dumpsters appears to be universal, and is considered in the same light as other keyed utility mechanisms, such as water, gas and electricity.

Figure 5: Kitchen, or food waste, must be segregated from other waste in the UK. Typically, the chain merchants such as the Co-Op, M&S Simply Food, and Pret a Manger (another upscale ready-to-eat sandwich shop) conveniently over-bag their various types of food waste in clean, unused plastic bags – often double-bagging it. Food is also discarded on a fairly predictable schedule, so it is possible to retrieve refrigerated and frozen goods in pristine condition, whilst still safely chilled or frozen. The letters “KP” stand for “kitchen policing” wherein the word “police” is used as a verb to mean “to clean” or “to restore to order.”

Figure 6: A not untypical haul from an hour or so of foraging in the dustbin at M&S, the local fruit monger and one of the high-end green grocers. One broken egg in a carton of 6 or 12 eggs means the entire lot is discarded. Since I don’t eat land vertebrates, my flat mate had a steady supply of choice cuts of meats – fresh and frozen.

 Figure 7: Living “off the street” as a latter day hunter-gatherer carries with it wholly unexpected difficulties in readjusting to the more typical existence of the technologically sophisticated work-a-day world. I had not previously understood why people would pay good money for something as trivial and ephemeral as fresh flowers. When I returned to the US this past July, after experiencing months of beautiful, sweet smelling flowers in the flat every day, I was disconcerted to find that I had acquired a costly and wholly unsupportable new taste.

Figure 8: Sadly, my difficulty in readjusting to “normal” life was not confined to missing the presence of the severed reproductive organs of plants. I found I had grown accustomed to what were, to me, gourmet meals: good bread and fresh fruit whenever I felt like having them. Above, cold potato leek vichyssoise, smoked salmon with organic string beans, an organic free range egg and Italian tomatoes with a vinaigrette dressing. I have never before (or since) eaten so well so consistently.

 Figure 9: Dishes, cutlery, pots, pans and household appliances were available in dustbins for the taking and with very little competition. The books, clothing, duvet, TV and 3-shelf stand in the photo at bottom right were all acquired from the street within a matter of ~2 weeks. In the UK a TV license is required to watch television – something that, fortunately, both of my flat mates possessed. Failing this, the advent of Blue Ray technology has caused conventional DVD players (and DVDs) to be treated as barely better than rubbish in many large cities in the US & UK.

If you live this way for quite awhile you become transformed. If you return to a world of truly enormous choices and possibilities, even if it is one you formerly inhabited with ease, it is very fatiguing, and it can be confusing and stressful, as well. Since time immemorial men have set on journeys of transformation and enlightenment. From the travels of Gilgamesh to Jesus Christ to Buddha, to the mythical travels of Swift’s Gulliver, all such journeys have in common the individual removing himself more or less completely from his normal environment and thus from his accustomed, culturally imposed way of experiencing and seeing his own life. And there is one more thing; they involve danger and some degree of hardship. The important lesson in this latter element for cryonicists is that any environment different from that in which you have grown to maturity in is a dangerous one. The nuances of other languages and cultures, and the even more subtle nuances of the myriad unspoken but vital cues for survival are necessarily inaccessible to the stranger in a strange land.

Many men who take such a journey return transformed – and sadly – inarticulate and unable to communicate what they have experienced. It is not uncommon for them to repeatedly return to such sojourns, or to attempt to rework the “mundane” lives they have returned to, in an effort to mirror the transcendence they have experienced during their journey(ies). This transcendence, so elusive and so impossible to put into words, consists mostly of the radical change in perspective that occurs when a person is removed from his “time stream.” If we grow up in a reasonably stable culture and remain there throughout our lives with our cohorts, our perception of reality necessarily becomes circumscribed.

The exigences of daily life act to preclude our living in the world that exists beyond our moment-to-moment experience of it. The time we spend in conscious contemplation of the distant past and the far future becomes negligible – we become both confined and defined by the time stream we inhabit; the unfolding of events that are largely determined by our culture and our cohorts. And so it is all over the world – different peoples in different lands, all existing at the same time, but in different currents, eddies and streams that are largely isolated from each other. This is a crippling state of affairs, because we either lose, or altogether fail grasp the larger perspective of the universe as a vast, complex place which is unfolding not only in myriad ways, but over myriad different timescales, as well. That reality has important implications for our survival, both as individuals, and as a species.

Well I was walking down the street
just a-having a think
When a snake of a guy gave me an
evil wink.
He shook-a me up, he took me by surprise.
He had a pickup truck, and the
devil’s eyes.
He stared at me and I felt a change.
Time meant nothing, never would again.

Let’s do the time-warp again.

       — “The Time Warp,” Rocky Horror Picture Show by Richard O’Brien.

Several years ago, I was digging through a dustbin in back of a charity shop in London. They were usually a good source for classical CDs (they toss any CD without a jewel case, and any that don’t sell in a fortnight). I found this device in the dustbin (Figure 10).

Figure 10: My first MP3 player was mistakenly acquired because I thought it was a jump drive. I was stunned when I puzzled out that this tiny device could store up to 100 popular songs and index and “shuffle” them! The carrying lanyard was a promotional giveaway handed out on the street in Soho during London’s Gay Pride celebration.

I pulled the end off of it and saw it had a male USB plug. I figured I’d found myself a jump drive – a brand new one, too, since it still had the adhesive protective plastic covering the little screen on the front of it. I took it home and hooked it up to my computer. It took me a fair bit of time before I could understand what it was; an MP3 player. In fact, I didn’t know what an MP3 player was. I did know about iPODs, but only from TV; because they are small, they are also inconspicuous, and I’d not really seen them up close, nor did I know anyone who had one. I had noticed that people no longer used CD players in public and that they, along with CDs, were now a commonplace in the charity shop dustbins (just as perfectly “good” Sony Trinitron, and other nice color CRT TVs are now a commonplace outside thrift stores in the US and the UK (they can’t throw then in the trash because of the heavy metal content, so they set them out to be carted away by people who can’t afford flat screen technology).

 The MP3 player I had found had something like a 100 songs on it! Imagine that! I had no idea that you could carry around a hundred songs, let alone hundreds, or thousands, on such a tiny thing! What was even more astonishing to me was when I realized that MOST of the volume of the device was consumed by the primitive mid-20th century AAA alkaline batteries that powered it. Gradually, I realized that I could get most of the music I liked for free on-line, or from my UK CD collection, and organize it such that I could have the music “match” my travels around London. I could go to the Design Museum, the V&A, or anywhere else I liked and create a perfect soundtrack of music, period or otherwise, to accompany me! In effect, I could make a personalized soundtrack for my life! I quickly realized that if I had several MP3 players, I could select from a nearly endless variety of “collections” to suit my mood – Edith Piaf, The Beatles, Louis Armstrong, torch singers from Dietrich to Sara Vaughn, or the Goldberg Variations (while dozing on a long train or bus ride).

The dustbins of charity shops (thrift stores in the US) are a seemingly inexhaustible source of all manner goods. Many urban charity shops have no laundry facilities and do not find it profitable to carry bedding, linens, or items of clothing such as underwear, socks, and the like – even if they are new and still in the packaging. These things are thus often discarded outright. Items not sold within a fortnight are also typically discarded, as are items that the shop chooses not to sell; medical supplies and equipment, some kinds of music or art, many types of books (most confine themselves to the trendy, bestselling authors and “coffee table” books; the rest are discarded, often still in the boxes). Often,. Whole households of goods flow into the shop as a result of the death of an elderly person whose relatives live far away, or who are uninterested. In such cases the overflow of goods (beyond the capacity of the shop’s shelves) passes immediately into the waste stream.  Furniture, dishes, every kind of household appliance and gadget imaginable, and “obsolete” technology such as CD players, low megapixel digital cameras, flatbed scanners, cordless and mobile (cellular) telephones are present in abundance, as are all manner of toys and child-related items (car seats, cribs).  Finally, and very importantly, anything that the staff who work or volunteer in the shops do not recognize, understand or value, is also discarded.

The shop where I found the MP3 player was staffed by elderly female volunteers. I quickly learned to seek out shops staffed in this manner, because they were almost a guaranteed source of the most exotic technological goods.  In a few short weeks I had accumulated 3 MP3 players, an ASUS EAH6670/DIS/1GD5 Radeon HD 6670 video card[1], two “tiny” digital recorders on neck lanyards and ~ 5 gigs of add-on memory for my laptop and my desktop computers, as well as half a dozen jump drives.

Interestingly, just as the charity store staff was blind to things of value they did not understand (and thus they discarded them), I soon discovered that the same phenomenon applied to me, and others like me, but in reverse. It was impossible for us to see things of value, sometimes of considerable value, even when they were right in front of our eyes, unless we knew what to look for! The ASUS video card was a prime example. There are countless electronic bits and boards in dustbins, and in this case, it took the savvy of a young man who played computer games to recognize the manufacturer, thus saving the card from being salvaged for its muffin fan and instead allowing it to make its way into my desktop computer.

Figure 11: An ASUS EAH6670/DIS/1GD5 Radeon HD 6670 video card. I picked it out of the dustbin for the muffin fan, only to be told it was likely a working video card.

 The technology embodied in the MP3 players was transformative in ways I had not even begun to understand from watching television – and I watch/listen to a lot of television. I had no idea that there were competing brands of tiny, non-hard drive, digital music machines – let alone that they had gotten so small. The people on the street that I interacted with surely had them, but I paid no mind, because I assumed that the earbuds they often sported were connected to radios. Radios had gotten very small; I knew that, because I found AM/FM radios the size of matchboxes in the dustbins frequently. But that was the limit of my understanding; even though I was immersed in a culture where such devices had become commonplace.

I don’t like social media, like Facebook and Linkedin (please, stop sending me spam for Linkedin!), but I do understand them, and I know how powerful they are. A guy in prison hasn’t a clue, and he can’t get a clue from TV, or from hearing about it from another inmate. In fact, his position is much like me and the MP3 player; no one saw fit to explain to me that such technology had evolved, let alone that it was so inexpensive and commonplace that MP3 players were given away as promotional items and might easily be so little valued as to be tossed into the waste stream.

Figure 11: In the UK, homeless people on the street are a rarity, compared to the US. Both the UK and most of Western Europe maintain social welfare programs that are readily available to almost all residents who want them. Three of the most common reasons that people refuse this safety net are substance abuse, having a dog, or some other unwillingness or inability, such as mental illness, to comply with the rules of Council housing or other government social welfare requirements (including criminal activities).

And, why would they? Such technology is a commonplace for those in the mainstream of the culture, something they take for granted, and it is not likely to be a topic of conversation except amongst peers. When you cease to be a peer, and you step outside of your cohort, you have exited one of the time streams that the rest of the world inhabits. If you have children, they will help keep you oriented and in sync with the culture. However, if you are isolated by prison (or by choice) in a rapidly technologically evolving world, you are in for some major surprises – and for no small amount of cognitive dissonance.

I am a technophile who became involved in cryonics as a child. I’ve lived my whole life in expectation (and largely in welcoming anticipation) of technological advance. Statistically, people who are in prisons, or who gather at watering holes such as urban dustbins, are very different from most of the rest of Western, “civilized” humanity. Many are emotionally or intellectually damaged, and most tend to “live in the moment.” Their event horizon extends only so far as the next cigarette, the next hit of spliff or Tina, and maybe to some consideration of where and how they will spend that coming night. They know almost nothing about the past, and are constitutionally unable to see beyond a few days, or weeks into the future. Many will start to forage for a tarp or a piece of plastic to protect them from the rain only when the sky clouds over, or it actually begins to rain.  This, as it turns out, is a critically important observation, because it points up the powerful leverage to be had by living in longer timescales.

The capitalist philosopher A. J. Galambos divided the timescales we humans inhabit in the following way: [2]

Trivial Timescale: Moment to activities and thoughts which dominate most of our daily awareness time; I need to make a phone call, check my mail, brush my teeth, get something to eat, go to the loo.

Personal Timescale: What kind of training should I take, whom should I marry, how should I plan for my retirement, how should I apportion my estate, how can I provide from my children and grandchildren?

Species Timescale: Concern and involvement with history, the environment, the future of mankind. The Species Timescale lasts as long as man himself.

Cosmic Timescale: How does the universe work, what causes the stars to shine, how long will the universe last, can we live forever?

Galambos correctly pointed out that while almost all of us (of necessity) spend most of our time in the Trivial Timescale, preoccupied with things of the moment, to the extent we transcend the trivial we gain power and control over the world around. Newton and Einstein may have spent only a brief moment of their total conscious time in the Cosmic Timescale, but the benefits in terms of technological advance were enormous and gave us not just the laws of Classical Physics and of Relativity, but the calculus, the tools for spaceflight and the capability for self annihilation with the hydrogen bomb.

So, in the sense that people inhabit prisons, or who are squatters or otherwise homeless, are so often condemned to live only in the moment, and thus exclusively in the Trivial Timescale, they are fundamentally different.They are “transtemporally crippled,” and in many ways have less foresight than a really clever dog or cat. It is not uncommon for such people to be unable to retain even very basic possessions, such as a sleeping bag, a CD player and essential toiletries such as a toothbrush, deodorant and a razor. “Now” pretty much encompasses their sphere of action with respect to the past and the future. To expect such people to stay technologically and culturally integrated with a rapidly changing world – especially when imprisoned away from it for decades – is akin to expecting your dog or cat to discourse learnedly on the nuances of Shakespeare, or to explain to your the excitement experienced whilst listening to Justin Bieber.

Of course, slipping out of the time stream is not confined to the sphere of technology, or to prisoners behind bars. It is the fate of every kind of exile everywhere. I have been long exiled from cryonics, and much longer still isolated from the social wellsprings (scant that they may be) that constitute cryonics organizations. Thus, I have no idea if many of the people with whom I once worked and socialized with are still alive, and if they are, where, what and who they are now. I wonder, often, at the anonymous case reports that appear on-line, and try to fathom if it is one of the many people I once knew so well, but that exile for over 20 years has left me isolated from? And those are just the people from my past

Figure 12: Frank Cole crossing the Sahara desert and the whole of the African continent, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea on camel in 1990. Cole was murdered by Tuareg bandits near Timbuktu, Mali, in late October 2000.

 Very recently, someone made a derogatory remark about a man I had not previously heard of. He was a cryonicist and a filmmaker by the name of Frank Cole (1954-2000). The commentator remarked on his stupidity for being “killed by bandits in Africa.” I was struck by this remark, because, even more astonishing to me than the discovery that MP3 players existed in 2007, was the discovery of even the possibility that a man like this Frank Cole, could have been a cryonicist. The idea was incomprehensible to me.

It took me quite awhile to find out something of who Frank Cole was, and it was not until I saw his searing final film, Life Without Death, that I think I began to grasp what he was about. But, truth to tell, it was not until I read his former lover, Anne Milligan’s reminiscence of him (see below), that I felt I fully understood him. And that made me very sorry that I had missed the opportunity to know him, because in his work I believe I see the same, almost otherworldly ability to see the culture and the world “we” inhabit from outside, above, below, or beyond it. And in his work I see the exact same vision of the loss of those we love as the penultimate evil, and of death as what it is; the ultimate horror and the ultimate evil.

Figure 13: Frank Cole as a young man.

 I think Cole would have understood when I say that that ability, or practice, if you will, is the perhaps the best psychological preparation possible for recovery from cryopreservation. It is not a place you can ever get to by watching TV, reading books, or otherwise attempting to escape the time stream you inhabit by being distracted from it.

To understand that kind of alienation and isolation, and to taste of its absolute irreversibility requires that you step completely out of the world you inhabit and go to another one that is embedded not just in a different time, but in a different era, and in a different place in space. To do that is, necessarily, to take a horrific risk, because where you will be is not a simulation, and there is no recall from error or mischance, and no opportunity for “a reboot.”

In writing this, I am reminded of one of the songs that was on that discarded MP3 player from the dustbin in London, when it came into my possession. It was by a British pop group called ‘The Enemy.’ It’s lyrics come to mind now, as I think of Frank Cole, the nature, fragility and arbitrariness of life, and how absolutely essential it is that we continue to transcend our accepted experience of it, forever and ever, even for trillions and trillions of years, as the Ancient Egyptians liked to say.

We’ll Live And Die In These Towns

Lyrics by The Enemy

You spend your time in smokey rooms
where haggled old women
with cheap perfume say,
“It never happens for people
like us you know.”
Well nothing ever happened on its own and well,

the toilets smell of desperation
the streets all echo of aggregation
and you wonder
why you can’t get no sleep
when you’ve got nothing to do,
and you’ve had nothing to eat.
Your life’s slipping
and sliding right out of view
and there’s absolutely nothing
that you can do well

We’ll live and die,
we’ll live and die in these towns
don’t let it drag you down
don’t let it drag you down now
we’ll live and die,
we’ll live and die in these towns
don`t let it drag you down
don`t let it drag you down now

Dirty dishes from a TV meal
that went cold from the wind
through a smashed up window
You can’t go out if anybody calls ya
cause you can’t have a bath
when there`s no hot water
and your friends are out
on the town again
and you ask yourself if it will ever end
and it`s all too much for your head to take
just a matter of time
before you break, well

We’ll live and die,
we’ll live and die in these towns
don’t let it drag you down
don’t let it drag you down now
we’ll live and die,
we’ll live and die in these towns
don`t let it drag you down
don`t let it drag you down now


we’ll live and die,
we’ll live and die in these towns
don’t let it drag you down
don’t let it drag you down now
we`ll live and die,
we’ll live and die in these towns
don’t let it drag you down
don’t let it drag you down now

Our critics often say that practical immortality will result in a world of boredom – in a world of eternal sameness inhabited by people making the same choices over and over again. There is merit to this criticism because success, a prerequisite for indefinite survival, breeds complacency. Even with lives as short and turbulent as ours in the developed West are today, it is easily possible to become anesthetized by the time stream we are embedded in. When this happens, we lose all consciousness of the bigger picture, indeed the true picture of reality and we risk losing our ability to transcend the Trivial Timescale and inhabit the Cosmic one, however briefly. Lose that and we lose our ability to survive. Men like Frank Cole remind us that while there is great peril in journeys of transcendence which allow us to step out of our given time stream and cultural imperative. However without them, we face the even greater peril of forgetting, or failing even to understand the complex, challenging and utterly alien nature of the universe as it really exists.

My Life with Frank Cole

October 4, 2009

I delivered this tribute at the Book Launch “Life Beyond Death: The Cinema of Frank Cole” & Film Retrospective sponsored by the Canadian Film Institute at the National Library, Ottawa Oct 3rd, 2009. Frank Cole was a Canadian Documentary Filmmaker who was killed in 2000 by bandits near Mali while crossing the Sahara Desert. Rick Taylor is a Professor at Carleton University, Author and Frank’s best friend.

Dear Rick,

I just finished Life Without Death. I read it in one sitting and was sucked down the rabbit hole. It’s a beautiful book and I especially wanted you to know how much I loved your memoir, Saltwater Road to the Sahara. Your lovingly recreated details brought everything back so vividly It was poignant and bittersweet

And thank you for portraying me with such kindness and especially saying that I loved him whole heartedly because I did, though in truth, I don’t often revisit those memories now, weighed down as they are, with the silent echo of words never spoken, with youth’s uncertainty and unbending pride.

I enjoyed the book immensely but I was sorry that no one had written about Frank from a woman’s perspective because that dynamic informed both his art and life. I don’t think a man, even you Rick, could fully comprehend what it was like to be Frank’s Eve, to be the snake, the seductive field of sleeping poppies. To inherit the complicated push pull of his relationship with his mother. To stand innocent against the charge that intimacy leads to complacency, loss of purpose, and ultimately loss of self.

And so I hope you’ll indulge me while I revisit the piece of Frank’s story that was also mine, through the lens of my sensibilities.

I met Frank in the late 70’s in response to a laundromat ad for a roommate. To say that Frank was different is, of course, an understatement. While it’s true that he seemed remarkably serious and mature for his age, there was something more. His clipped words were punctured with unnerving silences and delivered with an enigmatic assuredness that seemed to announce that he had not only cornered Truth but had it up against the wall by the throat.

The disarming combination of animal magnetism, a rejection of society’s conventions, and a driving intensity body-slammed those he met through their comfort zone. People either loved or hated Frank, they were never indifferent.

In those days he was the enfant terrible in the Algonquin Film program and our apartment became the meeting place of a never-ending parade of Ottawa’s counter culture, drawn by Frank’s aura. It was palpable – Life seemed to be to be more meaningful, more vibrant, and more exciting in his presence. I was captivated and determined. I set out to impress Frank Cole.

Though Frank was not traditionally handsome, there were plenty of women vying for his attention. With his love of the outrageous and the absurd, I sensed that he would be won over by nothing less than a grand gesture.

So one night I placed a small table outside his bedroom and covered it with linen cloth and formal place setting for one. Wearing only a fedora and boots, I perched on the plate and knocked. I can still hear him roar with appreciative laughter as he opened the door… In the morning he took photographs and wrote a terse and clinical account of the night.

That was my introduction to Frank as the outsider. At 24 he had already adopted the practice of precisely and unflinchingly documenting his life with his uncanny ability to be both the observer and the observed,

It isn’t easy to pinpoint the various trajectories that coalesced into Frank’s view of the world. No doubt accompanying his parents to war torn countries, long separations at boarding school, his beloved brother Peter‘s open heart surgery at 8, and later the death of his grandparents, all contributed to his lifelong fear of becoming dependent on anyone or any thing including his own basic needs.

Being in relationship with Frank meant that I too, was expected to engage in this struggle. Work always came first and often our dates started around midnight after Frank had completed a long day of disciplined writing. (Canada Council really got its money’s worth)

He refused to play the role of boyfriend – he wouldn’t meet my parents or socialize with my friends. When we went on trips, he kept a notebook where he meticulously divided expenses down to the last cent. He allowed me to move in with him several times only to kick me out when, as he put in, things got a little too cozy. It was a joke among his friends that when I got sick he would move back home to his mother, and leave me to fend for myself

But just when I’d think that I had his nihilistic angst-ridden, intellectual little ass pigeon-holed, a new aspect of his personality would emerge. Like when he took me to visit the Mountenays. .

The whole family would surround the car whooping “Mamma, it’s Frankie, Mamma, come on out and see Frankie” and he’d smile warmly, laughing wholeheartedly at their childlike jokes and shyly acquiescing to their boisterous wranglings to get him to join this or that team for baseball or cards.

There was nothing patronizing, or condescending in either his personal dealings with them or his affectionate tribute “The Mountenays”. He loved being sucked into the vortex of their exuberance and vitality. And perhaps he also envied their complete lack of self consciousness, and their ability to dissolve into the collective, two things that were totally foreign to his nature.

He was both drawn and repulsed by the rawness of life, the primal power of sex and fascinated by those who clashed with it full on, unencumbered by society and Hallmark sentiments.

After the Mountenays, he considered making a film about the sex trade and we spent endless nights in New York City strip clubs and on Rue St Laurent in Montreal peering into shadowy doorways, and talking to prostitutes.

In light of what was to happen, I still feel a twinge of remorse for telling him that he could never inhabit the desperate world of these people because he had a safety net. Unlike them, he could go home.

Frank wrote his life like a well scripted film. All the action was subservient to the main theme. He told me that he couldn’t marry me or make a home with me and he didn’t want our child to be born.

But in unguarded moments, the dispossessed part of him that yearned for intimacy seeped around the corner of his resolve. One time after being ill with a high fever, he told me that in his delirium he had imagined his body was divided into tiny squares, all of which I had lovingly cared for in turn. “It was great” he admitted wistfully.

Night after night, under the blanket of darkness, I witnessed his agonizing and repeated struggle to conquer his need for connection, and love. No matter that he failed more often than he succeeded.

He told me that I would commit suicide in his film. Sacrifice myself to set him free to force him to be independent, strong and alone. Catching the mirrored reflection of his eyes , I realized he wished it were true.

In the end, the very things that attracted me to Frank made life with him hell. Once, in a heated argument, hurled the most vitriolic insult in his arsenal, predicting with disdain that I would end up a housewife”

keeper of the home, keeper of the heart….

In his world of no compromise, my only option was to disown myself as a woman, to devalue the gifts of the feminine. It broke my heart to choose …me. I ended the relationship.

In October 1988, I received a call from Frank asking to see me. Over the years our paths had crossed mostly at his parents’ home. After dinner we would retreat to the basement, where, drawing up battle lines, we would spar with feigned indifference over such topics as cryogenics and the locus of the self, (Frank insisting on the head, while I argued for the heart), the campaigns of Alexander the Great, the merits of Juan Butler and always his safety in the desert.

But this night was different. His usual bravado was absent- he was drawn and pale. After some time he answered the question I could not ask. He was going to the Sahara in the morning . “Annie “, he said quietly,” don’t leave me alone tonight, don’t go. I’m afraid ”.

That night I held faith on Frank’s behalf, folding him into my body like a child, words spilling like beads of blood, dropping into the confessional of night. In the morning he was gone and when he returned months later, the wall was back . We never spoke of it again.

And now I sit with Frank’s account of that trip open on my knee. I notice the date, Oct 28, 1988, a week since his arrival, a week since the last night we had spent together. He writes that he despairs over how he will ever manage to cross the Sahara. Then he adds “ I rode behind Sid Ahmed toward a bed of sand. He chose it because of it’s softness and because it had a bush that provided shelter from the wind. He checked it for scorpions and snakes and then covered any fallen thorns with sand. He laid down a groundsheet for my sleeping bag… like a father putting a child to bed. This was how,. This….was how. ..with these people’s hearts…, nothing would be impossible.

I read that paragraph again and again, – grief and gratitude flooding me in equal measure.

Frank Cole lived his life with courage. He called it the strength to be free. As for me, I like to remember that in October 1988, in the Sahara Desert, he came to recognize the true meaning of the word. Courage – Avec Coeur- with heart. Because Frank Cole lived his life with heart.

And that is a life well lived

With much affection


Copyright E. Anne Milligan 2009



[1] The ASUS card features 1480 stream processors, a 810MHz core clock, 1000MHz (4.0Gbps) effective memory clock, 1GB GDDR5 128-bit memory, supports Direct X 11, Bus Standard PCIE 2.1, one DVI output, one HDMI output, one Mini DisplayPort output.

[2] Galambos, Andrew (1998), Sic itur ad astra: This is the way to the stars, Volume One – The Theory of Volition, San Diego, California: The Universal Scientific Publications Company, Inc., ISBN 0-88078-004-5.

This entry was posted in Cryonics Biography, Cryonics Philosophy, Culture & Propaganda, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Doing the Time Warp

  1. gwern says:

    (First comment got deleted, try again from memory.)

    This was an interesting melange, but is there any overall thesis here? I mean, if you had said to me, ‘you have 10 seconds to connect mongo/dumpster-diving to cryonics, go!’ I would have thought for 5 seconds and said, ‘people often fear waking up poor or even broke and living a bad life in the future; but our current society is so profligate that, as mongo demonstrates, you can live a life as good as – or better in some respects – an ordinary citizen even while spending no money at all (merely time). There is little reason to expect this trend to be much different after being revived from cryonics, and so one could correctly expect that even a poor life in the future is a rich one from our perspective.’

    Which may or may not be correct (if Hanson’s Malthusian future happens, or technological change stagnates, it could be the case that when one reaches the future that there will already be castes specializing in dumpster diving, like there are in Third World countries – entire groups already picking the low-hanging fruit of landfills and trash cans – which one would have difficulty competing with).

    But that doesn’t seem to be the thesis proposed, and I’m not sure what unifies these disparate items.

    • admin says:

      You’re right, it’s a melange, and I’m just glad it proved interesting. I think there are a couple of really important ideas here, but they are very poorly expressed. That’s OK, for now, because it often takes me a long time and a lot of attempts to communicate some ideas.

      I think at the top of the list is my growing understanding of the need,perhaps the requirement, for transcendence whilst pursuing practical immortality coupled with the insight than transcendence consists mostly of being getting out of groove, rut, or path that you’ve been born into, or even become to see as the only “reality.” I travel with very, very little money, and some years ago, I found I had NONE – and this was not expected. As a consequence, I chose to live off the street in London. I’d been dumpster diving my entire life – my father grew up desperately poor in Brooklyn, NY and helped feed his family in the 1930s by scavenging food and other essentials from garbage cans. We also supported a lot of Alcor’s most productive research by dumpster diving and assorted types of scavenging. I had also (briefly) fed myself in 1975 by raiding the local Mcdonald’s dumpster while working on cryonics. So, I knew the ropes. However, what this experience did was to teach me all sorts of things I didn’t know – including giving me insight into a population of people who were largely (previously) invisible to me. Usually, when you enter another realm you are absorbed by it. Very few people can (or would choose) to hang out with, say drug users, without also becoming drug users. Probably in part because I was a foreigner, I was granted entre to a world that most people wouldn’t want to see. And yes, I learned that it was unnecessary to spend any money, in the US or the UK, on any of the typical consumer goods that consume so much of our income. This is not the case with food in the US, since most grocers here use gigantic compactors to destroy discarded food so it can’t be scavenged. In the UK, the strategy is to spray the food with blue food grade dye which stains the hands of those who handle it – and is off putting to some. This prevents foragers from taking foraged food back into the store and attempting to get a cash refund for it.

      Other than food, almost all goods, with some notable exceptions, are readily available in the US – but not for free. Most areas have laws against such activities and soon becomes commonplace to be detained by various law enforcement agencies,. searched, and sometimes verbally abused. How and to what extent these laws are enforced varies greatly by geographical location and micro-environment. However, its deeper than this. I’ve come into contact with all kinds of people who have experiences and knowledge which open up the world in ways I hadn’t imagined possible. I now know how to hitch hike, how to interact with law enforcement in savvy ways that avoid ticketing and incarceration, and I have a much changed view of the police – I get to see them much more as they really are in situations where they feel little concern over accountability. It has also given me greater freedom and self confidence. I can go pretty much anyplace I want that is easily accessible by automobile. I can find a place a to sleep and replace most lost or broken essentials at no cash outlay. And, unlike many other people who move in this world, I can benefit powerfully from the assets that I have in terms of intellect, ability to plan, and access to storage space and a vehicle. The waste stream is the working definition of PROFOUNDLY DISORDERED. Many shops break goods before discarding them, cut the power cords off, or cosmetically disfigure them. This means that patience and foresight are often required since it may take three items to make one complete item.

      The result of this is to see the world in a previously unseen way. As one small example, I learned a short while ago that foreclosures are on the rise and that the economy is worsening in a way I have not previously seen. The increase in foreclosures creates a unique signature in the waste stream and it tells me a lot about the class status of those being foreclosed. I thus predict that handyman jobs will shortly pick up, since the banks still repair the damage done to foreclosed homes by their usually indifferent former occupants. Similarly, I’m now seeing low denomination coin collection folders appear in the waste stream. Several years ago it was Morgan silver dollars, now it is fifty cent pieces, nickels and dimes. I infer from this that people are now so cash strapped that they are wiling to gut a collection or partial collection for its cash value. I’ve not seen this before, and it is not an anomaly. If my movements and observations were confined to just this strata of society, it would be a large net loss, But, they aren’t, and the result is what I believe is a kind of “meta-level” of insight. I noted the same kind of change when I tromped over North Africa – not in tourist hotels – but on the Arab street. When people take vacations, they are trying to do this in a small and usually ineffective way. They may be enjoyable, and that’s great, but they are not profoundly informative. The danger comes in going to Egypt or Morocco or Turkey and then thinking that you’ve “seen” these countries and that you “understand” them. This happens to diplomats all the time, since they too live in such bubbles as the tourists experience. I think what Frank Cole understood is that to keep up with reality you have to constantly strive to transcend the blinding or anesthetizing micro-environment that your success in coping with it confers. The universe is always bigger than that part of it we have technologically or culturally “subdued” and are living in with relative comfort. Outside that bubble events are going on that will ALWAYS and INEVITABLY result in the destabilization of the bubble you inhabit. That other world is so complex that the only way you can really know it is to go there and experience it. — Mike Darwin

  2. Geoff says:

    At high school, I spent about half of my time (three years) in one English speaking country and the other half of my time (three years) in another English speaking country. I found the social and cultural differences between the two countries
    to be enormous (this is actually an understatement). I spoke to a number of people about this, but almost everyone said something like this: “You were lucky, socially, culturally and language wise, both countries are the same.”. A couple of people added: “I had to learn another language when, I changed countries”. No one was sympathetic

    As a result of that experience, I don’t think that I will have any trouble adjusting to a world two hundred years in the future after being reanimated. This is of course, assuming that I am reanimated.

    • admin says:

      Some people are “quick adapters” and can make transitions across cultures easily. Many people don’t stay in a different culture beyond the “holiday grace period” where you are still treated as a guest to be impressed and coddled, rather than an alien interloper. However, your point is well taken, and there is a vast cultural difference between, say the UK and the US. Having said that, there are equal, if not greater cultural differences within both the US & the UK. A Manhattanite and a proud resident of Mobile, AL are likely to have much less in common and much more to disagree over than are a Manhattanite and a Londoner,. Similarly, the difference between a resident of Great Britain’s rural fens and that of a Londoner, are also likely to lead to serious cultural dissonance and resulting friction.

      In fact, the cultural difference between individual families living in the same city or the same neighborhood are often enormous. I recently used this clip in another context, but it will server equally well here:

      BTW, the hard to understand phrase that the Mynah bird repeats is, “There is no death!”

      – Mike Darwin

      • Geoff says:

        The country that I went to and subsequently spent three years in was the USA. In those three years my accent totally changed (100%) to an American accent ( I know there are different accents in different parts of the USA). My parents’ (who were also there) accents didn’t change at all (0%).
        When I returned to my country and went to school there again the other students considered me to be an American. They didn’t just consider me to be an American, they acted as if they were 100% certain that I was an American. No amount of explanation would sway them away from this certainity in their minds. Explanations were like talking to a brick wall.
        Every so often I have an experience where I feel as if I am talking to a brick wall (so far, none as mind boggling as the above one). I also had one recently.

  3. unperson says:

    interesting column, although I have not yet read all of it.

    Is there a clash between your burgeoning dumpster-diver ethos and your longstanding heinleinesque brand of liberatarianism?

    Are you a leftist in the making?

    You seem to yearn subtextually for the safety of the european welfare state. Ah, the forbidden thought! Crimethink!

    • admin says:

      I don’t know where you got the idea that I’m a “heinleinesque type of liberatarian?” I was a great fan of Heinlein’s juvenile novels; when I was juvenile. But Heinlein was not a libertarian, anymore than Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman are libertarians. Heinlein was at the core a patriot-fascist with a heavy veneer of the rogue frontiersman; nothing more and nothing less. All you need to do to get confirmation that this was is to read his non-fiction work.

      Libertarianism suffers from the same sort of malaise that democracy does: it presumes that “the people” are well educated, emotionally mature, largely free from bias and are all possessed of common sense, good judgment and emotional maturity. It also presumes a low population density and a ready frontier to expand into. The US was a filtered culture of extraordinary people at the time of the American Revolution, and it continued to receive a steady supply of that filtrate from Europe for the next 100 years. It was place of mind boggling natural wealth, no crowding, and a fantastic supply of smart, able and motivated human capital. The crankier and less tolerant in the population promptly moved west as urban confinement began to chafe.

      Today, no one stops to consider what would have happened had these “hearty, individualistic souls” been CONFINED to the big cities of the US Eastern seaboard. I have, and it would have been ugly.

      I’ve lived in a number of different kinds of urban and rural environments. In an apartment building, your degree of freedom is SEVERELY limited if you want to keep emus and peafowl, play Bach at 70 decibels at 0300 in the morning, or like to have the occasional large open fire in the evening. In fact, your freedom may be so constrained that your neighbors will complain if you walk across the floor of your “own” flat with your shoes on! People will bitch and form committees to stop clock or church bells from ringing and, on the other side of that coin, the constant din of sirens, car horns, boom boxes and auto stereos with bass loud enough to rattle the glass 3 stories above ground level can be maddening. Beauty and badness are largely in the eye of the beholder.

      This kind of crowded environment makes people testy, and ultimately it makes them REGULATE. Beyond these “trivial” things, there are the more pressing issues of stunning human stupidity, irresponsibility and utter disregard for life – their own and others. I’ve seen businesses create deadly environments which both the customers AND the owners were put at risk in. These things are so stupid, so reckless and so commonplace that, once you’ve seen enough of them, you have no doubts at all about why regulation happens and why “the people” create government to safeguard them from such lunatics. Half of the population have IQs below a 100, and all of the population are afflicted with a woefully inadequate level of emotional maturity and knowledge base to cope with a technological-social environment. Hunter-gatherers don’t hang around anyplace long enough to have to contend with their own shit. Alas, we do. And we’re not very well engineered to do that. Truth to tell, I’m astonished that we do as well as we do, because we are living way, way beyond our cognitive means.

      The laisse faire libertarian, or worse still, the anarco-capitalist, are children caught up in a fairy tale that never was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you realize what it will take to make such a world a reality; principally a huge improvement in the quality of humankind, in their individual longevity, and in their personal timescale perspective. As the old saw goes, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” — Mike Darwin

      • Abelard Lindsey says:

        No Mike, you got it completely wrong about libertarianism. The screwed up nature of human beings is a very powerful argument in favor of libertarianism. If humans are generally competent and good by nature, then everything is peachy no matter what system you have. If humans are, by nature, incompetent or evil, it makes no sense to put one human or group of humans in charge of all others. The problem with all non-libertarian worldviews is that they are based on the efficacy of bureaucracy. As we all know, bureaucracy is dysfunctional and that all large scale human institutions are bureaucracies.

        • Fundie says:

          I am firmly with Abelard’s comment, here. As a libertarian, I don’t presume any of the things Mike says I do. In fact, I presume pretty much the exact opposite, and I conclude after much thought that the best solution is to empower people to protect themselves from the consequences in the way they personally deem best.

          But I figure that’s beginning to get off-topic. :)

          • admin says:

            Fundie writes: “As a libertarian, I don’t presume any of the things Mike says I do.” Say what? I didn’t say you thought anything! Indeed, I have no idea what your ideas are on such matters! What made you think (and write) that any ideas I’ve expressed are also yours? — Mike Darwin

          • Fundie says:

            Just now say this.

            Mike, I didn’t mean to imply you said anything about my thoughts specifically. I didn’t feel that you were addressing me specifically. But you did say what you believed libertarians thought, and I am one, so I spoke as a libertarian to shed more light on what I as a libertarian believe.

            No offense taken, and I hope none was given.

            Disclosure: I’m all sorts of awful things. I am an anarcho-capitalist, I like 99% of what Murray Rothbard and his student Walter Block say (I’ll give Block a 99.9%). I don’t believe in democracy. I’m just simply awful. :)

        • admin says:

          Binary, binary, binary…capitalist or communist, conservative or liberal…. Sigh. I have no confidence in, let alone advocacy of bureaucracy, or of the nation-state as “the answer” to the problem of rational, WORKABLE human government. And I’ve never said that I think that such are workable solutions. They aren’t. What I’ve said is that NONE of the solutions we humans have come up with so far are workable over any meaningful period of time (e.g., centuries and millennia).

          At this point in my life, I’m completely uninterested in ideologies and labels, and acutely interested in what works. I have no interest in politicos of any stripe telling me why their hypotheses are the best ones and why they should work. Instead, I want EVIDENCE. In other words, do the fucking experiment – don’t whinge on and on about the ideological justification - because I no longer care.

          I detest government regulation, but I would be a hypocrite, an idiot, or both, if I were to say I didn’t see and understand the reason for why it invariably comes about. The primary reasons are human stupidity, short-sightedness (in part a result of our very short lifespans) and human cognitive disabilities, of which I’ve copied the list from Wikipedia, below. Please, look at that list, and realize that neither you nor I are immune from them – in fact, we are afflicted with multiples of them, daily.

          We are also not very smart as a species, and those individuals who are “smarter than the rest” invariably (not occasionally, but invariably) statistically become disconnected from and unaware of the feelings, capabilities, and ultimately the actions of the “balance” of the species, whose IQs are lower than the mean, and whose EQs are, on average, lower still. Libertarianism and democracy both posit that “everything will be just fine in long run” in any human population if government is restricted to protecting people and their property from predation – either by their immediate neighbors, or by their less immediate neighbors. Not defined in such systems are things like what exactly constitutes property – how it is created, who has rights to it, and what happens when “property rights” are tangled and interleaved?

          Give me a break! I have no obligation to endorse any such system which has no rigor and no rigorous evidence to support its workability. I would hastily add that I feel the same way about dictatorships, monarchies, oligarchies, technocracies, and virtually all other large-scale human government apparatuses. They are varying degrees of failure and misery and writ large.

          And yes, I am acutely aware of (and deeply grateful for) the (classically) liberal demi-democracies of the West, of which the US and the UK are the shining examples. But these are not libertarian principalities; they are nation-states offering varying degrees and types of oppression that inevitably progress towards failure whilst following a highly predictable historical arc. Abelard, the staunch libertarian, has repeatedly noted here that he has suffered grievously from the recent economic madness. Interestingly, the PROXIMATE causes of the current real estate and stock bubbles were the removal of REGULATORY constraints, in no small measure as a result of the actions of a man that I have (for decades) called the “Evil Gnome:” Alan Greenspan. The same Alan Greenspan who suckled at Ayn Rand’s teat. It would be disingenuous and wrong to leave the blame there, because the UNDERLYING CAUSES are laid out below, in the various cognitive biases (shortcomings), lack of long term world view, and yes, stupidity, exhibited by people who have lived such a short time (and will continue to live for an even short time) that they had no opportunity to viscerally learn, let alone forget, the lessons so well taught by the past. Am I to understand that Abelard wants another, bigger serving of the same?

          So, what am I? The answer to that is that I’m a person who realizes that all existing systems of government are deeply flawed, and that the real future of freedom and of humanity lie in our ability, if we have it, to transcend ourselves and to overcome the limitations of our evolutionarily “randomly engineered” beginnings. — Mike Darwin

          Anchoring – the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.
          Attentional Bias – implicit cognitive bias defined as the tendency of emotionally dominant stimuli in one’s environment to preferentially draw and hold attention.
          Backfire effect – Evidence disconfirming our beliefs only strengthens them.
          Bandwagon effect – the tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink and herd behavior.
          Bias blind spot – the tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people.[2]
          Choice-supportive bias – the tendency to remember one’s choices as better than they actually were.[3]
          Confirmation bias – the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.[4]
          Congruence bias – the tendency to test hypotheses exclusively through direct testing, in contrast to tests of possible alternative hypotheses.
          Contrast effect – the enhancement or diminishing of a weight or other measurement when compared with a recently observed contrasting object.[5]
          Denomination effect – the tendency to spend more money when it is denominated in small amounts (e.g. coins) rather than large amounts (e.g. bills).[6]
          Distinction bias – the tendency to view two options as more dissimilar when evaluating them simultaneously than when evaluating them separately.[7]
          Endowment effect – “the fact that people often demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it”.[8]
          Experimenter’s or Expectation bias – the tendency for experimenters to believe, certify, and publish data that agree with their expectations for the outcome of an experiment, and to disbelieve, discard, or downgrade the corresponding weightings for data that appear to conflict with those expectations.[9]
          Focusing effect – the tendency to place too much importance on one aspect of an event; causes error in accurately predicting the utility of a future outcome.[10]
          Framing effect – drawing different conclusions from the same information, depending on how that information is presented.
          Hostile media effect – the tendency to see a media report as being biased due to one’s own strong partisan views.
          Hyperbolic discounting – the tendency for people to have a stronger preference for more immediate payoffs relative to later payoffs, where the tendency increases the closer to the present both payoffs are.[11]
          Illusion of control – the tendency to overestimate one’s degree of influence over other external events.[12]
          Impact bias – the tendency to overestimate the length or the intensity of the impact of future feeling states.[13]
          Information bias – the tendency to seek information even when it cannot affect action.[14]
          Irrational escalation – the phenomenon where people justify increased investment in a decision, based on the cumulative prior investment, despite new evidence suggesting that the decision was probably wrong.
          Loss aversion – “the disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it”.[15] (see also Sunk cost effects and Endowment effect).
          Mere exposure effect – the tendency to express undue liking for things merely because of familiarity with them.[16]
          Money illusion – the tendency to concentrate on the nominal (face value) of money rather than its value in terms of purchasing power.[17]
          Moral credential effect – the tendency of a track record of non-prejudice to increase subsequent prejudice.
          Negativity bias – the tendency to pay more attention and give more weight to negative than positive experiences or other kinds of information.
          Neglect of probability – the tendency to completely disregard probability when making a decision under uncertainty.[18]
          Normalcy bias – the refusal to plan for, or react to, a disaster which has never happened before.
          Omission bias – the tendency to judge harmful actions as worse, or less moral, than equally harmful omissions (inactions).[19]
          Outcome bias – the tendency to judge a decision by its eventual outcome instead of based on the quality of the decision at the time it was made.
          Planning fallacy – the tendency to underestimate task-completion times.[13]
          Post-purchase rationalization – the tendency to persuade oneself through rational argument that a purchase was a good value.
          Pseudocertainty effect – the tendency to make risk-averse choices if the expected outcome is positive, but make risk-seeking choices to avoid negative outcomes.[20]
          Reactance – the urge to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do out of a need to resist a perceived attempt to constrain your freedom of choice.
          Restraint bias – the tendency to overestimate one’s ability to show restraint in the face of temptation.
          Selective perception – the tendency for expectations to affect perception.
          Semmelweis reflex – the tendency to reject new evidence that contradicts an established paradigm.[21]
          Social comparison bias – the tendency, when making hiring decisions, to favour potential candidates who don’t compete with one’s own particular strengths.[22]
          Status quo bias – the tendency to like things to stay relatively the same (see also loss aversion, endowment effect, and system justification).[23][24]
          Unit bias — the tendency to want to finish a given unit of a task or an item. Strong effects on the consumption of food in particular.[25]
          Wishful thinking – the formation of beliefs and the making of decisions according to what is pleasing to imagine instead of by appeal to evidence or rationality.[26]
          Zero-risk bias – preference for reducing a small risk to zero over a greater reduction in a larger risk.

          Biases in probability and belief

          Many of these biases are often studied for how they affect business and economic decisions and how they affect experimental research.

          Ambiguity effect – the tendency to avoid options for which missing information makes the probability seem “unknown.”[27]
          Anchoring effect – the tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on a past reference or on one trait or piece of information when making decisions (also called “insufficient adjustment”).
          Attentional bias – the tendency to neglect relevant data when making judgments of a correlation or association.
          Availability heuristic – estimating what is more likely by what is more available in memory, which is biased toward vivid, unusual, or emotionally charged examples.
          Availability cascade – a self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public discourse (or “repeat something long enough and it will become true”).
          Base rate neglect or Base rate fallacy – the tendency to base judgments on specifics, ignoring general statistical information.[28]
          Belief bias – an effect where someone’s evaluation of the logical strength of an argument is biased by the believability of the conclusion.[29]
          Clustering illusion – the tendency to see patterns where actually none exist.
          Conjunction fallacy – the tendency to assume that specific conditions are more probable than general ones.[30]
          Forward Bias – the tendency to create models based on past data which are validated only against that past data.
          Gambler’s fallacy – the tendency to think that future probabilities are altered by past events, when in reality they are unchanged. Results from an erroneous conceptualization of the Law of large numbers. For example, “I’ve flipped heads with this coin five times consecutively, so the chance of tails coming out on the sixth flip is much greater than heads.”
          Hindsight bias – sometimes called the “I-knew-it-all-along” effect, the tendency to see past events as being predictable[31] at the time those events happened.(sometimes phrased as “Hindsight is 20/20″)
          Illusory correlation – inaccurately perceiving a relationship between two events, either because of prejudice or selective processing of information.[32]
          Observer-expectancy effect – when a researcher expects a given result and therefore unconsciously manipulates an experiment or misinterprets data in order to find it (see also subject-expectancy effect).
          Optimism bias – the tendency to be over-optimistic about the outcome of planned actions.[33]
          Ostrich effect – ignoring an obvious (negative) situation.
          Overconfidence effect – excessive confidence in one’s own answers to questions. For example, for certain types of questions, answers that people rate as “99% certain” turn out to be wrong 40% of the time.[34][35]
          Positive outcome bias – the tendency of one to overestimate the probability of a favorable outcome coming to pass in a given situation (see also wishful thinking, optimism bias, and valence effect).
          Pareidolia – a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) is perceived as significant, e.g., seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse.
          Pessimism bias – the tendency for some people, especially those suffering from depression, to overestimate the likelihood of negative things happening to them.
          Primacy effect – the tendency to weigh initial events more than subsequent events.[36]
          Recency effect – the tendency to weigh recent events more than earlier events (see also peak-end rule).
          Disregard of regression toward the mean – the tendency to expect extreme performance to continue.
          Stereotyping – expecting a member of a group to have certain characteristics without having actual information about that individual.
          Subadditivity effect – the tendency to judge probability of the whole to be less than the probabilities of the parts.
          Subjective validation – perception that something is true if a subject’s belief demands it to be true. Also assigns perceived connections between coincidences.
          Well travelled road effect – underestimation of the duration taken to traverse oft-traveled routes and over-estimate the duration taken to traverse less familiar routes.

          [edit] Social biases

          Most of these biases are labeled as attributional biases.

          Actor–observer bias – the tendency for explanations of other individuals’ behaviors to overemphasize the influence of their personality and underemphasize the influence of their situation (see also Fundamental attribution error), and for explanations of one’s own behaviors to do the opposite (that is, to overemphasize the influence of our situation and underemphasize the influence of our own personality).
          Dunning–Kruger effect – a twofold bias. On one hand the lack of metacognitive ability deludes people, who overrate their capabilities. On the other hand, skilled people underrate their abilities, as they assume the others have a similar understanding.[37]
          Egocentric bias – occurs when people claim more responsibility for themselves for the results of a joint action than an outside observer would.
          Forer effect (aka Barnum effect) – the tendency to give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. For example, horoscopes.
          False consensus effect – the tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which others agree with them.[38]
          Fundamental attribution error – the tendency for people to over-emphasize personality-based explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing the role and power of situational influences on the same behavior (see also actor-observer bias, group attribution error, positivity effect, and negativity effect).[39]
          Halo effect – the tendency for a person’s positive or negative traits to “spill over” from one area of their personality to another in others’ perceptions of them (see also physical attractiveness stereotype).[40]
          Illusion of asymmetric insight – people perceive their knowledge of their peers to surpass their peers’ knowledge of them.[41]
          Illusion of transparency – people overestimate others’ ability to know them, and they also overestimate their ability to know others.
          Illusory superiority – overestimating one’s desirable qualities, and underestimating undesirable qualities, relative to other people. (Also known as “Lake Wobegon effect,” “better-than-average effect,” or “superiority bias”).[42]
          Ingroup bias – the tendency for people to give preferential treatment to others they perceive to be members of their own groups.
          Just-world phenomenon – the tendency for people to believe that the world is just and therefore people “get what they deserve.”
          Moral luck – the tendency for people to ascribe greater or lesser moral standing based on the outcome of an event rather than the intention
          Outgroup homogeneity bias – individuals see members of their own group as being relatively more varied than members of other groups.[43]
          Projection bias – the tendency to unconsciously assume that others (or one’s future selves) share one’s current emotional states, thoughts and values.[44]
          Self-serving bias – the tendency to claim more responsibility for successes than failures. It may also manifest itself as a tendency for people to evaluate ambiguous information in a way beneficial to their interests (see also group-serving bias).[45]
          System justification – the tendency to defend and bolster the status quo. Existing social, economic, and political arrangements tend to be preferred, and alternatives disparaged sometimes even at the expense of individual and collective self-interest. (See also status quo bias.)
          Trait ascription bias – the tendency for people to view themselves as relatively variable in terms of personality, behavior and mood while viewing others as much more predictable.
          Ultimate attribution error – similar to the fundamental attribution error, in this error a person is likely to make an internal attribution to an entire group instead of the individuals within the group.

          • Abelard Lindsey says:

            That’s quite a rant, Mike!

            I even agree with it to a certain extent.

            However, it does support my previous comment. If other humans are so incompetent and flawed, why put up with any kind of system that allows any of them to have influence over you?

          • Abelard Lindsey says:

            I will clarify my point. I consider most humans, and by association, human institutions to be corrupt and ineffectual. I have lived long enough and done enough things (on two continents) to convince me of this reality. For this reason, I do not believe that ANY human institution or group of humans should have any kind of monopoly power over others. Rather, I believe in a competitive meta-system where all human institutions are subject to competition and no institution is able to exert monopoly status over others. I simply reject out of hand the very concept of monopoly-authoritarianism. If I were religious, I would describe myself as a maltheist (this is the belief that god exists, but is evil).

            I do not know if there is a label that describes what I believe in. However, I tend to describe myself as libertarian for the simple reason that it is the label that most closely approximates what I believe in.

          • admin says:

            This is in response to your two comments, to Fundie’s remarks, and to anyone else out there who shares your views.

            It would be far better if we were in actual conversation, face to face, rather than doing in this in writing from the standpoint that it would be a lot easier to communicate not just my position, but also my attitude and emotional state. I don’t want to appear denigrating, hypercritical, or somehow “superior” in any way. I not only agree with your position about not wanting to have my life run by other people without my consent, I also have a pretty jaundiced view of what happens to the character of people when they are in power, In terms of what we all want and consider “acceptable.” In short, I don’t see any meaningful disagreement.

            Here’s my problem: when you write; “I do not believe that ANY human institution or group of humans should have any kind of monopoly power over others. Rather, I believe in a competitive meta-system where all human institutions are subject to competition and no institution is able to exert monopoly status over others. I simply reject out of hand the very concept of monopoly-authoritarianism. If I were religious, I would describe myself as a maltheist (this is the belief that god exists, but is evil). I do not know if there is a label that describes what I believe in. However, I tend to describe myself as libertarian for the simple reason that it is the label that most closely approximates what I believe in”

            In saying this, you have just told me what you WANT. I’m not quite so absolute in my condemnation of humanity (even in power), because I have met and been the beneficiary of many fair, decent and very good men in high places. Sure, it is easy to point to the Riverside County Coroner, Raymond Carillo and say, “This is why government is evil, look at what he tried to do to Dora Kent, to her son, and to cryonics in general – and look at the damage he did.,” without also considering the many other people in positions of power who acted not only responsibly, but fairly and responsibly under conditions when it would have been far easier for them to have just “gone along with the time and tide.” The good decisions that were made were not made because of politics, profit or corruption, but because they were the RIGHT decisions. When I look over all of my many years of interaction with the government and the police in the US, I can point to a number of instances of unfairness, prejudice, and even corruption, but mostly they were fair and reasonable experiences. And yes, I realize that depending upon who you are and where you are, you may be treated very differently.

            That point being made, I will now return to the question at hand. As I said above, you have told me what you WANT, but what you have not told me is who you ARE. When I ask a man who he is, he may respond in a wide variety of ways. He may tell me his age, his heritage/ethnicity, his job, that he is a parent, a Democrat, and so on. All of those things are reasonable and honest answers, because they tell me how lives. He may not be a good father, or a good Democrat or Republican, but at least I know he’s achieved some level of contact with the real world. Of course, I also understand that being a Democrat, or even a Mormon or a Catholic can encompass a fairly wide distribution of beliefs and behaviors – but I also know that these labels refer to real world institutions that, despite their many flaws and shortcomings, actually exist and which do manage to function and maintain some semblance of continuity over time.

            When people speak of being Anarco-Capitalists, or even of being Ron Paul Libertarians, my problem is that they have put themselves squarely in the realm of the hypothetical – of what they WANT, rather than what they, or anyone else for that matter, has managed to practically live. There’s no great sin in that. In fact, all of us are in that realm in some mode, or another. The whole of the mystical part of religion is really about what people WANT, rather than about what they will GET.

            Now at this point you may say, “Well, isn’t that exactly what cryonics is?” My answer is, “Close, but no cigar.” Cryonics has a large, complicated mass of rationally based things that must be done to achieve it, and most importantly, it is not just falsifiable, it WILL be either falsified or proven if the experiment is allowed to run to conclusion. So, cryonics is an EXPERIMENT, indeed a SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT, with people working very hard in very practical ways to carry it to conclusion. If we imagined cryonics as just an idea, as a proposition like the Singularity, or the Second Coming, which people simply wait for in faith or hope, then that would be another matter altogether.

            My problem with libertarians, Anarco-Capitalists, and others similarly inclined, is that they have no credible pathway to achieve the end they want. In fact, despite the fact that the ideas are quite old, they have never even been attempted experimentally. Why is that? One reason that seems obvious to me is that the mechanics, if not the ideals, cannot be implemented with any now extant technology. That doesn’t mean that the ideals or the “wants” are bad, wrong, or impossible to achieve. But it does mean that the technology doesn’t exist. And yes, to be fair, it may mean that those ends aren’t achievable; I may want the laws of gravity and thermodynamics to go away – but wishing and wanting doesn’t mean that those ends are achievable.

            I could write countless pages about why efforts to achieve the high degree of personal responsibility and freedom that we all want have consistently failed. I would also point out that in traveling around the world and keenly observing the “base” state of man, the Western Republics truly are remarkable achievements. They are a huge part of the way from the state of chimpanzee society, to the ideal of complete personal responsibility and freedom. Such failure analysis is (or can be) constructive. But beyond that, what is required is for a group of men to come together, sit down, and try to ENGINEER the next and better iteration of “cooperative interaction,” or if you prefer, self-government.

            I believe we are due for such a rethink not because the current system is “broken” or shortsighted, but primarily because we have more information and knowledge about our biology and our nature. We are not yet “truly INDIVIDUAL free living organisms” that can exist in the universe roaming as single individuals from star to to star and living off the raw energy and matter present in the cosmos. Human beings require other human beings (and also a lot of other life forms) in order to survive. When we exist in great number and proximity to each othe, there will be very, very difficult problems that will either have to be solved, or that will result in our perishing – either as a communities, or a species.


            I used to see this problem as separate from cryonics. I now realize that such a separation is not possible, because cryonics absolutely requires a stable and technologically capable society, be it large or small, and what’s more, that any stable human society (culture) require cryonics. Without a shift in the individual’s timescale from the trivial and personal, to the species or cosmic, no human society can survive long trm; it will be overcome by the shortsightedness and expediency that are the legacy of our evolution from unreasoning animals. All of human religion, and much of human culture has been an attempt and a yearning at achieving transcendence; and to the extent that effort has been realized, civilizations have been stable. Absent the biomedical technology for practical immortality, all such attempts at achieving that transcendence and escaping the “range of the moment:” timescale in which most our species exists, is just so much fantasy which is easily manipulated into exploitation and subjugation. It is all a pseudo-experiment, which cannot ever be either falsified, or concluded. We have a better answer rooted in the advance of human scientific and technological knowledge. Cryonics and life extension are manifestations of that – just as were the Enlightenment and the classically liberal ideas and practical engineering of the Founding Fathers in the US. And they too were born out of scientific and technological advance.

            However, these are “general answers;” they do not constitute the actual engineering required to build the world we want. That engineering largely remains to be done; and at this point, we may know, or think we know that in order to fly , what we build will probably have wings and a tail. But we may be surprised and find ourselves looking at a helicopter after we are “done;” there is more than one engineering approach to leave the earth and fly.

            However, we won’t get airborne just by wishing it were so. We must act and the time to do that is now – because time is running out.for us. — Mike Darwin

          • Fundie says:

            In cryonics, it’s often hard to get government permissions to do the experiments you would like to do.

            In politics, the same is also true. The experiment I would like to perform would involve giving all citizens the right to secede. I can’t seem to get through the regulatory red tape to get approval granted, though. :)

          • Fundie says:

            Give me a break! I have no obligation to endorse any such system which has no rigor and no rigorous evidence to support its workability. I would hastily add that I feel the same way about dictatorships, monarchies, oligarchies, technocracies, and virtually all other large-scale human government apparatuses.

            I feel the same way about democracy, as well. :)

          • Taurus Londono says:

            “The answer to that is that I’m a person who realizes that all existing systems of government are deeply flawed, and that the real future of freedom and of humanity lie in our ability, if we have it, to transcend ourselves and to overcome the limitations of our evolutionarily “randomly engineered” beginnings.”

            As succinct and eminently agreeable a statement on politics as anyone is likely to find. The only cause I can fathom for argument in the further comments below is the reflexive, instinctual need for self-defense of the ego.

            For all the endless volumes written, the outpouring of the deepest meditative thoughts humans have mustered about government, one definitive, unequivocal scientific *FACT* (ie; as opposed to a political theory) underlies them all-

            Our brains are the product of random, undirected forces of natural selection. This unpleasant truth underlies all political ideologies. The brains of show dogs have been subject to more thoughtful, intelligent design than our own. As such, we should be brave enough and honest enough to face our own natural limitations with humility, and agree together (whatever political labels we find comfortable to wield for ourselves) that the *best* path forward involves our directed efforts to break free from the biological boundaries imposed by nature.

  4. Geoff says:

    Just adding a bit to my above comments.

    Before going to this other English speaking country and subsequently going to
    school there for three years, I saw much of this country on television and I thought
    I knew everything about it. When I got to this country and went to school there, it was very different to what I presumed.

    The cultural and social changes were difficult. However, the worst part by far, was that everyone thought that I didnt go through any cultural and social changes. Also, the two countries were not next to each other.

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