Report from the Alcor-40 conference

October 24, 2012 by Ben Goertzel

This past weekend I attended the Alcor 40 conference, hosted by the cryonics organization Alcor to celebrate its 40th year of operation, and I was extremely impressed.

(Full disclosure: I am an Alcor member, signed up in 2005 so that in the unfortunate event my body comes to meet the criteria of legal death, they will preserve it in liquid nitrogen until the advance of technology is sufficient to allow my reanimation in one form or another.)

The crowd consisted largely but not entirely of Alcor members; there was also a fair number of non-members interested in the technology and ideas. A bunch of folks signed up as members during the conference, as well.

Cryonics meets mainstream science

I was expecting some excellent talks on the current state of cryonics technology, from the particulars of preservation via vitrification with powerful cryoprotectants, to the pragmatics of transitioning a recently deceased body from the site of death to Alcor’s facilities. And the talks on these topics were indeed worthwhile, giving me faith that, in spite of quite limited funding for research and operations, Alcor is steadily improving all dimensions of their practice. Alcor’s new CEO Max More started in the position fairly recently, and from what I can tell he’s been doing a very professional job.

What surprised me was the depth of the talks on longevity science and neuroscience. One definitely got the feeling that cryonics is not nearly as marginalized as it was a decade ago or even five years ago, and is now accepted as a reasonable pursuit by a rapidly increasing subset of the scientific community.

Of course, this is part of a larger trend of the gradual mainstreaming of transhumanist technologies. AGI and nanotechnology, for example, were laughed at by most academics in relevant fields just 10–20 years ago. Now they are much more broadly acknowledged as valid and important pursuits, though there are still differences in vision between the maverick advocates and the interested folks in the academic mainstream.

Read more: Report from the Alcor-40 conference | KurzweilAI.

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