Does Aubrey de Grey really need an introduction at this point? His public proposal for repairing and reversing the damage of aging, SENS, and his public admission of being an Alcor member were the topics he discussed in “Is it Politically Safe for a Biologist to Support Cryonics Publicly?”
According to de Grey it is an important decision for a scientist to admit to supporting cryonics. A public acknowledgment of their support can affect their professional work. One of the dangers of being a leader in admitting to support is the lessened ability to procure funding. Funding peer review can be more difficult than publication peer review.
A cryonics leader provides public outreach and information. As other speakers have emphasized, legal death is only a convenience that needs constant review as technologies advance. Some people who are legally dead have in fact been revived, and this is something de Grey suggests the public be reminded of. Brain death is itself a complicated concept. Not only can a person be legally dead, they can be legally alive but functionally brain dead, via dementia, for example.
Cryonics supports can also provide ethical leadership. Cryonics supports can help demystify death and cryonics, promote cryonics as life saving, and provide facts for a useful ethical debate. Some people find cryonics “yucky” but a straightforward approach by scientists, rather than anger or ridicule, could be especially effective in demystifying the technology.
Science politics will also be affected by leadership. While mainstream cryobiologists support organ preservation, they do not generally embrace brain preservation. Leaders can point out this apparent discrepancy.
Leaders in this situation may be one of those lucky few who do not have to worry about dangers to their careers, funding, etc. De Grey believes he was lucky to have entered this field and “make trouble” without destroying his career. These lucky few should be able to help each other, until there is a tipping point toward broader support of cryonics.
De Grey believes he made the right decision to go public about his support of cryonics and Alcor membership.
Leaders are important to any movement, and technologies themselves can be movements when tied to ideas like radical life extension. Cryonics support can be positively affected by people standing up and admitting they support the idea.
But what will be sacrificed when one stands up and stands behind such ideas? How does one talk about cryonics? These are important questions, and I think a review of other movements and how they address their own topics may be helpful.