Suspended Animation Inc. accused of incompetence

by CronoDAS2 min read18th Nov 2010139 comments

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I recently found something that may be of concern to some of the readers here.

On her blog, Melody Maxim, former employee of Suspended Animation, provider of "standby services" for Cryonics Institute customers, describes several examples of gross incompetence in providing those services. Specifically, spending large amounts of money on designing and manufacturing novel perfusion equipment when cheaper, more effective devices that could be adapted to serve their purposes already existed, hiring laymen to perform difficult medical procedures who then botched them, and even finding themselves unable to get their equipment loaded onto a plane because it exceeded the weight limit.

An excerpt from one of her posts, "Why I Believe Cryonics Should Be Regulated":

It is no longer possible for me to believe what I witnessed was an isolated bit of corruption, and the picture gets bigger, by the year...

For forty years, cryonics "research" has primarily consisted of laymen attempting to build equipment that already exists, and laymen trying to train other laymen how to perform the tasks of paramedics, perfusionists, and vascular surgeons...much of this time with the benefactors having ample funding to provide the real thing, in regard to both equipment and personnel. Organizations such as Alcor and Suspended Animation, which want to charge $60,000 to $150,000, (not to mention other extra charges, or years worth of membership dues), are not capable of preserving brains and/or bodies in a condition likely to be viable in the future. People associated with these companies, have been known to encourage people, not only to leave hefty life insurance policies with their organizations listed as the beneficiaries, to pay for these amateur surgical procedures, but to leave their estates and irrevocable trusts to cryonics organizations.

...

Again, I have no problem with people receiving their last wishes. If people want to be cryopreserved, I think they should have that right. BUT...companies should not be allowed to deceive people who wish to be cryopreserved. They should not be allowed to publish photos of what looks like medical professionals performing surgery, but in actuality, is a group of laymen playing doctor with a dead body...people whose incompetency will result in their clients being left warm (and decaying), for many hours while they struggle to perform a vascular cannulation, or people whose brains will be underperfused or turned to mush, by laymen who have no idea how to properly and safely operate a perfusion circuit. Cryonics companies should not be allowed to refer to laymen as "Chief Surgeon," "Surgeon," "Perfusionist," when these people hold no medical credentials.

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Lies travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. This reply is mostly directed to David Gerard, whose comments have been generally sensible except for some misinformation.

Re:

"And Alcor (Mike Darwin in particular) is famously litigation-happy against those it perceives as critics, which is a BIG cultural warning sign these days."

That Alcor has a history of suing critics is apparently becoming a self-perpetuating myth. The truth is that Alcor has a long history of litigating rights to cryopreserve its members and keep them in cryopreservation. However, since 1972, I'm not aware of anyone being sued for defamation by Alcor prior to Larry Johnson in 2009. Not that there's been any shortage of people saying false things about Alcor during all that time. Anyone who wants to know why Johnson achieved the dubious distinction of being the first to actually be sued can read the civil complaint

http://www.alcor.org/Library/pdfs/NewYorkComplaintAmendedJan2010.pdf

and other information about the case

http://www.alcor.org/press/response.html

While he may have been the first, I can't promise he'll be the last. There comes a point where defamation becomes ... (read more)

Like Steve Harris MD, (Chief Medical Advisor to Alcor, and someone who responded to my criticisms of SA with secondhand blatant lies that were later retracted on the advice of an attorney), Dr. Wowk's activities are largely funded by Life Extension Foundation, the very same company that funds Suspended Animation.

Dr. Wowk informs the readers of lesswrong that SA contracts with professional perfusionists, but what does that really mean, to SA's clients? It's my understanding that contract does not require the perfusionists to actually show up for cases, and that SA does not guarantee medical professionals, of any kind, will perform their procedures. I believe they can send anyone they want, no matter how unqualified, to perform their cases, without repercussion. The same goes for Alcor.

Dr. Wowk also maintains that SA contracts with surgeons. If that is true, perhaps Dr. Wowk would like to enlighten us as to why historical cryonics figure, Curtis Henderson, was butchered last year, by SA manager, Catherine Baldwin, who is NOT a physician, much less a surgeon, (though she referred to herself as a "surgeon," in SA's case report, which was published on the SA website). Then, ma... (read more)

I don't have enough information to comment on the cases in question, except that I believe SA, like everyone else in cryonics right now, makes a good faith effort to do work that nobody else wants to do, and that most cryonics cases don't fully pay for. SA was founded and is heavily subsidized by people who want the cryonics stabilization service it provides. SA has motive to do a good job, and use the best people that resources and case logistics permit. Prior to SA, the best CI members could expect was to be collected by a local mortician. Prior to CI, the best CI members could expect from clinical medicine was to be put in the ground.

I can attest from experience on the board that Alcor also makes a good faith effort to do a good job consistent with resources available. In fact, it often makes extraordinary efforts. Nobody has any personal financial incentive to skimp. In fact there is incentive to develop and implement high standards of care because we are all signed up for that care. I've explained the qualifications of the contract surgeons (including a neurosurgeon) whom Alcor uses in its operating room, and I'm generally satisfied with the quality of cryoprotecti... (read more)

Dr. Wowk steps in to defend SA, with comments such as "SA contracts with professional perfusionists and surgeons," but then admits he "(doesn't) have enough information to comment on the cases in question," (two of their most recent perfusion cases). He also does not deny there is no guarantee Alcor, or SA's, clients/members will be cared for, by such professionals. (The situation brings to mind "bait and switch" sales tactics.)

My argument is that Dr. Wowk has little knowledge of SA's procedures, or capabilities, something he seems to be confirming. Now that he can't argue their actual capabilities, in regard to providing the very expensive medical procedures they are selling, Dr. Wowk seems to want to argue "good intentions." I think Dr. Wowk, (who has not worked at SA), should probably consider it possible he may also be lacking enough information, to come to that conclusion. Judging by the events I witnessed as an SA employee, my reviews of their recent case reports, SA's secrecy, and my knowledge of the medical procedures they are attempting to perform, I would say "good intentions" are not the prevailing winds, at SA.

I don't kn... (read more)

7bgwowk11yExcept for the very small number of people who choose to sign up for it, practically no one values or cares about cryonics. No one takes the time to learn its premises, its history, the technologies it's predicated upon, or what technical elements will ultimately determine its success or failure. There are no schools or generally-recognized standards. No one cares. This includes mainstream medicine and mortuary science. My understanding is that you yourself have no personal interest in cryonics. Against this backdrop, it's not credible that there is a conspiracy among cryonics companies-- companies run by people who want cryonics for themselves --to suppress a tide of experts who could easily step in and do cryonics better. There is no corps of knowledgeable physicians or morticians ready and able to deliver cryonics services that is being displaced by incompetent lay people. So what do cryonics organizations do? They train lay people and Emergency Medical Technicians to do tasks suited to those levels of expertise. They use morticians to help with some aspects of cases, including vascular cannulation. They contract with sympathetic medical professionals who help with expertise-intensive aspects of cryonics cases when they can, ideally multiple professionals for redundancy. They hire full-time medical professionals for certain roles when they can afford to do so, and when candidates can be found. Or they allow their members to contract with companies, like SA, who do the above. This mixture of people is then cast into world where they must perform these unscheduled procedures at short notice anywhere within the country, and sometimes beyond. Where they must lug hundreds of pounds of equipment and perfusate to do it. Where sometimes they have to wait weeks at bedside, only for the patient to recover. And where there is no mainstream infrastructure, support, or understanding of what they do. And, recently, where they are bitterly criticized when cryonics cases fai
1melmax11yIt is ridiculously absurd for Dr. Wowk to write that it is his "understanding" that I, (a person who has probably written millions of words about cryonics), "have no personal interest in cryonics." Dr. Wowk doesn't know me, and his sources of information, about me, are most likely lacking in credibility. (I'm sure Dr. Wowk is smart enough to have been able to recognize the MANY lies that have been told about me, by some of the people he frequently works with, in cryonics.) Historically, cryonics organizations have focused on attempting to train laymen to perform procedures normally performed by vascular surgeons and perfusionists. If there have been recent efforts to retain qualified professionals, (as an added expense, rather than as replacements for unqualified persons), I think it most likely due to persistent, harsh criticism. On the rare occasion a medical professional, (someone who has had the potential to bring other professionals into the field), has expressed an interest in cryonics, what was the result? What happened when Larry Johnson brought up the issue of OSHA violations, at Alcor? Did his superiors ask him to remedy the situation, or did they ask him to shred documents and delete computer files, related to his complaints? Does Dr. Wowk really know the truth, regarding the nature of the responses to my complaints, at SA? If I thought he did, I would be forced to think very poorly, of Dr. Wowk. Personally, I don't think Dr. Wowk really knows what goes on, on a daily basis, at some of the organizations he defends. Whether intentional, or unintentional, Dr. Wowk's expressions of sympathy toward me, for trivial matters such as those related to the equipment at SA, appear to be an attempt to paint me, (once again), as nothing more than a disgruntled former employee. I assure Dr. Wowk I am not capable of carrying a personal grudge, to this extreme. (Dr. Wowk might also consider that the person who offended me most, left SA quite some time ago, and that I
6bgwowk11yYou've said elsewhere that you have no personal interest in cryonics for yourself, and that you don't believe cryonics will work. You imply that you don't believe it will work because it's not being done competently. However if the Mayo Clinic started offering human cryopreservation tomorrow, you would still believe that cryonics couldn't work. The reason is that if you believe that 10 minutes of surgical time vs. 90 minutes of surgical time is the difference between success or failure of cryonics, then you must surely believe that poisoning a brain with cryoprotectants and fracturing it during cooling utterly dooms it. However that is what happens with the best cryopreservation technology that exists today, no matter who does it. The success or failure of cryonics ultimately depends upon a type of information preservation that is outside the ken or even conception of mainstream medicine, and one that you yourself don't subscribe to because your criticisms are never with reference to it. Johnson's claims are presently subject to an active defamation lawsuit. Numerous medical professionals have done work with Alcor at various times, including nurses, clinical perfusionists, a neurosurgeon, two doctors who served as CEOs, and two full-time paramedics hired after Johnson. None of them behaved as Johnson did. Your consistent defense of Larry Johnson is incomprehensible to me. This is a man who absconded with photographs of human remains, and sold them on the Internet and bookstores. He violated personal privacies in the most horrible ways that had nothing to do with any wrongdoing. He told vicious lies about matters of which I have personal knowledge. He was shown to have falsified death threats, violated court orders domesticated in three states, found in contempt of court, and is now subject to an arrest warrant in Arizona. I didn't say that. I said there was no one at Alcor who fit the description of having such compensation and wasting time reinventing wheels. I
4melmax11yDr. Wowk is being dishonest, in his representation of my opinions of cryonics. I have never said I "don't believe anybody's survival actually depends on cryonics because it won't work." In fact, on numerous occasions, I've clearly stated cryonics has a basis in reality, based on existing conventional medical procedures, in which people are cooled to a state of death and then revived. Many times...many, MANY times...I have CLEARLY stated I believe someone preserved in a fairly pristine state might be revived. However, I have also stated, on an equal number of occasions, that I don't believe the scientists of the future will be able to repair the damage being inflicted on cryonicists, by a bunch of unqualified, overgrown adolescents, who want to play doctor with dead people, while pretending to be surgeons and perfusionists. I'm sure Dr. Wowk's lack of understanding, as to why I defend Larry Johnson, can't be any more perplexing to him, than his defenses of Alcor and SA, or people like Harris and Platt, are, to me. How many cryobiologists does Dr. Wowk think he can get, to support his opinions of the activities of Alcor and/or SA? The response to cryobiologist, Dr. Arthur Rowe's, remarks, regarding cryonics organizations not being able to "turn hamburger back into a cow," was clever, but ridiculous, at the same time. Yes, some of the molecules of the hamburger would be incorporated into the body tissues of the cow that ate it, but the original cow would still be quite dead. Being clever, in defending the cryonics organizations, isn't enough. The organizations are not going to be able to carry on the way they have been, much longer. Dr. Wowk tries, yet again, to dismiss me as someone not serious about this matter, calling it my "hobby." I assure Dr. Wowk I am quite serious about not allowing people to bastardize procedures, near and dear to my heart, while pretending they are delivering some sort of futuristic medical care, with price tags up to $200,000, coupled wi
7bgwowk11yYou've been saying it by implication. See below. There is no present technology for preserving people in a "fairly pristine state" at cryogenic temperatures. Present cryopreservation technology even under perfect conditions causes biological effects such as toxicity and fracturing that are far more damaging than the types of problems you've expressed concern about. Even if the hypothermic phase of cryonics were done perfectly, with completely reversibility, what happens during the cryothermic phase is so extreme as to make the damage from poorly-executed blood washout insignificant by comparison. If you believe that for cryonics to work, preservation must be so pristine that the number of minutes taken for a femoral cannulation can determine whether cryonics succeeds or fails, then you necessarily believe that cryonics today cannot work no matter who does it. That's because enormously worse damage is unavoidably done during cooling to liquid nitrogen temperature. Cryobiologists wouldn't be impressed if the Mayo Clinic did cryopreservations. Who does cryopreservations is just window dressing as far as cryobologists are concerned. They know that technology for preserving people or human organs in a reversible state (as reversibility is currently understood in medicine), doesn't exist. Most cryobiologists would regard the idea of repairing organs that had cracked along fracture planes as preposterous, as I'm sure you do if you believe that 300 mmHg arterial pressure or one hour of ischemia is fatal to a cryonics patient. In summary, the force with which you believe that departures from clinical ideals in the hypothermic phase of cryonics are fatal necessarily means that you believe the cryothermic phase of cryonics today is fatal no matter who does it. As a cryobiologist, I'm telling you that the damage of cryothermic preservation is that bad independent of who does it. The technology for "fairly pristine" just isn't there. Maybe you are projecting here about wh
3melmax11yI just want to make sure I have this straight… Is it Dr. Wowk’s position, the vitrification solutions are so very toxic, it’s acceptable to subject Alcor and Suspended Animation’s clients to additional injury, via grossly incompetent personnel, when delivering those solutions? Wouldn’t it make more sense for organizations advertising the possibility of future resurrection, (and charging up to $200,000 for their services), to provide the best possible care? Shouldn’t they be doing as little harm, as possible? Dr. Wowk’s attitude seems to be, “Oh shucks, we’re filling them so full of highly-toxic solutions, it doesn’t matter what else we do to them. We might as well throw in some warm ischemia, some inappropriate perfusion pressures, or maybe even massive boluses of air.” Is that the mentality??? Personally, I don't think there's much chance of success, with that attitude. If the damage is as extreme, and as unavoidable, as Dr. Wowk writes, maybe they should just straight-freeze their clients, until they can offer something better. Dr. Wowk attempts to trivialize the mistakes I've been criticizing, by making reference to “one hour of ischemia.” The truth is, most, (if not all), cryonics suspendees have likely been subjected to much more serious abuse. The last SA case report was that of historical cryonics figure, Curtis Henderson. Mr. Henderson’s groin was prepped, for cannulation, at 6:50am, but the washout was not started, until 12:11pm. That means it took SA about FIVE HOURS longer than it should have, to perform the cannulation. Even then, it was not the SA team that accomplished the cannulation, but a local funeral director. If this is the treatment an historical cryonics figure gets, what does the Average Joe get? What was most offensive about the Henderson case, was Suspended Animation’s published case report, in which Catherine Baldwin referred to herself as a “surgeon,” and spewed forth more than enough medical jargon, (some of which she used, improperly
8bgwowk11yMy position is to do the best you can within available resources, and that criticisms should be in-context and constructive. As far as available resources go, of the $200K of Alcor's new 2011 whole body minimum, $110K is set aside to fund long-term storage, leaving only $90K, the majority of which is consumed by costs that already exist without employing a full-time cardiovascular surgeon (leaving aside the issue of how such a person would maintain his/her skills). This itemized analysis http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/CostOfCryonics.html [http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/CostOfCryonics.html] http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/CostOfCryonicsTables.txt [http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/CostOfCryonicsTables.txt] shows those costs as $37,000 in 1990, or $60,000 2009 dollars, neglecting overhead and advances in technology since then. However people cryopreserved in 2011 will mostly not be people who signed in 2011, but people who signed up in 2000 or even 1990, sometimes with much lower funding than current minimums. If that was the mentality, then there would be no efforts at field stabilization. Patients would just be packed in ice without any cardiopulmonary support or field perfusion, and sent off to their cryonics organization as is now done for CI members without SA contracts. Obviously I think field procedures are important, and that good-faith efforts must be made to do them well with resources available. However, with the possible exception of air embolism (which can interfere with later cryoprotective perfusion), problems in field care of cryonics patients don't have the same prognosis significance in cryonics that they would have in hypothermic medicine. That field case report is here. http://www.cryonics.org/immortalist/july10/henderson.pdf [http://www.cryonics.org/immortalist/july10/henderson.pdf] Let's look at it. A contract surgeon was on standby with the rest of the team from June 21 to 24 before having to leave because of work obligations. A
5bgwowk11yThere's another point that should be obvious, but perhaps not to those not familiar with cryonics procedures. The reason the patient cooled from approximately +20 degC to +12 degC during the long surgery was because HE WAS PACKED IN ICE. That's the same treatment he would have gotten for those five hours had SA not been there. Before and after those five hours, the patient's treatment was enormously better than it would have been had SA not been there. Prompt cardiopulmonary support (CPS) and ice bath cooling after cardiac arrest supplied oxygenated blood and medications to the brain, and accelerated the initial phases of cooling compared to just packing on ice. After the surgery was finally completed, perfusion allowed cooling the rest of the distance to 0 degC in mere minutes. So, What happened because SA was there, was: Fast cooling during CPS / Slow cooling in ice / Fast perfusion cooling to 0 degC What would have happened if SA wasn't there, was: Slow cooling in ice / Slow cooling in ice / Slow cooling in ice ..... The criticisms that have been made about this case seem to imply that SA harmed this patient, or engaged in some kind of malpractice. But the patient objectively benefited from the procedures done (based on the temperature descent profile) despite the misfortune of his legal death occurring between the presence of the two contract surgeons. I believe this is also likely true for the other SA cases that have been criticized; that the patients benefited from the presence and rapid response of a stabilization/transport team despite mistakes made. They would have been much worse off if just packed in ice and shipped by a mortician 1970s-style. However there is no criticism from recent critics when THAT happens in cryonics. There are no allegations of incompetence, malpractice, or demands that people be regulated or arrested. It's only when groups of people try to do better than just packing in ice that the fire and brimstone rains down. The onl
-1[anonymous]11yDr. Wowk wrote: "Present cryopreservation technology even under perfect conditions causes biological effects such as toxicity and fracturing that are far more damaging than the types of problems you've expressed concern about. Even if the hypothermic phase of cryonics were done perfectly, with completely reversibility, what happens during the cryothermic phase is so extreme as to make the damage from poorly-executed blood washout insignificant by comparison." CATASTROPHIC? EXTREME DAMAGE? I am curious why Alcor insists on bringing the temperature during cryopreservation down to -196 degrees C (liquid nitrogen temperature) when fractures are occurring below -130 degrees C. Glass transition is already completed at -90 to -130 degrees. It seems that going below -130 degrees is not only useless for purpose of long term preservation, but it also ensures apparently catastrophic and irreversible damages, as you admitted. Granted it might take more effort and it might be a little more expensive to maintain the temperature in the -90 to -130 degrees, but the catastrophic micro-fracture damage does not occur in any meaningful degree. I do not believe Alcor ever provided satisfactory answer to this.
2bgwowk11yI'm doing a text search, and I can't find where I used the word "catastrophic." In any case, the damage done by present cryopreservation techniques is extreme by conventional medical standards (e.g. decapitation). The real question is the significance of the damage in the context of preservation of brain information encoding memory and personal identity, which is what cryonics seeks to preserve. For decades Alcor has sought to be conservative and perform the first hypothermic stages of cryonics to a standard closer to that of medicine rather than mortuary science to make the early stages of cryonics closer to reversible. This has drawn criticism from two opposite directions. Bob Ettinger has criticized this approach because it is expensive, and nanotechnology is likely "necessary and sufficient" for revival of cryonics patients even without aggressive care immediately following cardiac arrest. More recently, Melody Maxim has criticized Alcor and SA because they fail to consistently deliver care following cardiac arrest to medical standards (even though there are no recognized medical standards for cardiopulmonary support, medication, cannulation and perfusion of legally dead bodies in an ice bath destined for cryopreservation other than the standards established by the cryonicists she derides.) It appears that the only alternatives that will please all critics are to either not do standby/stabilization at all, or to do it to a much higher and even more expensive standard than now being achieved. With respect to fracturing, fracturing in cryopreservation is explained here http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/CryopreservationAndFracturing.html [http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/CryopreservationAndFracturing.html] The problem is that there is still no known protocol for reliably cooling a large vitrified organ to temperatures ten or twenty degrees below the glass transition temperature without fracturing. More research needs to be done. Notwithstanding, there has been
3lsparrish11yCan you please clarify whether you mean a state obtainable by present technology or some hypothetical future achievable state? The way you phrase it this could be taken either way. It sounds like you think cryonics could work in the present day, but only if performed by trained, licensed medical professionals. If that is the case, would you sign up for cryonics if they started offering it in your local hospital tomorrow? Could you provide a link? I don't recall reading this response. Dr. Rowe's assertion always seemed to me to be rather ridiculous to start with because it does not address the structural preservation levels possible with vitrification (as opposed to freezing). Most other medical professionals (aside from yourself and Larry Johnson) seem to completely ignore cryonics. Which is part of the problem. If you want to stir up interest in the scientific and medical communities in making sure this is done right, more power to you. But it has to be done one way or another.
2melmax11yI would like to ask Dr. Wowk to show me where Larry Johnson "was shown to have falsified death threats," and where he "violated court orders in three states." During this discussion, Dr. Wowk has identified himself as being on the Board of Directors of Alcor, so I assume he can be considered to be representing them, here. Alcor has accused Mr. Johnson of many wrong-doings, but I do not believe he has been "shown to have falsified death threats." In addition, it's my understanding the agreement, in which Mr. Johnson was not supposed to publicly comment about Alcor, was supposed to work both ways. Is that correct, Dr. Wowk? As for violating court orders, I believe the State of Arizona has ruled that Mr. Johnson violated a court order, but are the States of Nevada and New York like-minded?
1lsparrish11yAnd this can't just be because current organizations are not competent. If she were committed to being signed up for a hypothetical future ultra-competent organization the moment someone puts one together, it would do wonders for her credibility as far as I a concerned. At present she gives me the impression of a nosy outsider who feels the need to offer condescending advice and harsh socially stigmatizing criticisms to a marginalized group she neither likes nor identifies with.
1David_Gerard11yBefore you extrapolate from yourself - are you sure that you're even a sufficiently typical cryonics advocate, let alone a typical enough example of a disinterested third party?
0jsalvatier11yI thought he meant credibility with cryonics advocates.
0lsparrish11yYes, and I'm pretty sure I'm a typical enough example of a cryonics advocate for this to be a generalizable issue. If she isn't planning to sign up it really does at least communicate that she thinks it can't work -- that it's just an expensive funeral no matter who does it -- under present technological constraints. Now, it's possible to think it can work and not plan to sign up. If you think it is too expensive of a trade-off on the risk-reward scale, or if you have an irrational fear of it. But Melody hasn't attempted to communicate either of these things. Her sole motive is supposedly her moral outrage at the horrible people in existing organizations perverting the sacred practices of medicine. Well if that's true, it should predict that once those moral outrages are resolved she plans to sign up -- that she believes in cryonics as an idea. The explanation that makes the most sense is Melody is interested in something that is not fundamentally cryonics at all -- hypothermic hibernation for living patients, for example. She may call it cryonics, but it doesn't involve future-technological repair, clinically dead patients, long periods of time, etc. -- it is a fundamentally different concept with superficial similarities and much common ground basic science.
0jsalvatier11yI second your suggestion, though not necessarily your impression. If she would not sign up with such an organization it doesn't mean she can't be an objective observer, but it does make it less likely.
2Vaniver11yHonestly, the fact that she's not signed up makes her far more credible in my eyes. Has no one here heard of consistency bias? Dr. Wowk has stated that he needs cryonics to work, and so it provides me no information that he thinks cryonics works. For someone without a horse in the race to look at cryonics and have a low opinion of it does provide me information.
4bgwowk11yI don't think cryonics "works." I think it's worth doing. That's not the same thing. I've explained that cryopreservation causes damage that is severe by contemporary standards. It cannot be reversed by any near-term technology. Nobody should confuse cryonics with suspended animation or established hypothermic medicine. The purpose of cryonics is to prevent "information theoretic death," or erasure of the neurological information that encodes personal identity. Any evaluation of the effects of procedural details on cryonics patient prognosis must be with reference to that. Unfortunately none of the recent criticisms of cryonics procedures address the issue of information preservation, which is what cryonics is all about. The criticisms that I've seen have all been with reference to what effect various procedural problems would have had on living patients expected to spontaneously recover at the end of hypothermic medicine procedures. The information preservation significance of a delay in cannulation for someone who already suffered a "fatal" period of cardiac arrest before cryonics procedures begin, who may be transported across the country on ice, who will be exposed to hours of cryoprotectant perfusion, their brain dehydrated, possibly decapitated, and then major organs fractured by thermal stress during cooling, has not been discussed. Yet that is the real context of cryonics. Cryonics is not someone having aneurysm surgery. To be clear, this bad stuff is going to happen no matter who does the procedures. It's intrinsic to present cryopreservation technology. The scientific reality is that for a cryonics patient, as distinct from a hypothermic medicine patient, the composition and concentration of what cryoprotectant ultimately gets into tissue is enormously more important than how long cannulation for field blood washout takes, or who does it, within reason. Getting back to the question of whether cryonics "works," it was actually Ms. Maxim who took excepti
3bgwowk11yI don't recall making any context-less statements that cryonics works. Obviously I think that cryonics is worth doing, but that's not same as thinking it "works." I explicitly stated that the damage done by the best cryopreservation technology is severe by contemporary standards. It's not compatible with revival by any near-term technology, no matter who does it. Nobody should be under any illusions that human cryopreservation by available technology is easily reversible. The goal of cryonics is to prevent "information theoretic death," or erasure of the neurological basis of human identity. Any criticism of cryonics procedures, and the extent to which procedures impact the prognosis of cryonics patients, must be with reference to that. That has been absent in any of the recent criticisms of cryonics related to qualifications of personnel. Recent criticisms of cryonics cases have been with reference to what would have happened to living medical patients had the same case problems occurred (i.e. they might have died). The criticisms have not been with reference to the biological impact on someone who's already suffered a "fatal" period of cardiac arrest before the hospital even let cryonics procedures begin, and who is going to be perfused with cryoprotectants for hours, dehydrated, and then cooled to a temperature that results in thermal stress fractures through all major organs of the body, likely including the brain. In such circumstances, ultimately getting cryoprotectants into tissue is enormously more important than how long cannulation for field blood washout takes, within reason. Regarding what Ms. Maxim believes about cryonics working, it was Ms. Maxim who took exception to me saying that she believed cryonics won't work. She said: There are two possible interpretations of this. Either she believes that cryonics today done by the right people could result in a sufficiently pristine state, in which case she believes that cryonics today could work. Or she
0[anonymous]11yI don't think cryonics "works." I think it's worth doing. That's not the same thing. I've explained that cryopreservation causes damage that is severe by contemporary standards. It cannot be reversed by any near-term technology. Nobody should confuse cryonics with suspended animation or established hypothermic medicine. The purpose of cryonics is to prevent "information theoretic death," or erasure of the neurological basis of personal identity. Any evaluation of the effects of procedural details on cryonics patient prognosis must be with reference to that. Unfortunately none of the recent criticisms of cryonics procedures address the issue of information preservation, which is what cryonics is all about. The criticisms that I've seen have all been with reference to what effect various procedural problems would have had on living patients expected to spontaneously recover at the end of hypothermic medicine procedures. The information preservation significance of a delay in cannulation for someone who already suffered a "fatal" period of cardiac arrest before cryonics procedures begin, who may be transported across the country on ice, who will be exposed to hours of cryoprotectant perfusion, their brain dehydrated, possibly decapitated, and then major organs fractured by thermal stress doing cooling, has not been discussed. Yet that is the real context of cryonics. Cryonics is not someone having aneurysm surgery. To be clear, this bad stuff is going to happen no matter who does the procedures. It's intrinsic to present cryopreservation technology. The scientific reality is that for a cryonics patient, as distinct from a hypothermic medicine patient, the composition and concentration of what cryoprotectant ultimately gets into tissue is enormously more important than how long cannulation for field blood washout takes, or who does it, within reason. Getting back to the question of whether cryonics "works," it was actually Ms. Maxim who took exception to me saying t
0[anonymous]11yI don't think cryonics "works." I think it's worth doing. That's not the same thing. I've explained that cryopreservation causes damage that is severe by contemporary standards. It cannot be reversed by any near-term technology. Nobody should confuse cryonics with suspended animation or established hypothermic medicine. The purpose of cryonics is to prevent "information theoretic death," or erasure of the neurological basis of personal identity. Any evaluation of the effects of procedural details on cryonics patient prognosis must be with reference to that. Unfortunately none of the recent criticisms of cryonics procedures address the issue of information preservation, which is what cryonics is all about. The criticisms that I've seen have all been with reference to what effect various procedural problems would have had on living patients expected to spontaneously recover at the end of hypothermic medicine procedures. The information preservation significance of a delay in cannulation for someone who already suffered a "fatal" period of cardiac arrest before cryonics procedures begin, who may be transported across the country on ice, who will be exposed to hours of cryoprotectant perfusion, their brain dehydrated, possibly decapitated, and then major organs fractured by thermal stress doing cooling, has not been discussed. Yet that is the real context of cryonics. Cryonics is not someone having aneurysm surgery. To be clear, this bad stuff is going to happen no matter who does the procedures. It's intrinsic to present cryopreservation technology. The scientific reality is that for a cryonics patient, as distinct from a hypothermic medicine patient, the composition and concentration of what cryoprotectant ultimately gets into tissue is enormously more important than how long cannulation for field blood washout takes, or who does it, within reason. Getting back to the question of whether cryonics "works," it was actually Ms. Maxim who took exception to me saying t
-1lsparrish11yMy objection is not so much that she isn't signed up but that she has no plans to sign up, even when her moral outrage issues are resolved. So if it is to be considered as a criticism at all (and your comment seemingly supports the notion that it is), it's not simply a criticism of the cryonics industry, but of cryonics itself. What makes it suspect to me is that she argues as though it is a criticism only of the current cryonics industry and yet makes no defense whatsoever of the general notion of cryonics (except a very vague version that sounds more like long-term hypothermic hibernation). Most critics seem to support some kind of future advancement suspended animation -- but that's a very different idea from cryonics from a service (and technological) perspective.
6Vaniver11ySo? Why is her opinion on the technical feasibility or personal desirability of cryonics at all relevant to her claims of organizational or technical incompetence on the part of current cryonics organizations? Only accepting criticisms from true believers is a common cult failure mode, which I would strongly warn you against. It seems like someone on the cryonics side ought to double-check a few of her specific claims; does a case report she claims suggest incompetence contain the text she says it does? Do independent medical experts (just email twenty professors at universities, you ought to get at least one response) agree with a simplified version of the claim? (for example, "a vascular surgeon that takes 30 minutes to cannulate a femoral artery is unqualified to perform surgery", with all the technical word's accuracy limited by my memory and my time writing this post- I am not a doctor) If so, then something is rotten in the state of Denmark, regardless of who pointed it out originally.

Only accepting criticisms from true believers is a common cult failure mode, which I would strongly warn you against. It seems like someone on the cryonics side ought to double-check a few of her specific claims; does a case report she claims suggest incompetence contain the text she says it does? Do independent medical experts (just email twenty professors at universities, you ought to get at least one response) agree with a simplified version of the claim?

Yes. This is precisely what I would have thought advocates needed to be researching, and I'm amazed there's so far just been defensiveness, circling of the wagons and ad hominem dismissal ("it's just motivated cognition", "she has no plans to sign up") which really obviously dodges actually addressing the claims. Which are natural human reactions, but that doesn't make them good ideas.

4lsparrish11yIs this reaction evidence against cryonics?
8David_Gerard11yAgainst the technology, no (I'd say obviously not). Against the organisational robustness of present-day cryonics? I'd say it could well be. I suspect Charles Platt [http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/dsp.cgi?msg=32975] would agree [http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/dsp.cgi?msg=32976]. (voted up as good question)
2enoonsti11yUpvoted. Did you check out the analysis by Freitas as well? Here's a link with some additional commentary by Dr. Wowk: http://www.imminst.org/forum/topic/45324-alcor-finances/ [http://www.imminst.org/forum/topic/45324-alcor-finances/] By the way, many of your posts are both enlightening and smile-inducing... and yet, I think I mocked you in the past (I think it was at Pharyngula). Since I suddenly feel guilty about this, I ask that you give me a downvote for atonement.
5David_Gerard11yUpvoted to leave you beholden to me. BWAAAhahaha. I learnt that trick from Draco in HP:MOR.
0enoonsti11yI am sorry, but this is all that came to mind for me. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWaLxFIVX1s]
3Vaniver11yAgain, why does it have to be evidence against cryonics instead of, say, Alcor or SA or CI? She's not discussing the theoretical desirability or practicality of cryonics.
3lsparrish11yThe theoretical desirability and practicality of cryonics is what matters at this point. It's what the real controversy is about. If the given organizations are incompetent, they can be replaced with better ones. Or the people in them can be replaced. But, supposing that is necessary, we would need new people to replace them with. People who actually care about cryonics. Melody is not contributing to that cause, in my estimation. Rather she seems to be contributing to, and playing upon, the existing cocktail of mockery, misunderstanding, and marginalization that has plagued cryonics for years.
4enoonsti11yUpvoted. But I'll still talk about organizational matters below :) The thing I like about Mike Darwin is that he offers technical criticisms of cryonics organizations without resorting to threats of strict regulation. Of course, I understand there are people who do not think highly of Darwin, and condescendingly claim we are being duped by this "dialysis technician" (who then conveniently leave out that he received additional training from Jerry Leaf). Perhaps those people should inform David Crippen MD that he has been duped by Mike. David is with the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Mike must have lied about his credentials when submitting to his book "End-of-Life Communication in the ICU: A Global Perspective" [http://www.amazon.com/End-Life-Communication-ICU-Perspective/dp/0387729658] Mike also probably lied to get into this debate too: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414041/ [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414041/] ;) With that in mind, since I deeply care about useful external criticism (as opposed to mainstream medicine's silent apathy... because they are still stuck at the starting line by thinking that immortality is some separate magical state of being [http://www.sens.org/node/1268]...), I want Melody to continue with her more technical critiques. However, I do want her to drop her threats of strict regulation, unless she can find many people who have gone through all of the paperwork of signing up and suddenly proclaiming, "Oh my god. You mean to tell me that Atul Gawande is not going to be at my bedside?" I understand the need in politics to sometimes play hardball, but this is different. I encourage Less Wrong users to look at the language being employed here. Dr. Wowk is saying things like "Mayo clinic" from a life-saving perspective. Melody is saying things like "last wishes," and emphasizing licensed embalmers [http://cryomedical.blogspot.com/2010/10/why-i-beli
2bgwowk11yAs I've tried to explain, the entire line of criticism is based on a false analogy of cryonics to hypothermic medicine. OF COURSE, if cryonics were an elective procedure in which a patient were to be cooled to +18 degC and heart stopped for brain surgery, you wouldn't use paramedics, scientists, or contract cardiothoracic surgeons who may or may not able to show up to do the surgery. OF COURSE, you would use a Certified Clinical Perfusionist to work alongside the surgeon, no exceptions. OF COURSE, any less qualified people are bound to make mistakes, and have made mistakes, mistakes that could be fatal in a mainstream medical setting in which someone was expected to be warmed right back up from +18 degC and woken up at the end of the procedure. OF COURSE, anyone with common sense (no independent medical expert needed) would say that! But that's not what cryonics is, or could be with any near-term technology. Cryonics doesn't stop at +18 degC. The hypothermic phase continues down to 0 degC, and then the cryothermic phase down to -196 degC, doing injuries far beyond reversbility by mainstream medicine. Cryonics is an information preservation excercise at liquid nitrogen temperature, not an attempt to recover people in real-time from minor cooling in clinical settings. The procedures during the hypothermic phase aren't even the same in many major respects, but I won't bother getting into that. Isn't anyone else struck by the bizarreness of malpractice allegations that need to be vetted by hypothermic medicine experts for procedures that end with decapitated heads and brains likely fractured at liquid nitrogen temperatures?? What medical standards or established specialties exist for that?
2CronoDAS11yNo, why do you ask? [http://lesswrong.com/lw/j4/absurdity_heuristic_absurdity_bias/]
9enoonsti11yBe honest. Was your one-liner typed with the full understanding of his points on hypothermic vs. cryothermic phases? Or were you just participating in the Less Wrong zombie ritual of linking to other posts [http://lesswrong.com/lw/pn/zombies_the_movie/]? Whatever the case, bring me the down votes on a silver platter :)
1CronoDAS11yMostly the latter. I see someone use the absurdity heuristic, my conditioning kicks in, and I link to the post about it. As for the "hypothermic vs cryothermic" criticism, well, no, I don't see the difference. The less the damage that's done to our decapitated, frozen, fractured heads between clinical death and freezing, the easier it will be to recover the person from the corpse. As far as I can tell, an extra 30 minutes of decay at room temperature really could end up making a significant difference.
1David_Gerard11yEmergent! (waves garlic and cross)
-4lsparrish11yDoes it need to be? Her claims of organizational and technical incompetence could be entirely factual and she could still be doing more damage than help to the cryonics cause, if she takes a bad situation (the current unpopularity of cryonics) and makes it worse by presenting valid arguments in ways that overemphasize their actual importance. All the insightful new data in the world isn't actually helpful if it is delivered with rhetoric that emboldens hostile parties to pass harmful regulations. I'm feeling kind of condescended to here... Do you honestly think I'm deciding whether to accept her advice based on her beliefs? I should certainly hope I'm not -- nor would I advocating anyone do so! What I do advocate is treating her claims with more skepticism, on grounds that she may not be able to accurately model how things look from the perspective of someone whose life actually lies in the balance, or who has internalized the notion that future technologies will be able to fix certain really hard kinds of damage.
5Vaniver11yPolitics is the Mind-Killer [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/]. Let's keep reading, and find out! I wonder at your self-awareness that you do not realize that this exactly describes the failure mode I'm talking about. Let's try switching some of the words around and seeing how it looks: So, you shouldn't feel condescended to, but you should alter your position and behavior. Don't think that I'm tricked by you writing "treat her claims with skepticism" instead of "disbelieve"- these are testable claims that you could be testing. So perhaps you should do that, and then I will be willing to grant you use of the word 'skeptical.' Now, let's talk about some of your substantial points. Instead of "incompetence is bad, we should set about replacing those people right now" I'm hearing "If the given organizations are incompetent, they can be replaced with better ones. Or the people in them can be replaced." That suggests to me you either know woefully little about organizational dynamics (if you want to replace people for a crime, defending them for that specific crime and then trying to turn on them later is very hard to pull off) or are more interested in holding the banner for this idea then actually seeing it implemented well. Even if the second is appropriate- you don't care what it is SA and their like actually do, you just want cryonics to catch on and not seem kooky- then you should read some risk management. Cover-ups are notoriously stupid. It's a known finding in psychology that simply censoring something makes it seem more credible, not less, and so attempts to silence Johnson or Maxim make them more persuasive. If you want cryonics to be thought of as a trustworthy venture, it needs to have trustworthy boots on the ground, not in the far-off future. Without improving its temporal presence, cryonics will only attract people who buy into promises about the future without kicking the tires first.
6bgwowk11yIf this wasn't clear from my last post (the one with "OF COURSE" everywhere), let me say it again. I participate in the leadership of a cryonics organization (Alcor). Speaking for myself, I stipulate to the correctness of Melody Maxim's central claim that cryonics procedures do not meet the same standards, or sometimes qualifications of personnel, as hypothermic medical procedures. There's nothing to test. It's true. It's the significance of this that is dispute, not the fact of it. The moral outrage, indignation, allegations of fraud and self-interest, and claims of no progress in cryonics in 40 years are not justified. 40 years ago, cryoprotectants weren't even being seriously used. 35 years ago they were being administered by morticians with embalming pumps. 30 years ago a mainstream cardiothoracic surgery researcher brought medical techniques to Alcor. 20 years ago there were vigorous debates between Alcor and CI about the importance of medical techniques. 10 years ago, vitrification was introduced. Several years ago, contract professional perfusionists began to be used by SA for field procedures. None of this is ever acknowledged. Instead, it's an outrage that full-time cardiovascular surgeons and perfusionists don't yet work in cryonics. An outrage.
2bgwowk11ySomething else that may not be apparent to casual observers is the selectivity of Ms. Maxim's criticisms. For the first two years after she left SA in 2006, SA was practically the exclusive target of her criticisms. Alcor officials, including myself, had cordial correspondence with her about a variety of perfusion topics in which she kindly shared her expertise. In August, 2008, one of my emails to her said: In 2009, for reasons unrelated to changes in service as far as I can tell, she began criticizing Alcor as harshly as SA. SA and Alcor have been targets ever since. Conspicuous by absence have been criticisms of CI, except for criticisms that CI allows its members to contract with SA for standby/stabilization services. There is no criticism of what happens to CI members who do not contract with SA for service: packing in ice by a local mortician for shipment to CI with no stabilization or field perfusion whatsoever. There is no analysis or critique of the biological consequences of THAT, and no demand for government regulation to prevent such treatment. Nor is there much criticism of procedures at CI itself, open-circuit perfusion by a mortician for every CI case. That is not even remotely comparable to a hospital hypothermic surgery procedure, but there is no criticism of it. What SA and Alcor have in common is that they both aspire to a higher standard of cryonics care than possible with morticians, one that draws upon some aspects of hypothermic medicine for the early stages of procedures. So perhaps what can be said about the selectivity of Ms. Maxim's criticisms is that she focuses on criticizing those who aspire to a higher standard of care, but who fail to consistently deliver it. The missing context, and missing criticism, is what happens to cryonics patients when there is no such aspiration. And, frankly, when there is no cryonics at all.
0melmax10yPrior to 2009, I had relatively little knowledge of what went on, at Alcor. When the Johnson book was published, (in 2009), I read a lot of stories, which were already familiar to me, (gossip I had heard at SA), and I did a lot of further reading on Alcor's own website. As I'm sure Dr. Wowk knows, whenever I dared to question Alcor, or remark on the Johnson book, I was subjected to the usual lies and personal attacks, (as opposed to polite, intelligent opposing arguments and/or explanations). I doubt he's as mystified by my response, as he states. I saw no reason to criticize CI, (at least, not until the "Cryogirl" and "Temple of Vampire" scandals, which I criticized, extensively), as I believed CI to be accurately representing the (however poor) quality of their services. Dr. Wowk is intelligent enough to realize what I have been objecting to, all these years, is the publishing of information, which might mislead people into believing the quality of services they are purchasing, is significantly greater than what it actually is. I have no idea as to why he seems to find CI's use of a licensed mortician, (someone skilled in vascular cannulations), to be inferior to some of the laymen, who have attempted to perform surgical procedures, on behalf of SA and/or Alcor. Again, why should I have criticized CI's primitive procedures, when they were forthcoming about the quality of services they were delivering? Vraiment? Does Dr. Wowk really believe SA's Catherine Baldwin, or any other staff member of SA and/or Alcor, (during the time I was making my objections), could deliver a femoral cannulation, with more skill than CI's mortician? If his "higher standard of cryonics care" means simply putting someone in an ice bath, just about anyone off the street could have supplied that. Dr. Wowk's "conspiracy theory" is ridiculous. My goal should have been clear, all along: Cryonics organizations needed to either (a) deliver cutting-edge technology, or (b) be honest about what
1lsparrish11yAnother reason that the fact that cryonics stabilization does not meet the standards of hypopthermic medicine is not exactly evidence of incompetence is that there is not a competitor out there providing better stabilizations. That is, if we are assuming a sufficiently narrow and connotation-free definition [http://lesswrong.com/lw/np/disputing_definitions] of incompetence which involves comparison to competitors, the test of being substantially worse than one's competitors is one that SA fails with flying colors.
1lsparrish11yYour map does not match the territory regarding my beliefs on this matter. Please read the sequences Noticing Confusion [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/How_To_Actually_Change_Your_Mind#Noticing_Confusion] and Against Rationalization [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/How_To_Actually_Change_Your_Mind#Against_Rationalization] before making any further remarks concerning my reasoning processes. I intended no more or less than what I said regarding skepticism. The test you have proposed would not get an accurate result due to embedded assumptions which you are not taking into consideration: 1) "Competence" as commonly understood implies comparison to a competitor. Competitors do exist for hypothermic medical procedures but not for cryonics stabilization services as a whole. Hiring more qualified personnel would be an advancement. The entire complaint would be regarding the speed of progress in this area, which is a more complex issue than you give it credit for being. 2) The overall importance of hypothermic damage (including limited warm ischemic time) compared to cryothermic damage is questionable. It is a legitimate proposition that some hypothermic damage should be considered an acceptable trade-off for financial and other factors (complexity and mobility of equipment, flexibility of the personnel's schedule, etc.) which affect the patient's risk in this context. In short: The claim "SA is incompetent" predicts that competitors exist, and that hypothermic damage is significant compared to the damage of the process as a whole. And it fails both of these predictions. I certainly do care about stabilization quality and preventable damage, including the warm ischemic times seen. However my map regarding this territory is dramatically different from yours. You vastly overestimate the significance of procedural damage to the overall situation. The most important part of a stabilization company's job is to ensure that the tissue is vitrified, if at all possible, because
4David_Gerard11y"You really should read the sequences" is the LessWrong phrase for ...
0lsparrish11yI spent much of the day preparing a long post with hyperlinks to relevant articles, but then I realized it would be a bit of a jerk move and distract from the most important aspects of the discussion. I think this way is more succinct. I can't guarantee he will be accurately modeling the reality afterward, but it should at least help. Incidentally, Politics is the Mind-Killer [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/] is one of my favorite articles from the How To Actually Change Your Mind [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/How_To_Actually_Change_Your_Mind] sequence. The sub-sequence [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/How_To_Actually_Change_Your_Mind#Politics_is_the_Mind-Killer] of the same name is also quite good, although I haven't read it all the way through yet. The basic point is that instead of taking sides (or thinking in terms of sides) we should be aiming to increase the correspondence of the map to the territory. I do have somewhat tribal feelings towards cryonics (I don't know how you'd expect me not to) but I question them frequently and attempt to not let them be a factor in the reasoning process. If new evidence comes up, I definitely plan to update on it.
0Vaniver11yAs I understand it, Maxim makes two claims: 1. SA underdelivers and overcharges for services, ("incompetence") while representing itself in a disingenuous and probably legally prohibited way. 2. The industry SA operates in should be regulated because of claim 1. It appears to me that your counterargument for Claim 1 is to claim that's a poor definition of incompetence. Your replacement definition- "not as good as a real competitor"- is not one I've ever heard of, and I strongly contest that is the common understanding [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/incompetence?r=75&src=ref&ch=dic]. Is Miss Cleo [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Cleo] "competent" at predicting the future because she's just as good as the next psychic hotline? Or are psychics who present themselves as anything but entertainers incompetent at their stated goal? But even if we grant your replacement definition, Claim 1 barely changes. We have two options: narrow our focus to services SA provides that are provided by competitors or switch words from 'incompetent' to 'fraud'. One of the serious things Maxim has said is that SA and others have spent their time recreating devices that could have been bought cheaper, better, and faster by using currently available devices. That's hardly a good use of customer or benefactor money, and delays like that seem inexcusable if you believe effective cryonics stands between mortality and immortality. On the other hand, simply misrepresenting themselves is sufficient to earn the "fraud" description and be a target for regulation (either new, or already existing), even if the word 'incompetent' is inappropriate.
4bgwowk11yIf I recall correctly, SA charges CI members $60,000 for field standby, stabilization, and transport. SA does approximately one or two cases per year, apparently using contract perfusionists and surgeons when available for the blood washout phase of procedures. The alternative for CI members is simple packing in ice some unspecified period after legal death, and shipment by a local mortician; no cardiopulmonary support, no associated rapid cooling, no blood washout. If so, she is apparently saying that government regulations be put in place to force an organization with ~ $100K in annual revenues to spend up to $470K on salaries (recently computed elsewhere on Less Wrong) for a full-time certified perfusionist and a cardiovascular surgeon (how they would maintain skills is unspecified), or nobody should be allowed to attempt to provide any cryonics field service other than simple packing in ice. And the government should provide this consumer protection for two citizens per year even though nearly every medical expert, politician, regulator, inspector, and enforcement official will believe that these enforced medical standards are cargo cult science applied to dead bodies who could not possibly be revived because (a) they are already dead, and (b) the later cryopreservation itself is certainly fatal. Why isn't there concern that by prematurely requiring highly credentialed people, by law, to do cryonics stabilizations that the government itself wouldn't be misleading people about the legitimacy of cryonics? The way things are now, people don't look to the government to evaluate cryonics procedures. (Nor should they for a field as small and misunderstood as cryonics.) People have to kick the tires themselves. They have to know how limited present cryopreservation procedures are. They have to read the case reports, know that mistakes happen, and decide for themselves whether $60,000 is likely to be worth more than simple packing in ice. They have to know what they a
3Vaniver11yI agree this is a major concern. What's the standard procedure in medicine for experimental treatments? As far as I'm aware (and I am not a doctor), subjects generally don't pay for them (I do know a lot of drug trials occur in Texas because you can compensate the subjects, so apparently the cash flow is in the opposite direction for at least one other field). And so the most appropriate model for cryonics right now might be "if you want to volunteer your body at death, we'd like to try to get better at preserving people." That strikes me as a lot more honest than charging people for a service, and make it a lot clearer what's going on. In efficient markets, prices convey information- and so a pretty common bias is to consider price a good proxy of quality.
0lsparrish11yDoes anyone have a realistic commercial interest in developing cryonics based treatments?
0lsparrish11yYes, that is a good definition of incompetence. If they charge more than a competing service yet deliver less, to a sufficiently extreme degree, they meet that definition. However we could also compare to other points of references. What has historically been available in terms of cryonics stabilization? There is a difference between replacing a definition and narrowing in on a more specific form of a definition to eliminate connotative noise. That you are choose to refer to it in this way is insulting and misleading. The term "incompetent" certainly does imply a standard to compare it to. Competitors (i.e. potential replacements) are commonplace for this purpose, hence the connotative meaning I chose to call attention to. Your stated example does have competitors by which we can objectively judge it inferior. A psychic is incompetent in comparison to rational thought in conjunction with adequate data on the matter of what one's future is. We wouldn't judge Miss Cleo incompetent relative to other psychics, we would judge her incompetent relative to the best available methods of predicting the future. An alternative definition would be to judge competence by the standard of ability to accomplish a given expected end. However you would have to state exactly what that standard is, and establish that it is a reasonable one to expect, e.g. if the person or organization had promised to fulfill some particular obligation. A psychic fails at providing accurate descriptions of the future despite claiming to do so. Yet they are competent at invoking the proper cognitive biases in people to make them feel like their future is predicted accurately. Not a replacement, see above. In other words, we change the subject to: I take this to refer to the person who naively used the term surgeon to refer to the person who was doing surgery on the patient in a case report? This is a very, very weak argument for fraud or fakery. Furthermore, my understanding is that the money being
3Vaniver11ySo, I'm afraid we've gotten to the point where I'm snarking for the crowd, and so I think this'll be my last post in this thread. Right. What's the standard for a femoral cannulation? Competence is a bit less restrictive, actually- it implies 'adequacy.' The standard for psychics could be unobtainable, but that doesn't mean a faker is competent because they're the best psychics in town- they have to be adequate at predicting the future. While 'naive' is a good description, note that this is a felony. As is practicing medicine with a license (are they patients?). As is practicing medicine without a license from that state (in most states). Which is why I made the "existing regulation" comment. I'm relatively certain there are also fairly heavy licensing requirements when it comes to cutting up corpses, if it's decided inadvisable to consider them patients. I'm in favor of seriously deregulating medicine, but I recognize the difference between where I want the law to be and where it is. You mean, like a benefactor? I actually did realize that! I signaled that through clever placement of the words "because of."
0[anonymous]11yIf your current map of reality really [http://lesswrong.com/lw/wj/is_that_your_true_rejection/] predicts [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i3/making_beliefs_pay_rent_in_anticipated_experiences/] that I am apathetic regarding the quality of stabilizations, I strongly recommend that you notice your confusion [http://lesswrong.com/lw/if/your_strength_as_a_rationalist/] and update [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/How_To_Actually_Change_Your_Mind]. If I am over-politicizing things I'd rather [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jz/the_meditation_on_curiosity/] know [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gq/the_proper_use_of_humility/]. But you aren't allowed [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1p1/logical_rudeness/] to give weight to that [http://lesswrong.com/lw/iw/positive_bias_look_into_the_dark/] without giving equal weight to Melody's own [http://cryomedical.blogspot.com/] politicizing [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ik/one_argument_against_an_army/]. Condescending [http://lesswrong.com/lw/372/defecting_by_accident_a_flaw_common_to_analytical/] link [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/] to the first article of one of my favorite sequences [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Politics_is_the_Mind-Killer] is duly noted.
0[anonymous]11yJust because something matches [http://lesswrong.com/lw/iw/positive_bias_look_into_the_dark/] a given notion doesn't make it true [http://lesswrong.com/lw/4d/youre_calling_who_a_cult_leader/] even if there is a grain of truth [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lv/every_cause_wants_to_be_a_cult/] to it. The article you reference (and the sequence [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Politics_is_the_Mind-Killer] to which it belongs) is a personal favorite of mine, and I've long had a deep appreciation for the point that politics messes with people's heads in [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gz/policy_debates_should_not_appear_onesided/] horrible [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h1/the_scales_of_justice_the_notebook_of_rationality/] ways [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lw/reversed_stupidity_is_not_intelligence/]. What you do not seem to grasp about the situation is that I've been arguing the politics of the matter because Melody has been arguing politically to begin with. Hypothermic procedures are "near and dear to her heart", the personnel are "overgrown adolescents" and so forth. No, I don't want her silenced -- I want her false points refuted and her correct points taken to heart in and acted upon a measured and rational manner that corresponds optimally to the reality of the situation. This wonderfully skepticism-oriented and anti-political defense you are giving comes across as, well, ironic, given her historical tendency to politicize the situation. That said, I absolutely don't mind being criticized for being overly political myself (in fact I'd prefer it [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jz/the_meditation_on_curiosity/] if it is true), provided the criticism is applied even-handedly to all equally guilty parties involved. The fact that you have not offered equivalent criticism towards Melody makes your (perhaps unintentionally [http://lesswrong.com/lw/372/defecting_by_accident_a_flaw_common_to_analytical/] ) condescending tone much more of an insult [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1p1/logical_rudeness/] tha
1David_Gerard11yHow precisely does it make it less likely?
1jsalvatier11ySomeone who wouldn't use a service but criticizes it is more likely to be criticizing it because they don't like the idea rather than because they have concluded it's done poorly based on evidence. Obviously it doesn't make it certain that that's the case.
0[anonymous]11yDr. Wowk is being dishonest, in his representation of my opinions of cryonics. I have never said I "don't believe anybody's survival actually depends on cryonics because it won't work." In fact, on numerous occasions, I've clearly stated cryonics has a basis in reality, based on existing conventional medical procedures, in which people are cooled to a state of death, and then revived again. Many times...many, many times...I have CLEARLY stated I believe someone preserved in a fairly pristine state might be revived. However, I have stated, on an equal number of occasions, that I don't believe the scientists of the future will be able to repair the damage being inflicted on cryonicists, by overgrown adolescents, playing surgeon and perfusionist. I'm sure Dr. Wowk's lack of understanding, as to why I defend Johnson, is as perplexing to him, as his defense of Alcor and SA, or people like Harris and Platt, are to me. How many cryobiologists does Dr. Wowk think he can get, to su
2lsparrish11yThis is a specious argument. Plausible motive for defending organization X does not imply plausible motive for promotion/tolerance of supposed practice/culture Y within organization X. Brian has actually provided a very solid motive for himself and other Alcor board members to oppose waste and procedural negligence. They are signed up for cryonics themselves. If there is too much waste or procedural negligence, they and people they care about could be harmed or killed.
5melmax11ylsparrish writes: "Brian has actually provided a very solid motive for himself and other Alcor board members to oppose waste and procedural negligence. They are signed up for cryonics themselves." Luke may not know I was encouraged to sign up, while I was working at SA, to appease Saul Kent, so that I could be eligible for the management position. The person encouraging me knew I was not interested in being cryopreserved, at the time. In other words, I was encouraged to trick Saul Kent, the man responsible for funding our very-generous paychecks. I was even told Mr. Kent could, most-likely, be convinced to fund my insurance policy, if I were willing to sign up. Contrary to what, the very naive, Luke Parrish believes, being signed up is NOT "solid motive" for insuring the quality of cryonics services. (I do not mean to cast doubt on Dr. Wowk's sincerity, but only to point out the obvious flaw in Luke's logic.) For anyone who is interested, I was not interested in my own cryopreservation, due to the gross inadequacies of the protocols, the equipment and the personnel. I don't believe anyone who has been cryopreserved, thus far, will ever be revived. I am not inclined to pay $60,000 for a quack like Catherine Baldwin, to make sure I am REALLY dead, by keeping me at relatively warm temperatures, while she bumbles around, for many hours, trying to perform a vascular cannulation. Nor am I inclined to pay $200,000, to Alcor, for what I consider to be grossly-inadequate services. It seems the people in control of cryonics organizations greatly-underestimate the amount of education and training required, to be a REAL vascular surgeon, or perfusionist. It is absurd, for cryonics organizations to think they can train laymen to perform the tasks of these professionals, by practicing on pigs in the back of a van, or even through their very infrequent human cadaver experiences. SA and Alcor, can each afford to fund the salary of at least one full-time staff member competent in
1jsalvatier11yFor those of us who don't have any experience in this area, approximately how much would hiring "one full-time staff member competent in performing vascular cannulations" cost? How much would hiring "one full-time staff member skilled in perfusion" cost?
2bgwowk11yAlcor already employs a full-time paramedic with surgical training in large animal models to do vascular cannulations when it is possible to do so in the field. Cannulations at Alcor are typically done by either a contract neurosurgeon or a veterinary surgeon. I've written further details about who does surgeries at Alcor, and who has done them historically, here: http://www.imminst.org/forum/topic/44772-is-cryonics-quackery/page__p__437779#entry437779 [http://www.imminst.org/forum/topic/44772-is-cryonics-quackery/page__p__437779#entry437779] It's misleading for people to keep saying that Alcor sends out "laypeople" to do vascular cannulations. The standard being applied to Alcor in recent criticisms is not just that people doing the cannulations be competent, or even have a medical credential, but that they should be the same professionals who do vascular cannulations for elective surgeries in tertiary care hospitals, i.e. cardiovascular surgeons. According to this website http://www.studentdoc.com/cardiovascular-surgery-salary.html [http://www.studentdoc.com/cardiovascular-surgery-salary.html] the lowest reported salary for a cardiovascular surgeon is $351108 per year. According to this website http://www.bestsampleresume.com/salary/perfusionist.html [http://www.bestsampleresume.com/salary/perfusionist.html] the average salary of a clinical perfusionist is $122,000 per year. The sum of these two figures is approximately equal to Alcor's entire staff budget. Notwithstanding, a clinical perfusion credential was listed as a desirable qualification in Alcor's last clinical cryonics job ad. No perfusionists responded. Surgeons and perfusionists employed full-time by a cryonics organization might only do a couple of cryonics cases per year, quickly losing their clinical-level skills, and employability outside of cryonics. The perfusionist making all these recent criticisms against cryonics, and insisting that full-time cardiovascular surgeons and perfusionsts b
6melmax11yDr. Wowk is misrepresenting the situation, yet again. It is not misleading to say Alcor has allowed laypersons to have performed vascular cannulations. Not only have they done so, but they have falsely referred to such people as “surgeons,” and even "Chief Surgeon," in their public reports, (something that is a violation of Arizona law). If they want to send a layman to do a surgeon's job, FINE...but, let them so note, in their case reports, and on their website!!!!! Dr. Wowk also distorts the truth when he writes that recent criticisms (mine, I assume) call for cardiovascular surgeons, at a price of $351,108 dollars a year. Personally, I think if SA tried hard enough, for Ms. Baldwin’s salary, they COULD convince a retired vascular surgeon to move to Florida and do their few cases a year, but MANY times I’ve also suggested other persons, familiar with vascular cannulations, (such as embalmers, scrub techs, or physician assistants). The average embalmer’s salary, in Florida, is $43,171, as per this site: http://www.cbsalary.com/state-salary-chart.aspx?specialty=Embalmer&cty=&kw=Embalmer&jn=jn013&tid=2523&sid=FL [http://www.cbsalary.com/state-salary-chart.aspx?specialty=Embalmer&cty=&kw=Embalmer&jn=jn013&tid=2523&sid=FL] , Does Dr. Wowk think a skilled embalmer wouldn’t love to have Ms. Baldwin’s six-figure salary-and-benefits package, and an easy caseload? Wasn't it an embalmer, not even employed by any cryonics organization, who had to perform the cannulation, for the Henderson case, because Ms. Baldwin could not do so, even in five hours time??? Dr. Wowk pretending SA and/or Alcor would have to pay $122,000, for a perfusionist is equally absurd, and has already been proven to be untrue. I am a perfusionist, and I worked at SA. My salary was $75,000 a year, and if it would not have been for the unprofessional and unethical activities, it would have been the highest-paying, least-demanding, job I had ever had! (Perfusionists who make the kind of salary Dr. Wowk
0lsparrish11yThe other explanation would be that she was honestly concerned for the image of the company and did not think things through as to whether this would be deceptive or not. Assume good faith [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Assume_good_faith]. Why not? Most people are neither particularly malicious nor particularly stupid, but are subject to the same standard cognitive biases that every other human is.
0[anonymous]11yI agree with this sentiment. I wish that you would stick to this line more rather than jumping to demanding regulation and alleging fraud. People need to be honest, not only with others but themselves (which is often harder). If they aren't, then being legal (credentialed, etc.) won't help. You need to be honest about your own limitations, too. Your experience with SA was 6 months long, happened two years ago, and did not include any cryonics cases. Up front disclosure of things like this would make it easier (for myself at least) to accept your arguments as being said with sincerity and self-awareness. Your quickness to say things like "Dr. Wowk is misrepresenting the situation" strikes me as needlessly antagonistic even assuming its factuality. Compare to Dr. Wowk's statement "It's misleading for people to keep saying ..." when he could have instead said "It's misleading the way Melody keeps saying ...". The goal should be to reach agreement, not antagonize the other party. Assume good faith [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Assume_good_faith]. Excuse-making, rationalization, laziness, self-deception, etc. are normal human behavior and shouldn't always be derided instantly upon their apparent discovery.
1lsparrish11y(Edited in response to downvotes.) Consider this. You are attacking me based on a misunderstanding of something I said on another forum, on an unrelated topic. I think this is questionable debate ethics at best. In a nutshell, my position in the argument you reference is that a description is a real entity, and in Robert's hypothetical example he described something exactly equivalent to an atom at a moment in time. At the level of abstraction he was talking about, the atom was a real atom to the exact same degree and for the exact same reasons that a physical atom (in a given instant of time) is a real atom. Your comment about atoms exploding and undergoing fission because of the paper being torn makes no sense in the context of the argument I was making. The paper is not a part of the framework in which it makes sense to think of the atom existing, nor is the atom undergoing time in the same framework as the paper.
1lsparrish11yYou seem to be claiming that your disinterest in the service is solely motivated by it is not being good enough to justify the investment. But you also say you were offered the possibility of getting the service for free, with a promotion thrown in. I'm having a hard time being convinced that your rejection of cryonics is motivated solely by a financial cost-benefit analysis.
5melmax11yLuke misses the obvious point, as usual. I am not inclined to endorse, (or allow someone to endorse, on my behalf), the activities of those I consider to be quite incompetent, unprofessional and unethical. These organizations have consistently failed to provide the services they sell, with any degree of skill and finesse. They've made a mockery of all that is dear to me, in regard to hypothermic medicine. In my opinion, to provide any sort of funding to them, (whether directly, or indirectly), would constitute participating in fraudulent activities, perpetuating extremely substandard services, and delaying any possible real progress, in the field of cryonics.
2jsalvatier11yI want to Welcome you to LessWrong, and say that I hope you will stick around beyond this argument.
-3lsparrish11yWhat would be useful to know is whether that was your opinion at the time you made the decision not to accept the services. Also it would be useful to know if you plan to accept the services of an organization that does meet your standards, once it has come into existence (by whatever route -- be it regulation, reform, or replacement). If you are simply not planning to sign up at all, that's fine of course -- but it should not be surprising if this does not exactly inspire trust among cryonicists.
0[anonymous]11yLuke writes: "Brian has actually provided a very solid motive for himself and other Alcor board members to oppose waste and procedural negligence. They are signed up for cryonics themselves." What Luke doesn't know is that I was encouraged to "sign up," when I was at SA, even though the person encouraging me knew I did not want to, at the time. Personally,
0[anonymous]11yI think the end of this post is missing...
1[anonymous]11ySorry, about that, I accidently sent my post, before it was finished. Hopefully, I have properly edited it.
3lsparrish11yHow much information do you have about SA these days Melody? I thought you quit your job there a couple years ago. (Welcome to Less Wrong by the way!)
4Kenb11yBrian, you are defending Alcor, but you failed to disclose that you are a long standing member of Alcor's Board of Directors. Why you concealed that important fact?
6bgwowk11yI assumed readers of this blog would recognize my name, which I wouldn't have logged in under if my intent were concealment. I've been on Alcor's board since 2004. In any case, most of what I said was objective and can be verified.
5AngryParsley11yThis is offtopic but I recognized your name and I just wanted to remind you that you are awesome. In addition to your research, you do a great job of accurately portraying cryonics to laymen. This presentation [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2157944955525659858&hl=en#] has helped convince at least two [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2f5/cryonics_wants_to_be_big/29ez?c=1] people [http://geoff.greer.fm/2010/07/09/insert-frozen-food-joke-here/] to sign up for cryonics.
0chkno6yThat presentation link has gone 404. Do you know where else it might be found, or remember the name or context of the presentation?
5lsparrish11yIt seems to me Brian's affiliation with Alcor is implied by the wording of the comment. I don't think it is correct (or reasonable) to conclude that he has "concealed" anything simply from the fact that he did not explicitly mention his position there. It is publicly accessible [http://www.alcor.org/AboutAlcor/indexdir.html] information, after all. However it is not clear to me why this is such an important fact to disclose in this context. Is the validity of his factual arguments dependent on who says them? Unlike Melody, he has not taken an authoritarian position based on his educational background. Brian Wowk is a PhD cryobiologist who has participated in some of the most important research [http://www.21cm.com/abstracts.jsp?SAuthor=*Wowk*] on cryonics-relevant science to date.
0[anonymous]11yIt's common knowledge, eh? At any rate I would think that most people who know who Brian Wowk is would know about the connection.

I am a CI member. For some reason, I find the charges of trying to reinvent what already exists particularly troubling. Perhaps because it seems like the activity of an organization trying to look like it's being a good agent rather than actually trying to be a good agent.

8Alicorn11yIf CI were trying to just look good wouldn't they hire someone to make their website better?
7Vaniver11yI think you mean "If CI were competent and trying to just look good, wouldn't they hire someone to make their website better?" When you add that unspoken assumption, the answer shifts quite a bit. It also seems that if the money is primarily coming from on high, rather than from customers, having a slicker website wouldn't make a difference- the wealthy funders don't care.
6[anonymous]11yIf your argument is "if they were trying to look good, they'd just make their website better," then I disagree for two reasons: 1) There is a lot more to looking credible then just having a fancy website. The most important thing is that CI's target audience believes that CI provides high-quality care; as Melody explains, Alcor and others are very good at making their services and their staff appear more competent than they actually are. 2) They actually explain why the site looks the way it is on their FAQ page [http://www.cryonics.org/whydontwe.html]:
4Alicorn11yFixing their website seems like it would be low-hanging fruit on projecting credibility. It might not be optimally targeted at the sort of credibility they want to optimize for, but it would still be quite efficient. The FAQ doesn't explain why the site looks the way it does. Their site is difficult to navigate and ugly, and both problems could be solved without making it bulky or complicated. I could design a better website than that, and I'm not even good at designing websites.
3[anonymous]11yTrue, but it also occurs to me that making one's website look good is not a real test of credibility because CI would want to make their website appealing regardless of whether their services and staff are competent or not. That is, P(website looks good|CI is competent) = P(website looks good|not competent) and P(website not good|CI is competent) = P(website not good|not competent). I'm inclined to agree that there could be ways to make the site look better, but given their explanation (the one I quoted above), perhaps they don't realize this.

FWI, I'm considering cryonics and one thing that has set off warning bells is how bad the CI and Alcor websites are (CI is much worse of the two).

If you do sign up, your next job is to help fix the many organisational and publicity problems cryonics has, let alone the technological ones. Cryoptimism (1 2) is an antipattern.

Cryonics deeply needs strong advocates who apply scepticism to it. I'd love cryonics to work, both technologically and organisationally. At present it does neither. I think it really needs the second even before the first, as the second is achievable right now.

2lsparrish11yThis is such a great comment over all that I'm not going to be pedantic about the pretense in "cryonics does not work technologically". Upvoted.
3David_Gerard11yWell, it might preserve information. We don't actually know that it does. As far as I can find out (and I've looked), there is no evidence that the strength of neural network connections - and that's what your mind appears to be stored in - is actually preserved by current cryonics practice. (If you have something that directly addresses that specific question, I'd love to see it.) And, of course, revival requires not only as-yet uninvented technology, but as-yet unrealised scientific breakthroughs, and the assumption that the scientific breakthroughs we would need will in fact work out the way we would need them to. This is a profoundly slim chance to pin one’s hopes on, but it does not provably violate physics as we currently know it. I'd love cryonics to work. I was actually neutral to positive on it before ciphergoth [http://lesswrong.com/user/ciphergoth] provoked me into investigating for the RW article [http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Cryonics]. But there is no evidence as yet that current practice does or can, only that it might. I feel that being uncompromisingly realistic and rational about the prospects of it working is quite important to behaving sensibly concerning it.
2lsparrish11yAre you saying we don't know that it preserves information at all?
2David_Gerard11yI know of no evidence. Closest I know is the promising result that a percentage of pinewood nematodes (a favourite of cryobiology researchers, having about the simplest known nervous system that is definitely a nervous system) survive cryoprotectants and vitrification and, if they survive, go on to parasitise pinewoods much like they did before. (E. Riga and J. M. Webster. "Cryopreservation of the Pinewood Nematode, Bursaphelenchus spp." [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2619180/] J. Nematol. 1991 October; 23 (4): 438–440.) Preserving a neural network is of course the holy grail. But this is getting way off topic for a blog about the art of human rationality.
5bgwowk11yAnimals with more sophisticated nervous systems than nematodes can survive vitrification. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20086136 [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20086136] Even more sophisticated neural networks, mammalian brain slices, can now be vitrified with present technology. http://www.21cm.com/pdfs/hippo_published.pdf [http://www.21cm.com/pdfs/hippo_published.pdf] Of course it is what happens to whole brains that are vitrified that really matters to cryonics. The only paper published so far on the technology presently used in cryonics applied to whole brains is this one http://www.alcor.org/Library/pdfs/Lemler-Annals.pdf [http://www.alcor.org/Library/pdfs/Lemler-Annals.pdf] with more micrographs from that study here http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/cambridge.html [http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/cambridge.html] and many more here http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/micrographs.html [http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/micrographs.html] Unlike slices, there is no expectation that cell viability is preserved in whole brains because the cryoprotectant exposure time is longer. However connectivity and extensive biochemical information is believed to be preserved, as these micrographs suggest. It is presumed, but not proven, that the effect of thermal stress fractures at cryogenic temperatures is displacement of fracture planes. This would theoretically still preserve connectivity information, although requiring hyper-advanced technology to do anything with that information.
2lsparrish11yFirst off, for it to preserve no information at all would be extremely surprising. If there are physical structures, that's some kind of information. But that's not the question we're interested in -- we are interested in relevant information. As you say, preserving a neural network is the "holy grail" (at least if you aren't counting loftier yet less crucial goals like reversible whole-body suspension). Notwithstanding, we do have evidence that there is at least some brain structure being preserved -- there are pictures [http://www.21cm.com/pdfs/hippo_published.pdf] and everything.
0[anonymous]11yEr. You do know what "information" is, right? Any structure whatsoever contains information. If you can make out discernible shapes under an electron microscope, that's information. But anyway... Given our present lack of precision cellular repair tech, this [http://www.21cm.com/pdfs/hippo_published.pdf] seems like it would be more relevant than revival experiments. Not that the nematode example isn't insanely cool.
1timtyler11yAlcor says: "It is a well-established fact that long-term memories are encoded in durable physical and chemical changes." * http://www.alcor.org/sciencefaq.htm [http://www.alcor.org/sciencefaq.htm] Usually the problem is not with freezing - but with thawing. Vitrification improves things further - but even without that an enormous quantity of information seems bound to be preserved. I don't think scepticism about this has much scientific basis. We know enough about the brain, and about freezing to see that a mountain of information will be preserved. Also, check out the frozen frogs [http://www.blurtit.com/q476575.html].
4Alicorn11yThis slowed me down too. (I'm now a CI member and I have my insurance policy, and I just need to do some more paperwork to let those two facts shake hands with each other, but the website made me feel like the entire process was going to be way more painful than it actually was).
2lsparrish11yCI is a different organization from SA.Suspended Animation [http://suspendedinc.com/] has a much "nicer" website (i.e. looks more likely to have been professionally designed).
0[anonymous]11yJust to be clear, CI and Suspended Animation are different entities. CI contracts with Suspended Animation for services.

I will subscribe to this blog, but I'm far from completely convinced. In particular, my impression has always been that, yes, it'd be to nice to have lots of cryonics-friendly doctors and surgeons involved, but the number that are willing, even at a premium, are few.

Putting aside the issue of how deep or superficial troubles in cryonics are, the proposed solution does not follow. Most voters, and politicians, are extremely hostile to cryonics and transhumanism at large. I suspect a serious appeal for regulation in the industry would most likely lead to a b... (read more)

[-][anonymous]11y 14

it'd be to nice to have lots of cryonics-friendly doctors and surgeons involved, but the number that are willing, even at a premium, are few.

Then shouldn't cryonics organizations admit this?

5David_Gerard11yIn other fields, external regulation often comes in when internal regulation has failed. Maxim's claims suggest that internal regulation has failed. Suggestion: Cryonics advocates need to go through all Maxim's posts, work out the factual claims being made and investigate and report on them.

No Richie. We are not voting you down because you are too "firey" in the sense of misspelled anger. We are voting you down because you are too brilliant for us, and we want you to spend your time like every other tortured genius: in seclusion.

RichieKGB:

I'd like to know what "nefarious group" you think I belong to. Sexually under-experienced middle age men? Yeah, I cop to that. I've even written about it.

As for,

"There is no chance for revival - NO CHANCE - Dead is Dead is DEAD - how do you bring a cadaver back to life?"

I hope you recognize the circularity of your statement. Cryonicists challenge the assumption held even by "rational" people that something spooky happens at death which makes it a "theological event" instead of a set of problems in trauma me... (read more)

cryomedical.blogspot.com was deleted ~6 (?) months ago, but you can read it by pasting this Atom feed into Google Reader: http://cryomedical.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

Less Wrong needs a better Captcha.

Welcome to LessWrong old friend. :) The comments here have a karma system. Generally they get upvoted for seeming useful and downvoted for seeming useless. There is no moderation really, but if you lose more than three karma on a comment, it goes invisible unless someone chooses to read it by clicking the plus sign. It is a useful way to hone your debate/explanation skills. Also be sure to check out the yummy Sequences and learn to be more rational.

Taking advantage of the the fact that lots of people who signed up for cryonics will be reading this thread, I'd like to ask: how much does it cost you to get vitrified?

I haven't found official price lists, and the third-party estimates I have encountered ranged from $300 per year to $200k total. It would surprise me if there were a full order of magnitude between the most basic and the most complete option, and since cryonics advocates treat the various providers as mostly equivalent I doubt they have wildly different prices.

The trouble with Melody is it can be hard to tell where the FUD ends and the legitimate criticism begins. I would welcome the existence of more impartial/rational sounding critics with inside experience.

I am, as you know, deeply sceptical concerning the prospects of a cryonics technology that works any time in the foreseeable future, for scientific and technological reasons.

The organisational issues are a whole other reason to worry, however. You have a lot of financially shaky organisations (it's an expensive business to run as a charity) run by people who radiate weirdness signals and thus make it less likely for the rest of the world to take their concerns seriously. Which is a failure in instrumental rationality. And Alcor (Mike Darwin in particular) is famously litigation-happy against those it perceives as critics, which is a BIG cultural warning sign these days.

I must stress that I do not see any reason whatsoever to assume villainy. I am struck by the deep sincerity of pretty much any cryonics advocate I have ever encountered. However, organisations of smart, sincere people are remarkably capable of stupidity.

And engineer hubris is endemic amongst technologists. Reinventing the wheel is perfectly normal behaviour, unfortunately.

I think the questions Maxim asks can be asked in a reasonable form, and are the sort of questions that cryonics advocates need to be able to answe... (read more)

5lsparrish11yThis is a good point. But... at the same time, there are limits to who should be taken seriously. If a person insists on questions on the order of whether you've stopped beating your wife yet, they aren't a critic worth replying to. That said, in this context the term would have to be "bozo bit" not "villian bit" as far as I'm concerned -- I tend not to paint things black and white as far as character goes, but I accept that there are those who are pointless to reason with (at least at given points in time, for given topics). It seems very plausible that Melody has laudable motives. I'm not particularly good at ignoring noise, unfortunately, and I am not an expert at what goes on at cryonics organizations. If someone who is wants to step in and reply that's great. (I am definitely glad this topic has reached the attention of Less Wrong.) My own staunch support for cryonics is not aligned with the success of any particular organization. I think some stabilization is better than no stabilization, but I don't have an opinion on whether SA is grossly incompetent or not. It does seem likely to me that they are at least under-utilizing available technologies and probably not using specialists to the degree possible.

Indeed. The critics of cryonics on the Rick Ross boards, for example, have gone way over the edge of serious consideration. And I know some of these people - they were fellow critics in the great battle against Scientology, they sincerely believe they're doing a good thing, and they have a great deal of experience in dealing with cultishness, financial parasites and those who sell false hope. Unfortunately, they then take this to presume clear organisational incompetence is evidence of actual evil, and then start dehumanising the people they've assigned the villain bit. It's a good example of a failure to examine one's own thinking.

3advancedatheist11yThe Anticult accuses me of advocating child sacrifice because of a thought experiment I posted on the ImmInst forum, which he pulled out of context. I can understand now how Jews feel about blood libel.
3David_Gerard11yBut there's no reason not to answer hypotheticals [http://lesswrong.com/lw/383/the_trolley_problem_dodging_moral_questions/].
0Roko11yAnd yet, it still seems more likely to succeed than bury-and-allow-to-rot technology, or burn-at-a-high-temperature technology.
8Emile11y'FUD' seems unwarranted here - she seems better informed on the subject than the average LessWronger. You may disagree with her conclusions, but I don't see any reason to think she's motivated by fear. If Alcor and the like are a bunch of incompetent on-artists squeezing money out of gullible con-artists, then any rational critic with inside experience will start screaming bloody murder about them - and thus, won't sound impartial at all. Would you only listen to criticism of say Josef Mengele [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Mengele] if it sounded "impartial"? Taking sides isn't evidence of irrationality. Now, I don't know nearly enough about Alcor and the like to know whether they are con artists or not, and even if they are they might still be the best chance for today's 70-year-old to see what the 30th century looks like.
1lsparrish11yFear, uncertainty, and doubt would be the feelings I think Melody is trying to instill, not necessarily the ones motivating her. She seems motivated by anger.
5David_Gerard11yThis does not necessarily mean that fear, uncertainty or doubt are irrational feelings about the prospect of trusting one's infinite future to apparent organisational incompetents. Especially sincere ones, as sincere ones are much harder to convince they're doing anything wrong. Organisational robustness is actually really really important.
1Nick_Roy11yWouldn't insincere ones be harder to really convince they're doing anything wrong (in terms of actions taken, not words spoken), since they don't care whether or not they're doing it right? Insincere ones might accept criticism and then not make any changes, whereas sincere ones might fight harder against criticism but actually make real changes if convinced. There may be some usefulness in contacting cryonics organizations about criticisms against them and eliciting responses, as well as eliciting evidence to back up responses.
2David_Gerard11yNot in my experience [http://lesswrong.com/lw/31i/have_no_heroes_and_no_villains/2xc2?c=1] - the insincere can be convinced to fall back to a different not-necessarily-sincere position, whereas the sincere tend to take an attack on their beliefs or actions as an attack on themselves. The apposite consideration here is Dumas' razor, "I prefer rogues to imbeciles, because rogues sometimes rest." (In the original French, "J'aime mieux les méchants que les imbéciles, parce qu'ils se reposent." Or various other renderings, e.g. "Je préfère le méchant à l'imbécile, parce que l'imbécile ne se repose jamais" ["... because the imbecile never rests"] or "Si je devais faire un choix, entre les méchants et les imbéciles, ce serait les méchants, parce qu'ils se reposent." It appears to be something Dumas fils said in response to Victor Hugo saying "Les méchants envient et haïssent; c'est leur manière d'admirer" ["The wicked envy and hate; it's their form of admiration"] and others liked and wrote down, not something he wrote, but it's a popular quote for a reason.)
6jsalvatier11yThe articles on her blog near the beginning ( http://cryomedical.blogspot.com/2007_07_08_archive.html [http://cryomedical.blogspot.com/2007_07_08_archive.html]) are interesting and troubling. They seem more credible because she appears to be in constructive criticism mode rather than in FUD mode. I encourage other Cryonics members to read these.
-1lsparrish11yAssuming there's something to what she says, it would be interesting to consider why this is happening. Why is competence so hard to come by in the cryonics world? Is it because cryonics is a small isolated community that tends to operate more by group loyalty rather than meritocracy? Are there other factors of the small scale, such as a relatively small hiring pool? Does belief in cryonics tend to act as a negative filter towards responsible people, or towards responsible thinking?
5jsalvatier11yPart of it may be that it filters for people predisposed to think they know better than others, since they are already bucking the trend. This might lead them to rely less on established practice than they should.
3[anonymous]11yI think the first thing to consider is incentives. The cryonics industry is for-profit, meaning that it is in the best interest of cryonics providers to attract more patients. This also means that they have incentives to keep their costs down wherever possible. One way to do this is, as Melody suggests, is to make it look like you know what you're doing--whether you actually know what you're doing is irrelevant. Hence, if cryonics providers think they can continue to appear competent, they have no incentive to actually become competent by performing research and hiring trained personnel, as doing so would only raise costs.
7lsparrish11yUm, SA is nominally for-profit. EUCRIO might be as well. CI and Alcor aren't. But that's irrelevant, as keeping costs down is obviously a priority regardless of the nature of the institution. I'm not sure the appearance of competence is cheaper in the real world though -- Melody accuses them of being inefficient with their resources and underutilizing pre-existing technologies. Cryonics is run largely by cryonicists. There is a non-monetary incentive to actually be competent. It's just (apparently) not working well enough.
3[anonymous]11yYou may be correct in terms of equipment and research, but not in terms of hiring competent staff. It might be that Meoldy's assessment of the situation is closer to the truth: What are your thoughts on her conclusions? I agree only to a certain extent--I wouldn't be surprised if a large number of cryonicists were just trying to make some money. From Melody's blog:
3advancedatheist11yActually cryonics resembles progressive talk radio in most American markets. Those stations can't compete with profitable conservative talk radio stations, so they need private donations to stay on the air. Cryonics also resembles Austrian economics, which requires subsidies from American businessmen like the Koch brothers to stay in existence because otherwise its professors can't find regular academic jobs and get their books published. (I call these professors "kept Austrians," analogous to "kept women.") Even then Austrian economists often have to give their books away, like Jehovah's Wtinesses or something, because nobody wants to buy them. By contrast, the non-Austrian economists who publish those Freakonomics books seem to meet a genuine market demand.
2[anonymous]11yCompetence is pretty hard to come by in any industry. There's no reason to expect cryonics to be different, especially when you can't really tell from the outside which companies are competent until it becomes time to revive people.
2lsparrish11yIt seems to me there should be some less direct way to measure competence of personnel besides the patient being revived with intact memories. I believe this kind of feedback mechanism was the original goal of case reports. Perhaps having everyone wear video glasses and audio recorders would be ideal. The more detail of what actually goes on is available for review (not necessarily to the public for patient privacy reasons, but perhaps to independent experts) the less likely mistakes will be repeated.
3JoshuaZ11yThat's true. And she does seem to have some amount of motivated cognition. But it does seem like she has outlined correctly some pretty glaring problems with general competence and ethics of cryonics organizations.
[-][anonymous]11y 17

As we all know by now, we shouldn't use cognitive biases as a counterargument against people we disagree with. Either her criticisms are true or they aren't; whether she is committing motivated cognition is irrelevant.

I agree that she brings up some very important points, and I would be very interested to see them discussed herein.

7JoshuaZ11yWell, yes, but in so far as she is an expert in her subfield and some amount of judgement about her as an expert is occurring, that she's engaging in motivated congnition does become relevant.
0[anonymous]11yThe articles on her blog near the beginning ( http://cryomedical.blogspot.com/2007_07_08_archive.html [http://cryomedical.blogspot.com/2007_07_08_archive.html]) are interesting and troubling. They seem more credible because she appears to be in constructive criticism mode rather than in FUD mode.
[-][anonymous]6y 0

Gross incompetence is nothing knew in cryonics. Check out the Australian history of cryonics...I suspect a smart enterprising rationalist would rather try and start their own service then join the existing lot bumbling around trying to get something started...

[-][anonymous]11y 0

I'm rubber, you're glue... :P