Many years ago in The Immortalist (now Long Life), there was a column authored by one Robert Brakeman.  If you’re a fan of Seinfeld (and I’m not) then Brakeman was a genius, because he did in print what Seinfeld did on TV; wrote a column about nothing that a lot of people found entertaining.

Brakeman’s column was not controversial, or technical, or sentimental, or political, or artistic; it was just a well written column about, well, about nothing. Except that every year or two he would casually discuss how he and Bruce Springsteen had decided that cryonics was a really good idea. Or it might be some other, equally legendary celebrity. The first couple of times this happened I didn’t pay it much mind. Cryonics is a quirky business, after all. However, after the third or fourth time, I wrote a letter to the editor of The Immortalist, Mae Ettinger (then Mae Junod) and I asked her if anyone there had ever met, or even spoken with Robert Brakemen, or otherwise vetted him?

Mae Ettinger did not normally refer to me by name, preferring instead to use the moniker “Evil Genius,” when not calling me the “Great Satan.” The subsequent correspondence between us was neither cordial nor long.  Brakemen continued to write in The Immortalist until, eventually, I, or someone else (I really don’t remember the particulars) called Mae out in public over who Brakeman was and whether it was really true  that all these celebrities were, in fact, true-believing cryonicists, as claimed by Brakemen in the pages of The Immortalist. After that,  there were no more columns by Robert Brakeman.  I never did find out who he was, but I would not be surprised to find out today if people were accusing me of being him. If so, I’ll happily take the credit: that guy was one hell of a writer.

In the history of cryonics there have been many pseudononymous individuals and nom de plumes. This is to be expected in any area of endeavor where there is controversy and risk to one’s career and reputation. However, in the early days of cryonics and up until the advent of the Internet, the presence of anonymous actors was extraordinarily rare. To be sure, people changed their names; I’m one of them. But that is very different than being an anonymous actor (IA). There is nothing sneaky about being Mike Darwin or Max More or Bette Davis, for that matter. People get to pick their own names as long as they stay people; discrete, identifiable beings who are responsible and accountable for their actions. People who don’t like that are entitled to their opinion, but the act of adopting another name isn’t illegal, so long as you don’t adopt another identity in the bargain.

Sometimes, rarely, the use of another name to create an AA is, arguably, justifiable. The Lone Ranger, “V,” the Three Musketeers, the list of anonymous heroes created in response to tyranny is endless. In cryonics, it could be argued that Corey Noble, PhD., once served that role in response to the tyrannical actions of the Society of Cryobiology. But the need for anonymous actors in daily life is pretty rare. Today, as far as cryonics is concerned herein the US, it is virtually over.

And yet, the reverse has happened. Whereas until the advent of the Internet in the 1980s there were almost no  AAs in cryonics, now, that is almost all there are! What gives? The list is endless and I can’t begin to catalog them all: unperson, Finance Department, Desert Rat, and the more distant past, Clarissa Wells…  Most of these names are  “handles” and this practice has its origin in a related technology: radio.  An important difference is that radio, unlike the Internet, operated in the realm of limited bandwidth. The electromagnetic spectrum is inherently limited by physical law. That meant regulation and licensing. And that meant that “handles” were ultimately, at least in theory, traceable back to real, responsible people. With the Internet this is not the case at all.

Of the list of anonymous actors I’ve just given, I’ve been accused of being Clarissa Wells, Finance Department (FD) and unperson. I eventually found out who Clarissa Wells was (and it wasn’t me) and I have had extensive correspondence with FD (I’m not that crazy), so I suppose that still leaves unperson as a possibility. But the fact of the matter is, other than as a one-time prank, I’ve never used a pseudonymous person or an anonymous actor, on or off the Internet.  I find it deeply offensive: so offensive I’ve even turned down significant sums of money to do it for hire.

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking big thoughts about the ‘how and why’ of the recent emergence of this phenomenon. Finally, today, I realized that there is no big philosophical reason for it. People do it for a single, simple reason: BECAUSE THEY CAN. It is a whole hell of a lot easier to be able to say and do whatever you want and not be accountable for it. It turns out that even if you are bright, talented, and have a great deal to offer and be rewarded for, it still easier and more rewarding to act outside your primary sphere of professional and personal action in an anonymous way than it is to jump through the hoops all over again and gain recognition in a small pond the hard way, just as you did in the big one. And to that, I have the following response: fuck you and the fish you swam in on.

So, from now on, the following rules pertain here in the Chronosphere pond. No handles are allowed. Only  real people can post or comment here. Maybe Eugen Leitl can help me figure out how to implement that. I’m not looking for something elaborate – just something as “real” as a letter used to be.  No more wackywackys from the ether.  If that’s the end of Chronosphere, or comments on Chronophere, so be it. I respect peoples’ rights to geographical privacy. I’m not trying (no do I want) to know where any person is at any point in time or space. I just want to know I am dealing with a real, accountable, person, not a cyberphantom.

Mike Darwin,  Ash Fork, AZ

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13 Responses to inonymous?

  1. Mark Plus says:

    I remember some of Brakeman’s writings. In one he claimed that the industrialist Arthur Vining Davis, the founder of Alcoa who died in 1962, wanted to build a cryonics facility for himself in the 1950′s.

    • chronopause says:

      I missed that one! I hadn’t thought of Robert Brakeman in years. Many, many, years. That yarn would be pretty incredible since THE PROSPECT wasn’t published until 1964. As you almost certainly know, Mike Perry has scanned all of the back issues of The Immortalist on CD, unfortunately, mine are on a HD back in SoCal, so I can’t access that particular gem.

      This makes me wonder if he was basically just seeing how much swill he could get us cryonicists to swallow? I wonder what the end game would have been? He had supper with the Pope, and the fact was, all of them since Christ and St. Peter were in LN2 in the catacombs under the Vatican? As it was, I couldn’t believe it ran on as long as it did. Thanks for memory, Mark. As I said, I spaced that one completely. — Mike Darwin

  2. Fundie says:

    Does this mean you will now disclose the identity of Cryo-X?

    – David Blackstone

    • chronopause says:

      Regrettably, no, because I had agreed not to. Similarly, those people who posted here pseusodononymously, before the new policy was in place, will not have their comments deleted. While the need for this policy is painfully obvious in hindsight, it wasn’t as it evolved. I won’t penalize anyone for my own lack of commonsense. In fact, I was in the process of setting up a filtering mechanism for him to post comments so that I could screen his content and protect further his identity when I came to the conclusion that “anonymous actors” simply weren’t acceptable here. I wonder if the rest of the world will come to the same conclusion? — Mike Darwin

  3. Alexander McLin says:

    Just chiming in to say that I respect your rule and will continue posting comments in the future with my name.

  4. cath says:

    Totally agree… Cath Donaldson nee Cath Woof

  5. Shannon Vyff says:

    I like to see more people within the cryonics community standing behind what they say, this is done by using one’s name-or at the least a handle which is known to be an specific person.

    • chronopause says:

      Yes, I should have seen this ages a go! If we can’t even own ourselves, then how on earth are we going to convince anyone else to join us? It is ridiculously obvious! People running about with names like “unperson” and “driven from the pack.” Right. Like that’s what I, or anyone else wants to be or be with. — Mike Darwin

      • Alexander McLin says:

        It’s partly our fault, some of us are shy, trepidatious, or overwhelmed by the idea of facing an indifferent or hostile society for our interest in cryonics. Temptation to seek shelter behind anonymousness is great, but dangerous.

        Step by step, starting with our real names, we develop confidence and pride in what we are interested in and want to accomplish.

        • chronopause says:

          Yes. It is a beginning. How can we ask ask for immortality if we can’t even ask for the right to be ourselves? — MD

  6. I personally like the idea of anonymity and there even are some online forums that don’t allow names at all! Every comment is signed by Anonymous (some forums add numbers automatically to distinguish between different Anonymouses, others don’t even do that).

    However, requiring the use of real names can be a valuable tool. Mike, if you want to implement that, I suggest that you enable Facebook authentication on the blog and disable other methods. The reason is that Facebook has draconian policies against anonymity (which are unethical for a number of reasons), more or less ensure that accounts there are associated with a real person.

    • chronopause says:

      Hi Danila! Very good to see your presence here.

      I have no objection to anonymous forums. They serve a valuable role in society and have, going back to graffiti, which I’ve observed all over the Ancient world. The problem occurs when you are trying to build community and generate action – which is very different than chat, political maneuvering, and complaining, which is mostly what you get on such forums. It gets even more complicated when individuals who are not anonymous, and who are in fact working to try to do something productive (whether successful or not) get attacked and have no way to confront their attackers – attackers who can also multiply themselves endlessly to create a wholly unjustified impression of support or agreement. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I know it is not right for what is underway here. There are two other forums available for such commentary and commentators: Cold Filter Cryonics Chat and New Cryonet.

      As to Facebook, I know little about its mechanics, but here’s what I suggest; Eugen Leitl is the Administrator of Chronosphere. Why don’t all three of us get together on line or via Skype and discuss this. I also have many other issues you may be of help with.

      BTW, I was in Flagstaff today and the Hard Drive, still in the wrapping from the failed attempt to send it to Germany, was sent off via FedEx to Pittsburgh, today. It is scheduled to arrive on 04 April and you should be able to pick it up from UPMC when you arrive from Moscow, thereafter.

      Finally, where the hell is the photo essay on the KrioRus facility and an account, an HONEST account, of recent doings in Moscow. You promised me a piece months ago, and now I’m holding your feet to the fire. I want to encourage you to stay in dialogue here, because this space is not just about the US or the West. You have a fine mind, a keen insight into many aspects of cryonics – Western cryonics – and it is needed here. I also want to point out that things are incubating here to begin radical efforts of an insurgent nature to start applying the enormous advances that have been made in biomedicine – particularly with respect to regenerative/rejuvenative medicine to humans -namely us – soon – before we are all decrepit, dead or both. I want to see a reintegration between ALL rational efforts to stay alive and healthy and cryonics, and I want to see it soon. I believe you may have a significant role to play in that – and we should communicate about that soon, as the Chronopause Foundation has finally begun to gestate.

      Have a good trip to the US and enjoy documenting the limb transplant program at UPMC! In fact, tell us about it here, if you can. — Mike Darwin

  7. Eugen Leitl says:

    Forcing people to create Facebook accounts (easily faked) to just to post here? Really, Danila?

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