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Dean Pomerleau

Cryonics Anyone?

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A big part of my motivation for practicing CR, exercising regularly etc. is to be around to see what amazing things the future holds for humanity. I presume this motivates quite a few (most?) CR practitioners. 


 


With this goal in mind, I'm wondering if anyone has looked into (or signed up for) a cryonics service, like Alcor or the Cryonics Institute (CI).  Its a pretty expensive proposition ($200K+ for whole body, $80K+ for "neuropreservation" at Alcor, less at CI), but in my mind money isn't the biggest issue. 


 


The main question for me is whether or not the current preservation procedure (a combination of cooling and vitrification) is likely to preserve neural structures (e.g. synapses and connectivity patterns) sufficiently well to at least theoretically enable reconstruction via sufficiently advanced technology.


 


If the answer is yes, or even maybe, then cryonics could be a "lifeboat to the future" in case something bad happens before Aubrey, Michael et al defeat aging.   :)


 


But if the brain is so badly scrambled by the currently available procedure, then one might as well wait to sign up thereby saving the upfront hassle and expenses. Hopefully at some point, improvements in the procedure (e.g. whole brain vitrification) will enable someone to win the brain preservation prize, which for me would be pretty convincing evidence that there is at least a chance of future reconstruction/resurrection. I've actually donated to the brain preservation foundation to help spur research in this direction, just as I've donated to SENS to spur research into stopping/reversing aging.


 


There seems to be pretty promising recent results in accurate whole brain preservation, at least when it comes to a mouse brain preservation, although this is a very new technique not yet employed by any of the human cryonics services.


 


Any other CRonies looked into cryonics, or have any interesting thoughts on the topic?


 


--Dean


Edited by Dean Pomerleau

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I suppose a key question is: are one's life memories successfully preserved in the Cryonics process?

 

There wouldn't be much point if it turned out that one's brain had effectively been 'formatted' and so started with a clean slate observing the universe a thousand years hence, having no idea who one had been or what life had been like in 2015.

 

Is it possible to determine (by experiments in mice presumably) that the preservation process does successfully store lifetime memories and self-recognition so that they would be accessed on reawakening?

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Hi Dean!

 

A pleasure hearing from you!

 

I also would be very sceptical of Brain Preservation.  I read the link that you supplied:  while the rabbit brain MAY show that neural circuits were preserved, there are two (or three) serious questions:  The first is the one posted in Nicholson's post, above.  The second is:  Even if the brain is preserved, what is the likelihood that the cryonics will be kept going -- centuries from now, the world's politics and economy will be very different -- perhaps cryonically preserved brains/bodies will be destroyed -- through natural disaster, war, or otherwise.  The third is:  Will a cryonically preserved brain ever really be resurrected -- whether in a human body or otherwise.

 

Similar severe reservations about whole body cryonics.

 

My take:  If one allows one's body or brain to be frozen, it should be regarded as an end of life experience -- with only slightly higher probability of "resurrection", then by "divine intervention".

 

:rolleyes:

 

  -- Saul

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nicholson wrote:

Is it possible to determine (by experiments in mice presumably) that the preservation process does successfully store

> lifetime memories and self-recognition so that they would be accessed on reawakening?

 

I agree this is an (perhaps the) important question. But the answer seems difficult. First, as far as I know, there have not yet been any mammals that have been revived after cryopreservation. Here is a list of recent cryopreservation and revival in mammals, including:

  • Rat hippocampal vitrification and subsequent rewarming shows normal neural activity
  • Vitrification of a rabbit kidney, cooling to −135ºC, rewarming, retransplatation into the rabbit, and the kidney able to sustain the rabbit indefinitely as the sole functioning kidney

One of the biggest problems is that the best (i.e. least destructive, most accurate and most stable) brain preservation procedure is accomplished via methods of vitrification that involve plasticizing the brain, rather than freezing it. The vitrification process involves very toxic chemicals that preserve the neural structure quite accurately (including individual synapses), but which make it impossible to revive the vitrified cells using anything close to technology currently available.

 

The most likely (obviously long-term and speculative) way of 'reviving' such a vitrified brain would be through thinly slicing the brain, scanning its fine structure using an electron microscope, and then emulating the brain neuron-by-neuron in a computer model - known as the Whole Brain Emulation (WBE) approach. If our memories and consciousness arise as a result of information processing in the brain, then the theory is that our memories and consciousness should be substrate independent, and therefore should emerge intact if the same computation is performed in a very powerful computer, rather than in a squishy brain.

 

Obviously only time will tell if these assumptions (i.e. that the brain information can be preserved, reconstructed and eventually simulated to recreated memories and consciousness) are true. For now it seems a long way off, although the preservation part may not be that far off, given that the first stage of the Brain Preservation Prize (accurately preserving and entire mouse brain down to the level of synapses) may be on the verge of being won.

 

I don't think we're there yet, but the question for me is, if/when at some point in the next couple decades (i.e. before I die) the same synaptics-level preservation technology becomes available for human brains, is it worth plunking down the money to have my brain preserved, along with enough money in a trust to hopefully incentivize someone in a future generation to revive me in whatever form when technology to do so becomes available :-).

 

--Dean

 

 

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Hi Saul,

 

Saul wrote:

there are two (or three) serious questions:  The first is the one posted in Nicholson's post, above. 

 

See my reply above.

 

> The second is:  Even if the brain is preserved, what is the likelihood that the cryonics will be kept going -- centuries from now,

> the world's politics and economy will be very different -- perhaps cryonically preserved brains/bodies will be destroyed -- through

> natural disaster, war, or otherwise. 

 

That's one reason why vitrification (when perfected for humans) seems like a better option than cryonics. At least in theory such a plasticized brain is stable at room temperature, and will last for centuries, much like insects preserved in amber.

 

> The third is:  Will a cryonically preserved brain ever really be resurrected -- whether in a human body or otherwise.

 

Good question. Part of the money you pay for the existing cryonics services is earmarked for revival when the technology becomes available, but that may not be sufficient incentive for anyone (or anything?!) in the future to revive you. One might imagine setting up a separate trust what would in theory grow quite dramatically over a 100-200 years that would be split between your resurrected self and the person/group/AI that succeeds in reviving you.

 

Alternatively, entities in the future might be motivated to revive you simply out of scientific curiosity, to understand what people were like in the distant past - just like there is interest now in resurrecting the wholly mammoth and other extinct creatures using DNA that has been preserved for thousands of years.

 

My take:  If one allows one's body or brain to be frozen, it should be regarded as an end of life experience -- with only slightly higher probability

> of "resurrection", then by "divine intervention".

 

I agree, especially with the preservation technology as it stands today. But with some foreseeable improvements in whole brain preservation, I see the probability increasing markedly, probably within the next decade or two, making it seem a potentially legitimate gamble to make, particularly since you can't take your money with you when you die :-)

 

Plus, from a pragmatic perspective, it seems to me that having hope about the possibility (however slight) of an "afterlife" can provide psychological benefits for an agnostic/atheist, similar to that religious people enjoy when one contemplates (and approaches) the end of one's "natural" lifespan.

 

In a way, its like playing the lottery. A psychological argument can be made that playing the lottery can be a rational decision, despite the long odds and despite the expected payout being (much) less than one. In the lottery case, one is trading $1 for the hope (however remote) of a bright(er) future, which can make one's present circumstances more bearable.

 

--Dean

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Hi again, Dean!

 

Some additional thoughts:

 

(1)  Perhaps, better than cryonics or the use of severe chemicals:  I would think that the most promising way to extend oneself into the future (maybe even distant future) would be to use (definitely not yet developed) " human hibrination" -- some large mammals -- e.g., bears in climates having cold winters -- hibrinate.  I have little doubt that research -- I suspect already under way -- will evntually discover enough about the process to simulate it in humans -- perhaps, eventually, for super extended periods, such as interests you (if you're still alive when "human hibrenation" becomes a reality -- and one available for a price (not just in the research lab).  This would be unlikely to extend life span -- probably, a priori, to shorten it slightly.  But, if you did succeed in propelling yourself into the distant future this way, proabably medicine would have advanced sufficiently to extend both healthspan and lifespan far beyond their current values.

 

(2)  One of your premises seems to be that, it is worth paying almost anything to stay alive longer.

 

But, Dean, I don't believe you would be willing to spend all that you have -- I'm sure that you want to leave comfortable sums to your children (and wife, if she survives you).    (I certainly will.)

 

:)

 

  -- Saul

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Hi Dean:

 

It is far from clear to me that we can rely on this:

 

"The most likely (obviously long-term and speculative) way of 'reviving' such a vitrified brain would be through thinly slicing the brain, scanning its fine structure using an electron microscope, and then emulating the brain neuron-by-neuron in a computer model - known as the Whole Brain Emulation (WBE) approach. If our memories and consciousness arise as a result of information processing in the brain, then the theory is that our memories and consciousness should be substrate independent, and therefore should emerge intact if the same computation is performed in a very powerful computer, rather than in a squishy brain."

 

My impression (feeling? belief?) is that the brain is not JUST a few electronic impulses (physics), but there is a lot of chemical reactions going on, in solution, as well (biology).  

 

Granted I have great difficulty in imagining how consciousness is even possible, let alone understand how it works.  But I do not think any (digital electronic) computer, even though it might be able to make amazingly good decisions, will ever have feelings.  Can 'feelings' exist in electronic circuits?  But if we could harness the chemistry/biology as well, and integrate it all, then sure, no problem.

 

Rodney. 

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Rodney wrote:

My impression (feeling? belief?) is that the brain is not JUST a few electronic impulses (physics), but there is a lot 

> of chemical reactions going on, in solution, as well (biology).  

 

Hmm... Are you suggesting that the chemistry of biological systems doesn't ultimately boil down to physics? Having dabbled in neuroscience myself (on decoding neural activity to read people's mind) I agree with you that a simplistic model of neuron's passing ones and zeros back and forth is unlikely to capture all of what's going on in the brain. But I think what the brain is ultimately doing must boil down to physics, which at least in theory should be possible to model via computer simulation/emulation.

 

For me the question is what level of fidelity such an emulation would/will need to operate to recreate the key aspects of brain dynamics in order to recreate human thinking/consciousness - will it require emulation at the level of cortical columns, individual neurons, neurotransmitter molecules, atomic or possibly even quantum interactions? This will determine to a great extent how feasible it will be to create such emulations.

 

Here is an analogy that sometimes makes me pessimistic about the feasibility of whole brain emulation. 

 

Consider the problem of predicting how long, linear strings of amino acids (i.e. proteins) fold to create the bioactive 3D structure of protein molecules that are critical for all life.  Proteins fold incredibly fast into the same, extremely complex 3D structures - see this video for an animation of the 3D structure of hemoglobin. Despite knowing the exact sequence of amino acids in the protein molecules like hemoglobin, and knowing how to compute the local forces between various adjacent/nearby amino acids that contribute to the molecule's ultimate 3D shape, even the fastest computers are not able to accurately predict the 3D shape of a folded protein from its amino acid sequence alone. In fact, the protein folding problem has been shown to be NP-hard (see this paper also), which is basically computer science-speak for "intractable for any reasonably sized instance of the problem" (i.e. for a protein with many amino acids like hemoglobin). More specifically, not only is it "really hard" to accurately predict how big proteins will fold up, its literally inconceivably with traditional (non-quantum) computers because of the fact that the amount of computation required scales exponentially with the size of the problem (= length of the protein). To quote from the paper above:

 

Exhaustive search of a protein's conformational space is clearly not a feasible algorithmic strategy.
The number of possible conformations is exponential in the length of the protein sequence, and powerful

 

computational hardware would not be capable of searching this space for even moderately large proteins.
 

The relevance of the protein folding problem to the brain emulation problem stems from the reason why predicting a protein's 3D shape is so hard. The reason is due to non-local interactions. The reason its so hard is that each new amino acid added to the protein not only has local effects on the shape of the resulting manifold, but has long range, non-linear influence on how far distant parts of the protein interact. For example, a slight change in a bond angle at one location in the amino acid chain has the potential to bring far distant amino acids in the chain into a new spacial configuration relative to one another, changing their individual bond angles which in turn induce more long-range impacts in a ever expanding ripple effect. So adding (or modifying) one amino acid to the chain requires a combinatorially explosive additional amount of computation to predict the impact on the 3D structure if using a digital simulation of the protein and the folding process. In other words, elements of the system (in this case amino acids) engage in non-local, long-range interactions with other elements of the system in ways that are intractable to predict/simulate without an incredibly detailed (and therefore computationally intractable) model of the physics of the system.

 

What does this have to do with how the brain works? 

 

Its becoming increasingly clear in neuroscience that important aspects of neural processing (especially consciousness) occur as a result of long range interactions between populations of neurons mediated by neural oscillations (colloquially referred to as "brain waves") which in turn are largely generated and propagated by what are called Local Field Potentials (LFPs), which are an electrophysiological signal generated by the summed electric current flowing from multiple nearby neurons within a volume of brain tissue. The details aren't that important. The key thing to understand is that the firing of a single neuron doesn't just influence the downstream neurons it is directly connected to via synapses. The firing of a single neuron is an electrochemical event, which contributes to altering the brain's electrical field at various scales. Changes to the electrical field in turn influence the tendency (probability) of neuron's within that field to fire, which in turn will change the electrical field further, causing other neurons to change their tendency to fire creating a cascade of influence that is independent of the direct synaptic connectivity pattern.

 

And here is where the analogy between protein folding and brain emulation becomes apparent. If changes in a neuron's firing behavior can have long-range impact on the firing behavior of other neurons to which it is not directly (or even indirectly) connected via its influence on the brain's electrical field, this will set in motion the kind of cascade of non-local influences that made the protein folding problem theoretically (not to mention practically) intractable.

 

In other words, if this type of long-range, non-linear, synapse-independent interaction is indeed happening and is important for information processing in the brain, then it may be intractable to accurately predict brain activity at time T+1 from brain activity at time T based on the synaptic connectivity pattern between neurons - which most researchers into whole brain emulation assume will be possible.

 

In short, it is possible that "scan the structure of the brain and then emulate it" approach to immortality may not work, until/unless super-advanced quantum computers are invented that could potentially (but not necessarily) get around this sort of exponential scaling of NP-hard problems. 

 

Sorry for the long and rather technical response. 

 

--Dean

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Hi Dean!

 

Your comment wasn't intractably technical; it was fine.

 

However, IMO, consciousness is simply an illusion.  Poincare, a great French mathematicain/philosopher said, "Je pense; donc je suis"  -- "I think, therfore I am".

 

But, IMO, we THINK that we think -- actually, "we are" in the same sense that a table "is". 

 

We only think that we're in some majic state in which we have consciousness -- but, IMO, it is really an illusion.

 

If it someday becomes possible to create a machine that has circuits that in some way resemble our thought processes, that's what it will be:  it won't be you (whatever that is).

 

When the time comes near the end, if it makes you happy (an illusion that each of us likes) to think that you will continue at some time n the future in a machine -- or be revived from a hopelessly frozen state -- then it might make you die happily.  But it will actually shorten -- either  a little or more than a little -- your lifespan.

 

Sorry that I'm dealing with diverse themes in this note -- but I think they're all relevant:

 

consciousness (IMO) is an illusion.

 

maintaining this illusion is our desire to "live" -- and extend our "lifespan".

 

A machine with circuits resmbling the activity in your brain will not in any real way mimic this illusion (the illusion that you have now of being alive)

 

If when you're ready to die (end the illusion of being alive) you will believe in being resurrected in a machine -- or by a thawing process or some combination of both, you might be happier at the moment that you die (end the illusion of life).

 

I guess that's the main (diverse) notes in this post.

 

Another point:  There is no such thing as immortality.  Even the universe will have an end lathough that's a long time in the future.

 

  -- Saul

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 "The most likely (obviously long-term and speculative) way of 'reviving' such a vitrified brain would be through thinly slicing the brain, scanning its fine structure using an electron microscope, and then emulating the brain neuron-by-neuron in a computer model - known as the Whole Brain Emulation (WBE) approach. If our memories and consciousness arise as a result of information processing in the brain, then the theory is that our memories and consciousness should be substrate independent, and therefore should emerge intact if the same computation is performed in a very powerful computer, rather than in a squishy brain."

======================= 

I think we can agree that all current computers are simply electrons running around tiny circuits.  So any current computer trying to emulate the human brain could only, at best, mimic the electrons running around circuits.  When you use the expression "substrate independent" it seems you believe we will be able to create computers with the same capabilities as the human brain - that is:  able to do all the chemical/biological actvities in addition to the simple electron transmission activities that are already done quite well by our current computers.  In that case then sure, perhaps it would be possible.  But then, imo, you will not have a computer.  You will have a brain.  So what would be the point of downloading data from one unfreezable brain to another unfreezable brain?  In order to minic the chemical reactions that take place in our brains IN SOLUTION it will be necessary, I submit, to have similar solutions in your new brain-simulating computer.  By definition this would be perishable.

   

Quite likely, imo, it will become possible to create brains in the lab, biologically, when we master the techniques DNA uses to create brains in the first place.  Then, *possibly*, data could be transferred from your current brain to the new one.  But what would be the point, unless your original brain was seriously malfunctioning?  And you will also have to attach sensing equipment; mobility equipment - arms, legs; a reliable and long-lasting energy source;  .......  

 

While I find the question of how consciousness is even possible a very challenging one, it is inconceivable to me that that it could be created in a piece of equipment that is merely circuits with electrons in transit.  Perhaps when we finally begin to get an inkling of what consciousness is all about the method of recreating it will immediately be seen to be easy.  But I rather doubt it.

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In order to minic the chemical reactions that take place in our brains IN SOLUTION it will be necessary, I submit, to have similar solutions in your new brain-simulating computer.  By definition this would be perishable.

 

Here is where we disagree. The hypothesis that what the brain does is "substrate independent" means it doesn't matter if the information processing is implemented in squishy neurons/molecules or in simulated neurons/molecules - if you get the interactions right, then what we care about (memories, thoughts, percepts, consciousnesss) will emerge, whether its implemented in a flesh brain or in a very fast computer simulating the brain.

 

There is a old thought experiment where you imagine replacing one neuron in your brain at a time with a silicon equivalent that perfectly mimics the I/O behavior of the original, until all the neurons have been replaced. Interestingly, researchers have already shown success with simple versions of brain prostheses where the thoughts/memories of behaving rats and monkeys are replaced/augmented with digital versions. The intuition most people come to after contemplating this scenario is that one's thinking/consciousness would (probably) not be interrupted (or slowly fade) during such a procedure, and so it shouldn't matter what medium is implementing the computation.

 

But this argument is by no means universally accepted. There may be something magic about the brain's 'wetware' implementation that is impossible to capture in another medium like silicon. My belief is that what is important is the computation. Its just not entirely clear to me that the important aspects of the computation that occurs in the brain can be accurately emulated by a computer - due to computational challenges like I outlined in my previous post.

 

Predicting protein shape was the example I previously gave of a problem that is intractable for digital computers. Another one that people are more familiar with is weather prediction. I suspect its theoretically impossible for digital computers to accurately predict the weather weeks in advance due to the butterfly effect. The same sort of error propagation due to small discrepancies between the original and a simulation (but on a much shorter timescale) could make brain emulation intractable.

 

Only time will tell how big a stumbling block to mind uploading such concerns turn out to be...

 

--Dean

Edited by Dean Pomerleau

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"if you get the interactions right, then what we care about (memories, thoughts, percepts, consciousnesss) will emerge, whether its implemented in a flesh brain or in a very fast computer simulating the brain."

 

So you think that a "very fast computer" will be able to *experience* pain, joy, terror, embarrassment, indignation, ........  ?

 

I think not, no matter how fast.  Of course I may be mistaken.  : ^ )))

 

Rodney.

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Rodney wrote:

So you think that a "very fast computer" will be able to *experience* pain, joy, terror, embarrassment, indignation, ........  ?

 

That's a crude way of putting it, but yes, that is my hunch / intuition.

 

Of course I may be mistaken.  : ^ )

 

Me too! :-)

 

--Dean

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Hi Taurus!

 

Let me clarify (if possible):

 

You THINK that you think, but actually there are a huge number of complex biological (which, as Dean suggests, can ultimately be re reduced to "physics"), that are taking place -- much as a river dissolves some salt.  Is there actually somethiong "majic" going on -- or are we just a bundle of complicated reactions -- I think the latter. 

 

Therefore you THINK that "I think, therefore I am".  But, rather, you ARE, and, being a complex biological machine, therefore you (have the illusion of) thinking.

 

:unsure:

 

  -- Saul

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He was wrong.  More correctly he should have said:  "I think, therefore thoughts exist."

 

So we can all agree that thoughts exist, but every last one of those thoughts - including imagining that there is a thinker that goes along with the thoughts - MAY be totally illusory.

 

As for my beliefs on the matter: I do not believe my thoughts are all illusory.  And I am fairly sure that I exist.  Heck, I even think Saul may exist too.  But I am not too sure about the rest of you.

 

;; ^ )))

 

Rodney.

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Dean, and all: thanks for the interesting discussion!

 

 

In a way, its like playing the lottery. A psychological argument can be made that playing the lottery can be a rational decision, despite the long odds and despite the expected payout being (much) less than one. In the lottery case, one is trading $1 for the hope (however remote) of a bright(er) future, which can make one's present circumstances more bearable.

 

I wanted to register my strong agreement with this way of looking at cryonics. I am not yet signed up (I'm inching my way towards doing so, and will sign up eventually, I'm pretty sure), but the idea of having the chance of living a radically long life, and, esp., of doing so with people I care deeply about, is so powerful, so strength-giving, that the very fact of my being empowered is enough to make me think I should sign up. In other words, even if the odds of (successful) revival are very close to zero, there's the undeniable empirical fact of my world being made better -- cheerier, less empty -- by my thinking of the cryonics option. This is particularly true when I think about loved ones signing up.

 

To the -- or a -- technical question: I think Saul's suggestion of human hibernation (was that a typo or is there a new concept known as "hibrination"?) -- or something similar -- is the most practical approach, for now. In other words, get the body to the point where it's aging at a tiny fraction of the normal rate. Wake it up when it's deemed needed -- one feed/poop cycle, say -- then repeat, and you could bring yourself far into the future. Such a possibility is nearly at hand today. It's just a question of a little research money to run some animal studies.

 

-Zeta

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Hi Zeta!

 

It was a typo -- I meant "hibernation".  And yes, I agree with you:  Research is currently being done attempting to extend the process of hibernation to mammals that don't normally hibernate; and, I also believe that that technology will eventually become available and practical for humans.

 

One possible practical application might be space travel (if it ever becomes possible to handle the problem of the lethal danger of the harsh cosmic radiation of space).

 

And, for those who want to propel themselves into the future, such as Dean and yourself, I think that extended induced human hibernation should eventually become available as an option.

 

  -- Saul

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Hi Zeta!

 

I wanted to register my strong agreement with this way of looking at cryonics. I am not yet signed up (I'm inching my way towards doing so, and will sign up eventually, I'm pretty sure),...
 
I too am leaning towards signing up eventually. But probably not until cryonics procedure does less damage to the brain structure. I actually contacted Ken Hayworth, founder of the Brain Preservation Foundation and asked him his opinion on the cryonics options available today. Here is what he said:
 

 

> Ken, I'm wondering if you've signed up for one of the available cryonics options (Alcor or Cryonics Institute), or whether you would

> if money wasn't an issue?

 
   I signed up a long time ago (over 10 years ago, paid by life insurance) with Alcor but the lack of evidence that their procedures actually preserve the synaptic structure of the brain led me to start up the BPF and put forward the brain preservation prize. I am really shocked that more people have not called for such a skeptical evaluation of cryonics methods. Knowing what I know today I would probably not sign up for what they are currently offering (and I suspect they are still the "best" in the business).
 
   Having said that, I think the research that our two brain preservation competitor teams are doing is very promising and could be turned into a truly reliable connectome preservation procedure if the larger scientific and medical communities' interest can be piqued. For additional details on their work you might want to visit my recent blog post http://blog.brainpreservation.org/2015/05/26/may-2015-bpf-prize-update/
 
   Sorry I don't have any near-term advice to give. But I do think there is reason to hope that in a few years we may actually have several competing techniques for brain preservation with serious scientific credentials.
 
Thanks,
-Ken
Given his expertise (he is a neuroscientist working in the area of brain preservation, here is a recent Reddit ask-me-anything he did), I highly respect his opinion, and will likely sign up for a cryonics service when one of them adopts a preservation procedure he and his organization endorse.
 

I think Saul's suggestion of human hibernation (was that a typo or is there a new concept known as "hibrination"?) -- or something similar -- is the most practical approach, for now. ... Such a possibility is nearly at hand today. It's just a question of a little research money to run some animal studies.

 

-Zeta

 

That sounds really promising. Can you (or Saul) point us to the research supporting the idea that human hibernation could be a viable option in the not-to-distant future?

 

--Dean

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Here is an recent article on research into human hibernation in the Washington Post. The conclusion doesn't make it sound too promising - at least for long-term brain/body preservation. Here is a quote from the article:

 

 

So while it might be possible to induce humans into deep sleep by cooling the body, Heller said, a months-long spaceflight under such conditions is likely to be too damaging.

 
“I think it’s probably not doable,” he said. “The hibernator [animal] has evolved so that all the enzymes and biochemical systems are adapted to run at low temperature. That is not true of animals that don’t experience it. We can lower body temperature and survive that for a short period of time; it’s unlikely we can allow all of our systems to go to a much lower temperature and continue to function.”

 

--Dean

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Dean, Thanks for the extremely interesting links related to brain preservation. The Brain Preservation Foundation is a great project.

 

 

I think Saul's suggestion of human hibernation (was that a typo or is there a new concept known as "hibrination"?) -- or something similar -- is the most practical approach, for now. ... Such a possibility is nearly at hand today. It's just a question of a little research money to run some animal studies.

 

-Zeta

 

That sounds really promising. Can you (or Saul) point us to the research supporting the idea that human hibernation could be a viable option in the not-to-distant future?

 

I'm not so much thinking about hibernation per se but rather the creation of a state of extremely slow metabolism via cooling, and, therefore (well, probably "therefore" -- this would need to be tested of course) of an extremely slow rate of aging. There isn't much evidence yet this will work, and maybe I'm being too optimistic, but the work with pigs, and the new project in Pittsburgh I'm sure we've all heard about --

 

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129623.000-gunshot-victims-to-be-suspended-between-life-and-death.html#.VYEjkNV95hE

 

-- is mostly what is giving me hope here. The question is: How "suspended" is the "animation", and how long can it be sustained without significant damage occurring? If it's only safe for a few hours, then it's not a practical way to travel into the medium- or long-term future, since you'd have to repeat the procedure thousands of times, and each cycle carries risks. But it may just be a question of getting it to work safely at slightly lower (but non-ice-crystalforming) temperatures, in which case it would be safe for longer. If:

 

1) we can safely suspend and de-suspend someone for, say, a week or so or more, and

 

2) the rate of aging while suspended is approximately the metabolic rate while suspended (i.e., when you're  suspended, you're scarcely aging), and

 

3) the recovery period between cycles is a small fraction of the length of the cycle,

 

then this method of "time travel" would work:

 

Repeated, longish-term cycles of suspension would be a way for someone to live X times longer, where X is C/R (C = suspension cycle length; R = recovery time between cycles). For example – everything else being equal, which it might not be, of course – let's say your suspension length is 20 days, and the recovery between cycles takes a full day, and you had three years left to live. You could stretch that out to 60 years, which might be enough time for a cure to be developed for whatever made it such that you only had three years left to live.

 

The work with pigs was 90% successful. I'm guessing it won't be hard to get that success rate much closer to 100%.

 

Zeta

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Not to veer off topic (I originally wanted to peruse the thread because of strong personal interest in the thread title)...

 

Therefore you THINK that "I think, therefore I am".  But, rather, you ARE, and, being a complex biological machine, therefore you (have the illusion of) thinking.

 

So we can all agree that thoughts exist, but every last one of those thoughts - including imagining that there is a thinker that goes along with the thoughts - MAY be totally illusory.

 

 

Thought and consciousness are not the same thing.

 

The fact that you are aware of this sentence is all that's needed to definitively demonstrate the existence of consciousness. QED

Your thoughts exist as much as anything else of which you're aware (via consciousness), but if you want to say that thoughts are "illusions" because they're reducible or in the same way that e.g. contact forces are illusions, that's just semantics. 

 

You might as well say it's all an illusion, that you're effectively a Dennett-style "brain in a vat," but in what sense can the illusion itself be said to exist if not in consciousness? It is the only place any illusion *can* exist.

 

The self is just another thought illuminated by consciousness.

Edited by Taurus Londono

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This discussion is beginning to remind me of the old Medieval preistly debate:

 

"How many angels can you fit on the head of a pin?"

 

I yield.

 

Looking forward to seeing you at the next CR Conference (I hope).

 

:)

 

  -- Saul

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Looking forward to seeing you at the next CR Conference (I hope).

 

:)

 

  -- Saul

 

I appreciate the warmth, Saul! 

I hope to see you at a CR conference too, someday in the near future, perhaps...

Be well.

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