Max More

Alcor Member Profile
From Cryonics January-February 2012

By Chana de Wolf

Max More is President and Chief Executive Officer of Alcor

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Max More

Following an arduous search lasting many months, Alcor was pleased to hire long-time member Max More to the CEO position in January 2011. Max comes to Alcor with an extensive background as a writer, speaker, and philosopher of futurist topics and as an activist for life extension technologies, including cryonics. Readers of Cryonics magazine may have followed his quarterly CEO Reports with interest as he has outlined his vision to support Alcor's mission and plans to meet goals and overcome challenges in the years to come. But what of Max the man? After a year in the hot seat, it seems like a good time to learn more about Alcor's latest leader.

Max More "Do you like living?" Max asks the attendees of TEDx Hong Kong as part of his presentation in December 2011.

Max originally hails from England, where he lived and completed his education through undergraduate studies. Max didn't perform particularly well in school until he began studying topics that interested him — namely, economics and politics. By the end of his second year of A-Levels at Yeovil College in Somerset he had advanced from the bottom of his class to the top of the economics program, allowing him to apply to prestigious Oxford and Cambridge Universities. After acceptance to Oxford in 1984, Max worked diligently and obtained a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in 1987.

Max More Young Max stands proudly in front of his home in Bristol, England.

Max first heard about cryonics in a British children's television show called Timeslip in the 1970s. "Cryonics was part of the second story of the series in an episode called 'The Time of the Ice Box,' he recalls. "Remarkably, the same story also involved a longevity drug and intelligence augmentation. It was set in the remote future of 1990!" Later on, he again came across the idea in Robert A. Heinlein's 1957 novel, The Door Into Summer." His first real-world exposure to cryonics was Cosmic Trigger,in which Robert Anton Wilson writes about the cryopreservation of his daughter's brain after she was murdered.

Such reading led Max to an early interest in radical life extension. By his mid- to late-teens he was committed to furthering progress in this area and cryonics seemed like a natural extension of that. "I started reading Cryonics magazine around 1984 or so," he says. "When I read an appeal for funds by Alcor…(in late 1985), I responded by sending a little money out of my tiny student bank account from England to California. Mike Darwin wrote to me, challenging me both to sign up and to start a real cryonics organization in England. I took him up on both challenges."

So Max joined Alcor as a member in 1986 at the age of 22. In the same year, he came to the U.S. for six weeks to visit Alcor and obtain some training and experience under Mike Darwin and Jerry Leaf. He went back to England with medications and some equipment to start Mizar, Ltd., the precursor organization to Alcor UK. As an initial foray into writing in this field, he and English cryonicists, Garrett Smyth and Michael Price, began publishing a small magazine called Biostasis.

Near the end of Max's undergraduate work, the University of Southern California began a campaign to recruit graduate students from England. Max jumped at the chance, and was able to come to the U.S. as a graduate student at the University of Southern California in 1987. In 1988, he and Tom W. Bell started publishing Extropy: The Journal of Transhumanist Thought. This brought together thinkers with interests in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, life extension, mind uploading, idea futures, robotics, space exploration, memetics, and the politics and economics of transhumanism. It was, in fact, the founding effort of transhumanist philosophy.

Max More Hard at work, Max makes the most of his first visit to Alcor in 1986.

It didn't take long for news about Extropy to make a splash. It was soon advertised in Factsheet 5 and highlighted in a review in Wired by Kevin Kelly. Before long, Max was bombarded by people who were surprised to find others who thought the same way about futurist topics.

Around the same time, Alcor suffered some difficult legal issues and the resulting politics and infighting deflected Max's attention away from cryonics for a while. He turned his attention to transhumanism and the development of the Extropy Institute, founded in 1991. He did still attend cryonics events, though, and even met his future wife, Natasha Vita-More, at a cryonics event hosted by Timothy Leary at his home in Beverly Hills in 1992.

The philosophy behind Extropy Institute was "to use current scientific understanding along with critical and creative thinking to define a small set of principles or values that could help make sense of the confusing but potentially liberating and existentially enriching capabilities opening up to humanity." The Institute published Extropy magazine, organized five conferences, and ran one of the longest-lived email lists on the net. As other organizations arose with similar aims, Extropy Institute closed in 2006.

While Max was still heavily involved with the Extropy Institute, he and Natasha decided to move from California to Austin, Texas, in 2002. There, they organized several local CryoFeasts and participated in at least one standby and stabilization training session. Then, in 2008, Alcor began actively recruiting for a new President/CEO. In 2010, Natasha suggested that Max apply for the position.

"At first I was reluctant, knowing that it would be a challenging job," Max admits. "But then I realized that it may be my last chance to make a difference. I had seen little progress in achieving major life extension over the past 30 years, so cryonics was coming to seem ever more crucial. I wanted a new challenge, as well. So I submitted my application and went through the selection process, ultimately getting hired."

As President and CEO of Alcor, Max wants to accomplish kaizen, the Japanese word for "improvement" or "change for the better." In his own words, Max explains the concept as always asking, "why? Why do we do things the way we do?" "We can't afford to be complacent," he explains. "Our lives are at stake. We must keep improving every aspect of cryonics protocols and practices. I'd like to improve the quality of Alcor's care, maintain standards, and keep our patients preserved."

Beyond that, Max is interested in getting Alcor to grow. "Membership growth gives us more resources to protect ourselves, fund our research, and more. [Cryonics] is a very long-term effort, and it requires us to set examples and to give people the right kind of feedback to encourage them along the way. An important part of this is to formalize our processes, develop SOPs (standard operating procedures), etc."

Max knows very well that there are many highly challenging aspects of cryonics. Technical progress, including improvement of standby, stabilization, transport, and cryopreservation, must be made to improve the chances that patients will be preserved in sufficiently good condition to eventually be resuscitated in good health. But financial and organizational challenges must be met first to ensure that Alcor continues functioning over a period of decades or longer. And, he adds, "another huge challenge is figuring out how to change the thinking of more people so they understand and at least seriously consider cryonics, rather than the practice being an option only for a tiny minority."

The cryonicist motto that "cryonics is the second worst thing that can happen to you" has always resonated with Max. "With or without cryonics arrangements, I would do the best I could to maintain my health and my prospects for a long, healthy life," he reports. "The idea of floating in a tank of liquid nitrogen unable to influence what happens to me is deeply unappealing. Even so, it is vastly preferable to ceasing to exist." His arrangements also compel him to save for the long term and motivate him to gently encourage his friends to make cryonics arrangements and join him in the adventure.

"I have always been completely open about my arrangements over the past quarter-century," Max maintains. And though his family has no interest in it for themselves, his mother is supportive of his choices and no one argues with him about it. Most of his friends are favorable to life extension and many support cryonics or at least see it as a reasonable choice. "Of course, there are those who don't understand it or reject it," Max acknowledges. "I find little to gain by arguing about it with those. I've almost never found any of their objections to be rational in nature."

Outside of his job at Alcor, Max likes to exercise using weights and with interval training. He spends a little time keeping up to date on the healthiest diets, exercise, and other practices. Other hobbies include shooting, hiking, and skiing, but his current priorities at Alcor leave him little time for such pleasures. Though he doesn't watch television, he does keep up with his favorite shows by DVD or download, including Dexter, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and South Park. He also continues to engage in the transhumanist community and keeps up with reading and discussion on related scientific, technological, and philosophical topics.

Max More Enjoying a favorite pastime, Max hits the slopes in December 2000.

As President and CEO, Max is interested in feedback from members and wants you to tell Alcor how to do better. His primary request is to "get your sympathetic friends and relatives to take ACTION and sign up with Alcor." Lastly, he stresses the importance of taking care of your health — "especially the health of your blood vessels, so you minimize the chances of dying of a disastrous aneurysm and so you can be cannulated and perfused more effectively."

 

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