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The Principles of Experience

The Principles Of Experience

by Robert Ettinger

This section pertains to the likelihood of success in revival and rejuvenation of frozen patients. It should be read in conjunction with the longer section called "Cryonics: The Probability of Rescue."

George Gallup, the famous pollster, once did a study showing that, in long-term predictions, laymen did better than the experts! This obviously results from the forest-&-trees phenomenon: the experts are so wrapped up in the immediate difficulties that they cannot look at the sweep of history. But some lessons are writ large.

A. THE PRECEDENT PRINCIPLE: Whatever HAS existed. CAN exist. Any configuration of matter that has existed is possible, and can be made to exist again. (We are talking about human-scale conditions; we are not concerned with recreating the Big Bang or reducing universal entropy.)

Another way of saying almost the same thing is that, whenever we know what has gone wrong with any assembly, we can probably fix it. Given the time, motivation, and economic resources, we can ALWAYS fix it.

We will learn--we ARE learning--what characterizes a healthy person, and what goes wrong in aging. It is conceivable that restoration or maintenance of youthful health is not compatible with preservation of identity--but there is no evidence whatsoever that this is actually the case. All kinds of personalities, and all kinds of memories, can exist in people of almost any age.

B. THE FEINBERG PRINCIPLE: Anything can be done that is not against the laws of nature--as well as many things that are against those laws (as we presently conceive them).

Professor Gerald Feinberg was Chairman of the Physics Department, Columbia University (and he was an early member of the Cryonics Society of New York). His statement is a bold broadening of the Precedent Principle; whether or not something has existed before, sufficient resources brought to bear will allow its creation, if the laws of physics permit it. The laws of physics obviously permit youthful good health, and also permit atom-by-atom manipulation of matter. (Our bodies do it all the time.)

Dr. Feinberg has also given us an estimate--that a maximum of two hundred years will be needed for completion of any project (on a human scale) that we can presently conceive.


Most experts pay lip service to the idea of progress, but act as though they believe the indefinite future will bring only tiny advances beyond today's technology. They think tomorrow's world will be the same as today's, except maybe for moving sidewalks and 3-D TV.

Sir Charles G. Darwin (grandson of the famous naturalist) wrote a book called The Next Million Years (published in 1953) predicting that the Malthusian problem--overpopulation and hunger---would dominate history for that incredible period. He agreed there would be "wonderful flowerings" in science and technology, beyond present imagining---but they would not extend to synthetic foods or effective birth control or colonization of outer space! (Does this remind you of somebody you know?)

The Subsequent Principle can be stated in several ways. "People and technologies now existing leave much room for improvement." "The 20th Century is not the last nor the best." "Evolution (whether natural or engineered) and science still have a long way to go." "Achievements of the future will over-shadow those of the past."

As the poet might have said today, "Grow young along with me; the best is yet to be."

---- R.C.W. Ettinger