James Clement

Alcor Member Profile
From Cryonics 1st Quarter 2009

By Chana de Wolf

James Clement is a member of the Alcor Board of Directors.

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James Clement

Since his earliest memory of John F. Kennedy's famous 1962 speech, reaffirming America's commitment to landing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade, James Clement was hooked on the potential of science to do great things. "The space program was utterly and incredibly exciting to me," he recalls. "I was reading science books from first grade on. I almost burned my bedroom down trying to build a liquid-fuel rocket!" And though nearsightedness dampened his aspirations of becoming an astronaut, he never lost his interest in science.

He maintained a single-minded focus on science until the late '60s, when he entered high school and the war in Vietnam became an increasingly large topic in the news. "Teachers started telling me to forget about science because the world was going to blow itself up and it needed people like me to go into politics," he explains. Being an idealistic young man, he started thinking they might be right. Most importantly, he wanted to do good for humanity and the world.

James received his B.A. in political science and psychology from Truman State University in 1978, after studying at both Harvard University and the American University in Paris. In psychology, he became fascinated with the brain, and gained scientific experience in the laboratory of neurophysiologist Michael Patterson, co-authoring a paper published in Science in 1976 regarding classical conditioning of the nictitating membrane response in cats.

After working for a year for the President Pro Tem of the Missouri State Senate and working on several state and national political campaigns, James became cynical of politics and realized that he did not want to pursue a career in this field. Still an idealist, he decided to attend law school to focus on international public law, and enrolled in the University of California, Hastings College of Law. Things went as expected until his third year, when he happened to see Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach, by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, in a bookstore window. "I literally ran into the store, bought it, and read all 950 pages of it immediately," James laughs. The material impacted him so greatly that he seriously considered quitting law school and switching to a Ph.D. program in molecular biology after finishing his law degree. But after several months of wrestling with the idea, he and his wife, also a law student, came to the conclusion that the debt burden of law school and graduate school would be too high. Following graduation, he stuck to his original plan and went into law.

James first worked as an attorney in Honolulu, Hawaii (1982-1984), specializing in foreign investment in U.S. real estate law, then obtained an advanced law degree in taxation from New York University School of Law. He remained in New York City for several years where he worked as a tax manager for the International Services Office of Arthur Young & Company. "I lived in some great places and traveled a lot," James explains, "but it all became very routine and I wanted some new experiences. I had read a lot of Ayn Rand, and I realized that I wanted to become an entrepreneur."

Strangely enough, James' former interest in life extension led him to do something completely different. He had been making wine while in law school in California and brewing beer afterwards, primarily due to an interest in molecular biology, when he read a great deal about yeast. It seemed like a nobrainer for him to raise a little money and open a brewpub, a brewery which serves its own beer on-premise, in Ithaca, NY. The Chapter House Brewpub was one of a handful of brewpubs on the East Coast. It served not only its own home-made beers, but had over forty foreign and microbrewed beers on draft.

Ithaca is home to Cornell University, which boasts one of the largest research programs in the U.S., with over 6,000 graduate students. Since the brewpub was near campus, it was popular among graduate students and professors. And, because he enjoyed talking to the patrons, James often tended the bar himself. "I participated in lots of intellectual discussions with researchers," he says. "It was very stimulating. But after nine years I felt it was time to move on, so I sold the brewing equipment and started a new career."

James Clement Playing the Hydraulophone with University of Toronto inventor and "Cyborg Man" Steve Mann.

For awhile he followed a similar path, doing general business consulting and helping startup companies get off the ground. All the while, he maintained an interest in life extension and neuroscience, continuing to read in those fields. Having read Eric Drexler's book, Engines of Creation, in the late '80s and later read James Halperin's The First Immortal, he was familiar with the concept of cryonics. However, it wasn't until he saw Ray Kurzweil talking about cryonics in his AI Daily Newsletter many years later that he did a little digging online and found the Alcor website, which he read in its entirety. "During the course of reading the website I immediately decided to sign up," he states. "The combination of seeing how quickly things were moving in cryonics [toward improved methods of preservation] and learning about what was happening in nanotechnology totally sold me that [preservation] is something that could be done now, and that eventually science would figure out how to deal with [resuscitation]." James became an Alcor member in 2001.

When he found himself contemplating the upcoming arrival of his 50th birthday, James finally decided to make good on his smoldering scientific passions. The way he saw it, he could do one of two things: either go back to school and go directly into neuroscience or life extension himself, or use his legal and business background to promote those same fields. Ultimately, after careful consideration and solicitation of advice from respected mentors, he decided to put his expertise and knowledge to practical use by helping scientists commercialize the innovative products coming out of their labs as well as become involved in managing non-profit organizations involved in these fields.

James Clement At Singularity Summit 2008 with Pete Estep, Dan Stoicescu, and Peter Diamandis.

Along with this change in business priorities, James began attending life extension conferences where he met others involved in the advancement of anti-aging medicine and technology. Before long, he was COO of the Maximum Life Foundation (2006-2007), then became the Executive Director of the World Transhumanist Association (now known as Humanity+) (2007-2008). "I like transhumanism because it is an umbrella for a wonderful array of emerging technologies and general human enhancement," he explains. "I thought that it was an area where I could potentially have a big impact. At the time the WTA didn't have much money and hadn't focused on building their membership. I really wanted to build an outreach component to the organization. During my 18 months as executive director, the Board of Directors and I raised $75,000, re-branded the organization, reworked the website, increased membership, and started an online transhumanist magazine."

Having put Humanity+ on the path to success, James decided to move on and develop further interests and organizations, including Innerspace Foundation, BetterHumans, and h+ Magazine, all of which are dedicated to the improvement of humanity, on both a personal and global level, through science. At the same time, he became more involved with Alcor. After doing some volunteer fundraising for the research program in 2006, James saw areas in which he felt he could help Alcor improve, particularly financially. James was elected to the Board of Directors in December 2008.

James Clement James with Mike Perry, Ph.D., Patient Caretaker at Alcor.

James' primary concerns as Director are long-term stability and improved member relations. "I hope to bring stronger financial stability to the organization by helping to develop an endowment fund and participate in fund drives. I would also like to liaison with our members to make sure their concerns are being heard." He is also interested in improving cryopreservation through better perfusion techniques and developing the ability to stabilize and cryopreserve members as quickly as possible following legal death. "I am somewhat confident that technologies will be developed in the near future which can bring a person out of biostasis," he remarks. "So the issue is mostly how to preserve one-self (and our memories and important brain pathways) such that we are, as much as possible, mentally the same person when we are revived as we were when we were vitrified."

James has been a practicing life extensionist — taking supplements, exercising, and meditating — since 1982. He adopted a Mediterranean diet 5 years ago, and began practicing caloric restriction (CR) more recently. Alcor membership has not significantly altered his lifestyle in this regard, but he did quit traveling internationally for several years after joining, only recently deciding that some things are too important not to travel for. Still, he says that the one area where his membership has impacted him is in "thwarting an interest to live abroad, until Alcor can quickly reach us no matter where we are."

On the other hand, he has met lots of people through Alcor, and many have become his closest friends. James is open about his involvement in cryonics and says that most of his friends are either members already or are sympathetic to it, though he is still trying to convince his parents to join.

As a member and Director, James wants to increase communication between Alcor and its membership. He feels that the most important things any Alcor member can do to help themselves and Alcor in this endeavor are to: "encourage your family and friends to join and support Alcor; volunteer to help Alcor if you live close by, and consider leaving part of your estate to Alcor upon your death; and stay in touch with Alcor frequently, letting them know about changes in your address, health, family situation, etc. Also encourage your spouse, Administrators, or Legal Guardians to stay in touch with Alcor, too."

Lastly, James says he loves being on the Alcor Board. "I am extremely impressed with the other Board members and the amount of time they devote to the cause. The Alcor Board is extremely busy and we have a tremendous amount of business before us. Each Director is as dedicated to cryonics as I feel I am and this is reflected by the amount of effort I have observed they are willing to spend on Alcor matters and cryonics in general."

 

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