ii Mirror mirror hanging on the wall, CryoX: Birth of NeoInsurgent Cryonicst

By CryoX

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

Mirror mirror hanging on the wall
You don’t have to tell me who’s the biggest fool of all
Mirror mirror I wish you could lie to me
And bring my baby back, bring my baby back to me – m2m

My frequent flier card isn’t a card at all, it’s Parthenocissus tricuspidata (some would argue it’ the Roman numeral IV, instead). Whatever. For me it’s the magic weed that evaporates the financial distance between the coasts three or four time a year. Most of my frat buddies have their business junkets, we academics have our conferences. Alcor and Mike Darwin. Both on the West Coast, as  was my upcoming conference. Doable.

I hadn’t seen Max More since my undergraduate days, which I realized were rapidly becoming, no pun intended, a chillingly long time ago. My girlfriend (at the time) and I had attended some cryo/extro/CR get-together’s, and I met Max and his wife Natasha several times.  Max was this earnest, muscular, ginger, intellectual type who tried just a little too hard, was just a little too rehearsed and was more than a little too rigid. His wife Natasha? In some slightly different AU, Kurzweil has his Ramona. To me there is something artificial, slightly off and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d t-a-u-t about her.  The only time I met Max without her around, I noticed a big difference in him; he was visibly insecure.

Now, Max More is President of Alcor.

I should have called to be sure Max was going to be there instead of just booking for the tour. Stupid. My flight was delayed out of LAX, and with the crazy delay from the limo, I barely made it from Sky Harbor to the Alcor building in time to meet the rest of the group. Unbelievably, the traffic in Phoenix is worse than it is in L.A.

The Alcor building is drab and unimpressive which, because of the idiodyssey of my limo driver, I really don’t understand. There are two Acoma Drives in Scottsdale and the moron (or his company) driving me from the airport had no GPS. We spent half an hour cruising around the Scottsdale Air Park before I finally became desperate enough to shove my Droid in his face and demand he call someone for instructions (shame on me for not having my GPS enabled for travel). The Air Park has lots of architecturally attractive buildings – some quite stylish if you like that Frank Lloyd Desert Look. The Alcor building is Brutalist Bad; plain-ugly-anywhere.

As soon as we were admitted to the lobby/reception area, a bomb went off in my head: Natasha! I don’t know if she had anything to do with it, but that was my reaction.  That kind of space is, by definition, supposed to welcome and draw you in. Instead, there is this big, cold, crystalline blob in the form of an “Infinity Mirror” almost immediately inside the door on the wall to your right, as you walk in.

There are all kinds of problems with this. First, it causes a distraction. The visitors aren’t interacting or socializing with each other, or the Alcor staffer (who should be a scantily clad voluptuous blonde). Instead, they are looking at the “pretty” on the wall, and some of them are even ape-touching it. One Merkeley woman in the group poked me in the ribs and said in an excited whisper, “Oh look into it, look into it.” That was my undoing. Fun-house mirrors, looking down tall glass buildings, certain angles at the Las Vegas  strip: all provoke intense, uncontrollable vertigo and nausea. Instantly, I was an undergrad in a dorm room staring up at an empty case of Dos Equis from the floor.  In one direction was the door to the outside, which the lady who had let us in had locked with a key. In the other direction was a mass of sharp angled stainless steel and glass furniture which I could see myself impaled upon and dying in a pool of my own blood and vomit.  I was paralyzed in front of the magic mirror. All I could do was shut my eyes and think of cool sea breezes. It worked.

The Alcor reception area is done up in grays, icy whites and shiny metals. This is a cryonics company. Its two most obvious and predominant negative images to overcome are death and the cold.  I didn’t really need the rest of the tour because even before the nausea had fully subsided, I realized that the special expertise Max had been hired to ply on Alcor was a new, high technology “preservative” skill called techsodermy, which is the cryonics equivalent for “dead” high technology companies. It was invented in the 1980s in Silicon Valley, and while I just made the analogy to cryonics, it really owes it origins more to taxidermy, because it was invented in order to fill dead tech companies with fluff in the hopes of convincing someone to buy them. (When we were waiting for our rides, the Merkeley Lady said the lobby reminded her of Benihana, and that she expected an “Oriental gentleman” with sizzling liquid nitrogen and  steak and shrimp to come out and start “chopping our meal” with a Ginzu knife at any moment. At least, she hoped it was steak and shrimp.)

My Old Man is all about money. In fact, he is money. He makes money appear and disappear. He moves money. He cleans it, he packages it, he inventories it, he “handles” it. That means that his clients are, mostly, people who rarely, if ever touch the filthy stuff. Some of them don’t even want to touch the little pieces of plastic that serve as markers for it. It’s an irony that the people who have the most money are the most visibly invisible of the super rich. If there is anyone reading this who knows what a Smythsons Diary is, I’d be very surprised. Perhaps a few more would know how to assess a man’s station by looking at his shoes, or his writing utensil? Today, casual dress is so commonplace and so comfortable…and if you want to be somewhere reasonably economically and you have commonsense and a lot of money, you book first class and you dress sensibly and comfortably. But, if you are in the know – then you know who’s who, and you don’t need a ledger book to tell you.

If you want peace and privacy, then you don’t travel by commercial means at all. That’s for the peasants. You use Flight Centres and privates jets, and there is no security screening. And if you want a blow job or a massage, or both en route, that can be arranged for a few hundred dollars more; a small part of the cost of coach ticket the flying public pays, and that after taking off their shoes and belts and switching planes in Houston and Dallas.

The people at Alcor are clueless about how to get the customers that matter. Not just the rich and the super rich (the people my Old Man services day-in and day-out), but the “good-judgment” segment of every demographic of the population. You may be a working class stiff from Boston in a cloth coat, but you know what the genuine trappings of quality, durability and class are, regardless of the style. Warmth, wealth, style, elegance, quality; whether understated or overstated, they always come through. So does Costco warehouse gray.

My Old Man wanted me to get an M.B.A. But he wasn’t altogether disappointed that instead of the usual frequent flier card I got that Mark IV. He’s interested in cryonics and he thinks it has a technical and (less so) a financial chance of working. But Alcor? I may be that desperate, but unfortunately for me (and him), he’s not.

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8 Responses to ii Mirror mirror hanging on the wall, CryoX: Birth of NeoInsurgent Cryonicst

  1. Max More says:

    No, Natasha had nothing to do with the choices. It was all people here at Alcor. I’m not surprised you don’t like it. Everyone else who has commented has thought it a major improvement, except that someone thought the Alcor lettering was too large and intimidating.

    One slight agreement with you is that I think there’s too much chilly blue in Alcor’s printed and promotional materials. Warmer colors may be better.

    You are mistaken about the infinity mirror. It does draw comments. It gives visitors something to talk about as they relax in what is, for many, an unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable place. Then they find it easier to talk with the friendly Alcor staff. But that’s only my experience, based on several dozen cases.

    • chronopause says:

      I’m glad you commented Max, because I wasn’t going to be the first to comment on this. He came up here the day after touring Alcor. No, I don’t expect you to believe that, but it’s true. And it’s funny and it’s creepy and it’s strange, because it reminds me so much of 30 years ago and you and Luigi… That’s not strange, but what is, what is really strange, is when I think about him and and the other young guys like him and the possible juxtaposition between them and me 30 years from now, and then I realize, oh shit! Yeah, oh shit.

      I haven’t seen the redo at Alcor; it looks better than any of the reception areas I ever “decorated.” But, I think the criticisms are spot on. And his writing is fresh and funny. I didn’t get all of it, and I had to do some heavy editing in terms of language. It’s strange old world as our mutual friend Garret would say. It is now permissible to say “fuck,” but heaven help you if you p or t. You guys should warn all visitors taking limos from the airport about the “Acoma Paradox.” I had a cow laughing when he started telling me about that – in fact, I literally had to run to the loo because I’ve been unwell for awhile. When Damila, Valerjia and I came to visit we had EXACTLY the same frustrating experience. In fact, I was at pains to try and prise out a description of the driver to see if the same guy who burned up an oil well of petrol in a stretched limo cruising use around in search of Alcor. This MUST happen with some frequency – it can’t be a coincidence.

      I just shot you the stats on Chronosphere. They are both interesting and unfortunate. I’ll insert a link right here a little later. I’m pressed for time now. It’s unfortunate that negatives of any kind result in positive spikes in readership. FYI, I do zero blog positioning/promotion beyond generating tags. I think Eugen does some referring, but basically there is no promotion, no blogroll, zip. So what you see is the most basic response. The earlier, gigantic spike was apparently in response to information interpreted to be of use in preparing for Armageddon. Longer baselines show that anything controversial boosts numbers – even if I had no idea it would be controversial. I now understand viscerally why tabloid newspapers out-competed serious journalists.

      Finally, try to get them to stay, Max. You got him in the door, but didn’t get him into dialogue? Why? And here’s an even stranger, and arguably much more important question. Where do want to have your critical conversations? In public or in private, and why? Actually, both spaces can be good, but I’d be curious to know how you make your choices and why others make those choices in dialoguing with you, as well? — Mike Darwin

  2. Max More says:

    As far as I can tell, you’ve made up this person in order to tell a story. If you what you say is real, why not encourage me to talk to me personally? Obviously, he’s an American. His “undergraduate days” were definitely not mine.

    This “person” (if he is) said: “I should have called to be sure Max was going to be there instead of just booking for the tour. Stupid.” So why do you ask why I didn’t get him into dialogue? If I wasn’t there… Something here rings false. If this was someone I knew, and came to visit, you can be damn sure I would talk to him in depth.

    My challenge: Tell me who this person was, and how to contact him. At the very least, ask him to call me.

  3. Max More says:

    Before I quit for the night, and probably quite a bit longer: You asked where I want to have my critical conversations — in public or private. That depends on what you mean by “critical conversations”. If it’s a matter that’s critical to the other person, I generally prefer private, where my conversant won’t feel the need to perform for an audience, or prove him/herself in terms of conventional thinking. As for me, I have no preference. Depends on the situation. Public conversations can reach many more people, but private conversations can be far more personal and allow us to connect on a much deeper level. Why do you ask?

    At the BIL 2012 conference, I had a completely unexpected one-on-one conversation about cryonics. The person I conversed with turned out to be a “natural” who wanted to right away make cryopreservation arrangements (not unlike I did when I first heard of cryonics being done for real — you will know about that, Mike). That kind of conversation, which took place over lunch on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, could not have happened publicly. But public discussions, like my “Join the 0.00002%” talk at BIL 2012, can reach more people and kickstart their thinking with a broader effect.

    • chronopause says:

      A snob? Definitely. And he wasn’t any too pleased at what he found when he arrived here. He was visibly disappointed when I met him at the gate in worn khakis and a T-shirt, instead of having “dressed for dinner.” He was impressed with Charlie, my purebred Boston Bull Terrier, but not so impressed to learn she is rescue dog, given to me by two friends from the dustbin. He lasted longer than most people do in my home – a little over an hour – before crawling the walls and begging to “go somewhere” where we could talk. Despite my warning that going into town was a particularly bad idea, we went anyway. I think maybe he made it three feet into the Corral “Cafe” before he became immobilized, like a straight guy who realizes he’s accidentally stepped into a gay leather bar, and then he slowly, carefully backed out. We ended up at the Denney’s in Williams, which is about a 15 minute’s drive from here.

      OK, so he’s an Ivy League snob. That’s actually the least of my problems with him (more on those shortly and elsewhere). Pick somebody Mark, pick anybody who’s done something meaningful in any area of human of endeavor in the and tell then me about them. A few will be genuinely, all around nice people. But the majority will, at best, be people – people with significant flaws. I know you watch MAD MEN. Think about the key characters on that program. They’re a good representation of what real, creative, productive people are like. Not superstars, just people who held those kinds of jobs at that time and place. In many ways it isn’t a pretty picture. Don Draper and Roger Sterling are both deeply flawed men. And the thing is, they were undoubtedly worse when they were young. It just isn’t as obvious, because young people are cut more slack, they have less authority (and can thus do less damage) and historically, what they write has been less visible. Much of the written (and acted out) idiocy of youth was made invisible by the passage of time. The Internet has changed that. Indeed, Max recently had a very unfair time-warped taste of that himself. One of the central, underlying story elements of MAD MEN is a youthful decision to assume another man’s identity that Don Draper made. At least as done there in that way, it wouldn’t even be possible today. Youthful indiscretions are not only more immediately apparent, it appears they are likely to be forever given video cameras and Youtube!

      My point is, I now find myself struggling with problems I have no clear answers to. I’ve been dealing with young(er) assholes in cryonics for 20+ years. Some of them turned out to be really bad news and ended up costing both me and cryonics time, trouble and in some cases, money. In other instances, they proved to be great assets. Hell, arguably one the greatest assholes to arrive on cryonics’ doorstep was me. Some bright young people who show up are nice and easy to work with. But to be honest, very few of those go on to “greatness.” In fact, I can think of only two. Most are “difficult” in one way or another. That does not mean that they are nasty or mean, just that they are “difficult.” I speak often and highly of Thomas Donaldson here, but I found him difficult. Not because he was in any way a bad person, far from it, he was a nice and decent man. But, because he was brilliant and opinionated, he was damn difficult to deal with at times.

      There are different kinds of snobs, and the truth is, we’re all snobs in the end. A few years ago, late one night in Managua, Nicaragua, I had gotten lost and I was talking with these two prostitutes on a deserted street. Once it was determined that I was “maricon,” the conversation loosened up considerably. After much raucous laughter and exchanging of stories, the gist of our final conversation was that, “Nobody is ever the worst whore.” By that what was meant, “No matter how base or degraded you station has become in life, you will always comfort yourself by noting that there is someone lower than you.” So, if you are in the sex trade, you may do many “vile” things, but there are some things that even you won’t do.

      That’s really the essence of snobbery. But there’s another side to it, too. If you or I go out and buy the trappings of wealth above our station, that is idiocy. It’s the intelligence of a parrot – and NOT of an African Gray parrot. It’s mimicry. It may work briefly – long enough to get a girl into bed and inseminate her, or get an invite to a party, and thus a meal and some drinks. But it won’t work as a long term strategy. That’s why “dumb” animals do it, because it does indeed work as a reproductive strategy or to grab a bite to eat. So, when I see middle, working, or lower class people obsessing over and paying small fortunes for “designer” objects, I see it as a mark of their very limited intelligence, which is likely what is keeping pinned them where they are in life.

      However, I ran Cryo-X’s piece because I thought he raised a valid point regarding Alcor. Whether his particular’s are right or not, I wouldn’t know. I’ve not rubbed shoulders with such people on a regular basis. The closest I’ve come in a cryonics context was a few years ago, in a Hacienda in Spain, and I grew so infuriated that I stormed out of the meeting and spent the rest of my time there holed up in my room (my apologies, again, to my gracious hosts). But, having said that, that very meeting was part of the reason I decided to run the piece, because all of the people I met there had made exactly the same kinds of comments about cryonics in general. And while I have no first-hand knowledge of this, I’ve heard that ~3 very rich individuals or families have poured millions into efforts to create their own cryonics capabilities, because of just the kinds of dissatisfactions.

      Oh yes, one more thing, Cryo-X had a Smythsons cover thingy for his iPad in sort of an electric green. I had no idea – but he told me while complaining about the plastic glasses at Denney’s.

      There is much more I have to say about my decision to run both of CryoX’s pieces, but that is reserved for a main posting on Chronosphere. — Mike Darwin

  4. Mark Plus says:

    CryoX sounds like a snob, thinking that he can signal “superiority” by buying stationery from Smythsons Diary. I have to laugh at people who think that way under current circumstances. They can’t buy health care dramatically better than the kind available to everyone else, though they can pay physicians to bend the rules. Steve Jobs bought, and wasted, a perfectly good transplantable liver for himself which should have gone to someone with a better prognosis. If anything, with enough money you can get physicians to do riskier things to your body which could possibly shorten your life, or more likely won’t extend it while wasting your money in the process. As Robin Hanson has argued from empirical evidence, when you consume more health care above some margin, the marginal benefits compete with the marginal iatric damage, and the two effects tend to cancel each other out.

    By contrast, three of my grandparents, poor white Southerners, made it to about 90 or so with the sort of health care they could get in Oklahoma and Arkansas paid for by Medicare.

    As for, “If you want peace and privacy, then you don’t travel by commercial means at all. That’s for the peasants.” What about the marvel that the “peasants” can fly anywhere now? The economic revolution of the past 200 years worked primarily to raise the living standards of people from the gutter like myself; rich people’s standards of living increased by smaller marginal amounts, and almost as an afterthought.

  5. Shannon Vyff says:

    Well we obviously have to be accepting of all types of people. There are many more of the non-super-rich out there, the “99%ters” -cryonics already has an image of being too expensive. I find it amusing that it is looks “too poor” to some.

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