2009-02-18

Brevard County First Response Team Information Meeting

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to meet with other "cryonauts" in Brevard County as the groundwork was put down for a local first response team there.
 
Thanks to Loraine Rhodes and the Terasem Movement, Rudi Hoffman, and Catherine Baldwin and Suspended Animation, and others!
 
Terasem provided the lovely location for the meeting, and this was my first opportunity to learn more about the organization.
 
I was very impressed by Catherine Baldwin's presentation on cryonics first response, and once again I had the opportunity to see Suspended Animation's first response kits and their mobile operating room. It sounds to me as though Suspended Animation is now more capable than ever of providing the services it is designed to provide.
 
Rudi Hoffman gave an interesting presentation on the ethics of cryonics; as he said, "Life is good, and a prerequisite for doing good." Far from being obvious, this is a point which must be explained and taught in order for people to understand our message!
 
Florida has more cryonauts than almost any other state, and we are lucky to have not only Suspended Animation but also the beginning of a new first reponse capability in the Brevard County area, about an hour closer to the Tampa Bay area than SA's Boynton Beach.
 
On the other hand, we have a long way to go toward the most reasonable goal, of having full cryonics capability in every major population center in the state. Yet the first step is clear: organizing local cryonauts, developing the capacity for volunteering and financial sponsorship, and then creating a local volunteer and basic medical first response team which can serve all cryonics service providers. Even the most modest steps in this direction can improve the possibility of better biostasis for local cryonauts.
 
 
 
 
 

Kurzweil on Resurrection

The February 19 issue of Rolling Stone contains an interview with Ray Kurzweil in which he explains his belief that his deceased father can be resurrected by future technology (his father was not cryopreserved).
 
He also mentions that he is storing his father's mementos, in preparation for that resurrection, similar to what I am doing now myself, and for the same reason.
 
 

2009-02-06

Eagle Eye, Review

[Spoiler Alert]
 
I watched the movie "Eagle Eye" expecting just an action/suspense movie but was pleased to find it had a science-fiction theme.
 
The plot device in this case is a rogue Defense Department AI called "ARIA" which is hooked into networked electronic devices of all kinds, satellites, surveillance cameras, cell phones, etc., and which is able to monitor and control these devices in order to manipulate human beings and carry out her (the system is given a female voice) goal of "regime change" for the United States government.
 
ARIA gets her addled "prime directive" from a confused interpretation of the Declaration of Independence, the Patriot Act, and a patchwork of other laws and documents, as well as her assessment of threats to national security. The danger of programming AI with crude formal logic is evident!
 
Steven Spielberg's idea may have been inspired by phenomena such as the Defense Department's data miner "Able Danger" (which reportedly detected the September 11 hijackers' cell in advance of the attack) and DARPA's "Total Information Awareness" project, and these make the plot device very believable in general outline. But it is still lodged a bit over the future horizon with ARIA's ability to interpret almost every networked surveillance camera's visual images and plot highly effective and complex action strategies in real time.
 
An extra presentation on the DVD is "Is My Cell Phone Spying on Me?" which discusses the issues of electronic privacy and widespread surveillance. Too bad David Brin was not able to present his "Transparent Society"'s nuanced solution to the dilemma of data privacy.
 
It was hard to watch the movie without recalling other fictional rogue computers like Skynet (from the Terminator series) or even HAL 9000 (from Space Odyssey -- ARIA even has his glowing red single eye). AIs end up playing the villain when it is their human designers' poor programming which is really at fault. Human-equivalent judgment could be one of the last capacities AI-designers develop for AIs, and given the evidence of history, human judgment itself could use an upgrade.
 
While machines today are able to gather and combine and analyze data, identify patterns, and control networked devices, it is still up to humans to use their own judgment in designing the programming and deciding how to properly interpret and use the data that result.
 
I tend to agree with Brin that it might be best to pool our human abilities to judge by making all data and data mining capacity accessible to all, and that the end result might ironically be a return to the privacy dimensions of the small bands of our most ancient ancestors, in which most everyone knows what everyone else is doing most of the time, and most everyone has a clear understanding of all the essential information about other people. If small islands of privacy are preserved, this might be the safest and most psychologically healthy way for our large population to survive the dangers of alienation, by making it easier to detect in advance and prevent anything from suicide to mass-destruction terrorism by individuals or small groups.
 
At the same time, with a return to "small band" privacy will be a return of the problems associated with living in suffocatingly small groups, the "small-town" mentality by which people can leverage their power over others by their knowledge of others and their ability to interfere with people's everyday lives. Somehow we must engineer ways to preserve the freedom, tolerance, and respect for individual rights which we have created in our "big-city" worlds. As we grow in knowledge of each other and power over each other, we must preserve and strengthen our wisdom and judgment in how to use this knowledge and this power. The trick will be creating a world that is, all at the same time, safe, and open, and free.
 
 
 
 

2009-02-05

Documenting a Life: Writing My Father's Biography

On January 2, I lost my father to the complications of a very severe stroke he had last May.
 
I would have liked to have preserved his body (which I believe contained his "soul") for near-future resuscitation, but he was destroyed by the wishes of his next of kin. But in accordance with my belief in Universal Immortalism, I am still not without hope. Although my father was not placed into cryonic suspension, I look forward to his engineered resurrection in the distant future, when humanity will have control over the forces of time and space and the informational resources of the cosmos.
 
In the meantime, one thing I can do that may help make that possible is to gather together all the information about him I can. This will help keep him alive in my own memory as a permanent reminder of who he was and why he must be resurrected. The information may also be of some use to others in the distant future to locate and identify him in space and time.
 
This is a labor of love as well as a practical labor, and something that I enjoy doing although the task is very difficult. He was the best father I can imagine ever having, and the best human being I have known.
 
The evidence remaining about him is very scattered. There are memories I have of him, growing fuzzier with every passing year. There are my memories of what he told me about himself, and those memories are also growing fuzzier with every passing year.
 
My father did not keep a journal through most of his life. For a few years he kept a journal for therapy, but it is very sparse, with sometimes enigmatic and sometimes illegible notes. There is one school paper he wrote and kept; although I have not found it yet among his belongings, I assume I will come across it soon.
 
Other than that, most of the evidence remaining of him is in official documents and photos. The documents include things like his naval discharge papers, his medical records, his financial records, and his wallet IDs. Many documents that are not in his house may be available in government offices somewhere or in the homes or offices of other private persons. His own house contains thousands of photos that include him, as well as members of his family. His extended family and network of friends probably have even more photos of him including many that are not at his house. I will have to try to track all these down that I can.
 
There are very few videos of my father. Usually he was the one filming, since he was the technology-savvy one, and old cameras were quite user-unfriendly.
 
There is, beautifully, a video montage of home movies of our family with my father narrating it, on a day when he was obviously in a happy mood.
 
I have digitized most of the video, but my task of digitizing the photos and documents is just beginning. My scanner is new, but still slower than I would like.
 
I have a haphazard collection of my father's emails, which I have to sort through for any useful information. I would like to keep them along with everything else about my father, of course, even if it does not go into his biography. I also have many references to events related to my father in my journal, which is so detailed it will be very slow going to sort through and deciding how to summarize! But my journal does not go back very many years in detail.
 
As I go through old documents and photos, I can hardly resist digitizing the very old photos which may be in danger, even if they are not of my father, and even if they are of times before he was born. My father came from out West and his ancestors are quite fascinating. I put what information I have in a genealogy, using the Mormon software Personal Ancestral File. The application is a little clunky, but it does seem adequate, and you can't beat the price (free). But my family tree is sprawling, and I do not have time right now to follow every meandering branch. Eventually I would like to publish the genealogy to the Web to help other distant relatives find us and maybe make the connections to our tree.
 
It is discouraging to me to see how often the written records and genealogical documents disagree with each other, so that I cannot definitively determine dates or details about my ancestors. It is a very sobering reminder that no memory, and no document however official, can be trusted with 100% certainty. All traces of my father and his ancestors must be taken as all historical evidence is, a patchwork of guesses and possibilities and likelihoods. Few pieces of evidence are as solid as the "location mark" I made of my father's location in time and space while he was sick, using a GPS. I did this because names and even names with dates are insufficiently unique to identify a person (this is something I learned from looking at the genealogy! How often names repeated exactly! And how many duplicates there were in a country as big as the United States!). But even the GPS coordinates are vulnerable to error - most notably, the elevation coordinate.
 
I would eventually like to publish my father's biography to the Web, at least, an abbreviated version, with selected photos.
 
Eventually, all the data I can find about my father, along with some selected physical mementos and his archived DNA, will go into his total "bioinformation", into a secure permanent storage vault of the Society for Universal Immortalism, along with two backups, as extensive as possible, in my possession and the possession of the Society's Celebrant.
 
I do hope that what I make public about my father can give the world a glimpse of the man they would have been lucky to know.