Posts Tagged ‘cryonics’

Note to Robert Ettinger: the best dreams are waking

July 30, 2011

Robert C. W. Ettinger: now there was a guy who understood that “life only avails, not the having lived.” Or maybe not.

He gave us cryonics, separated the Splendid Splinter’s head from his bat, inspired Woody Allen (“Sleeper“), and now seems to have shuffled off this mortal coil.

I know I shouldn’t make light of anyone’s passing, but this is just too rich.

“Life is better than death, healthy is better than sick, and immortality might be worth the trouble.” I don’t disagree. It might be.

It might also be more sensible to recognize our personal mortality as a small but crucial part of the much larger and more enlivening story of life on the grand scale, at the species and cosmic level where death and life are yin and yang. It’s really not all about me, or you, or her. It’s about us, about we who’ve been privileged against all odds to wake up in the universe and begin to sniff around, we who have a golden opportunity to prepare our immediate successors for their own moment of lucidity and aspiration.

Links in a chain, we are. Not a chain dangling from a hook in a meat locker, but a chain of genes and dreams stretching beyond every perceptible horizon.

Still, I’m entirely with Mr. Ettinger in his lust for more life. Give me more experience, please. “So when I come back I’d like to try skiing,” and a few dozen other risky ventures. I’d like to meet my great-great-great… grandchildren. I’d like to know how the story turns out.

Older Daughter said last night she’s miffed that there’s this great, vast universe out there and she can’t reach it. I know what she means, and I think I know what Robert Ettinger wanted. But the thing is, we can reach it. What else is an expanded and evolving cranial capacity for, besides foraging and fending off predators more efficiently, if not to dream?

As she and Dumbledore and Emily Dickinson remind me, just because something’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real. The brain is wider than the sky and warmer than a deep freeze. It’s a pretty good time machine and rocket ship too.

transhumanist piety

August 11, 2010

The new scientific quest for immortality is secular, not religious? Maybe that was hasty.

Jaron Lanier says these new seekers (Kurzweil, de Grey et al) are religious, too, motivated by the same aversion to death that has always populated the pews. In this light, Singularity University is the transhumanist mother-church.  Its core message?

One day in the not-so-distant future, the Internet will suddenly coalesce into a super-intelligent A.I., infinitely smarter than any of us individually and all of us combined; it will become alive in the blink of an eye, and take over the world before humans even realize what’s happening.

Some think the newly sentient Internet would then choose to kill us; others think it would be generous and digitize us the way Google is digitizing old books, so that we can live forever as algorithms inside the global brain. Yes, this sounds like many different science fiction movies. Yes, it sounds nutty when stated so bluntly. But these are ideas with tremendous currency in Silicon Valley; these are guiding principles, not just amusements, for many of the most influential technologists.

Well. If they’re talking about destruction– of humanity, individuality, subjectivity, personal consciousness– they can count me out.

But is that what they’re talking about? According to the Transhumanist Declaration, they

favour allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives. This includes use of techniques that may be developed to assist memory, concentration, and mental energy; life extension therapies; reproductive choice technologies; cryonics procedures; and many other possible human modification and enhancement technologies.

Cryonics, eh? That raises a red flag (with Red Sox and a “B”) for me.

But who could be against “wide personal choice”?