Re: Boston Globe/editorial policies

Derek Strong (
Fri, 5 Jun 1998 17:46:08 -0700

Natasha writes:

>The article was ironic and we've had fun with it today. No need to
>an unnecessary fuss. Why not deal with it smartly and just give 'em

Since there's been so much talk about it, I thought I'd just go ahead
and post the letter that I wrote and sent to Alex Beam and to the
Globe Letters to the Editor address two days ago. I tried really hard
not to be too negative or smartass, but y'all can judge whether I
succeeded (probably didn't).


Derek Strong


Dear Mr. Beam,

Thank you for bringing the subject of cryonics back to the pages of
Boston Globe. Yours is a highly respected newspaper, and cryonics is
a newsworthy topic.

Having followed the field for most of a decade, I have seen literally
hundreds of news reports in all forms of media. Unfortunately, your
article, despite its brevity, fits neatly into the categories of "most
error-filled" and "least researched". Although yours is not the first
gain such distinction, I do find it mildly disappointing, because
most journalists in the past, you seem to have gotten your information
the internet (the best, easiest to use research tool that has ever
existed). I appreciate that you might have been tailoring the piece
for the
"Living | Arts" section rather than the "Health | Science" section,
to entertain as much as to educate. But errors are errors, and I feel
pretty confident you could have avoided many of them simply by
just a few more moments actually reading the pages you cited and
the links, rather than simply looking for points to criticize and

If you are interested in getting the details right, below I offer some
quotes from your piece, along with comments of my own that I hope will

"He hopes that scientists will discover a way to revive human
life from frozen tissue before the Apocalypse, or before his
yearly payments to Arizona-based Alcor Life Extension
Foundation run out."

Yearly payments to Alcor will not "run out". I'm not sure how closely
looked at Alcor's funding requirements, but yearly dues ($360) are
only while the member is alive. At the time of suspension, a one-time,
sum of $50,000 (for Neurosuspension) or $120,000 (for Whole Body) must
paid to Alcor. Part of this pays for the initial suspension procedure.
rest (the majority) is invested, with the interest paying the ongoing
of low temperature storage. The lump sum is usually provided via life
insurance, which is cheap and affordable for most folks. What this
means is
that dues and life insurance premiums are paid to make and maintain
suspension arrangements. But after suspension, there are no further
to the individual, his family, or his estate. In my case, the total
for my life insurance and dues amounts to $70/month.

"1. They are all nerds."
"2. Twenty-five of the 26 are men."
"3. Most of them, with the exception of Cambridge's own
Marvin Minsky, live in California."

For starters, point #2 here is just wrong. Kennita Watson is indeed
but so are Ailing Freeman, Terry Stanley, and Chris Peterson. That's 4
of 26, not 1 out of 26. (Did you even follow those links? Or did you
look at the names?)

But more importantly, using Ralph Merkle's listing as your data sample
is a
pretty skewed, unscientific method of data gathering about
There are approximately 700 cryonicists who have made arrangements to
suspended. Predictably, Ralph's list contains mostly close friends and
colleagues of his, and of course, he could only link to people who
have web pages. This explains why they're all nerds, and why almost
all of
them live in California.

If you're interested in the actual data, the numbers really look like

A loose usage of the word "nerd" might apply to 70% of cryonicists.
other 30% certainly have to have at least some respect for science and
technology, but they're not nerds.

Females represent approximately 33% of our total these days, and that
figure has risen steadily over the years. Certainly we males would
like it
to be more like 50% (or 90%!), but the real picture isn't nearly so
grim as
you've painted it.

Californians represent approximately 33% of cryonicists. The rest are
scattered throughout the states, with additional concentrations in New
York, Florida, and Arizona.

"As with everything, it pays to shop around. Wilmington,
Del.-based CryoSpan claims to flash-freeze ''humans and their
companion animals at the lowest possible price,'' which turns
out to be an annual $250 for ''neuro'' (brain only) or $1,500
for the full monty."

CryoSpan's fees are one-time lump sum payments of $58,500 for
Neurosuspension, $125,000 for Whole Body Suspension, same as with
The "yearly fee" of $250 for Neuro or $1500 for Whole Body represents
ongoing costs of long-term storage. These are not separate charges.
are paid via interest accumulation from investment of the initial lump
Looking at CryoSpan's page on the web
(, I see that this
distinction is not made perfectly clear. Nevertheless, what you
printed is
wrong, or misleading at the very least.

"The only woman who may be available for soulful chats at
sunset is Kennita Watson, a Libertarian activist who has run
for statewide office several times in California."

This is wrong for the same reasons listed above. Even if you only took
Merkle's sample of 26, there are 3 others. Your usage of the word
hardly excuses making the world think that Kennita is the only female
cryonicist. There are *hundreds* of signed-up females, with more on
periphery, in the process of making arrangements.

Again, I do appreciate that you were trying to write an interesting,
light-hearted piece about the strangeness we Californians indulge
in, and had you stuck to your take on things, I would have no problem
even a severe hatchet job (which your article certainly was not). But
readers will be left with very wrong impressions about cryonics that
facts simply do not support, taking your word as a journalist, and
believing that you have done your research properly.

Revile us or ridicule us all you like. We know this isn't for
everyone, we
have a sense of humor, and we can take a good ribbing. But please get
facts straight while you're doing it. A printed correction would seem
to be
in order here.

Derek Strong
aka Derek Ryan
-- or --