Interview: Max Marty & Daniel Walters On Creating A Cryonics Community
Technological innovation and artificial intelligence are changing the world we live in. Medical technology is achieving things we would have believed to be impossible only a few decades ago. And the excitement and engagement within the cryonics community is growing. We had the opportunity to interview two main figures behind the growth of this community — after meeting them in person at the Biostasis2021 Conference. Discover here who Max Marty and Daniel Walters are and how their work is pushing the biostasis aka cryonics field even further.
Max Marty & Daniel Walters
Max Marty is a serial entrepreneur, futurist and tech enthusiast based in Texas, US. Together with Daniel Walters, health and longevity advocate, they have spent the last few years pursuing new ways to promote cryonics. At the moment, their efforts are divided between two main channels. The Discord server The Cryosphere, founded in April 2020, counts today almost 400 members. (Discors is a group-chatting platform where members can interact on different topics.) The Cryonics Underground podcast, founded in January 2021, presents several hours of informative content in the form of conversations between Max, Daniel and several cryonics experts.
The importance of community building
How is their work helping the cryonics field? Fundraising and R&D are two crucial elements behind the development of the biostasis field. In the 50 years that have passed since human cryopreservation became a possibility, most cryonicists have focused their efforts on financing and advancing the technology. On the other hand, community building has often had a secondary role.
Max and Daniel made it clear at the Biostasis2021 conference: community building is of equal importance. An active and engaging community can make the difference in the success of this unique sector. It helps create awareness and attract people who want to know more about the topic but have nobody close to talk to. It stimulates an open conversation, creating awareness. It connects the few thousand members all around the world, giving them a space to share their doubts and experiences. As Daniel said at the conference, “Community is the glue that pulls all the pieces of the cryonics puzzle together.”
Let’s then have a look at what they are doing and at the insights they have gained by working on building and growing the cryonics community.
When did you hear about cryonics for the first time? Did it take you time to understand that it was something for you?
Max: I grew up on a steady diet of optimistic science-fiction, and as part of that I was bathed in a constant stream of storylines involving biostasis, cryonics, and characters waking up in the distant future. I was culturally “prepped” with a longing to see and experience the future; a future inspired more by Gene Roddenbury’s or Walt Disney’s optimistic utopianism than by the bleak and dystopian visions so often seen in the rest of the genre.
That said, my proper introduction to cryonics, as it actually exists today, came from the writings of economist Robin Hanson and rationalist Eliezer Yudkowsky on the blog Overcoming Bias. Both of these fellas argued, to my satisfaction, that cryonics had a meaningful chance of success and was affordable via life insurance. When you combine those prerequisites with a sense of adventure — then who wouldn’t want the opportunity to see the distant future, to learn the answers to life’s big questions (and the chance to consider the questions we don’t even know to ask yet), and have the opportunity to smell all of those roses we must, as short-lived creatures, pass by today?
Daniel: I first read about cryonics in Life Extension magazine many years back. I initially thought it was a great idea, but perceived it to be a purely aspirational endeavor. I didn’t actually realize that there was an established cryonics industry nor a path to membership. I then mostly forgot it existed for quite some time. Years later, after reading “Ending Aging” by Aubrey de Grey and “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurzweil, I began to formulate a more optimistic vision of the future. And it quickly became clear that cryonics was the most logical path towards that future.
Before you built The Cryosphere Discord server, how did you connect with people interested in the topic?
Max: Reddit, although I’d as often as not call my experience there disconnecting with people.
Daniel: Simply put, I didn’t connect. Before meeting up with Max, I had never actually encountered another cryonicist in the wild. The Cryosphere then became my first meaningful contact with other cryoncists and the cryonics community at large.
What are the challenges of creating a community and keeping it active? And what are the specifics of a community revolving on an “unusual” topic such as cryonics?
Max: When I created the server, I envisioned a place where people could discuss all aspects of the cryonics industry, connect and collaborate with other cryonicists, and serve as the basis for a global cryonics community. This might sound prosaic, but like in so many organizational endeavors, the most important (and challenging) task was finding the right people to help bring that vision to fruition. We call ourselves server moderators, but that’s only a minor portion of what we do. My co-moderators and I have been putting in what amounts to a part-time job every week to make the community what it has become. Finding this amazing team was the most important and crucial step in getting the Cryosphere started on its journey towards becoming the nexus of the global Cryonics community.
Daniel: We’re launching new initiatives and making changes to the server all the time. For example, we recently launched a weekly topic channel which has been very successful. In the future we would like to hold regular events such as book clubs, board game nights and cooperative work sessions. We have a ton of ideas on this front, and many of them will become viable as we scale the server.
Besides creating and taking care of The Cryosphere, you are also the founders of the Cryonics Underground podcast. Can you tell me more about this project, its goals and challenges?
Max: I’ve long been a fan of podcasting as a medium. I regularly listen to a couple dozen podcasts on economics, philosophy, science, tech, politics, and other similar topics. At some point I remember explicitly thinking “of course there’s a podcast specifically devoted to every single possible topic, so I’ll go find and subscribe to the cryonics podcast”. Much to my amazement, there actually wasn’t a proper cryonics podcast. Plenty of other podcasts would discuss cryonics for an episode or two, but that was about it.
So, I decided someone is going to have to start a cryonics podcast, and it might as well be me. I had recently connected with Daniel and he and I could talk at length about virtually any cryonics related topic, and we decided to team up to make this happen together. As to the style of the podcast, I explicitly wanted to make it more of a conversation than an interview. The conversations give us a chance to sit down and discuss some fascinating aspect or other of cryonics with the most interesting people in the space — and then share that conversation with the broader community and anyone that might be interested.
When I started the podcast and mentioned it to other well known cryonicists, I was told: “A podcast on cryonics? How can you have an entire podcast on just cryonics? There can’t possibly be that much to talk about.” A response which I found completely baffling given the incredible scope and reach of a subject like cryonics. How many other endeavors give you a chance to discuss finance, philosophy, organizational structure, technology, medicine, biology, culture, psychology, futurism, the law, etc? Given that we’re getting near 20 full length episodes and currently have a list of 40 more guests to reach out to on the subject, I remain perplexed by the people who said this.
As dull as this is going to sound, our challenge with the podcast has been and continues to be editing. Editing is centrally important yet Daniel and I find it painfully dull. If we find the right editor we would probably be recording and publishing twice as fast.
Daniel: Originally we were brainstorming what the inexpensive and low hanging fruits were in terms of promoting cryonics to the younger generations. Some ideas we floated included stronger social media presence, YouTube videos and podcasts. Considering we were both spending an inordinate amount of time discussing cryonics already, we figured that we might as well just press the record button and turn our conversations into content.
Our main goal for this first leg of the podcast has been to highlight many of the leaders that exist in the metaphorical shadows. We felt that there were many important people whose hard work and efforts were relatively unknown to the wider community.
One of our main challenges has been the interview format itself. We started to realize that “interviews,” so to speak, aren’t a great format for getting to know people in a more social context. As of lately, we have stricken the word “interview” from our lexicon and replaced it with “conversations.” Our hope is that this new focus will help us and our guests to feel more comfortable opening up.
Do you see any change or evolution within the cryonics community in the last years? Do you already see some results coming from your effort in building a cryonics community?
Max: The perpetual challenge is this: cryonicists are spread out across the developed world, yet there are major and important benefits to living in close physical proximity (ie. within driving distance) to cryonicists. The Cryosphere is figuring out how to connect cryonicists with other cryonicists (and those interested in the subject) at a distance, but also to help foster local cryonics groups wherever possible. We’re always looking for better ways to interweave the far-away and the nearby cryonics communities.
Daniel: With our push for community outreach, we have seen a lot of cryonicists and cryocrastinators who would have otherwise hidden in the shadows, begin to participate in the larger conversation. The constant communication and feedback has been good for encouraging more useful conversations and less “whininess.” In the previous online platforms, there seems to have been a real issue with constant and unproductive complaining. Those kinds of behaviors usually don’t get much traction in the Cryosphere.
What are the most common doubts, fears and hopes that members of the Cryosphere share? Do you see a common thread?
Max: It’s impossible to mention the word “upload” on the server without getting into a long discussion on the merits or drawbacks of aldehyde stabilization vs traditional cryonics approaches and philosophical questions around the nature of identity and consciousness. Cryonicists tend to believe that those that don’t share their intuition on this matter are not only wrong but also suffer from a sort of mass philo-psychological delusion. If your readers ever find themselves needing to cleave a group of cryonicists into two equal halves, just ask people with one or the other view on this issue to stand on opposite sides of the room.
Daniel: Some of the most common fears shared among cryosphere members are pretty straight forward and generally stem from very realistic concerns. I would say the most prevalent fear is dying in a way that damages the brain or compromises the cryo-orgs odds of getting to you on time. This fear is followed in short order by the fears of cryo-orgs going out of business, political / religious persecution, and geopolitical instability.
What differentiates cryocrastinators from those who sign up and join the community? Did you gain any useful insight by talking to them on Discord?
Daniel: Surprisingly little. It seems that many cryocrastinators are fully formed cryonicists for all practical purposes. Pulling the trigger on becoming a paid member seems to be relatively arbitrary as far as I can tell. We have seen 18 year olds and 82 year olds stalling the sign up process in exactly the same ways. If I had to put my finger on one aspect that could help motivate cryocrastinators, I think that social and community based rewards would be at the top of the list. As it currently stands, when you sign up for cryonics, the only thing you have to look forward to is the judgment from your family and friends, and a monthly life insurance bill. We hope to change this dynamic. Instead we aim to make it so that when you sign up for cryonics, you feel like you just joined an exclusive club with members who are proud to have you, and with many exciting social perks to look forward to.
Max: The only thing I would add here is that many of the Cryonicists we’ve interacted with have really made Cryonics a meaningful aspect of their identity. Cryonics isn’t just a thing you happen to be signed up for, it’s something from which you derive hope, meaning, and purpose; as far as I’m concerned, these are good things. Perhaps helping cryocrastinators realize that their Cryonics membership can include these additional psycho-social “perks’’ can help get them across the finish line.
What are your expectations and hopes for the future of the cryonics community? What are your main concerns?
Max: I hope the community becomes far more cohesive and collaborative than it has been in the past at the local, regional, and global levels. This doesn’t mean the cryonics organizations won’t also compete with each other (as they should), but we, as cryonicists, must realize that we’re more than simply consumers of this service. Until cryonics becomes mainstream, we must look out for each other, connect with each other, and work cohesively towards the health of the industry as a whole.
Do you have any projects in mind (related to cryonics) that you would like to work on in the future? Is there any potential channel or idea you haven’t explored yet?
Max: Sure, I have plenty of ideas! Here’s one:
I’d love to see a project similar to “gofundme” but to get public intellectuals or public figures of various sorts to support cryonics. The way it would work is this: anyone can create a page on the site for someone else they would like to fund the cryopreservation of. For example, I could create a page for Neil deGrasse Tyson. I could then contribute say $1,000 towards his cryopreservation fund. Others would see the page and could also contribute whatever amounts they choose. Funds would be held in escrow. Eventually Neil would hear about the page and could go check it out. At any point in the future, IF Neil decides to become cryopreserved, the service provider Neil decided to go with would directly receive the money that has been held in escrow on Neil’s behalf. Such funds could partially or completely pay for the cryopreservation. If he (Neil, in this case) didn’t decide to become cryopreserved, or if something went wrong and he couldn’t be cryopreserved, the money that was held in escrow would be returned to the original funders or would go to a charity. The idea here is, of course, to get lots of interesting well known people to sign up for cryonics to help popularize the movement.
I’ve tentatively imagined calling this “gofreeze.me”
Daniel: Expanding upon the success of the Cryonics Underground podcast, I am looking forward to helping produce some non-english language cryonics podcasts at some point in the future. “Criónica Subterráneo” podcast anyone?
If you could make people reflect about something, what would it be?
Max: We cryonicists are a clever bunch. We’re so clever that we find it tempting to envision a post-revival future very different from our own — whether in the form of artificial intelligences vastly superior to us running our uploaded programs on a computer simulation, dyson spheres, or whatever else… I enjoy envisioning this as much as the next cryonicists but — these futures feel very far away and contrived to most people. They feel about as real to most people as tooth fairies and dragons… and we will need to find ways to market this idea to a broader audience (at least broader than we’ve managed currently) if this endeavor is to succeed in the long run.
Thus, as much fun as it may be to imagine such exotic scenarios, I implore readers to also try and find ways to make the future feel more real and tangible. Imagine what things will smell like, what people will be saying. Imagine stubbing your toe, smelling a rose, or hugging a loved one.
It may sound like an anticlimax, but in so doing — you help to make cryonics a bit more tangible, a bit more real, not only to yourself but to everyone you speak with on the subject. If we are ever to grow this movement to what we all hope it will become, we’ll have to help those around us to really connect with the possibility of being around in that distant future… I suggest we start doing that today.
Daniel: I would ask cryoncists to reflect on the fact that a successful cryonics preservation and revival will require more than just them paying their membership dues. The odds are not necessarily on our side and I think you cannot just employ a “set it and forget it” mentality. You need to fight to increase your odds of survival, and the cryo-orgs can’t do it alone. Your time, effort, skill, mentorship and money are all required. “Ask not what cryonics can do for you, but what you can do for cryonics!”
The Cryonics Underground podcast
Max and Daniel’s Cryonics Underground podcast, has about 20 episodes, covering several different aspects related to cryonics. Most episodes feature renowned members of the cryonics community, from Eric Vogt, one of the founders of the International Cryomedicine Experts (ICE) to Max More, Alcor’s Ambassador and President Emeritus. In March 2021, Max and Daniel had a long conversation with Dr. Emil Kendziorra, EBF’s Chairman of the Board and Tomorrow Biostasis’ CEO and Co-Founder. Have a look at the first and second part of their talk and discover Emil’s vision for the future of Biostasis.
Max and Daniel decided to spend time and effort doing something they are passionate about. Through their work, they are significantly helping the development of cryonics.
While many of us are not doctors or researchers, we can still do our part by engaging in conversations and spreading awareness. Many people don’t know that human cryopreservation is a possibility. Some want to listen to different opinions before making a decision. Others are looking for connections. An active cryonics community could tackle all these issues.