[extropy-chat] Re: Cryonics is the only option?

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at bigpond.net.au
Tue Apr 17 01:50:35 UTC 2007

Anders wrote:

Brett Paatsch wrote:
>> Do you know of anyone that is not also a believer in cryonics that thinks
> >machine-phase chemistry is (a) credible at all thermodynamically,

> I wouldn't call me a cryonics disbeliever, but I definitely think machine
> phase chemistry is thermodynamically credible. Whether it is efficient
> enough to be useful is another matter.

Okay, let me ask you straight then. 

Saying you wouldn't call yourself a disbeliever doesn't amount to a positive
asserting of belief.  You could be a sceptic or agnostic on the matter. Let 
me invite you off the fence. Would you classify yourself as a believer in

My point about the caveat against believers btw is that believers reason
differently and argue differently - by differently I mean fundamentally 
dishonestly and evasively. 

On what basis do you think machine phase chemistry is "definately" 
thermodynamically credible? 

I'm assuming you are aware of Smalleys fat and sticky fingers criticisms of 
Drexler. Life molecules like proteins assemble in compartments containing
water.  Machine phase chemistry as I understand it is essentially 
watery-solution free chemistry.  Without a watery solution how do you see
machine phase chemistry managing the folding of proteins? 

> > and
> > (b) can construct a cell even in principle?
> >
> >Cell[s] grow from the inside out, not the outside in. I think the fatal flaw
> >in the whole nano-medicine thing is that you can't assemble the components
> >of a cell -  lipids, proteins, *ions* placed to drive ion pumps, from the
> >outside at any temperature no matter how cold. Cells being made of
> >biological stuff only behave as cells within the engineering constraints
> >of their biological stuff. ie. Temperature matters. Temperature affects
>> the properties of the materials.

>Given that frozen cells can be thawed with viability intact,

I've frozen and thawed cells. Have you? 

I've not personally frozen embryos but that can be done too, also not reliably
in the case of a single embryo, as I understand - but that we (people, scientists)
can do it at all speaks to the robustness of life in *simple* forms and yet says
nothing at all about the freezing of organs like brains.  We can't do organs. I think
I recall Eugen saying Greg Fahy is interested in that (perhaps kidneys).  It is
important to get that the brain is an organ of a multicellular life form. It grows as
a result of the actions of cells but it isn't just a big lump of cells. I know you know
that as a neuroscience guy but I don't know how well you know that and I don't
accept expertise on the part of others until I see evidence of it. 

I don't think its (organs like kidneys have been done). I'd want to see a peer 
reviewed journal to give it (say a kidney thawing) credit as having been really
been done because scientists too are excellent at kidding themselves. Thats
why peer review matters it helps take out the garbage. 

>  it seems that
> first building a frozen cell and then warming it would be a feasible way
> of doing it. 

Though we can grow cells in quantity in E.coli, we can't build as opposed to
growing a just a single frozen cell. A growing cell can preserve the integrity
of mitochondrial membranes. You can't do that working from the outside
to built the membrane.  

We can produce in vitro cell free systems to do research on. We can create
liposomes - lipid enclosed spheres that aren't cells. But we can't create a
living cell as a manufacturing process. 

At this stage, we, science, don't know how for instance the first cell that
was the progenitor of all life on earth formed. Not exactly. We don't even
know that much in principle yet. 

>  Cells are pretty robust (otherwise they wouldn't survive, and
> temperature changes and thermal noise would instantly kill them), so you
> only need to get close enough to the attractor state(s) that correspond to
> a working cell to get it to spontaneously do the final pieces of
> selforganisation.

"only"   "attractor state(s) that correspond to a working cell" :-)

So talk to me like a cell biologist. Tell me your protocol or point me to 
a peer reviewed paper. 

"attractor state(s) that correspond to a working cell" sounds like 
believer psuedo-explanation handwaving to me.  

> That you need a lot of information to place the macromolecules right and
> get the right concentrations of small molecules is just messy brute force
> issues. 

You say that as though you have done it. But you haven't actually done it
have you. Had you done it you'd have had a lead paper in Science and 

I know something about in vitro cell free systems but I don't know what 
you know. Show me that you know something relevant. 

That sort of handwaving is highly characteristic of  what transhumanists 
do when they prentend to actually discuss technology. It works to give
the illusion of knowledge without demonstrating any. It poo poos whats
necessary to be done without either demonstrating that it has been
done and without giving a protocol that demonstrates that it can be
done even in principle.

Transhumanists talk about technology with the same disrespect for the
difference between actual and real as religious people.  

> See it as a ridiculously detailed form of 3D printing, where you want
> to write prepared molecules into a matrix of frozen water. 

Handwaving. Show me a paper or a protocol. 

>To have a realistic chance of doing it right you first need to have scanned
> a cell, 

With current technology, cryo EM one can't scan a single cell. You scan
lots of them and get an aggregated averaged out picture. Fair warning 
handwaving about future technology will prompt me to want to see what you
know about the relevant small scale physics. 

> picking it apart molecule by molecule and recording the locations and
> type. If that can be done piling them together seems to be equally hard.

I disagree. I think it is much much harder. I even think it is impossible. Because
you have to get your manufacturing fingers around the cell clusters whilst the
cells in the centre of the cluster have to be at the right temperature to act like
cells and bind to the other cells. And once they are like that they will start to
die faster than your manufacturing fingers can build more cells onto the seed

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Putting together any old cell, (assembling
it like a manufacturing process not growing it like in cell culture) rebuilding a 
single celled organism say that functions like a single celled organism,  (eats,
moves, divides to replicate) - that would be the Science or Nature paper of the
year in which it was done. 

You know something of neuroscience if I recall correctly. What you know
though in practice I don't know.  Please feel free to impress me. 

Your brain and mine would at one level be variations on the theme of homo
sapiens male brains. But what makes me me and you you is in the 
nanoscale details. Knowing how to build Bretts brain as a manufacturing 
process wouldn't give you an algorithm for building an Anders brain. At the
nanoscale where the synapse make their connections our individual brains
would be too different.   

Anders brain structure isn't in a planned manufactured construction of 
Anders genes its far more haphazard than that. Its the result of one-time
only environmental interrelationships between the Anders genome and the
environement the Anders genome found itself in as the genome directed
Anders cells to grow, divide and built organs including Anders brain. 

> Maybe it would be worthwhile doing a careful critique of nanoscale
> dissassemblers?

Biological or theoretical?  What nanoscale dissassemblers are you
talking about? 

Scientists are doing basic discovery of the machines that are part of 
biological systems as part of contemporary science. We are still trying
to discover at the molecular level how the machinery of the cell works so
that we don't have to settle for handwaving pretend knowledge. We haven't
done it yet. 

> > In cryonics the emulation of the structure one would want to resolve is
> > the structure of ones own brain. Can't do that. Thermodynamics and
> > the requirement to work from outside in won't allow it.

> What is the thermodynamical problem you are refering to?

Are you familiar with Smalleys fat and sticky fingers objections to 

Inside cells, biomolecules, proteins assemble and fold into the right shapes
in water. Proteins won't fold the way they do out of water. Change either the 
material you are working with, what you are using as proteins and RNAs to 
construct your molecular machines, ribosomes, spliceosomes, signal recognition
particles, various chaperones and enzymes or the watery environment and you
change the physics and chemistry that is the only physics and chemistry that we 
know works because not because we understand it at molecular detail yet.    

We do know that you need working membrane bilayers for cells to work. You
can't have working membrane bilayers if the bilayers are breached and the
ions inside can get outside. This isn't a problem when organisms grow as
they start out as a few cells that do the manufacturing of later cells working
from inside the membrane bilayers. The chemistry of lipids doesn't allow you
to have working bilayers below normal temperatures for life. Having to do
your manufacturing from the outside doesn't allow you to have unbroken
lipid layers as its the lipid layers around organelles that you are having to
build in the first place because you are manufacturing not growing the

> I can see a heat problem from lots of nanosystems working, so they have to
> be cooled and/or slowed down - which may make the process very slow.

Dunno what you mean. Only working nanoSYSTEMS I know of are biological
ones the others are purely speculative (fanciful even). 

> Merkle's paper suggested a three year process of scanning and 
> rebuilding.

I'm assuming you are referring to the Molecular Repair of the Brain. Merkle's 
paper was gently worked over by Fahy who apparently knows what a science
paper looks like and wasn't so frustrated with Merkle that he gave up on him.
The kindest thing I will say about that paper is it isn't good enough, it isn't
structured enough, to be even usefully wrong. Fahy didn't critique Merkles
mess which would have required him to rewrite it first - he just rewrote a
better one. 

Because folks like Robert and Eugen kept referring to the Merkle paper I thought
before reading it that as a service to fellow students or truth seekers I might read
it and give a critique, but I gave it up as a task that I'd have to be paid to do 
because the Merkle paper was so poorly structured and because I couldn't trust
that he'd been honest with his referencing. From memory I think I discovered mistakes
in his referencing that looked to be not just mistakes but blatant misrepresentations
of the sort that lose scientists their credibility. I've had the same experience
reading some of Freitas stuff - where he misrepresents the views of his critics,
but less so.  

When one encounters works that look like pseudoscience like say intelligent 
design, one has to be careful about providing criticism that can be used to make
the pseudoscience stronger. Drexlerian nanotech and cryonics are in my opinion
in the same sort of pseudoscience camp as intelligent design. The believers so
much want to believe that they only collect facts and criticisms that help them
make the superstructures of their beliefs more solid. 

Its like what is really going on is that a bunch of tech savvy don't want to die
folk have gotten together into a sort of group religion where they reinforce each
others rationalisations and shore up each others hopes.  But the science doesn't
go anywhere it is pseudoscience in fact because there isn't enough honest 
criticism and honest truthseeking in the enterprise.  The desire to find a technical
solution to death drives the psychology of the folk involved.  Its like a bunch of
engineers got struck by the religion lightening bolt, had too much engineering
savvy to fall for the conventional religions and so had to invent one of their own.

That I think is ultimately what transhumanism is. Its not the successor to 
humanism its a cultural support system for cryonicists and technological
religious types that can't find salvation in the normal religions. Thats why
transhumanism doesn't produce anything except writers and entertainers
- although individual transhumanists do produce some things those things are
in their capacities as people not as transhumanists. 

The wheels came off the transhumanist movement when transhumanists did
not take a strong enough stand when US political conservatives turned into
religious regressives.  But I am digressing. 

> That a lot of entropy is being pushed around (making unordered atoms into
> an ordered cell) adds a bit to the heat problem, but can still be managed
> by slowing things down or dividing the workpieces so that radiating the
> entropy into the environment is easy.

No offense Anders but conversation needs a lot more credibility established
before we can do the handwavey stuff. 

Time and again Drextech folk point at biological systems and say see biology
is nanotech. If nature can do it we can do it only better. 

But scientists are still learning at the molecular detail how nature does what
it does. We are still in discovery phase with respect to natures machinery.

It is religious-like faith to presume that (a) we know all we really need to
know about how nature has made its biological machines work and (b) that
we can replace those organic machines which operate within physiological
temperature ranges with non-organic machines which don't and yet which
we want to do the same sort of things with. 

> That molecules are dancing around isn't an enormous problem at -170, 
> since the cryonic brain is essentially a crystal lattice with thermal 
>  vibrations are on the order of 0.01 nm.

The resolution of electron microscopes are about 2 nanometres from memory
perhaps 0.2. Its not the state of the brain when frozen as a block of tissue
thats the (or rather a) problem its that each brain is so massively unique in 
its arborial structures to very low resolutions. Lipid bilayers are only around
6 nanometres thick and if the bilayers are breached the ions leak and the
organelle will not work. You have to be able to manufacture to place your
lipids to that degree of precision whilst keeping the heat out that would change
the chemistry of the lipids. It can't be done not. Not at the scale of something
as large as the brain which doesn't have room within itself for accessing service
bots. Nature didn't do it like that. Nature grows her brains as one-offers she 
doesn't manufacture them and she doesn't build in service laneways for repair.
That we do know.  

> > The whole cryonic idea at its best can only amount to producing a
> > *likeness* of someone that is missed to a degree of detail that at best
> > satisfies the person who is doing the emulating. Its there sentimentality
> > and degree of discrimination which will inevitably be the determinant
> > of any emulation as the to-be-emulation has no say in it.

> (this might be an argument against the identity argument rather than the
> exact contents in your post)

Granted. I ranted. 

You ask other questions in your post which are fair ones and I drafted answers
to them but I can't spend more time on this right now so I'll post this much.

I'm studying cell biology currently. Actually I should be writting up my research
project.  I mostly interested in seeing what you have under the bonnet as a
neuroscientist rather than as a ethical philosopher anyway.  

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