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Ted Williams suspension raises profile of Alcor, cyronics

The New York Times has an extensive article ("Even for the Last .400 Hitter, Cryonics Is the Longest Shot", by M. Janofsky, 9 July 2002) on the controversy sparked by the cryonic suspension of baseball great Ted Williams at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation facility in Arizona:

Sent here by his son, Williams, the Boston Red Sox slugger who died last week at 83, has become the 50th — and by far the most famous — "patient" at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, which preserves bodies in the hope that breakthroughs in medical science will someday make it possible to resuscitate them.

The article notes: "All of this has elevated the profile of Alcor and its president and chief executive, Dr. Jerry B. Lemler. Since the weekend, when reporters indicated that Williams's body was being sent here, the phones have rung incessantly and the Alcor Web site, www.alcor.org, has been clogged with visitors, said Dr. Lemler, a lifelong Yankees fan from New Rochelle, N.Y."

"This has raised public awareness about cryonics and about Alcor," Dr. Lemler said. "We're under scrutiny like never before, and we welcome it. We were anxious for so many years to be able to state our philosophies, our goals, our convictions, as well as our prices and our disclaimers."

10 Responses to “Ted Williams suspension raises profile of Alcor, cyronics”

  1. Saturngraphix Says:

    Perfect

    This kinda reminds me of the book "The First Immortal" in the way of ppl fighting over what happens with the body…forced attention to this is almost what is needed…suddenly there may be alternate companies popping up and serious discussions about possibilities of futuretech being able to revive these ppl.

    bringing down the cost by competition is good
    and therefore science and technology in these areas progressing as a result

    exciting time we live in.

  2. The Living Fractal Says:

    Re:Perfect

    Indeed.

  3. Corwin Says:

    Re:Perfect

    I'm not so sure.

    I mean… if Alcor has complete immunity, then fine. But isn't one of their major goals to avoid legal snarls that might jeopardize their finances?

    Of course this might be a moot point… the legal issues seem to be mostly between the patient's children and Alcor is probably insulated legally… I'm not sure. (IANAL)

  4. Saturngraphix Says:

    Re:Perfect

    No,
    The best thing for this case is to have the biggest, loudest case they can muster. Alcor will be able to give a very convincing arguement about possibilities and feasibility of this matter.
    Baby boomers are now coming close to that panic time of there life and looking for something to assure there piece of mind. This has already triggered there interest.

    Point is, Even if Alcor spent every last dime in a legal battle and lost, there is plenty of people that have become aware of the services and will sign up after the dust settles a bit…plenty of people that will be able to make a decision for themselves and choose to follow up on it.

    Now, side benifits is that, with a sudden influx of new business for Alcor, more and more people will start to become aware of Nanotech ideals and possibilities. The average person may start skimming works of Drexler and Kurzweil and as more and more of the common man becomes interested, more money will be used (commerically) to advance the tech.

    Alcor is the shock troops needed for this..They are well versed, able to hold there own in legal troubles, and I imagine there is a line of highly intellegant and respectible people willing to give time in a courtroom to back them up (and to plug there own research).

    I am not going to say that the time is finally here for cryonics and future ideals to go mainstream, but this could turn out to be a important step in getting into public interest…take notes.

    I put forth this:
    Alcor should currently bottom the price out for celeb cases (free?) with conditions that they go public with there decision. More people = less expenses for us if we so choose to go this route.

    Have you seen there website as of late? they changed it and it looks quite sleek now. Well done.

  5. Corwin Says:

    Re:Perfect

    Are we talking about the same Alcor here?

    The same Alcor who's primary goal is, and should be, not running out of money to pay the bills to keep their current patients frozen?

    I agree that there needs to be a high profile case, but it needs to be taken by a legal group that doesn't have people depending on remaining frozen.

    Alcor's current patients are a higher priority than bringing in new ones. This is as it should be. Risks to Alcor are risks to the patients who are completely dependant on Alcor.

  6. WillWare Says:

    Slow motion: watching foot descend onto banana

    "This has raised public awareness about cryonics and about Alcor," Dr. Lemler said. "We're under scrutiny like never before, and we welcome it. We were anxious for so many years to be able to state our philosophies, our goals, our convictions, as well as our prices and our disclaimers."

    Would it were so! The news coverage I have seen has been deplorable and heart-breaking. The only voices presented are those that regard cryonics as crazy and evil. I heard the opinion voiced (perhaps by Williams' daughter, I don't recall) that the only putative objective in cryonic preservation is to salvage the man's DNA. The image she seemed to be trying to evoke was baseball slugger zombies with glazed eyes roaming the countryside at night, mindlessly searching for ballfields and willing pitchers.

    Salvaging Ted Williams' DNA is a nearly-irrelevant tiny piece of the cryonics agenda. The important thing is to preserve the brain structures that, to the best of our knowledge of neurophysiology, comprise what would colloquially be described as his soul. Within the materialist belief system, and given present technology, this is the best chance we can offer him at an afterlife. Creating genetic duplicates has no place in this picture.

    I would love to see Alcor grab this as an opportunity to really make clear what cryonics is about, and why reasonable intelligent adults are interested in it, and that the prospect of success is not scientifically hopeless. There was some truly brilliant work done a few years back by Greg Fahy and Brian Wowk on improved cryoprotectants that substantially block the formation of ice crystals, making it possible to preserve delicate brain structures at low temperature with minimal damage.

    The coverage I've seen has mostly been on CNN. It has been heavy-handedly negative, and brain-dead in its ignorance of the field of cryonics. From my point of view this looks like a public relations disaster for Alcor and I very much hope I'm wrong. Of course if I had more faith in human nature, I might hope that many will ignore the tone of the coverage and make inquiries with Alcor anyway, as appears to be happening. I would just hate to see the field severely damaged by this.

  7. WillWare Says:

    Re:Perfect

    Alcor should currently bottom the price out for celeb cases (free?) with conditions that they go public with there decision. More people = less expenses for us if we so choose to go this route.

    Thinking in economic terms is good, but you might be using the wrong currency. Many celebrities are so wealthy that the normal cost of a cryonic preservation (last I recall, $120K for full body) is not a significant consideration. What they (and their estates) do care about is public relations, and residuals from the use of the celeb persona after death.

    The thing to do is to convince the celeb or his/her estate that it either an immediate public relations win, or a longer-term financial win, to sign up for cryonics. Imagine how it would have promoted Vanilla Sky to announce that Tom Cruise had signed up — that movie is about cryonics already.

    If you go through old movies (2001, Planet of the Apes (original), heck even Austin Powers) it's easy to find plenty of portrayals of cryonics that convey the general idea pretty accurately. So it's not a question of educating the public about what cryonics is, they already know. The educational task is to convey that it is now more than a hopeless fantasy.

  8. The Living Fractal Says:

    Wait a second!

    If Alcor can just muster enough funds to survive until the creation of a Space Elevator I'm sure space-based storage would be MUCH cheaper, thus rendering most of their long-term costs m00t.

    ;D

  9. Mr_Farlops Says:

    Cryonics supporters had better get used to this.

    As more and more customers (famous, infamous and obscure) sign up and undergo the process, the media is going to start paying attention. This is going to be good and bad. It will get the ideas of cryonics out in the public but at the same time there will be a lot of hype and misinformation. You can't have one without the other. I think this unavoidable.

    For example, it's possibile that the media will portray this as yet another example of baby boom narcissism as more of them sign up.

    Some of it might be kind of fun in a darkly humorous way! Matt Groening, no stranger to cyronics, had a Futurama where there was a rogue's gallery of preserved heads that the public could tour.

    Maybe the artistic/historical preservation angle should be explored. Neurosuspensions could have dewars flasks with windows and the cryonics companies could charge the public money to see the famous. Perhaps as an artistic endeavor, the public would have an easier time accepting it, until nano matures and makes the prospects of revival obvious.

  10. WilliamDye Says:

    Re:Slow motion: watching foot descend onto banana

    Have hope, Will. Yes, the coverage has been mostly negative in tone, but it may be an indicator that resistance is falling, not rising. Whenever you're selling a big change in thinking to someone, you're likely to trigger what seems to be some kind of internal "bogosity detector" within the listener. A common response to that trigger is to express some skepticism and even ridicule, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the listener is becoming further entrenched in their disbelief. Quite the contrary, they may well be simply "scratching the itch" to express their reluctance, just before they move to the next step: giving the new idea a chance to reply.

    "Fundies" (like me) run into this reaction now and then when trying to talk to people about Christianity. It isn't at all uncommon for people to react at first with a spate of light ridicule, but don't let it faze you. Sometimes what they're saying is "go away and never come back", but quite often what they're saying is "here's an objection, what's your response?". The light ridicule can make it easier, not harder, for you to give a response that looks better than the objection.

    It's sad that cryonics & other MNT-related ideas have been inexcusably obscure for decades now — especially given the stakes involved. Still, the resistance has been so widespread, for so long, that we can't just blame the various institutions such as academia, government, belief systems, or the media. If the resistance stems mostly from human nature, then the institutions are responding to that nature more than guiding it. If such is the case (which seems plausible), then we should focus on our message and the difficulty of swallowing it — not the media.

    –The Other Will

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