i Birth of a NeoInsurgent Cryonicst

By CryoX

Illustrations by Mike Darwin

This is a work of fiction  {or is it?}

We Froze the First Fly.

Great title.

I could have written it.

I should have written it.

I’m an insect endocrinologist.

This futon in the lab lounge is so hard and lumpy I’d’ rather crash on the floor. But it’s nearly as sticky-gray as the table cum journal holder, cum lamp stand at the end of it. I am waiting on some gel tracks to finish. I wearily sit up, grab the ratted copy of PNASty on the coffee-juice soaked table next to the fridge. It comes away from the faux wood-grain surface with a stickysssssss.  The journal opens, on cue to,  ”Conversion of the chill susceptible fruit fly larva (Drosophila melanogaster) to a freeze-tolerant organism.”

Did I mention I’m also a cryonicist?

My middle name is Drosophila.



Feelings of worthlessness.

Should I call GOD (Grand Old (Mike) Darwin) when I get home? That’s a conversation I can’t have here, or at Starbucks across the street.

GOD knows everything, well, almost everything.

Yeah, I should call him.

He hates it when I call him that, so I guess I should call him Darwin here, or maybe just “him”, when it’s grammatically correct.

I started phoning him after I got turned onto the history of the interaction between scientists and cryonics by something Chris Hayworth wrote.

Then I was pulled into his blog.

This place (where I work) is close to one of the Great Libraries. Periodicals. Films. There’s maybe two places  you can go to find out about the history of cryonics and science as it happened: Mike Darwin, and the Library of Congress.  When I started, I didn’t know to start with Mike Darwin. I’d have saved a lot of time. But I think it would’ve warped my perspective .

Digging through the stacks of magazines and newspapers from the 1960s and the 1970s, ordering up 35 mm film, kinescopes, and videotapes that were the size of hard drives from 1980′s, was like opening old tombs. That stuff smells. It feels ancient. Dead. Gone.

Darwin is alive. Electric. Now. He ruins the past by making it present.

The gels are done.

I’m done.



The bugdust can wait till tomorrow.

I get Darwin on the Droid and start pouring out my woes about the missed opportunity with frozen flies. He is only mildly moved. “It’s good work,” he says, “not so much because it’s great science, but because it shows people straining to do something, to try, to be clever. I know this will sound impossibly, prickishly arrogant, but this is work that could have been done, and should have been done by a kid in high school, or middle school as a Science Fair project 10, or even 15 years ago. No, no, not the DSC (differential scanning calorimetry), and all the sophisticated science, but the basic work of trying to successfully introduce cryoprotectants into flies, or other larger organisms, and then freeze them successfully. Planaria would be a great model for that!”

“Really?” I replied with some skepticism.

The image of a Justin Bieber, working studiously at my bench,  just didn’t crystallize in my mind?

“Hell yes!”

“In the 1970s, students, children,  were freezing mammals – reproducing Smith’s work – and Greg Fahy and I had both done experiments with invertebrates (and me with vertebrates) before the Science Fair banned such work. In fact, you can introduce 6% DMSO into gold fish. I never tried to see how much additional ice that lets them tolerate. Now, because all such biological “hacking ” is banned, no kid is going to try things like introducing combinations of molecules like perhaps a  membrane protecting sugar such as trehalose,  a protective amino acid such as proline,  and a small amount of a colligative agent, such as glycerol, DMSO or ethylene glycol into a common pest, like the California garden snail. Can’t be done. They’d send the poor bastard off  for a psych referral and counseling.  “Tsk, tsk, you maladjusted, mean little bugger,” they’d say.  ”Why, the next thing you know, you’ll be pulling the wings off song birds and sniffing your mates’ jockstraps in the locker room.”

“I had to admit, he had a point. ”

“So you’re saying I shouldn’t feel so bad that I didn’t do this  experiment 10 years ago?”

“No, I’m saying that as far as your likelihood of  brilliant scientific contributions to cryobiology goes, you’re fucked.  In my opinion, that window probably closed when you were a graduate student, and it certainly closed after you were a post doc. Any mark you make scientifically now in cryobiology/cryonics will be along the lines of what Donaldson did, and Donaldson was a fucking genius.”

“And I’m guessing you think I’m not?” I replied.

“Who do people always put words in my mouth, and then get royally pissed off at me? I’m glad you’re recording these calls, and I hope you not only save them, but that you actually listen to them some day. Because when you do, you’re going find that, to your considerable surprise,  after 20 or 30 years of telling people that “Mike Darwin called you a fucking moron,” in fact, what I really said  was nothing at all. Literally, nothing at all. Please, try and remember that.

People have this remarkable tendency to substitute their own dire adjectives at junctures like this when they are forced to confront the hard reality that they are not geniuses, or millionaires, or movies stars, or any other of those nearly impossible ideals and that, at least during  this life cycle, they are not going to be.  That is one of the most important reasons why we are tangled up in cryonics in the first place! Because, if you stop and think about it even a little, not even George Clooney, or Bill Gates, or Barac Obama, or anybody gets it all. They only get a teeny tiny bit of it: and then they die. Whitney Houston. Fantastic, angelic voice. Beautiful woman. Rich, rich rich! Miserable life. Dead. Great stuff, huh? ” Cryonics isn’t just about any of those things, it’s about all of those things, minus death, and infinitely more,  and that’s what makes its transcendent.  That’s why the prefix trans keeps popping up spontaneously in cryonics (and everywhere else in human culture).”

“So what do you think I should do?” I ask.

“If you mean what specifically, the answer is, ‘I don’t know.’ And that’s because you are not a PFC and I’m not a general. You’re not a grunt with an IQ of 90, under the authority of a nation-state, that I can order about at my pleasure. If I try to do that, you’ll turn on me like a cornered rat. In fact, odds are, you’ll do that no matter how I choose to interact with you. It’s just that the odds are a lot better that it will happen later, rather than sooner.

So I can’t give you orders. I can’t even really give you specific suggestions, because as soon as I do, you’ll start returning with all kinds of ‘well but’s', because again, it will rapidly degenerate into my planning your life. That won’t work.”

“So what does work?”

“The nature of an insurgency is that, in its early stages, it is self organizing.  Still, it must reach a critical mass. How it does that is still a mystery to me. I think it is part chance, part timing, part the presence of the right individual – the nucleating individual.”

“Do you think you’re that nucleator?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think.  At any one time there are a thousand, ten thousand, maybe a million guys who think they are the nucleators. I was in the UK at the baths and all the action had stopped. All the men had gathered around the telly  to watch this ghastly, absolutely ghastly woman with Asperger’s from Scotland sing.[i] There was no sex to be had anywhere; these men had paid good money to get laid and they’re watching this ghastly woman on TV! She sang. Objectively, her voice was good. Not great, not fantastic. Definitely the kind of voice that can make a meager living for you at the low end of the industry if you have a good personality and a great manager; clearly neither of which she had. Good singing voices are common. Great singing voices, truly great singing voices, are not. Now this, on the telly, commanding the attention of gay men in a city where you can hear the most magnificent voices in the world at St. Martin’s in the Field for fucking free (if you can read)!

As it turned out, she became a sensation, went onto fame in the U.S., sold millions of albums! It was mad, absolutely mad! And I assure you, it had nothing to do with her raw talent. She was one of millions and millions of would-be nucleating agents trying for that peculiar niche, and she was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Did she think she was going to be a multimillionaire hit recording star? It doesn’t really matter, because she is. It’s very much like the lottery if you are poor , disenfranchised, have no other options and desperately want to get hold of millions. Well it’s really your only chance, and if you don’t play, you can’t win.

I’d also hasten to add that you’d best be careful what you wish for and be damn sure you have the tools and the talent to handle it if you get it, because most people who  win the lottery are destroyed by it. And the results of winning for most insurgents and insurgencies are disastrous for them.”

“But back to me? Where do I fit in?”

“You say you’ve become ‘obsessed’ with the war between the cryobiologists and us. What have you learned?”

“That you single-handedly squashed those Cacks . Reading that history, the history that you wrote of the battle royale between the cryobiologists and the cryonicists,  between them and us, I mean, that was the catalyst. When I began looking at the source material, it didn’t compute. ”

“Why not?”

“They caved too quickly. It was all over as if they’d been hit in the taint with a sledge hammer. That didn’t make sense. Cacks don’t wage a 20 year war, invest their reputations and take the time to go on TV and talk to journalists, and then just stop. Not. Doesn’t happen.”


“So I wanted to know what did happen. I know that you threatened to sue them. They’re herd animals.  But some of them are mavericks. And some of them are stupid, too. ”

“Like Dr. Arthur Rowe, who, in fact, is still alive, and recently, like a frozen Woolly Mammoth in some bad B-movie, has come back to life, eons later, and is making TV appearances again, trashing cryonics.”

“Yeah, like  Arthur Rowe.”

“There are colleagues of mine here who won’t talk to any journalist, but if someone from Wired or Scientific American comes sniffing around, they can’t help themselves. Greed and ego, ego and greed.”


“So, I wanted to know what happened and that’s when I started digging. I guess that’s when I began to understand your message on Chronosphere and to understand what the word insurgency meant. I think it’s Chris Hayworth who mentions that you threatened to sue the Society for Cryobiology.

When your name comes up in cryonics, everybody thinks they know you, and everyone has a story to tell about you. In a small group of people who’ve been involved for a while, I’m usually the only one that hasn’t got anything to say. Listening to that kind of talk is funny. I sit and think about the letters written to those scientists’ bosses. And to the bosses of those scientists’ bosses. About the phone calls, probably hundreds of phone calls made to university chancellors, blood bank officials, trustee members, university board members, grant committee remembers. About all the letters, hundreds and hundreds of letters on different letter heads, on no letter heads; letters written and mailed to the same types of people complaining about the unscientific, unethical, overreaching and improper behavior of their scientist employees.  Courteous letters and not so courteous letters.

And I have to wonder what kinds of letters some of those scientists, or their families, the ones who didn’t stop their unscientific and irrational attacks on cryonics, might have received?”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t know.”

“You know, a few of the secretaries and support staff who worked for some of the most outspoken scientific critics of cryonics are still around. They offer an interesting peek into that time. You ground those people down. In fact, you sacred the crap out of them.”

“I had help.”

“I’m sure you did. But it was you. It was your idea. It was your leadership. It was your insurgency, as you would put it.”


“Melody Maxim?”

“What about her?”

“She was not merely annoying, she was becoming dangerously destructive. Not because of the true things she was saying. Had she spoke the truth – no matter how malignantly or viciously, no matter with what calls for regulation and policing, I would have remained silent. But she began to lie, to defame good men who were cryopreserved and who could not defend themselves; to threaten the lives of innocent people, and to try to destroy cryonics on the basis of fraud and force. Interestingly, the response of the cryonics organizations (and their members) twenty years after the cryobiologists’ attacks on cryonics organizations that were now orders of magnitude bigger in size and with assets larger still, was to revert to type. It was exactly the same as it had been before 1980. They simply argued with these creeps in their own forums, were picked off one by one, took it, watched the opposition grow dangerously and did nothing. And in the bargain, they fought with each other!

I was stunned. Frankly, I was more stunned than I am today, having just been informed that both my parents have  been dead for four months and that I was deliberately not informed about it. It shook me to core.  I realized, as I read over that traffic, that cryonics was in no way going to work. It wasn’t an opinion, or a guess, or a hunch, it was a simple fact. It was like turning on the TV on 9/11 and seeing those people falling from one of the Twin Towers. There could be absolutely no question in your mind that whilst those people were alive, they were absolutely certain to be dead within a (short) and quantifiable period of time.

You have to realize that I was not following any of that traffic in real-time. I was busy doing all kinds of other things. In fact, during that immediate time interval, I was in London,  soaking up art, music, food, culture and having more sex than any one person should ever have. It was only because of the persistence of this fellow with the handle of Finance Director (FD), who kept intruding into my life to tell me how I was being slandered by this Melody Maxim person, that I even began to read that pap.

And then it took awhile , a long while, to deal with the shock of that “cryonics 9/11.” At least credit me with a lot more sense than George W. Bush. My measured response was to write the “Failure Analysis Lectures” which have been, I must say, a spectacular failure.

But I also began Chronosphere, and I began efforts to squelch the attacks on cryonics. I believe those were successful. Of course, Alcor was also suing Larry Johnson, and I think that that was enormously useful in that it sent the clear message that lies, even if mixed with the truth, will be very costly. They can and will cost you your home, your job, your reputation.

Unfortunately, it is in the nature of the U.S. tort system, and of insurgencies, that they  have an inherent dark side. It’s in the nature of any force, of any weapon or technology that there is the capability for harm equal to or greater than that which is present for good. Insurgencies are more like projectile weapons, than, say,  bladed weapons, such as knives or swords. As such, they are more suited for warfare and they are mostly of use for killing and mayhem. This is also the difference between the National Guard and the Army, and between the Police and the Army, and it is why you never use the Army in place of the Police. Never. The problem with the Johnson victory is that while most of the book is lies, there is still a meta-truth to it. The “victory”, which was also a shallow one, is thus further diluted, because it was not a completely just one.

There is so little second guessing the fight against the Nazi/Axis ~70 years later because:

the Nazis were  kooks,

they behaved with abominable aggressiveness,

their European allies were kooks,

they behaved with disgusting barbarity,

they left the concentration camps to be filmed and photographed,

they were utterly and completely defeated and humiliated,

it was all beautifully documented.

What you witnessed in the ultimate response to Maxim was the rekindling of a mini-insurgency. I gave no orders. Before I came on the scene, Alcor was already prosecuting Johnson, albeit neglecting their flanks with Maxim and Arnold. However, that was not enough then and it is not enough now.

It’s not just about “enemies.” It ‘s about not making progress, about not doing science. It’s about not being excited, planning, thinking, innovating and being obsessed with, and in love with cryonics. The failure to defend ourselves; that’s a symptom of all those other things being absent. Only  the sick, the weak, the distracted or the demented fail to defend themselves.”

[i] Susan Boyle

This entry was posted in Cryobiology, Cryonics History, Cryonics Philosophy, Culturomics, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to i Birth of a NeoInsurgent Cryonicst

  1. TM says:

    Totally off-topic, but if you have the time could you spare any thoughts you have regarding KrioRus as an cryonics provider for somebody living in Europe for whom life insurance is not an possibility? I’ve very much enjoyed reading through your site and I’ve noticed that you’ve spent time in Russia and seem to know the Russian cryonicists well, but beyond noting the comparatively primitive nature of their set-up, I haven’t seen anything amounting to an endorsement or otherwise. Would you advise somebody considering cryonics to view KrioRus as a viable budget option at its present level of development? Many thanks!

    Apologies if I’ve overlooked something elsewhere in your site.

    • chronopause says:

      My general advice is the same as it has always has been, which is to prepare a comprehensive check list. Sometime ago, I wrote out a good part of such a list, I think on Cryonet, but I have no idea where it is. I’m always urging activism here, so, here’s a really good activism project for Chronosphere readers. Get off your asses and generate a user friendly, web accessible checklist for evaluating potential cryo-orgs. I’ll be happy to contribute, but I won’t do it; I’m busy with other things.

      Once you have the checklist you are ready for Step 2, which is to start your evaluation by web, email and phone. Get as much information as you can by these means, but trust none of it. And I do mean trust none of it.

      That done, you are now ready for Step 3, which is to GO THERE and see for yourself. You will need to allow for at least 3 days days to examine the organization, because you are going to both not trust and to verify. This means that if you are told that the organization has, say, $50,000 in trust, or in the bank, or in gold, or in heads of cattle for each patient in cryopreservation, you are going to go and see the banker, go and see the gold, and in short, go and do whatever it takes to be as sure as humanly possible that not only are those cattle there, but that they are fat, happy, and know their owners by name.

      You are going to look over their facilities, see if their toilets are clean, see if the facility cat or dog (if they have one) is well tended, see if the lawn is well manicured… You are going to talk to their neighbors, the Better Business Bureau, the local newspaper and TV station and, if you can find her, the town busy-body. You will definitely talk not only to their current liquid nitrogen supplier, but every liquid nitrogen supplier in the province…to their landlord…to their IT guy…

      You are going to expect and accept invitations to the homes of their principals, or at very least, to be entertained by them, or for them to accept your offers of entertainment for at least one evening during your stay. You are going to insist upon spending TWO long evenings meeting MANY other members of the organization in an informal, social setting at a place with private spaces, where you can easily be “pulled aside” for a quick, whispered invitation to another private meeting. And if you get such an invitation, you WILL cancel your costly plans for the Bolshoi or Dearborne Village, or Pinnacle Peak and you will make that meeting(s).

      You will insist on looking inside patient dewars, getting copies of LN2 fill logs, and having an opportunity to question the staff that care for patients during every phase of the procedure. You’ll look at equipment. If you know about motor vehicles, you’ll carefully scrutinize any of those that they own. If you are a finance guy, you’ll look at their fiduciary operations with similar scrutiny, if you a medical guy… Get the picture?

      What I am trying to tell you is that, because cryonics is not a mature, developed product, my opinion, while not worthless, ultimately comes down to this:

      * They are all grossly deficient (they all stink)
      * Failure of existing organizations is highly probable
      * Cryonics is an activist, work in progress endeavor; NOT a consumer good
      * Altering the probability of failure is a function of what happens now and in the future
      * Success or failure depends not just on them, but upon them, you and other like you, as well.

      Current cryonics organizations are heavily focused on growth. They believe that getting bigger – in other words becoming MORE of what they already ARE is the solution to their problems. This focus on growth by dysfunctional cryonics has been the norm for 50 years. Interestingly, the only time a cryonics organization grew at a high rate (~ 30% a year) was when there was virtually no focused interest by that organization in membership growth at at all). I would also note that all the extant cryonics organizations seem to acknowledge that cryonics does have serious problems. IMO, these two things. taken together are akin to a precancerous cell struggling to escape the control of the apoptosis machinery trying to shut it down. — Mike Darwin

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