Dennis Kowalski (@CiCryonics) is the president of the US-based Cryonics Institute (CI), a non-profit founded in 1976 by Robert Ettinger, “The Father of Cryonics.” CI’s goal from the beginning has been to offer the best available cryonics services to the public at an affordable cost. Since founding, Cryonics Institute has been a leading force in the cryonics movement, advancing research, education and public awareness. CI hosts an active and engaged community of more than 1,100 members world-wide and 150 patients currently in cryostasis. In addition to his role at CI, Dennis is a firefighter, a nationally registered EMT (emergency medical technician) and previous boxing champion and in the marine corps. [spreaker type=player resource=”episode_id=18590681″ width=”100%” height=”200px” theme=”light” playlist=”false” playlist-continuous=”false” autoplay=”false” live-autoplay=”false” chapters-image=”true” episode-image-position=”right” hide-logo=”false” hide-likes=”false” hide-comments=”false” hide-sharing=”false” hide-download=”true”] Subscribe on Apple Podcast | Google Podcast | Android | Overcast | Spotify | Youtube You can listen right here on iTunes In our wide-ranging conversation, we cover many things, including:
- How science is constantly catching up to the wonders of nature
- The life extension possibilities of cryonics
- Why cryonics isn’t as crazy as you think and might just be a really smart bet
- The different ways science could possibly bring people back from the dead
- Why we are still a ways off from uploading our consciousness the cloud
- The increasingly exciting opportunities of exponential technology
- How sci-fi sometimes suggests the future
- Why predicting the future is hard to be exact
- The role cryogenics plays in potential space travel
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can go a long way too! Dennis: There’s a saying in Cryonics’ the second worst thing that can possibly happen to you is to be dead and frozen right? Because that means you had to be dead first, on the other hand the worst thing would be to be dead not frozen, so yeah if I could be had my life extended and not have to be cryogenically suspended that would be great. But it just doesn’t exist and what does exist is the vehicle to possibly get me to the future. Matt: As a species we’ve always sought to overcome death, whether religion in heaven or the Fountain of Youth. Humans like to live and want to live as long as possible. Today we’re diving into an incredibly interesting and controversial subject cryonics. Cryonics first came on my scene, we’ve all heard the stories Walt Disney being frozen on ice living forever. It all seemed a little bit crazy, I was listening to Wait but Why. The Tim Urban blog where he dives into very interesting topics and tries to explore them and break them down for average individuals. He’s exploring cryonics and the ultimate conclusion he came to is that cryonics is the process of pausing people in critical condition and can’t accept the concept of death in the hopes that people from the future will be able to save them. And the community of hardcore cryonics people might also be a Scientology like cult. Don’t take this episode as an endorsement of cryonics. This is merely an endorsement of the interest I have and others should have in the future potentials and possibilities and the ability to create technology that seems seemingly impossible. So without further ado I give you Dennis Kowalski. Dennis: Well Cryogenics is actually the science of freezing things at very low temperatures, cryonics specifically is freezing people in the hopes that some future technology may be able to actually bring those people back. So if you think about it we kind of do that already in a lesser degree with embryos, right we can freeze embryos indefinitely and implant them and people are walking around today alive and well who’ve been frozen at liquid nitrogen temperatures. Sperm, eggs, skin cells, you know a lot of small tissues have been easily frozen with liquid nitrogen temperatures and viability hasn’t suffered one bit. The million-dollar question is can you scale that up to more complex tissues and all the way up to freezing a whole person? And the answer is we can’t revive people yet today when they asked that question could you do it with a lab animal or could you do it you know with a mouse or something like that so we could prove in principle that this is possible? Well that kind of is the paradox because we’re not in the future yet if we were in the future we could revive people and that’s what the whole purpose of cryonics is, is to is kind of medical time travel right. And an ambulance to a future hospital that may or may not exist in the future. The only way you find out if anything in science only way you find out what’s possible, is by pursuing it and running the experiment. Matt: And I’m gonna play stupid for some of this interview so that we’re able to dive into as much of the questions as most people have but Walt Disney most famous the most famous person that’s frozen on ice right. Dennis: That’s incorrect he, there is rumors and I can’t get it substantiated that he was concerned and looking into being frozen in the 1960s or whenever he passed away but it was also the same time that time did a feature or I was starting to do a feature article about cryonics and I think the two stories kind of got mixed together and I don’t know if his family did actually ask about freezing or someone from his office did. I know that there was some rumors but I can’t substantiate that and from what I heard he was just buried in a regular cemetery plot in California. Matt: Understood, so cryonics first came on my scene from Tim Urban with Wait but Why, he does deep dives into a lot of interesting things where you’re basically wait you hear like wait a sec oh why and he dives into the science. Cryonics was fascinating for me because it is so far out that it seems impossible but those are the type of things that we should be pursuing today. How did you get involved with cryonics? Dennis: Well you know I heard about it when I was younger, I’m 50 years old actually today and I heard about it when I was a young teenager, I remember watching a show called Phil Donahue. I don’t you remember or are familiar with that and it was a talk show and they spoke about they had some Cyrtos’ on there talking about the subject and I thought well this is really interesting now previously I had seen it on you know it’s science fiction shows and you know people going through space travel or whatever using a form of cryogenic suspension to get from point A to point B. But it was kind of a shocker to me that there was people actually doing it and that was in the mid-1970s. Well I thought to myself that’s really interesting but again how are they gonna ever be able to bring anyone back is it entirely just relying on the future pie-in-the-sky so then later in the 1980s. I you know I’ve always loved science so I read a lot of science books including science fiction and I was reading a book called Engines of creation by Eric Drexler. Now that book talked about reverse engineering life itself and he basically he was you know laying out how to hack into your you know DNA and actually the molecular processes at almost the atomic level you know what’s the mechanics going on. If we could really see what life is doing we could mimic everything that life does and the magic that would bring to the manufacturing process and everything else that we do in life would be unbelievable. And it’s not as if we’d have to invent something new you know that doesn’t exist like anti-gravity or time travel, this is features that actually exist in nature that, just haven’t been fully reverse engineered yet. So sold the ability to you know duplicate and replicate molecular patterns over and over to build bigger and more intricate structures basically what life does. So this engines of creation basically outlined how to reverse cryonics, just not easy to do, very hard to do, we’re not there yet. We’ll probably be there in the future but the important thing to note is if nature can do it there’s no scientific or physical reason we can’t do it. So no this is just as we’re having this debate you know about whether we’ll ever have heavier-than-air flight you know maybe back in Da Vinci’s time and you know one person’s argue and yes we will and one person’s arguing no we won’t. But you can always point out that these heavier-than-air birds are flying by as you’re having the conversation. So again nature is tackled and with who evolution tackled the problem and it’s just a matter of us reverse engineering what nature does. Matt: And longevity is fascinating it’s related to what you’re interested in in cryonics in terms of living longer it’s slightly different mechanisms, I’m not sure what the relationship is like between the cryonics the cryonics community. Hey Matt here quick aside well we’ve had some speculative longevity experts on will be focused much more on getting some scientists and researchers focused on health nutrition and the ability of human enhancement and long term living on the program soon. We’ve got some of the best a couple of the top speakers from Ted to be coming on the program and I’m very excited to bring you those and if you guys have forgotten my goal was to live to be a hundred and fifty three and add 10 to 15 years on the human lifespan in the average human life span over the course of the next 10 to 15 years. I’m going big, I’m going bold and that’s 10x but the reason behind that is if you don’t try of course you’ll never make it, so we’re gonna shoot from the moon and reach the stars, now let’s jump back. Dennis: There’s a whole kind of a field of philosophy called transhumanism, people who you know are incredibly optimistic about the future and they believe that future technologies will be able to do things that are magical by today’s standards. Alright now think about that now, you know I’ve got this cell phone in my hand here that you know 20 years ago would not have been possible it would have been like a crystal ball right I can contact people all over the globe in real time and I could access all the knowledge of mankind at my fingertips but we have Google we have our smartphones and this technology exists. 800 years ago if I said I could raise the dead by pounding on their chest and maybe shocking him with electricity they might have ran me out of town by saying that I was you know Frankenstein or something you know. But that’s exactly what we do, all the time through CPR and cardiac defibrillation. So you have to almost like really step outside contemporary thinking and look at what is possible you know not in such a way that I’m not talking about metaphysical stuff I’m talking about grounded in basic science just what’s not possible yet but will most likely be possible in the future. And that’s all really what we’re doing it cryonics it’s that on the future, now I didn’t fully answer your previous question I’m gonna get back to it a little bit how did I get myself into cryonics? Once I read that book about reverse engineering life, I realized but there is actually a blueprint for this, this isn’t just some ones you know purely a dream, there’s a blueprint and it’s just a matter of us pursuing it. The beauty of cryonics is you have all the time in the world to wait for science to catch up so sometime in my 30s I started thinking about this and I signed up with the cryonics Institute. I have filled out a life insurance policy and I thought well this is only for the rich right this is only way out of my economic means but it turns out that a simple life insurance policy pays for the interment or basically that money gets put into and endowment and that’s what runs the perpetual overhead that pays for you to stay in liquid nitrogen. So like taxes, utilities, more liquid nitrogen that gets invested that money just like a regular endowment would. And that’s what pays for the perpetual nature. Then after some time of being a member I got a little bit more involved the organization that I’m with cryonic sista – it is a non-profit. It is also democratically run by its members so as you sign up as a member you get a vote and I was voted in as the board of directors and then eventually I was voted and as the president of the cryonics Institute and that’s kind of how I got involved step by step. Matt: It’s fascinating for me there was a football player a while back, unfortunately I’m a Buffalo Bills fan which means I’ve suffered through many many horrible years. But I don’t remember what his name was he was a tight end he got hit he broke his spine and they froze him on the way to the emergency room he was already paralyzed he was never gonna walk for the rest of his life and the doctors were able to save him because of the fact that he was frozen. And he was back to walking, running and to working out within a year and it was just incredible. So that’s part of the reason, why it was very interesting for me it’s just the ability of the human body to recover and recuperate. Dennis: So to clarify, they probably did freeze them they probably use what’s called therapeutic hypothermia. They cool them down very cold and when they do that that slows down the metabolic need of the cells and gives them time to heal. Now in essence that is what we’re doing now on a much grander scale right. We’re giving your body time to catch up with medical science, itself. So I just want to clarify I don’t think they actually froze him. But you know you’re right it’s the same actual process cooling, slows down chemical reactions and metabolic activity and that buys you time and you’re starting to see that now much more in conventional medicine. People with heart attacks and strokes they’re gonna cool they’re cooling their blood so can buy them time again these things were all impossible just a decade or two ago. Matt: And it’s even obvious like just with what athletes are doing with taking ice baths or recovery it’s much of the same mechanism slightly different in terms of your more pressing pause versus rewind. But it’s a it’s very interesting for me talk through how cryonics exactly works and what some of the misconceptions are? Warning if you’re a bit squeamish we’re about to get a little bit more into the heebie jeebie grossness factor. It’s very interesting, it’s incredibly technical and it’s very valuable to understand the process. But if you can’t handle it, then it may be something you want to fast-forward through the next five or so minutes. Now let’s go back to the creepiness and crazy possibilities. Dennis: Lots of misconceptions but let’s talk about the process, so under good circumstances right you would pass away in a situation where there’s people around you, okay because there’s several ways you can go all right you can die planned, unplanned and unwitnessed. And unwitnessed would be the worst case for us you know. You’re in the woods and you’re hiking, we do have some remedies for that like GPS pulse detecting watches and all stuff like that that kind of sends out a signal I need help on here. Like a life alert but under other excellent circumstances let’s say you had told all your family and friends they knew that this was your wishes you got everything in play ahead of time you signed up with the cryonics Institute, you talked to your funeral director, your doctors and everyone and you had all the equipment at your bedside and you had a terminal illness that was not causing problems with your brain maybe a cancer in the you know pancreas or something like that. And in that case as soon as you’re declared legally dead, as soon as your heart stops or you went to cardiac arrest as we call it in the paramedic community. Then we continue in CPR not to bring you back but to continue to keep the tissues nourished with oxygen and nutrients and then we put you into an ice bath and then continue with the CPR while you’re in the ice bath. What’s going on there is you’re feeding the brain oxygen and nutrients but you’re also cooling the body down even faster because you are exchanging the warm core blood with the colder peripheral blood at the skin. And so you’re cooling the core down as well and we really that’s an important thing we want to cool down your core of your body and your brain. And once we do that after a while that slows down your met metabolic need to the point we don’t even need to do a CPR anymore. We also inject in heparin and blood thinners so that your blood doesn’t gel up and coagulate. But we don’t freeze you completely at that point, then we would transport you if you’re within a ten hour radius so the cryonics institute is as fast as possible to our facility where we would surgically open up your carotid arteries and veins and we would profuse in a type of biological antifreeze. It’s a formula that was developed by a Coronal biologist who was you know his specialty was preserving tissues at extremely low temperatures. So mostly Coronal biologists work with embryos and stem cells and pathogens and stuff like that. So anyways the cooling process in the beginning is just protecting you and buying you enough time to get to the facility. Then once you’re at the facility then we put this biological anti-freeze in you and this this anti-free is what it does is it keeps the ice crystallization from forming in the interstitial spaces. The spaces between your cells that ice crystallization can do damage. Matt: Basically water expands when it freezes. Dennis: Right you’re seeing it in your freezer right, so it’s the same thing but it’s not inside the cells it’s actually between the cells and then it would crush the cells. So these coronal biological agents, basically they were reversed engineered by the way from natural organisms that have these proteins and these substances in their bodies there’s North American heart frogs, freeze solid, there’s other insects that freeze solid and anyone who’s been outside in a super cold weather say how do those you know insects and animals make it. A lot of them hibernate in a natural cryogenic or kind of cryonic suspension of their own, so we’ve kind of reverse engineered again what Mother Nature has already done and came up with a formula on that it’s not perfect but it definitely protects the cells much better than had that formula not been per-fused into your body. So we kind of hook you up to the equivalents about cardiac heart-lung bypass and we tap in and we push out the blood we push the cryo-protected in and this cryo-protectant is much colder than liquid ice or then solid ice. So but it’s still in a liquid form and it’s able to perfuse your tissues then we bring you down into a cooling chamber as fast as possible to about negative 100 degrees Celsius and then after that we gradually bring you down to liquid nitrogen temperatures which is in Fahrenheit negative 451 degrees. So it’s pretty cold, at that point you can stay in a pretty much indefinite state of pause and nothing changes there’s no chemical reactivity going on there’s no decay there’s no break down I mean, we kind of know this intuitively you know, you take your potato salad out on a hot summer day at a picnic, it’s gonna spoil if you put in a fridge it’s gonna last longer, if you put things in the freezer it’ll last that much longer in the dry ice it’s an exponential in a reverse. So one second becomes a minute becomes an hour becomes 10,000 years real quick. So you’ve got all the time in the world to figure out how are we gonna have the technology to reverse engineer life itself at the mechanical level. And we’re starting to see bits and pieces of that with stem cell research for instance artificial intelligence or and computers are getting so advanced that they’re able to pick apart the human genome you’re starting to see like CRISPR caste 9 if you’re familiar with that method of genetically engineering and changing the genes and swapping in and out for organisms so on that once this this is all coming together and leading to a world that we should be able to slow down even reverse aging and in fact revive cryonics patients. So cryonics is kind of like the ultimate life insurance policy if we don’t figure out how to reverse aging. Matt: Assuming that we never lose power in the world, it’s incredibly fascinating, incredibly creepy a little bit cultish sounding but at the same time incredibly promising and that’s why I wanted to get you on because it is the strange mixture of sci-fi future, current potential and just uh just enough out there that it makes you kind of your feet curl a little bit. How did how did people first get into this what’s the story of how cryonics first came about? How did someone discover or dive into some of these procedures to make something like this possible? Dennis: Well Robert Adejure professor of physics in Michigan was a science fiction buff like myself but back in the 1950s he read a lot of science fiction and as a physics professor he started examining the idea, he thought boy this is really interesting. There was a story about a gentleman who goes up into space and freezes and then some advanced alien race unfreezes him. And he thought to himself from a physics standpoint is this actually possible? So he ran all the figures being a scientist and he said boy this actually could work. Does it mean that you can you know he didn’t have the science for bringing people back if he had that he’d already be famous for curing all disease and aging but he just knew that he could stabilize patients or people to a point where maybe in the future, that other tech side of the coin would be solved. Matt: I don’t know about you but I find it interesting that science fiction and suspending reality seem to have such positive impacts on creativity innovation and the future of technology. If we look into how many times things were impossible and then people just decided to look into how exactly this works what are the numbers and what would be necessary. It’s the first principles thinking of Elon Musk and many of the other great innovators and entrepreneurs that change the world. So I’d invite you to think outside the box from time to time now let’s jump back. Dennis: Now just you did talk about like the creepy factor, the ick factor you know I’ve been in orthopedic surgeries I mean there’s a lot of primitive you know looking. Matt: To their duct-taping it just to put you back together somehow. Dennis: Yeah yeah I mean and there’s other than I mean think about organ transplantation. I mean from a primitive standpoint I mean right now we accept it’s normal but maybe 50 years ago 60 years ago if I said I was gonna take a heart or a liver out of a freshly dead corpse and stitch and sew it into someone I mean how creepy does that sound? Yet we all benefit from the wonderful life-saving techniques that have been born out of that science. So it’s all good you know it’s and it’s what we’re doing we’re fighting the good fight, if cryonics doesn’t work, at all, if it never works and comes to fruit we’re still advancing science by finding out what is or is not possible. My hope is that it will work and then that’ll be a great thing because we will have saved countless lives and that’s a good thing, that’s the fighting the good fight, that’s what we that’s what I do as a paramedic in my day job you know when people go into cardiac arrest, we don’t always win we don’t always bring them back but we try to fight the good fight at least. And I love life, I love my family and so that’s what the whole thing, I love science and it’s all kind of wrapped into one. Matt: It’s fascinating so in preparation for this I did a little bit of research into in vitro fertilization and it looks like with embryos they have a 60 to 70 percent success rate of bringing frozen embryos back to that’s if you go through the IVF process then you have all of these eggs you might have leftover embryos let’s save some for later just in case right. Well it’s a 60 to 70 percent so that’s kind of already verifies that something like this is possible you can freeze a human being and then bring back a human being it may not be quite as advanced as the human beings in cryonics but it’s kind of I like the pause analogy of if you’re in a country in the 1900s the hospital might be up not be able to help you today it’s very different. Dennis: That’s correct you know and in 60 70 percent that number might be a hundred percent in another ten years, depending on the technology that comes on board with the implantation of those embryos. Matt: So I have a question now for you with cryonics and going forward there are some inherent challenges so the power one I brought up earlier the also the other one that I think of which is even more terrifying, would be the concept of oftentimes today if you’re living in a country that’s just doing terribly you try to get out of the country, you get smuggled out and then it turns out that the traffickers sell you into the sex trade or something terrible. How do people deal with that process of coming back alive and not having to reset. Dennis: Oh thanks for bringing up the power thing that is one of the misconceptions we don’t use electricity there’s no refrigeration systems so basically it’s even simpler than that it’s a giant thermos bottle that’s filled up with liquid nitrogen. If we ran out of liquid nitrogen that thermos bottle is so insulated so well it would take five to six months before we ran out of liquid nitrogen. But we don’t wait that long you know top it off every week and we measure it every single day not mechanically but physically so there’s no electricity to fill. And even so we do have backup generators and so forth but into the bigger question what could go wrong or a tornado could hit the place we could have a nuclear war you know when it comes you could what if everything it basically comes down to the fact that we’re optimistic. And you know what if things go right what if everything does work out you know it so the way I look at it is, we have no control over the bad things that can happen. And in that case you’d be no worse off than someone who’s buried or cremated but if on the other hand this works you could be sitting you know into the future with a whole new life and all that fantastic aw that that you know would bring. Matt: A quick related tangent as an angel investor one of the investors that I’ve looked up to and learn too quite a bit from its Jason Calacanis, hosted this week in startups. He has the same when it comes to investing and it’s that you don’t have to think about what could go wrong it’s just the what could go right if everything lines up the stars align, how big could this go what happens if this goes right that’s what angel investors, investors and founders need to think about because the law of exponential returns applies to both investing and creating the future especially technology because what happens if it all goes right. Dennis: Now well yeah there’s things that could go wrong the whole idea of this the dystopian world or whatever you know where they’re gonna wake you up just torture you or whatever that seems pretty unlikely I mean anything’s possible it seems very unlikely to me because why would you go through all that effort to bring someone back if you want slave labor or something like that. I mean if you have that technology to bring someone back most likely you’d have a robot technology you’d have other things that you wouldn’t need slaves or you wouldn’t need a there would be a benevolent world you know. So it’s almost inherent that the world to be that advanced would have to be somewhat benevolent but I don’t really get too much into the future because nobody knows the future, even though this is premised on the idea that the future is gonna be good so. Matt: It’s interesting I’m an angel investor and work with a lot of early-stage companies and one of the biggest factors you see for startups failing is timing, it’s interesting that you can put timing on the back burner it doesn’t really matter when as long as it happens at some point. Dennis: Well you know and interestingly enough two of the timing is you know I’m back in the 60s and 70s and 80s not a whole lot was happening you know these people were just frozen in liquid nitrogen temperatures. Now you’re seeing all this technology about stem cells advanced AI, molecular nanotechnology things that just are out-of-this-world advanced and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming. So I think there may come a time when people with a lot of money might start looking into cryonics and say what have I got to lose I mean the cost is pretty minimal. I mean I could spend a lot more money on frivolous things and if it ever becomes if after that real life extension starts to become more viable there is always gonna be some people that are just too old and they’re just gonna miss out on the technology right? The magic pill or whatever drugs come on market to prolong your life or extend your life. The beautiful thing about cryonics is it is that backup the ultimate backup policy right. So if people you know if wealthier people you know start looking into this, maybe you know it’ll be the tip of a good thing to invest into. Right now you know we’re pretty much we stay nonprofit but I think there could be a lot of profit and actually extending human life and having that the ultimate backup policy but who knows only time will tell that. Matt: Entrepreneurs out there if you think anti-aging and beauty products are a goldmine, think again if we can extend the human life, there’s nothing more profitable, more fulfilling or more important as a social mission. What happens as we move towards an infinite or a significantly extended lifespan in terms of humanity population and just the overall yeah the overall. Dennis: Well the universe is a big place you know some people talked about overpopulation but we may need a lot more people to colonize the solar system or even further out. The way I look at it is, if again we had this really advanced technology to bring someone back, we’re gonna have some pretty advanced space travel technology and communications and everything else is gonna be you know infinite levels ahead of where we are now. So I think that the ability for the world to handle revived patients should be spit in the bucket you know. People also and one of the other things about overpopulation, people dying right now. But having multiple children that’s an exponential again so if I die at the age of 30 but I’ve had 10 children and my 10 children have 10 children you know already up to 100 and that’s with death at early age so having babies mathematically speaking, is exponential. People not dying 1 begets 1 is kind of a linear mathematically. So I don’t see overpopulation as an issue in fact, I see the largest most important resource we have is the intellectual property that’s in our brains, you know. I mean your family your friends I mean what means the most you and that’s what we’re saving we’re saving the minds and our loved ones and lives if I love the ones you know there’s ideas to that they’ll be able to maybe extrapolate the information out of people’s brains as well maybe upload those but you know that you that gets even far-fetched for me but there’s certainly nothing in the laws of physics that says that’s not possible. Matt: That was my next question, so in terms of how people could be brought back to life, there were a couple of possibilities, same body, new body uploaded or a robot. I don’t know if you had a I thought in terms of which would be most likely. Dennis: Well I’m kind of attached to my body, pun intended but the way I look at it you know I don’t know I you know nobody’ll know the future I mean it could be something way out of left field that I can’t I never even thought of. But certainly all those things seem like viable possibilities, again without knowing the future being purely speculative because of the fact that I’m kind of a sci-fi nerd sometimes. I look at things like you know would we be able to reverse engineer a virus that cross-checks your DNA that what you should be at a healthy age of 20 it looks at the DNA in the cells where you’re at now and starts repairing and multiplying within your body kind of like a virus that doesn’t make you sick but actually makes you healthy and starts resetting the clock. What if we’re able to ramp up your stem cells to a level where you just naturally healing yourself from within. What if there’s a mechanical version of that some type of robotics that are micro miniature metal robotics that are able to divide and fix you from within? These are all ways just to fix your existing body for instance, other ways maybe that’s not doable maybe some sort of a scan that actually scans where every cell in your brain is and extrapolates the information out just like a giant computer and downloads you into a Android or some other system. So that you can live and definitely in the software, I don’t know. I mean that starts getting starts getting funny and philosophically weird because I say well then you know if they could do that now let’s say you know jumped into the transporter Star Trek style and then I was beamed over here but let’s say that things screwed up and made two copies well which ones really me you know it starts together philosophically weird. I would still claim I am me and the other me would claim that’s me but yet you know it strange as these philosophical things seem we these are kind of happening already to a degree in nature. So you know as we eat food and bring in new molecules and your body assembles them into your brain and as life goes on you know shed off skin and you know use the bathroom and all these other molecules leave, if there’s actually evidence that the material that is you is coming in and going out and it’s not the same you’re not the same person literally physically that you were in the past. So there’s already kind of an idea that maybe if you’re not the physical stuff then what are you you’re the information the software? So if that’s the case then maybe you could be uploaded into a computer and it would be you just the same but me personally I you know I’d want my body back and that’s just my own personal belief system but it gets complex you know it gets pretty deep. Matt: What we didn’t jump into consciousness on this episode I’m looking into having some expert along the lines of a Sam Harris on the podcast so we can really dive into what it means to be human and what it means to be alive and sentient. And that we can better understand ourselves and our environment and the universe we’re living and interacting with. You’ve got any great suggestions email@example.com or on Twitter at it’s Matt Ward do you think we’ll get to a VR world before we get to a revived world, like revived people from cryogenics versus a ready player one time? Dennis: I really don’t know, you know honestly that’s a good question, I don’t know it seems like both technologies soon to be advancing in parallel, you know brain scanning to understand the brain so that you could physically repair it would also is parallel to brain scanning to copy and simulate it in another computer system. So you’re gonna need some of the same tools to do either so which will come first it’s kind of a chicken and the egg type of question it’s a tough question. That’s good question but I don’t know I guess would be that they’re both gonna come along the same time. Matt: So in terms of cryonics how many people today are frozen or vitrified? Dennis: There is over two thousand people signed up with us probably if you want to add up the whole world probably you know because there’s several organizations out there probably about four or five thousand there’s organizations in Russia, Australia and so forth [inaudible] 31:00 – we have 170 people about 120 pets-animals hundreds of… Matt: Really. Dennis: Yeah. Matt: Wow that’s almost as many pets as people, does that mean essentially almost every person is bringing their pet along for the ride? Dennis: No some people just have saved their pets in the hopes that cloning techniques will pick up and they’ll be able to you know clone their pets or maybe some people actually want to try to bring back their pet in their lifetime. Since the pets have a much shorter lifespan than their owners you know and funny about that is when we started this that was not a possible thing to do but today there’s a company called perpetuate I think. And there’s another company that in Korea that will actually clone your dog for you it’s a lot of money it’s a couple hundred thousand dollars or something and they can clone your pet. So who knows what’ll be possible in the future you know maybe these people plan on living but you know they’re younger people and they lost their pet than their pets their loved one and they’re hoping that in their lifetime they might be able to revive their pets. So it’s not as if every single person in cryonics has a pet it’s there’s probably more people more pets that their owners are just alive right now and maybe they’re planning on getting frozen themselves later but they’re not actually in suspension yet. Matt: That makes sense it was a stupid question on my part, so I’m talking with Aubrey de Grey and a couple of days he’s one of the leading researchers on Aging. He believes that there’s humans alive today that will live to be a thousand. Are there any type of potential problems between cryonics and longevity technically it is kind of like a competitive business although it’s both geared towards the same outcome? Dennis: Well you know I’d love to see longevity work I’d like to be put out of business by the longevity crowd. And there’s a saying in cryonics the second worst thing that can possibly happen to you is to be dead and frozen right because that means you had to be dead first. On the other hand the worst thing would be to be dead not frozen so yeah if I could be had my life extended and not have to be cryogenically suspended that would be great. But it just doesn’t exist and what does exist is the vehicle to possibly get me to the future. So it’s a back-up plan more than anything and of course there’s people who actually didn’t they thought that would might happen too and they thought longevity might come along and science and save them and they’re now frozen with us because time caught up with them and time won over as versus the science. But the beauty of cryonics is you have all you can keep waiting over you know longer and longer. So I it’s almost as if I’m a firefighter so you know do I support fire safety right and education so that we don’t have fires which ultimately puts me out of a job? Yes I do because that’s progress and if we don’t need firefighters that would be a good thing but until we do until we have a totally fire safe world we’re gonna need firefighters. Matt: So you got into this more from a sci-fi background and less from a technical background. I’d like to learn a little more about what some of the other members are like what your average distribution is like job title, ages, geographies etc just to learn a little bit more about who’s currently undergoing or you probably can’t tell me undergoing but interested in cryonics? Dennis: Sure I would say our base if that’s what you’re looking for is there’s probably more males than females predominantly definitely the one thing that links us all together is an interest in science fiction and optimism, optimistic viewpoint towards the future. Futurism that links us all but I would say most of us tend to have some too more college education there’s quite a few people that are I noticed that our PhDs or they have you know Mensa certificates so very smart people doctors lawyers and so forth. But we do have people of all different ethnicities of you know financial backgrounds and religions and we have people that are atheists and people that are fundamentalist Christian. And really shouldn’t be terribly surprising because you can get a heart transplant and be both an atheist or a different religious persuasion Jewish one of the guys on our Board of Directors is Orthodox Jewish. So you know his family thinks it’s goes against God but he thinks it’s God’s will. So it’s just it depends on how you interpret it my point is always been if you know it’s no different than then getting a heart transplant it’s either gonna work or not work no matter what your religious persuasion. Matt: Yeah I have a hard time figuring out how religious people could justify anything medical but that’s a whole other story. I want to jump into what other big problems do you see in the world and what would you like to see people tackle? Dennis: I’d love to see actual functioning molecular nanotechnology. So again the revert if we could reverse engineer life at that point if we could re-build little molecular robotic machines that could mimic life and make copies of themselves with the surrounding parts and tools the atoms that are around them. We could do almost anything right we could feed the world we could cure aging and almost all disease. We could have open up the least the solar system – space colonization I mean we could do we could – we’d live fantastically wealthy every person and with plenty of space and almost zero pollution and it all sounds really pie-in-the-sky. But that’s actually technology that exists within nature if exploited or reverse engineered properly. I’d love to see that because that would really solve all the other problems talk line including cryonics. Matt: Yeah the biggest problem with Nano is it’s just so hard to manufacture at those scales that no one’s been able to do it today, interesting. Dennis: It is but what Mother Nature does it all the time or our bodies are filled with nano machinery so it’s really amazing it is you know people who say that nanotechnology is impossible well you wouldn’t exist if you were if we’re made of nano machines that are functioning and doing what nano machines do. Matt: Fair point. Dennis: They’re just teacher’s version. Matt: What are you most excited about today outside of cryonics? Dennis: I have to say, I love and get back to nanotechnology but also I love artificial intelligence because I think once you can develop machines that can think faster and better than humans. Wow the sky’s the limit right because then the exponential nature of that means we’re gonna be living in a whole different world you know we can’t even fathom the wonders of technology that we’re gonna have if that happens. Matt: Absolutely. Dennis: We seem to be on the cusp of that as well. Matt: I think that’s one of the challenges with exponential technologies is you always feel like you’re on the cusp especially the closer that you are to the technology. But then it always takes longer and also goes faster than people expect so it’s a really challenging to predict but that’s part of the fun of getting interesting people like you on the program. Dennis: Kind of like space travel right I mean we landed on the moon and then also what happened we haven’t been back there and all this time. But there’s time coming when it’s gonna become more routine it you know you look at the greater scale of Exponentials it seems almost as if anything is this happened in the last hundred years right. I mean for thousands of years we rode horses right or we didn’t have refrigeration we didn’t really have electricity for thousands of years and also in the last 100 200 years everything seems to have been invented that’s the exponential nature of the Industrial Revolution and now that the technology and information revolution. Matt: Yeah it’s fascinating, previously history was war and it spans for very long times with very little happening. And now it’s very much technology and change happening at such a rapid pace that people aren’t able to keep up. Dennis: Right. Matt: So you mentioned sci-fi you mentioned being a bit of a geek what’s your favorite sci-fi book what really got you into the world of the future? Dennis: Oh yeah well I’ve read a lot of stuff from Richard Feynman physicist I definitely like I said engines of creation by Eric Drexler nanotechnology. When I was younger I read I was an avid subscriber to Omni magazine I don’t know if you recall Omni magazine? That kind of took some very deep and technical scientific things and brought it down to the layman you know so I could read this when I was in high school and that that was one of my favorite magazines to read. And that branched me off into reading a lot of other stuff about AI and you know. I’m a fan of movies like 2001 a Space Odyssey at the Hal 9000 computer we we’re almost have that battle to a degree we’re getting down that level with the Google supercomputers and so forth. Pretty amazing stuff and who knows where it’s gonna take us and that’s why I kind of want to be part of the future and I’m looking at like I got nothing to lose nothing to lose when I get older I’ll be there gonna be buried cremated or frozen and for the expense it’s not that much money for my family and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. Matt: Great power, great responsibility, we’re jumping into a really interesting era I want a challenge for the listeners now and ask for a challenge something that you think people could look into do etc? Dennis: A challenge that people should look into? I think people need to put down their Facebook’s and a little bit of their entertainment you know watching television or and actually try to read a little bit about what’s happening in science news, business news, and really see what’s happening in the world because things are changing quick. If you don’t keep your eye on the ball you’re gonna miss out on a lot of really fascinating neat things that are coming our way. And you know and instead of absorbing ourselves in the fictional world they’re it’s the reality is actually stranger than fiction. I mean it’s really fascinating things that are happening right now and this is a fascinating age to live in and it’s only gonna speed up and get even more fascinating. Matt: I completely agree with that word that the era of one-and-done application is completely over. If you’re listening to fringe FM you probably get that. We’re gonna get the world’s smartest best and most interesting individuals on so that we can talk about the converging and exponential technologies tomorrow thanks for coming on today Dennis. Where is the best place to get hold of you? Dennis: Thank you very much. Matt: Sorry where’s the best place for people to find you? Dennis: Oh yeah we’re on all the social media but one of the best places is just to go to www.cryonics.org not com but org and it’s cryonics plural and all the information that you ever wanted to know about cryonics is there we’ve got YouTube videos we’ve got we lay out our technical arguments about why what we’re doing is feasible? We’ve got peer-reviewed scientific papers that support what we’re doing 62 PhD signatories that signed on that say that what we’re doing is not cargo cult science but just cutting-edge. And so there’s plenty of information on our website at cryonics.org. Matt: And don’t try this at home people freezing yourself is not a great idea. We’ll throw links and everything in the show notes I’m still not a hundred percent sure how I feel about cryonics. Other than it is a very fascinating and potentially transformative field. That’s what I think I would I would leave people with is not to write off things that could be the future just because they seem a little bit strange in the present. Dennis: Thank You Matt. Matt: If you want more of Fringe FM you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or go to fringe.fm where you find tons of audio and video interviews with leaders in the fields of genetics, cryptocurrency, longevity, AI, space, VR and much much more. And you can follow me on Twitter at itsmattward if you enjoyed the show please leave a quick review in iTunes to help more people discover for in Fringe FM.
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