Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, August 31, 2012

Taurus Londono, You Are Going To Die

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot:
Taurus Londono, you are going to die, and you are never coming back, and every second you devote to this cryonautical fools errand of yours is a second that could have been devoted instead to saving actual lives helping people get better access to better healthcare, clean water,  education, social support, and equitable recourse to accountable law in a more sustainable and consensual civilization.

Between where we are and where you want to go, between what we know and what we absolutely do not know you accumulate "mays" and "shoulds" and "ideallys" and "conceivables" one after another after another at the end of the line of which you declare yourself to have arrived across the gulf into "well founded hope." It is only the fervency of your wishes that transforms this tissue of contingencies into such an imaginary foundation.

(And I should add that if it were really only "hope" you were claiming for your faith it is hard to see where your total dismissal of my skepticism is coming from given the conspicuous long-ongoing marginality of your confident assertions from the consensus of scientists in each of the relevant fields from which you are presumably drawing. It sure sounds like you are more cocksure than hopeful, and it sure is hard to take that seriously the moment one steps away from the circle of True Believers.)

Now, you can dismiss rhetoric all you like, but I am sorry to inform you that everything actually distinctive and apparently compelling about your project is happening at the level of rhetoric. This includes the technique of dwelling on modest details nobody needs to join a Robot Cult to take seriously (eg, improving organ cryopreservation techniques to facilitate transplants) followed by your stunning leaps into claims that only those who join a Robot Cult could take seriously (eg, raising centuries-vitrified severed heads from the dead and directing nanobotic swarms to build sooperbodies to house info-souls presumably interred within them -- some version of which you no doubt mean to reference in your coy genuflection to the "conceivable technology" money-shot which actually has to do all the real work of resurrection, transcension, and ascension you really care about when you aren't doing your bit of sanewashing PR in the face of criticism).

References to comparably confident and long compelling technical utterances by phrenologists available upon request. (Follow the link above to read the comments that provoked this reaction and also make jokes like that last bit slightly funnier.)

39 comments:

Taurus Londono said...

"Taurus Londono, you are going to die, and you are never coming back,"

Of course, nobody can come back from "death," Dale.

It is unfortunate, however, that (as ever before in human history) current "legal death" amounts to an imaginary line predicated on our own technological shortcomings rather than than a precise, definable, independent threshold per se.

Presumably, the course of my cognitive experiences might never allow me to determine whether or not cryopreservation following recognition and pronouncement of "legal death" criteria will successfully extend my life.

However, I'm willing to bet that my own self-awareness will persist for some length of time after every thought you've ever had, every experience, every emotion, every interaction, every dream, every bit of the seemingly infinite capacity for experience that lies within the past and future of your persistent mind is utterly and completely obliterated; As far beyond the knowledge of any cognitive being that will ever exist as if it were a sequence of events that never happened at all.

That, in and of itself, doesn't necessarily *mean* anything to the universe. But insofar as anyone reading this is an incarnation of the universe, there is, of course, potential for meaning to be given to your life after you die.

I'm willing to bet that I will still be perceiving the universe with some level of cognitive awareness when the time scale is long enough that the kaleidoscope shimmering through your brain right now has been rendered meaningless.

Just a hunch. We'll see (or rather, you won't).

"and every second you devote to this cryonautical fools errand"

Can you explain how, in as much technical specificity as possible, you reconcile your comment with your apparent support for "transplantation of cryopreserved organs" and "hypothermic coma"?

Since cryonics is predicated on the scientific feasibility of both, why is, say, long-term cryopreservation of a brain a "fool's errand" as opposed to long-term cryopreservation of a kidney...or a heart...or an embryo for that matter?

"...is a second that could have been devoted instead to saving actual lives"

Time is very precious, and as great a failure as the existing disease-treatment paradigm is (oblivion is the inevitable end-point), it *does* afford more time.

But let's be clear: What awaits the "saved," even in the very best case, is a frail, diseased body not unlike that of a progeroid adolescent. Whether that body belongs to a 10-year-old girl or an 80-year-old woman, neither will be "saved" from the excruciating torment of an agonal demise (unless, of course, they make it quick and walk in front of a bus or opt for physician-assisted suicide).

"you accumulate "mays" and "shoulds" and "ideallys" and "conceivables" one after another after another"

Do tell. Can you recount and contextualize each of them?

Taurus Londono said...

"well founded hope."

Considering that current vitrification protocol preserves fine ultrastructure of neuronal tissue and cellular viability, and that long-term potentiation has been demonstrated to survive the process, I'd like to know why *specifically* you take exception to the not-illogical presumption that said process adequately preserves a whole brain such that personal identity is intact?

"it is hard to see where your total dismissal of my skepticism is coming from given the conspicuous long-ongoing marginality of your confident assertions"

Again, you seem to believe that empirical reality is the end-result of a democratic process; it is not. The attitudes of the medico-scientific establishment are no more relevant to reality than when Darwin published "On the Origin of Species."

Darwin's work was first widely disseminated more than 150 years ago. How many years did it take before its "assertions" could no longer be described with the phrase "long-ongoing marginality"?

*Today, RIGHT NOW,* a majority of the American lay public does not accept that evolution-by-natural-selection accurately describes reality. Today, the margin among scientists is vanishingly small, but there are indeed *credentialed* scientists, civil officials (for whom no test of scientific competency is required), teachers, and infuential professionals of all kinds who do not accept the reality of evolution by natural selection.

How about continental drift?
How about the big bang?

Even now, the IOM & USDA release dietary guidelines affirming the long-proven reality that weight gain is function of energy balance, yet many credentialed doctors and scientists are influenced enough by the chaos of the pop-science media stream, that they are incredulous of this reality.

Reality doesn't care about any of us, our attitudes, our preconceptions, our understanding or lack-thereof. That applies also to the hope that cryopreserved patients will someday be successfully resuscitated. In that case, reality lies in an indefinite future....but the only way to find out is to do the experiment.

"Now, you can dismiss rhetoric all you like"

Dale, I don't dismiss rhetoric. I'm an avid fan of rhetoric.
I do, however, urge you to remember that rhetoric is not akin to empirical evidence derived from the scientific method.

"raising centuries-vitrified severed heads from the dead and directing nanobotic swarms to build sooperbodies to house info-souls presumably interred within them"

Ah, finally! Hidden away under all the labyrinthine layers of self-important sentences, we finally see what's got you all hot and bothered; nothing but a flimsy little strawman.

Dale, please. Surely you're better than that? Don't tell me you've spent all this time charging windmills?

Taurus Londono said...

"References to comparably confident and long compelling technical utterances by phrenologists available upon request."

Awesome zinger, you should pass that little gem along to the global warming deniers out there! :)

That *would* be funny except that the references I mentioned were published in widely-circulated peer-reviewed scientific journals over the last few decades...and for all your talk of "scientific consensus," I'm personally aware of no scientist who disputes, say, the length of time it takes for ischemic brain tissue to become necrotic.

How about this, Dale? You're an academic, right? Since my assertions are akin to "phrenology," how about you pass along any of my assertions (ahem, that is *my* assertions, the "phrenology" ones, not your assertions about robots, transcendence, etc) to anyone you know in the "scientific community" and ask them whether or not that assertion is false and why.

Sincerely. I'd love to see a future post on any response. My guess is, however, that you will not entertain that idea.

Dale Carrico said...

Cryonics flim-flam artists are of a piece with climate change denialists and so called "creation scientists" in my view.

You write that I "seem to believe that empirical reality is the end-result of a democratic process; it is not. The attitudes of the medico-scientific establishment are no more relevant to reality than when Darwin published On the Origin of Species." Here you admit that your views are not consensus scientific views. Darwinian evolution and anthropogenic climate change both are as belief in the revival of cryopreserved clinically dead humans with their memories and narrative selfhood intact quite simply is not. That's a difference that makes a difference and my assessment registers its reality.

Robot Cultists are forever congratulating themselves that those who are skeptical about the proximate arrival of superabundance providing nanobotic genies-in-a-bottle are like naysayers tut-tutting the Wright Brothers and I am no more impressed that you think that techno-immortalization is right around the corner and I am whistling past the graveyard oblivious to the fact that I have the privilege to be conversing this very minute with the next Darwin.

While it is true that paradigm shifts in the elaboration of human knowledge do indeed occur it remains true that for every maverick dismissed as crank there are countless cranks who fancy themselves mavericks. I do not happen to think that reality submits its furniture to a vote, as an atheist I do not think the universe has any preferences at all in the matter of what language humans use to describe it, as it happens. Nevertheless, science is a public process, it actually is suffused with political struggles -- over status, funding, regulation, rights to publication, consequences -- and it is indeed true that technoscientifically literate and concerned citizens who are also non-scientists (like me) must depend on the consensus of credentialized scientists and experts in relevant fields in making assessments about where our societies should be investing funds and about what problems and possibilities are the ones that should actually preoccupy our attention.

Dale Carrico said...

Where one is not an expert one must pay attention to experts, to the professional and institutional standards through which expertise is conferred within the relevant fields, and to those who claim an expertise or perform expertise for profit, attention, or in delusion but who do not pass muster according to standard measures.

It's easy to see why you might desperately want "technology" to deliver you from your mortality -- it is one of the oldest stories in the book, you know. It's far harder to see why you think you can pass off your high degree of confidence in a marginal belief for an extreme long-shot outcome (one might say faith) in cryonic resurrection as a belief as well established as Darwinian evolution.

You will note that I do not follow your own convention of scare-quoting the word death. While it is true that medical science can now revive some humans from catastrophe who would not have survived a century ago, this no more makes death imaginary than the bell with which some were buried in centuries past to guard against mistaken assignments of death to the comatose made death imaginary then. Not only is death not imaginary, you are going to die, Taurus Londono.

In your third comment you conclude, "Ah, finally! Hidden away under all the labyrinthine layers of self-important sentences, we finally see what's got you all hot and bothered; nothing but a flimsy little strawman." But I remember well that in your first comment you wrote, "current 'legal death' amounts to an imaginary line predicated on our own technological shortcomings." Do please fill in those "technological shortcomings" for us, by your lights, and we'll see just how much of a "straw man" my critique (my "self-important" critique?) amounts to after all.

I know the company you keep if you are a cryonics enthusiast, and I've been following closely the constellation of techno-transcendentalizing nonsense that flows from those quarters for nearly a quarter century. You seem to be saying you do not hold such beliefs yourself. Well, okay.

If you really do not go on to indulge in superlative futurology, as you say, then surely you will have noticed and will concede that almost all of your fellow enthusiasts do so? And given your "superior scientificity" you will no doubt share in my disapproval of their "uploading" proposals, their belief in the sure arrival of robust reliably programmable room-temperature self-replicating nanobotic manufacturing swarms, their concern with the coding of a friendly superintelligent post-biological entity to solve present human quandaries in a post-historicizing flash? Almost all of those beliefs are indispensable parts of the story cryonics adherents tell when they want to make their hopes for resurrection and immortalization sound, er, more plausible -- oh, didn't you know?

jimf said...

> While it is true that paradigm shifts in the elaboration
> of human knowledge do indeed occur it remains true that
> for every maverick dismissed as crank there are countless
> cranks who fancy themselves mavericks.

Yes, this is an extremely important point.

"Paradigm-shifters" who turn out to be real can sometimes be
ignored for decades by the scientific community (Gregor Mendel is
the example that floats to the top of my head) -- though this
is probably less likely to happen today than it was a century
ago. (Well, maybe it can still happen to somebody who
works in a monastery. Of course, he was working at a time
when serious amateurs, without a lab full of expensive
equipment, could still make significant contributions.)

Nevertheless, it is ultimately the community of credentialed
scientists who have the final say about the significance
of such contributions, even if that recognition
comes 50 years late.

Self-promoters (especially the ones -- but hey, aren't they
all? -- who are seeking to gain public recognition or who are
trying to sell something or who are simply trying to
get people to "donate" money) should always be held in
the greatest suspicion, pending a good deal of independent
confirmation of whatever special knowledge it is they
claim. A lot of folks don't want to hear that.
I believe in miracles! (You sexy thing.)

http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/npd/dsm-iv.html
--------------------
"The grandiose claims of narcissists are superficially plausible
fabrications, readily punctured by a little critical consideration.
The test is performance: do they deliver the goods? (There's
also the special situation of a genius who's also strongly
narcissistic, as perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright. Just remind
yourself that the odds are that you'll meet at least
1000 narcissists for every genius you come across.)


http://www.sl4.org/archive/0406/8977.html
--------------------
"And ya know what? I'm arrogant. I'll try not to be an arrogant bastard, but I'm
definitely arrogant. I'm incredibly brilliant and yes, I'm proud of it,
and what's more, I enjoy showing off and bragging about it. I don't know
if that's who I aspire to be, but it's surely who I am. I don't demand
that everyone acknowledge my incredible brilliance, but I'm not going to
cut against the grain of my nature, either. The next time someone
incredulously asks, "You think you're so smart, huh?" I'm going to answer,
"*Hell* yes, and I am pursuing a task appropriate to my talents." If
anyone thinks that a Friendly AI can be created by a moderately bright
researcher, they have rocks in their head. This is a job for what I can
only call Eliezer-class intelligence. I will try not to be such an ass as
Newton, try hard not to actually *hurt* anyone, but let's face it, I am not
one of the modest geniuses."

Chad Lott said...

I think I might start an Etsy account for my own mason jar based cryonics/jamming enterprise.

I figure it'll work just as well as my competitors but at a fraction of the price.

We'll let the free market decide who will win!

Do you mind linking to it when it's up?

Dale Carrico said...

Mmmmmm, jam.

Eudoxia said...

>http://www.sl4.org/archive/0406/8977.html

My goodness, what a dick. Do you have any other Eli gems?

Dale Carrico said...

I am SIAI's cackling mad scientist in the basement. That is my job function, and everyone needs to get used to the new division of labor. At least some other people on the programming team will probably be arrogant mad scientists too. Isn't it enough that we save the world?

Respect mah authoritah! Isn't it awesome how Eli saved the world by coding the Robot God in the decade since he demanded credit for it? Well, maybe next decade (quick, send in the clowns, don't bother they're here). I think it's cute how he thought our standards might be so low we'd let him get away with calling himself a real scientist if only he prefaces it with an admission of his obvious madness.

Anonymous said...

Eliezer Yudkowsky is the L Ron Hubbard of Transhumanism. He has spent the last few years writing a long series of 'Sequences' which are designed to bring readers under his spell.

If you think I'm joking, I'm not. See the effects here:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/cfe/i_stand_by_the_sequences/

Dale Carrico said...

Transhumanism is L. Ron Hubbards all the way down.

jimf said...

> My goodness, what a dick. Do you have any other Eli gems?

How much time do you have?
(IOW, I've got plenty of 'em.)

;->

jimf said...

> Eliezer Yudkowsky is the L Ron Hubbard of Transhumanism. . .

One interesting thing about him is that he attracts the
attention of similarly eccentric self-styled "geniuses" who
see him as a challenge.

One such person has occasionally commented on this blog.

Here's another:

http://richardkulisz.blogspot.com/search/label/yudkowsky

Barkeron said...

I especially love how he portraits himself as King Rationalist, trying to educate the lumpen proletariat about Rationality(TM).

That's like Hu Jintao attending a participatory democracy summit as key speaker.

And his agitprop Harry Potter fanfic only reached second place. What gives, Eli, your soopergenius didn't bestow you literary prowess, eh?

How about a Carrico/Fehlinger collab post compiling tidbits about him? The people demand it!

Taurus Londono said...

"Cryonics flim-flam artists are of a piece with climate change denialists and so called "creation scientists" in my view."

...you could've said something like, "M-Theory flim-flam artists are of a piece with homeopaths and chiropractics in my view"...it would have been just as meaningless.

You really like to say a lot of nothing, don't you?

"Robot Cultists are forever congratulating themselves that those who are skeptical about the proximate arrival of superabundance providing nanobotic genies-in-a-bottle"

Dale, the voices in your head aren't real, buddy. I gather that you're having fun doing combat with figments of your imagination, but the only thing you're actually communicating to anybody is just how tangible your delusional constructs are to you. "Nanobotic genies-in-a-bottle"...you should hook up with Ray Kurzweil and try to sell some books. Bill Gates loves the guy, so I guess that gives his predictions some authority, no?

In all seriousness though, Dale, I don't think I'm the only one reading your comments and thinking you look like Clint Eastwood and his empty chair.

"Here you admit that your views are not consensus scientific views."

Not exactly. I was replying specifically to your fallacious appeal to authority in the form of "scientific consensus," pointing out that the scientific method is not contingent on democracy, and that this is no less true *today* than it was 50 or 150 years ago.

While "scientific consensus" in theoretical astrophysics is in a particularly amorphous state right now, the same is true (perhaps even moreso) of biomedical research and healthcare science, and I'm willing to bet that any credentialed individual working in these fields wouldn't disagree with that assessment.

However, I think you're very seriously confused regarding just what "scientific consensus" is.

"Scientific consensus" can be useful when it comes to shaping policy and steering research investment (ie; steering investment away from, say, homeopathy); it can also stifle nascent engineering research because policy makers sometimes operate under the assumption that a lack of scientific consensus on the feasibility of an outcome per se means that the engineering effort itself is not predicated on science and/or not a worthwhile pursuit.

This was the case when it came to putting a human being into outer space and back: While much of the *actual science* behind engineering such an outcome existed decades before Yuri Gagarin went into earth orbit, the lack of scientific consensus on the feasibility of engineering that outcome greatly limited investment. It didn't help that many esteemed scientists made public their very strong personal doubts (the lay public and the policy makers they elect take this as an "argument from authority"). This despite the fact that Hermann Oberth and others had demonstrated unequivocally much of the science underpinning Gagarin's space flight long before it happened.

In fact, as far as I know, there was never a "scientific consensus" on the feasibility of space flight; only the personal opinions of many respected individual scientists (who mistakenly believed that it was not feasible).

As far as I know, there was nothing like, say, the collective opinions handed down by the IPCC or the endorsements of that opinion by various scientific bodies throughout the world.

Think you need to read this.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_consensus
"Scientific consensus is not by itself a scientific argument, and it is not part of the scientific method. Nevertheless, consensus may be based on both scientific arguments and the scientific method."

You seem to have misinterpreted my comments, though.

Taurus Londono said...

To be clear, let me break this down as far as "scientific consensus" as *you* seem to understand it-
That mammalian brain tissue does not become necrotic until several hours into warm ischemia is a "consensus scientific view."
That mammalian brain tissue retains viability as much as two weeks post-mortem is a "consensus scientific view."
That mammalian brain tissue can be made to show electrical activity post-mortem is a "consensus scientific view."
That mammalian brain tissue can be made healthy and normofunctional upon reoxygenation hours after post-mortem is a "consensus scientific view."
That reperfusion injury is the *direct* primary cause of temporary and/or permanent neurological damage in normothermic patients who present with cerebral ischemia is a "consensus scientific view."
That electro cerebral silence (flat EEG) accompanied by complete cessation of heart and lung function are not, *in and of themselves*, adequate determinants for pronouncement of legal death is a "consensus scientific view" (these are easily reversible in a variety of clinical scenarios).

Some of the above encompasses findings presented at conferences held jointly by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association; some can be found in Neuroanesthesia and Critical Care textbooks. None of it is "new" or "controversial" in any way, shape, or form.

What's "new" is that 21st Century Medicine's M-22 cryoprotectant solution allowed for successful transplant of a rabbit kidney subjected to the vitrification process. What's "new" is that this cryoprotectant solution allows for preservation of fine ultrastructure (and viability and LTP) of neuronal tissue.

The way science works is that those findings are published in independent peer-reviewed scientific journals for critical scrutiny by the scientific community. For example, 21CM has submitted at least 79 papers for publication. These are not "in-house" journals; they have nothing whatsoever to do with cryonics per se.

If you think that journals like Organogenisis, Cryobiology, or the Journal of Experimental Biology are beholden to cryonics organizations or that they'd be impressed by the "glossy promotional materials of robot cults," then I think you should contact their editorial boards and let them know how you feel.

If you want to keep talking about "consensus scientific views," then I'd like to correct some apparent misunderstandings gleaned from your meandering commentary...

That the existing cryopreservation protocol employed by, say, Alcor does *not* preserve personal identity embedded within the brain; as far as I know, there is NO "consensus scientific view" of any kind whatsoever.

That technology might someday repair damage resulting from ice formation, cytotoxicity, tears in vasculature, micro-fractures, etc; as far as I know, there is NO "consensus scientific view" of any kind whatsoever.

As far as "long-ongoing marginality"...you apparently don't appreciate the strength of the headwinds against which cryonics (just the mere notion) operates. I may have mentioned before that the global disease-treatment industry soaks up 80% of the total economic output of the human race (something like the so-called "military industrial complex" or the global energy industries look meager by comparison). Treatment cost escalates stratospherically as people age and get closer to death. In a given year, the pharmaceutical industry typically reaps in profit 10 times what it invests in research. If you don't think that this a very deeply-rooted way of doing business upon which vast amounts of profit are made, you're delusional. I would argue that disease-treatment is, collectively, the single biggest business in all of human history.

Taurus Londono said...

How many of the trillions of dollars being shuffled around should be spent on something like the research done by SENS (which aims to engineer strategies to rejuvenate aged organisms and extend healthy lifespan)?

The SENS Foundation faces this headwind. Despite fighting fiercely to be taken seriously by the scientific establishment (a battle they've essentially won; their research advisory board is made up of dozens of well-respected scientists and doctors teaching at esteemed universities; SENS-funded research takes place at universities across the world)...despite the fact that only a few years ago, the mere idea behind SENS was *literally* laughed off and dismissed by some of the world's most highly-regarded geriatricians and biogerentologists (some of their own universities now invite SENS research on their campuses), despite all that progress... The SENS Foundation's 2011 budget amounted to USD $1.5 million.

As a comparison, the development costs of the video game "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" amounted to USD $40-$50 million. The game's marketing budget was USD $200 million.

If SENS has investment amounting to no more than Mitt Romney's couch-cushion money despite substantial gains in acceptance by the scientific establishment and lay public, you can be sure that cryonics (far less amenable to acceptance by either the scientific establishment or the lay public by nature of the optics alone) faces gargantuan challenges, challenges that will unfortunately influence the course of the experiment in which its participants are willing subjects.

I hope I'm not over-stepping my bounds, but I feel it's worth mentioning that a number of people working for the SENS Foundation actually have cryonics arrangements themselves. They are no more like your imagined "robot cultists" than I am. Apparently, we know something you don't know.

Taurus Londono said...

BTW:

It's telling that nobody, not one single person has so far addressed *any* question I've posed in any of my comments so far.

Instead, talk focuses on Dale's delusional windmills; What the heck does Eliezer Yudkowsky have to do with the amount of time it takes for human brain cells to become necrotic during warm ischemia?...with the whole organ viability of a rabbit kidney subjected to cryopreservation??...or the function of neuronal tissue reoxygenated several hours post-mortem??...or the degree of preservation (and viability upon rewarming) of fine ultrastructure of human neuronal tissue?

BTW:

I'm still wondering whether or not Dale (or anyone else reading this) can get a credentialed scientist to go on the record and state that any of the "assertions" that I've made is unequivocally "false" and why.

So far, you're just blathering on about things that have nothing whatsoever to do with what anything I've talked about.

This back-and-forth (and the comments by additional posters) would make for a great academic case study of the straw man fallacy.

Dale Carrico said...

You really like to say a lot of nothing, don't you?

Pot. Kettle. Black.

your fallacious appeal to authority in the form of "scientific consensus"

Let us celebrate instead the appeal to the authority of marginal cranks. Science!

That the existing cryopreservation protocol employed by, say, Alcor does *not* preserve personal identity embedded within the brain; as far as I know, there is NO "consensus scientific view" of any kind whatsoever.

As far as you know, eh? That's for sure! I have never heard a single practicing scientist declare this moonshine more than negligibly plausible, nor anybody else who wasn't already or full on fulminating Robot Cultist or somebody generously hedging in the face of ignorance and uncertainty what they took to be a possibility so slim to be little more than a prayer than a hope. This is the thin thread on which techno-immortalists in the cryonics sec of the Robot Cult hang a whole lot of desperation for resurrection.

technology might someday

I like it how you think saying things like this is scientific.

you apparently don't appreciate the strength of the headwinds against which cryonics (just the mere notion) operates

It's not that we're kooks, it's this global conspiracy, ya see!

How many of the trillions of dollars being shuffled around should be spent on something like the research done by SENS

And here you go from defending one marginal techno-immortalist outfit (Alcor's cryonics flim-flam) to another marginal techno-immortalist outfit, computer programmer not biologist not gerontologist and Robot Cult impresario Aubrey de Grey's negligible senescence engineering outfit.

Readers unfamiliar with Londono's rap here need to know that there is considerable overlap between the funders, boosters, and participants in these two organizations, as indeed most of the techo-immortalist node of the Robot Cult network.

Gosh, Londono, is there ANY mainstream healthcare or medical research advocacy that interests you AT ALL? Dag, are you going to drag out Durk and Sandy Shaw next?

I feel it's worth mentioning that a number of people working for the SENS Foundation actually have cryonics arrangements themselves. They are no more like your imagined "robot cultists" than I am. Apparently, we know something you don't know.

Mm'kay. Well, True Believers ALWAYS know what outsiders don't, now doncha just, tho'? Fight on, brave Robot Cultist with your shining sword, the Robot God will one day reward your faith, your uploaded info-soul will cavort in Holodeck Heaven or in a shiny robot body in a nanobotic treasure cave in the asteroid belt among all the sexy sexy sexbots!

Dale Carrico said...

What the heck does Eliezer Yudkowsky have to do ...with the whole organ viability of a rabbit kidney subjected to cryopreservation?

A fair point. As would be the question -- no doubt best asked of the underpants gnome -- what is the step between "whole organ viability of a rabbit kidney subjected to cryopreservation" (which you don't have to join a Robot Cult to see the utility of) and... techno-immortality! Eliezer Yudkowsky, of the Singulariatarian sect of the Robot Cult -- you seem to prefer to dwell in the techno-immortalist sect, but I doubt very much you don't know SIAI very well indeed -- also enjoys making leaps of this kind. Robot Cultists do stuff like that. Then they call it "science." Then they call the denial of their faith "anti-science." Sound familiar? I guess that's what Eliezer Yudkowsky has to do with a cryopreserved rabbit kidney from the mouth of a techno-immortalist flim flam artist. Ta da!

Dale's delusional windmills

Funny how my "delusional windmills" seem always to amount to expressions of skepticism concerning your delusional windmills. I don't think that phrase means what you think it means. Just saying.

Taurus Londono said...

"Pot. Kettle. Black."

I've (repeatedly) listed scientific findings disseminated over the course of the last several decades by organizations like the AHA/ASA, in medical textbooks, and peer-reviewed journals (all of which are completely independent of any cryonics organizations).

I've asked you to say *in specificity* how you reconcile your support for research into organ cryopreservation and induced hypothermic coma with your dismissal of the cryopreservation of the human brain.

I've asked you to say what you find objectionable, specifically, in any of the scientific findings I've listed.

If it is that you *only* dismiss the feasibility of any potential repair technologies, then how about you say *specifically* why?

When Miguel Alcubierre published his conceptual framework for the technological means by which to subvert the speed of light, scientists eagerly scrutinized his work, going on to explain why (in specificity) his "Alcubierre drive" was not feasible. He was not dismissed as a crank, his ideas were not ignored or considered unworthy of discussion.

That's how the scientific process works.

No repair technology of which I'm familiar violates the laws of physics or is so impractical as to be effectively impossible.

Since you're not willing to acknowledge (let alone engage) what I've actually posted, and you don't seem willing to point to any published scientific findings....

"Let us celebrate instead the appeal to the authority of marginal cranks. Science!"

Straw man (I am not appealing to the authority of anyone doing research relevant to cryonicists)

Ad hominem/judgemental language (...such individuals are "marginal cranks")

"I have never heard a single practicing scientist declare this moonshine more than negligibly plausible"

False continuum (Your personal familiarity with the degree of scientific acceptance of "this moonshine" = the *actual* degree of scientific acceptance)

False dichotomy (You've never heard a "single practicing scientist" declare this to be more than "negligibly plausible," therefore, the scientific community in general must feel the same way)

Ad populum (If a majority do not believe it to be "more than negligibly plausible," then that must be the case)

"I like it how you think saying things like this is scientific."

Appeal to ridicule; argument from final consequences; argument from personal incredulity; genetic fallacy; argument from fallacy

"It's not that we're kooks, it's this global conspiracy, ya see!"

Straw man; appeal to ridicule

"And here you go from defending one marginal techno-immortalist outfit (Alcor's cryonics flim-flam) to another marginal techno-immortalist outfit, computer programmer not biologist not gerontologist and Robot Cult impresario Aubrey de Grey's negligible senescence engineering outfit."

Appeal to ridicule; judgemental language; equivocation; ad hominem

"Gosh, Londono, is there ANY mainstream healthcare or medical research advocacy that interests you AT ALL? Dag, are you going to drag out Durk and Sandy Shaw next?"

Begging the question; false continuum; false dichotomy

"Eliezer Yudkowsky, of the Singulariatarian sect of the Robot Cult in the techno-immortalist sect of which you seem to prefer, also enjoys making leaps of this kind. Robot Cultists do stuff like that. Then they call it science."

Guilt by association; appeal to ridicule; judgemental language; false continuum; false dichotomy; equivocation....


Thanks for posting my comments, Dale.

Do let us know if you ever get around to finding a single credentialed scientist with a medical background who would say on the record that any of the specific findings I've posted are false and why.

Eudoxia said...

I agree with everything Taurus said, and maybe the BPF analysis shows Alcor's procedures DO preserve the ultrastructure of whole brains. That's science.

But, fixing people in an unchanging state isn't enough to bring them back. Expecting to be revived, that's faith, a specially strong faith considering the incompetence of the current cryonics organizations. As he himself said, "The Jerry Leaf era is long gone, and Alcor has arguably so far squandered the opportunity afforded by 21CM's work".

It's rather sad. There are plenty of people I'd like to see revived.

Athena Andreadis said...

I haven't weighed in because I've been busy with real research (among other things). Also, there's no benefit in engaging with a determined convert who distorts scientific facts to advance his agenda. It's like debating a hardcore creationist or a young earther: such exchanges only serve to waste the limited time and time of scientists while giving the other side a veneer of legitimacy. Finally, I've addressed this issue multiple times -- Ghost in the Shell: Why Our Brains Will Never Live in the Matrix being one of them.

However, I'll comment just once, as a practicing molecular neurobiologist with dementia as her research focus, in the forlorn hope that this may stem the tsunami of nonsense (or at least counteract the conclusion that silence means the charlatans have carried the day). The central "argument" is the statement that "brain tissue retains its attributes postmortem" -- which, as much else in biology, means something very different at each scale. Bottom line: this is completely untrue in connection with the discussion focus here; namely, continuity of a specific individual's consciousness and personality.

Everyone who does even in vitro brain tissue work, let alone in vivo, knows that even a few hours postmortem are enough to usher in irrevocable degradative changes that can lead to artifactual results. The latter, in their turn, have led to erroneous conclusions in such things as figuring out what are the causative agents of dementia. So peddling pseudoscience has real consequences, especially in a culture that has turned as hostile to reality as the contemporary US has.

Beyond that, even if neurons keep their general content and shape, their axons and synapses are the first things to degrade -- and they do so very quickly. The synaptic network is what defines our brain/mind. So it's one thing to say "well, we can revive neurons" because in this context we're discussing a quasi-homogeneous cell population that has no specific content. It's a totally different game to conflate this with "we can keep a brain's information intact by freezing it".

To have a cell culture with 5% viability is no problem. To "bring back" a brain with 5% of its cells and connections intact would be far worse than death. We know this from victims of stroke and brain trauma, in whom the damage is invariably far less extensive. Arguing that mice "have been brought back" means little. The question is: what has been brought back? What does it remember? How does it function? Does it still speak French? Solve quadratic equations? Remember the unique words it exchanges with its lover?

As for the larger issue of "respectable scientists" -- I'm actually the exception in bothering to discuss such items at all. The vast majority of biologists put transhumanist "science" in the same category as crystal divination and Tarot cards. Some of them may very well accept an invitation to talk at a TH gathering, why not? Free food, a hefty per diem, maybe a nice meeting location, perhaps even eager apprentices for their lab -- but I suspect their attitude would cool significantly if they were asked to explicitly endorse the TH agenda.

Scientists are fallible humans, with pride, vanity, mortgages and the very common propensity to fall in love with their theories. However, what legitimate science has that saves it from turning into religion is the self-correction tool: it changes its conclusions whenever new facts come in. Sooner or later, errors are corrected. Scientific consensus is a fluid, dynamic process, rather than an endpoint. As it should be, given what science tries to accomplish: not power, glory or profit, but the understanding of reality.

Chad Lott said...

My mason jar enterprise is as proven for revival as the cryonics systems are. I'm 100% serious here and if you guys could help me make a buck or two in the process, I'd appreciate and offer you a cut.

In the future, there will be sufficient technology to revive well preserved mason jars full of brains. Sure, the cryonics people will probably be up and about sooner, but my cost effective solution will work for folks who have a little less money.

I don't think this is a strawman. It sounds like a free market solution to me. Perhaps if I double my marketing budget it'll be acceptable.

jimf said...

> How about a Carrico/Fehlinger collab post compiling tidbits about
> him? The people demand it!

Well, that's problematic.

If there is a figure in the >Hist/Singularitarian sphere who
could be said to inspire fervent devotion from his fanboys
to the point that a genuine guru inspires, he's it.
(Ray Kurzweil doesn't even come close).

Why this should be goes deep into the realms of psychopathology
(you could Google Sam Vaknin's essays about the "inverted
narcissist").

It is also true that he says the most utterly outrageous things
sometimes, and if **anybody** could be held up as a prime
exemplar of the sort of person described by the late Joanna Ashmun,
or for that matter Sam Vaknin (himself a victim of the
very syndrome he writes about, or so he claims), he's it ("allegedly",
as Kathy Griffin would hasten to add at this point. ;-> ).

But these are dangerous waters. For one thing, launching what
could be construed as a smear campaign against a particular person
could attract lawyers.

For another, attacking their ego-ideal **really** gets some
of the fanboys foaming at the mouth. It also attracts accusations
of envy. We're just jealous that we're not as smart as
he is, dontcha know. Simple ressentiment. Or as Ayn Rand would
say, the hatred engendered in the mediocre in the face of
the truly superior.

But we don't need to be aggregators for this stuff -- there's
plenty out there. He hasn't bothered to take the SL4 archives
offline, and there's lots still there, for a start.

Dale Carrico said...

Rest assured, I mean to link to Chad's awesome jam jar techno-resurrection site the moment it's online.

Dale Carrico said...

Thank you very much for stepping in here, Athena.

Eudoxia said...

The jars are too obviously a prank.

Why not offer alcohol storage? It's all mush, but slices of Einstein's brain were preserved with that and that's good publicity.

Another alternative with equally good publicity is Dr. Pedro Ara's embalming method, used to preserve Eva Peron after her death. Mike Darwin seems to think it merits further research as a method of "high-temperature suspended animation", but I remain skeptical.

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/New_Cryonet/message/899

Dale Carrico said...

But who doesn't like jam?

Eudoxia said...

Plenty of people love alcohol ass well.

Dale Carrico said...

Good point, I myself am fond of both alcohol and ass.

Chad Lott said...

Eudoxia, I assure you the jars are not a prank!

My business is simply an ingenious repurposing of an existing technology that will allow folks other than the 1%-er cryonauts to enjoy the wonderful scientific breakthroughs that will be available in 20 years or so.

Preservation to the people! That's my motto.

I'm very pleased to hear there is no scientific consensus in the field of cryonics. This should make it much easier to secure funding for research and hopefully means there won't be any need to fill out pesky government forms.

The government is such a downer for a small businessman such as myself.

Kudos to this thread! I hadn't anticipated the relative merits of alcohol versus jam based technologies being a concern of potential customers, but please be reassured, I plan to offer solutions that will please a variety of consumers.

And don't let that buzzkilling Athena character prevent you from trying Masonicneuropreservation.

Those with imagination will choose to jam and meet the future as it spreads before them.

Dale Carrico said...

Now that you see this unexpected greenwashing/upcycling upside to the jam-jar (and also possibly moonshine) techno-immortalism project, Chad, I think you might find a way to bring geo-engineering into the picture as well. Jam-jars on the ocean floor or lunar surface possibly? Live forever -- our moonshine ain't moonshine, wake up tomorrow as the Man on the Moon! I mean, the ads write themselves. Or is that the jokes? I'm a little nervous if you are getting involved with Freemasons, though, with this masonicneuropreservation stuff.

Chad Lott said...

As a senior advertising professional, I am somewhat disconcerted that you would think of these product characteristics as jokes.

Any mirth you may be detecting is simply a kind of "off-gassing" of the natural enthusiasm people feel when they are offered the chance to live forever.

I welcome any and all crowd sourced value additions to my project, especially geo-engineering. I believe this field has profound promise for the future, especially for futurologists who would like to have something to talk about at their local farmers markets.

I actually have been associating with a Freemason recently, but mostly we just talk about antique cowboy guns and the restoration of vintage Italian scooters. There doesn't seem to be any harm in that.

Dale Carrico said...

Chad, as a wise Sith once said, the student has become the master.

jimf said...

Latest post on another blog I keep an eye on.

"Mark Plus" (ne Mark Potts) is a rather jaded former
Extropian who occasionally has interesting things to say.

However, despite his disillusionment with >Hism/Singularitarianism,
he clings to cryonics with a vengeance.

Also, he has distinctly illiberal views about women
(thinks it's a shame women ever got the vote, as does
Peter Thiel; thinks women's sexual freedom makes it
harder for "beta males" like him to attract a mate,
etc., etc.) He's also happy that two "family values" guys
are on the Republican ticket -- Romney and Ryan to the
White House!

But he takes amusing pot-shots at his erstwhile
compadres, from time to time.

http://thelifeofmanquamanonearth.blogspot.com/
----------------------
"Startup cults in historically recent times in developed countries usually
don't [attribute godhood to their founders] now because they know that
new deities don't sell as well as they used to, so some of them instead
try to attribute improbable résumés of secular accomplishments to their
cults' respective founders.

We see this in Ayn Rand cultists, for example, who claim that Rand
revolutionized our understanding of philosophy, psychology, literature,
political science, economics, aesthetics, human sexuality, etc., even
though people with regular educations and normal judgment can see the
dubiousness of these claims. And we see the same thing in the character
of the Master [from the new film of the same name], who calls himself
a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher.

The real individual used as the model for the Master described himself
in similar terms, but he also claimed an action-hero career which made
him sound like a real-life Doc Savage - and appropriately so, because
he published crappy pulp fiction in that and related genres. While writers,
doctors and philosophers have perennial appeal as authority figures
(Rand claimed two out of three of those titles), I doubt it would work
now for a cult founder to call himself a nuclear physicist. Nuclear physics,
along with rocket science, may have sounded cool and futuristic in
the 1950's, but today the former has a bad reputation.

So today's cult founder, if he wants to call himself something which might
impress the rubes, should consider claiming expertise in scientific or
technical fields currently not that familiar, for example ones with words
like "cognitive," "evolutionary," "Bayesian" or even "friendly AI"
in the name.

Taurus Londono said...

Hi Athena.

"a determined convert who distorts scientific facts to advance his agenda"

I'd call your ad hominem attack lazy if it weren't for the thoughtful paragraphs that follow. Nevertheless, in all fairness, it's a naked and obvious attempt on your part to poison the well. Considering your own personal experience and the (refreshingly) substantive nature of your comments, that wasn't necessary.

"The central "argument" is the statement that "brain tissue retains its attributes postmortem" -- which, as much else in biology, means something very different at each scale. Bottom line: this is completely untrue in connection with the discussion focus here; namely, continuity of a specific individual's consciousness and personality."

Can you address *specifically why* it is "completely untrue" that "retention of attributes post-mortem" *necessarily* means that there is no "continuity of a specific individual's consciousness and personality."

As you know, this is a field into which decades of research (and, at the very least, informed speculation by people who have nothing whatsoever to do with cryonics) has been poured; if it is "completely untrue" (as you say), then you should be able to point to some published research (say, regarding the survival of long-term memory or, at the very least, long-term potentiation) to back up such a definitive conclusion.

I'd be very interested to see such research.

"Everyone who does even in vitro brain tissue work, let alone in vivo, knows that even a few hours postmortem are enough to usher in irrevocable degradative changes that can lead to artifactual results."

How do you reconcile that statement with the findings of S. Charpak and E. Audinat?

"We report here that during a permanent cardiac arrest, rodent brain tissue is “physiologically” preserved in situ in a particular quiescent state. This state is characterized by the absence of electrical activity and by a critical period of 5–6 hr during which brain tissue can be reactivated upon restoration of a simple energy (glucose/oxygen) supply. In rat brain slices prepared 1–6 hr after cardiac arrest and maintained in vitro for several hours, cells with normal morphological features, intrinsic membrane properties, and spontaneous synaptic activity were recorded from various brain regions. In addition to functional membrane channels, these neurons expressed mRNA, as revealed by single-cell reverse transcription–PCR, and could synthesize proteins de novo. Slices prepared after longer delays did not recover. In a guinea pig isolated whole-brain preparation that was cannulated and perfused with oxygenated saline 1–2 hr after cardiac arrest, cell activity and functional long-range synaptic connections could be restored although the electroencephalogram remained isoelectric. Perfusion of the isolated brain with the γ-aminobutyric acid A receptor antagonist picrotoxin, however, could induce self-sustained temporal lobe epilepsy. Thus, in rodents, the duration of cardiac arrest compatible with a short-term recovery of neuronal activity is much longer than previously expected."

PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES (USA); Charpak,S; 95(8):4748-4753 (1998)
http://www.pnas.org/content/95/8/4748.long

"Beyond that, even if neurons keep their general content and shape, their axons and synapses are the first things to degrade -- and they do so very quickly."

How quickly? Care to quantify (also point to published evidence)?

Taurus Londono said...

"The synaptic network is what defines our brain/mind. So it's one thing to say "well, we can revive neurons" because in this context we're discussing a quasi-homogeneous cell population that has no specific content. It's a totally different game to conflate this with "we can keep a brain's information intact by freezing it"."

I agree completely.
It seems to me to be very likely that any cryopreservation effort that does not involve rapid intervention (CPS) in the ischemia cascade (ie; within minutes or even seconds of cessation of heart beat), and does not result in complete cerebral perfusion by cryoprotectant before subjection to ice-formation temperature, would not adequately preserve the synaptic network (ie; the "connectome") such that personal identity is sufficiently preserved.

That said, any outcome ("outcome" in this case referring only to the degree of preservation of the synaptic network) would fall along a spectrum; Congresswoman Gabby Giffords presumably lost a considerable chunk of her synaptic network, but nobody argues that her personal identity has been destroyed.

"To have a cell culture with 5% viability is no problem. To "bring back" a brain with 5% of its cells and connections intact would be far worse than death."

Well duh.
That's tangential; greater than 5% viability has been demonstrated in whole organs subjected to the vitrification process using the cryoprotectant solution I mentioned. (do read)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781097/

Besides, as I pointed out before, it takes several hours of normothermic ischemia before even 50% of brain cells are no longer viable.

"Arguing that mice "have been brought back" means little."

Who's arguing such a thing?

"Does it still speak French? Solve quadratic equations? Remember the unique words it exchanges with its lover?"

As I mentioned; retention of LTP has been demonstrated in brain slices subjected to the vitrification process. As *YOU* said (and I would add the qualifier "to the best of our knowledge") "The synaptic network is what defines our brain/mind." ...as I said before, we already know that the cryoprotectant solution currently in use is capable of preserving this synaptic network (synapses, neurotransmitter vesicles, etc).

"As for the larger issue of "respectable scientists" -- I'm actually the exception in bothering to discuss such items at all. The vast majority of biologists put transhumanist "science" in the same category as crystal divination and Tarot cards. Some of them may very well accept an invitation to talk at a TH gathering, why not? Free food, a hefty per diem, maybe a nice meeting location, perhaps even eager apprentices for their lab -- but I suspect their attitude would cool significantly if they were asked to explicitly endorse the TH agenda.

Scientists are fallible humans, with pride, vanity, mortgages and the very common propensity to fall in love with their theories. However, what legitimate science has that saves it from turning into religion is the self-correction tool: it changes its conclusions whenever new facts come in. Sooner or later, errors are corrected. Scientific consensus is a fluid, dynamic process, rather than an endpoint. As it should be, given what science tries to accomplish: not power, glory or profit, but the understanding of reality."

Very well said. It was worth quoting those last two paragraphs in their entirety. I am in complete agreement with all of the above.