Gunshot victims to be suspended between life and death [link]

post by Dr_Manhattan · 2014-03-27T16:33:49.413Z · score: 24 (27 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 17 comments

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129623.000-gunshot-victims-to-be-suspended-between-life-and-death.html?full=true

- First "official" program to practice suspended animation

- The article naturally goes on to ask whether longer SA (months, years) is possible 

- Amazing quote: "Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them. But I have to put them in a body bag. It's frustrating to know there's a solution."

- IMO this if (I hope!) successful, will go a long way to bridge the emotional gap for cryonics

17 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Vaniver · 2014-03-27T17:07:53.823Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I've been hearing about the US military's interest in this for a few years; good to see it actually being tried.

  • IMO this if (I hope!) successful, will go a long way to bridge the emotional gap for cryonics

Hopefully, the legal aspect as well; if there's a long precedent of suspending people in emergency situations, that may lead to a willingness to suspend people in terminal / degenerative situations, which seems like it will make cryonics a much better bet.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-03-28T15:33:09.117Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This technique works on an acute timescale of half an hour to an hour or two, and slows the rate of injury accumulation and helps eliminate reperfusion injury. I'm not quite happy with calling it suspension. It's basically an attempt to replicate what's already been done for some time in delicate brain surgery in less controlled conditions. I don't think it has anything to do with more speculative longer term things like cryonics.

comment by Vaniver · 2014-03-28T16:28:38.010Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not quite happy with calling it suspension.

I'm happy calling the stuff done for delicate brain surgery 'suspension,' but I'm not very careful with my medical vocabulary. Is there some distinguishing feature you think it lacks?

I don't think it has anything to do with more speculative longer term things like cryonics.

The people who are doing this are quick to disassociate themselves from scifi things- if they don't even like the name suspended animation, then they're surely not going to like a comparison to cryonics. But this becoming a routine response to extreme trauma will make cryonics seem a more sensible option to more people, and hopefully the things learned in doing this will lead to better cryonics practice (and, as I stated before, hopefully this will legitimize suspending people whose blood vessels we know are clear, rather than corpses whose blood vessels are in an unknown state).

comment by Error · 2014-03-27T18:04:13.735Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I saw this on my phone's newsfeed a few minutes ago, thought "I should bring this up on LW", and...have been beaten to it. Fooey.

The technique was first demonstrated in pigs in 2002

Twelve years since proof of concept and they're only trying this now? Argleblarg. Sometimes I think my most likely cause of death will be the glacial pace of medical bureaucracy.

IMO this if (I hope!) successful, will go a long way to bridge the emotional gap for cryonics

Not to mention helping convince people who believe cryonics has a very low chance of success. I must confess that I'm in that camp. If this project goes well...well, it might not push me over the threshold, but it would certainly move the meter.

I hope the people at CI and Alcor are watching this closely. To my knowledge they haven't tried to raise anyone yet, and thus can't learn from the attempt. Presumably what this project learns will be relevant to what they do.

comment by V_V · 2014-03-27T20:20:06.536Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

IMO this if (I hope!) successful, will go a long way to bridge the emotional gap for cryonics

Look how different this thing is from usual cryonics practice. That's how real research is done.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2014-03-28T00:59:09.703Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Cryonics (as we talk about it here) isn't meant to be research, it's more duct-tape engineering in the lack of a better option.

comment by christopherj · 2014-04-04T04:00:50.630Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems V_V and others might be having a communications gap. I'll take a guess at the problem, please tell me if I'm wrong.

V_V is saying cryonics isn't proven, and has trouble advancing because we're not planning to revive cryogenically preserved corpses anytime soon and so won't get feedback. In particular, that on top of a fatal injury, you're adding trauma from freezing/chemicals, and that molecular damage will continue to accumulate.

Others are saying that cryonics is not intended as research nor as something in the same category as most medical procedures; rather it gives you better odds of survival than rotting in a cemetery. They expect the effectiveness of cryonics to depend not on current cryonics or medical technology, but on future development of technology. The question is, can we slow the rate of degradation enough that future technology can fix what killed us, any freezing damage, and any ongoing damage before our "soul" is irrevocably lost?

Currently, cryonics is finding use in the transplant of organs. Currently as animal research, mammalian organs such as blood vessels, ovaries, kidneys, and livers can be reduced to sub-zero temperatures and successfully transplanted. The combination of short term whole-body cooling, and longer term organ preservation, should provide some research and evidence for cryonics, in addition to making it seem like the logical course of action as people become used to the use of lower temperatures to preserve human tissue. Whether it works now is still in question, but if you know of better alternatives, please let us know.

comment by V_V · 2014-03-28T11:26:39.305Z · score: -5 (17 votes) · LW · GW

It looks to me more like building mock airstrips and antennas made of bamboo in hope that they will attract American aeroplanes full of goods: an attempt to replicate superficial features of something you don't really understand assuming that these features are sufficient to make it work as intended.

Cryonicists observe that freezing is used to preserve food, and that certain animals can undergo reversible hibernation, hence they think that if freezing works for a sandwich, it may also work for people. Throw in a few more of misleading analogies (e.g. the hard drive analogy) and you get non-experts freezing corpses. Ok, EY is not actually an authority on cryonics, and people who practice this stuff are a bit more sophisticated, with cryoprotectants and stuff, but I think these are their typical thought processes.

comment by Dentin · 2014-03-28T20:45:05.594Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The difference is that it requires a change to the laws of physics as we know them for mock airstrips and antennas made of bamboo to work, wheras it requires a change to the laws of physics as we know them for cryonic preservation of information to not work.

Cryonicists might not know the exact details or best approach to take, but they're at least starting from a platform of 'physics allows this'. I also have a lot of difficulty blaming them for being non-experts, given the social stigmas around cryonics and death. Expect that to change over the coming decades.

comment by V_V · 2014-03-28T22:37:38.317Z · score: -3 (15 votes) · LW · GW

The difference is that it requires a change to the laws of physics as we know them for mock airstrips and antennas made of bamboo to work

Not in the knowledge of those who used to build them. Well, technically they didn't have a concept of "laws of physics", but obviously they had a system of epistemic beliefs which had to take into account the undeniable observation that aeroplanes full of goods appeared at some point.
These people didn't really understand the phenomenon, but it was very emotionally relevant to them, hence they tried to elicit it using an irrational, ritualistic, approach.

it requires a change to the laws of physics as we know them for cryonic preservation of information to not work.

This statement is logically unsupported:

At the current state of knowledge, we can't prove that the known laws of physics make cryonics impossible, much like we can't prove that they make many kinds of medical snake oil, including the literal snake oil, impossible (*). This however, doesn't imply that we can prove that the known laws of physics make cryonics possible.
"We didn't find a proof that X is inconsistent with Y" =/=> "There is a proof that X is consistent with Y"

Specifically, cryopreservation is obviously not a mechanically reversible process, therefore it doesn't preserve all the physical information in the brain.
The question is whether it preserves the information which is relevant to the individual psychology of the person, the "self".
Neurobiologists and cryobiologists, the people who actually know what they are talking about, seem to be skeptical about it.
It is possible that cryonics might end up working, but if it doesn't it certainly doesn't imply that we need to update the known laws of physics.

Cryonicists might not know the exact details or best approach to take, but they're at least starting from a platform of 'physics allows this'.

No, they start from a platform of 'you can't prove that this doesn't work'. Which is much like 'you can't prove that there is no god', or 'you can't prove that the cargo planes will not land on my mock airstrip'.

I also have a lot of difficulty blaming them for being non-experts, given the social stigmas around cryonics and death. Expect that to change over the coming decades.

Cryonics is 50 years old. During all this time it has never gained substantial acceptance among domain experts. In fact, actual cryobiologists went from mildly sympathetic towards cryonics to outright critical.
It seems to me that the most likely explanation for the alleged social stigma is that cryonics has earned a reputation of being a shady and questionable business run by people who, at best, don't know what they are doing, and at worst, are deliberately scamming gullible folks.

(* Hell, strictly speaking we can't even prove that the laws of physics imply that cargo cults don't work!)

comment by Dentin · 2014-03-30T00:28:40.346Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I believe you've largely missed the point. Nothing in my post was about proving anything; rather, my point was that the evidencial priors for these two fields are vastly, vastly different. Both cryonics and bamboo antennas are 'unproven', as are the existence of gravity, the sun, you, and invisible pink unicorns. However, the priors for these things are not the same.

Bamboo antennas, homeopathy, and medical snake oil have large priors against them, those priors being that the laws of physics directly contradict thier functioning. The laws of physics must be changed to allow them to work.

Cryonics on the other hand, is not crippled by this. The laws of physics as we know them allow it and would have to be modified to prevent cryonics from working.

This is an extremely important, extremely large difference. It is not a minor barrier, it is not a minor hurdle. The laws of physics are very well understood, supported by a huge quantity of experimental evidence, and extremely comprehensive. Anything that requires updates or modifications to those laws by default has an extremely high burden of proof, one orders upon orders of magnitude higher than things which do not require changes to those laws.

comment by V_V · 2014-03-30T11:05:54.202Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Bamboo antennas, homeopathy, and medical snake oil have large priors against them, those priors being that the laws of physics directly contradict thier functioning. The laws of physics must be changed to allow them to work.

That's true for bamboo antennas and homeopathy, although it wasn't true w.r.t. the epistemic beliefs of those who originally proposed them.
It isn't however true for snake oil. There is nothing in the laws of physics that allows us to claim that snake oil doesn't have curative properties, or that a weird stem cell concoction doesn't cure neurodegenerative diseases, and so on.
Nevertheless, we don't believe that these things work because the burden of evidence is on the proponents, and the proponents failed to substantiate their claim of effectiveness.

Cryonics is exactly in the same class as these unproven medical procedures.

Cryonics on the other hand, is not crippled by this. The laws of physics as we know them allow it and would have to be modified to prevent cryonics from working.

The claim that the law of physics as we know would have to be changed to prevent cryonics from working is factually false. I challenge you to substantiate it.

comment by shminux · 2014-03-28T22:58:42.970Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I consider cryonics to be the last, desperate hope for living again, longer and better, when there is no belief in the afterlife to comfort you and yours in your last moments. Even if the odds are potentially worse than winning a lottery, the alternative of losing one's precious self forever is still infinitely worse for many people (and for a certain Botoxed supervillain), sometimes no matter the cost.

comment by XiXiDu · 2014-03-29T10:50:14.700Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Even if the odds are potentially worse than winning a lottery, the alternative of losing one's precious self forever is still infinitely worse for many people (and for a certain Botoxed supervillain), sometimes no matter the cost.

I assume that these people do not "pray to God for salvation", because the probability of it working out is too low. Then what is the lowest probability of cryonics working that they accept? Or otherwise, do they also give money to a Pascalian mugger?

I wonder how people who assign vast amounts of value to their own life make every day decisions. What activities are instrumentally rational? Are they using protective gear when climbing the stairs?

comment by shminux · 2014-03-29T17:32:20.814Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is a pretty silly strawman. Consider steelmanning, see where you get. If you are still unable to construct a charitable interpretation after a while, ask again.

comment by V_V · 2014-03-30T21:46:11.900Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The charitable interpretation is, of course, that these people overestimate the chances of cryonics working due to wishful thinking. In their daily lives they are probably approximately as rational as anybody else, including people who pray God for salvation.

comment by V_V · 2014-03-28T23:08:16.600Z · score: -1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. Much like building a mock airstrip has a non-zero chance of attracting a cargo aeroplane.

  • All engines are out! Mayday! Mayday!
  • Damn! We are going to crash in the jungle!
  • Hey what is that? An airstrip! Prepare to emergency landing!