Re: A.C. Clarke and Cryonics

Max More (
Mon, 04 Aug 1997 17:04:37 -0700

At 12:29 AM 8/4/97 CST, Rick Knight wrote:

Your first paragraph, below, makes several points. The relation between
them is not clear to me, but I'll address them one by one.

> Why do you find it hard to see that the man's view of life extension
> involves the relinquishing of acquired self-hood?

How is this supposed to work? Perhaps I'm missing something, but
relinquishing all selfhood all at once at the time of biological death
looks to me like a terrible way to pursue life extension. As far as I know,
Clarke doesn't believe in a non-physical afterlife. (Another SF giant,
Robert Heinlein, apparently did and so that's why *he* rejected
cryonics--that and the dislike of his wife Virginia for cryonics.)

> It tends to be for
> the pro-cryonics crowd the ultimate holy grail (pardon the religious
> pun) that the body and the self are unconditionally joined.

I don't what this has to do with the foregoing point. Also, it sounds false
to me as a generalization. No one can accurately speak for all cryonicists,
but after over a decade of involvement, I have a good feel for how many
cryonicists think. Not only are many of us planning on being suspended
head-only (neuropreservation), but many of us expect to either be revived
as uploads or make that transition soon after. (Assuming we don't live long
enough to upload without a period of suspension.) Uploads will have no
single body, and will need no one physical location to exist. The many
cryonicists who favor uploading therefore do *not* see the self and body as
"unconditionally joined". Except, of course, in the sense that software has
to have physical computers on which to run (but not any single computer or

The issues surrounding the contribution of body to personal identity are
complex. If you're interested, I refer you to my doctoral dissertation on
personal identity, especially the last chapter:

> I have no
> interest in cryonics and it has nothing to do with fear.

What does it have to do with? Do you think it won't work? Or do you have
faith in an afterlife?

> But a person
> with the intelligence that Clarke has and the vision that he has time
> and time again most aptly conveyed to the world doesn't seem to match
> up to the judgment you would assign him.

There are many brilliant people who have made amazing contributions who,
nevertheless, make major mistakes in their thinking. My comments are Clarke
are based on the little I've heard about his views. I would love to discuss
them with him in person.

> Clarke may find that cryonics, despite any compelling empirical
> evidence, is just a quaint notion, like a child not wanting to give up
> his belief in Santa Claus. It's not so much the preservation of
> body/brain that cryonics promotes but the restoration/reactivation of
> a pre-existing "self". This alludes to self being completely
> electro-chemical in nature.
> To that I pose the question: what of the person who suffers
> irrecoverable amnesia, forgeting all memories of the former life
> including intimate relationships, even children. Did that "person"
> die? Who know is in charge of the body of that person?

If the person not only lost all memories but also their values,
dispositions, and beliefs, then I would say that person had ceased to
exist. If a new personality develops or is implanted somehow, a new
individual is now embodied in that body. The self is not identical with the
body or even the brain, but with the information embodied and how it is

> On the other hand, look the people documented in the book/film
> "Awakenings". Time stopped for these people, sometimes for decades,
> until they were brought back to life (mentally). The thing was,
> during their zombie-like state, their physical lives were continuing.
> A cryonically preserved body/head may be regarded as living. I think
> a distinction between preserved and living is yet to be made.

That's incorrect. Cryonicists have made that distinction for years. I've
described such a state as "inactivate" and it's usually been called
"deanimate". I wrote a column for Cryonics magazine years ago. One dealing
with this issue was called "The Third State". I can email you it (after the
conference) if you like.


Max More, Ph.D.
President, Extropy Institute:,
EXTRO 3 CONFERENCE on the future: