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prominent professor speaks out on cryonics

from the yes-we-do-know-something dept.
In Maybe we're all just too dumb to be kept on ice, Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan stops to consider, with a mixture of sympathy and skepticism, what sort of people choose cryonic suspension for their "final arrangements," and why. With apparent awe at his accomplishments in several fields, she quotes an unidentified professor "M & M" whose identity will be easily guessed by most readers of Nanodot. M & M is quoted as saying cryonics is for people "with real goals," and "I've always wondered why people are so happy about dying. We need longevity because we don't live long enough to understand things very well."

5 Responses to “prominent professor speaks out on cryonics”

  1. Mr_Farlops Says:

    Instructive humor

    So is Minsky engaging in a little beat/hippy pranksterism to make us all think? Or will this all come back to haunt us as yet another example of nerd smugness? I'm certain it's the former but some may also view it as elitism.

    This perception may never go away even as the goal of cryonics manifests. Some people in the future may think about all the people who died in a conventional, unrecoverable way and think back to comments like this. Some of them, however misplaced these feelings may be, may feel a little bitter and angry.

    Of course this has always been chief annoyances of cryonics, and I say this as some who believes in its scientific validity: what about all the people who don't make the cut?

    I may set aside money and insurance and arrange my will but what about all my relatives and friends who died in the unrecoverable way? I can't really start cajoling my living friends and relatives to make plans like me. The Ted Williams case is example of what might happen if I do that. Some of my friends will think I am a death-obssessed, narcissistic loon.

    And I'll be stuck in the future with memories of old friends that I've lost. Kind of a drag.

  2. Practical Transhuman Says:

    "Natural" human goals are self-limiting.

    I think "M&M" has an excellent point, only it seems not to apply to the bulk of humanity. Evolutionary psychology hardwires us humanoids to pursue limited goals relating to the replication of our DNA. It's something of a mystery to me why some of us become obsessed with goals unrelated to genetic replication. Just look at the low rates of marriage and fecundity among geek/Asperger's types who obsess over things like whether our universe is really a computer simulation, contrasted with "ordinary" guys (e.g., the sort who watch The Man Show) who often wind up fathering several children with more than one woman. (I have a cousin like that.)

    In fact, I've been wondering lately if our future resuscitators will view cryonicists' Aspergerish neurology as a problem to be corrected. Don't be surprised if you wake up from cryotransport in the 22nd Century and find that you can read other people's emotional responses and social cues better than you did before. I don't know if such "treatment" will cause us to lose our drive for geekish goals, but it might make it easier for us to get dates.

    "M&M's" point aside, I think evolutionary psychology does suggest that humans for the most part don't really have a desire for "immortality" once they pass their peak of reproductive fitness. I find it significant that Buddhism, which teaches the extinguishing of the sense of self, is gaining adherents in the West just at the time that our population is rapidly aging.

  3. Mr_Farlops Says:

    Re:"Natural" human goals are self-limiting.

    Practical writes:

    "It's something of a mystery to me why some of us become obsessed with goals unrelated to genetic replication. Just look at the low rates of marriage and fecundity among geek/Asperger's types who obsess over things like whether our universe is really a computer simulation, contrasted with "ordinary" guys (e.g., the sort who watch The Man Show) who often wind up fathering several children with more than one woman."

    If I may speculate as a non-expert, I don't think it's a mystery at all why a certain percentage of the populations among large-brained, cultural mammals wind up being, for lack of better phrases, "reclusive, obssessive intellectuals." or "obssessive type As." Once culture emerges and grows more complex, raising offspring also grows more complex until eventually, in some species, it takes more than just the parents of those offspring to raise and protect them properly. This creates inertia that forces a certain percentage of the population to remain childless on order to be free to raise and defend the group's offspring, some of whose genes they share. There are other pressures too. For example, as culture grows more complex, the interaction of different groups of mammals in the same species grows more complex. Again this creates pressure to set aside a certain percentage of the population to be free to "think of better ways" to compete or cooperate with neighboring groups for the same resources.

    In fact, and here I get on shakier ground, one could argue that the emergance of things like high-functioning autism, manic-depression, schizophrenia, risk-addiction, homosexuality, aspergers, etc. in these mammal species are biologically driven ways to force a certain percentage of individuals to remain less fecund and to be free to think about cultural matters and thus insure the survival of the group. It's both freedom and duty, a curse and blessing but, it's fundamentally necessary. One could argue that gays, lesbians, self-destructive artists, obssessive politicians, computer geeks, reclusive scientists and technicians, religious fanatics, hermits, stand up comics, etc. are the vanguard of cultural fitness and evolution. They may be bullied, shunned, misunderstood and engage in a lot of self-destructive behavior but, sadly and gloriously, that is necessary for the species to survive and prosper. I suppose that could be viewed as elitist but I think it's an elite that nobody really wants because it comes with large costs as Vincent Van Gogh, Ghandi, Lise Mitner, Queen Elizabeth, Marie Curie or Alan Turning can attest to.

    So can we really be so sure that they'd "edit out" these tendencies in the future? Social aptness is only one kind of advantage and it may not always be appropriate for all circumstances. Who knows what kind of circumstances the civilization might face in the future? I think it might be more likely future civilization might instead invent tools and infrastructure to help these genetically diverse individuals cope with their curses/gifts just in case something weird comes up. Diversity is strength, rule one in understanding fitness and evolution.

  4. guybar Says:

    Re:"Natural" human goals are self-limiting.

    I think the answer here is the interplay between 2 evolutionary processes of different time scales:
    genetic evolution and memetics
    the "thermal fluctuations" on the short-scale process of memetics explains such "obssesive-compulsive geeks" (scientists, engineers, etc.)

  5. bhoover Says:

    Why Noone Believes In Cryonics

    People aren't generally interested in cryonics because they don't think cryonics is viable, because they don't know the facts. If you want to convice someone, basically answer two questions.

    1. Can freezing a person, preserve them, so that, given the right technology, they can be thawed, and reanimated?

    2. What's the future likihood of such reanimating "right technology?"

    I think this because I never thought much about the subject until recently after I answered these two questions. Once you get the sense that this stuff is real, you start to thinking about it.

    I think that's it for the most part. But I suppose the, "too dumb," angle could have some validity too. In order to become interested, you'd still have to be able to rise to the occasion to understand 1, and 2, and the possibilities they imply (not to mention having the warewithall to investigate the questions in the first place, or have someone simply present the answers to you).

    But a lot of folks, would just be like – "Everyone else dies. If it's good enough for them, I suppose it's good enough for me." I know this, 'cause some of my best frinds are "dumb."

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