Re: Re [CRYONICS][BOOK] "The First Immortal"

Hal Finney (
Tue, 3 Feb 1998 13:27:51 -0800

Brian D Williams, <>, writes:
> I think this was more than a mere trick to avoid the singularity,
> The author, seems to be against certain advances:
> "We could implant intelligent machines in physical bodies like
> ours, or some other higher life-forms. Hell, before you know it,
> we'll be advanced enough to create a wholw new species superior to
> ourselves. Sure we could do that, but why would we? Then we'd have
> created a hyperintelligent competitive species. Such an act would
> be insane: would have a wholly unpredictable outcome. It would be
> as mad as a full-scale nuclear exchange in the 1980's so I don't
> expect it, even in light of todays crisis." (page 303)

(Of course, you can't always assume that the author's views are the same
as his characters. But in this case you may be right.)

Actually there are many people who would seem to be quite sane,
even Extropian, who would not see it in these terms. Hans Moravec
views computers as "mind children", as much our offspring as those of
flesh and blood. Who would not want their children to exceed their own
capabilities? Are we supposed to jealously prevent them from taking on
new powers because they would go beyond us?

In Halperin's novel, by the end, people have some pretty amazing
capabilities. I think most people would view this as hopeful and
positive even if they personally don't expect to survive to that era.
Does it really make so much difference if our children are made of
silicon and steel?

> >I'm a little skeptical about this, having seen many efforts fail
> >in the past which were going to change the future of cryonics.
> >For example, Omni magazine had a reasonably well promoted contest
> >where the prize was "immortality" - a cryonic suspension contract
> >with Alcor. This was a big jump into the mainstream, especially
> >with the idea of cryonics as a prize, a reward, not some kooky
> >perversion. However it was not much of a success; there weren't
> >many entries, and I think most people were just not ready for it.
> Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if WIRED were to try the same
> thing today?

Good question. My gut says the same thing would happen - cryonics
is not much more popular today than it was a few years ago during the
Omni contest.

> >I thought Halperin's novel was most effective in depicting a 21st
> >century where we'd like to live, and where technology really does
> >advance to the point where it solves many of our most difficult
> >problems. I was uncomfortable when it took on a scolding tone,
> >shaking its head over how blind people were in the late 20th
> >century not to sign up for cryonics. This reminds me too much of
> >a temperance tract regaling us with the evils of Demon Alcohol.
> I didn't see this as a scolding, it made me a little sad, and more
> determined than ever to sign up. In my own case this novel
> solidified my reasoning on the issue.

Yes, but the mere fact that you are seriously considering signing up for
cryonics puts you in a tiny, tiny minority. The question is, how will
a person react who shares the common view that cryonics is a spooky cult?

> Yes, vision in the "retrospectroscope" is always 20/20, but I
> thought he accomplished this quite well. In a world where cryonics
> has proven to work, those who didn't see the possibility will be
> seen as lacking vision.

This is possible. We see this to some extent with medical advances,
where some "obvious" innovations were slow to catch on - things like
washing hands between patients, or the use of anesthetics during surgery.
It is tragic that there was so much unnecessary pain and death. I don't
think we really feel angry or disappointed with the human weaknesses and
limitations which caused those problems, though. More, we feel compassion
and pity for the hard lives which people had to struggle through in those
days, and gratitude that we live in a more enlightened age. Do you agree?

> I think when this is widebanded as a T.V. miniseries, this could
> have a big effect.

It will be great if it does. I don't have a sense of how mainstream
SF readers will be responding, though. The reviews on are
very favorable, but I saw a lot of names I recognized as being part of
the extropian/cryonicist community. Hopefully it will be equally well
received by the larger audience. I enjoyed it a great deal, but it
touches closely on those areas in which I am most different from other
people, so I really don't know how it will go.