Kennita Watson on Cryonics Advocacy
Biography: Kennita Watson is a retired software engineer with broad-ranging interests, as can be seen on her personal website. She attended MIT for her undergraduate studies and subsequently went to Stanford where she studied for a masters in computer science, with a concentration in artificial intelligence. She has been an active political candidate in the Libertarian party of California. In 2005, she began publicly advocating for cryonics and has become a prominent member of the community.
Andy McKenzie: Your personal website notes that you first became a cryonics advocate — promoting cryonics to the general public — a decade ago this year. What do you think has changed the most in this field, if anything, in that time period?
Kennita Watson: A lot more people have heard of cryonics, and because of advances in nanotechnology and low-temperature medicine, a lot more people are willing to entertain the idea that it might work. Not surprisingly, the Internet has helped a lot here.
Andy McKenzie: One of the activities that you discuss on your website is attending the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in Nederland, Colorado. What was that experience like?
Kennita Watson: It was fun, and I may have informed a few people (not all that many came by my booth, truth be told), but most people weren’t there to seriously discuss emergency medicine; they just wanted to have fun at a late-winter party.
Andy McKenzie: Since you have done advocacy related to cryonics both online and in-person, what have you found to be one or two of the key differences in what has been successful in each?
Kennita Watson: For people who mostly want technical information to convince them that cryonics is feasible, online advocacy is good because you can point to URLs and websites that give them a lot of information. For people who mostly want inspiration and encouragement to convince them that cryonics is desirable, in-person advocacy allows more immediate communication of confidence and enthusiasm.
Andy McKenzie: Do you think that there is any way that people interested in advocating for brain preservation procedures, such as cryonics, can do a better job of informing the people who mostly want inspiration online? And if so, how?
Kennita Watson: That depends on the people. For the ones who aren’t doing it, put links to relevant sites, articles, and videos on their Web pages, Facebook feeds, and .sig files, and up-vote any they come across. For ones who are already doing those things, post comments to blogs and other online forums. People in either category need to keep up to date on research so they can intelligently answer questions.
Andy McKenzie: You recently brought my attention to a fascinating interactive diagram with a zoomable map showing the “Scale of the Universe.” One of the Brain Preservation Foundation founders, Ken Hayworth, once said that part of the reason he wants brain preservation for himself is because it’s the only way that he’ll be able to do o space travel and see the stars first-hand. Is a similar desire part of what motivates you to advocate for cryonics? If so, what do you think spurred that? If not, what does motivate you?
Kennita Watson: I tell people that I don’t plan to kick the bucket, but the only item currently on what passes for my bucket list is “see the Earth from the surface of the Moon”. But that’s new. What got me to sign up for cryonics is much more basic: I don’t want to die permanently, and cryonics is the only way I see of avoiding death — I don’t know if I want to live forever, but give me a few thousand years to think it over. I think I became a cryonics advocate as an attempt to help keep cryonics organizations viable — I will need them to be around long enough to get me back. I’m doing a piss-poor job of it, I know. Maybe I can do better once I get my life back on an even keel.
Andy McKenzie: What do you think are the most pressing issues in cryonics and/or brain preservation for people to work on today?
Kennita Watson: Fundraising. Rapid cooling. Perfusion (rates and solutions). Fundraising. Lowering regulatory hurdles. Research how much brain can be damaged and still preserve identity. Fundraising.
Andy McKenzie: Thanks so much for the fascinating answers, Kennita!