CHRONOSPHERE » Philosophy A revolution in time. Fri, 03 Aug 2012 22:34:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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.


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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.

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inonymous? Fri, 16 Mar 2012 02:27:35 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Darwin,  Ash Fork, AZ

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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?”

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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.

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i Birth of a NeoInsurgent Cryonicst Mon, 12 Mar 2012 03:44:48 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> By CryoX

Illustrations by Mike Darwin

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

We Froze the First Fly.

Great title.

I could have written it.

I should have written it.

I’m an insect endocrinologist.

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

Did I mention I’m also a cryonicist?

My middle name is Drosophila.



Feelings of worthlessness.

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

GOD knows everything, well, almost everything.

Yeah, I should call him.

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

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

Then I was pulled into his blog.

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

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

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

The gels are done.

I’m done.



The bugdust can wait till tomorrow.

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

“Really?” I replied with some skepticism.

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

“Hell yes!”

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

“I had to admit, he had a point. ”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So what does work?”

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

“Do you think you’re that nucleator?”

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

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

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

“But back to me? Where do I fit in?”

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

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

“Why not?”

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


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

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

“Yeah, like  Arthur Rowe.”

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


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

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

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

“I’m sure I wouldn’t know.”

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

“I had help.”

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


“Melody Maxim?”

“What about her?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the Nazis were  kooks,

they behaved with abominable aggressiveness,

their European allies were kooks,

they behaved with disgusting barbarity,

they left the concentration camps to be filmed and photographed,

they were utterly and completely defeated and humiliated,

it was all beautifully documented.

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

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

[i] Susan Boyle

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Inheritance and Disinheritance Are Not For Us Thu, 08 Mar 2012 08:16:48 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> by Mike Darwin

Michael B. Federowicz and Ella A. Rorhman circa 1954

Yesterday, I learned my parents, both of them, had died a little over 4 months ago. The call came from a staffer at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Alcor had been contacted by the attorney handing probate for my parents’ estate. My parents had died within a day of each other. My mother passed on 1 November, my father on 2 November of 2011.

It was not unexpected news. My mother had developed Alzheimer’s disease some years ago and had been frankly demented for the past several years – unable to recognize me or hold meaningful conversations for the past two years. About 8 months ago, my father, 90 years old, informed me, during one of our increasingly infrequent and unpleasant phone calls, that he was not going to call me when my mother died. My response was to inform him that I had no plans for further phone calls to him. It was the end of what had been a sharply deteriorating relationship since my mother’s illness eliminated her role as a buffer between us – a role I had not even understood existed, let alone previously appreciated was necessary.

I had no bad blood with my few other remaining relatives in Indiana, but they apparently chose not to notify me, either. To be fair, I found it difficult to communicate with them  and I’m sure the same was true for them. Neither of our phones or mailboxes were often, dare I say ever, burdened with communications.

Mike Darwin and his parents, April, 1955

My parents lived long, happy and productive lives. They gave me a great childhood, free of cares and worries, and afforded me every opportunity for education, knowledge and personal growth. My youth was a time of warmth and loving security. My parents worked hard, earned and enjoyed financial security, and enjoyed a long and happy retirement; free from worry or want. Their “golden years” were spent in remarkably good health. My father, despite being a 3-pack a day smoker since age 13, was lucky to escape with only an aortic replacement, a carotid endarterectomy and a coronary angioplasty, all of which he made rapid and astonishingly complete recoveries from. Aside from a few months of morbidity associated with these illnesses, his retirement years were active and free from any significant cognitive impairment. My mother also remained active and cognitively functional into her late 80s. Both my parents enjoyed active social lives diminished only by the relentless and ever accelerating loss of dear friends, most of whom they had the good (or mis-) fortune to outlive, depending upon your point of view. By the time they reached their mid-80s, they had outlived almost all of their cohorts. This took an especially heavy toll on my mother, who defined herself to a far greater extent than did my father, through her social relationships and through her shared memories with her girlhood friends.

One of the many backyard social gatherings with friends and neighbors my parents held. My mothers is the lady in the big sunglasses. Photo is circa mid-to early 1970s.

My Mother and my good grade school friend, Hubert Holman, preparing a package containing a red eared slider turtle for launch into the upper atmosphere, circa 1968.

How many parents would let their 13 year old kid freeze a veritable zoo of animals, or send turtles careening off into the stratosphere? And how many loving parents (and they were loving parents) would their 14 year old son go off to spend summers with a mad body freezer on Long Island, and, a scant 3 years later, run off to “freeze dead bodies” in the same place – and take a week of his senior year in high school to do so in the bargain?

Me at the Cryonics Society of New York in the summer of 1972.





Me freezing “dead” people in 1973 at age 17.







My parents gave me a great childhood. They offered me every opportunity for education and personal growth any boy could want and as only child they and I had the economic opportunity for both toys in an abundance that many children in larger families don’t enjoy. I’d like to think that both they and I took full advantage of that opportunity.

Clockwise: Christmas, 1956, Halloweenwith my dad, 1957, a von Braun rocket set with “grandma” looking on circa 1962, playing with rabbit in the early 1960s, summer in New York city in 1962. 

In looking over the hundreds of photos that now constitute almost all that is left of my parents’ past, I am struck by the evidence therein, or rather lack of evidence, of my integration into their lives after the onset of puberty. This reflects the deep sense of alienation that I felt, as well the visible absence reflected in the photographic record. Not only was I was sexually alienated from the lives they were leading by the biological accident of being homosexual – I was morally and intellectually alienated, as well. For it was at this time that I realized that religion was a farce, that death was both a great evil and personally unacceptable, and that the social and moral constructs on which the civilization I was embedded in were based were, at best, a pastiche of make believe and brutal pragmatism held together with spit and sealing wax.

Thus, intellectually, I had very little attachment to my parents. And as time went on, that meant that increasingly I had less and less emotional attachment, as well. Being home with them for visits was awkward under the best of circumstances, and had been for many years. Gratitude isn’t the same thing as genuine intimacy. My mother’s love and longing for me – the me she remembered – was tragic and pitiful – in large measure because it could not be returned – that person had long ago ceased to exist – and there was no possibility of the easy, spontaneous interaction that been there as a child. In its place was a forced simulacrum that had to be called up mechanically.

And then, she ceased to exist – which was both terrible and terrifying.

When I spoke with the probate attorney’s secretary, I was also not surprised to find that my father had replaced me as the executor and the beneficiary of the estate. My parents loathed cryonics. That is why, in no small measure, I have such high praise for them as parents for in allowing me the autonomy they did, and especially at such a young age to pursue it (cryonics). My mother, in particular, was continually nervous that I was going to “freeze her” and in fact, during her last days “semi-compos mente” whist hospitalized and gravely ill, she grasped my hand and earnestly pleaded with me, “not freeze me – or my brain!” What goes around comes around, and I had far too much love and respect for the autonomy they had shown me, so many years before, and at such a high emotional cost to themselves, to betray them in that way. They should have had no worries – and they should have known that that was the case.

My mother clearly loved me very much and she showed that in countless ways, small and large over the years, right up until she became demented. However, from the time I left Indianapolis in 1981, my parents never came to visit me in California, nor did they call me more than once or twice. When the Alcor facility opened in Riverside, I pleaded with them to come to the Grand Opening. They declined. They came to Las Vegas several times to vacation and they visited friends and family elsewhere on the West Coast – but never me. I never asked them to accept or to believe in cryonics, let alone my homosexuality. But I did ask them to accept a moment of what I considered genuine triumph in my life – the building of Alcor into a respectable place and organization that was not a seedy back-room garage operation. All they had to do was to show up – they could even have come afterwards, and just walked through the place. That rejection was incredibly wounding and, unlike my sexuality, it was not necessary and it was not rooted in religion or morality. Later, with the success of 21st Century Medicine I had another triumph, the successful recovery of dogs with no neurological deficit after 15+ minutes of complete cardiac arrest at 37°C. Again, I asked that they come. Again, they refused. That time, cryonics was not at issue. For me, that was, I think (in hindsight) the final divide between me and them, between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It was then that I realized that symmetry. Just as I had, many years before as a boy becoming man, felt alienated from and unable to participate in their lives and in their world, so too had they been alienated from and unable to participate in mine. At last, the circle was complete. As I remarked to a dear friend later: “I’m not sure about us cryonicists and the rest of the world. Are they ants that gave birth to giants, or are we giants that gave birth to ants?” His, answer was as true as it was wise: “Both.”

Over the subsequent years, and especially after the full maturation of my bipolar disorder and my breakdown in early 2003, my father became increasingly venomous about cryonics and about me, losing no chance to denigrate or deride either of us – pointing out that I was an abject failure, an impoverished “nut case” that his tax dollars were supporting; and that if my mother had anything to say about it, his money would probably keep supporting me after he was dead – and most likely even after I was dead. I suppose there is truth in what he said. But it was very wounding.

However, the ultimate truth, which I remain convinced of, is that he was wrong about cryonics. Certainly, he was wrong about his money supporting me, either after his death, or mine.That was a simple matter his own actions quite simply, and quite righteously saw to.

The day after I got the news about my parents death, Dr. Brian Wowk kindly offered his condolences and in so doing he used the term “disinherited.” That shocked me, because I in no way feel (or felt) disinherited. This so because I never considered my parents’ money mine. I told them this often, and for many, many years when they were alive. Starting from when I was a teenager, actually.  I didn’t earn that money – they did. I told them to spend it on themselves. And as they lived into old age in good health, I cautioned them to save for “spend down” and for the quality nursing home and assisted living care they would very likely need. As it was, they both had and were able to pay for very good nursing home and assisted living care until the day they died. I never wanted nor expected their money. So, I suffered no hurt at all about being “disinherited.” If my father wanted the money to go elsewhere, then I’m happy he was able to see, or at least know, it would do so.

One of the things my parents had no way of knowing I would learn  as a teenager banging around the Cryonics Society of New York (CSNY),was the utter contempt I would learn for inheritance – for the very concept of it – and for its fundamental incompatibility with a cryonicist/immortalist existence. My days as a kid at CSNY made me sick to the core at the avarice of children for the unearned money of their dead parents. Seeing that contemptible greed in action sickened me on inheritances at an early age; and nothing in my subsequent experience – right on through to fantastic grab for the wealth of Dick Jones, did anything to improve my opinion of it. I still wince every time I think of, or look at a picture of Clara Dostal – and that is often, since one of she and I hangs on the wall next to where I am sitting now, as I write this. Inheritance is based on the FACT of and the INEVITABILITY of death. And that fact is anathema to us. It is also based on the concept of the unearned at the expense of the lives of the others. And that concept ought to be anathema to everyone.

No, the only things that distresses me about the way my parents passing was handled were that I wasn’t told about their deaths until four month later, and about the obituary my father prepared for submission to the local paper. I would be dishonest if I said I was not relieved about being freed from the socially expected obligations, (and the attendant  financial and psychological/emotional ones), of attending the funeral/burial. I said my goodbyes to my mom several years ago, when she was still barely oriented enough to understand. Burials and funeral Masses are rituals for them, not us. They are things for us only when we fail. When they are things of conscious choice made by others, they are unnecessary horrors, and we are under no obligation to participate.

As long as I live, I will not forget my parents, nor will I ever cease to be grateful to them. But they chose, quite consciously, to die. I respected their right to that decision and to their autonomy in making it. But it is a terrible and forever isolating thing to do. It is a thing that starts isolating and alienating years before death actually occurs, because once you accept death and decide to die, you must, inevitably, begin surrendering the struggle to stay involved with life and living, and thus to stay current and a part of the world of today.

This was something that both of them did increasingly, quite independent of their involuntary, age-associated deteriorating cognitive reserves. And that is one huge difference I’m increasingly noticing with experience between cryonicists and non-cryonicists. Even those cryonicists who are sorely neurocognitively challenged struggle mightily to stay involved with, and in love with life and the technologies that drive it. Men like Curtis Henderson and Bob Krueger come to mind. I am humbled and in awe of the nobility of their struggles, and of their courage in confronting the debilities of old age.

I would never call my parents cowards, but there is something terrible, small and lacking in their resignation to death and in their lack of vision. They are in a graveyard now, side by side. It is for that, and for their very conscious choice to be there, that I grieve for them.

No doubt much of the pain I am now feeling is socially programmed. Some of it is genuine sorrow at the loss of what was and what can never be again – brought to the forefront of consciousness by the reality of their deaths. Some of it is, no doubt, the realization of the loathing that my father had for me – a loathing so great that he chose not to even acknowledge me as his son in the obituary he prepared for the mortuary to submit to the local paper.

Ella and Michael Federowicz

Ella A. Federowicz

Michael B. Federowicz

Ella A. Federowicz, 90, Indianapolis, passed away Tuesday November 1, 2011 and her husband Michael B. Federowicz, 90, Indianapolis, passed away Wednesday November 2, 2011. Ella was born in Indianapolis on August 6, 1921 to William and Carrie Forway Rohrman. She retired in 1981 as the supervisor of data entry from Dow Chemical after working there for 25 years. Michael was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 1, 1921 to Benjamin and Constance Jakuc Federowicz. He retired from the Indianapolis Police Department with the rank of Sergeant in 1985 after 31 years of service. Michael also served in the U.S. Army for over 10 years during WWII and the Korean War. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 3660, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 86, IPD Retired Officers and the Ernie Pyle Post VFW. Ella was preceded in death by her brothers, Virgil and Irvin Rohrman and Michael was preceded by his sister, Anna Kraska. They are survived by a sister-in-law, Janis Rohrman and several nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Ella and Michael on Tuesday November 8, 2011 at 11 a.m. at St. Barnabas Catholic Church where they were members. Visitation will be Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the church. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery. Online condolences may be shared at:

Published in the The Indianapolis Star on November 4, 2011

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The Worst Place Mon, 05 Mar 2012 23:08:34 +0000 chronopause

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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.

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Through A Glass Darkly: Obstacles to Envisioning the Future of Cryonics Wed, 22 Feb 2012 00:07:35 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>  

By Mike Darwin

I think every cryonicist carries in his head his own unique model of the “future of cryonics.” Furthermore, I think that each individual cryonicist carries around a largely arbitrary and unique set of standards, rules and regulations concerning what constitutes “proper,” “moral,” “ethical,” or even “reasonable” behavior for both “rank and file” and “professional” cryonicists.

We cryonicists often use the words “movement” or “industry” to describe our undertaking. However, it is a commonplace to all real movements, industries (and, I would add professions) that they share at least a broad world view and a basic, common vision of the future; as well a reasonably well developed set of rules, regulations, guidelines and ethics for carrying out day to day operations. A corollary of such a basic self-regulatory framework is a “judiciary” to enforce these obligations and injunctions.

Medicine, the law,  other professions, and even academia, the trades and trade unions have such value-driven enforcement mechanisms in place. In all these examples, senior and respected members of the profession, trade, or ideological movement[i] serve as appointed adjudicators to both fairly and responsibly enforce both the objective and subjective codes of behavior that have been put in place over time.

In the case of medicine, there are both private, professional organizations and state-sponsored, or state-informed organizations, such as the state medical boards, whose job it is to set and enforce a minimum standard of “right” conduct, which is understood to include moral, ethical and legal behavior. These entities do not function in a “black or white,” “all or none,” “guilty or innocent” manner. Rather, they consider the totality of the cases that come before them and attempt to reach a just resolution. For instance, under most conditions, it is unethical for a physician to engage in sexual congress with a patient. However, depending upon the circumstances, including the prior professional history of the physician, such a transgression may be handled by a simple reprimand, or alternatively, by being struck out of the profession for life.

In any mature ideological movement, religious, political, social, or otherwise, there are similar “rules and regulations” and a well defined world view and vision of the future. There may well be (and usually are) both conservatives and radicals in any given organization with respect to this world view and vision (and usually many more who are “moderates”). However, this does not prevent or preclude there being clearly and objectively stated rules. There are members of the American Medical Association who support active euthanasia and more than a few Roman Catholics who support (and use) birth control.

What does this have to do with the “future of cryonics”? Quite a lot, really, because the expectations of members and leaders within cryonics organizations will shape the actions taken by the cryonics organization as a whole – even if that “shaping” is to effectively preclude coordinated action.


For instance, cryonicists who envision rapid and largely unimpeded technological progress sufficient to make cryonics “successful” (i.e., to achieve perfected suspended animation, or to resuscitate today’s cryopatients) will likely find conflict in the brass tacks of dealing with cryonicists who have a contrary view of the future – who see the future as a difficult and dangerous place and believe that cryonics must largely make its own way and forge its own advances – and if necessary, alter the course and values of the global culture to facilitate the survival of cryonicists (both living and cryopreserved).

It is also the case that any enterprise operating completely sans written minimum standards, rules, regulations, obligations and moral and ethical expectations for its leadership and its membership will function chaotically and ultimately, will fail.

This is most evident in the case of Alcor, where the proof of such a standard-less or “lawless” operation can be found in the high turnover of management and staff.[ii] Some years ago, I was riding in a car with then Alcor President Steven Van Sickle. He remarked that he wanted to have T-shirts made up for all the Alcor Presidents, past and present, with a bull’s eye printed on them along with words to the effect of “shoot here” and “invite them to attend the next Alcor Conference to wear the shirts.” The sentiment he was expressing was that no matter what you do, you will eventually be found summarily guilty and shot. That is a true and sure sign of an organization without standards that lurches from decision to decision based on the expediency of the moment, whether it be cash flow, number of cryopreservations per year, membership growth, or avoiding a “catastrophe” of one sort or another (justified or unjustified).

Even where there are standards that are well known and written down (somewhere), such as the conditions under which at-need cases should be accepted, they are violated (as in the case of Ted Williams) – usually because those making the decisions had no mentoring and no inculturation in such rules. People do not learn “right” or “proper” behavior by being once “told the rules,” or by being given a stack of papers where they are written down (or engraved on stone, for that matter); any more than they learn moral or ethical behavior in daily life in that fashion. Such behavior, and the values that underlie them, are inculcated more than educated. No one even learns the mechanics of driving a car from reading the state-provided operator’s manual – sans lots of practice and mentoring during the actual business of operating a motor vehicle. And this is doubly true for the large body of mostly unwritten behavior that constitutes being a courteous driver! That can only be acquired from mentoring and from repetition and observation of the good conduct of others who are vastly more experienced, and for whom there is genuine respect.

The fatal flaw in Ettinger’s vision of cryonics was that cryonics itself was to come from them and not from us. In his world view, large corporations and the government would become involved almost from the beginning, as well as the trades and professions, and  they would then work out all the details of what constituted right and proper conduct in every sphere of action – from rescue – through storage and “reanimation.” Clearly, that didn’t happen. And, by the way, there was no great sin in imagining that it might. The world is a wild, crazy and unpredictable place and it seems eminently possible to me that in some universe somewhere there is indeed the “freezer centered society” that Ettinger envisioned in 1962-4.

Rather, the sin is that 50+ years later, we still have not awakened to the reality that this culture and this civilization are, at best, monumentally indifferent to our undertaking and worst in deadly opposition to it.

We have a profound responsibility to arrive at a world view, a morality and code of conduct of for cryonics. That these should be reasonably inclusive and flexible there can be no doubt.

And there can be no doubt that we will neither survive as individuals nor endure as organizations if we fail to take these most basic and necessary of steps.


[i] Organizations as diverse as the Communist Party, GreenPeace , the Catholic Church and the Tea Party all have such mechanisms as well a written ideology and accompanying rules and regulations.

[ii] The Cryonics Institute (CI) has historically operated on a the “strong leader” paradigm wherein a single individual, or at most a few individuals, determine the proper course for the organization and make decisions about what is just, ethical and moral on case by case or ad hoc basis.

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