[extropy-chat] Cryonics is the only option?

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Tue Apr 17 12:09:18 UTC 2007

On Tue, Apr 17, 2007 at 11:50:35AM +1000, Brett Paatsch wrote:

>    Okay, let me ask you straight then.

I'm not Anders (and backlogged), but.

>    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
>    cryonics?

Cryonics is not a belief system, if not done by cargo cult, so there's
no point to call cryobiology people working in cryonics believers
than you would call evolutionary biologists believers.
>    My point about the caveat against believers btw is that believers
>    reason
>    differently and argue differently - by differently I mean
>    fundamentally
>    dishonestly and evasively.

Any pointers towards that?
>    On what basis do you think machine phase chemistry is "definately"
>    thermodynamically credible?

Thermondynamics is a very wide envelope. I can assure you that the
structure strain and hence stability is not an issue. What you're
probably asking is kinetics, i.e. how to get there. This is indeed
a problem, because you need working nanotechnology to build working
nanotechnology, so you're facing about the same bootstrap issues 
life had to work with.
>    I'm assuming you are aware of Smalleys fat and sticky fingers
>    criticisms of

They were not much of criticisms


I don't have much time to address the issues here, so I won't.

>    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?

You fold them in a water compartment, of course.

>    >Given that frozen cells can be thawed with viability intact,
>    I've frozen and thawed cells. Have you?

Yes. We're not talking about freezing, but devitrification of 
systems deposited (think of it as a rapid prototyping device
depositing the organims in layers, not atomically). 

You print the system around a fractal heat exchanger/heater, in
vitrified state, but without cryopreservatives. You never have to
freeze, only to devitrify. The devitrification rate could be kK to MK/s.
>    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

Check out http://www.21cm.com/index.stm

>    organs. I think
>    I recall Eugen saying Greg Fahy is interested in that (perhaps
>    kidneys).  It is

Greg is interested in many things, brains especially. But you have to
follow certain conventions. You can't transplant brains, but you can
kidneys. Once you have done a kidney, that's a nice validation, and you
are free to move on to more challenging and interesting systems.

>    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.

What we've seen from vitrified rabbit brain so far, it looks very good.
I reserver my judgment until further data comes in.
>    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.

You should read more Cryobiology, Cryo Letters, and similiar publications.
>    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.

I don't know what the issue is (why would one want to build vitrified
tissue, to resurrect monkeys? For what purpose, circus amusement?),
but you can deposit any biological structure layer by layer, or assemble
from such prebuilt blocks by convergent assembly.
>    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.

Yes, I agree without nanotechnology you're sorely pressed to bootstrap
a live cell from scratch. Viruses are much easier.
>    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.

It's quite likely that there's enough fossil molecular fragments 
in very old sediments left that we can get a more or less good idea of
how early life looked like. 

I still don't understand how that relates to cryonics, though.
>    "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.

I suggest looking at synthetic biology folks, and Venter's latest venture.
He's by no means there yet, but a primitive life form appears quite doable.
>    > 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
>    Nature.

In future, there will be. This list is not a peer reviewed publication,
but a place to brainstorm your ideas. They have to be reasonably plausible,
>    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.

As someone who has produced a number of ideas which over the course of
almost three decades became reality, I have absolutely no issues with
*informed* speculation.
>    Transhumanists talk about technology with the same disrespect for the
>    difference between actual and real as religious people.

Please don't mistake us with the cargo cult folks. That's the basement,
third corridor left.
>    > 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.

You're asking of Wrights pre-flight of a travel agency glossy. No sir,
we do not offer flights to Sao Paulo yet. We're trying to get off the
ground first. Please come back in a half a century, or so.

Inkjet printing has been become quite good recently, and I could see
a prototype which deposits a few hundred or thousand layers of some 20-odd
types of ink on a cryogenic platform. But this is still a fair distance
from squirting cytosol from a nanotube onto a platform.
>    >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

With current technology, we can assemble a single neuron or scan an
entire (1 kCell) animal from serial sections, with lots of manual work.
While automation would improve this, there are promising alternatives
(Cryo AFM, vaccum sublimation and excimer UV contrasting, fs laser 

>    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.

Um, this is not a business plan and not a research grant application.
I don't see why you're insisting to troll so hard here. If you want
to put a distance from the fringe, and assert your place as a mainstream
scientist, I can send you some made-up document which proves we've expelled
you, because you were not worthy of partake of the Koolaid, and hitch
a ride on the UFO behind the comet.
>    > 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
>    cells.

You seem to have gone away from cryogenic assembly to in-vivo assembly.
That's a very different animal, and rather more challenging. I would
address it by build a retractable 3d scaffold with transport capacities,
build tissue on it by transporting individual cells in, and then retrcting,
creating the result to compact spontaneously.

I have no idea whether this would work, but it's a straightforward idea.
>    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)

Why not taking cells from a cell culture, or from a live person, or
one from cryogenic assembly?

>    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.

I wish I had an issue of Science a century from now (assuming, I would
be able to read it, I have a hint I'd need more than a dictionary).
>    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.

Please feel free to stop trolling. If you were a newcomer, at this
point you would be on moderation.
>    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.

Yes, sometimes you need submolecular resolution for a numerical
model of an animal, if it is to be personally accurate. But this doesn't
mean you absolutely need that resolution anterior to posterior. 
>    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.

I agree that you need a genome activity model for modelling animal
growth, or even do a long-term simulation. However, I don't think
this is necessary at a higher level of theory (built from a more or
less brute-force model of live tissue).

>    > Maybe it would be worthwhile doing a careful critique of nanoscale
>    > dissassemblers?
>    Biological or theoretical?  What nanoscale dissassemblers are you
>    talking about?

A set of abstraction reactions, or deconstruction pipelines which
pull a tissue apart organelle by organelle molecule by molecule, and 
look at each functional group and residue individually.
>    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

No. Speculation is explicitly encouraged here. As long as it stays within

>    haven't
>    done it yet.

No shit, Sherlock.
>    > What is the thermodynamical problem you are refering to?
>    Are you familiar with Smalleys fat and sticky fingers objections to
>    Drexler?

Yes. According to these, a whole number of papers in Science and Nature
are completely bogus. We *can* form and break bonds, and even resolve
subatomic structures (Si orbitals).
>    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

Yes, we are aware.

>    either the
>    material you are working with, what you are using as proteins and RNAs

If you want to resurrect a frozen monkey verbatim, you need to work with
the original building blocks, yes. (However, there's not much point in
doing so, unless we're contemplating building parts to be inserted by
crude surgery).

>    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

Are you trying to build life, or build a model of life? These are very
different goals.

>    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

One of the mechanisms of chilling injury are leaky cells. This is the
reason why you have to traverse the unfriendly terrain quickly. In terms
of nanoprinted systems, you only have to do it one way, and don't have
the issues of dealing with high molality of toxic chemicals.

>    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

Yes, frozen critters are not alive. But warmed critters are.

>    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
>    cells.

Not at all. You can build arbitrary shapes by depositing layer by layer.
It's what rapid prototyping is all about.
>    > 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).

You're typing this in a machine with working nanosystems. Feature size
is down to 45 nm this year. 16 nm is due 2018, assuming easy sailing.
>    > 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.

I agree that it's a bad paper. FWIW, I had some heated arguments with
Merkle about certain damage modes in cryonics, which I've seen in person,
and which he vigoriosly denied existed, based on theoretical grounds.

As a practical chemist and molecular biology person (latter just the usual
lab courses, no original research) I am frequently very impatient and
frustrated with computer science people, too. So we're very much on the
same page here.
>    Because folks like Robert and Eugen kept referring to the Merkle paper

I didn't.  If I ever knowingly did, I apologize, and retract that referral.

>    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.

Really? I would like to see a few pointers to that. 
>    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.

That's a value statement, not a point of critique. 
>    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.

We're just trying to actually deliver a product widely advertised by
all world religions. Don't deny there's demand for it. Boy there's
demand for it, especially after we'll get our first Lazarus animal.
>    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.

I'm sorry, but this is entirely bogus. As long as a person actually does
something in the mainstream, he stops being a transhumanist? Because
transhumanists are only the ineffectual mental masturbation circle?

Transhumanism is a value system. Many mainstream scientists are transhumanists,
without even having heard of the label once.
>    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.

This whole post is largely a digression. You started with cryonics not 
ever working, then nanotechnology not ever working, then accused transhumanists
of being limp-wristed pseudoscientist cargo-cult type folks, and then
we're also the culprit for some country's administration. (Me, I'm not
even to blame for the Ferkel).
>    > 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.

Anders is way too busy with some other stuff right now, so don't expect
him to spend a lot of time for convincing a troll.
>    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.

That's not an unreasonable thing to say, given the estimates.
>    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.

No disagreement. But nanotechnology is not molecular biology. It is
much simpler in many respects.
>    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.

We actually have some of these machines. They're just terribly bulky, and
take a skilled human operator. Nanorobotics has hardly started yet, so give
it some more time.
>    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

Do you think that building a vesicle in vitrified state by laying
down the lipids one by one in a water glass matrix can't be done?
Which particular heat sources do you expect from such molecular 

>    something
>    as large as the brain which doesn't have room within itself for
>    accessing service

Yes, in vivo stuff is really hairy. You need to severely expand the
volume, which will provide enough material for anime.

>    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.

All very true, and very irrelevant.
>    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 also have no time for this, but let me summarize: none of your critique
points are new. I had many of these myself. A lot of what you consider
unsurmountable obstacles are actually engineering constraints: if it
hurts, you're doing things wrong. So don't do things that way, try 
something that works.
>    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.

What you have shown is under you bonnet, does not impress me so far.

Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
ICBM: 48.07100, 11.36820 http://www.ativel.com http://postbiota.org
8B29F6BE: 099D 78BA 2FD3 B014 B08A  7779 75B0 2443 8B29 F6BE

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