[extropy-chat] Cryonics is the only option?

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Sun Apr 15 14:28:43 UTC 2007

On 4/15/07, ben <benboc at lineone.net> wrote:
> Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:
> > Also, because it doesn't look as if life extension will achieve escape
> velocity in our biological life time, cryonics is the only option if you
> want to sample the transhuman future in person. The only option. There is no
> other, currently.

I disagree completely.  So long as you do not disassemble the brain
(cremation being the obvious example) and prevent the bacteria from eating
everything and prevent the proteases from destroying too much structure you
have a fighting chance.  I would argue that enbalming and dessication both
accomplish this.   I would put these approaches as in the same category of
destructiveness as early cryonics suspension methods.  I can think of less
destructive methods as well such as pumping the body (or brain) full of
general purpose antibiotics and protease inhibitors and perhaps cooling it
down to slightly above freezing.  It could be argued that these methods are
less destructive than at least the early cryonic suspension methods.

The *critical* aspects are to prevent excessive loss of clarity about where
the synapses were connected and the proteins (and perhaps neurotransmitter
quantities) present at those synapses.  *Everything* else is secondary.  I
can imagine a recovery procedure using bacteria engineered to operate at
very cool temperatures (antarctic bacteria function down to -4 C) where
normal human proteins are essentially nonfunctional.  These bacteria would
be engineered to enter cells, remove any preservatives, restore water to the
tissues, repair any membrane damage, etc. and allow "reanimation".  Now of
course this might be easier with real nanorobots (where one has more precise
control over the program being executed), but we can start engineering
restoration bacteria today while it will probably be 30-40 years before we
can start engineering nanorobots (at the rate we are going).

Nobody seems to think about keeping people alive (which means keeping their
> brain alive) in /any/ form, it's always in a human body.

Not true.  I've discussed "head on a body-bot" on the GRG list.  Recent
progress with heart pumps and miniaturization of dialysis equipment make it
only a matter of time before this becomes feasible.

As Stathis has  pointed out this doesn't solve the problem of "brain rot"
but that is a completely different development vector (which we are largely
getting a handle on -- at least in terms of Parkinsons, Alzheimer's and
neuronal stem cell manipulation).

What occurs to me is that, as long as your brain is kept alive and can
> communicate with the outside world, you are surviving. The rest of the body
> doesn't matter, it can be regarded as a life-support system for the brain,
> as well as providing transport, sense organs and communication.

Essentially correct, though one could argue there are other glands within
the body which may be producing hormones which may be essential to proper
brain operation.  Your stomach and fat cells releasing hormones which
interact with the "hunger" centers in the brain.  But one can substitute for
these with a general purpose hormone (drug) "tweeking" med center in the

I'm not saying this would be easy to do, but it seems to me that the
> problems of providing neural interfaces are harder than the problems of
> providing a suitable blood supply. With the progress being made in that
> area, it shouldn't be long before, at least in theory, someone could keep
> their brain alive and functioning despite the loss of the rest of the body.
> Maybe some of the sensory organs (eyes, ears) could be kept alive together
> with the brain.

Until the progress with neural intefaces (esp. sight & sound) advance
significantly, I would much prefer "head-on-a-bot" than "brain-in-a-vat".
There will be the problem of linking the motor cortex or spine to external
motor control functions (unless one is comfortable living only in a sight,
sound & voice enabled VR).  Obviously we know humans can function without
sight and sound.  I think the real barrier is "robust" thought command
interfaces to allow one to interact with the external world (the blind
substitute sound & touch for sight and the deaf make use of sight and to a
lesser extent touch to offset their handicaps).  The real trick isn't so
much providing the inputs (people with cochlear implants rapidly learn to
reparse the sounds they are hearing) but mapping the outputs into external
interfaces seems to be the area where we are lacking currently.  Though
there is a lot of very active work in this area (thought control of mouse
cursors, mapping spinal cord signals to limb control, etc.).

Whether you'd want to do this is another matter, but it's survival, and it
> means you have the possibility of continuing to interact with the world, to
> make decisions and earn your keep. Things that cryonics patients can't do.

I know.  I suspect the number of people in the U.S. who die annually because
of one organ or another failing when their brains are still functional
numbers in the hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions).  The number of
people who die from cancer metastasis to the brain (which can destroy brain
structure) is relatively low.  The number that die from a stroke (or injury)
that destroys critical parts of the brain is higher -- but I bet it isn't
more than 10 to 20% of the total annual death toll in developed countries.

Now, who thinks i'm talking bollocks? And if so, why?

No, you are on the money.  The thing to shift is the concept from "you are
dead" to "you are dead without significant assistive technology".  In
ancient times I would have been dead probably 30+ years ago when I started
to become moderately nearsighted.  One doesn't leap from tree to tree or go
into battle if you can't see clearly more than a few feet in front of your
face (for example, I'm using a 23" wide screen TV as a monitor.  If I take
off my glasses I can notice paragraphs of text but what they contain is
unreadable.  If I look out the window "unassisted" I can barely register the
tree trunks, much less go swinging from branch to branch.

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