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Mike Darwin?


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#1 caliban

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Posted 24 June 2005 - 10:38 PM


I have no idea if this is a sensitive question (like every second cryonics question seems to be) and apologies if it is....

but I was wondering what Mike Darwin is doing these days?

#2 advancedatheist

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Posted 24 June 2005 - 11:31 PM

The last I heard, Mike lives in a cabin on an Indian reservation in Arizona and has conversations with himself about some ring.

#3 eldras

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 12:58 AM

The last I heard, Mike lives in a cabin on an Indian reservation in Arizona and has conversations with himself about some ring.


He was at ExtroBritannia today in London and spoke brilliantly from the floor.

Contained, he is one of the best minds I've seen.

Amazing how a few people can catalyst and catapult a movement that has existed not doing much for yonks.

There a theory about the existance of the conscious particle.

He gave me some good pointers on Quantum Archeology.

#4 xlifex

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 09:35 PM

Mike Darwin still contributes to the world of critical care medicine and consults on technical cryonics matters "behind the scenes."

Last year, he published an article on the history of DMSO and glycerol in Cryonics magazine: http://www.alcor.org...SO_glycerol.pdf

Earlier this year he published an interesting article on the use of "controversial" medications in cryonics called "How Dead is Dead Enough?"
http://www.network54...is Dead Enough-

Having said this, cryonics never really recovered from the loss of Darwin and Leaf's active involvement in cryonics research and daily operations, although there are some similarities between how Darwin approached cryonics and how Ben Best is running CI (transparency of operations, active communication with the membership, timely and detailed case reporting etc.)

#5 xlifex

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 06:26 PM

In August, Mike Darwin will be speaking in London on the topic "Cryonics: Why it has failed, and possible ways to fix it":

http://extrobritanni...d-possible.html

#6 kashmir

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 08:17 PM



I am currently writing a review of Darwin's ExtroBritannia lecture. As a result of that lecture I'm considering becoming seriously involved in cryonics and possibly changing the direction in which that my life has been going. When Caliban inquires if "Mike Darwin is a sensitive subject he must have second sight for trouble, because in the two days since Darwin spoke I've discovered that he is probably the most feared and definitely the most hated man in cryonics. As an academic who has also been active in politics from council to national levels, I've never encountered anything like the hatred this man evokes. It is frightening. For these reasons I've chosen to re-register here and protect my identity. In the pub after the lecture I thought Darwin was being a bit melodramatic when he advised one young chap "not to tell others in cryonics that you've talked to me." I don't think that anymore.

Darwin spoke for a mesmerizing two hours. I don't know how long my review will be, but as it is, I'm only halfway through the first of what Darwin calls the "four eras" of cryonics. When I asked him how many times he had given this lecture in the US he threw his head back and roared with laughter saying, "****-me! Surely you jest; Bruno would have had a good time of it compared to what would be done to me. Don't you know that no man is a prophet in his own land?"



Review of Cryonics: Why it has failed, and possible ways to fix it - with Mike Darwin

Mike Darwin. Where to begin? I'd heard all kinds of things about him, from superlatives to condemnations. The last thing I heard was that he was a mentally ill recluse, living in some isolated small town in California, or somewhere in the desert in the south-western US. I was pretty surprised to hear he was speaking here in London, and though I had plans for that Sunday, I decided to change them and go hear him speak. I didn't expect much.

Was I ever mistaken! I was so fascinated, awestricken, actually, that I didn't think to discreetly hoist up my digital recorder on its lanyard and turn it on until had he'd been talking for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Darwin is the most compelling speaker I've ever heard, and I left the college shaken and questioning some of my most deeply held convictions about what is really important, and how I should live my life. If I had to use one word to describe my reaction it would be "shocked." When I approached him after the lecture he declined to give me a copy of his slides, but he did take my email and kindly sent along the plain text from many of the slides. It is from these, and from my spotty recording, that I've composed the following summary and review.

I went to hear the talk thinking I was very well informed about cryonics, and I left realizing that most of what I thought I knew was wrong, a lie, or maybe more accurately, beside the point. He has the air of a caged lion about him and he started out by warning the audience that the topic at hand was something that was intensely personal, even emotional for him, that his words and the accompanying images might be deeply disturbing, and that he "didn't suffer fools gladly." I was ready to conclude he was daft when he said that "cryonics was the most important idea in the world today, one of the most "humane" ideas in all of history," and that we should understand he treated it with the respect those facts required! Then he let us have it: his first slide was of this kid kneeling next to a woman wrapped in aluminium foil and surrounded by slabs of dry ice. That, he announced, was a picture of him taken something like 40 years before when he was, I think he said, aged 16. It didn't seem possible since the man standing in front of us didn't look nearly old enough. I scarcely had time to ponder on this when his next slide came on. It showed his extended family gathered under a large tree with Darwin in his Mum's arms as a toddler, thumb in his mouth. But that isn't what you notice at first; instead your attention is captured because most of the smiling people in the black and white photo have scarlet-red circle-slash symbols on their chests, over their hearts, actually.

Darwin explains that all these people whom he had loved are now dead and that this has left him "wounded," and deeply distressed and angry, to this day. Above the photo there was a quote by Mike Perry saying something to the effect that "no life is ever rightly ended." He then went on to show photographs of himself as a child freezing and vivisecting turtles and sending them drifting off into the clouds enclosed in what looked like a small biscuit tin attached to a cluster of helium-filled balloons. Trying to stop and start life and avoid death, as a child, was how he got interested in cryonics, not the other way around, he said. These pictures were phantasmagorical and I don't think it is because attitudes, or the culture, are so different in the UK from those in the US. Nobody has a childhood freezing and reviving animals, vivisecting them, and sending them sailing off into overcast skies, American or British.

Then he started the formal part of the lecture. Darwin sees cryonics as one of the great transforming ideas of history, on the same plane as the invention of agriculture, the industrial revolution, or evolutionary theory. He posits there are fundamentally two kinds of new ideas, incremental ideas that advance our technology and scientific understanding gradually, and blockbuster ideas which he calls "paradigm changing" that overturn the whole social structure from morals through commerce. This is the point where my recording of his speech picks up and I've listened to it several times since Sunday. He uses examples like the Copernican system as opposed to the Ptolemaic, earth-centred view of the solar system, and germ theory as opposed to Vitalism. He argues that there are two ways such revolutionary ideas are successfully promulgated, principally by what he terms "seduction," wherein the populous and the powers that be don't understand that the new idea will destroy their most important cultural values and entirely transform their civilization. Instead, they are "seduced" by the "irresistible advantages" whilst being blind to, or ignorant of, the powerful transforming or damaging effects of the new idea or technology. As an example he presented the argument that agriculture has resulted not only in civilization and a huge increase in the number of humans, but that it has also caused a mind-numbing increase in suffering and a halving of the average life span. He noted that this has gone on for 10,000 years, with the return of the average global human life span to its pre-agricultural level only having happened as recently as around the time he was born. He advanced the same argument for the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of TV, which he termed "pernicious," and described as destroying everything from a proper attention-span to communal family meals.

The second route to introducing these so-called paradigm changing ideas is by what he terms "insurgency," a more or less militaristic attack on the "hard core" of the existing order. He relies heavily on the theorizing of the philosopher of mathematics and science, Imre Lakatos, who rejected the idea of mathematics and science as a patient accumulation of ever more complex truth, in favour of a model wherein advances occur as a result of dramatic proofs and refutations. When I spoke with him after the talk, and enquired about how he had come across Lakatos' ideas, (I'm a career scientist and a student of theories of knowledge) he laughed and said that, like Marx, he had been spending an inordinate amount of time in the British library (sic) "trying to find the intellectual foundation for things I've long observed to be true, but didn't know the proper names by which to call them. "

Lakatos proposed a model of scientific advance wherein there is a "hard core" of scientific or mathematical theory which is surrounded by a "protective belt" of gentle inquiry. It is work going on within this protective belt that incrementally advances or erodes the hard core of the paradigm. Darwin argues that virtually all of normal scientific research and institutional science operates in the zone of this protective belt, and that revolutionary, or paradigm changing ideas, penetrate the protective belt, smash the hard core, and thus demolish the whole structure. Whilst he was speaking I couldn't help thinking that the image he used in his slides of two concentric shells being exploded by paradigm changing ideas was really more akin to the smashing of the atom, and with similar results; the release of a vast amount of disruptive energy which could be used for good or ill.

The thrust of his argument is that cryonics, like Natural Selection, or the theories of General and Special Relativity, are core-smashing in character, and that in the case of cryonics the idea is so antithetical to the existing order of civilisation that it can it only be advanced by insurgent means. I sat transfixed as he elaborated the ways in which cryonics is "profoundly disruptive of the hard core of civilization. "

Text from his slides:

· Overturns the Vitalistic view of life

· Challenges the conventional definition of death

· Invalidates the core tenets of contemporary medicine

· Erodes the need for a mystical afterlife

· Radically redistributes capital and disrupts inheritance, bequests, and mortuary customs

· Mandates a complete change in reproduction

· Perturbs generational succession

· Requires Space Colonization

· Requires (and supports) profoundly disruptive technologies such as cloning, regenerative medicine, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence

· Ends the species and Enables Transhumanism

Whilst I found these ideas a bit exhilarating, his next list of "atom smashers" was more personal and disturbing. These were things I had never thought of before, and that made me understand, for the first time, why cryonics has been so hard not only for society to accept, but for my own family and friends. Darwin argues that cryonics:

· Creates Survivorship Guilt.

· Indefinitely extends anxiety and uncertainty accompanying life-threatening illness.

· Prevents the psychological closure that accompanies "true" death with disposition of remains.

· Creates indefinite anxiety about the well being of cryopreserved loved ones. Disrupts the intimacy of family interactions during the "dying" process.

· May bitterly divide family members who are opposed to cryonics versus those who are in favour.

· Blocks deeply held mechanisms for coping with death and bereavement that are inculcated from childhood by eliminating the customary wake, funeral, and other comforting rituals.

He explained that he had become convinced that the only way cryonics and, for that matter, Transhumanism, could succeed was by a relentless insurgency, and that notions that cryonics was just an extension of medicine and was compatible with religion and existing social and political institutions, while superficially satisfying, were both mistaken and bound to fail. (When we spoke afterwards he arched an eyebrow as he said, "These approaches are useful as tools or pabulum. They delay understanding by the culture that we represent its destruction, indeed that we represent the destruction of the human species and its replacement with us, which is unquestionably the most horrible thing imaginable; if they could imagine it, which thankfully, they can't. Not yet, anyway!")

He pointed out that the lead-off to the insurgencies of new ideas is dangerous and sometimes deadly and he accompanied these remarks with illustrations of the burning of Giordano Bruno, the trial of Galileo, and a grainy picture of Darwin himself, made from what appeared to be a press clipping, being lead away in handcuffs on charges of murdering a cryonics patient. The image of Bruno was particularly haunting for me since it brought forth the vision of him being hauled naked into the Campo de' Fiori in Rome, in 1600, his jaw clamped shut with an 'iron bridle,' an iron spike having already been driven through his tongue. He was then lashed to a stake and burned alive. It's hard to imagine more dire consequences from disturbing the culture than those.

From this intense discourse he moved on to discuss the origin of the idea of cryonics and to characterize the two men responsible for its creation and dissemination, Evan Cooper and Robert Ettinger. He described both men as very similar in temperament and personality type. Both were intellectuals and introverts, neither was of a practical nature with expertise in finance, enterprise or engineering. Whilst at pains to point out that he attached no blame to either man for their character, he noted that it nevertheless resulted in an inceptive approach that lacked the detailed preparative work and planning that must necessarily accompany the successful launch of any new idea, let alone a paradigm challenging one like cryonics. In our subsequent conversation he noted that both Darwin (the other one) and Marx were aware of the incendiary nature of their theses and that both took decades to research and refine their arguments with meticulous scholarship before exposing them to public criticism. He also made the point that cryonics uniquely differed from Communism or Natural Selection in that it proposed, and in fact required, practical implementation in the world in 1964. This meant that in addition to its ideological component, it required the immediate creation of a variety of goods and services, such as human-sized cryostats, rescue and recovery teams, perfusion procedures and equipment and so on.

His explication of the "medical, biomedical and cultural context of 1964," the year Ettinger's The Prospect of Immortality was published, left me shaking my head in awe of the early cryonics pioneers. At that time, as Darwin notes:

· Discovery of DNA structure was only 11-years old.

· CPR was only 4-years old. Leonard Cobb would not hold the first citizen CPR training sessions in Seattle, WA in until 19723 (8-years later).

· Uniform Determination of Death Act not passed until 1978 (14-years later).

· First Heart transplant was 3-years in the future (1967).

· Most of the United States had no emergency medical system (EMS), and ambulances were hearses driven by Funeral Directors. The "White Paper" (Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society) which lead to the creation of the EMS was not published until 1966.

In his lecture he said that no one would have a chance of success if they ventured to launch an enterprise of any scale without a business plan, and he noted that cryonics started without any significant or detailed forethought on practical matters. He divides the history of cryonics into four eras, each with their achievements, and with each ending in ultimate failure to put the idea over. He posits the first era as from 1964 to 1972 and characterizes it as doomed by incompatibility with the existing "medical, biomedical and cultural context" of the time, as well as due to a list of what he terms "initialization failures" Again, from his slides:

· No entrepreneurship; abdication of responsibility for implementation of cryonics to others.

· No first approximation of technological specifications. No business planning.

· Active endorsement of con men, frauds and the incompetent.

· Failure to define death with scientific rigor and to establish "cryonic suspension" as a "fourth state" as distinguished from life, death, and true suspended animation (i.e., a condition with an uncertain prognosis and an uncertain time course to resolution).

· Use of the words death and dead to describe cryopatients.

· Identification and alliance with the mortuary and cemetery trades, as opposed to the medical and scientific professions.

· Failure to develop any in-house standards of care, either technical or financial. Failure to professionalize cryonics.

It wasn't clear to me how you could have a business plan for something like cryonics in 1964 until he showed how it should have been done, and how it ultimately was done, about a decade later. He presented a box-diagram chart showing what he termed the "critical functional elements" that were required for a cryonics program in 1964. This included both institutional elements such as brochures, educational seminars, legal counselling, management, financial arrangements, cost estimating and the like; as well as technical elements such as an emergency notification system, a perfusion and storage facility and equipment required to provide liquid nitrogen storage. He then chose one of these "critical elements," the emergency notification system, and performed a "subsystem" analysis defining all the necessary ingredients as understood in 1964 from which ran the gamut from a costly item such as a CPR machine called the" Iron Heart," to cotton balls and a bottle of alcohol! He argued that these things needed to be enumerated and cost-determined as part of a comprehensive blueprint for implementing the cryonics program. He noted that this was best practice at the time in most large enterprises, and had reached a highly developed state and was mandated as best practice in the aerospace industry.

In fact, he made the point with his next slide that it was not until an aerospace engineer, Fred Chamberlain, and a businessman, Art Quaife, came into leadership positions within cryonics that these critical elements were more or less put into place around 1975. Fascinating pictures from this period were shown documenting the development of the first procedures and accompanying instruction manuals for recovery and perfusion, as well the design and construction of the first hardware for performing suspensions, including construction of a mobile perfusion theatre in the mid-1970s! I had no idea any of this had happened, let alone that there were photographs of it! He noted that these initialization failures resulted in a "cascade of follow-on problems such as lack of adequate capitalization, no access to high quality profession and technical services such as physicians, cryobiologists, businessmen, cryogenic equipment manufacturers, intense hostility from the scientific community at large, lastly, the Chatsworth calamity."

The next problem he identified, and one which he said has grown over time until it has almost overwhelmed cryonics today, is what he referred to as "temporal load shifting" or the problem of "our friends in the future. " Darwin describes "our friends in the future" as an utterly corrosive idea that is nevertheless intrinsic to the success of cryonics" (we can't revive ourselves!). As the text to the slides in this part of the talk note: "Our friends in the future have unknown limitations and it is all too easy to believe they will have none. Even more conveniently, those "friends" are not yet born, so they cannot possibly object. Shifting our technological and financial shortcomings today onto a potentially "near omnipotent" future technology is easy, seemingly creditable, and removes the burden for urgent (or any) action to improve things now." He described how this notion caused cryonicists to increasingly shift the burdens, technological and financial, present and future, onto the people who we believe will revive us from suspension. In our later conversation, he referred to this as "Trans-Temporal Communism:" from cryonicists now according our ability (none); and from our "friends in the future" according to our needs (infinite). "He said this was politically incorrect and so he could not use it in his presentation.

His next slide pictured Robbie the Robot from the classic SciFi film "Forbidden Planet" along with this text: How accurate is our vision of the future? How much hubris can we afford to have as seers, when our very lives depend upon the outcome? How many of your friends today are willing to pay for all your medical expenses, as well as set you up in a new life whilst feeding, clothing and housing you while you are re-educated, retrained and put back on your feet? What moral and cultural code will make tomorrow's people, or Transhumans, different from Bill Gates, or even the Dali Lama, and how they treat their friends in need today?" And he noted that Robbie the Robot was once his vision of what the future would be like. Darwin argues that an even more damaging extension of this idea is the concept that "the Singularity is at hand, and therefore any expenditure of effort on cryonics makes little sense to the young and hopeful. Omega point technology will allow resurrection of everyone – even the long dead – so why bother?"

He then asked us "Who of you here today hold this position? Will one of you please come to the front of the room?" Whereupon with a bit prodding a reluctant volunteer stepped forward and Darwin proposed to put out his eye with a ballpoint pen, saying that it should make little difference to the chap since the Singularity is at hand, and certainly long before then it will be possible to replace a missing eye! And besides, it was only one eye and the memory of the pain would be nothing to an immortal Transhuman. It is hard to describe this moment. Darwin is a peculiar combination of the wild-man American televangelist, Richard Fenyman giving his famous lectures, and Churchill lashing out against the Germans during the Blitz. He made his point that sitting on your arse and waiting for the Singularity, or relying on your friends in the future was "grotesquely immoral and inhuman since it meant subjecting ourselves and everyone around us to the unspeakable horrors of aging, death and disease, as well as to the terror that accompanies them." He said that no matter what happens in the future, this suffering is real and has meaning, and that just as no sane person would allow his eye to be poked out today because of his certainty about future technological advances, similarly no sane, and as he further emphasized, "certainly no moral person would allow the suffering and the death of billions when it could be avoided by action now."

#7 advancedatheist

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 09:40 PM

He explained that he had become convinced that the only way cryonics and, for that matter, Transhumanism, could succeed was by a relentless insurgency, and that notions that cryonics was just an extension of medicine and was compatible with religion and existing social and political institutions, while superficially satisfying, were both mistaken and bound to fail. (When we spoke afterwards he arched an eyebrow as he said, "These approaches are useful as tools or pabulum. They delay understanding by the culture that we represent its destruction, indeed that we represent the destruction of the human species and its replacement with us, which is unquestionably the most horrible thing imaginable; if they could imagine it, which thankfully, they can't. Not yet, anyway!")


I've noticed a trend in cryonics lately that sounds like the loss of nerve Darwin indicates here. One cryonics organization even changed the name of its magazine because its leaders want to distance cryonics from the I-word, despite the title of cryonics' foundational text.

#8 xlifex

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 10:31 PM

He explained that he had become convinced that the only way cryonics and, for that matter, Transhumanism, could succeed was by a relentless insurgency, and that notions that cryonics was just an extension of medicine and was compatible with religion and existing social and political institutions, while superficially satisfying, were both mistaken and bound to fail. (When we spoke afterwards he arched an eyebrow as he said, "These approaches are useful as tools or pabulum. They delay understanding by the culture that we represent its destruction, indeed that we represent the destruction of the human species and its replacement with us, which is unquestionably the most horrible thing imaginable; if they could imagine it, which thankfully, they can't. Not yet, anyway!")


I've noticed a trend in cryonics lately that sounds like the loss of nerve Darwin indicates here. One cryonics organization even changed the name of its magazine because its leaders want to distance cryonics from the I-word, despite the title of cryonics' foundational text.


Mike Darwin is usually right about the state of cryonics, but on this point he still seems to suffer unduly from the "Ayn Rand Disease", which dictates that a sensible idea needs to be part of a larger, more grandiose philosophy, to succeed. Presenting cryonics as "just medicine" may reduce the drama, but it keeps cryonics straight.

Edited by xlifex, 04 August 2008 - 10:32 PM.


#9 advancedatheist

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 11:31 PM

Mike Darwin is usually right about the state of cryonics, but on this point he still seems to suffer unduly from the "Ayn Rand Disease", which dictates that a sensible idea needs to be part of a larger, more grandiose philosophy, to succeed. Presenting cryonics as "just medicine" may reduce the drama, but it keeps cryonics straight.


Robert Ettinger argued for something like Mike Darwin's viewpoint back in 1972 in his book Man Into Superman:

It should be amply clear by now that the immortal superman represents not just a goal, but a way of life, a world-view only partly compatible with today's dominant ideologies. We might call this fresh outlook the new meliorism, of which the cryonics or people-freezing program is an important current element.

The old meliorism, it will be recalled, flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; it maintained the optimistic view that indefinitely sustained progress is possible by human effort, especially through science and technology; it is the traditional American outlook. However, it focused primarily on social rather than biological change and many of its goals proved elusive in the short run, In the twentieth century the bewildering zig-zags in science and the piling up of calamities produced a psychological backlash and the rise of dark and gloomy philosophies such as existentialism.

Nevertheless, I believe the meliorists were essentially correct, and wrong only in their emphases and time scales.

The new meliorism will shift the emphasis away from the herd and social change, toward the individual and biological change, and it will entail more subtlety, wariness, and scope, while retaining the basic elements of optimism and scientific orientation.


In other words, one of the founders of cryonics explicitly connected cryonics with "transhumanism" (the "new meliorism" phrase never caught on) in its very early days.

#10 Guest_charlesplatt_*

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 02:49 AM

Personally I agree with almost every opinion in the transcript of Mike Darwin's speech, but, I don't see that they lead anywhere. Let's suppose he is correct in every particular. What conclusion should be drawn?

Was a conclusion stated? A game plan? A strategy?

And no, I don't believe "Stop being apathetic, and get involved!" is a conclusion or a strategy.

Personally I believe cryonics is in an interim period where it cannot be financially self-sufficient (if procedures are performed even to minimally acceptable standards) yet will not experience economies of scale until the largest organization has maybe 20 times as many members as currently. The reason of course is that the provision of standby, stabilization, and transport services (nationwide, and supposedly globally, although this is farfetched to say the least) cannot possibly be supported with a membership base of under 1,000 people. There aren't enough cases to justify the maintenance of nationwide response capability, and there aren't enough members to pay for it.

Ironically it was easier in the past because so long as cryonics was basically run by a few idealists who all knew each other, you could get volunteer help fairly easily. After cryonics grew beyond the size of a small village, the volunteer model started to break down; but the "professional" model doesn't make economic sense yet. I would be much more interested in a plan to bridge this gap than in any amount of historical revisionism (no matter how accurate it may be), arguments about models for radical vs. incremental change, or vague denunciations of aparthy.

As for the drama along the lines, "People would attack me if I tried to give this speech in the United States," on the contrary, I believe Mike's fate would be worse than that. Regrettable, I think most people in the field would ignore him.

#11 kurt9

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 11:56 PM

I agree with Charles Platt.

I have not seen Mike's presentation. However, knowing Mike, there is no question that what he has to say is quite valid. Please let me know if he posts his presentation anywhere on the net. I would certainly like to see it.

The best way to describe Mike Darwin is that he is easy to respect, but is very difficult to like personally.

Most people I know despise him personally, but do acknowledge his considerable contributions to cryonics.

#12 AdamSummerfield

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 01:16 AM

It was certainly a gripping talk and being a teenager and focusing on other areas of science, prior to Saturday I knew very little of cryonics. I hope we never have to resort to cryonics, but perhaps Darwin or someone else will manage to invoke people with real commitment to cryonics to join the field. There were a couple of very tense moments during his talk.

#13 xlifex

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 02:25 AM

Mike Darwin is a complex personality, but one reason why he has become so unpopular is because he speaks truth to power. There is an increasing tendency in cryonics to cover up mistakes, promote incompetent people to management and Board positions (a trend that still persists), and to solve operational problems by throwing more money at it. Unless there is a real shakeup at organizations like Alcor, Mike Darwin will have his work cut out for him.

So, some people may dislike Mike Darwin for his person, but others just dislike him because he shows that the emperor (contemporary cryonics) is wearing no clothes.

#14 Shannon Vyff

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 02:56 AM

The main problem is that cryonics can not be a paradigm shift until a mammal has successfully been brought back from storage at cryogenic temperatures and that normal looking brain activity has been demonstrated.

I appreciate the time involved in putting up Mike's recent presentation, anyone that wants to know more can read the vast amounts of history at Alcor, CI and even contained in various places like Wikipedia (thanks to knowledgeable cryonicst volunteers who have been in the movement many decades). I really didn't have any new ideas or insights while reading Mike's presentation, and think he is too black and white, even wrong in some areas... but his fanaticism is needed. There is much that I agree with, such as Charles mentioned.

I've always been idealistic, but have never thought that I'd not have to resort to cryonics--although I'm a 300 member, and support AI organizations. I became a cryonicist in heart at 19, and on paper at 21. I've worked over all sorts of scenarios on wether or not it would work, and how that would effect me, my family or society in general, over the years... the problem of how much should be spent now on research, vs. what should be left for future technology will always be a problem. Thankfully even though we rely on donations and the payments of our members, the research goes on--and someday I do hope within my lifetime, we'll get that paradigm shift ;)

#15 advancedatheist

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 03:11 AM

The main problem is that cryonics can not be a paradigm shift until a mammal has successfully been brought back from storage at cryogenic temperatures and that normal looking brain activity has been demonstrated.


That wouldn't necessarily make any difference to the public's perception of cryonics. We can currently clone a number of species of mammals (yesterday's science fiction made real today). But the idea of human cloning still generates enough of an irrational "yuck" response that conservative bioethicists have exploited discomfort with human cloning to advance their everyone-has-to-die-on-schedule agenda. I don't know if the healthy revival of a frozen mammal will also give people the creeps, but I can imagine a scenario where it remains the proverbial "laboratory curiosity" instead of suggesting new pathways in human medicine.

#16 Shannon Vyff

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 03:14 AM

It would make a great difference because it shows the continuance of one's sentience--cloning does not do that, and is in no way comparable to what cryonics could do.

#17 advancedatheist

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 03:24 AM

It would make a great difference because it shows the continuance of one's sentience--cloning does not do that, and is in no way comparable to what cryonics could do.


We tolerate doing things to nonhuman mammals that we wouldn't consider doing to humans for allegedly "ethical" reasons. It wouldn't surprise me if those meddling bioethicists jump right in with arguments against using this technology on people suffering from terminal illnesses or currently untreatable traumas based on the kinds of considerations Mike Darwin gives. We have a whole world view tied up with disposing of dead people, dealing with the emotional effects of their loss (this psychobabble about "closure"), wrapping up their affairs (like that weird cult following Randy Pausch attracted with his "last lecture"), dividing up their worldly goods and making room for future generations -- and here comes cryonics to disturb that process.

#18 bgwowk

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 05:54 AM

The main problem is that cryonics can not be a paradigm shift until a mammal has successfully been brought back from storage at cryogenic temperatures and that normal looking brain activity has been demonstrated.

Suspended animation is not cryonics. The paradigm shift of cryonics is something different. It is a paradigm shift that could happen before suspended animation is perfected, or perhaps not even after suspended animation is perfected. The key idea of cryonics-- the paradigm shift of cryonics --is the idea that patients should continue to be cared for even if they are beyond recovery by contemporary means. It's the idea that almost everything that medicine calls "death" in a particular era is destined to become a treatable pathology in a later era. That is an idea that transcends suspended animation, and that is so far from normal social mores that it may never be accepted by the mainstream whether there is suspended animation or not. It is a paradigm shift that requires overturning the idea of closure, which is a deeply uncomfortable proposition for most people regardless of demonstrated technology.

As Thomas Donaldson wrote many years ago

http://www.alcor.org...Archeology.html

We would all like "proof" that cryonics will work. There will never be proof that cryonics will work. Certainly, individual people will be revived. Some of them (we hope a very large percentage) will actually come back as the same people as those who "died." There will certainly be proof that we can successfully freeze human brains and definitively preserve personality, identity, the "soul", or what have you. But those things aren't cryonics, they're just particular technologies. They don't really embody the key idea.

The really key idea in cryonics is the idea of freezing (or otherwise preserving) people when we don't know if we can ever revive them. Of course, we intend to figure out later whether we can do this. We intend to succeed in reviving them. But before we've actually done so, we certainly can't prove we will succeed. And funny thing, after we've done so, the proof will be irrelevant. If we know how to bring somebody back as a fully functioning human being after an hour of ischemia, why should we ever bother to go to the added expense and trouble of freezing them first? That would be bizarre and unnecessary.

If you're involved in cryonics, you've got to make your peace with the unknown, because it will always be there. You've simply got to make your peace with it.


When people say that they hope they never need cryonics, I'm not sure in what sense they mean this. Do they mean that in the same sense that we all hope we never have to go to a hospital, even though the probability of eventually being hospitalized for some reason converges to near certainty? Or do they actually believe that they may never need cryonics? Such a belief is equivalent to the belief that one will never suffer a medical crisis that is untreatable by available medicine. I suppose an alternative possibility is the belief that one's first and last major medical crisis will be vaporization. That doesn't seem very likely. We live in a time when for the foreseeable future, Singularity or not, virtually everbody is going to need some form of cryonics at some time.

#19 natasha

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 02:19 PM

I have a few questions which may have been explored within this thread, but I was not able to parse them out.

1. Was Mike's talk, however entertaining, actually providing concrete facts or was his talk presenting suppositions?
2. In ways could Mike's talk affect cryonics positively?
3. What was the (bottomline) purpose of Mike's talk?


Many thanks,

Natasha

#20 Mind

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 06:01 PM

If you're involved in cryonics, you've got to make your peace with the unknown, because it will always be there. You've simply got to make your peace with it.


This is the key philosophical point behind most of the futuristic ideas ranging from cryonics, to transhumanism, to singularity, etc... Change is constant, the future is uncertain/unknown, and it is unlikely you will ever have even the tiniest control over its evolution. The vast majority of humans in the year AD 2008 cannot emotionally handle this premise and recoil in fear and rebellion. Bruce found this out when he started the Immortality Institute. After a while he stated that 99% of the people reject immortalism immediately. It is reflexive. No matter how logical, sound, and persuasive the argument, this 99% will reject the premise "out-of-hand". Cryonicists are well aware of the phenomena as well.

What is changing that gives me some hope for the future, even the near future (next couple of years) is the ever increasing pace of technological change. New generations feel the change and are more adaptable. It is a slow process but in the right direction.

#21 kashmir

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 12:03 AM

I have a few questions which may have been explored within this thread, but I was not able to parse them out.

1. Was Mike's talk, however entertaining, actually providing concrete facts or was his talk presenting suppositions?
2. In ways could Mike's talk affect cryonics positively?
3. What was the (bottomline) purpose of Mike's talk?


Many thanks,

Natasha




I've just come from spending the better part of the day with Mike Darwin and two of his mates. We unexpectedly encountered each other at a lunch-hour recital, and I was invited to join them for an early supper, and after that, for a few pints at pub they fancy in Soho. I mention this because it is clear that Mike's talk was just the tip of the iceberg, and that he has many solid ideas, or at least well developed ones, with regard to repairing cryonics and transforming Transhumanism. It is also apparent, from remarks made here and elsewhere, that my first review installment was mistaken for a review of the talk in its entirety. The second part of my review is below, and you should keep in mind that I would guess I'm still only three quarters of the way through what Mike terms the "first era" in cryonics. There were three more eras that he spoke on, a half-hour questions period, plus several hours of subsequent discussion at The Helping Hand pub. There should be a lot more to come.


Review of Cryonics: Why it has failed, and possible ways to fix it - with Mike Darwin, Second Part

Darwin then made some closing remarks about the issue of what he subsequently referred to at the pub as "future squatters." I asked if he'd mind if I recorded his conversation, and he consented. Here is an edited transcript of his remarks: "Future squatters are people who believe that technological advances will happen when conditions are right for them to occur. This is a brilliant position, because it is never wrong; it is the perfect piece of circular reasoning that justifies doing nothing. My years in exile in the desert caused me to realize that the problem now being encountered in cryonics is not so much that intelligent and talented people find it impossible to believe that cryonics, vast extension of the human life span, or, for that matter, many of the transformational technologies of Transhumanism are impossible, but rather that they that find these things not only believable, but inevitable within their lifetimes as well as certainties for them."


He said that it was his perception that most people in the Transhumanist and cryonics community believed that "history has an inevitable trajectory and that it is configured to benefit them personally. What kind of ignoramus could believe such crap? Even glancing contact with history should cause the thickest dullard to realize that while the historical trend has been towards progress, the total time spent by the average member of species under good conditions has been miniscule, compared to time spent under what can only be characterized as truly terrible conditions. What's more, long periods of darkness and misery have occurred between ages of progress, and without any question, the majority of humans who have ever lived, or who are living now, have no prospect of benefiting from technological progress, and arguably have suffered greatly because of it... They sure as hell aren't going to get biological immortality any time soon, if ever.

...This peculiar perspective on history is an artefact and a tragedy of modern, politically correct, and so-called sensitive, emasculating education... and also part of the high price paid for abandoning solid, classical education. No man, unless he is an idiot, can have learned the works of Tacitus and Cicero, or been schooled in the ups and downs of Western civilization since antiquity, and believe such nonsense. ... Any proper understanding of history also entails an understanding of the fallacy of the black swan; the past is not a certain guide to the future, no matter how long the trend or baseline. Almost all swans are white; almost. But you are doomed if you've bet your life on that proposition and a black one turns up. And there are, most assuredly, black swans. The black swan problem converges on certainty when you begin to deal with very long spans of time, which, by their very natures, cryonics and Transhumanism must do. A wonderful analysis of the black swan problem is Nassim Taleb's book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Look it up on Google, and then buy it, and read it.

...It gradually dawned on me that future squatters were not only wrong, but ignorant and evil as well. This led me to realize that the core problem was the absence of a philosophical and moral basis for cryonics and the accompanying ethics and dogma required to enforce it. These future squatters are not merely parasites content to sit and wait until robots show up at their doors with immortality on a silver platter, all too often they are actively contemptuous and dismissive of the people who are working their butts off trying to survive...

...I believe Mike Perry has created an absolutely critical philosophical foundation for Transhumanism. In many ways it is the Das Kapital of Immortalism. It is a good foundation to build upon, and I think it will be built upon. Many years ago, when I was just a boy, Curtis Henderson, the president of the Cryonics Society of New York, told me that the "Russian Revolution consisted of two men, a dog and a printing press." Well, he wasn't far off the mark. It was more like 30 men, a lot of printing presses, and there were probably more than two dogs (there are dogs everywhere in Russia today, and they follow you around looking for an owner). ...Consider that 30 men took a country of pious peasants and foisted a totally alien, atheist ideology on them, led them through arguably the most brutal war in history, the Great Patriotic War, and then led them to be, first among all men for all time, the members of our species who first stepped into the cosmos. If you consider this bit of history in that light, cryonics seems easy by comparison.

...Oh yeah, don't forget the dogs, they contributed too; one of them suffocated in orbit as the price for being the first animal in space, and I'm sure the others played important roles, as well."

The next problem Darwin talked about was what he described as the "lack of professionalization" of cryonics. He stated that all technological endeavors create professionals and standards, this so that they can function harmoniously internally, whilst also providing consistent service to the public in a way that makes it possible for the public to distinguish the character of various practitioners and their associated enterprises, such as charlatans in medicine, qualified builders and plumbers, and so on. He added that the defining feature of professionalism is that it creates "professional memory or heritage" and fosters "institutional memory" in enterprises engaged in its practice. In the absence of professionalism, he stated, two problems occur:

· Empowerment of amateurs and laypersons, usually "outsider" personalities, often with accompanying deficits in social and emotional intelligence.

· Attraction of dysfunctional and sometimes sociopathic personalities as members (and sometimes as activists).

It seems apropos here to speak of something he mentioned later during his talk, which he said he thought was very important, and that he wished he had understood earlier in his career in cryonics. I'll summarize from the recording: When he was in Russia he said that he had been there for a day or two when someone at a meeting began to speak excitedly in Russian, provoking amusement all round. The gist of these remarks was that it had been determined he was "adequate," and that this had caused surprise and amusement at the meeting. It was explained to him that the Russians have two words by which they classify people, words that have no equivalent in English, and that most closely translate as "adequate" and "inadequate."

The word "inadequate" is not about sanity in opposition to lunacy, or competence as opposed to incompetence. Significantly, it describes a person who may be competent, successful, even a respected professional, but who lacks realism, or commonsense reasoning about the world. This person is not necessarily a "geek or a nerd" but has a vigorous impractical streak that is damaging to effective action and that tries relentlessly to shift focus from necessary tasks, such as, say, in lieu of doing a business plan, to instead solve all the problem of cryonics by persuading the NHS it is essential lifesaving medical technology, and thus must be made available to all. This kind of person must be quickly identified, contained, and in some cases excised. In no account should they ever be allowed into any position of responsibility. The gist of what he said was that this was a dangerous kind of mental disorder in the context of cryonics, and persons labeled as such should be dealt with, ever after, in the same fashion used for other kinds of crazy people. The excitement and laughter from the Russians Darwin was visiting was, he said, an expression of "surprise and relief that I was not "inadequate," since many of the people who try to get involved in cryonics in Russia, as is the situation everywhere else in the world, are "inadequate," or worse.

On a topic related to this, he noted that excessive optimism and "temporal load shifting" had caused cryonics organizations to consistently fail to consider necessary safety margins, and, where, this had been done, to reverse course. His next slide was titled: "Why No Reserve Factor????" and had the accompanying quote: "A surprisingly consistent failure in the application of new technologies is the failure to consider the required margin of safety or reserve factor. Each new technology seems to dazzle its practitioners blinding them to possible failure modes and causing them to engineer up to the very limit of the ideally possible."

This was followed by slides discussing the history of iron bridge technology accompanied by period engravings of the infamous Dee Bridge failure, as well as of the failure of the Angers Bridge in the US. The latter bridge collapsed when troops were marched across lockstep, resulting in harmonic oscillations in the metal superstructure, causing it to disintegrate. He said that he understood this problem from the start of his involvement with Alcor, and had asked himself, "If cryonics is a technological bridge to the future, what are the minimum required financial, and other safety factors, that need to be engineered into it?" His answer to this question was the creation of something he called "The 10% Rule," whereby 10% of all of Alcor's income was diverted to the patient care fund. This was to create a reserve to deal with the many unknown contingencies and inevitable crises that would occur over decades or centuries of patients' frozen storage. This was based, he said, on well recognized standards used in personal finance and wealth building, such as saving 10% of your income to prepare for the unexpected, and for eventual retirement. He said that this rule was also an approximation of the minimum required safety factors in various types of engineering prior to definition of the concept of the "reserve factor" in bridge engineering which requires the necessarily impossible, in the case of cryonics; knowledge of the Ultimate Strength and Ultimate Load to which a given structure will be subjected (i.e., RF= Ultimate Strength/Ultimate Load).

Darwin said Alcor abandoned this policy during pinching times in the 1980s, and that CI, which prices its services at about marginal costs and apparently relies on charitable giving and historically unprecedented rates of return on capital, as well as upon "very low estimates of the cost of money" to ensure a safe crossing for their patients. He characterized this as a time-bomb waiting to explode.

The next topic dealing with "initialization failures" was opened with a slide entitled "Frauds and Fakirs" that showed a picture of a shooting gallery of a building accompanied by another picture that showed Robert Ettinger with a mannequin and CPR machine, made during his appearance on a chat show in the US, sometime around 1966. The ramshackle building was the home of an enterprise called Juno, Inc., run by two dodgy fellows named Leonard Gold and Stanley Milgram. Not noticeable in the chat show photo, until indicated, was a small arrow pointing to a barely visible figure apparently standing in a wing off-stage. This, Darwin informed us, was Robert Nelson of Chatsworth infamy.

He said that Ettinger and others would go on television programmes in the US and hold up sketches of lavish cryonics facilities, which they said, were soon to be built at various locations in the US. He noted that, almost to a man, the people who had these schemes on offer were con men, frauds, liars, or at best, misguided and foolish. He went on to say that while it was impossible to know for sure what the impact of this was, "Certainly, there were some influential people who were opinion makers, both in the US and the UK, who were genuinely interested in cryonics. In the UK, there were Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers, and Arthur C. Clarke, all of whom had some credible interest in cryonics at that time." In the US, he noted, there were an influential musician and movie star, Artie Shaw, as well the entertainer, Steve Allen. These men (Shaw and Allen) had unpleasant encounters with such dodgy types which may have soured them on cryonics, and perhaps contributed to its perception as a con operation, or at least as a stinker. His point was that the people who started, and initially promoted cryonics, were uncritical and gullible, and that this perception alone could only have served to cause injury to a controversial idea that needed to be "bulletproof from the start."

He continued on this topic with an analysis of the cryonics career of Robert Nelson, beginning with the suspension of Dr. James Bedford in 1967. Grimly serious, and looking very officious, Nelson is shown behind a gaggle of microphones at the press conference from whence the story of Dr. Bedford's suspension originated. On the next slide, Nelson is shown attending to Bedford and injecting heparin into his neck as a CPR machine keeps blood and oxygen being delivered to his brain. The next slide was titled "The Press Release: "The first reported freezing of a human at death, under controlled conditions, occurred on Thursday, January 12, 1967." He followed on with a quote from Nelson's book about Bedford's suspension, We Froze the First Man, "When clinical death occurred, Dr. Fox was present and at once began artificial respiration and external heart massage, to keep the brain alive while cooling the patient with ice. Heparin was injected to prevent coagulation of the blood. Later, the team of Dr. Santini, Donald Bickerson, and Robert Nelson perfused the body with a protective solution of DMSO (Dimethylsulfoxide) using a Westinghouse iron heart sent by the Cryonics Society of Michigan."

This account, along with the complex procedure called "The Method," purportedly used to perfuse Dr. Bedford were, according to Darwin, all a lie. When Dr. Bedford died, Nelson could not be located, and it was Bedford's caregivers who had the presence of mind to place him atop a plastic shower curtain and canvass the neighbourhood for ice from the neighbours' fridges! Nelson did not arrive on scene until several hours later. There was no perfusion, and in fact, there was not even any oxygen on hand to operate the CPR machine. The photos were stagecraft to back-up a story that was both a fiction and a lie.

These events led to what Darwin calls "The Myth" and the "Media Image" that propagated the idea that "not only had Dr. Bedford been competently and professionally cared for, but that such was the state of affairs in cryonics as a whole, and that Robert Nelson had performed not only diligently, but heroically." His next slides showed press cuttings from that period, including the cutting that caused him to become involved in cryonics, a 1-year anniversary story about Bedford's suspension.

The next few slides were titled "Discovering the Truth" and show Dr. Bedford being transferred from the closed-up container in which he had resided for decades to a more economical multi-patient cryostat. Then, his voice quavering with emotion, Darwin had the next slide projected. It had a picture of Dr Bedford, taken immersed in liquid nitrogen, his face fully visible, in fact, recognizable from the thumbnail photos of him in life that had adorned each prior slide in this series. This picture could have been from a special-effects-laden horror film; Dr. Bedford's face is grotesquely distorted and discoloured, and frozen cherry coloured fluid fills his open mouth and spills out onto his cheeks and chin. Darwin explains that this was the reality, that in fact, not even the most rudimentary preparations had been put in place, this despite the fact that all involved had known Dr. Bedford was in imminent danger of death, not just for days, but for weeks prior to the event. What did happen, Darwin asserts, is that pure DMSO was injected with a hypodermic syringe into Bedford's carotid arteries, whilst CPR was carried out by someone compressing his chest with a foot! The discolouration was due to haemolysis and tissue damage from the DMSO injections. Shocking as this was, even more shocking was that Darwin said that most of the principals in cryonics at that time knew that there had been no perfusion and that the details of the story were a lie - wherein the end presumably justified the means.

Conclusion of the Second Part



#22 kashmir

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 12:12 AM

I agree with Charles Platt.

I have not seen Mike's presentation. However, knowing Mike, there is no question that what he has to say is quite valid. Please let me know if he posts his presentation anywhere on the net. I would certainly like to see it.

The best way to describe Mike Darwin is that he is easy to respect, but is very difficult to like personally.

Most people I know despise him personally, but do acknowledge his considerable contributions to cryonics.



Having just spent considerable time with Mike. I'd be interested to know how you know him, and what is your personal opinion of him?

#23 kurt9

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 12:28 AM

I agree with Charles Platt.

I have not seen Mike's presentation. However, knowing Mike, there is no question that what he has to say is quite valid. Please let me know if he posts his presentation anywhere on the net. I would certainly like to see it.

The best way to describe Mike Darwin is that he is easy to respect, but is very difficult to like personally.

Most people I know despise him personally, but do acknowledge his considerable contributions to cryonics.



Having just spent considerable time with Mike. I'd be interested to know how you know him, and what is your personal opinion of him?


I know Mike from Alcor in the late 80's. I lived in SoCal from '85 until late '89.

I respect Mike's capabilities and accomplishments. There is no question that he has had a tremendous influence (positive) on the development of cryonics, both organizationally and technically. Much of the research Alcor did in the 80's was either conducted personally by him or directed by him. What I especially appreciated about him was his honest approach to technical issues involved in cryo-preservation and his lack of fantasy about what can and cannot be done.

The problem with him personally is that I believe him to be quite narcissistic. He has a tendency to manipulate people for his own edification, which has been quite disastrous for the people and organizations that he has worked with.

I think he would make an excellent consultant that you hire on a contract basis to solve a technical problem. However, I think he is a disaster to work with in a long term relationship (i.e. employee or manager of organization).

#24 Harvey Newstrom

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 01:23 AM

I believe Mike is brilliant. He has contributed more to cryonics than anyone else I know. The animosity toward him is because he speaks the truth. Most people in the various transhumanist movements will attack anybody who points out problems, questions assumptions, or disbelieves any hype. There seems to be a PR/advertising mentality within these movements that cannot admit failure, delay, or even questions. This mentality believes that only the positive should be presented. Questions about accuracy, safety, inevitability, or speed of future developments are seen as attacks on the movement, and immediately attacked.

#25 xlifex

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 04:13 AM

One of the major contributions of Mike Darwin was that he did not take Alcor members for a ride by ignoring or hiding the organization's challenges and weaknesses. Since Mike Darwin left, and especially during the last 5 years, Alcor has become an inward looking propaganda machine (despite attempt from some Directors to change this). This is especially ironic because Alcor never really recovered from the departure of Jerry Leaf (now in biostasis) and Mike Darwin in areas such as research, quality of care, and communication. Perhaps the biggest loss is that Mike Darwin is not doing research anymore. This is the area where Mike Darwin can still be of great benefit to cryonics, provided the resources can be found.

#26 omnidoom

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 08:39 AM

What an enigmatic and fascinating fellow.
I agree entirely with his approach. I simply must meet this fellow.

#27 omnidoom

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 11:13 AM

I am turning a strange unhealthy colour as I read this, I am London bound and yet missed his talk.
Cryonics is something I am also desperately keen to become involved with.
This man is clearly sincere, and very experienced in all the things which can go wrong, therefor surely someone to add vital guidance to the field.
I hope to be able to meet with this Mike fellow indeed.
Thank you for an excellent relaying of the event.
A very vivid picture you paint, as one who didnt make it - many thanks!


In August, Mike Darwin will be speaking in London on the topic "Cryonics: Why it has failed, and possible ways to fix it":

http://extrobritanni...d-possible.html



#28 kashmir

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 12:06 PM

[quote name='kurt9' date='6-Aug 2008, 07:28 PM' post='255656']

I know Mike from Alcor in the late 80's. I lived in SoCal from '85 until late '89.

I respect Mike's capabilities and accomplishments. There is no question that he has had a tremendous influence (positive) on the development of cryonics, both organizationally and technically. Much of the research Alcor did in the 80's was either conducted personally by him or directed by him. What I especially appreciated about him was his honest approach to technical issues involved in cryo-preservation and his lack of fantasy about what can and cannot be done.

The problem with him personally is that I believe him to be quite narcissistic. He has a tendency to manipulate people for his own edification, which has been quite disastrous for the people and organizations that he has worked with.

I think he would make an excellent consultant that you hire on a contract basis to solve a technical problem. However, I think he is a disaster to work with in a long term relationship (i.e. employee or manager of organization).

That's interesting commentary, and I thank you. Prior to attending the lecture I had heard him described with words such as "brooding, introverted, volatile, dangerous, and cruel." My experience was very different, but then, it was also very brief. Then too, it may be possible that this is not the same man, and by this I mean that the man I encountered may be a man whose character has perhaps been recast by hard life experience. We spent but a small part of the day on serious matters, and that in response to questions from me. In this context I found him introspective, self-deprecating, and searingly candid about his shortcomings and failures.

In the discussion at Birkbeck following the lecture, I'd overheard him saying something about why he stepped down as President of Alcor. I asked him about this at supper, and his answer was, literally, lacerating for me to hear. He said that during the crisis surrounding Dora Kent's suspension he had "completely disintegrated" and become a "basket case." This was bad enough, but the end did not come until he was in a strategy meeting with the management of Alcor. There was a motion made for some course action and, he said, he spoke up saying the whole battle was lost, and that any action along the lines proposed was futile. At this point, he said, Saul Kent asked him to leave the meeting. Even though he returned a few minutes later and apologized, he said that he realized it was too late.

His analysis was that whilst failure to lead, regardless of a physical or a psychological handicap, is unacceptable, failure to lead because of cowardice, or lack of vision, is unforgiveable. He said that upon his return he looked round the room and the faces of the people there were filled with contempt. He described effective leadership as (sic), "...something you know viscerally when you have it. The closest I can come to explaining it is the way actors speak about the rapport between themselves and the audience. You know the minute you lose it, and if you have any sense, any dignity, or even a shred of self respect, you step down."

He said he made a different version of the same mistake, one involving not cowardice, but self interest and frustration, with respect to the Cryo-Care Foundation, and that these failures had taught him that that the most important commodity in cryonics, the one that was more valuable than any other, was trust. He said (sic) "I proposed to lead people into battle not just in peril of their cosmically infinitesimal contemporary lives, but, in addition, at great risk to their only chance at biological immortality. And I failed utterly. Once you lose peoples' trust under foxhole conditions, you've lost all capacity to lead and all credibility as a leader. That is something I could have learned, and should have learned, from both Jerry Leaf and Saul Kent. To my endless regret, I didn't"

He said that recently he was writing on this subject when Garret Smyth, with whom he is staying in London, handed him a copy of King Henry's speech from Shakespeare's Henry V, wherein Henry addresses his troops on the morning of the Battle of Agincourt. He said this "cut him to the bone" because it caused him to remember that in his youth, Henry V was quoted frequently by his mentor, Curtis Henderson, as a metaphor for the struggle of cryonics. He said that Henderson, and a woman who worked with him, would sometimes recite pages of dialogue from Henry V and from Richard II. There it was, he had been tutored with these words by a man he obviously greatly admires, if not worships, and he had failed to appreciate them, and thus could not heed them when they were most needed.

He said (sic), "Military scholars and tacticians will tell you that if you face odds of three to one against you, or greater, you are doomed to lose, with rare exception. Henry's men were cold, hungry and exhausted, and they faced odds that have been reasonably put as high as five or ten to one against them. Read Shakespeare's Henry V St. Crispin's day speech and understand that, first, they had no choice, it was fight or die. But also understand that they could not have survived to reach Agincourt if they had not had some seemingly impossible tactical advantage. That advantage was the Welsh longbow. Henry had 6,000 archers, whilst the French had but a few archers armed with crossbows. Henry's archers unleashed a hail of arrows on the French that rained down at a rate of an arrow a second; arrows that could pass through a man and pin him to his horse, or to the ground. It was the medieval equivalent of deploying a company of machine gunners against the French at Agincourt. I was a fool, an utter and complete fool, not only had I no choice; we had no choice but to fight and win. But what's more, we enjoyed an enormous technological, and thus tactical advantage, and I threw it all away. At that moment I realized it wasn't just about me, but about all of us, and I realized I would never make that mistake again."

This was one of the few serious interludes in what was otherwise a cheerful and agreeable day. When I try to summarise a man's character I find that images of his face pop into my mind. The images of Mike Darwin from yesterday that enter my mind, are of a man smiling, laughing, and sometimes grinning lasciviously. We spent the early evening in a gay pub called Compton's, in an upstairs room that was a veritable feast of gentlemanly decor, sitting at a table adjacent to an open balcony window overlooking the bustling, and sometimes boisterous, street below. My last image of Mike was at my leave-taking, and it was the picture of a man who is thoroughly enjoying life, and who is remarkably comfortable in his own skin. I'm not sure how to reconcile that with the other Mike Darwin I've heard about.

#29 kurt9

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 04:52 AM


I know Mike from Alcor in the late 80's. I lived in SoCal from '85 until late '89.

I respect Mike's capabilities and accomplishments. There is no question that he has had a tremendous influence (positive) on the development of cryonics, both organizationally and technically. Much of the research Alcor did in the 80's was either conducted personally by him or directed by him. What I especially appreciated about him was his honest approach to technical issues involved in cryo-preservation and his lack of fantasy about what can and cannot be done.

The problem with him personally is that I believe him to be quite narcissistic. He has a tendency to manipulate people for his own edification, which has been quite disastrous for the people and organizations that he has worked with.

I think he would make an excellent consultant that you hire on a contract basis to solve a technical problem. However, I think he is a disaster to work with in a long term relationship (i.e. employee or manager of organization).


This was one of the few serious interludes in what was otherwise a cheerful and agreeable day. When I try to summarise a man's character I find that images of his face pop into my mind. The images of Mike Darwin from yesterday that enter my mind, are of a man smiling, laughing, and sometimes grinning lasciviously. We spent the early evening in a gay pub called Compton's, in an upstairs room that was a veritable feast of gentlemanly decor, sitting at a table adjacent to an open balcony window overlooking the bustling, and sometimes boisterous, street below. My last image of Mike was at my leave-taking, and it was the picture of a man who is thoroughly enjoying life, and who is remarkably comfortable in his own skin. I'm not sure how to reconcile that with the other Mike Darwin I've heard about.


Mike is very personable in social settings. He certainly has good social skills and many interesting things to talk about. If he seems very carefree and jovial, its likely that he is doing well as an independent consultant and not having to be responsible for managing an organization and having to deal with the personal issues that entails. As I mentioned before, Mike would make an excellent technical consultant for an organization that had its act together enough to be responsive to his ideas.

#30 lunarsolarpower

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 07:03 AM

Every time I read about Robert Nelson it makes me wonder "Where is the accreditation commission to prevent or diminish the chances of unprofessional cryonics being practiced again?" It seems that cryonics still has no minimum barrier to entry and no one has bothered to do anything about it. If any of you see Mike I'd be curious to hear his thoughts on this.




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