August 31 to September 4, 2011 I attended fifth biannual SENS Conference (SENS5, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

People who attend SENS conferences are the demographic that is the most receptive to cryonics of any identifiable group I have yet found. They are mostly scientists interested in intervening in the aging process. Quite a number of attendees are already cryonicists, including Aubrey de Grey, the originator of SENS and the organizer of the conference. But cryonicists are nonetheless a distinct minority. In previous years I brought a few Cryonics Institute brochures, which were soon taken. This year I brought enough brochures for as many of the 240 attendees as might want one (there were many left over).  I also brought a few copies of my “Scientific Justification of Cryonics Practice” (the published write-up of my SENS3 cryonics presentation) which I gave to a few attendees who seemed most receptive.

In addition to my oral presentation on cryonics I also had a poster. Scientific conferences usually have poster sessions where scientists present research, reviews, or ideas in the form of a poster. Poster presenters stand by their posters at scheduled times to discuss their work on a one-to-one basis with individuals rather than to an audience. My poster dealt with challenging the concept of biological age and denying the possibility of a biomarker of aging that could determine biological age. I contended that biological age and biomarkers of aging assume a singular underlying aging process, which I denied on the grounds that aging is multiple forms of damage. I sought to make maximum use of the one-to-one interaction by preparing Socratic questions to stimulate thinking and discussion with the attendees. The process also gave me another means of meeting and speaking to those attending. One interesting person I met was a Torontonian who is currently studying for his PhD at University of Glasgow. His work involves developing gene vectors that can precisely target and modify genes on chromosomes. I consider gene therapy to be an essential tool for the ultimate implementation of SENS, and a deficiency of SENS that there is so little attention paid to this technology. I don’t see how SENS can be implemented by any means other than genetic re-programming. LysoSENS, for example, would require new genes to create new, more effective enzymes for the lysosomes. MitoSENS would require all mitochondrial proteins be made in the nucleus and imported into the mitochondria.

Partly in this connection, was my aggressive lobbying of Aubrey de Grey to have Argentinian biogerontologist and Cryonics Institute member Rodolfo Goya as an invited speaker at SENS5. I began lobbying in January when Dr. de Grey was at ConFusion 2011. Aubrey was initially reluctant based on the first batch of Dr. Goya’s papers that I sent, but a later batch in which Dr. Goya was principle investigator proved to be effective. In Dr. Goya’s presentation at SENS5 he described his use of viral vectors attached to magnetic nanoparticles to deliver IGF-1 genes to senescent female rats to rejuvenate dopamine-producing cells in the hypothalamus. He injects the particles into the venticles, so the technique is somewhat invasive. Another speaker, Matthew Wood, described exosome nanoparticles which can cross the blood-brain barrier so I am hopeful that Dr. Goya can adopt this technique. Dr. Goya ended his presentation with a short pitch for cryonics (showing CI’s cryostats), which even I found embarrassingly awkward. I introduced Dr. Goya to a number of other cryonicists attending SENS5, including Igor Artyuhov, who is the scientific advisor for KrioRus, and Alcor Member Maria Entraigues, who is the SENS volunteer co-ordinator, and a native of Argentina (now living in Los Angeles).

Russian biogerontologist Alexey Moskalev reported on decreasing the number of single-strand DNA breaks and increasing the maximum lifespan in fruit flies by overexpressing the stress response/DNA repair gene GADD45 in the nervous system. That such a presentation would be included in SENS5 was of special interest to me insofar as I have contended that (and debated with Aubrey de Grey concerning) nuclear DNA damage possibly being a significant cause of aging damage that is missing from SENS:

http://www.benbest.com/lifeext/Nuclear_DNA_in_Aging.pdf

http://www.alcor.org/magazine/2011/02/28/deficiencies-in-the-sens-approach-to-rejuvenation/

http://www.alcor.org/magazine/2011/06/07/sens-a-reply-to-ben-best/

Alexey later told me that he had read my paper in REJUVENATION RESEARCH, and I’d like to think that I helped inspire his work.

Alexey announced that there will be a genetics of aging conference in Moscow in April 2012. I entertained the thought of going, partly because of my desire to see KrioRus, but I would rather go later when KrioRus is established in its new building, and has a research program in full swing.

Alexey’s research was partly funded by the Science for Life Foundation (the organization of the wealthy life-extensionist Russian Mikhail Batin). Maria Konovalenko (who was featured in LONG LIFE magazine) reported on her work at the Science for Life Foundation to build an open web-based database of age-related changes (molecular and phenotypic). Maria has her own blog.

I am not going to attempt to describe the other very excellent SENS5 presentations other than to say that great progress has been made in starting research programs on each of the SENS strategies, and by 2012 research on all the strategies is expected to be in progress.

Alcor President Max More was an invited speaker, which means that he had a half-hour time-slot immediately preceding my 15-minute time-slot near the end of the program. Max gave an overview of cryonics, whereas I concentrated on technical and scientific issues associated with vascular and neuronal injury from ischemia and reperfusion. During the question period I was asked if we are interacting with hospital staff to limit pre-mortem ischemia in cryonics patients. I said that the current legal environment limits such interactions, but that pre-mortem anti-oxidant protocol has been recommended and used.

I arranged to send more information to a few people in the audience, including a man who was interested in hydrogen sulfide to limit ischemic injury in cryonics, and an Italian neuroscientist who is interested in neurophysiology studies of vitrified brain tissue as well as contact information for Italian cryonicists.

At the final banquet I sat with CI Member Dr. Gunther Kletetschka, who is now living in the Czech Republic and is pursuing a number of imaginative cryonics-related research projects. One of these involves carbon nanotubes to deliver non-toxic metals to cells to use magnetocaloric cooling. Such a technique could cool tissues uniformly rather than externally, thereby eliminate the thermal stress that causes cracking when vitrified cryonics patients are cooled at cryogenic temperatures.

The last day was spent punting on the Cam River, with dinner in the evening. This provided an opportunity for more networking and information exchange, although most of this was in connection with biogerontology.

There was much biogerontology to be learned at SENS5. What I learned at SENS5 can potentially extend my life and that of others. To postpone cryopreservation by life extension is to benefit from technical advances, to extend the time in which I can contribute to technical advancement, and to enjoy more present life. In the best case, rejuvenation will become a reality in my lifetime and I won’t need to be cryopreserved at all. I work for this possibility as well as for improved cryopreservation. Moreover, in doing research for my cryonics presentation at SENS5 — and in giving the presentation — I learned many things that can help me make more informed choices in directing the research that Aschwin and Chana de Wolf do for the Cryonics Institute.

A video of my presentation may eventually be placed on the SENS5 YouTube site.

On May 16, 2010 the only non-US cryonics provider KrioRus announced the cryopreservation of its 12th patient. The patient was pronounced legally dead on May 5 in Kiev and cryoprotectant perfusion was completed on May 7 after initial cooldown and ground transport to Moscow. A more extensive report is available here.

It is encouraging to see more cryonics activity outside of the United States. The statistics of Alcor, Cryonics Institute and KrioRus indicate that there are currently more than 200 cryonics patients in the world and that more than 1,300 people have made cryonics arrangements.

The 2009-1 issue of Cryonics has a two page feature on KrioRus.

teens_twenties_2010

This past weekend (Friday, January 8, 2010 to Sunday, January 10, 2010) I attended a meeting for cryonicists in their teens & twenties near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The event was funded by Bill Faloon and the Life Extension Foundation. Cairn Idun, creator & coordinator of the Asset Preservation Group, created & coordinated this event as well. Although the Asset Preservation Group was created to devise means of protecting the assets of cryonicists during cryostasis, the group has expanded its concerns to many related issues, including nurturing future generations of cryonics activists to replace the current generation of aging cryonics activists.

The qualification for receiving a scholarship to attend the Teens & Twenties event was applying and being validated as having funding & contracts in place for cryopreservation with any cryonics organization, and being in the 12-30 age range. There were cryonicists from CI, Alcor, ACS, and KrioRus (the latter represented by Danila Medvedev). Some cryonicists were from Canada, Poland, Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Altogether there were 33 cryonicists receiving scholarships, two spouses of those cryonicists who paid their own way plus 13 speakers and Members of the Asset Preservation Group (which includes me) —  for a total of 48 people attending at various times. Among the young cryonicists I believe there were only three teenagers: the two young sons of Bill Faloon, and 19-year-old CI/ACS Member Shannon Blevins,Jr.

By way of introduction, Bill Faloon described his experience of being a 19-year-old cryonicist attending the South Florida cryonics group in the 1970s. Wealthy cryonicists had sponsored him to attend a cryonics training and a life extension meeting in California. He believed that that sponsorship had paid big dividends for cryonics & life extension that he hoped would be comparable to the results of the LEF investment in this teens & twenties group for young cryonicists.

Everyone was then to give brief (under one minute) self-introductions. I won’t give many details, but there was a common theme of growing up with ideas & aspirations that were greatly different from those of friend & relatives. One young man is reputedly the only cryonicist in the state of Alabama. One young woman signed-up at the age of 16 and convinced her father to do so as well. She expressed a sentiment that many resonated with: “even individualists need a sense of community & belonging”. Before the meeting I had been concerned that many of those who had been signed-up for cryonics as young children by their parents would probably not be serious cryonicists. I was impressed by the extent of commitment to cryonics I saw among many of those who had been signed-up virtually from birth.

Although it is stereotypic that cryonicists are single, male computer nerds, 34% of these young cryonicists were female, and quite a few of them were involved with the entertainment industry. During the longer self-introductions Cairn noted five interest areas. The topics were: social networking, promoting cryonics through entertainment, cryonics-related science research, defending & promoting cryonics on the internet, and legal issues associated with cryonics. Cairn had the attendees separate into the five interest areas for discussion, and then we heard presentations from representatives of each group.

The next “getting to know you” exercise involved the participants classifying themselves by personality type as represented by the four colors green, blue, gold, and red:

Green — Conceptual, Curious, Wise, Versatile (intellectual, head rules heart)

Blue — Warm, Communicative, Compassionate, Feeling (seeks harmonious relationships)

Gold — Responsible, Dependable, Helpful, Sensible (dutiful, family-oriented, organization-oriented)

Red — Adventuresome, Skillful, Competitive, Spontaneous (seeks variety and physical involvement)

The participants were given colored sheets that described each personality color in detail as a means of assessing how much of each color composed their personality. Participants were to put various numbers of each color of dots on their name badges corresponding to how much each color is represented in their personality.

I later searched the internet for the basis of this classification system. I found some close matches, but nothing seemed exact:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keirsey_Temperament_Sorter#Temperaments_and_intelligence_types

http://users.trytel.com/~jfalt/Ene-med/true-col.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator#The_four_dichotomies

Because most individuals are a mixture of all colors, we formed groups with others matching our dominant personality color. The largest group by far were the greens, followed by reds. There were only three blues and four golds. I felt that I had so much of all the colors that it was hard for me to choose. I finally decided that I had slightly more green and slightly less gold than the other colors. I joined the green group. Eliezer Yudkowsky regarded himself as so green that he covered his name badge with green dots. Cairn commented that greens generally predominate among cryonicists, and that she was glad to see so many of the other colors because all personality types are required for good teamwork.

On Saturday a presentation by futurist John Lobell was followed by more detailed self-introductions. I tried to tell the story of my life in five minutes. After the detailed self-introductions Catherine Baldwin gave a presentation about Suspended Animation,Inc. and Bill Faloon discussed future projects that young cryonicists should consider to further the advancement of cryonics. Bill was very concerned that there had been no dynamic spokesperson to defend Alcor against the Larry Johnson media blitz in October. Steve Valentine gave a presentation on the Timeship Project, a very expensive storage & research facility planned to store thousands of cryonics patients and transplantable organs at intermediate cryogenic temperatures (about minus 140 degrees Celsius). Although I have thought that the money lavished on this project could be better-spent in other ways, Bill Faloon is enthusiastic that Timeship will convince the world of the seriousness of human cryopreservation in a way that industrial park warehouses cannot.

Sunday morning there was a tour of Suspended Animation, Inc. followed by lunch at the SA facility. The tours were conducted in groups of ten, while the others socialized and watched digitized 40-year-old films (“Ice Men Cometh”) of Curtis Henderson & Saul Kent demonstrating human cryopreservation procedures & equipment during the early pioneering years of cryonics. After lunch there was a final “getting to know you” exercise where most of the participants moved from chair to chair having brief one-to-one conversations with most of the other participants. There were quite a number of people I had not had the chance to speak with earlier, and I found this exercise to be very helpful.

The rest of the afternoon was intended to be available for informal socializing at SA, but with people catching flights and the general restlessness it quickly became fragmented.

Overall I am very enthusiastic with how the weekend went. I made many valuable connections, as did most (if not all) of the others, I believe. It also lifted my spirits, which I also believe was a common experience. Bill Faloon wants to make this an annual event.

In the week after the Teens & Twenties event, I created a Facebook group “Young cryonicists”, and sent invitations to all of the attendee.

Early in the weekend I had asked Cairn to see who among the group did not want to be photographed. To my surprise, only one person did not. I took care not to include her in any of the pictures I took of the event. The following are a few of my photos:

Dinner at the Teens & Twenties event

Line-up for Steve Valentine to autograph Timeship posters

Danila Medvedev wears video/audio glasses that record his life
[Danila calls this Plan C for reconstruction of his personality if Plan A (life extension) and Plan B (cryonics) fail] (The glasses can record 10-12 hours of video with sound before the tape needs replacing. The batteries must be recharged at least every 5 hours.)

Participants watch pioneering cryonics films while others get tours of the Suspended Animation, Inc. facility

Young cryonicists Facebook page

A photo of some Teens & Twenties with Bill Faloon posted on Facebook by Bonnie Magee

A Facebook video of the Curtis Henderson “Ice Men Cometh” films

hoffman formalThis is the fourth in a series of interviews with individuals in the life extension and cryonics movement. Rudi Hoffman is an Alcor and CI member and the most prominent seller of cryonics life insurance policies.  His website with information about how to fund cryonics can be found here.

Did you find out about cryonics before or after you became an insurance agent? How has each field impacted the other in your life?

In 1978 and 1979…Gee, that seems like a long time ago…I was teaching 5th grade math and science. Since I was making the, even then, paltry sum of $6,200 a year teaching, a friend of mine recruited me into the insurance and investment field.

I was recruited by a very controversial, but consumer oriented, company called “A.L. Williams Corporation” to sell term life insurance and mutual funds. The first several years in the business, I managed to decrease my already low income, while increasing my personal overhead dramatically.

A very uncomfortable combination. Perhaps some of your readers can relate, either currently or in their early careers. If you are frustrated, if you are broke, if you are worried…believe me, I have been there. It is supposed to be character building, and maybe it was, but mostly it was simply terrifying.

I recall an exciting day when one of the people who I was renting a room to called me at the office to inform me that our water had been shut off due to late payment. At the time I was also three months late on my house payment, had fixed costs thousands of dollars higher than my income, and was in truly desperate and uncomfortable financial straights. But, due to both a crusader’s zeal about the concept that A.L. Williams was championing financially for the consumer, and an abysmal lack of the good sense to quit and “get a good job,” in a matter of a few more years I eventually proceeded to do something called “making a living.”

So, I have been selling life insurance and securities investments since 1979. At some point, starting somewhere after the 25 year point of ridiculous dues paying, I have been approaching what some may call successful at it.

I have been selling cryonics life insurance, starting with my own cryonics policy, since 1994, when I signed up with Alcor.

Do you think that having cryonics arrangements yourself helps you write more policies?

Yes, I do.

It is a proverb in the sales business that “sales is a TRANSFER OF FEELING.” I was personally signed up and ideologically on board with cryonics well before I sold anyone else a cryonics policy. Being a signed cryonicist is a serious decision for me, and I think that cryonics is SUCH a rational and reasonable gamble that nearly everyone should at least consider this option.

What is the most common/pervasive myth or fallacy about cryonics you hear from people contacting you for insurance?

The general feeling of the uninformed populace is that “Cryonics is only for rich guys.” It is my passion, as well as my profession, to dispel this pernicious and potentially deadly lie. Cryonics is AFFORDABLE for most people who are in good health living in a developed country. This is because of the magical leverage of life insurance, in which a few dollars a day can create a fund of literally hundreds of thousands of dollars exactly when these funds are needed.

I recall that you have been turned down by at least one insurance company because they did not like the cryonics industry. Some people fear that progress in the science of human cryopreservation will make insurance companies less inclined to write policies. Do you agree?

I have been running my more traditional financial planning practice for about thirty years. During the last fifteen years we have incorporated the cryonics life insurance, and increasingly cryonics estate planning, as part of the financial planning practice.

ARGUING WITH IDIOTS

In this time, I have learned some astounding facts. Here is one. “Insurance company executives, and their legal staffs, can be stunningly stupid, remarkably retrograde, and frustratingly fickle.” In short, some are TRULY idiots. Here’s why I know this.

As an independent broker and Certified Financial Planner (R), I have access to literally hundreds of life insurance companies to write for my friends and clients. One would think, logically, that insurance companies would be THRILLED to have a market composed of cryonicists. We are, demonstrably and documentably, one of the most highly educated, prosperous, and long lived niche markets anyplace. We tend to be nonsmokers, health enthusiasts, seat belt wearers, and not take life threatening risks. We are proactive in our own self-care and health maintenance. We take vitamins and anti-aging nutrients, practice reduced calorie diets, and see our doctors prophylactically and often.

But, because the cryonics organizations require that they be the OWNERS as well as the partial beneficiaries of the cryonics funding policies, insurance companies by a huge majority do NOT want our business!

If you find this counter-intuitive, surprising, and virtually unbelievable, I would not blame you.

But, because cryonics is still far from mainstream, and because the insurance companies confuse the cryonics OWNED policies with a category of policies they do not like called “Stranger Owned Life Insurance” (STOLI) policies, most carriers will not provide a letter of approval for this type of business.

And, I don’t just want to “slide a policy in under the radar” of the legal or compliance department at an insurance company. I insist that the insurance company UNDERSTAND and acknowledge in writing that these are cryonics policies. I believe in business candor and transparency, and I have sometimes worked for years to get a letter of approval for our cryonics business.

Moreover, I have personally been FIRED, literally received a termination letter, from at least three major companies because I had sent them virtually exclusively cryonics related policies.

A MORE PROFESSIONAL SOUNDING CAVEAT

To be fair, like other generalizations, there are exceptions to the trend. There are companies and organizations who are very supportive and professional in helping us fund cryonics. I am privileged to work with some outstandingly talented colleagues and collaborators who do indeed, “Get it.”

With reference to the second part of the question, as cryonics becomes more mainstream, and even further proof of concept emerges in the scientific world, we will have carriers enthusiastic about this wonderful block of business. It is my intention to have full departments within major insurance carriers who will help us fund suspension and cryonics estate planning.

What is the minimum amount of life insurance that you recommend for cryonics (in 2009)?

The short answer would be $250,000.

If you are a full body vitrification client at Alcor, you need $150,000 currently. If you are at CI, and you have the funding for Suspended Animation and air ambulance services, you need a minimum of about $110,000. Here are the three LOGICAL and RATIONAL reasons to have a generous amount of OVERFUNDING over the above figures:

REASON NUMBER ONE: The traditional reason people own life insurance:

You probably have loved ones you care about, and possibly provide income for. This would include spouses, partners, children, pets, friends, and even causes you are passionate about. If you have NO ONE, and NO ORGANIZATION, you care about and want to see thrive financially, you are probably screwing up your life pretty badly and need to make some changes.

There is a difference between being an Ayn Rand Objectivist who understands ideologically the “Virtue of Selfishness,” and being a selfish jerk who is too dumb, lazy, or shortsighted to have some life insurance to help take care of those you care about. Especially if one of those people you care about is yourself…or, more precisely, your FUTURE self.

Life insurance, especially modern permanent policies, are “LONG TERM SMART” leverage of resources. If you make $30,000 a year, it would take a lump sum of $300,000 to replace your income, even assuming a generous 10% after tax return on investment.

I am far from wealthy. But I own 2 million, three hundred thousand dollars of life insurance on my life. I pay for this personally, like any other consumer. It costs me a substantial part of my annual income. But, I have a wife I truly love and want to care for, and organizations doing great work I want to support, and several cryonics trusts I want to fund with life insurance proceeds.

You, dear reader, surely care about SOMETHING outside of your skin. This is because we hope you are RATIONALLY SELF INTERESTED. Life insurance is your love made visible. It is a document of long term love and commitment to those you care about.

REASON NUMBER TWO: Due to inflation and technological progress, the price points in cryonics almost certainly will rise over time:

Although cryonics organizations have historically grandfathered earlier client rates, this is not contractually guaranteed going forward.

And the preliminary research on the next technological enhancement in cryonics, Intermediate Temperature Storage (ITS), looks to be a major improvement in saving your precious self. But, like other major improvements in medicine, this will come at a price. Due to increased engineering challenges and much higher liquid nitrogen boiloff rates, the price will almost certainly be higher even for current members. NOT to charge an increase for even existing clients would be irresponsible.

It makes sense to lock your current good health and younger age rates in now. You may not be able to get more coverage in the future at ANY price, and it will certainly be at a higher price.

REASON NUMBER THREE: You can specify a portion of your life insurance policy go to one or more CRYONICS TRUSTS:

Cryonics trusts exist. They may not be perfected or tested. Like cryonics itself, they are our BEST EFFORTS at finding a way to solve a huge and previously intractable problem. But, they can be funded with LIFE INSURANCE, a much smarter way of leveraging your money, as well as providing tax and creditor advantages. This is the exact kind of thing wealthy and smart people have done for literally centuries with their money. The distinction is that we are using these marvelous tools to help fund cryonics, and preserving and creating future wealth for ourselves and those we care about.

You are currently writing a book. What can you tell us about it?

I have been working on this book since 2002. I hope to have it published in 2010. I also hope to make it available as a download on the web at minimal or no cost to my cryonics prospects and clients. The book is called, “THE AFFORDABLE IMMORTAL: THE EMERGING SCIENCE OF CRYONICS AND YOU.”

It is designed as an easy to read resource for folks potentially interested in cryonics. It explains, in a straightforward way, the fascinating world of life insurance, and how to use life insurance for cryonics.

It deals with some of the ideology of cryonics. And, an estate planning lawyer I work with who is an expert on cryonics trusts has a section on cryonics legacy planning that is the clearest explanation I have ever seen on this topic.

What is your take on the current state of wealth preservation for cryonics members?

HEY, LET’S BEAT BOTH DEATH AND TAXES!

The idea of “taking it with you” is not out of the bounds of reality anymore.

Cryonics itself is a “best efforts” intervention designed to enable whatever makes up “you” to take a time travel ride to the future. Cryonics trusts exist to enable your funds to grow at a rate somewhat higher than taxes and inflation, and compound and grow. These funds are earmarked to both enable the cryonics resuscitation process, and enable you to have funds to provide you with enhanced options in the astounding future that you may be revived in.

Of great concern, of course, are the details of cryonic estate planning. Including the question, “How do I find a trustee to manage and grow the money, who understands the concept of cryonics and my wishes, and who won’t run off with the money?”

There are structures in place to have oversight in depth for trustee arrangements. Currently, a small group of cryonicists are in process of developing a cryonics oriented trust company employing younger cryonicists as trustees for the accounts.

The bad news is that legitimate cryonics estate planning is not cheap. The better news is that some groundwork has been laid out by pioneers of this idea to make it more affordable than it used to be. And the actual funding of the cryonics trust can come from the leverage of life insurance. You can have a separate life insurance policy to fund the cryonics trust, or name the trust as a partial beneficiary of your cryonics policy. Setting up the cryonics trust has in the past involved tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Current trust prices range from 10,000 down to a few thousand for setup. And maybe a thousand a year for maintenance. The Hoffman Prototype Cryonics Trust has been made available at no cost to my clients, to be used by their attorneys as a template.

Part of the reason for the current emphasis on developing legitimate and solid cryonics trusts is this: Wealthier and older cryonicists CARE about being able to execute such trusts. And we NEED wealthier cryonicists who are willing to DONATE money to research optimal cryonics protocols.

There are literally MILLIONS of MILLIONAIRES, in the United States alone. Plus millions more throughout the world. Cryonics as a field is DESPERATE for the money these folks have in their pockets. The individuals are DESPERATE to find a legitimate way they can both make a positive difference in the world and have a chance for themselves and their loved ones to continue living.

We MUST find a way to help MERGE these highly motivated entities to develop the synergy that will fund the RESEARCH that will save your life.

You are a member of both major cryonics organizations (Alcor and CI). Why?

They are both excellent organizations. Alcor is my primary cryonics vendor. If there is a problem in the future with Alcor, or logistics or technological issues deem it optimal, I also wanted to be a member and have my funding set up for the Cryonics Institute.

I have friends and clients with both organizations. I also want to say what a remarkable job Ben Best and Andy Zawacki are doing at the Cryonics Institute to further the cause of genuine science and evidence based cryonics.

What do you consider the biggest challenges in today’s cryonics?

There are perhaps millions of forward thinking people who would sign up today if there existed clear documentation of a small animal returning from cryonic temperatures with all it’s systems and memories intact.

Yet, as large as the “no clear evidence for effective cryonics” problem is, there exists one that is even larger, in my opinion.

What could be a bigger detriment to the science and adoption of cryonics than “Hey, we can’t even prove this works?”

I’ll get to this below, in a later question.

Do you think that members should be more involved in Alcor’s formal decision making?

Not just “Yes,” but “Heck, yes!”

Especially at the pioneering stage this “long term startup” operations exists in, cryonics NEEDS genuine MEMBERS. A member is involved, engaged, pro-active, takes initiative to help the organization, volunteers time and money to further the organizations goals, and just, in general, PARTICIPATES in the organization.

For a whole series of reasons, some of which may be fixable, and some which may be intrinsic to growth and geography, many current cryonics members behave more like buyers of a commodity.They pay their life insurance, member dues, and think that this magically will be sufficient to give them a chance of indefinite lifespan. You people need to grow up out there. We are STILL in the pioneering phase of this movement. The appropriate metaphor is that we are in the same cryonics lifeboat…but it has numerous leaks.

We need members who ENGAGE in their own cryonics advocacy. Members who enable local networks of like minded people. Members who set up pre-planning with local doctors, funeral directors, and emergency medical personnel. Members who call their cryonics organization and say, “What can I do to HELP this movement, and what can I do to help secure a better suspension for myself and my loved ones?”

The readers of this website are the exceptions to the rule. Your readers, I suspect, are active proponents of this concept with their colleagues, out of the closet cryonicists who have the courage to be candid with their wish to not die in a mere few decades.

Alcor keeps growing but it has a lot of member cancellations as well. What can be done to prevent this?

Growth has been steady, but modest, for decades in cryonics. I would not be the first to describe cryonics as a “thirty year startup company.” Alcor recently passed the 900 member mark, and should go over 1000 in 2010.

WHY WE AS INDIVIDUALS NEED TO DEVELOP INTO CRYONICS ADVOCATES:

For whatever reason, only a low percentage of the cryonicists I am aware of REALLY feel like, “Hooray! We are part of a GRAND and MIND-BOGGLING experiment in indefinite life extension! We must pull together, develop networks and friendships, do INCONVENIENT and sometimes somewhat COSTLY events in which we get together. We must read the cryonics bulletin boards, help our organization recruit the BEST management talent for roles at Alcor and CI, and simply do what we can to make cryonics an EVIDENCE BASED SCIENCE”

Instead, we have the classic “Free rider” problem. Most cryonicists, and most everyone else as well, are extremely busy, wrapped up in their own trip, dealing with careers, family concerns, larger social concerns.

We are happy to see that Bill Faloon and Saul Kent are committing a reported ten million dollars a year to aging and cryonics research. But we can’t ALL be free riders on their largess. It is challenging to get free-thinking, anti-authoritarian, atheist oriented cryoncists to agree on a goal we can all get behind. There is currently NO thought leader who has defined a program that cryonicists can agree to support.

We need the equivalent of a Kennedy saying, “Before this decade is out, we commit to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”

The cold war was the motivation behind the golden era of space development. (Of course, Kennedy could coerce millions and spend billions of coerced contributions…so the analogy is not perfect.)

SOME GOOD…MAYBE GREAT NEWS:

There is some behind-the-scenes work which can’t be announced yet that will excite even the most jaded and cynical of cryonicists. Leadership will be exercised, and progress will be shown, and a vision will be laid out that will generate a HUGE buzz in both the cryonics world and larger outside world.

Do you agree that Alcor should be able to sustain itself from membership dues without relying on outside donations?

Conceptually, yes. But raising dues to accomplish this is problematic for many at this juncture. The Alcor board has basically decided to do this, and I understand the rationale, but the timing is unfortunate.

How successful have you been in relating to others on the topic of cryonics? Do you think there are better or worse strategies for piquing interest in cryonics among the general public?

I am an unabashed cryonics advocate. I talk about it with most of my friends, family, and colleagues. Here is the hard teaching. It does not matter. Unless someone is READY for this idea, you probably are NOT going to get them interested. It does not matter how credible, enthusiastic, compelling, or intellectually rigorous you are.

Again, there are exceptions to this rule. Mostly they are these: An individual convinces his less enthusiastic spouse/partner to sign up. Parents pay for coverage on their children. And, a member pays the full cost of a life insurance AND dues AND startup fees for a friend or colleague, and handles most of the paperwork hassle for them.

I continually think about ways to promote this meme. The reality, learned after fifteen years of hurt feelings, potentially damaged relationships, and lots of intellectual hand-wringing and conversations with myself about how I can be more compelling, is that MOST people just are NOT interested.

Deal with it.

There will be some that are…and they will probably self-select the way you did.

I am hoping the current tabloid style “whistle blower” book by the almost certainly fraudulent huckster Larry Johnson will have a long term positive effect on cryonics awareness.

And, if I can get off my butt and get my book published and or promulgated somehow, this may help.

How long have you been married to Dawn and did she initially share your enthusiasm for cryonics?

I am happily married to Dawn, the love of my life, for 25 years last April. While she did not share my enthusiasm and initially declined to sign up, we WERE smart enough to buy an extra life insurance policy on her, initially naming me as beneficiary. When, in a wonderfully romantic event five years later on Valentine’s Day, she DID elect to surprise me with a sign-up, she just changed the beneficiary of her policy.

There is a lesson…perhaps several of them…for those perceptive enough to get it, in this true story.

Your writings are often critical of religion. Were you raised in a religious family? If so, what events had the most bearing on your development as an atheist?

OKAY! Here we go!

NOW we come to the real reason that cryonics is not a more popular idea and medical produce. Now we come to the “elephant in the room” that few dare even notice, let alone have the guts and political incorrectness to criticize.

Here’s the thing. If you REALLY believe you are going to heaven when you die, or even have some other vague and fuzzy brained notion of the reality of an afterlife, the odds are low that you are a very good cryonics prospect. This statement is based on PERSONALLY talking about these very ideas with literally HUNDREDS of cryonicists.

“Oh,” the accomodationists squeal, “Science and Religion don’t REALLY conflict. Cryonics and traditional religion are not remotely antithetical to each other. These two arenas deal with different areas of human experience, these are “non-overlapping magisteria”.

Well. There is no other word for the above paragraph but “BULLSHIT.” Sorry if this isn’t academic or erudite enough for you. Stephen Jay Gould was a smart man. But he was not smart enough to sign up for cryonics before he died of cancer…and he was not smart enough to see the OBVIOUS conflicts in epistemology and world view that exist between the religious mindset and the scientific worldview.

Of course, we’d expect most of us to be in something like the agnostic category, leaning toward the atheist end of that category.

What is more puzzling to many of us in the skeptical, rationalist, agnostic, atheist, bright, humanist, secular community is that the folks fitting these categories are STILL mostly not interested in cryonics!

Undamnbelievable!

Like many of your readers, I spend a huge amount of time thinking and reading in the areas of psychology, cognitive science, philosophy, religion, history, science, epistemology, and self improvement.

Some of the most influential thinkers in my worldview will be familiar to many of your readers. The “four horsemen of the rationalist atheist non-apocolypse” are the best selling authors Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet, and Christopher Hitchins.

While all these guys are compelling, perhaps the most paradigm shifting read for me was Sam Harris’s “The End Of Faith.”

In this brilliant work, Harris documents not only the pernicious and evil effects of faith, (defined as believing without adequate evidence), but that the very IDEA of faith as a VIRTUE is intrinsically and deeply flawed.

Like many cryonicists and free thinkers, I was raised in a (rather wonderful) Christian family. My grandfather was the president of a Christian college (Anderson University, where I graduated from in 1975). I personally taught at Warner Christian Academy during 1977 and 1978.

While I did not believe the extremely unlikely and clearly cultural theology of these institutions, for many years I felt that the sense of community, and the genuinely positive effects of being a part of a community of folks trying hard to do “good,” superseded the negatives of believing in superstitions and nonsense.

I no longer feel this way.

As Sam Harris documents in his classic short book, “Letter to a Christian Nation,” the effects of believing in things that defy reason are, for lack of a better word, EVIL.

It is just plain WRONG to believe things without good reason to do so!

You have not only been a vocal advocate of cryonics but of limited government as well. As an insurance agent, what do you make of the ongoing attempt to transform health insurance companies into highly regulated providers of entitlements?

Wow…sounds like a political question I will graciously defer till I can get your readers around a table with some beers and coffee and we can rant about this! I will mention that cryonicists are disproportionatly of a libertarian mindset…again, not a surprising fact.

hoffman costumesEveryone who knows you is familiar with your holiday-themed greeting cards (where you and your dogs are completely decked out in holiday-specific costumes and surrounded by festive holiday decor) — do you actually own all the costumes and scenery, or is it rented just for the photos?

We love holidays, and enjoy decorating our yard, selves, and dogs. Over many years of scrounging, we have managed to find some way cool bits of yard decor. As I write these words, we have some 35 yard “blowups” with a Halloween theme…and a huge blow up Shrek on the roof!

Along with dancing, biking, reading, and traveling, these activities help make a full and fun life. Most of the time…

Now we all just need to figure out how to have more life…and more fun.

Anyone who has put up with this deeply personal and hopefully somewhat interesting article in order to read to this point deserves my most sincere gratitude. Next time, let’s talk about you…

Alcor’s recent news item about its 2009 Annual Board Meeting and Strategic Meeting contains a number of encouraging statements. On the front of institutional reform, however, there is not much news to report. The passage about the need to balance recruiting new Board members and preserving institutional memory reads as a rather uninspired defense of the Board’s recent decisions. In light of the growing recognition that most of Alcor’s problems over the years can be tracked back to the composition and functioning of the Board of Directors, one would have expected more innovation on this front.  A major problem with a self-perpetuating Board of Directors remains that there are few mechanisms available in case a competent Board of Directors would change in an incremental fashion into a contra-productive Board. Perhaps the idea of term limits could prevent such scenarios.

In particular, there is an urgent need to adopt institutional changes that can prevent the highly variable quality of patient care that has been observed in the history of the organization.  Another challenge that remains is the recruiting of  additional Board members with a strong knowledge of Alcor’s technical operations and the delivery of standby services. Without this knowledge (and some degree of common sense) it is highly unlikely that the Board can do a serious job of overseeing such matters.

One of the most positive items in Alcor’s report is the recognition that Alcor would benefit from substantial cost savings in its operations.  Throughout most of Alcor’s history the organization has been dependent on (unpredictable) donations from wealthy members to sustain normal operations.  Obviously, this way of funding the operations of a cryonics organization (as opposed to long term patient care) constitutes an irresponsible gamble. Donors should be commended for being reluctant to contribute to Alcor (any further) until Alcor has shown evidence of getting its financial house in order. A number of sensible proposals were discussed to generate more structural income for the organization such as increasing membership dues, raising cryopreservation minimums, introducing a recommended funding level (as opposed to just a minimum funding level), and creating income-generating endowments.

One aspect that is largely ignored in this report, however, is the potential for substantial cost reductions in Alcor’s daily operations itself. For most of its history Alcor used to be rather transparent about staff member salaries in its communications and the magazine. It may not be a coincidence that this practice disappeared  during the period when Alcor saw substantial increases in compensation for (some of) its staff members. To give some perspective, the old Tim Freeman Cryonics FAQ included the following question and answer:

7-2.  Is anyone getting rich from cryonics?  What are the salaries at these organizations like?

In December 1990, Cryonics magazine reported that the Board of Directors of Alcor voted a 25% pay cut for all of the staff, so they could keep their budget balanced.  Many of the Directors are also on the staff.  The salaries after the cut ranged from $22,500 annually for the highest paid full-time employee (the President) to $14,400 for the lowest-paid full-time employee.  None of the Alcor staff are getting rich from their salaries.

It would be a worthwhile undertaking to do a comprehensive study of Alcor’s staff and consultant compensation history and policies (or lack thereof). There is never a shortage of arguments to justify higher compensation and ad-hoc decision making in cryonics, but it is doubtful that generous salary increases in the industry over the years were necessary to recruit or retain competent staff members. It might even be argued that a number of problems in cryonics are actually linked to offering wages that exceed what the employees who receive them would otherwise earn in the market place. Similarly, substantial cost savings can be obtained by increasing productivity and decreasing staff members. Issues of compensation and staff efficiency should be essential topics of consideration in any serious discussion about Alcor becoming more self-sustaining and less dependent on wealthy donors.

Another topic that deserves attention in this context is that all of Alcor’s major technologies (medications protocols, organ preservation solutions, vitrification agents) are licensed to the organization by independent research labs. Although Alcor itself is mostly to blame for not having developed competing technologies of its own since the mid-1990s, it is important to recognize this dependence. At the very least, Alcor could benefit from a cost-benefit analysis of some of these technologies and from developing contingency plans to deal with scenarios in which these technologies would no longer be available or cost-prohibitive.

During most of its history Alcor (and later, CryoCare) promoted the idea of cryonics as a medical procedure and criticized other cryonics organizations like the Cryonics Institute for being overly optimistic and reckless.  In an ironic twist of fate, some critics of Alcor now use this perspective to criticize the organization for not living up to the idea of cryonics as medicine. As a general rule, this is to be welcomed. Where this criticism can go off track, however, is when it is insufficiently recognized that knowledge of conventional medicine is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition to do good cryonics. One of the worst scenarios for the future of cryonics is one in which regulators impose standards upon cryonics organizations that  actually increase the challenges of providing good patient care; something that has happened already in the case of the Cryonics Institute when the organization was forced to perform a complex technical procedure like cryoprotective perfusion at a funeral home.

Faced with the technical complexities of ramped cryoprotective perfusion, Alcor has decided to develop a system that not only uses software to record perfusion parameters (concentration, pressure, temperature, refractive index etc.) but to use the same software to control them as well. Provided that this new system lives up to its expectations, this development will be a major step towards a system that can use real-time feedback to adjust perfusion parameters in a manner that so far has only been available in small organ cryobiological research. The data that will be generated during cases can, in turn, be used to create cases reports that follow a consistent, formal standard. When these reports are used in an intelligent fashion, the prospect of developing technologies and protocols that can reduce the high variability in patient care will be feasible.

Once a year I try to attend at least one biogerontology conference. Although I attend biogerontology conferences out of personal interest, and at my own expense, they are the most fruitful grounds for promoting cryonics I have found, and this is especially true of SENS conferences.

I have missed none of the four SENS conferences that have been held at Cambridge University. “SENS” is Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s “Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence.”

SENS conferences attract scientists who are eager for science to achieve rejuvenation, and who have a strong belief that science has the capacity to do so. Not surprisingly, such people are often receptive to the idea that future science may be capable of reanimating humans who have been well cryopreserved.

Recently I have heard regret expressed about the aging of the cryonics community and the absence of a next generation of cryonics activists to replace the current ones. My experiences at the 2009 SENS conference dispelled much of my concern about this.

I took about a hundred CI brochures, but these were quickly taken by the 290 SENS conference attendees. I was continually approached by young scientists and researchers who were eager to meet me and who said they would make cryonics arrangements when they got out of graduate school and could afford to do so. Insofar as many of the attendees were Europeans, I was often asked whether the shipping delays to the United States would make cryonics not worth doing, and whether there were any plans by the Cryonics Institute to create a storage facility in Europe. (I was told about a group wanting to establish a storage facility in Switzerland, but I did not get any details. Apparently it is not a project with serious hope of success in the near future.)

I was astounded when a British student approached me and said that he would be devoting all of his graduate school work to the problem of cryoprotectant toxicity. He had already gotten Dr. Fahy to send him a copy of “Cryoprotectant toxicity neutralization,” a new paper to be published in an upcoming issue of CRYOBIOLOGY. The student is in the process of collecting other cryobiology publications that address the subject. I directed him to a relevant webpage in the cryonics section of my www.benbest.com website.

A number of people from KrioRus were at the conference, notably Igor Artyuhov, who is their technical guru. The group also does life extension research. Igor showed me their poster showing extended lifespan of mice administered heat-shock protein through nose-drops. I was interviewed by a journalist who writes for the Russian edition of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.

I had met Nick Mayer, a Terasem employee, at the previous SENS conference, and Nick introduced himself to me again at this meeting. Nick manages “cyberbiological systems”, specifically a website that is being used like an on-line personal diary. As Nick described it to me, the website would be useful to store personal information that could be used to help in the reconstruction of someone who has been reanimated from cryopreservation. But when I looked at his website, it appears to be a project for reconstructing people from their diaries alone — without any saved biological material.

To my surprise, one of the presenters, Dr. Gunther Kletetschka, had a poster and an oral presentation dealing with eliminating the cracking problem in cryonics.

Cracking of vitrified tissue at cryogenic temperatures is a consequence of the fact that external cooling causes superficial tissue to contract more than deep tissue (thermal conductivity is low). Dr. Kletetschka’s approach is based on the idea that if a cryonics patient were perfused with a solution containing gadolinium (nanoparticles would be best), an entire vitrified brain could be cooled uniformly by the magnetocaloric effect.

From a practical point of view, his sample size was apparently very small, and he did his testing on ice rather than vitrified tissue. I had many other criticisms of his approach, which I attempted to discuss with him in a constructive, supportive manner. He was interested in what I had to say, and was very receptive. Insofar as he is so enthusiastic about doing cryonics-related research, and insofar as he lives in Maryland (not so far from Michigan) I suggested that he attend the CI Annual General Meeting on Sunday, September 27. He expressed an interest in doing so.

A European student told me that his mother is a stroke victim, but that he has not been able to induce her to consider cryonics. Having experienced the debilitating effects of stroke she is worried that faulty reanimation procedures would bring her back into an even more debilitated condition. I suggested asking her to assess the probability of that happening and how bad the downside would matter if the probability is small. I think that in the context of all of the other repairs that would be essential to cryonics working that it is unlikely that all such defects would not be fixed.

A middle-aged European woman wanted to speak with me about how to convince her husband that cryonics is a good idea. The couple are both religious, but she thinks “heaven can wait” because she enjoys life here on earth and she would like to share earthly life for a very long time with her husband. I gave her many arguments against the claim that cryonics is against religion, including the one concerning refusing a lifesaving medical treatment being equivalent to suicide (a sin).

I was reminded of the Depressed Metabolism posting about the “hostile wife phenomenon” in cryonics:  It occurs to me that when a male spouse is interested in cryonics, but his wife is not, that he can go ahead and make the arrangements. A financially dependent woman (as this woman is), less often has that option. I have also often seen cases of women interested in cryonics, but who dropped the interest when it became clear that their spouse would not join them in cryostasis. They would rather not live if they cannot be with their husbands. It reminds me of studies of working couples that show that a wife is much more likely to quit her job to follow her husband in a career change that involves moving — whereas the opposite happens much less frequently.

I won’t say much about the SENS conference itself, but I had lots of meetings and discussions that taught me a lot about biogerontology issues. I was particularly interested in discussing my recent article “Nuclear DNA Damage as a Direct Cause of Aging” which had been published in Rejuvenation Research, because it is a direct challenge to one of the tenets of SENS (that nuclear DNA damage only matters for cancer).

Not only was I able to have two private sessions in which I discussed the matter with Aubrey de Grey, but I was able to eat breakfast several times with Vera Gorbunova and her husband Andrei Seluanov, two DNA repair experts who were attending the conference. Vera and Andrei have written the only other review (other than my own) supporting the thesis that nuclear DNA repair capability declines with age.

I had cited that review in my own review. Vera had sat across from me at my first breakfast by chance. She had read my review and told me that she agreed with it. Most of the times that I went for a meal I was very pleased by at least one person randomly sitting near me, and had an interesting and productive discussion with them on a matter of interest. I discussed my cryonics alarm system problems with a woman who is getting a PhD in biomedical engineering.

I was very surprised and pleased to meet Kristen Fortney at the conference. Kristen is a University of Toronto student who attended some of our cryonics meetings in Toronto. She was a physics student and was planning to do graduate work in quantum physics. At the conference she told me she had changed to a PhD program focused on computational work with the human genome, focused on anti-aging strategies. She wrote a blog of the conference as it progressed on the Ouroboros academic blog for aging research.

Danila Medvedev has translated Ben Best’s  article “Scientific Justification of Cryonics Practice” into Russian. The translation is available on the KrioRus website. The original Engish article was published in Rejuvenation Research and is available as a PDF file at the Cryonics Institute website.

ABSTRACT

Very low temperatures create conditions that can preserve tissue for centuries, possibly including the neurological basis of the human mind. Through a process called vitrification, brain tissue can be cooled to cryogenic temperatures without ice formation. Damage associated with this process is theoretically reversible in the same sense that rejuvenation is theoretically possible by specific foreseeable technology. Injury to the brain due to stopped blood flow is now known to result from a complex series of processes that take much longer to run to completion than the 6 min limit of ordinary resuscitation technology. Reperfusion beyond the 6 min limit primarily damages blood vessels rather than brain tissue. Apoptosis of neurons takes many hours. This creates a window of opportunity between legal death and irretrievable loss of life for human and animal subjects for cryopreservation with possibility of future resuscitation. Under ideal conditions, the time interval between onset of clinical death and beginning of cryonics procedures can be reduced to less than 1 min, but much longer delays could also be compatible with ultimate survival. Although the evidence that cryonics may work is indirect, the application of indirect evidence is essential in many areas of science. If complex changes due to aging are reversible at some future date, then similarly complex changes due to stopped blood flow and cryopreservation may also be reversible, with life-saving results for anyone with medical needs that exceed current capabilities.

The June 2009 issue of Rejuvenation Research features an article by Cryonics Insitute President Ben Best about the involvement of nuclear DNA damage in the aging process:

Abstract

This paper presents evidence that damage to nuclear DNA (nDNA) is a direct cause of aging in addition to the effects of nDNA damage on cancer, apoptosis, and cellular senescence. Many studies show significant nDNA damage with age, associated with declining nDNA repair, and this evidence for the decline of nDNA repair with age is also reviewed. Mammalian lifespans correlate with the effectiveness of nDNA repair. The most severe forms of accelerated aging disease in humans are due to nDNA repair defects, and many of these diseases do not exhibit increased cancer incidence. High rates of cellular senescence and apoptosis due to high rates of nDNA damage are apparently the main cause of the elderly phenotype in these diseases. Transgenic mice with high rates of cellular senescence and apoptosis exhibit an elderly phenotype, whereas some strains with low rates of cellular senescence and apoptosis show extended lifespan. Age-associated increases of nDNA damage in the brain may be problematic for rejuvenation because neurons may be difficult to replace and artificial nDNA repair could be difficult.

HT Longevity Meme

portlandReal estate is all about location, location, location. Location matters in cryonics as well.

The objective of standby and stabilization in cryonics is to limit injury to the brain after pronouncement of legal death. Unfortunately, many cryonics patients have not been stabilized promptly after pronouncement of legal death because the cryonics organization did a poor job of tracking the health condition of its members, was not made aware of the pending death of a member, or the case was one of rapid decline or sudden death. In other cases, the cryonics organization was aware of the critical condition of the patient but was faced with the challenge of providing services in a geographical area where few other cryonics advocates live. This creates a non-trivial challenge because premature deployment of a standby team can expose the cryonics organization to a prolonged standby in which resources are “wasted” but delayed deployment can arrive too late for the patient to receive meaningful stabilization procedures. Even in cases where a cryonics standby team is able to intervene promptly after cardiac arrest, the distance between the location of stabilization procedures and the cryonics facility in combination with the legal and logistical challenges of transporting a patient across state lines produces harmful periods of cold ischemia.

Some members who have recognized these challenges have decided to relocate to the state, or even the city, of their cryonics organization. As a general rule, these decisions are made when the member in question has retired or recognizes a high probability that the cryonics organization’s services are needed in the near future. As a consequence, the Phoenix/Scottsdale area has a larger proportion of (retired) people with cryonics arrangements than could be expected based on location alone.  So far this phenomenon has not really caught on with  Cryonics Institute (CI) members, although the desire of relocating to Michigan is a recurrent topic in discussions among CI members. In a sense, the issue is even more important for CI members because the organization itself does not offer standby and stabilization services. Unless a person has made arrangements with another organization for such services, CI members should expect non-trivial periods of warm and cold ischemia, producing brain injury and perfusion impairment during cryoprotectant perfusion (if perfusion is possible at all) as a consequence.

A useful medical analogy for this situation is to picture the fate of a critically ill person in a state with limited medical emergency services, who, after a 911 call, needs to be flown thousands of miles across state lines to a medical facility without the possibility of treatment during transport. It should not be surprising, then, that some people who have recognized this problem advocate that cryonics organizations should be local in nature. Not only in the sense of building a strong local community and emergency response system, but also by strictly confining itself to members in that area. A technical criterion to determine the area of coverage for such a cryonics organization is that the service area of the cryonics organization should not exceed the distance that, in principle, permits stabilization of a patient without loss of neurological viability of the brain by contemporary criteria.

The vision of a cryonics organization that confines itself to a specifically defined geographical area (a state or a few neighboring states) raises many practical questions but the most important question concerns its financial feasibility. Can a cryonics organization that confines itself to one state support itself and its operations? On the one hand, one is inclined to answer this question in the negative because the absolute number of people interested in cryonics is so small that even cryonics organizations that accept members from all parts of the world remain dependent on (large) donations and bequests to sustain their operations. On the other hand, a cryonics organization that operates in a strong local community of life extensionists can draw upon the enthusiasm of its members, the resources available to them, and focused regional outreach efforts.

Location is also important to cryonics because it can make or break the prospects of a viable cryonics organization. One major problem facing cryonics today is that the locations of the two major cryonics organizations (Alcor and the Cryonics Institute) offer little appeal to (young) people who could make a contribution to the science and practice of cryonics. This is not just conjecture. Alcor has great problems in attracting talent to Arizona (as evidenced by the ongoing saga of finding a suitable CEO). People who turned down offers to become more involved with Alcor (or those who left) have mentioned location as the most important reason. The situation is even worse because a number of people who are involved with Alcor in Arizona are known to dislike the location and have indicated their desire to move on in the future. Suffice it to say that such a situation limits the prospects of recruiting skilled people with long-term commitments to the organization.

The first thing that should be done is to recognize the problem and take it seriously. After this happens, efforts can be made to stimulate areas of vibrant cryonics activity with the objective of drawing more people to them. One development that is striking is that locations with a strong “cosmopolitan” identity such as New York and the Bay Area have no or little serious cryonics activity going on any longer. This is particularly painful in light of the fact that these areas have been historical hotbeds of cryonics activity. Good and dependable cryonics capabilities cannot be created overnight but there are no obstacles for creating  local organizations with a strong emphasis on education and local response capabilities.

Another important reason for creating strong local cryonics and life extension communities is  to reduce the vulnerability to political and legal events that threaten the operation of a cryonics organization. The importance of diversifying risk, and the limited ability for cryonics organizations in the US to deliver good stabilization services in Europe, is one of the major reasons why European cryonicists should be encouraged to create their own cryonics facility, complemented by basic standby and stabilization capabilities in other countries.

In the United States the author has been involved in stimulating vibrant cryonics activity in Portland, Oregon which so far has culminated in the rejuvenation of local cryonics meetings, a viable research program, and the formation of a non-profit organization to educate the general public about the benefits of cryonics. Other plans that are currently being pursued by other people in the region include the fabrication and acquisition of stabilization equipment and even preparations for the formation of a viable cryonics organization. It is hoped  that these developments will motivate more people to move to Oregon or stimulate people in other parts of the country to engage in similar activities.

pyreneanibexFollowing the news that mice have been cloned from 16 year old frozen tissue comes an announcement that scientists have made advances in resurrecting  the extinct Pyrenean Ibex. This does not only offer hope that someday other extinct species may be resurrected and returned to nature, it further reinforces the power of low temperatures to preserve life and biological information.  DNA can be extracted from tissue that is preserved with crude  freezing techniques, including cryopreservation with no cryoprotection at all (straight freezing).

Successful resuscitation of cryonics patients requires reversal of the aging process (for most patients) and  advanced molecular cell repair technologies. Such demanding requirements are not necessary to clone a cryonics patient. Although the objective of cryonics organizations is not to resurrect a clone of the person but that particular individual, the recent success stories about cloning animals from frozen tissue highlight that the debate about the feasibility of cryonics should not be so much about “revival” but personal survival.  Biological revival should not present major obstacles.

People usually do not make cryonics arrangements to allow a the creation of a genetic copy of themselves in the future. One use of human DNA storage is to assist with the identification of remains of cryonics patients that have died under circumstances where such identification will be difficult (for example, the cryonics organization only receives a brain). DNA preservation is also an option for people who would like to have a  closely similar pet in the future. Futuristic possibilities such as combination of human cloning and mind uploading to recreate the person come to mind as well.

The Cryonics Institute offers human and pet DNA preservation for members with and without funding arrangements.