23. February 2009 · Comments Off on Alcor's problematic "notable quotes" page · Categories: Cryonics · Tags: , ,

I realized recently that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.

The irony strikes me, for the Apollo missions did not lead to any follow-up in manned space travel. Nobody anticipated that we’d send men to the moon just a few times to establish dominance over the Soviet Union (which had apparently already renounced its moon ambitions by then), and then stop progress in the technology indefinitely. The last Apollo mission, Apollo 17, visited and left the moon in December of 1972, and nobody has traveled beyond low Earth orbit since.

Which means that people today aged 40 and younger have no memory of the moon landings, so the Apollo program to them lacks the emotional significance it has to those of us who remember watching the moon missions on television. From hindsight it also looks technologically pointless.

Yet Alcor has a webpage titled “Notable Quotes” which references the statements of space travel skeptics as an apparent “argument” for cryonics:

The implicit reasoning seems to run along the lines of, “Prestigious ‘skeptics’ have dismissed both cryonics and manned space travel. Events have discredited the space travel skeptics. Therefore (?) events will dismiss the cryonics skeptics as well.”

This almost looks “fractally wrong,” but I’ll make a stab at analyzing it.

First of all, the two situations have nothing to do with each other. The discrediting of the space travel skeptics implies nothing about the feasibility of cryonics.

Secondly, as I indicated above, the Apollo program didn’t lead anywhere. Does the forced comparison imply that Future World would try to resuscitate only a few cryonauts as an expensive, government-funded, prestige-generating stunt, and then lose interest in saving the rest after the stunt has served its purpose?

And thirdly, the U.S. has a median age of a little under 40, so more than half the current population has no memory of the moon landings. Why try to connect cryonics to an event which happened so long ago that it no longer sounds “futuristic,” or even believable according to the obsessives who engage in moon landing denialism? (I guess denialism suggests the analogous idea of cryonics as a hoax or scam.)

Indeed, why try to connect cryonics to any model of futurology which might sound weird or absurd in a few years, like That ’70’s/’80’s/’90’s Transhumanism, or its current incarnation, Singularitarianism?

I hope when Alcor finally gets its act together under its “trophy CEO,” it will try to reframe cryonics in a way that appeals to younger people who don’t find their fathers’ futurology so compelling. (“Jeez, Dad, you expected to have a flying car driven by a robotic servant by now? And nanoassemblers in the basement to make whatever you wanted? And a cure for aging? What the hell were you thinking?”)  Eliminating or substantially rewriting that “Notable Quotes” page would help.

I suspect the increasing hostility towards cryonics that I’ve observed lately derives in part from the perception that it comes from an exercise in bad futurology in the 1960’s, much like the propaganda back then about the imminent conquest of space following the moon landings. Connecting cryonics with today’s mainstream scientific and medical research will go a long way towards distancing it from the paleo-future and restoring its respectability.

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