Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scarlett O'Hara Syndrome and Cryonics

A disproportionate number of cryonicists seem to be suffering from some sort of syndrome that results in them planning to be alive far into the future, without actually accomplishing anything of scientific merit that might provide for that. Like Scarlett O'Hara, they'd rather "think about that tomorrow." Actually, they'd much rather depend on SOMEONE ELSE to think about their problems, tomorrow. (Their "tomorrow" being decades, or hundreds of years, from now.) A significant percentage of these people spend their lives, sitting at their computers, expounding on abstract ideas and patting one another on the back, for accomplishing little more than having vivid imaginations. Interestingly, most of them claim to be atheists, and have dismissed religion as mythological, not realizing they are doling out more faith than most religious zealots.

Want to store 100,000 people in a geodesic dome, at cryogenic temperatures? Just imagine stuffing them in there, with little thought as to how each of them can be maintained, or retrieved without disturbing the others, or what type of cooling system could be used, or how machines could operate in such an extremely cold environment...let the scientists and engineers of tomorrow worry about that. Luke Parrish thinks one can stuff "ten bodies, or 100 heads," in each cubic meter. (This reminds me of stuffing people into phone booths and VW, but not very practical, especially if the goal is to keep all of them at a uniform temperature and to be able to extract one from the middle, without disturbing the others.)

Luke writes: "A cubic meter would hold around 100 heads or 10 bodies. A thousand cubic meters in a cubic shape is just 10x10x10 meters, with 600 square meters. So if the energy cost is $100/month per square meter, 100,000 neuro people could be stored in something costing $60,000/month to run. 60 cents, in other words."

(I think Luke's cost analysis was overly simplistic, to say the least.)

Later, Luke writes about storing "millions of people," in his imaginary cryo-domes, because, according to him, "The fact is it is would be unselfish for everyone to choose cryonics because it would bring down the cost for everyone else. It would be less ecologically damaging because the energy usage per person would be reduced. Compared to burial or cremation, it could actually have a significantly reduced environmental impact."

Oh pooh...Why worry about the environment?...I'm sure the nanobot scientists of the future will take care of that, too.

Want to send laymen with no medical education or experience, whatsoever, to perform advanced medical procedures known to be deadly, when performed improperly? Go ahead, send anyone off the street who volunteers to pretend to be a surgeon or a perfusionist, and let them turn someone's brain into scrambled eggs. Who cares? No need to worry about silly things like subjecting the subjects to inappropriate temperatures and intravascular pressures. The scientists of tomorrow are sure to be willing to spend their lives, (and money), trying to reverse the (most likely irreversible) damage. (Sarcasm, for anyone not familiar with my writing, or my opinions of the way cryonics procedures are carried out.)

I thought the goal of "uploading" was to be able to transcend the (mortal) human body, so that one could live longer, but I guess that hasn't really been the goal, for all cryonicists involved in this little "virtual adventure." It seems Mathew Sullivan simply wants a maid/secretary. Mathew writes the word "avatar" a lot, and mentions games like "Second Life," an Internet game, where one can engage in a fantasy life, selecting the avatar's looks, engaging in virtual shopping and work...heck, one's avatar can even fly! (Is it just me, or is "Second Life" something that seems like it should only be appealing to adolescents? I tried to look up the demographics, but there are conflicting reports and most of them seem more like marketing, than anything else.)

Robert Ettinger and Aschwin de Wolf have warned that associating the medical science aspect of cryonics, with these bizarre futuristic fantasies, may be damaging to the cryonics community. I don't think they realize the people engaged in these discussions want attention, more than success. How else could one explain the same handful of people consistently doling out crackpot ideas, (nearly all of which require a great deal of effort on the part of the scientists of the future), while actually doing nothing to prove those ideas? How many of these people are actually engaging in studying related sciences and/or technologies, (and I don't mean the self-directed, self-evaluated "studying" many cryonicists engage in), compared to the number who are just sitting at their computer monitors, every day, fantasizing about topics they barely understand? These people are not engaging in any sort of meaningful scientific endeavors; they're engaging in make-believe. Twenty years from now, most of them will probably still be sitting at their computers, imagining the scientists of the future are going to be carrying out their fantasies, and still doing NOTHING, in actuality. It's their own little version of "Second Life."

Maybe cryonicists should consider addressing problems that CAN be resolved, in the present, like delivering cryonics providers who can competently perform the surgical procedures the cryonics organizations are marketing. When Luke and his friends can back up their fantasies with theories, and proposed methods of implementation that more than a couple of dozen people will embrace, maybe I'll give their theories some thought. Until then, I'll probably just keep laughing.

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