Technology and the Future of Medicine
Background Reading and PowerPoint files

October    6                  Promise and Perils of Nanotechnology

PowerPoint Presentations



Background Information

Ralph Merkle is the main person teaching about nanotechnology at Singularity University and he has been a leader in the cryonics field, serving as a Board member of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.  

His ideas about the nano repair of the cryopreserved person are the basis for a great deal of mythology surrounding the promise of cryonics, see:

A plot of land has been purchased near San Antonio Texas to build the TimeShip centre for cryonics described in the video.  I attach a screen capture showing the secret location of TimeShip from another video that specifically deals with current plans for the facility. As you might imagine a speculative 300 Million Dollar project like this is not an easy sell in current economic times, and there continue to be lengthy delays.


There seems to be a basic confusion about nano robots which Merkel's presentations reinforce.  Merkel and others suggest that the function of nano robots are not temperature dependant and therefore that fixing cellular defects in a cryopreserved person before rewarming is a practical plan.  I think in a strict sense it may be true that nanobot function is not temperature dependent, but it is phase dependent, i.e. not the same in the solid, liquid and gaseous states. It seems to me unlikely that nanobot repair will work in a completely frozen-solid body at liquid nitrogen temperatures.  
Using current vitrification techniques the defects created by freezing of anything larger than a rabbit kidney are so large that nano robots and nanotechnology are irrelevant. The damage is not microscopic or sub cellular, but macroscopic.  It a very literal sense these defects are not bridgeable by any technique or survivable.  So it is clear the people being frozen today are not coming back, although things could improve in that regard in the future.
In the cryonics community there is a great deal of complaining about the underfunding of nanotechnology research particularly in the US and the idea that progress is "frozen" (ironic!) by this lack of funding, brought about cryonicists say by Michael Crighton's book Prey and the fear of Grey Goo. However the confines of nanotechnology are somewhat ill defined, and it is probably true that there is reasonable funding for nanotechnology grounded in rigorous science.  The scientifically unsound aspects of cryonics may specifically inhibit nanotechnology research directly tied to cryonics.

Here is Merkle's video about cryonics; the discussion of nanobot repair devices is at 19:20:
Not discussed at all is how the repair devices would reach to deeper levels of the tissues in the completely frozen state.







Last Modified: Wednesday October 12, 2011 12:22:30 PM