[extropy-chat] frozen in fire

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Sun Jan 21 16:51:01 UTC 2007

On 1/21/07, spike <spike66 at comcast.net> wrote:
> Ja thanks.  Shelly pointed out that I also ignored the notion that many of
> the frembryos might have been generated by mothers who are no longer
> fertile, so that this frembryo is her only chance to have her own
> biological
> offspring, which is of greater value than I can ever understand.  It is
> not
> surprising that she would think of that immediately, having been thru the
> whole fertility clinic nightmare.

Spike, I feel compelled to remind you and Shelly, as I remind my brother and
sister-in-law, that this is simply not true.  Not unless you are taking an
*extremely* strict view of "my biological offspring".  We already know this
is a very "fuzzy" picture -- as the products of frembryo's are actually
reanimates of a cryonic suspension process.  There is no continual thread of
"life" [1] from mother to frozen embryo to living child.  And given the
range of adult-child bonding one can see in parents and step-parents to
adopted parents one can obviously have greater or lesser attachments and
desire to care for children [2] of various degrees of genetic relatedness.
(I am waiting for the day when adoption would involve precise genome
comparisons for frequencies of similar alleles in the genome.  If you select
for adopting children with better alleles than yous without your own "bad"
alleles and with all the other alleles highly similar the adopted children
are *better* than biological children.)

The thing keep in mind is that *if* I sequence Spike's genome and *if* I
sequence Shelly's genome I can sit you two down in front of a computer and
let you mix and match the genes (or I can have a computer do it
pseudo-randomly just as nature does during meiosis) so you have a genome
sequence combining your genes.  And once we have reached the point of
attomole DNA synthesis I can produce that DNA sequence for only a few
dollars.  There is a very aggressive push to $1000/genome DNA sequencing so
the costs of an artificial Spike+Shelly genome should be of the order of
$2000 + ~$2/new genome.  From an information science standpoint, though the
new genome would not have been derived from molecules Spike and/or Shelly
harvested from food that they ate which in turn were harvested from animals
or plants which in turn harvested them from the atmosphere, oceans or soil,
the offspring produced from implanting that genome into a cell which in turn
was allowed to mature in a natural or artificial womb would be Spike and
Shelly's "biological offspring".

While women may be able to argue that a significant part of being a "mother"
is bearing the child the same is much more difficult for a man to claim with
respect to being a "father".  Given the technology shifts on the horizon --
designer genomes, designer genomes better than their parents, designer
genomes borne or not borne by a pseudo-biological "mother" (or a surrogate
or artificial womb) using the term "biological offspring" involves standing
on quicksand.

Perhaps the main point to make to Shelly is to ask precisely *what* she
means by "fertile"?  IMO, so long as you have a comb with a hair shafts with
cells attached or a toothbrush with cells scraped from her gums or unwashed
clothes containing her epithelial cells (one needs her genomic DNA sequence)
she is still "fertile".  Having children using genomic sequences requires
"technologically enhanced fertility" but you have already crossed that

Spike, I hope you do not mind my using you and Shelly as examples here
because you have been honest and open about your situation and I would
presume to speak for us all about being happy about your good fortune.  But
you two are also people who are educated and technology literate and would
be people who would engage in the discussions which are likely to be taking
place over the next decade or two.  So I do not have a problem with poking
at ones arguments a little bit.

Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this is that "drive" to
reproduce is so strong in humans that they will invent technologies that
allow them to have "biological" offspring when they would otherwise be
unable to do so.  One wonders if the drive to defeat death is as strong? [3]


1. I would define "life" as something like common biochemical processes at
STP.  Once frozen you have a *significant* reduction in standard biochemical
processes and are clearly not at STP.
2. Indeed it may be a very subtle aspect of human genomics the degree to
which parents will or will not bond to children (be they their own genetic
offspring, those of close relatives, or simply human).  I could argue that
those leaning in the direction of autism or Aspergers may be less likely to
form close parent-child bonds.  On the other side of the fence one merely
has to look at human bonding to cats to understand how humans can bond to
3. One has to compare and contrast from the perspective that "reproducing"
is something one is *supposed* to be able to do.  Living indefinitely is
*not* something one is supposed to be able to do.  Indeed reproducing and
living indefinitely long lives tend to be relatively incompatible from a
resource allocation standpoint (though we aren't anywhere near close to the
limits yet).
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