Re: CRYO: "Ischemia" vs. "Reversibly dead"

From: Jim Fehlinger (
Date: Wed Apr 25 2001 - 17:05:50 MDT

"Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:
> ... Cryonics patients are DEAD.... The euphemisms are not fooling anyone
> and I think it sounds darn stupid, like wearing a sign that says... "Hi,
> this is a cult"....
> Saying that Alcor has sixty (or whatever) "reversibly dead patients" is,
> in itself, a powerful sign that cryonics is not cultish or denial or an
> Egyptian mummification sham....

I know it's not PC on this list, and I don't claim
that anybody else should feel the same way, but I have
a hard time taking cryonics seriously -- not least because
it provokes too many humorous associations for me.

For one thing, speaking of Egyptian mummification, there's
the altogether too close parallel with the outfit I saw a
TV show about a while ago, called Summum:

Then there's the whole association in my mind with
those aspects of California culture which New Yorkers
like Woody Allen have been making fun of for years
(cf. "The Californian Ideology":
and the rebuttal by Louis Rossetto, editor of _Wired_: )

Woody Allen has also made the serious and somber point,
in the comedy _Sleeper_, that the kind of world a cryonaut
might wake into, or the purposes for which one might be
revived, might not be what ve might wish for prior to
cryonic suspension.

One reflection that's crossed my mind that
isn't just a matter of media associations is the thought
that the nastiest aspect of death for me personally (and
probably for many other people) isn't the idea of nonexistence
per se, but rather the likelihood of having to go through a
fair amount of unpleasantness in order to reach that state.
Cryonics doesn't get you around any of that; in fact, if
anything, there'd likely enough be a fair amount of unpleasantness
at the other end, assuming you ever got revived (I'd anticipate
something at least as bad as the discomfort of being "rebooted"
following my barbiturate suicide attempt 20 years ago).

Of course, the wish to avoid the unpleasantness surrounding
death (on whichever side of it) can be written off as
mere cowardice; but the belief that one's own personality
is important enough to take extreme measures to preserve
from nonexistence strikes me as -- unseemly, somehow.
Maybe I feel that way for the same reason I'm not a fan
of Ayn Rand, and maybe that feeling marks me out as somebody
who doesn't **deserve** such perpetuation (that has a
satisfyingly Darwinian ring to it!).

Unlike HAL in _2001_, I find nothing particularly alarming
in the fact that my consciousness does, in fact, cease
to exist every night when I'm in delta sleep. Nor do I
find the prospect that the universe will go on for billions
of years without me in it particularly alarming. **Strange**,
yes, but no stranger than contemplating the fact that
the unverse existed for billions of years **before** I came
into it, or contemplating the unlikelihood that I should exist
at all, or contemplating the fact that the person I was
at age 5 or 15 has already almost altogether disappeared,
and is only dimly reflected in the person I am now.

In fact, I even get into moods sometimes in which I'm
struck by the sheer strangeness of being limited to my
own conscious **perspective** on the universe -- I'm overwhelmed
by the thought of the sheer **simultaneity** of billions
of other human beings going about their business at this
exact moment, to say nothing about the trillions upon
trillions of other biological organisms on this planet,
and the unknown number of organisms, intelligent or otherwise,
on other worlds throughout the universe. I mentioned this
feeling once in an oddball telephone conversation I was
having with a friend many years ago, saying something
like "doesn't it ever make you feel **claustrophobic** to
be stuck in your own infinitesimal corner of spacetime?",
whereupon my friend asked "have you been dropping windowpane
acid?" ;->

However, getting back to media influences, the dominant
image in my mind when it comes to cryonics has got
to be the 1965 film _The Loved One_, based on the
Evelyn Waugh novel of the same name:
If I were about to sign a contract in the business
office of a cryonics outfit, the anticipation that
Liberace might appear at any moment in the proceedings
would, no doubt, reduce me to a fit of hysterical giggling.
For that matter, I don't think I could ever be certain
that I wouldn't wake up to discover that I **was**
Liberace (*). ;-> ;-> ;->

Jim F.

(*) or Elvis! ;->


Even though it offers little hope of resurrection, J. G. Ballard's
portrayal of a sort of cybernetic version of cryo-preservation in
his story _The Time-Tombs_ is far more romantically appealing than the
prospect of having one's head preserved in liquid nitrogen
at Alcor:

"There were no corpses in the time-tombs, no dusty skeletons.
The cyber-architectonic ghosts which haunted them were embalmed
in the metallic codes of memory tapes, three-dimensional
molecular transcriptions of their living originals, stored
among the dunes as a stupendous act of faith, in the hope that
one day the physical recreation of the coded personalities
would be possible. After five thousand years the attempt had
been reluctantly abandoned, but out of respect for the tomb-
builders their pavilions were left to take their own hazard
with time in the Sea of Vergil...

The furnishings of the tomb differed from that of the previous
one. Sombre black marble panels covered the walls, inscribed
with strange gold-leaf hieroglyphics, and the inlays in the
floor represented stylized astrological symbols, at once
eerie and obscure. Shepley leaned against the altar, watching
the cone of light reach out towards him from the chancel as
the curtains parted. The predominant colours were gold and
carmine, mingled with a vivid powdery copper that gradually
resolved itself into the huge, harp-like headdress of a
reclining woman. She lay in the centre of what seemed to
be a sphere of softly luminous gas, inclined against a massive
black catafalque, from the sides of which flared two enormous
heraldic wings. The woman's copper hair was swept straight
back from her forehead, some five or six feet long, and
merged with the plumage of her wings, giving her an impression
of tremendous contained speed -- like a goddess arrested in
a moment of flight in a cornice of some great temple-city
of the dead.

Her eyes stared forward expressionlessly at Shepley. Her
arms and shoulders were bare, and the white skin, like
compacted snow, had a brilliant surface sheen, the
reflected light glaring against the black base of the
catafalque and the long sheath-like gown that swept
around her hips to the floor. Her face, like an exquisite
porcelain mask, was tilted upward slightly, the half-closed
eyes suggesting that the woman was asleep or dreaming.
No background had been provided for the image, but the
bowl of luminescence invested the persona with immense
power and mystery."

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