Robert Ettinger‘s book Youniverse: Toward a Self-Centered Philosophy of Immortalism and Cryonics is a book containing many insights and deep thoughts, yet has such an informal writing style that many readers might not take it seriously. I know of no other work of philosophy in which the author begins a sentence with “Anyway,”. Ettinger writes that the first cryonics-related organization was founded “in 1962 or 1963, I forget which”, then says “Why don’t I look it up?” and justifies himself by reference to a Woody Allen movie. This is not the kind of writing one expects from a philosophy treatise.

Ettinger may not take himself too seriously, but he is even more dismissive of most of the world’s foremost philosophers and religious figures. The writings of Aristotle are called “ramblings”. In describing William James’s statement that James was only able to understand Hegel while under the influence of nitrous oxide, Ettinger notes how appropriate it is that nitrous oxide is also called laughing gas. Ettinger wrote that “Rousseau has been extravagantly praised, and not only by himself”, but dismisses Rousseau as unoriginal, incoherent, not profound, and frequently wrong. Ettinger describes the philosopher G.E. Moore as being “definitely confused as well as confusing, abounding in contradictions and non-sequiturs, sometimes substituting assertions for arguments.” Ettinger often seems himself guilty of the last accusation. He faults Isaac Asimov for the “absurdity” that without the “saving grace of death” the rigid views of the old would prevent further progress — but leaves a critique of Asimov’s argument “as an exercise for the reader”. Ettinger writes that “Paeans of praise have poured from the pens of platoons of panting pundits” concerning Godel’s Incompleteness theorem, which he dismisses as a linguistic trick associated with the failure of physics to correspond identically with formal (mathematical) systems. By finding the quote from Wittgenstein “I don’t know why we are here, but I am pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves”, Ettinger has massively deflated my respect for the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ettinger describes the modern “self-styled bioethicist” as a “new type of vermin or parasite” whose major accomplishment has been to create “the illusion of looking down on people far above them.”

Ettinger wrote that “fear of God” is generally really fear of parents, neighbors, and a lifetime of conditioning. He says people too readily submit to tradition rather than use reason. To be “normal” is to have the same delusions as the neighbors. He says loyalty “is frequently a worthy habit”, but sometimes nothing more than an unjustified habit. Ettinger says faith is arrogant certainty in the absence of evidence, which ultimately “boils down to sacrificing your integrity for a bit of comfort”. To Ettinger it is obvious that non-human animals have consciousness and feelings, and that a God that disregarded the suffering of animals on the grounds that animals have no soul “would have less compassion than the average human”. Like many physicists, Ettinger seems accepting of the idea that time and the universe began with the Big Bang, but wonders where God would be before He created time and the universe. Ettinger can make no sense of an omniscient, omnipotent God creating people who need to live their lives to prove whether they deserve Heaven or Hell. Ettinger says that a benevolent God would forgive the skeptics, who should therefore have no reason to compromise their integrity and disbelief.

Ettinger’s irreverence extends to the legal system. Frequent use of appeals courts and split decisions in the Supreme Court are given as evidence that laws are unclear or that bias is pervasive. He describes juries as “ignorant, stupid and readily swayed by irrelevancies and by histrionics”. In connection with the adversarial system, Ettinger wrote “All lawyers are frightening, and specialty litigators are terrifying. Some firms are said to keep their lead litigators chained in a tower room and fed raw meat until needed.” I asked Mr. Ettinger what his beloved son (a lead litigator at a prestigious law firm) had to say about the law chapter, but I got no definitive response.

As the book title YOUNIVERSE implies, Ettinger believes that “me-first” and “feel-good” are the only possible basis for conscious motivation. He also states that a person ought to want whatever will maximize future “feel-good”, and that people do not always want what they ought to want. Ettinger believes that “figuring out what we ought to want is the primary problem of philosophy”. He says that a main aim of YOUNIVERSE is to debunk the views that values are arbitrary or externally given.

Ettinger challenges the claim of David Hume that “You can’t derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’”, and — like Ayn Rand with her Objectivist Ethics — he does so by reference to values being rooted in biology. Ettinger disparagingly dismisses Rand’s views as narcissism, “me generation”, and “looking out for number one” without explaining how this differs from “me-first”. Rooted in biology, Rand makes survival the basis of her ethics, rather than “feel-good”. Ironically, Ettinger writes more approvingly of Nietzsche’s self-centeredness, although Ettinger faults Nietzsche’s belief in the importance of power over other people as a core value. (Ettinger notes that Nietzsche believed Russians and Jews, rather than Germans, would be the “master races” of Europe.)

I disagree with the arguments of Rand and Ettinger for deriving “ought” from biology. Biology dictates that animals value food and water, but many humans have committed suicide by refusing food and water. To assert that such people are “wrong” and did not do what they ought to have done would be attempting to externally impose values upon them. Ettinger could argue that such people were acting in such a way as to maximize their satisfaction — “me-first” and “feel-good” (he gives the examples of a woman rushing into a burning building to save her baby, or “saints” who gain personal satisfaction from ascetic service to others). But by that argument they were wanting what they ought to want. The point Ettinger seems to be making is that people should not allow others to impose their values upon them — should not be driven by guilt, social pressure, the need to conform. But if people are driven by these motives, they are nonetheless still maximizing their satisfaction. Ettinger might say that such people are acting without integrity by not being true to themselves, but why should people be blamed for valuing the opinions of others and for this being important to them? If it is “impossible to be motivated by anything other than self interest, because motivation means what is important to the self”, then the word “ought” is inappropriate. If “me-first” and “feel-good” are the only possible bases for conscious motivation, then the word “ought” is inappropriate. The only reason that people fail to want what they ought to want is because of matters of fact, not matters of value — people failing to appreciate the consequences of their actions in the context of their values.

The issue of determinism and free will is a subject about which I have thought, read, and written about considerably (see A Case for Free Will AND Determinism ), yet I found Ettinger’s chapter on this subject impressively thoughtful and informative. I mostly agree with Ettinger’s views, about which we are both very much in the minority. I won’t say much about the issues or insights I gained in the determinism chapter, but I will comment on how he applies determinism to cryonics. Ettinger notes that “determinism is very nearly equivalent to” conservation of information, which implies that any human who ever lived could be reconstructed without having been cryonically preserved — except that there may never be adequate computing power.

Although I can conceive of retaining my personal identity in the total absence of any memories that I have, I nonetheless find the idea hard to relate-to. I am even less comfortable about the idea that the essence of my personal identity is feeling. Ettinger has firmer opinions on these subjects than I do, but I sense that his emphasis on feeling as the essence of personal identity contradicts his admonishments about the use of reason against intuition, tradition, and conditioning.

Ettinger skims over the subject of ischemic damage in cryonics, and I think he is wrong to say that “cryothermic damage will in most cases be the most difficult to reverse”. Freezing damage is like broken pieces that are nonetheless intact, whereas ischemic damage is like dissolution or decomposition of structure. Nonetheless, I cannot quantify my argument in terms of “most cases”. I think Ettinger is wrong to cling to the word “immortality” as meaning “indefinitely extended life” when its literal meaning is “eternal life”. His use of the word “immortality” presents cryonics as an alternative to religion rather than an extension of medicine.

Although Ettinger acknowledges that death will mean an end to suffering, he sees a number of disadvantages, including
“…it’s hard to enjoy life when you’re dead.
…daisies are prettier when viewed from above.
…you can only vote in Chicago.
…you need extra strength deodorant.”
But mainly, “Life is better than death because it is more interesting.” (For my own views on the subject, see: Why Life Extension?)

In his lifetime of reading Ettinger has collected numerous notable quotes, and these gems are liberally sprinkled throughout YOUNIVERSE. Some of my favorites include “‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ presupposes that you love yourself” (Miguel de Unamuno), “The greatest part of our happiness depends on our disposition, not our circumstances” (Martha Washington), and Will Rogers’s WWII suggestion for getting rid of German U-boats: “Boil the Atlantic Ocean. How do we do that? Hey, I’m just an idea man, I leave the details to the engineers.”

Ettinger also has a chapter called “Misunderstandings” which deals with his insights into a wide variety of subjects. Indicative of my “anti-intellectual” bias, is the fact that my favorite is Ettinger’s observation that torque (force X lever arm length) has identical units to work (newton-meters), despite the fact that work and torque are completely different. He offers no solution or explanation, however.

A consequence of Ettinger’s informal writing style is that there is much autobiographical material throughout YOUNIVERSE. But the last formal chapter (I am not counting the Appendix) is explicitly autobiographical. He says “I have perhaps a few thousand admirers, hardly any of whom give me much thought or attention”. Ettinger speaks of his loneliness in having experienced the loss of all his friends and family of his generation, and that there is nobody left whom he wants to impress. Indicative of Ettinger’s world-weariness is his quote of a comment made by his brother that all of life is “killing time and amusing oneself while waiting to die”.

Ettinger’s final comments concern his plan to have a pre-mortem “jolly wake” with music, speakers, toasts, and other festivities prior to a suicide intended to improve the conditions of his cryonic preservation. Ettinger notes earlier in the book that “many people are more afraid of seeming cowardly than of facing danger”, which is why suicide with an audience of friends and family would boost his courage. The last line of the chapter reads “If I never wake up, my last experience will have been better than most — a very brief comfort, to be sure.”

Although there are some cryonicists who believe that Robert Ettinger would be the perfect cryonicist to win sympathy for voluntary self-euthanasia to improve cryopreservation, I am not one of them. How can you justify voluntary euthanasia in a non-terminal person when there is no way of knowing how many years of life that person could be expected to live? How can you justify voluntary euthanasia for ANYONE not suffering from a terminal disease, or expect the public to be sympathetic to voluntary self-euthanasia under these conditions? Even for terminal cryonics patients, I would not be to eager to see a public association of cryonics with self-euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Cryonicists would be accused of taking advantage of mentally-compliant sick and elderly people for monetary reasons, which would lead to even more cryonics-unfriendly legislation.

And there are practical problems, not the least of which is the danger of autopsy. Many cryonicists, myself included, cling to life tenaciously — much more tenaciously than the average person. I would find it very difficult to euthanize myself or have myself euthanized. The ideal situation is when death is nearly certain to occur within a week. But this is the condition in which standbys are typically initiated, not the condition in which standbys fail to occur. Heart attack is a common cause of death, and this is most often unexpected. Most cryonicists who receive standby are people dying of cancer, and whose slide toward death is along a more predictable path. The ability of cancer victims to euthanize themselves would make the standby process easier, but that would have no effect on reducing the number of cryonicists who deanimate without standby, despite having arranged for standby. There are no convincing arguments that simplifying self-euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide will lead to the majority of cryonics cases having greatly improved cryopreservation by significantly reducing the number of cryonicists deanimating under unfavorable conditions.

Some contemporary atheists and secular humanists do not stop at debunking the idea of God but seem to think that making a persuasive case against religion requires them to refute all of its associated ideas as well; including the desire for immortality. Paula Kirby is not the first secular person praising our limited lifespan and glorifying death:

For atheists it is the very transience of life that helps to give it its meaning: for it prompts us to live it to the full, to try to make the most of each day, each hour, and to savour every experience along the way. It is the acceptance of the finality of death that spurs us to live our lives to the full, thereby ensuring they are as meaningful as we can possibly make them. It is also what makes it matter that for too many people life really is a vale of tears, and why it is so important to take practical steps now to alleviate their suffering wherever possible, for there is no afterlife in which all wrongs will be righted and all tears will be dried.

Kirby does not just repeat the hollow non-empirical cliché that life can only have meaning in the face of death but she also pretends to speak on behalf of all atheists. As can be expected, she cannot imagine an extremely long lifespan to be anything else than unspeakable boredom. When she writes that “Susan Ertz got it spot on with her witty remark that ‘Millions yearn for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon” one cannot help thinking that she is conveying more information about herself and Susan Ertz than about humans in general.

It is unfortunate to see an apparently reasonable person like Kirby arguing against the desire for immortality to make the case against religion. As the secular philosopher Herbert Marcuse once noted about this ideology of death, “It is remarkable to what extent the notion of death as not only biological but ontological necessity has permeated Western philosophy–remarkable because the overcoming and mastery of mere natural necessity has otherwise been regarded as the distinction of human existence and endeavor…”

When Kirby states that it is “so important to take practical steps now to alleviate …suffering wherever possible, for there is no afterlife in which all wrongs will be righted and all tears will be dried” she is exactly promoting the kind of  fanatical pursuit of “justice in our lifetime” that is a major source of ideological struggle and ill-conceived public policies. One of the major advantages of a vastly expanded lifespan is that it will reduce this desire for immediate moral gratification and stimulate a culture with more consideration for  the long-term unintended consequences of our actions. One might even go further and claim that it is exactly the prospect of being around for a long time that will foster a culture of moral responsibility and rational decision making.

HT Mark Plus

19. March 2010 · Comments Off · Categories: Cryonics · Tags: , , , , ,

I write here of the organized self-styled “skeptics”, not normal, healthy skepticism. Most ordinary skeptics typically dismiss cryonics without even investigating the subject enough to know that it is called “cryonics” rather than “cryogenics”, or that cryonics organizations use vitrification rather than freezing.

Organized skeptics may make the same mistakes, but for many organized skeptics, “skepticism” can be a kind of faith, especially in connection with cryonics (although there are some reasonable skeptics within organized skepticism). The anti-cryonics skeptics about whom I write are those represented by the Rick Ross “Anti-Cult group:

http://forum.rickross.com/read.php?12,64749

and the “skeptics” behind the so-called RationalWiki:

http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Cryonics

These people seem as little amenable to reason as any group you can find. Instead of dialog, there is only denigration, accusation and name-calling. Their conclusions are also their premises: no intervening deductive process is evident. Added to their imperviousness to reason is their intense emotional hostility.

Although there might seem to be little hope of progress in arguing with these people, that may be an overstatement. And even in arguing with the most bigoted of skeptics, there are spectators who may be influenced. Some of these may even be less vocal skeptics who are activists in the forums.

Although it can be difficult to be emotionally detached, there is something to be said for studying organized “skeptics” as an anthropologist or behaviorist would study them. What inputs result in what outputs? Why and how do they think as they do? If we are to survive, it will help to know our enemies so as to anticipate their actions.

One thing that I have noticed is the great reluctance organized skeptics have to believe that we are sincere. They ascribe evil motives (money, power) in order to make us comprehensible to them. They cannot understand our craving for more life as a motive. The fact that cryonics costs quite a bit of money excites considerable negative attention from the skeptics, who pay no attention to the fact that the cryonics organizations doing storage are non-profit, or that storing a person in liquid nitrogen indefinitely is not something that can be done cheaply as long as the economies of scale are limited by the small number of patients. No evidence for the money-motive accusations other than the cost is attempted.

It seems as if to believe we are sincere would undermine the desire of organized skeptics to hate us and feel morally superior. Portraying cryonics as a scam (run by cynics who are motivated only by money) makes cryonicists and cryonics organizations evil, rather than deluded. Why do they feel such a need to hate us, as well as believe we are wrong? I suspect some of this may result when we undermine their beliefs with argument. They seem as attached to their beliefs as any fanatic.

Although most cryonicists are atheists or agnostics, cryonics is compatible with religion. Many religionists, unfortunately, refuse to believe this, despite the fact that there is no scriptural support for their view. So cryonicists must suffer from the hostility of these fanatics. Unfortunately, many cryonicists seem to take the position that cryonics and religion are incompatible, which exacerbates the problem by reinforcing the views of religious fanatics. I am hoping not to be offensive to religious cryonicists by having said these things, or by what I am about to say.

I believe most atheists have at least some antipathy to religion, at least to regard it as an occasional nuisance. But I also believe that most atheists have little interest in religion, and would rather think about other things.

Organized atheists are another matter. Most organized atheists are obsessed with religion. In many cases they have suffered oppressive treatment and indoctrination by religionists, and these atheists are extremely hostile and bitter about that treatment. They may have had to struggle greatly to throw-off the beliefs into which they were indoctrinated, and they resent the fact that they had been deluded. They study religion intensely to purge themselves of their indoctrination, to reinforce their new beliefs, and to prepare themselves for combat against their religious enemies.

It has been said that the only cure for alcoholism is religious fanaticism. I sometimes get the impression that those who cure themselves of religious fanaticism do so by means of anti-religious fanaticism. Such people are among those who become organized atheists. Although their mentality is supposedly the opposite of it was when they were in a religion or church, they have formed a new “church” which operates by the same rules as the old ones.

I think that organized skeptics are similar to organized atheists and, indeed, there is a great deal of membership overlap between the two groups. How scientific are people who, instead of devoting themselves to science, devote themselves to studying what they call “science woo” into which they pigeon-hole cryonics? All of the attributes of the other “woo sciences” become attributes of cryonics. (“To those who only have a hammer, every problem is a nail.”)

By being in an organization (formal or an informal list/wiki) there is peer-pressure to conform to the atheistic or “skeptical” beliefs of the group. I believe that this is what lies behind the cultish mentality of these purported anti-cult activists. There is a black-and-white view of what is cult or scam and what is not. The group labels Branch Davidians, Scientologists and cryonicists as being cults, and the group conforms in heaping the same abuse on all of the labeled organizations.

Again, I hope that I have not been offensive to religious cryonicists by anything that I have said. I don’t think any religious cryonicist has the same mentality as religious fanatics. And I expect that religious cryonicists are offended by religious fanatics and by religionists who refuse to believe that cryonics and religion are compatible.

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…

When I was in New Zealand in 1999, CI Member Cam Christie told me that one of his co-workers was against cryonics because she was a Jehovah’s  Witness and her church had a position against cryonics. I recently found an article about cryonics on the Jehovah’s Witnesses website:

The piece contains the statement:

“…the use of nanotechnology and cryonics is still more  science fiction than reality. Science has contributed to,  and may still contribute to, a longer and healthier life  for some, but it will never give anybody eternal life.  Why not? Simply put, it is because the root cause of aging  and death lies beyond the realm of human science.”

To my knowledge, this is the strongest statement, and possibly the only statement, from an organized religion against cryonics. As far as I know cryonics has been “off the radar screen” and has not merited comment by any other organized religion.

The so-called conflict between religion and cryonics disappears when cryonicists stop claiming that cryonics can give immortality or eternal life. In the quote above, the Jehovah’s Witnesses acknowledge that science can contribute to “a longer and healthier life.” The more that cryonicists can convincingly stress that this is  the goal of cryonics, the fewer enemies we may face who have the power of frustrating our goals. Aside from the fact that many cryonicists, including me, do not believe that cryonics can give immortality or eternal life.  Cryonics cannot prevent a nuclear holocaust, a supernova, a meteor destroying the earth, and many other events which are inevitable in the face of eternity.