ApoE4 – The Ancestral Allele

Reportedly, when James Watson and Steven Pinker had their genome sequenced, they declined to know their risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Clearly this is not an option for life extensionists and cryonicists, who are better off knowing whether they have a copy or, worse, two copies of the ApoE4 gene.

Patri Friedman, son of the libertarian economist David Friedman (who in turn is the son of the Nobel laureate Milton Friedman), recently learned that he has two copies of the ApoE4 gene when 23andMe updated their reports. Caucasian and Japanese carriers of two E4 alleles have between 10 and 30 times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 75 years of age, as compared to those not carrying any E4 alleles. Patri is a life extensionist, practitioner of the paleo diet, and recently made cryonics arrangements with his whole family at Alcor – and is thus far more prone to a pro-active course of action.

When he realized that there was no good central resource for people with copies of the ApoE4 gene he started a new blog called ApoE4 – The Ancestral Allele, which aims to share practical information and research for health-conscious E4 carriers. The first posts discuss some of the benefits of having the E4 gene (better episodic memory) and what kind of diet is recommended for E4 carriers. He also encourages guest posts and other co-bloggers to help run the website.

Philosophy of science and life extension

Paul Edwards concludes his chapter ‘The Semantic Challenge’ in his book God and the Philosophers with the following observation about logical positivism:

It is not uncommon nowadays to hear logical positivism dismissed as a set of crude errors and confusions. This is done with an air condescension by philosophers whose writings are usually models of obscurity. To people of my generation who came to philosophy in the 1940s, when traditional metaphysicians  were a dominating force, logical positivism was a liberating movement. Occasionally the leading figures were guilty of dogmatism, and on some important issues, such as the mind body problem and the question of free will, the logical positivists made no significant contributions, but the main doctrines seem to me substantially sound. The verification principle in particular, when stated with suitable amendments, is a powerful weapon against pretentious humbug.

Do life extensionists need to take an interest in philosophy of science and metaphysics? In his review of James Ladyman and Don Ross’s Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, Alcor staff member Mike Perry notes that “as immortalists we hope to be in the world for a good long while, thus we are interested in the nature of reality. Reality determines, among other things, what our prospects are for our own longterm survival.”

Alternatively, one could argue that metaphysics is not a theoretically legitimate discipline and that the verifiable claims of physics exhaust what we can say about “reality.” Perhaps the most useful benefit of familiarizing oneself with philosophy of science and analytic philosophy is that it enables one to get a better appreciation of the difference between meaningful experimental science and sweeping generalizations deduced from shaky metaphysics.

Further reading: Five important empiricist philosophy books

The presumption of death

Bertrand Russell once said that “most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.” One does not need to look any further than the many responses to Kerry Howley’s recent article about cryonics and hostile partners in New York Times Magazine to find support for Russell’s witty remark. One commenter suggested that “an easy solution would be to just agree with him all the way to the grave. Then bury or cremate him. He’ll never know.” Such a cruel attitude may not be completely representative of what most people think about spousal disapproval of cryonics but it cannot be denied that some hostile partners and relatives have exactly responded in this way when faced with the legal death of a family member who had made cryonics arrangements. As a matter of fact, even indifference to a partner’s cryonics arrangements is a source of problems because the decreased sense of urgency, and a general unwillingness to assist with even the most basic cryonics first-aid procedures, produces substantial ischemic damage. Interfering with an individual’s cryonics wishes raises serious ethical questions because someone’s chance of survival has been reduced from a positive probability to zero.

Peggy Jackson, Robin Hanson’s wife, wonders “what’s so good about me that I’m going to live forever?” This is a strange presumption to make about life and death.  Our culture generally does not have this presumption about moral worth and non-existence. As a general rule, we do not feel that someone has to justify her reason to seek medical care and try to remain alive. The argument is even less relevant in the case of cryonics because cryonics is not publicly funded. It is also a persistent misunderstanding that the objective of cryonics is immortality. It cannot be denied that some who have chosen to make cryonics arrangements have a desire for immortality but both major cryonics organizations simply present cryonics as an experimental medical procedure to treat terminally ill patients who cannot be sustained by contemporary medical technologies. As such, there is no credible rationale to depart from the presumption in favor of life that is implied in today’s medical practice.  “What is so bad about me that I should not seek an experimental medical procedure like cryonics?” should be the obvious response when the presumption of death is made.

‘Choose life at any cost,’ ” Peggy says. “But I’ve seen people in pain. It’s not worth it.” We can agree that people should not choose life at any cost, but what is often ignored in discussions about cryonics is the rather obvious point that cryonics patients will not be resuscitated in the painful and debilitated state of a terminal patient but in a rejuvenated body without the disease the patient suffered from. Without such a condition for resuscitation, cryonics would be an exercise in futility.

One can only agree with bioethicist James Hughes that “there is a lot of ancient cultural stereotyping about the motives and moral character of people who pursue life extension”. In a number of posts on Overcoming Bias Robin Hanson himself has commented on the New York Times Magazine article. Robin draws an interesting parallel between the practice of Sati (“a funeral practice among some Hindu communities in which a recently widowed woman would either voluntarily or by use of force and coercion immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre) and objection to one’s partner’s cryonics arrangements.

Interestingly, Robin Hanson also seems to believe that a major source of anxiety about cryonics is fear of the future. Cryonics has “the problem of looking like you’re buying a one-way ticket to a foreign land.” Robin further thinks that a lot of the opposition to cryonics is driven by the possibility that it might actually work. After all, “If people were sure it wouldn’t work there’d be no point in talking about selfishness, immortality, etc.  If the main issue were a waste of money we’d see an entirely different reaction.” This suggests that cryonics organizations could benefit from altering their public relations strategies. Less emphasis on discussing technical feasibility and more emphasis on dealing with anxiety issues.

The libertarian economist Bryan Caplan always gives cryonics serious consideration but sometimes has the habit of starting his discussion of the topic on a wrong note by discussing the most outlandish resuscitation scenarios instead of just focusing on the most basic form of cryonics; resuscitation of the same physical person that has been cryopreserved. Caplan seems to  be quite interested in the question of what the odds of cryonics working are. Aside from the obvious rejoinder that the odds are much lower than they could be if cryonics was permitted as a pre-mortem elective medical procedure, the point needs to be reiterated that a small dedicated group of people can substantially increase these odds through scientific research and the creation of robust cryonics organizations.  Cryonics is not just an issue of determining fixed probabilities but also about supporting the idea and participation to increase the odds of meaningful resuscitation of people who have been written off by today’s medicine.

Cryonics is decision making under certainty par excellence. If you cannot stomach any kind of uncertainty, cryonics is not the best decision for you. As the mathematician, and current Alcor patient, Thomas Donaldson has said: “There is an IRREDUCIBLE UNCERTAINTY which is basic to cryonics , not merely an adventitious consequence of our ignorance about how memory is stored.” In his article Neural Archeology Donaldson recommends that “if you’re involved in cryonics, you’ve got to make your peace with the unknown, because it will always be there. You’ve simply got to make your peace with it.”

The one silver lining of the recent discussion of partner hostilitily to cryonics is that there has been an increasing recognition of the need for financial and legal strategies to prevent catastrophic interference with one’s cryonics arrangements.  Some of these strategies will be discussed in an upcoming issue of Alcor’s Cryonics Magazine.

Cryonics Oregon June Meeting with Aubrey de Grey and Ben Best

On June 6th the next Cryonics Oregon meeting will coincide with a downtown Portland aging conference. As a result we have been successful in persuading Cryonics Institute President Ben Best and Alcor member and biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey to attend our meeting. The theme of the evening will be “Strategies for Life extension and Rejuvenation: A Discussion with Aubrey de Grey and Ben Best.”

Dr. Aubrey de Grey will present a brief synopsis of his Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) for regeneration and rejuvenation. Ben Best will reply with his view of shortcomings of the SENS approach, and how these shortcomings can be addressed. Discussion will include such matters as biomarkers of aging, mechanisms of aging, use of dietary supplements and the relevance of cryonics.

Date:  Sunday, June 6, 2010
Time: 7:30pm – 10:00pm
Location: Roots Organic Brewing
Address: 1520 SE 7TH, Portland, OR

This will be no ordinary Cryonics Oregon meeting! Promotional materials from Alcor, CI, and SENS will be there as well.

To cover the rent of the space a minimum donation of $5.00 per person will be collected.

Attendees under 21 are allowed until 10:00 pm.

It is very important for everyone to RSVP as soon as you know if you can make it or not so we can get a good idea of attendance.

The healthy skeptic

Consumers are constantly bombarded with advice about health. Lower your cholesterol, avoid carbs, take dietary supplements, avoid Teflon, get a full body scan, etc. Such advice does not fall on deaf ears. Who does not want to remain healthy, look good, and extend life? Two other factors contribute to our eagerness to consume and follow health advice. First, the accelerating growth of knowledge in fields such as biology and biochemistry. Second, a reasonable assumption that if some chemicals and behaviors can harm us,  there must be chemicals and changes in behavior that can confer great benefits.

The role science plays in contemporary thinking about health is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it can be used to debunk grandiose claims about health by subjecting these claims to rigorous scientific investigation. On the other hand, the authority of  scientists can can be abused to support products or lifestyle changes for which there is little evidence. For many people and journalists, the phrase that “research proves” something is often enough to act on health recommendations, regardless of the nature and quality of the evidence. But it does make a lot of difference whether “research proves” means a small number of experiments in a test tube or a multi-country randomized human trial.

And that is where Robert J. Davis’ book The Healthy Skeptic: Cutting through the Hype about Your Health comes into play. What makes Davis’ book stand out over other books debunking contemporary health claims is that he gives the reader a set of solid guidelines to evaluate scientific statements about health in general. Another major strength is that the author does not single out one group of health hustlers but argues quite persuasively that misinformation about health is not confined to pharmaceutical companies or sellers of dietary supplements, but is rampant among government, non-profit organizations, and consumer activists as well. For example, as  the author writes about consumer activists:

Simply because they’re looking out for our welfare doesn’t necessarily mean that the public interest groups always tell us the truth. Rather than helping us, they can sometimes cause harm by frightening us unnecessarily and diverting our attention from risks that are far more important. As healthy skeptics, we need to apply the same scrutiny to their advice as we give to that from the industry-funded groups or anyone else.

The most “timeless” aspect of the book is the chapter where the author discusses the use and abuse of science in health. Before drawing our wallet or changing our diet, we can ask ourselves the following eight questions:

1. What kind of study is it (laboratory research, short-term human studies, randomized clinical trials etc.)
2. How big is the effect?
3. Could the findings be a fluke?
4. Who was studied?
5. Is there a good explanation?
6. Who paid for the research?
7. Was it peer reviewed?
8.  How does it square with other studies?

As should be clear from those questions, behind the phrase “research proves” are many shades of grey. As the author points out, the question of how a study squares with other studies is perhaps the most crucial question. There is so much (poor) research being published that almost any claim about health can be supported by scientific studies. Sellers of dietary supplements often exploit this by presenting only studies that “support” their recommendations. If health advice does not come with qualifications and/or opposing research conclusions are not mentioned at all, one should be very wary.

Perhaps the most important chapters for life extentionists are those on dietary supplements and “anti-aging doctors.” Davis gives a number of useful recommendations to evaluate claims about supplements:

– Verify “clinically proven” claims
– Don’t assume that “natural” means safe
– Be skeptical of claims that a souped-up or specifically targeted vitamin or mineral supplement is better than an ordinary one
– Don’t be swayed by weasel words (such as “maintains heart health” or “provides immune support”)
– Be wary of organizations or individuals who provide information about supplements and also sell them

When all is said and done, the book does not recommend any radical interventions to improve health or prolong life and sticks to the usual recommendations (don’t smoke, exercise, moderation in eating and drinking, etc.) This is not because of cynicism, but because the more radical claims are just not backed up by contemporary science.

Life extensionists and futurists may believe that they are mostly immune to wishful thinking and the marketing of snake oil but  they may be less immune to more subtle psychological (deadly) traps such as the belief that “this time, things are different,” or the naive assumption that all problems can be solved, given enough time and knowledge. Although progress in science can benefit from scientists that are committed to achieve  important goals like increasing the maximum life span or even defeating death altogether, in reality it is often hard to tell the difference between being motivated by such desires and simply assuming that they will be satisfied, and thus crossing the line into meliorist dogmatic belief.

An interview with the author can be found on the Amazon page for the book.

Greg Jordan on Buddhism, Epicureanism, and Immortalism

“Buddhism and Epicureanism combat the fear of death by accommodating the emotions to the reasonable certainty of death. Contemporary immortalism (which includes projects such as life extension, cryonic suspension, and universal immortalism) argues that scientific and technological solutions to the problem of death can be found, thus questioning the inevitability of death. Buddhist, Epicurean, and contemporary immortalist approaches to death and the fear of death are explored, compared, and contrasted.”

Read the complete article:

Gregory Jordan  – Fearless in the Face of Death: Buddhist Detachment, Epicurean Equanimity, and Contemporary Immortalism

Liberty and oblivion

In 1991 the Libertarian Alliance published an article called “Immortality: Liberty’s Final frontier” (PDF) by David Nicholas. In this article the author argues that “the continuing fact of death renders all talk of liberty ultimately futile.” The author further argues that our concern for the future will diminish as we approach death. But instead of facing the enemy, we devise all kinds of defensive strategies.

Life extensionists often speak disparagingly of such coping mechanisms. But as argued on this blog before, one can hardly blame people for trying to live in peace with the inevitable. Raging at the prospect of death, if no rational means can be imagined to overcome or delay it during our lifetime is foolish and unproductive. But as Herbert Marcuse said, there is a difference between accepting death and elevating it to something that gives meaning to life.

Historically, the delay between the technical ability to place a person in low subzero temperatures to avoid decomposition and its actual implementation was not excessive at all. Perhaps the biggest technical obstacle to broader acceptance of cryonics is that most people still believe that the inability of the human body to sustain itself as an integrated organism must necessarily mean the end of the person as well.

In her  dissertation “An Examination of the Bio-Philosophical Literature on the Definition and Criteria of Death: When is Dead Dead and Why Some Donation After Cardiac Death Donors are Not” Leslie Whetstine dissects traditional definitions of death and proposes an “ontological” definition of death that recognizes what is important in humans: personhood and consciousness. Such a definition of death should make us think twice before giving up on a person when technologies are available that offer the prospect of being cured and restored to good health in the future.

Overcoming death is an ambitious (perhaps too ambitious) objective to sway the general public, not in the least because it contains a strong element of wishful thinking. But spreading the “meme” that most people who currently are destined for the worms or the flames still possess the neurophysical basis of their personality at “death” might have a better chance.

But we should be careful not to present the fight against death as a fight for liberty.  Death is not a man-made imposition and should not be brought under the rubric of human freedom. It can become an issue of liberty when political mechanisms are used to prevent people to take advantage of the means that offer them a chance to postpone death and prolong life. If we present the case for life extension and experimental medical procedures such as cryonics in a thoughtful manner, such scenarios may be minimized.

Thomas Donaldson on cryonics and anti-aging

Just a superficial look at the history of the life extension movement will suffice  to show the rise and fall of numerous fads and trends in ideas about the mechanisms and “treatment” of aging.  Psychological meliorism and simplistic visions of biochemistry create overly optimistic expectations about extending the maximum human lifespan.  But how can we know if a treatment is able to extend the maximum lifespan of humans without giving it to them and waiting….

In his article “Why Cryonics Will Probably Help You More Than Antiaging” (2004), cryonics activist Thomas Donaldson contrasts cryonics with antiaging as a means to life extension and argues that a major advantage of cryonics is that cryobiology research can move at a much faster pace than anti-aging research, especially as it pertains to humans:

The best possible proof that a treatment will indefinitely prolong the lives of human beings must come from a demonstration of its effects on human beings. Not fruit flies, worms, mice, or rats, but human beings. Yet there’s a small problem here: we are human beings ourselves, and a proof that a treatment prolongs the lifespan of people will take … at least the lifespan of some people…cryobiology can progress much faster than antiaging. Not only that, but its progress almost totally lacks the problems of proving that an advance has happened. The state of a brain, or even a section of brain, after vitrification and rewarming to normal temperature, shows directly whether or not the method used improved on previous methods.

What about treatments that have been shown to extend the maximum lifespan in small mammals? Or using  treatments that have been shown in humans to stop or slow down the aging process?

“It takes a long time and the actual reports on clinical use of a drug for physicians to get an idea of the effects of longterm use of that drug.  Very few drugs of any kind get formal tests for the entire lifespan of normal people taking them.”

Even if people are not prevented from experimenting with various life extension technologies, these epistemological and practical problems cannot easily be overcome.

“No matter what some scientists say, a cure for aging involves many problems all of which will need time for their solution. Even now, you may be young and feel that you need not think about cryonics because some means to slow your aging will come before you’ve gotten very old, and from that still other means to slow your aging even more … and so to true agelessness. In this article we have seen why such dreams of a rapid solution to aging cannot come fast for any of us. At the same time, cryonic suspension able at least to preserve our brains in a reversible form, allowing restoration of vital functions, looks likely to come much sooner.”

And as Robert Prehoda pointed out in an old interview, successful treatment of aging will still leave an individual vulnerable to accidents:

Immortality is statistically impossible because accidents would eventually eliminate all individuals in any non-aging population.

Despite these arguments, the life extension and “transhumanist” movement remains many times larger than the people who have made cryonics arrangements.  Some reasons for this are explored in another entry, but the mystery remains.

Robert Prehoda in Cryonics Reports

Now online is an old interview with Robert W. Prehoda. Prehoda was a prolific science writer who published on topics such as aging, life extension, and technological forecasting. In 1969 Prehoda published the book “Suspended Animation: The Research Possibility That May Allow Man to Conquer the Limiting Chains of Time.” In this visionary book, Prehoda covered a variety of means to extend the maximum human life span including, but not limited to, chemical  anabiosis, human hibernation, suspended animation, and controlling the aging process.

Although Prehoda was involved in the James Bedford cryopreservation, he did  not advocate offering cryonics services before reversible cryopreservation could be demonstrated in a mammal. In this he does not differ from many other (cryobiological) researchers. A major problem with this perspective is that future technologies may be able to reverse the damage caused by today’s preservation methods. It offers no hope for people who are terminally ill today. And as recent history has demonstrated, engaging in cryonics now can also create a stronger infrastructure to support legitimate cryobiology research. The least toxic vitrification agent to date, M22, would not have existed today without an existing cryonics infrastructure.

Despite attempts from Mike Perry and Mike Darwin to locate Robert Prehoda, it is not known if he is still alive.

Interview with Robert W. Prehoda (1969)

Interview with Cryonics Institute president Ben Best

This is the first in a series of interviews with individuals in the life extension and cryonics movement. We start off with an interview with Ben Best, president of the Cryonics Institute.

What is your philosophy toward life?

I think that “sense of life” or emotional involvement  in life is the most crucial determinant of orientation toward life per se. I can rationalize and try to  understand my sense of life — and probably exert  influence — but to assert that I have “control” of  it would be saying too much. Existentially, although I sometimes feel “thrown” helplessly into the world,  for the most part I have a conviction that I must accept responsibility for my conditions and exert  effort & intelligence to improve — and that effort  & intelligence can produce results.

I have an immense appreciation of my life and  experiences whether those experiences are positive or negative. I certainly don’t enjoy negative or  painful experiences at the time I am experiencing them (and do not seek them out), but I am glad to have  them in my history. My greatest regrets in life are not so much things that I have done or that have  happened to me, but things that I have not done. The great evils of life are aging and death. If  these two evils could be remedied there would be  time enough to use all that has been learned from  the negative experiences and to create positive experiences that fulfill the promises of life  which I have experienced in tantalizing tastes.  (This is not to say that I have not already  experienced life in a wide variety of ways.)

But regrets aside, I love all that I have  gotten from life, and I simply want more, more,  more… And I am sad that there aren’t more  people who feel the same way. I have written on  these themes on my website:


Are you still a practitioner of caloric restriction?

I practice calorie restriction only to the  extent of eating fewer calories than I would  eat were I not so conscious of benefits of  restricting calories. I was once far more  aggressive in restricting my calories than I currently am. My CRAN (Caloric Restriction with  Adequate Nutrition) practices have been described on my website:


Do you believe that taking supplements can extend life?

Yes, I think there is no question that supplements  can “square the curve” and extend average lifespan. A major breakthrough occurred in the mid-1990s when  the AMA published a study showing that selenium supplements caused a 50% reduction in cancer  incidence [JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION;  Clark,LC; 276(24):1957-1963 (1996)]. Formerly the  medical establishment insisted that dietary supplements  are of no benefit. My website contains considerable  evidence of supplements reducing the incidence of  various disease conditions:


More controversial is the claim that supplements  can extend maximum lifespan. Unfortunately, too many people believe that lack of convincing evidence  that supplements can extend maximum lifespan is equivalent to evidence that supplements do not  extend lifespan in any way. “Squaring the curve” and preventing disease may be a means to live long  enough (and healthy enough) to benefit from rejuvenation technologies — whether or not  supplements can extend maximum lifespan.

How did you get involved in cryonics?

I was very interested in my health from an  early age — and not because I had serious health problems (I haven’t). I also had an early aversion  to death, and later, as a teenager, enjoyed science fiction stories that described  immortality and endless youth. I found  the PROSPECT OF IMMORTALITY in a health  food store and I also read Alan Harrington’s  THE IMMORTALIST. I argued in favor of the idea  of cryonics years before I became seriously  involved. After getting my computing science degree  and beginning work as a programmer in Toronto  in 1987 I seriously studied life extension and less seriously got involved in cryonics  (became a Director of the Cryonics Society of Canada). My emphasis was more on life  extension, because I did not give cryonics a very good chance of working. Since that time  I have become much more optimistic about the chances of cryonics working. And hopefully I am improving  the chances of cryonics working.

Do you think humans can achieve immortality?

Sadly, no. Forever is forever, and something will  eventually kill every human. I have written about this subject in detail on my website:


What do you consider the most important reasons why  not many people sign up for cryonics?

They don’t enjoy life enough or they discount the reality/proximity of death or they believe that cryonics is in opposition to religion. The third reason is probably  the most important for the most people, but I believe that  it is important to mention the first two reasons as an  explanation for the attitudes of people who do not  use religion as an argument against cryonics.

Do you agree that cryonics should be presented as a form  of long term critical care medicine?

This is a far more reasonable approach than  opposing cryonics to religion, especially because cryonics can only hope to extend life, not guarantee  immortality. I more often describe cryonics as “experimental medicine” to emphasize that it is  unproven and not guaranteed to work.

Have you talked to children about cryonics?

Not much. I did have a recent experience in  which I spoke to about a hundred middle school  students about cryonics in five classes (groups of  20) for about an hour per class. The students were mostly silent, asking very few relevant questions,  so I can’t say much about what it is like to discuss cryonics with children. I was later told  that the next day the children came to class with many relevant questions.

What are your other interests besides cryonics and life extension?

My website shows a range of my interests:


which include travel, history, philosophy, economics,  computing, business, and science in general. I have interests, like massage and humanistic psychology, which  I have not discussed on my website. I have some good  friendships, and I am interested in my friends. I am actually  interested in almost everything to some extent and my love  of learning, thinking and understanding has much to do with  my love of life.

I have made a hobby of learning about every element in the periodic table. I have cards with information about each element, and I study these cards while I work-out on my stairmaster, which is my main form of exercise. (I have tried running, but injured myself too often. Stairmaster allows study while getting low-impact aerobic exercise.) A large portion of my Wikipedia edits (aside from cryonics and life extension) are clarifications of information about elements and compounds — questions that occurred to me while studying on my stairmaster.

I have also recently become more interested in planetary science and space travel. Formerly, a desire to see the world of the future did not play much of a role in my craving for extended youth, but increasingly I add a disappointment for not being able to see and participate in all of the exciting things that will happen.

The only sport that interests me very much is women’s tennis. Some of my best friends are women. I am fascinated by women  and hope that I will someday have a lasting and fulfilling  relationship with one. However, I am too much of  a workaholic devoted to cryonics and life extension to  spend much effort on that project.

What kind of jobs did you work before being elected President of CI?

I had many odd jobs before working as a taxi-driver  and teamster (including semi-trailer driver). I also worked as a computer operator, tutor/teaching assistant  and as a pharmacist. Then I became a computer programmer  for a bank and taught computer programming languages  (APL and Java) at night school in Toronto.

What made you decide to run for president of CI?

I decided that the time had come for me to devote my  life to cryonics. I felt that I could make a unique and profound contribution to the workability of cryonics.  Although work as a computer programmer paid well, the  product of my labor was not personally meaningful to  me (which is not the same as satisfaction with doing a good job). It is extremely satisfying to me to be  able to do the work I do as CI President. I cannot think of any other work I would rather be doing. And  I have no desire to not be working as long as I can  do this work.

How did you meet Saul Kent, and to what extent does Mr. Kent  currently influence your actions and behaviors?

I met Saul Kent at the October 1989 Cryonics Conference held near Detroit Michigan:


Although Saul has been very influential in other cryonics  organizations, this was not the case with the Cryonics  Institute. I am not often in communication with Saul, but I respect what he has done for cryonics and on a few  occasions I have deferred to his wishes on matters  that were not of great significance. I am not conscious  that he influences my actions and behaviors aside  from my appreciation of his financing of cryonics-related  research. Saul is certainly influential in terms of his  authority at Suspended Animation, Inc., with whom many  CI Members (including me) have contracts for  standby/stabilization. But for the most part I have not  dealt with him directly.

What do you consider your biggest failures and achievements at CI?

I failed to get the IRS to grant 501(c)13 status to the  Cryonics Institute. I failed to get a patent for CI-VM-1. I failed to change CI policy to allow acceptance of  neuro patients. I have failed to restore the ability of CI to perfuse in the CI facility.

I succeeded in going through all of the CI Member files  and creating a computer database that provides a means of  quantifying and quickly accessing Member information (and in  the process eliminating bad records of lost and deceased members).  I have greatly improved the content (not the appearance)  of the Cryonics Institute website. I have made significant  revisions to the paperwork and I created contracts for Standby/Transport services for CI Members with  Suspended Animation. I have created computer control for patient cooling. I have placed all of the financial  bookkeeping on CI’s computer, relieving the CI Treasurer of most of the chores of gathering data  for financial statements and payment of taxes. I have written case reports for all new CI patients. I have caused prepayments  to be treated as liabilities rather than income. I have  changed the fiscal year to be the calendar year.  I continue to make improvements in CI perfusion  equipment and procedures. Among other things…

CI encourages member involvement through elections and  mailing-lists. Do you think CI benefits from this?

I co-created the CI Members’ forum with John de Rivaz  and I am pleased with the channel of communication that it has promoted. The forum has put CI Members in touch  with CI Members, Directors, Officers and Staff. I am  usually a very active participant in the CI Members’ forum.

I have actively encouraged CI Members to be candidates  in the Board of Director elections. I think that voting  and running for office increases Member participation  in the Cryonics Institute — which I believe is a  good thing.

What kind of improvements would you like to implement  at CI in the coming years?

I want to improve the efficiency of patient cooling and add the capability to cool two patients simultaneously.  I want to be able to create financial statements more  quickly and easily. I want to improve perfusion methods  and equipment, with a particular eye toward reducing edema.  I want to improve the safety associated with operations in  the patient care area. I want to restore the ability of CI  to perfuse at the CI facility. I want better documentation  for what is done at CI. I need to address the challenges of growth, including adding physical capacity and  additional staff. For CI (and in the cryonics community in general), I would like to see more fruitful attention  and effort devoted to wireless vital signs alarm systems.  Too many cryonicists living alone have suffered massive  ischemia, autolysis and decomposition due to the absence  of such systems. Cryonicists who have a cardiac arrest  while sleeping next to a spouse would also benefit.

What is a typical day like at CI?

Most days involve a reasonable amount of answering  the phone and e-mail. Readings are taken of liquid nitrogen levels in the cryostats daily, which I only  do when Andy is away. Filling of some cryostats is done twice weekly by Andy — only once weekly are all of the  cryostats re-filled. Andy does the member paperwork and  building maintenance. I do the bookkeeping/tax payments  and website updates. A large part of the time I am researching and writing. When we get a patient, the  patient becomes the center of attention.

You have investigated the issue of molecular mobility at low  temperatures. Has this made you more or less skeptical about  intermediate temperature storage for cryonics patients?

I am more skeptical about the value of intermediate  temperature storage, but I am skeptical of my skepticism  because my results are so inconclusive.

At the recent CI training, Alcor’s Readiness Coordinator Regina Pancake attended and led a successful case simulation. Do you think it would be a positive development if there was more mutual assistance and cross-training between staff and members of cryonics organizations?

The co-operation between CI and Alcor in the last few years has been reasonably good. A CryoSummit was held between Alcor, ACS and Alcor in August 2002. After some wrangling I was permitted to attend an Alcor training in October 2003. In the summer  of 2007 Tanya and I co-led a training in Alberta. Dr. Pichugin  gave some training to your wife Chana when she was an Alcor  employee in December 2007. In May 2008 Alcor sent Regina  to attend the CI Cryonics Rescue Training. I would like to witness/participate in an Alcor case, but the  opportunities for doing this seem limited.

The thorniest issue related to co-operation between CI and Alcor has to do with local response in areas where there is a mix of Alcor and CI Members, such as in Toronto and the UK. The UK has set a good example (with Alcor approval) of allowing both CI Members and Alcor Members to participate in the trainings. But where proprietary information is involved such as the Critical Care Research meds, even signing a non-disclosure agreement would not be an option for CI Members insofar as they are the people the non-disclosure agreements are designed to “protect” against. Worse, if a CI Member becomes terminal and the local group decides to do volunteer standby and stabilization, how much Alcor equipment can be used? Alcor invests a great deal of money in that equipment, and proprietary sentiments are completely appropriate. In practice, this has not been a problem thus far, but if both cryonics organizations continue to grow, situations of this nature are bound to arise and I hope that reasonable solutions can be found.

How do you feel about competition in cryonics?

I believe that arrogance and complacency are poison  for cryonics organizations, and competition is of value in shaking complacency (sometimes). I definitely think  that it would be a bad idea for cryonics to have all the eggs in one organizational basket. I opposed the  idea of a merger between Alcor and CI when the issue was raised at the CryoSummit in 2002. There is already  too much vulnerability to lawsuits and legal/political  threats. More organizations in more locations  (including more countries) would reduce this vulnerability.

Some people say that CI should offer its own standby and  stabilization services. Do you agree with this?

CI does not have the resources to provide standby  and stabilization in the Detroit area, much less anywhere else. There is very little demand for these services by  CI Members — and very little willingness to pay more than  the minimum. CI Members interested in contracting for  standby and stabilization do so with Suspended Animation.

I have attempted to provide both local and remote CI  Members with support in volunteer standby and stabilization.  The May 2008 training was given as part of this support,  although only six CI Members attended. I have obtained and  discussed equipment that local groups could use, but very few CI Members showed any interest. I will continue to  support volunteer effort by CI Members, but my expectations  are not high.

What are the prospects of CI Members coming to the CI area  to retire, create mutual support communities and start  cryonics hospices?

A few CI Members have shown an interest in creating  a mutual support community near CI, but for the most part CI Members would rather remain near home and family  when they become terminal. In a couple of cases, CI Members  with serious health problems have recently moved to be  near CI. This creates the potential for faster  response, but in both cases the Members are living  alone and may not benefit without alarm systems.

Dr. Yuri Pichugin resigned his post at CI several months ago.  Are there any plans to hire a new researcher or to continue  research at CI in some way?

There are no plans for a new researcher. Concerning  R & D, I think the most immediate need is for greater Development, rather than Research — except to the  extent that my own studying & experimentation with equipment & procedures is considered research.

In the recent past you have stated that there should be the  equivalent of a “Manhattan Project” for cryoprotectant toxicity. Can you elaborate on this? How do you think cryonics can realize this goal?

I have elaborated on this in the March/April 2008  issue of LONG LIFE magazine. Eliminating or greatly reducing  cryoprotectant toxicity would be the greatest possible step  toward suspended animation through cryopreservation with  vitrification. If suspended animation through cryopreservation  became a reality there would be immediate acceptance and  adoption by conventional medicine. Patient stabilization  would be perfected by researchers all over the world and  adopted in hospitals and other medical facilities.

I think that too much research effort in cryonics is devoted  to whole body vitrification, which is a side issue.  Cryoprotectant toxicity needs to be the focus of attention,  and studied with experiments directed toward understanding  the molecular mechanisms on a theoretical level — not simply  trial and error. Whole body vitrification could very well be  achieved more quickly if cryoprotectant toxicity was the  focus of study.

CI is regulated as a cemetery, you are not allowed to cryoprotect patients in your own facility, and neuropreservation seems to be controversial in Michigan. Is it not time to relocate CI to another state?

It would be far too costly and risky to attempt to move to another state.