CHRONOSPHERE » Culture & Propaganda A revolution in time. Fri, 03 Aug 2012 22:34:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ray Bradbury: When the Writer Mistakes His Books for Himself Wed, 13 Jun 2012 23:47:19 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> By Mike Darwin

On 5 June 2012, the master storyteller and science fiction writer Ray Bradbury died at the age of 91. Some Bradbury’s work, and very nearly Bradbury himself became an iconic part of the culture. His novel Fahrenheit 451, the collection of short stories that became The Martian Chronicles, and especially his superb short stories such as Dandelion Wine, I Sing the Body Electric and There Will Come Soft Rains took him to apogee of SF and fantasy writers in the 1950s and ’60s. There have been many reminiscences of Bradbury on various life extension forums, some by advocates of cryonics and/or radical life extension, such Steve Harris, M.D. and Gregory Fahy, Ph.D. Oddly, these condolences make no mention of Bradbury’s decades long public and not infrequent opposition to human life span extension.

There Will Come Soft Rains, along with I Sing the Body Electric were my introduction to Bradbury, followed a little later by Fahrenheit 451, which I read whilst recovering from a tonsillectomy at age 15 (a very painful procedure when done past childhood). I met Bradbury some years ago, quite unexpectedly, at a social gathering in Los Angeles. The person who introduced us made the grave error of disclosing my background in cryonics and Bradbury was anxious to terminate the encounter as soon as it had begun. Probably even more so than Isaac Asimov, he loathed the idea of cryonics and life span extension. I gained a bit of ground by immediately raising this point, before he could, and our conversation continued long enough for me to get some insight into why Bradbury had such strong negative feelings about extending the human life span. And it was just the human life span he was concerned with – robots, such as the nanny in I Sing the Body Electric could go on forever, and it made no difference to him.

I finally concluded that, like Mother Theresa, Bradbury’s morality was evil incarnate. He opposed vast extension of the human life span not because it would result in stagnation, or social injustice, but rather because it would lead to the diminution or termination of those elements of human suffering and weakness he considered essential to being human. Without death, and forgetting and constantly being “reset” to that fraction of our libraries each human generation might be able to absorb before, in turn, being extinguished, there could be no pathos of the kind that was Bradbury’s stock and trade. Bradbury saw, quite clearly, that practical biological immortality would transform man into something fundamentally different, alien even, from his current state of being and he was deeply repulsed by that. To be human is to be mortal and to suffer and to die and to live out a history of error and folly over and over, indefinitely. A history that would recede into the dim mists of living memory. A history that required the storyteller to shape the critical parables for mankind to live (and die) by. A history that required men like Ray Bradbury. His final remark in our conversation was that he would have immortality through his books which was the only kind of immortality to which men were entitled.

At the end of Fahrenheit, Granger tells Montag the story of the phoenix, the mythical bird that goes through endless cycles of fiery death and resurrections as an allegory to the human condition, noting that men, unlike birds, ought to be able to remember their mistakes and not repeat them (which, alas, they never do). Granger then proposes that the “books” set about building a “gigantic mirror factory” so that mankind can gaze at himself and come to realize the folly of his forgetting, his hubris and his foolishness.

The end result of such literal self reflection would, no doubt, have been either vanity or disgust – not insight into the follies of history. To gain the latter, it is necessary for us to transcend our mortality. We have mastered fire; and in so doing have fouled our planet’s air and water. Because we live only briefly, we have little ability to see the long term consequences of our actions, and we (like all others before us), cannot truly suffer the effects of our ignorance and recklessness through our children. If we are to behave responsibly with respect to the long term effects of our deeds, we must live long enough to experience them firsthand.

Approximately every fifty years, the accumulated wisdom and experience of an entire generation is wiped out. Yes, some tiny fraction of the knowledge can be (and is) captured in books and other ‘media.’ But knowledge is not wisdom; wisdom is a property of the conscious mind imbued with memory and experience. Wiping out all the hard won accumulated wisdom (and in reality most of the real knowledge, in the bargain) of each human generation is incredibly wasteful – and destructive. This was unavoidable in the past, and it was tolerable because we were barely better than beasts, and we played only with mortals’ things. But it is no longer acceptable. Quite apart from the terrible injustice that death represents for the individual, it is no longer a tenable option for us as species. It has become an expense we can no longer pay, a debt we can no longer afford to service.

 The great economic collapses of 1929 and 2008.

Consider this timely analogy. One of the great problems in economies is the loss of institutional memory for infrequent, but disastrous events. Just about the time the last individuals are dying out from the previous round of economic madness and irresponsibility, another round occurs. This timing is not coincidental; you have to live through some kinds of errors and experience them for yourself, before you can avoid them in the future. That’s exactly what a big part of becoming an adult and growing up are all about; everybody knows you can’t tell a child, or a teenager, about ‘responsibility,’ or about being taken advantage of, or about how to manage money wisely. That kind of knowledge comes only through experience. At present, we are manipulating technologies so vast and so powerful that we will get only one chance to get it right (and that only if we are lucky). There will be no forgiveness for playing the technological equivalent of 1929, over and over again, as we have just done now.

Bradbury didn’t understand that, or refused to understand it. While I loved the melancholy of his stories, I came to realize upon meeting him that it was not dissatisfaction with that melancholia that drove their production, nor the hope that mankind would once and forever learn from the mistakes of the Cold War and book burners, but rather, that mankind would go on, mortal, until his end as a species, with only some fraction of his books surviving until that final day.

I was disappointed to meet Bradbury the man, because he was nothing like Bradbury the author, whom I had read and loved. And therein lay another powerful lesson; authors are not their books and books are most certainly not their authors. Ray Bradbury is dead and for the talent lost and the man lost we can justly grieve. However, I believe that in the midst of his warmth and generosity, there was a terrible streak of cruel repression – one which he might well have written about eloquently and movingly, had he only been able to see it and to recognize it for it was.

Much of Ray Bradbury’s fiction is not only brilliant, it is profoundly humane. He had the rare ability as an author to deeply engage our emotions in the service of making us see both the good and the evil in mankind. Fahrenheit was, is, and will likely long remain a deserved touchstone on the evils of censorship and the opportunity for, if not the inevitability of intellectual and moral decline as a result of advances in telecommunications. Nothing in what I write here is meant to in any way diminish that considerable accomplishment.

My points are three. First, to express surprise that no one in the cryonics and life extension communities has noted that Bradbury had been a staunch and public opponent to life span extension and, in particular, to the technologies of cryonics and suspended animation. The second reason is to point out that there can be, and often is, a dichotomy between the fiction writer as a person and the perception of the writer (public and private) created by his works. Third, and last, I want to say that Bradbury was an influential person. Indeed, I consider him one of the most influential writers in my own life. By definition, influential people influence others and I have no doubt that Bradbury’s voiceiferously negative stance on cryonics and life span extension had a (from our standpoint) negative influence on others. In fact, I would argue that the most powerful objections to practical immortality are not the technical ones, but the philosophical, social and moral ones.

Today there are myriad eminently practical technologies that are only minimally exploited, not exploited at all, or completely forbidden. As Peter Thiel has recently observed, most kinds of engineering and practical scientific research have become illegal to do, absent extensive and oppressive governmental control. People may understandably have some sympathy with this, wherein things like nuclear engineering are concerned, but the fact is that social-ethical concerns have slowed and essentially stopped almost all independent biomedical research.

As a practical example, when I was a teenager (and well into my 20s) it was possible for me to undertake animal research in an upstairs storage room converted to a “bio-hacker’s” laboratory and surgery. Nor was I alone; many Science Fair projects of the 1960s and ’70′s involved extensive research on live animals – including drug and transplantation studies, which were mostly conducted on rodents, but also sometimes on dogs. Today, even as an adult, were I to try the same thing I would be carted off to prison (prison, not jail). A bit earlier today, I read a question posted by some hapless investigator on the Gerontology Research Group forum as to whether experiments on Drosophila (fruit flies!) were regulated, and as to whether the creatures must be treated “humanely.” Incredible!

The issue of how laboratory animals are handled is indeed an important one, and not just to the animals, but to us, as well. It is a complex issue and it admits of no easy solutions and it especially admits of no syrupy, knee-jerk sentimentality that invokes outright bans or crushing regulation. It was and is exactly the latter – coupled with the philosophically erroneous position of “animal rights,” that has slowed the pace of biomedical advance to an abysmal crawl when compared with the explosive and stunning progress that has been made over the same interval of time in software, computing power, and consumer electronics. If advances had been half as fast in biomedicine, we’d likely all be “immortal” now.

I have taken the time to get to know a fair cross section of the people who advocate radical (terrorist) action against biomedical researchers in the name of animal rights. Some are idiots and fools. But others are sincere, caring and compassionate people who are certain they are acting from the best intentions and in the best interest of our species. Many of these people are kindly and otherwise decent; and they are certainly people who, in many cases, have achieved good and decent things in their lives. In short, they are not “pure evil.”

Hitler’s secretary, Traudl Junge, knew him as a decent, caring man who was a good employer – someone she found both worthwhile and exciting to work for and with. And, truth to tell, leaving aside his philosophical peccadilloes and a great deal of unfortunate timing, Hitler might well have been a perfectly pedestrian Austrian or German shop keep selling artist’s supplies, or perhaps operating an art gallery, or a photography studio. Neither his anti-Semitism or his twisted political views would have been much out of character for the times. Indeed, some Neo-Nazis and Communists I’ve known have been otherwise very pleasant people. And, truth to tell, I have occasion to deal with such “crazy” people from time to time, as do we all, and as long we steer clear of politics and race, the commercial transactions and the accompanying social banter are rewarding. True, where I can, I try to do business elsewhere. But that isn’t always possible.

Recently, Steve Harris, M.D., wrote in response to my comments about Bradbury:

 “Sure, Bradbury doesn’t mind eternal life for machines, or Martians, or Dead Authors. And I suspect he wouldn’t have minded it for humans, if he could have seen his way to it as he did for the Martians. But he didn’t, that’s all, and he wasn’t an incrementalist and he wasn’t into “Scientism” (as we all are). He saw “the flesh” as permanent for humanity, and death as permanent as flesh, and books and the vicarious experience of horror for the good of the soul, were Bradbury’s best answer to a “human condition” problem that he took as a given, not solvable by technology (certainly not solvable by technology as HE knew it). If some of the writers on this list don’t share Bradbury’s premises from his benighted time, that’s fine. But give the guy a break, okay?”

I wish I could do that. But, the fact of the matter is that “Scientism” or education, or knowledge in or about science, have little to do with whether a person embraces radical life span extension, or not. Twenty four years ago I wrote an article titled The Door to Nowhere about the near simultaneous “deaths” of two very different “Roberts”: Robert Heinlein and a man I’ll call Robert B. Robert B. was a TV repairman who lived a very ordinary life in a manufactured home park in South Florida. He was not highly educated and I doubt that he knew much more about the sciences than Ray Bradbury, and most likely he knew much less. Unarguably, he knew much, much less than Robert Heinlein. The critical difference between the two was that Robert B. had an outlook, a world view, a philosophy and a set of expectations that demanded the pursuit of his personal survival, even at considerable costs in the face of (arguably) overwhelmingly adverse odds. So, whilst Robert Heinlein was being removed to the crematorium (literally), Robert B. was making his way down towards liquid nitrogen temperature (where he remain to this day).

Above left, the science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein and, at right, the cryonaut Robert B.

My point then (and now) is that it was Robert B., not Robert Heinlein who was the authentic adventurer, pioneer and optimist. Henlein wrote eloquently of such characters, but when the rubber hit the road, he chose not to live like them (and yers, he was well aware of cryonics, as is his still surviving SF-writer cohort, Fred Pohl). Many apologies for this decision are, of course possible, and indeed even likely reasonable. Maybe Heinlein just didn’t think cryonics would work. Fair enough, if that was the case. But importantly, unlike Isaac Asimov (who did, in fact, think cryonics might well work), Heinlein did not espouse a philosophy, nor take a position that cryonics, let alone life span extension, were evil, or should be prohibited. Indeed, his fiction treats both technological possibilities in a positive way.

My problem with Bradbury is a fairly abstract one, especially now that he is dead. He seemed a nice enough man the one time I met him, and I had no doubt, then or now, that his convictions regarding the undesirability of life prolongation (which ran to the point of banning it) were both heartfelt and sincere. And, as I’ve previously said, I love much of his fiction and hold it in high esteem. Much of his published work is good work and it deserves to be read until such time as it no longer speaks to any who are alive. I tolerate (and ignore) the crazy and kooky political and social views of many of the people I have to interact with in commerce, and in the business of daily life, because I really have no choice, and much more importantly, because they are not influential. The militiaman, or neolithic fundamentalist-racist, or even the devout Catholic who is a member of Opus Dei who may be my neighbors are of little concern to me if or until they become powerful and influential. There were hundreds of thousands of down and out and embittered anti-Semitic veterans of World War I in Germany in the 1920s, and Hitler was a nobody of no concern until he became a somebody of great influence.

The problem with Ray Bradbury wasn’t his lack of the proper scientific perspective, but rather his active and zealous belief in a philosophical and moral perspective which are anathema to those of us pursuing practical, biological immortality. That doesn’t make Bradbury a “bad or evil person.” But it also doesn’t make him a saint. And what’s more, it behooves us not to let such ideas and such behavior go unremarked upon, especially when they are espoused by influential people of such import as to practically have become a cultural icon. As I said with respect to Robert Heinlein over two decades ago:

“Extraordinary writing skills, technical vision – these will likely be things available to anyone almost for the asking in the future. They are worthwhile things, but they are not core values, not the fundamental things required to enjoy and hold on to life. The other Bob, the one waiting quietly in liquid nitrogen at Alcor, may not have been an intellectual luminary or a great entertainer of the masses as Heinlein was. But he had and still has something Heinlein hasn’t a chance in the world of now: the prospect of immortality in an open ended world of incredible possibilities. For he had the courage and the brains not to merely hear about “The Door Into Summer,” but to actually step through it. “

]]> 5
Semantics and Cryonics Propaganda Wed, 13 Jun 2012 22:04:36 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>
By Mike Darwin
One of the things I hear from time to time is the assertion by some cryonicists that recent advances in mammalian brain vitrification technology have resulted in the brains of cryonics patients being “alive.” While the error is understandable, because under optimum laboratory conditions many, if not most of the cells in such  brains may be viable – recoverable as metabolically active and self sustaining following cryopreservation, that does not equate to brain viability.
Semantics are very important here. “Viably” vitrified brain tissue is not alive, nor is it dead. Rather, it is in a thirds state, that of (true) suspended animation. And it is important to point out that there are a number of different kinds of suspended animation:
crypto- or anhydro-biosis, wherein living systems are rendered into a preserved, inanimate state by dehydration,
ambient temperature vitrification, wherein living systems are solidified and molecularly immobilized by substitution of their water content with an amorphous solid, such as amber,
and estivation, wherein the living system is rendered metabolically quiescent in the liquid state at ambient temperature by the inhibition or inactivation of biochemical metabolism.
The brains of cryonics patients, even if treated under ideal laboratory conditions, are neither alive nor in suspended animation. This is so because they are critically injured in at least these ways:
1) They have large peri-capillary tears and tears in the brain parenchyma/neuropil (tissue) on the microscopic level, ranging in size from a few, to perhaps 10 to 30 microns, scattered throughout the whole of the organ at (perhaps) distance intervals of tens to hundreds of microns. You can see both of these phenomena in the transmission electron micrographs (TEMs) of (optimally) vitrified rabbit brain below:
 Figure 1: At left, above, is vitrified rabbit cerebral cortex showing an intact capillary properly attached to the brain parenchyma (neuropil) next to a micrograph of a brain capillary where the basement membrane has torn away from the surrounding neuropil. These peri-capillary tears are thought to result from dehydration induced by the cryoprotectant agents, not from cooling to vitrification temperature. [Micrograph courtesy of Dr. Gregory Fahy.]
Figure 2: Above, a tear in the neuropil of a vitrified rabbit brain extending perhaps ~30 to 40 microns across. [Micrograph courtesy of Dr. Gregory Fahy.]
It should be kept in mind that these images are 2-dimensional, and thus cannot show the depth of such lesions. To do that, it would be necessary to make serial sections and micrographs of the tissue and perform 3-D reconstruction of the image. If that were done, you might well see something like the Photoshopped image I’ve created below:
 Figure 3: Photoshopped image of a 3-D reconstruction of brain tissue with a peri-capillary tear shown to extend many microns along the length of the capillary.
There is also damage to the molecular structure of some proteins and to the lipid membranes of the cells and the organelles they contain. While these injuries do not render all of the cells in the brain “non-viable” (e.g., unable to recover metabolism upon rewarming), they do render the brain “nonviable” in terms of being able to resume integrated, long term function. Such injuries are “lethal” because they are currently irreversible.
Thus, we have a fourth state: preserved and potentially recoverable.
So, to recap, there are at least four possible states that biological systems can be in:
Alive: functioning and metabolically active.
Dead: Irreversibly non-functional with loss of the necessary structural and/or contextual information required to permit restoration to life.
Suspended Animation: in a state of indefinite and complete biochemical and metabolic arrest, but fully intact and capable of resuming life if the process is reversed.
Potentially Recoverable: damaged to such an extent that external repair will be necessary before life can be restored; such repair may, or may not be possible as a function of technological advance, but in any event, the damage is of a nature or extent that extant biotechnology is incapable of reversing it. Cryonics falls into this fourth category.
It is both misleading and incorrect to equate a (currently) vitrified brain with being alive. It is fair to say that optimally vitrified brains have many viable cells, but that is also true of most cryonics patients frozen under reasonably good conditions.
That having been said, it is very important to point out that vitrified rabbit brains demonstrate far less damage than do frozen brains – in fact, virtually no injury from ice at all. It is also fair to note that vitrified brain slices have been shown to retain long term potentiation, which is a key step in memory formation.
The problem with these arguments is that they are sophisticated, require complex explanations and qualifications, and also require a sophisticated mind to understand them. It would be far easier to just declare that “the brains of vitrified cryonics patients are alive.” Unfortunately, we haven’t earned the right to do that. And perhaps more importantly, such a success is neither vital to the cryonics argument, nor is it ultimately germane, because, by definition, everyone who is placed into cryopreservation is not, and will never be, currently recoverable, because if we could heal them, we wouldn’t need to cryopreserve them in the first place. All cryonics patients, now and forever, face the fundamental uncertainty of whether they can be returned to life (cured). Suspended Animation will make that uncertainty much less daunting, but it will never eliminate it.

]]> 4
Reality Check Fri, 25 May 2012 01:37:20 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>

By Mike Darwin


In order to understand the significance of the results of the Cryonics Intelligence Test and the discussion of priorities in cryonics research that is to follow (and in particular the relationship of such research to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation and the cryonics community at large), it will first be necessary to provide a substantial amount of background and context.

The first part of this context is to understand the statistics of Chronosphere. Even a decade and a half ago, the data I am about to present and discuss would have been virtually impossible to obtain. Small-scale paper, and even Internet publications, were mostly black boxes in terms of feedback. Knowing how many people viewed a given article, looked at your publication (no matter how cursorily) or took the time to download specific materials was essentially impossible. Letters to the Editor and the total number of paid and gratis subscribers (e.g., basic circulation), as well as advertisers, if any, were all the data available – plus, perhaps some demographic data on subscribers, such as what part of the country and what part of the world they resided in.

Today, with powerful statistical engines, it is possible to obtain in real time a large body of data that was heretofore not only inaccessible, it was unimaginable that it would ever be available, let alone be available at virtually no cost and with almost no effort. Having said this, it still not possible to capture the core demographic data that would provide the most useful information about the scope and depth of Chronosphere’s impact; namely the detailed demographic characteristics of the individuals accessing the site, the individual articles, the identities of those individuals, which articles they actually read, and finally, what impact those articles have on their world view, or subsequent actions. To a very limited extent it is possible to track the effect that articles and ideas in Chronosphere have on others by using Google search tools to monitor the mention of discrete articles or ideas that have appeared uniquely on Chronosphere in the blogosphere and on the Internet in general. However, this is still far from satisfactory, and such data is necessarily anecdotal, rather than comprehensive.

A Preliminary Look at the Numbers

The graph below shows the total number of hits, by month, that  Chronosphere has received since its inception through, 23 May, 2012, at 1307. Since the start of Chronosphere, there have been 101,929 unique visitors to the site. During 2012 the average number of unique viewers, excluding individuals who subscribe via Google Reader Subscriber Service (RSS), is approximately 300 per day. The number of RSS subscribers has increased from ~ 80 as of October 2011 to 101 as of 23 May, 2012. The average number of new posts to Chronosphere has been 2.1 per week since its inception in February of 2011. The table below shows the statistics for the top 10 articles being accessed as of 22 and 23 May, 2012. There is substantial variability on a day to day basis as to which articles achieve “top ten” status. The following table shows the ranking of all articles that have appeared, from the first one, which was posted on 06 February 2011, through 23 May, 2012. These data show the number of unique hits these articles received, independent of RSS subscribers and of individuals who may have read the article, copied or downloaded it from the “Home Page.”

To understand what this means in practical terms, the article Robert C. W. Ettinger, First Life Cycle: 1918 to 2011, shows 2,762 discrete hits.

However, any examination of the aggregate number of hits for the two week period following Ettinger’s cryopreservation (boxed in red in the top graph, above), when his obituary, and a related article on media obituaries were the articles featured on the Homepage, show that the number of hits to Chronosphere increased from ~ 1,000 per day to ~ 3,000 per day. Thus, a more realistic number for views that article received is probably in the range of ~ 4,000, total.  Therefore, the total “viewership” for any given article will be some total of the number of discrete hits the article receives, plus some fraction of the number of Homepage hits it received when it was the featured (Homepage) article on Chronosphere.

 Making Sense of it All

Missing from all these data is the critically important “time on page” number. This metric helps to distinguish between “accidental,” or very casual viewers, and those who have a serious interest in the content of the article. Unfortunately, all efforts to date to add this capability (a function of Google Analytics) have proved unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the absolute number of hits a given article receives after it ceases to be the Homepage feature is very likely representative of its popularity and readership.

My personal (completely arbitrary) rule of thumb has been to assume that ~ 10% of the hits to lengthily and highly technical posts  represent serious readers and that ~25% of hits for shorter, topical posts are actually read and seriously considered.  What the “real” number of serious readers is for any given article is, of course, unknown. I have set my numbers so low primarily because of the nearly complete lack of commentary or embedded URL actuations most of the articles generate.

As a case in point, the extensive four-part series of articles Last Aid as First Aid for Cryonicists generated a total of only 5 comments, most of which were not of a practical nature consonant with the subject matter of the articles, which dealt specifically with how to prepare for a cryonics emergency. Some of the suggestions in the articles should have proved controversial (based on past experience in discussing them in the cryonics community) and yet, there were no dissenting comments, nor any alternative or additional suggestions offered, either on Chronosphere, or in the publications, blogs, or list-serves of the various cryonics organizations (or those serving the cryonics community as a whole, such as New Cryonet). This is in striking contrast to the author’s past experience with printed periodicals serving the cryonics community and having a comparable, or  smaller number of readers  (e.g., 200-300).

Some of the likely reasons for these differences between print and epublications are:

a)      Subscribers paid for paper publications and thus were more heavily invested in recovering the value expended.

b)      Because of the time, effort and money required to gain access to paper publications, the readership was highly filtered compared to epublications.

c)       Prior to the Internet era, the total volume of information being disseminated about cryonics was very small and the available technology (e.g., the printing press) further compressed and limited dissemination of that information to a very few venues.

d)      Cryonics itself was far smaller and the overlap between “activists” and “customers” was more nearly complete.

e)      Cryonics publications prior to the Internet were necessarily more diverse in content than is Chronosphere due to the need to cater to a broader audience.

f)       The content in Chronosphere leans heavily towards the technical and historical and is lengthily; all of which are likely to discourage the casual reader. In other words it is, by definition, a niche publication.

g)      Chronosphere and its author are frequently critical of how cryonics is currently practiced as well as of  the major (extant) cryonics organizations, and sometimes  specific individuals who are, or who have been active in cryonics.

h)      Chronosphere does not (yet) offer a blog roll nor high profile links to other organizations, sites, or publications (paper or electronic). This, coupled with the hostility generated by g) above, has resulted in a near complete lack of on-line and paper publication referrals to Chronosphere.

With these considerations in mind, let’s again take a look at how Chronosphere  has performed from its inception, thru 24 May, 2012, but this time in greater detail with attention to daily and weekly numbers:

But what do these metrics really mean? Is Chronosphere doing what it is supposed top do: raise awareness and change fundamental thinking about the way cryonics and interventive gerontological research is being pursued,  as well as attracting other, like minded contributors to the site? The number of RSS feeds, the number of unique viewers and even the number of comments aren’t necessarily very useful metrics (certainly not in isolation) to determine if the effort being expended on Chronosphere is worth the return. Probably the best indicators are the combination of:

a)      Number of comments,

b)      Number of RTs,

c)       Number of downloads of white-papers, pingbacks, and “critical” URL’s accessed from the site.

d) Number of people who contribute articles to Chronosphere.

Of course, context is everything, or almost everything in this case, because Chronosphere is catering to what is, both relatively and absolutely, a miniscule community of people. To put these numbers in context, the graph below shows the traffic on the Wikipedia “cryonics” page.

In the past 90 days there have been ~78,000 visitors or ~25,000 visitors per month, as compared with ~8,400 visitors to Chronosphere over the same time period.

There are perhaps something on the order of 2,000 living cryonicists[i] in the world, the majority of them in the English speaking/reading world. Of these, optimistically, perhaps 15% are technically/scientifically/philosophically oriented “activists” with an interest in the mechanics of cryonics, as opposed to people who have chosen cryonics as a service or product “as is,” and are content to accept it without further improvement as a result of their own efforts. That would yield a number of ~ 300 people within the cryonics community who are sufficiently interested to read a publication like Chronosphere.

Even using these far more restrictive criteria, it is hard to know just how well or poorly Chronosphere is doing. Consider the cryonics self-help series of articles, Last Aid as First Aid for Cryonicists:

The overall performance of this series of articles is pretty dismal. However, interestingly, Part 4 in the series received the most hits, roughly three times the total that each of the preceding three parts received. This might be explained on the basis that the fourth part of the article contained the bulk of the practical suggestions for how to deal with an emergency (such as the equipment and supplies needed for cooling).

Articles that are likely to be of interest primarily to cryonicists, such as A Brief Pictorial History of Extracorporeal Technology in Cryonics show a viewership that is broadly similar to that seen for this five part  series of article (below).

By monitoring the search engine terms (and their frequency) being used, it is possible to get some idea of how many people are accessing these articles for reasons unrelated to cryonics, such as for information on extracorporeal medicine, specific devices mentioned in the articles and for illustrations of equipment or procedures (again, unrelated to cryonics, per se). Roughly a third of all hits fall into this category of what could be fairly called “extraneous viewers.” Again, the number of likely seriously interested viewers is probably quite small, being somewhere in the rage of 50 to 100.

The intermittent spiky nature of the number of hits over time is most likely the result of referrals; one person sees an article of interest, passes the URL to others and there is a brief burst of activity until that pocket of interested people is exhausted.

Similarly, technical posts which have direct relevance to medicine or biomedical research are clearly attracting viewers who are not accessing them because of any interest in cryonics. Indeed, it can reasonably be presumed they are accessing them in spite of their cryonics orientation and content, as can be seen from the data for the articles The Pathophysiology of Ischemic Injury: Impact on the Human Cryopreservation Patient, I Know this is Going to be Shocking: A Review of Wearable Continuous Monitoring Systems to Detect and Treat Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Cryonicists, Does Personal Identity Survive Cryopreservation?, Achieving Truly Universal Health Care and Induction of Hypothermia in the Cryonics Patient: Theory and Technique.

It is possible that articles that deal solely with technical issues related to cryonics, but which do not explicitly mention it, such as Liquid Assisted Pulmonary Cooling in Cardiopulmonary Cerebral Resuscitation may provide some insight into how many of the visitors accessing the explicitly cryonics-oriented technical articles are doing so for reasons completely unrelated to any interest in cryonics:

If If this line of reasoning is indeed valid, then the number of explicitly cryonics-interested viewers is again probably somewhere in the range of 50 to 150 people.

This number is also consonant with the number of viewers that access a post which is almost exclusively of interest to cryonicists, such as the series of articles, Much Less Than Half a Chance,  on using medical imaging to reduce the number of sudden and unexpected deanimations (cardiac arrests) amongst cryonicists:

and Your Picture Won’t Be Hanging Here?:

More problematic to interpret are articles which deal with technical matters of a nature, interest in which one would expect would be largely or completely confined to cryonicists, such as the (so far) three-part series, The Effects of Cryopreservation on the Cat, which has generated sustained and (relatively) substantial interest, with Parts 2 & 3, wherein the results of the study are presented, having received a total number of views of ~ 1,800:

This is comparable to the degree of interest shown in most “data/conclusion-dense” part of the series of articles on brain degeneration in aging, Going, Going, Gone…:

However, it bears pointing out again that the more specifically cryonics oriented an article is, the smaller its readership will typically be, as was the case in the Cryonics: Failure Analysis Lectures, 1 & 2:

and the article Freezing People is Easy:

Below, I’ve presented the statistics on a range of other types of articles without comment, in large measure because it is hard to know how to interpret the data:

And finally, we come to Take the Cryonics Intelligence Test which was designed as a seminal experiment to probe both the readership of Chronosphere and the cryonics community at large. Leaving out of consideration the number of people who may have read this article during its tenure on the Homepage, 193 people accessed it as of 24, May, 2012:

and only 82 people were interested enough to view the results of the test:

Even more interesting (and telling) is metric for the number of people who downloaded the Resource Materials for the test from Yousendit, a mere 22 souls: of whom two bothered to actually take the test.

These numbers seem dismal to me, all the more so when, in the next few installments here, the issues involved (dealing with the principal subject matter in the Cryonics Intelligence Test and the Cryonics Intelligence Test Responses) are explicated and put into context and their importance (hopefully) made apparent to even the least technically inclined readers of Chronosphere.

Finally, it would be most useful to see similar performance metrics from other cryonics and life extension related blogs and websites. It is virtually impossible to evaluate the performance of this effort without any benchmarks to compare it to.


[i] Excluding the ~200 patients now cryopreserved.

]]> 8
Myth and Memory in Cryonics Sat, 12 May 2012 19:45:41 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> By Mike Darwin

Steven B. Harris, M.D.

In September of 1988, Steve Harris, M.D., published an essay entitled The Day the Earth Stood Still: Cryonics and the Resurrection of the Mythic Hero. It was one of his best in a formidable roster of insightful articles that he wrote dealing with the likely cultural requirements and cognitive limitations that inform humanity’s acceptance, or lack thereof, of cryonics.  I strongly recommend cryonicists read it. Steve’s articles had a great deal of influence on my thinking,  and both Steve and I were, in turn,  influenced by  the philosopher-mythologist-historian Joseph Campbell. I don’t know how Steve was introduced to him, but I first heard of Campbell as a result of the PBS series THE POWER OF MYTH WILL BILL MOYERS, (downloadable here)  which aired in the late 1980s.

I remember breaking out in goose bumps (I have them now) many times during Campbell’s program and, subsequently, when reading his books. His book of the same title as the series is an excellent introduction to his work. I had the same reaction when reading  Steve Harris’ brilliantly insightful articles dealing with issues critical to human perception of, and reaction to cryonics when I read them for the first time in manuscript form, before they were published in Cryonics And I had it again when I read them in “in print” as the final, published product. These works bear reading and rereading and reading again.

The Dead Ant Heap & Our Mechanical Society:

The Return of the Krell Machine:

Will Cryonics Work?:

The Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Dead:

Many are Cold But Few Are Frozen:

Frankenstein and the Fear of Science (Lecture), VHS tape:

There are very powerful ideas and insights in these essays which should be a source of influence and inspiration to many more cryonicists, than to those relatively few who have read them, to date.

One of my central points about the reason for the continued “failure” of cryonics, and for its very slow growth, both absolutely and relatively,  is the near total lack of any kind of memory of what has gone before, let alone a sorting out of what part of that history is vitally important to be remembered. It’s as if most cryonicists live only in the present, looking forward to a future exclusively of their own imagining, with just a dim halo of memory extending, perhaps 5 years back, at most.

A few days ago, I had my nth practical example of that. I was contacted by some people interested in establishing cryonics Elsewhere. One of the interesting (and depressing) things they had been told by “cryonics people in the US,” was that it was a “good idea to establish companion for profit and non-profit organizations” to carry out the various functions of the cryonics undertaking with minimal liability.


Maybe that is the best system, but if it is, there is no evidence I know of to support it, and substantial empirical evidence to refute it.

This is an edited version of my response t0 that recommendation:

“I can only tell you what I have observed here over and over again. Maybe you can figure a way around it, or maybe you won’t have the same problems in the first place, owing to cultural differences. I just don’t know.

You will notice that all of the cryonics organizations in the US consist of fully integrated providers. Suspended Animation is the (recent) exception. What’s remarkable about this situation is that it is the polar opposite of what all of us intended when we started cryonics operations here (myself included). There were always paired for profit and not for profit companies, and for just the reasons you’ve stated. CSNY & Cryo-Span, CSC & Cryonic Interment, BACS & Trans Time, IABS & Soma, Cryovita, Manrise & Alcor… And yet there are only single entities around today. Why?

I do not know about your local law, but in the US, it is forbidden for non-profit organizations (NPOs) and for-profit corporations (FPCs) to have interlocking directorates. In fact, it is generally prohibited for corporations related to, or doing business with each other to have interlocking directorates, unless one is mostly or wholly owned by the other, regardless of their status as FPCs, or NPOs. The reasons for this are many and are deeply rooted in corporate law, but mostly can they be reduced to “conflict of interest” issues. In the early days of cryonics, this ban on interlocking directorates was flagrantly disregarded. The inevitable result was that the FPCs completely dominated the NPOs. In fact, FPCs used the NPOs as a convenient shill for doing all the things that were unprofitable, risky, or otherwise not desirable, such as being stuck with the open-ended custody of the patient!

While the initial reason for this was the use of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) to accept the patients, the eventual reason for it became (obviously), proprietary interest. People in the FPCs got paid for their work (usually in shares in the FPC) and people in the NPO didn’t – couldn’t, in fact. Valuable work, work that would earn shares, got done by the FPCs, and everything else got shuffled off onto the NPOs. You can actually  see this happening at the time, if you take a look at the issues of “Life Extension”/”Long Life Magazine” on the CryoEuro Wiki, because people didn’t talk about BACS, they talked about Trans Time… And where the reward, or the potential for reward exists is also typically where all the time, attention and money will flow.

Eventually, as visibility increased, the state began to menace, and the directorates were fully separated. That’s when all hell broke loose! The people running the NPOs had to be disinterested directors, and they did not stand to make money (or shares), or gain in any way from giving advantage to the FPCs. Contracts, fee increases, and all the other “taken for granteds” between the FPCs and NPOs were now up for debate and consideration. And since they were now two truly separate organizations, jealousy, resentment, and plain old proprietary interest and territoriality took over.

I pretty much thought the FPCs would win, primarily because they did have that huge advantage of proprietary interest on their side. But what I hadn’t figured on was the patients! The NPOs had control of the patients; and it was with the patients that the real loyalties ultimately rested. TT and BACS pretty much destroyed each other. In the case of Alcor, Alcor prevailed, and in the case of CI, well, there was never an issue in the first place, since CI was always an integrated operation. And yet, why this happened remains a mystery to many, even to those who have put some effort into finding out what happened.

In a large, diverse and robust marketplace, commercial service providers servicing NPOs could possibly work. SA may be the first of these, but only time will tell.

However, while cryonics is small and not subject to normal market forces, the two organizations model has not been proven workable. It becomes particularly vicious when there is only one service provider and one NPO, but totally different directors (as the law here requires), because then it becomes like a long-married couple who hate each other, but because of children, fiances and other reasons, cannot divorce. Far from creating the checks and balances it was anticipated to, this set-up created a state of gridlock and animosity. Ultimately, it degenerated to people on both sides screaming that the other was trying to screw them. And since they couldn’t stop dealing with each other and go to the “competition,” it just ground on until there was little or nothing left. That is, in fact, in significant measure, how Alcor was reborn.

Finally, you will encounter this problem: the FPC will be absolutely essential to the NPO, because the FPC will hold all the assets for delivering the up-front (immediately legally riskiest) part of cryopreservation (CP). They will own the equipment, employ the people, own the vehicles…. So the NPO eventually finds itself not just held hostage to FPC , but at risk if the FPC screws up.

I’ll give you a highly personal example. I was a major shareholder in Cryovita, the service provider to Alcor, but Jerry Leaf held most of the shares. Alcor relied on Cryovita completely for rescue and perfusion and there were no alternative service providers available – none. Alcor didn’t own so much as a cannula, or a set of scrub clothes. Cryovita was a shares corporation and the shares were distributed in a complex and potentially problematic way. It seemed possible that if Jerry were to suddenly experience medico-legal death, that the continued smooth functioning of Cryovita could be at risk of being disrupted. That became one of several causes of a major split between Jerry and I, because I realized, as President of Alcor (which I was, at that time), that if Jerry dropped “dead,” Alcor’s ability to deliver CP could be at risk of disruption. Alcor didn’t have cash lying around to go buy all the required equipment in a hurry! It had taken Jerry and me many years to patiently accumulate it, and to do so at well below market rates.

But it was worse than that, because over the years, Cryovita had generated patents, made exclusive agreements, and otherwise done all kinds of normal business things that corporations do. The problem was, all that “stuff” was also needed and used by Alcor! So, I began acquiring those same capabilities for Alcor, which was, of course, a costly duplication of capital equipment and it caused a feeling of resentment in Jerry/Cryovita.

So, what actually happened when Jerry did have a heart attack and was CPed? Well, exactly what I thought might happen, but in a way I never could have imagined. Cryovita did split from Alcor (kindly selling Alcor some of the most critical assets Alcor needed to stay in business), but the people who took Cryovita away were Kathy Leaf (Jerry’s widow), Saul Kent, Paul Wakfer, Brenda Peters and myself – the very people who had been the most ardent advocates of Alcor for so hard and long.

What happened to Cryovita? Well, it morphed in various ways, but today it is known as 21st Century Medicine!

Naturally, this version of events will be strongly biased by my point of view, so I would suggest you ask others and check it out for yourself. Look at the back issues of “Life Extension” and “Long Life” magazine on the CryoEuro Wiki to get a feel for the “Trans Times” of the 1970s and ’80s. Jim Yount, John Day and especially Frank Rothacker of ACS, may also be able to provide you with valuable perspective.”

My guess is that almost all of the newcomers to cryonics over the past decade, or so, have not read any of Steve Harris’ essays. And they clearly know little of the actual history of cryonics, let alone have any distillation (regardless of the direction of its bias) of what is important in that history to remember and act upon.

If you Google “history of cryonics” this what comes up on the first page (and subsequent pages offer no greater resources). Ben Best’s article is actually the most popular (longitudinally). It’s a fine, bare-bones factual narrative. But it is bloodless and lesson-less; it provides no instruction for others striving to create cryonics without recreating our errors. [I want to be very clear here that this is not a criticism of Ben's article: it was not written to be a tutorial on the lessons to be learned from the history of cryonics.]

What makes history both “teachable” and “leanable” is the humanity of it. We are, as Campbell so eloquently said, “story creatures”; we learn through guided narrative informed by the power of the mythic. BACS, TT, CSNY, Cryo-Span, Alcor, Manrise, CI, these entities were created by individual people for very personal reasons, as well as for the visible and easily understood public ones. Most contemporary cryonicists seem to recoil from any consideration of the “messy” and “untidy” aspects of the personal motivations and dynamics that drove (and drive) organizations, in and out of cryonics. And yet, that’s where a lot of the most important reasons and answers are to be found that will lead on to successes, or doom us to repeated failures.


]]> 6
Freezing People Is Easy Tue, 08 May 2012 03:59:06 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> Clockwise: Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Kirsten Wiig, Christopher Walken, with Errol Morris in the center.

By Mike Darwin

Sometime in the next few months, it seems likely that Director Errol Morris’ take on Bob Nelson’s account of the cryopreservation of James H. Bedford, We Froze the First Man, retitled Freezing People is Easy, will go into production. The title is at once sarcastic, brilliant, inspired and accurate, because, as readers of Chronosphere already (should) know, freezing people is anything but easy. While there have been many movies made that touch on cryonics, use it as a plot element, or even rely on it  as a major enabler of the story, this will be the first film about cryonics. It is, of course, quiet possible for a film about  cryonics to be good – even great – and still be bad for it. This film offers substantial possibilities for both of those elements to be in play.

Perhaps the most important thing to beware of is that the script is not based solely upon Nelson’s heavily (positively) biased and often inaccurate memoir, but also upon the searingly acerbic episode of Ira Glass‘ popular Public Radio International (PRI) radio show, This American Life (full program at this link). What’s more, Glass is also a co-producer of Freezing People is Easy. It is possible to listen to the This American Life episode, entitled Mistakes Were Made, and forget the context in which it was aired on PRI – as part of a series of pieces on scumbags in public life who refuse to take responsibility for their bad acts.To know that this so, one has only to read this excerpt from the review of that broadcast by cryonicist, author and social psychologist Ronald G. Havelock, published in the May, 2009 issue of  Long Life, the news organ of the Cryonics Institute/Immortalist Society:

“First of all, I think we should absolve Nelson of blame for what happened. This poor
man was struggling with a task which was way over his head. He deceived himself, as
others have before and since, with the notion that many people would flock to cryonics
once they realized that it had a real possibility of working. he greatly underestimated
the length of time it would take for cryonics to become popular. We are still
waiting. More importantly, he also greatly underestimated the basic requirements for
making it work, the first of which is to have an adequately funded and competently
staffed facility with the ability to maintain itself over long periods. I think he gambled
that, something like that mythical ball field, if he started it and had real capsules
filled with liquid nitrogen, they would come. Those who actually came, including the
famous Dr. Bedford, came with hope and desperation in their hearts but they came
empty-handed. How could they imagine that this service would be free? Simply put,
they took advantage of this man, and he returned the favor by promising much more
than he could possibly deliver.” [1]

It is also possible to forget that, first and foremost, Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, The Guardian, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara: center photo in montage above) is a documentarian with a clever, often indirect, but always ruthless approach to making film show the truth and expose hypocrisy.

Zach Hem authored the script and while his narrative talent might be questioned on the basis of his botched effort in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, he also wrote the script for the 2006 film Stranger Than Fiction, which is a surprisingly intellectual meditation on life, death and the power of the mundane to make life worth living. Helm’s take on Nelson and Chatsworth should be especially interesting, because his perspective in Stranger Than Fiction and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium suggest he may favor the intrinsic value of the individual life; the issue which makes or breaks a viable approach to a “cryonics friendly” perspective in any work of art.

 Somehow I doubt it though, and the casting of Paul Rudd (CluelessAnchorman, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Dinner for Schmucks) to play Nelson does nothing to reassure me. It has also been reported that Owen Wilson and Christopher Walken are on-board – one wonders what their respective roles will be; Norman Bedford and Robert Prehoda?  Or perhaps Walken will play Bob Ettinger? If, as rumored, Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig also joins the cast, will she play Nelson’s then wife, or the author of We Froze the First Man, Sandra Stanley, to whom Nelson was confiding the details of Dr. Bedford’s cryopreservation and with whom he was reportedly having an affair at that time?

The book is rich in characters familiar to those with any history in cryonics: Saul Kent, Curtis Henderson, Bob Ettinger, Robert Prehoda, Dick Jones (aka Dick Clair), Dante Brunol, MD, Stella Gramer…and many more. It should be a fascinating exercise to see which, if any, of these supporting characters makes it into the film by name, or in a clearly recognizable way.

But will Freezing People is Easy get made, and if so, what will be its fate? Cryonics has been around for 50 years and attracting international attention for almost all of them. Thus, it should come as no surprise that there were two previous efforts to make movies where cryonics was the subject of the film, most notably, a film of Norman Spinrad’s darkly comedic and politically (left) loaded science fiction novel, Bug Jack Barron. For over 30 years, there were regular reports from the Hollywood intelligentsia (an oxymoron, I know) that Bug Jack Barron was to be made by Universal Studios, directed by Costa-Gavras, with the script written by Harlan Ellison. The story of why Bug Jack Barron never made it onto film has the same bizarre, cursed and insane quality to it as does the history of cryonics itself.

The story of why Thomas Berger’s (Little Big Man) novel Vital Parts never made it into production is even more tragic,  and the links with cryonics go deeper. The first go-round at Vital Parts the movie, was in 1971, with a when director Hal Ashby (Being There Harold and MaudeThe Landlord and Let’s Spend the Night Together ), with Walter Matthau was slotted to play the principal character in the novel, Carlo Rheinhart (a long running character of Berger’s whose middle aged make over in this novel was reportedly inspired by Bob Nelson), the loser in the midst of a mid-life crisis who is seduced into involvement in the bizarre world of cryonics by the seemingly transtemporal Bob Sweet – a man from Rheinhart’s distant past who seemingly knows too much to be merely human.

Berger had visited the Cryonics Society of new York (CSNY) repeatedly to gather background information for his book, so it is no accident that a Mr. Softy ice cream  truck features prominently in the novel; Gillian Cummings (aka Beverly Greenberg), who was later to die tragically in the CSNY facility, drove a Jolly Tim’s ice cream truck to help pay the liquid nitrogen bills for her father, Herman Cummings (aka Herman Greenberg). And it is also probably no accident that the creepily mysterious bob Sweet shares the same last name with on the most prominent cryonics patients of the time; the liberal (“negro rights”) activist Marie Phelps Sweet, later lost at Chatsworth, along with the other Cryonics Society of California (CSC’s) patients who were also in the custody of Bob Nelson. Matthau’s son, and the apple of his eye, Charlie Matthau, was later to become a signed up, bracelet wearing cryonicist who was condemned to watch his father die by inches while doing everything in his power to both keep him alive (he kept portable defibrillators in his father’s home, car and work places) and unsuccessfully persuade him to make cryonics arrangements.

Left to Right: Walter Matthau, Charlie Matthau and Hal Ashby.

The next go round at turning Vital Parts into a movie was in 1987, with the irascible, reclusive and heavily drug abusing Ashby trying to make a comeback from his exile to television with another important, quirky film. This time Danny deVito had been recruited to play Rheinhart, and, in an inspired bit of casting, Gene Hackman had agreed to play Bob Sweet. During a meeting between Ashby and the producer Jerome Hellman to discuss finalization of the production of Vital Parts, Hellman became aware of what appeared to be “traveling phlebitis” in Ashby and shortly thereafter actor Warren Beatty became aware of Ashby’s symptoms, ultimately resulting in Ashby’s seeing an oncologist who diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer, from which he subsequently died in December of 1988.

The two other films which feature cryonics as cryonics (e.g., medical time travel) are screenwriter Mark Andrus’ and director W.D. Richter‘s  1991 Late For Dinner; a treacley, train wreck of a film which reviewer aptly described as a film “so meticulously scrubbed of what we generally think of as entertainment value that the result is mostly a quirky, dawdling snooze,” and the truly, irredeemably awful 1985 film Stitches, starring the late Eddie Albert, Parker Stevenson, Geoffrey Lewis, and Brian Tochi. Oh yes, and I almost forgot to include the garbled and largely incoherent Vanilla Sky (starring Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz) by the otherwise brilliant director Cameron Crowe, of which Stephan Zacharek of said: “Who would have thought that Cameron Crowe had a movie as bad as Vanilla Sky in him? It’s a punishing picture, a betrayal of everything that Crowe has proved he knows how to do right….But the disheartening truth is that we can see Crowe taking all the right steps, the most Crowe-like steps, as he mounts a spectacle that overshoots boldness and ambition and idiosyncrasy and heads right for arrogance and pretension — and those last two are traits I never would have thought we’d have to ascribe to Crowe.” While I am no superstitious mystic, the ill fated bad luck attached to cryonics – in an out of film – makes me want to shout out a warning to all and sundry involved with Freezing People Is Easy, to “Run as far and as fast from the project as you can for both your personal and professional lives.

Any way you look at it, the film promises to be a deep wallow in black comedy. That’s normally a genre I really appreciate, and often enjoy. This time, I’m not so sure. Robert F. Nelson (aka Frank Bucelli) is a bad man – a man who did enormous damage to cryonics, but more importantly, to the lives of the many people he defrauded and destroyed; not the least of which are the 10 cryonics patients whose loss were a direct or indirect result of his actions.  It is probably too much to hope that Helm’s and Morris’ effort could be as dark and well executed a black comedy as Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things, which Roger Ebert aptly summed up as not “a bad movie, just a reprehensible one. It presents as comedy things that are not amusing. If you think this movie is funny, that tells me things about you I don’t want to know.” That’s the movie that should be made about Nelson. The question is, should it be a movie, let alone the first movie, made about cryonics?


[1] This statement is so wrongheadedly stupid on so many levels, it is hard to know where to begin in critiquing it. A good place to start would be by noting that Dr. Bedford hardly came “empty handed” to Nelson, or to cryonics. Instead, he came bearing $250,000 1967 US dollars ($1,714,832.83 in 2012 dollars) all of which was subsequently spent on his cryopreservation. It should also be pointed out that the majority of the families of the patients lost at Chatsworth, and at the Cryonic Interment facility on the East Coast (as well as some of the patients themselves), paid exactly what Nelson asked of them at the time: $10,000 to $15,000 in ~1973 US dollars, or $53,099.29 in 2012 dollars; substantially more than what the Cryonics Institute now charges for whole body cryopreservation today. Finally, this statement neglects the finding of the civil court that found Nelson guilty of fraud and for “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

]]> 14
Your Picture Won’t Be Hanging Here? Sun, 25 Mar 2012 03:52:35 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>  

Reception area of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Riverside, CA in April of 1987. The photos above the refreshments cart were of some of the patients in Alcor’s care at that time.

Sometimes we get defeated by technology, sometimes by cluelessness and sometimes by a most unexpected intersection of the two.

In 1981 I conceived of the idea of hanging the picture of each patient cryopreserved at Alcor on the wall of the facility. I intended the practice to start, not in the place where it might seem obvious for it to; in the patient care bay (PCB) as a memorialization of the patient for his family and friends, but rather, in the reception area and offices, where the organization’s staff dwelt on a daily basis. It was my intention that as the patients accumulated in the PCB, the photos would begin accumulating in the offices, laboratories, corridors and workspace of the Alcor staff.  The intention was to provide a not so subtle reminder that there were people in those big stainless steel tanks, people who were desperate to get out of there.


Photos of Alcor patients apparently spilling off  (?) the walls in the conference room at the Alcor Foundation’s facility in Scottsdale, AZ in April of 2011. Photo courtesy of Stan Lipin

My intention was that, over time, there would an inverse and very adverse relationship between “success” in terms of patient population growth and “failure” in terms of growth in the number of pictures on the wall. In time, I envisioned (with some glee) the framed photos multiplying like locusts, becoming ever more oppressive and occupying ever more wall space.  I foresaw that they would likely encroach into the PCB. I also thought it likely they would be downsized. But mostly, I hoped they would serve their primary function, which was that each one was to serve as a reminder to those working at Alcor: “Hey, I’m still waiting, get me out of here! I want to get back to living, just like you are, too!”

This was not an idea which I kept secret. It was frequently discussed with other Directors, with staff, even with the officers and directors of other cryonics organizations. In fact, I now believe it is a practice which has become universal at cryonics organizations around the world. Or should I say, had become universal.

Alas, I hadn’t counted on technological advance. Technological advance is almost always a “two sided blade” and is this case, the blade cut in a way I hadn’t at all foreseen. The digital photo frame makes it possible to store essentially an “infinity” of images, and display them all in the physical space occupied by just one, over short sequences of time. In so doing, it removes the clutter, and thus the annoyance of hundreds or even thousands of actual framed, photographic images. One problem solved.

And another created. The purpose of institutions is to attempt to overcome the most damaging consequences of human mortality to civilizations: the destruction of knowledge, wisdom and the values they enable. In short, the loss of memory and accumulated experience that comes with the death of individuals.

Enter the halls of any civilization’s venerable institutions and you will see the images of the individuals they treasure on their walls and of those individuals’ ideas encoded in the books lining their shelves and engraved in the form of quotes and aphorisms on their walls. Stroll their great cities, or the corridors of their museums and you will see statues and likeness of the persons they treasure and admire cast in bronze and carved in stone; all these things are feeble attempts at conserving the ideas and values of the individuals who created the intellectual capital that sustains their civilizations. It is not just that they owe these men personally (they do) it is that these civilizations survive by remembering and living by the ideas that these men created.

Unfortunately, it turns out that ideas, standing alone and absent the context of memory, are weak things. It is one thing to know that fire burns, and another thing altogether to know that fire burns having been burnt by it. It is the power of knowledge in the context of experience that is wisdom, and it is wisdom that is destroyed by death. Knowledge contained in books, or nowadays in digital form, is but a shadow compared to that contained in the mind of a man who knows the real truth of a thing in the context of personal, hard won experience. Feeling, guided by reason over time, is the most powerful tool in the universe; and death is its ultimate enemy.

The human institution (first as oral tradition) followed by the written word, were man’s initial tools against death. Poor instruments that they were, they were used to fight valiantly in an attempt to conserve the memory of what was – a story of people, places and events over time. They were, to a remarkable degree, successful. The Royal Society is almost unbelievable in this regard, with every scrap of correspondence and every minor triumph and squabble being recorded and preserved. So are many neighborhood British garden societies – many going back hundreds of years. This will be true of every successful human institution from enduring religious institutions such as St. Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai, to the fraternal organizations such as the Masons in the US.

Robert Ettinger (left).

With the advent of scientific medicine and Ettinger’s book in 1964, it has become scientifically credible for human beings to reach for personal biological immortality and thus, for the first time, for a credible and a definitive “end to death.” Because what death really is, is the destruction of human knowledge and wisdom, and that is always and necessarily rooted in the destruction of individual humans. Wisdom, in particular, is uniquely a property of individual persons, and so is creativity. Neither of these fantastical properties which create and drive civilization can be distilled into books, carved into stone, or molded into bronze or plastic.

To achieve immortality for individuals it will be necessary to utilize the structure of institutions. It should be abundantly evident that such institutions will necessarily have to be the most stable and durable of those which human beings have so far managed to engineer. As such, they will have to most emulate that property which human institutions were created for in the first place: the conservation of memory of persons, places and events in order to conserve values over time. This why institutions incessantly speak of things like “grand old traditions” and “institutional memory.”  Admittedly, it is a hard thing to do. And it is a perilous thing to do, because it relies upon successful prognostication of the future; that the ideas and values selected for conservation and propagation over the ages are the ones essential for success; and that the ones not essential, do not discredit those that are.

Inherent in cryonics is a terrible arrogance and optimism which attracts a kind of people who seem to possess an inborn contempt for, or incomprehension of the value of the past. This is evident in their own disregard for it. There is a shocking lack of historical conservation at both CI and Alcor. In fact, it is so shocking and all pervasive that I know that my words here will have virtually no impact on almost all who read them, because no one,[1] at either place has any idea of what I’m talking about. It is, literally, the equivalent of talking to people who have never seen books, about how shocking it is that they don’t have libraries.

Organizations that are clueless about their own (recent) historical past should, not surprisingly, also be clueless about the deeper reasons for things like pictures of patients hanging on the walls. A few years ago, I was talking with one of the (many) former Presidents of Alcor who had a question for me about  something in a member’s paperwork. This President wanted to know what “BACS” was? Now, I am old. In fact, I’m a little older than cryonics (by about 9 years). But that still only makes me 56, not 156.  I felt a little like I do when I see anyone in the US being stopped on the street and asked questions like, “Who is the Secretary of State?” or “Who was Abraham Lincoln?” and the response is an utterly clueless answer.

If you’re an average reader here, and you don’t have a clue, that’s OK, because there really is no cryonics community to get acculturated in. The answer is that the Bay Area Cryonics Society (BACS, they changed their named to the American Cryonics Society, ACS, in 1985) was the dominant cryonics organization in the world from ~1974-1984! That’s a third of all of cryonics history and it’s not that long ago.  To not know that and to be running the world’s largest cryonics organization seemed wrong to me. Not because it was wrong per se, but because it was inevitably a marker for what had to be a veritable iceberg of other missing information that was of far greater import. And even that isn’t necessarily a fatal flaw. Realizing a deficiency of knowledge or character or resources, even a spectacular one, and working hard to remedy it is the oldest heroes’ tale in the world.

Of course,  it isn’t really practical to keep putting up pictures of Alcor’s patients on its walls. At some point, I’d have expected that they would have started to spill out, rather indecently, onto the grounds. And perhaps, if the problem persisted far enough into the future, they might start turning up, well, who knows where? And continue to do so until the problem was solved.

The problem to be solved being not the clutter, nor the barrier to tasteful decorating, nor to efficient housekeeping, but rather, the problem of how to make their number start decreasing, rather than increasing. That is, decreasing by some expedient other than by gathering them up into a digital dustbin where they are granted increasingly smaller and smaller and smaller access to the living human eye, as time goes by.

How terribly (horribly) convenient.


After writing this piece it occurred to me that many might dismiss it as a case of “sour grapes;” of an “old man” failing to keep pace with the times. I don’t believe this is so and I think a good analogy is the AIDS Quilt.  Imagine if the AIDS Quilt had, because of its bulk, logistical inconvenience, and in your face anguish effect, had been replaced with a single (or several) flat screen “quilt display” monitors?

The effect would hardly have been the same. At issue here is not the technology, per se. I can imagine a number of ways to use digital technology far more pervasively, far more more subversively, and potentially even more durably than analog photographs, or stitched pieces of fabric. I’m not an analog Luddite. Indeed, I’m using digital technology in just such a”creative-subversive” way right now.

The point is that it must be used in such a manner – transformatively, transcendently and creatively – not as a band-aid convenience to assist with interior decorating to “reduce clutter” or “ease housekeeping.”

That is the clueless failure of vision, understanding and institutional memory I’m addressing here.


[1] Dr. Mike Perry is one exception that I know of.

]]> 18
The Logical and Intellectual Bankruptcy of Christianity Wed, 14 Mar 2012 09:28:13 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>

by Mike Darwin

I can remember, with unfortunate precision, when I ceased to believe in God. Please note the emphasis on the “I” and the capitalization of God.

I was seven years old and being prepared for my First Communion in the Roman Catholic Church. I do not know what this entails today, but at that time, being enrolled in a Parochial school before the advent of Vatican II, it was an elaborate, 9-month long process of indoctrination and ritual. The church I attended was dark, Gothic, aromatic and overawing.  The nun who instructed me and my class was kind and compassionate, but also knowledgeable, stern in her faith and firm in her convictions.

Sister Mary Ephraim (Right)

Amidst the endless rote memorization of the articles of the faith of the church and the various moral absolutes and injunctions, were told often, and in hushed tones, about the sacred transformation that was about to occur in us. The Holy Ghost was about to enter our bodies and sanctify and purify us, and we when the priest put the Host upon our tongues, the Body of Christ would enter into us and we would be filled with the Spirit of the Lord. This was to be a a transformative moment. In retrospect, it seems very strange that out of that first grade class of 30 or so children, not one ever asked a question along the lines of, “What does it feel like to have the Holy Ghost enter your body?” or “What does it feel like to have Jesus inside you?”

To my knowledge, no one asked those questions there in class, or at home of their parents, or to each other during recess, or after school, or at any other time. Remarkable!

And so the time came and I had my First Communion and the celebratory breakfast at a local restaurant afterwards. I’m smiling in the photos taken at that event and seemingly enjoying my gifts. But inside, I am already desperately unhappy, because whatever  magical feeling was supposed to have happened; it didn’t happen to me. Again, strangely, I didn’t discuss this non-event, and neither did anyone else, if indeed, it was a non-event for them.  And so, from that day forth I knew that for me, at least, there was no god. The capital came off the g and, gradually, as time wore on and my intellectual horizons began to grow, I realized that probably most of the other kids in my class had had a pretty similar experience to mine. There had been no hallelujah moment, no inward whoosh of the Holy Ghost, and urgent need for temporary immunity with a sanctifying jolt from Jesus that had to be renewed once a week with Holy Communion.

Grade School Graduating Cohorts: 1969. How many felt the rapture?

Their belief had become not a direct belief in that tangible supernatural experience, but rather a belief in the belief of the goodness and the rightness and the necessity of that experience, and as a side effect, of all the dogma, doctrine, ritual and machinery of the church that was tied to it. Of course, I did not understand why they believed that and  why they needed to believe it; so I kept my mouth shut and went along with it until cryonics entered my life.

Cryonics changed everything, because it was the key to understanding the fundamental reason for the need to believe in religion and that was in turn the need to deal with the central and most pressing problem of human existence (which is not, as most philosophers would have you believe “man’s purpose in the universe,” but rather, the problem of DEATH. A writer who particularly influenced me (via cryonics) was Alan Harrington. with his radical manifesto The Immortalist. Once I read The Immortalist the key turned in the lock and the door opened. Religion was a coping mechanism it was a sanity mountainous device that had no more basis in reality than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.  From Harrington I learned of Miguel d’Unnamuno and then, in my Sophomore year of High School I read Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death which frames the whole proposition from a more rigorous cognitive perspective.

In more recent years, I’ve become increasingly convinced that religion, religious thought, religious beliefs and mystical experiences are likely rooted in our evolutionary biology and that, as opposed to being merely a social tool for coping with the terrible reality of death, religion may have an evolutionary-biological basis, as well.

The implications of that, if true, are powerful and staggering, because it means that as we outgrow the need for such ancient and irrational coping mechanisms, it will be difficult to set them aside – more difficult than we may have previously imagined. As a consequence, we will need all the tools of logic and reason at our disposal to demolish the infrastructure of religious thought.

Growing up, as I did, in a religious environment, and being both an atheist and a cryonicist, I was confronted with many religion-based arguments against cryonics and immortalism. This was also a time of stunning advances in biomedicine and cryonics was all about the promise of more to come. At that time, and even more so now, the party line within the cryonics community was one of strict appeasement with respect to any conflict with religion. “Don’t antagonize them. We need the members. Keep your mouth shut.” Those were the bylines. Mostly, I held my tongue. But I from time to time I would mumble, under my breath, the thought I often had after the shame  of not feeling the rapture of the Holy Ghost (nee’ Holy Spirit) pouring into me or Jesus not suffusing my being after Holy Communion: Well, you know, the only thing that would have lent real credibility to Christianity is if, when Jesus, God’s beloved only son, exsanguinating on a rough hewn cross of wood, cried out, “E’-Li, E’-Li la’-ma sa-bach’-tha- ni?[1]” there was absolutely no answer, and that was really the end of it. No resurrection 3-days later. No atonement for mankind’s sins. Just oblivion. No backroom deals, no escape clause, no abracadabra, no miracle.

I mean, honestly, how scary is obliteration if it lasts only as long as a 3-day bender, or an especially bad bank holiday weekend? How big a deal is death, if it really isn’t forever? I was coming of age in a time when people were recovering from comas that lasted for weeks for or months – and in rare cases even for years! Three days? Give me a break! On a purely logical basis, Christianity doesn’t make any sense. As we cryonicists are quick to point out, there is a serious logical fallacy if the definition of death is the irreversible loss of life, and yet dead people can supposedly come back to life, get married have children, grow old and die again, ‘cmon!. Where’s the sting in that? So Jesus died?

OK, so lots of people “die” nowadays. They suffer and “die.” They exsanguinate slowly, they suffer injuries so terrible that they make Jesus’ brief tenure on the cross and his march down the Via Dolorosa look like happy hour on Folsom Street in San Francisco. And what’s more, they live – and they live long, satisfying and productive lives, including people like the one in the photo above. And they do so, not because of anantiquated coping mechanism for death and mayhem, but because of rational, scientific inquiry and its application to medicine by courageous and dedicated men who value life and want to preserve and extend it.

One good thing I can say about Roman Catholicism is that a central tenet of the faith is that it must be accepted willingly – not through coercion.  As a consequence, the adherent is asked at numerous junctures if he is he is indeed a believer. Me being me, I said no, early and often. My parents’ response to this was to force me to observe the rituals of the church. I was made to attend Mass. However, to their considerable credit, the priests and nuns would and  did not cooperate in any way with my parents’ attempts to force further participation. So, while my parents sat and stood and keeled and spoke as the ritual dictated, I merely sat. And so it went until this ordeal became too embarrassing for them.

My parents never interfered with my intellectual autonomy. They never even attempted to interfere with my signing up for cryonics at the age of 15, with embrace of Darwinian evolution, or with any other of my beliefs or ideas. Somehow, they knew and respected that cryonics, in particular, was absolutely critical to my person-hood and to my dignity – indeed that it was central to my integrity as a human being. I could then only imagine what it must have cost them to do that.

When I saw that my mother was developing Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), a number of doable scenarios crossed my mind that would have allowed me to cryopreserve her, or to otherwise render her brain into a fixed, unchanging state. I have done this before in very different situations for very different reasons. How is not material to what I have to say here. The fact is, I would have done almost anything to have saved my mother. I would have stolen or killed  to have saved my mother.

The one thing I would not have done is to have defiled her autonomy. And therein lies a terrible irony, because, at the very cost of her own life, the values she, and her logically bankrupt religion taught me, stayed my hands.

Will she and all the other dead be recoverable some day in some way in an infinite universe or multiverse? Perhaps. That’s what the theoretical physicists tell us this week. Maybe in 13 billion years we will all be united end of the space-time continuum.  Does 13 billion years matter? Hell yes! Three days? No so much. We aren’t gods and the fact is, we are so far from it we can’t even approach that throne, look upon it, or begin to understand it. So for all practical purposes, 13 billion years is forever and for now, dead is dead. We need to keep that in mind as we reason our way forward day by day and make the decisions that shape our lives and the lives of those we love.

[1] “My God, My God, why hath Thou forsaken Me?”

]]> 19
ii Mirror mirror hanging on the wall, CryoX: Birth of NeoInsurgent Cryonicst Mon, 12 Mar 2012 23:34:51 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>

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.

]]> 8
Three Strikes and You’re Out! Sun, 26 Feb 2012 06:03:33 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>

By Mike Darwin

Left: Science Fiction writer Fred Pohl, with friend.

Predicting the future is a tough business. It is an especially tough business when it is proposed  that the prediction be highly specific and technically accurate. Say, akin to predicting the iPhone with Siri in 1965. It’s often been noted that none of the Golden Age of Science Fiction writers like Heinlein, Clarke, or Asimov predicted the PC, let alone the laptop. And most didn’t have a clue about the emerging developments in biology. So, the odds that one of those esteemed gentlemen would have conjured up a hand-held device that you could ask just about any question to (and get a useful answer), pay your bills through, order your meals with, get directions from, do your banking over, get reminders, entertainment or voice mail from and have a conversation with…well, the odds of that were just about nil. Just about, but not, as it turns out, quite nil.

In his 1965 cryonics novel, The Age Of The Pussyfoot, that Golden Age Science fiction writer, co-contemporary and friend of Bob Ettinger, Fred Pohl posited the existence of a device called the Joymaker, which every civilized person would necessarily have to have. The Joymaker incorporated the following features and uses:

  • Access to sophisticated computing for money management, scientific calculations, etc.
  • Access to planetary libraries at any time and any place.
  • The education of children each of whom have their own Joymakers.
  • Health Maintenance: the Joymaker monitors vitals, administers life saving or mood altering medications, summons emergency medical help and summons cryopreservation services in the event of cardiac  arrest.
  • The Joymaker offers voice mail which is the core of interpersonal interaction in the novel.
  • Orders all food and beverages and arranges payment, both in the home and in public.
  • Orders all other goods for delivery and since payment is automatic, the expense of items is not always apparent to the buyers. Thus, the protagonist rapidly depletes his “fortune.”
  • Replaces the public address system allowing any group of people to hear a public announcement on their Joymakers thus eliminating the need for loudspeakers in public places or interruption of entertainment programming.
  • Locating people. The central computer can track the position of any Joymaker, and by extension, its owner. This information can be made available at the owner’s discretion.
  • Jobs not requiring physical presence. One character is a “Reacter,” someone who samples new products and reports her reactions using the Joymaker. The central computer analyzes her reactions in the light of her known psychological makeup and is able to statistically predict how well the product will sell.

Left: Robert C. W. Ettinger, the father of cryonics.

The Age Of The Pussyfoot was set in the year 2527. However, in his Afterword to the novel, Pohl noted that he thought many of the functions of the Joymaker would be realized not in five centuries, but more likely in five decades.  Forty seven years after Pussyfoot, the iPhone with Siri is here, and most of Pohl’s predictions are  indeed a reality.  And, at age 93, Fred Pohl has survived long enough to see his predictions become reality. His friend and fellow science fiction writer Bob Ettinger was cryopreserved late last year and Pohl has been intimately aware of cryonics for ~50 years. He was one of the first people Ettinger contacted about the idea and over the ensuing five decades Ettinger never ceased to nag Pohl to make cryonics arrangements. The two were good friends and stayed in touch in writing – the last letter Ettinger wrote to Pohl shortly before his cryopreservation, admonished him, yet again, to get signed up for cryonics.

I too had tried to persuade Pohl to make cryonics arrangements, even offering him a “free freeze” in 1978. When Ettinger entered cryopreservation on July 23, 2011, Pohl wrote a moving tribute him on his blog “The way of the Future” and this prompted me to take up where Bob necessarily left off in urging Fred to make cryonics arrangements:

Mike Darwin says: Hello, Fred, this is from Mike Darwin, the guy who made you the offer of a “free freeze” after dinner that night in Louisville, KY in our suite in the Galt House hotel. You were the Guest of Honor at the American Science Fiction Convention in 1978, and we took you to dinner and made you an offer that, as it turned out, you easily could refuse! If you want to read an account of that meeting from the perspective of the cryonics people present at that time, it’s up on line, here: and is entitled, “When You Can’t Even Give it Away – Cryonics and Fred Pohl.

When you write about Bob Ettinger, “He wrote me one more letter, good-naturedly urging me to change my mind. That was the end,” I would say in response, “Uh, uh, it is much more likely, on the basis of probability alone, that was the end not for Bob, but for you.

Bob and I talked and corresponded about you a number of times over the years. Unlike you, I was not close to Bob, and we were often at odds. Interestingly, one of the few things that ever resulted in a genuine emotional connection between us was the offer we made to cryopreserve you for free. While he was too reserved and diplomatic to say so, your given reason for turning cryonics down, well, to be frank, I think it pissed him off a little. It was apparent that he genuinely liked and admired you and that, maybe just as importantly, he shared a common past with you. You and he grew up in the Golden Age of Science Fiction and you both shared the common narrative and heritage of what is now being called “The Greatest Generation.” The last time I saw Bob, was over dinner a few years ago in Michigan. He was quite frail, but wickedly lucid. I asked him if you were still compos mente and if he was still in touch with you. He sighed, “Yes,” and a “Yes.” And then he momentarily lost his temper, which is something I almost never saw him do. I don’t remember his exact words, but they were pretty to close to this: “I guess he doesn’t think that much of me or of the rest us, because he’s so worried about being alone and displaced from the people he knows and loves now. Doesn’t he think I’ll be there? Doesn’t he think any of the hundred or so others from our generation will be there? And if he does, and he is so worried about loneliness and social isolation, then dammit why doesn’t he come along to keep us company?”

I thought that was an extraordinarily good question. But logical and emotional arguments aside, it was painfully clear to me that HE WANTED YOU ALONG FOR THE RIDE. I had a hard time holding back the tears, and I had to excuse myself to the men’s room.

When most men die, their probability for any future goes to zero; in effect, their event horizon collapses. That’s about to happen to you (and to me, and to everyone else). Say what you will, Bob Ettinger now confronts two possibilities – oblivion, or one hell of a really interesting future. A future far more fantastic than anything you or he ever dreamed of, or wrote about. If nothing else, just to have come that far and to be in that position, well, it’s a hell of an accomplishment. And I am very grateful to Bob Ettinger for achieving it, because it opens that possibility to me, as well.

So, Fred, here’s the deal. Your friend is waiting for you: he damn sure wanted you to embark on the adventure (good or bad) that he has now begun. In fact, he kept at you to go until, literally, almost his last breath for this life cycle. He can’t do it anymore, so I guess it is my turn, once again, to ask you to reconsider and to join your friend and colleague on his journey into the land you both dreamed of when you were young, and in your salad days. Please, reconsider your arguments. It is now for sure you won’t be without a friend and cohort, and I can pretty much guarantee you that your revival won’t take place unless you have a use.
Finally, I can tell you for a fact that the best use you have is continue living and growing and telling stories. At our core, we humans are ‘store creatures,’ and we will remain so as long we *are* human. It goes without saying that story creatures need storytellers; your job is thus secure.

August 2, 2011, 11:47 pm

To which Fred replied:

Declining Immortality Twice

Mike Darwin’s response to my piece on the loss of that very good man, Bob Ettinger, caught me completely unaware. I am grateful to you for repeating the offer of a free freeze, Mike, just as I am grateful to the people who sometimes tell me that they’re going to pray for me. Even though I can’t accept your offer, it’s a kind thought.

Let me quote from a poem that was written long ago by John Dryden, in an attempt to sum up the teachings on this subject of the even longer ago Roman philosopher Lucretius. The last six lines say it all, but I’ll give you the whole thing. It goes like this:

So, when our mortal forms shall be disjoin’d.
The lifeless lump uncoupled from the mind,
From sense of grief and pain we shall be free,
We shall not feel, because we shall not be.

Though earth in seas, and seas in heaven were lost
We should not move, we should only be toss’d.
Nay, e’en suppose when we have suffer’d fate
The soul should feel in her divided state,
What’s that to us? For we are only we
While souls and bodies in one frame agree.

Nay, though our atoms should revolve by chance,
And matter leap into the former dance,
Though time our life and motion should restore.
And make our bodies what they were before,
What gain to us would all this bustle bring?
The new-made man would be another thing.

But I do appreciate the offer.

This entry was posted on September 9, 2011 at 12:30 am at

Fred Pohl may be the first man in the history of the world to have declined a shot at immortality not once, but twice! I would argue that the really amazing thing about Pussyfoot is not just that Pohl got the technology of the Joymaker right, but that he also got the biotechnology of the future more or less right – granted in no small measure due to that “good man” and good friend of his, Bob Ettinger.  Fred Pohl knew a sound and reasonable idea when he saw one , biological or otherwise,  and 50 years later cryonics has endured and the biological basis for it has grown steadily better. Lucky patients cryopreserved with little or no ischemia, using the best available vitrification techniques today, will have intact connectomes and minimal neuronal molecular damage. Such fortunate patients will suffer virtually no freezing damage.

Above: The Connectome.

 Any yet, Pohl is having none of it.

Right: Viktor Frankel.

I used to find this a mystery. To be surprised by it. To marvel at it. However, that time has long past. The first insight that offered a partial answer to that mystery came from Viktor Frankel’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  Frankel noted that there were two basic types of people in the concentration camps – those who drew their sense of identity and purpose from their social/societal position; husband, father, lawyer, doctor, mother, grandmother… and those who drew it from some other source, independent of their social context, or how they were labeled. For some, the origin of that sense of identity was religious, for others, it existed independent of any institutional or religious thoughts or beliefs. Those few people saw themselves as unique and worthwhile individuals deserving of and entitled to life and survival at all costs, independent of any external factors or forces.

Much later I realized that another component in the will to survive that is often material in making the choice for cryonics is the yearning to be transcendent. It is not enough to be able to see the future with accuracy and precision, it is necessary to yearn to be it. To quote Nietzsche:

 ”I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? … All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to overman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape…. The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth…. Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss … what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.”

H. G. Wells said it far more beautifully:

“We look back through countless millions of years and see the great will to live struggling out of the intertidal slime, struggling from shape to shape and from power to power, crawling and then walking confidently upon the land, struggling generation after generation to master the air, creeping down the darkness of the deep; we see it turn upon itself in rage and hunger and reshape itself anew, we watch it draw nearer and more akin to us, expanding, elaborating itself, pursuing its relentless inconceivable purpose, until at last it reaches us and its being beats through our brains and arteries…It is possible to believe that all the past is but the beginning of a beginning, and that all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn. It is possible to believe that all that the human mind has accomplished is but the dream before the awakening; out of our lineage, minds will spring that will reach back to us in our littleness to know us better than we know ourselves. A day will come, one day in the unending succession of days, when beings, beings who are now latent in our thoughts and hidden in our loins, shall stand upon this earth as one stands upon a footstool, and shall laugh and reach out their hands amidst the stars.”

But Wells spoke of not of achieving that greatness personally, but rather of the species achieving it  – of our descendants achieving it.

To want it, to need it, to ache for it personally – that is a rare thing. It is the motive force that has driven biological evolution – and it is the motive force that has driven every human innovation and every human conquest – for good or evil.

Recently, a friend of mine asked, in wonder, why I was preparing for the contingency that technological civilization might collapse. “There would be no cryonics if that happened.” he noted, correctly.

“Yes, I know.” I replied.

“And it would be really horrible. A terrible, terrible undoing of the world.” he added.

“Yes, yes it would.” I agreed.

“Then why on earth would you want to be around to see that?”

“I can’t imagine missing the last act! I mean, honestly, I’ve had the chance to read up on all that happened before, I’ve trotted all over the planet, read the thoughts of the best minds of every known culture and civilization, and you propose I should wimp out and miss the denouement? I’m plenty savvy enough to keep redundant assets for a quick and painless exit at should I find myself in unbearable agony and no hope of survival. However, absent that, I can’t even conceive of betraying the intense curiosity I’d have about any apocalypse, even if my own survival were impossible.”

Frankel comes close to summing up my feelings on this matter when he says:  ”Man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.” There is an implied qualification not present in Frankel’s quote:  “Man at his best is that…” The cryonicist is thus that being who chooses life, inquiry, knowledge and understanding of the universe as his personal and moral imperatives. He chooses to feel and to be these things – not just to think about them, or talk about them. He chooses action over contemplation, life over death.

The origins of that choice? Well, that is still a mystery, but one which, in the fullness of time, may we may hope to unravel.

]]> 27
Cryonics “Castle” Thu, 06 Oct 2011 08:11:06 +0000 admin Continue reading ]]> By Mike Darwin

 Show: “Castle”

Season: 4

Episode: 3, “Head Case”

Air Date: 10/03/11

Series Creator: Andrew W. Marlowe

Writer: David Grae

Characters: Rick Castle, Kate Beckett

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Photos Credit: ABC/Adam Taylor

“Castle” Stars: Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle, Stana Katic as NYPD Detective Kate Beckett, Susan Sullivan as Martha Rodgers, Molly Quinn as Alexis Castle, Penny Johnson Jerald as NYPD Captain Victoria Gates, Tamala Jones as Medical Examiner Lanie Parish, Jon Huertas as NYPD Detective Javier Esposito, and Seamus Dever as NYPD Detective Kevin Ryan.

Guest Cast: William Atherton as Dr. Ari Weiss, Andy Umberger as Johnny Rosen, Judith Hoag as Cynthia Hamilton, Shaun Toub as Dr. Philip Boyd, Jordan Belfi as Beau Randolph, Jared Hillman as Eddie Peck.

NOTE: You can watch the full episode of “Castle” reviewed here on line at no charge:



 Figure 1: Stana Katic as NYPD Homicide Detective Kate Beckett enters the Passage cryonics facility with her gun drawn in search of the missing body of a homicide victim.

 I’m a regular viewer of “Castle,” so my take may be prejudiced. “Castle” is very light TV fare – it is a fanciful police procedural comedy/drama that centers on the adventures of a crime novelist, Rick Castle, who is on a perpetual “ride along” with an attractive female homicide detective named Kate Beckett. Beckett has served as the inspiration for one of Castle’s most successful characters, Detective Nikki Heat. Superficially, “Castle” is escapist fare that offers some respite from sadistic pornography of “Criminal Minds” or the now predictable, hard-boiled and increasingly preachy cynicism of the “Law and Order” franchises.“

Castle” is a throwback to the humorous, but morality and issue driven “detective” writing of Anthony BoucherHerbert Brean, and perhaps the most talented master of this genre, John Dickson Carr. As critic S. T. Karnick has aptly said of “Castle”and its predecessors:

“What these and their contemporaries excelled at was creating a sense of wonder, building a fantastic situation that has an inexorable logic of its own. In their way, they conveyed a sense of American life as a realm of astonishing possibilities ultimately grounded in common sense, logic and morality. It’s a form of fiction I enjoy greatly and which I think has much to recommend it.”

As TV fare it has more in common with “Ellergy Queen” or “Murder She Wrote” than CSI or “Blue Bloods.” Often I hear more of “Castle” episodes than I see of them, but it is good, non-traumatic, “wind down” entertainment before bed; nice to watch while reading book and preparing to doze off. However, a “good” episode will cause the book to be put down and will fully command my attention. This was a good episode of “Castle”, in fact I would argue that it was an extraordinary episode. I say this because “Castle” doesn’t usually explore ideas in any nuanced way, other than those surrounding romantic and family life, which are the core values the show seeks to explore, albeit 21st century style.

Castle is a highly successful author, divorced, more than a bit juvenile and a something of rake who finds his way into the beds of the occasional vixen who strays into the plotline. Detective Beckett is the serious, sober and grounded half of the duo, whose job it is to burst the bubble of most of Castle’s outrageous, and usually erroneously wild conspiracy theories of the crimes they encounter together.  The emotional subtext is that Castle is madly in love with Beckett, Beckett is arguably is in love with Castle and neither has the confidence in themselves, or their life choices to admit these feelings to each other, or to anyone else, for that matter.

Because “Castle” is, at least superficially not a serious TV drama, the idea of a cryonics-themed episode made me squirm more than a bit. The whole idea screamed “clichéd mockery.” As it turned out, this episode was some of the best cryonics-themed TV programming I’ve ever seen – at least in terms of thoughtfully exploring the multiple significant issues cryonics poses to the culture. Without as doubt this episode’s presentation of the emotional and value-driven reasons for why we cryonicists are doing what we are was the most accurate and moving of any I’ve seen  to date.

Figure 2: Nathan Fillion as the crime fiction writer Richard Castle exploring the cryonics facility. Passage Cryonics either has really bad Superinsulation, or they just finished filling every dewar in the facility.


The plot line (warning, spoiler alert) is that a murder has occurred in a New York City street, but there is no body; just so much blood on the scene that the victim would have almost completely exsanguinated. Through various twists and turns, the victim is determined to be an academic who was pursuing promising research on a life extension technology that would add ~ 10 healthy years to a person’s life by causing the body’s dividing cells to produce young, rather old replacements for themselves. The identification of the likely victim leads Beckett, Castle and crew to a “self storage warehouse” where they discover an “under the radar” cryonics facility called “Passage.”

       Dr. Weiss: “He conducted cutting-edge research developing        life-extension techniques.”

       Castle: “Not that it did him any good.”

It was at this point that I started to grin.  This set-up precisely describes Alcor and its location from mid-1970s to the mid-1980s in Fullerton, CA. What’s more, the first man ever cryopreserved, James H. Bedford, was stored for a number of years by his family in a San Fernando Valley mini-warehouse that was part of franchise called “Self Storage;” something I found more than a bit of an irony at the time. Could the “Castle” writers have done their homework that well? Surely not; but, it was good for a grin, anyway.

Figure 3: Seamus Dever as NYPD Detective Kevin Ryan (left) Kate Beckett (center) and  Jon Huertas as NYPD Detective Javier Esposito draw a bead on the two cryonics technicians who are in the process of placing the missing homicide victim into long-term cryogenic storage.

Almost immediately after entering the cryonics facility, the homicide investigative crew encounters the Passage personnel sliding the missing murder victim into a dewar. Beckett informs them that the police are going to take custody and that the Medical Examiner (ME) will need to autopsy the body. Enter the smarmy, self-righteous and utterly self-assured President of Passage Cryonics, accompanied by his even more self assured, viperous and lawsuit threatening caricature of a lawyer. Remove the patient from cryopreservation (yeah, they actually use that word; we’re making progress) and Passage will sue the NYPD and the ME’s Office into financial oblivion! the attorney informs them.

       Castle: “You got any celebrities in here? Ted Williams? Jack Frost”

Beckett and crew phone the District Attorney for a warrant to seize the body, only to be told that, “the case law is murky on the issue of whether or not a coroner can autopsy a cryonics patient.” Incredible!  now the writers really have my attention, because the Dora Kent case was not a “recorded” case that definitively established precedent; the California Appellate Court let the lower (Superior) court’s ruling stand, but declined to grant the case “precedent setting status.”[1] Maybe these guys really did do their homework after all!


The researcher/patient’s wife is questioned by Detective Beckett (and Castle) and she comes across as a sympathetic person who wants, above all else, to defend her husband’s cryopreservation and ensure that he has another chance at an indefinitely extended life. In fact, she reminisces during her interview that, when she and her husband first met, he told her that he was so in love wit her that “one lifetime would never be enough” – he wanted to spend eternity with her – and life extension and cryonics were the tools to achieve that end.

Figure 4: At left, fictional pornographer Beau Randolph as portrayed by actor Jordan Belfi and at right, real pornographer Larry Flynt who did indeed at one time have a serious interest in cryonics. [2)

However, as it turns out, the ME may not need to do an autopsy after all. One of the victim’s associates, a famous pornographer who created the “College Girls Gone Wild” franchise has been bankrolling the life extension researchers academic’s work. And tellingly, they’ve just argued repeatedly over the “dead” man’s desire to make his life extending discovery “open source” for the entire world to further advance and benefit from. By now, I’m chuckling. Is this a reference to Hustler’s Larry Flynt? I’m beginning to think that I’m starting to see my life played out on a very B-list (but nevertheless amusing) TV show. [2]

 Figure 5: At left actor William Atherton as Dr. Ari Weiss, CEO of Passage Cryonics (shades of Avi Ben Abraham, center?) and at right, Dr. Max More, CEO of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. [3]

Alas, the pornographer owns a gun, fired the very morning of the murder, that could possibly be the murder weapon. The cops need the slug, and the slug is in the cryopreserved body of the victim.  Cut to a testy conference between the ME, the cops, the CEO of Passage Cryonics and their oily lawyer. The ME insists on an autopsy of the body and it’s clear that she now has probable cause and will likely get the necessary court order. Suddenly, the Passage CEO stands up and announces that he has the answer; all cryonics requires is the brain, so why not give the ME the body for autopsy and allow the cryonics organization to keep the head? Now, I know the writers have done their homework. [3,4] One, two, or three coincidences? Maybe. But this many? Not a chance!

Figure 6: At right, Tamala Jones as Medical Examiner Lanie Parish discloses the results of her autopsy on the headless body of the murder victim. A plot lifted right from the Dora Kent case. [4,5]


The head is removed, the body is autopsied, the slug is recovered, and, just like in real life (Larry Flynt), the wily pornographer is off the hook; they can’t pin the crime on him because he didn’t do it. He was, as he told the police, otherwise occupied murdering a noisy pigeon on his roof that morning. A compliant of animal cruelty is sworn out against him and he vanishes from the proceedings.

The once cooperative ME now demands the patient’s head, because, as it turns out,  he appears to have been serving as his own guinea pig by having the implants that cause tissue rejuvenation placed in his brain. The 0nly problem is that when the investigators go to retrieve the head (patient), surprise, he’s missing from the cryonics organization’s facilities!

       Beckett: Are you saying you lost his head?

So, who took him and why? It is soon discovered that the patient’s researcher friend has removed him from Passage in order to prevent his destruction by cranial autopsy. What was really going on was that the patient was dying of an inoperable malignant brain tumor (glioblastma multiforme) and this colleague was undertaking to try and save him with a highly experimental, and unfortunately, ineffective nanoparticle cancer treatment. Our cryonics patient was thus doomed to die of a brain tumor – a brain tumor that would, before it killed him, utterly destroy his brain, thus making any hope of recovery from cryopreservation impossible. So now, in addition to the Dora Kent case, the writers have folded in the Donaldson v. the Attorney General of the State of California case. [6]

The nano-cancer researcher colleague explains to the homicide investigators that even though the tumor was growing rapidly, the patient had decided to continue pursuing his life extension research and forgo being cryopreserved. He turns over the MRIs and other documentary evidence explaining why trace evidence of brain matter from the patient had been found in a secret lab, ending the need for further postmortem dissection.

Revelation of these facts also explained the seemingly anomalous download of a “cryopreservation cancellation document” for Passage Cryonics, recovered from the patient’s laptop. Finally, it dawns on Castle and Beckett that the shooting that ended this life cycle for the patient was the very thing that might be responsible for saving his life. They correctly reason that if he wasn’t cryopreserved while his brain was reasonably intact, then he would be lost forever.


Figure 7: 21st Century Romeos and Juliets use cryonics as a way to overcome the tragic circumstances of disease and death which threaten to separate them forever.

Bingo (!); the missing motive in the case in now apparent. If his wife was aware he was not only dying of brain cancer, but also that he planned to terminate his cryopreservation arrangements, then the only way she could hope to ensure their future together was to “kill” her husband now, while both his brain and his cryopreservation arrangements were still reasonably intact.

This was, in fact, exactly what she had done. As the show winds up there is a touching and very emotional monologue from the wife explaining that the tumor had warped her husband’s judgment and that he was no longer making decisions as he had when was well; she had no choice but to stop his heart with a gunshot, triggering his GPS-enabled bio-monitoring watch and summing the cryonics team.  The wife is placed in a holding cell and Castle, Beckett and the Passage President confer about the situation. Suddenly, the Passage CEO’s smartphone registers an alarm: a Passage client has experienced cardiac arrest, butit makesno sense since the GPS feature shows the location as right there in the jail.  It is quickly discovered that the wife has taken a cyanide tablet concealed in a ring she was wearing.[1] The wife lies lifeless on the floor of the cell and there is a moment of stunned silence, broken by the Passage CEO, who pleadingly asks if he can summon the cryonics team so that the wife can join her husband on the long journey into the future. Beckett says, “Yes,” having already expressed her sympathy with the wife for her act of “involuntary euthanasia” that put in him Passage cryonics with two bullets in his chest at the start of the story.

Whew! Every significant medico-legal issue in the public history of cryonics to date, all rolled into one ~ 45-minute long TV episode! That’s quite a feat! But a much more impressive one was that writer and the creator of “Castle” got all the important things right. No, they didn’t get much the technical side of cryonics right, and for that, we may arguably be thankful. The Passage cryonics patients, unlike the real ones, look like very startled solid-state versions of their living selves. This is the first time I’ve ever seen cryonics patients depicted with their eyes open – wide open, in fact.

But the shortcomings in the technical depictions of cryonics were more than compensated for by the fact that the show’s creative talents got the core messages of cryonics right. Medico-legal death is a process not a condition, and “irreversibility” is a function of brain structure and the sophistication (or lack thereof) of available medical science and technology. Life is a good thing, and the desire for indefinitely long and healthy lives, free from the burdens of aging, disease and death are reasonable goals being pursued by reasonable people. Indeed, they are romantic goals and they are technologies that offer everyday people the opportunity to continue expressing the best and brightest of their humanity; their love of each other, their pursuit of knowledge and growth, and their desire to transcend time.

Wow! That’s a lot, coming as it is from the principal engine of the popular culture: television. We cryonicists owe a sincere debt of gratitude and some heartfelt thanks to the writer, director and the  producers of this “Castle” episode.

Please, write them and communicate your appreciation:


1.     Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Inc. v. Mitchell (1992) 7 Cal. App. 4th 1287 [9 Cal.Rptr.2d 572]: Retrieved 2011-09-05 .
2.    Green, M. Her death ends the improbable love match of porn merchants Althea and Larry Flynt.  People Magazine, 28(3);1987:,,20096764,00.html.  Retrieved 2011-09-05 .
3.    Cieply, M. Iraquis ask firm about cloning Saddam Hussein. Los Angeles Times, 09 September, 1990: Retrieved: 06 October, 2011.
4.    Babwin, D. Coroner says lethal dose of drugs killed cryonics case figure. The Press Enterprise, Riverside County, CA, 28 February, 1988, start page: A-1.
5.    Perry, R.M., our finest hours: notes on the Dora Kent case. Retrieved: 06 October, 2011.
6.    Donaldson v. Lungren (1992) 2 Cal. App. 4th 1614 [4 Cal.Rptr.2d 59]: Retrieved: 06 October, 2011.


[1] A great deal of suspension of disbelief is required in watching in CASTLE; as anyone who has ever been arrested, or who is familiar with police procedure knows, all jewelry and other possessions, right down to hairpieces (but generally excluding corrective eyeglasses and dentures) are removed from any subject taken into custody.

]]> 14