[extropy-chat] Cryonics is the only option?

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Sun Apr 15 15:25:53 UTC 2007

At 09:15 AM 4/15/2007 +0100, ben wrote:
>Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:
> > Cryonics is a nice way of putting your money where your mouth is.
> > 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.
>This may be literally true now (April 2007), but i suspect that it won't
>be true for long. I can't say how long it will be before life-extension
>(defined as keeping people alive in their current form) becomes
>available, but i think there is a third option that should be possible
>quite soon - maybe within a decade.
>Nobody seems to think about keeping people alive (which means keeping
>their brain alive) in /any/ form, it's always in a human body.
>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.
>Given a constant blood supply, a brain can stay alive even if the rest
>of the body is gone, or damaged beyond repair (This doesn't apply, of
>course, if your problem is a damaged brain, but the vast majority of
>cases of death boil down to one simple thing: The brain starves of oxygen).
>So, how about a replacement body? An artificial life-support system. It
>wouldn't at first be anything like a human body, probably more like a
>roomful of equipment, but that could change as more developments are made.
>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.

Decades ago Russian researchers spliced a small dog's head on a larger 
dog.  The heads stayed alive for days to weeks before tissue rejection got 
them.  Google has 513 links for "keep a severed head alive," including the 
text from the Whole Earth Review article.

>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.

It would take so much progress that I would be amazed to see it happen 
before nanotechnology medicine was able to just repair people.  Keeping 
someone alive on external perfusion is a very short term business, a few 
days before bacteria infect the perfusion equipment.

I am not putting this down in theory, but the practice is so far advanced 
that I don't think it could be done with nanotechnology medicine.

>Maybe some of the sensory organs (eyes, ears) could be kept
>alive together with the brain.
>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.

The cost to keep someone in LN2 is a few hundred dollars a year.  Now cost 
could come down, but they would have to come down by a factor in the 
millions (at least) for it to be possible for a "severed head" to be able 
to earn its keep.

>Of course, this would be a temporary state, until the kind of technology
>you are interested in comes along. That's another advantage over
>cryonics: You can make a decision about what to do next, when the time
>I was thinking about Stephen Hawking. Would you be willing to be in a
>position similar to his for a while if it meant you could keep going? I
>think we aren't far from being able to achieve this.
>You may prefer to be suspended and take your chances. Some people would
>even prefer to be dead, i'm sure, than live as a 'brain in a jar', even
>though it would just be temporary. But it's something to think about.
>Now, who thinks i'm talking bollocks? And if so, why?

I am not putting your idea down on a theoretical basis, but at the 
practical level it is far, far beyond the state of the art.  I agree it 
would be temporary because technology at the level that could take care of 
an isolated brain or a head is very close to being able to build a person a 
brand new body.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list