Part of the growing constituency of life extension advocates and activists in British Columbia, Carrie Wong splashed into cryonics head first upon learning about it when she attended a meeting of the Lifespan Society of British Columbia at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the fall of 2012. Though she had already graduated from UBC in 2011, Carrie had tagged along with her friend Mary Craver, a law student at UBC who had been invited to the meeting by fellow law student and Lifespan Society founder Keegan Macintosh. Keegan gave a presentation introducing cryonics while another speaker and UBC student, Dano Morrison, spoke about nootropics.
“It was an extremely enlightening evening and I made up my mind at that moment that I would attend Lifespan Society meetings,” Carrie says. “The concept of cryonics clicked for me immediately; I was already somewhat familiar with transhumanist thinking and made up my mind a while ago I would attempt to live as long as possible. I was a futurist and atheist so basically I had no cultural or religious hang-ups so it was very easy for me to accept cryonics.”
Carrie grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, one of two children of Chinese parents. “I didn’t really have a peer group to introduce me to cryonics and related ideas before I attended that meeting,” she explains. “I had only read about things on the internet. I feel like I already had the main idea—I was fairly optimistic about technology, for example. Technology is the only way to progress. People aren’t going to change, so we have to let technology make the improvements for us. It’s easier to find technological solutions. Instead of having wars over resources, let’s find a way to make resources more abundant. Hopefully with minimum government interference.”
Carrie attended a cryonics conference held by the Institute for Evidence Based Cryonics in Portland, OR, in 2013 and was alerted to Alcor’s associate membership program by Aschwin de Wolf, which appealed to her. As an associate member Carrie received Cryonics magazine, which allowed her to read in more detail about the various aspects of cryonics. And, with her sound philosophical and scientific background (an honors degree in geology with a minor in philosophy), cryonics fueled Carrie’s passion for thinking about the possibilities of the future. She started her Alcor paperwork in December 2013 and became a member in February 2014.
From the start, Carrie worked to foster fellowship within the local cryonics community. “I considered Cryonics Institute briefly because it was less costly but I decided to join Alcor based on the cryonics community in Vancouver, British Columbia. Most cryonicists in B.C. are Alcor members while the majority of cryonicists in Ontario are with CI. I did it out of a sense of solidarity and community.”
And though Carrie claims that she was content with being a passive cryonicist, when she found herself being asked to continue the Section 14 challenge against the anti-cryonics law in B.C. (prohibiting the sale of cryonics services in British Columbia) she did not stand idly by, but took up the reins of the movement as Executive Director of the Lifespan Society in March of 2014.
The Lifespan Society of British Columbia at Maker Faire Vancouver.
“I’m now the go-to person for the Section 14 challenge,” Carrie explains. “We are now moving forward with a much lower-budget version of our initial plan. We believe that if a court case is actually pending it will be easier to raise funding, so we held a board vote and are going to go ahead with the court challenge. It is important for B.C. cryonicists to get rid of this law before we make a standby company. But it’s probably going to be years before we get anywhere with that.”
Sometimes Carrie finds it difficult to believe how much her cryonics arrangements have affected her life in such a short period of time. “If I went back in time and talked to myself 5 years ago and told me what I was up to, my 20-year-oldself would laugh and say I was crazy,” she chuckles. “But there are no half-measures in my life and I took this challenge on wholeheartedly.”
In fact, she put her career in gold exploration geology on hold in order to continue the Section 14 challenge. “The stakes in cryonics always seem so high, but I guess the more I get into it the more frustrating it becomes that Candian cryonicists don’t have the standby services that they need. I understand Toronto got an Alcor standby kit recently and I know how generous the cryonics community has been towards Canadian cryonicists but we still have some major problems.”
Carrie working on geological samples from the Yukon.
It is perhaps because of the particular issues facing B.C. cryonicists that Carrie considers standby and stabilization the most challenging issue in cryonics. “Ischemic damage is frightening and occurs so quickly. There is no forgiveness when time passes,” she laments.
Secondly, she thinks that cryonics suffers from a lack of decent marketing and profitability. “I have been told over and over that cryonics is not profitable business but I don’t know why it can’t be,” she ponders. “I’m no Peter Thiel, but I don’t like hearing that things are not possible.” Carrie believes that people of Chinese cultural background could more easily be sold on cryonics because they are not very religious and have fewer opinions on the afterlife. “Perhaps we should be marketing to Chinese Americans and Chinese Canadians,” she ventures. “But also looking at forming connections with China.”
Another of the Lifespan Society’s ambitious projects this year is the Longevity and Genetics conference they are hosting November 15, 2014, in Vancouver. Confirmed speakers thus far include biogerontologist and cryonics advocate Dr. Aubrey de Grey and biotechnology researcher Dr. Clinton Mielke, who will talk about his work in obesity genetics.
Outside of cryonics, Carrie has identified as libertarian since the age of 18. “I would say the primary motivations in my life are living rationally and living free,” she says. “Without actually being alive, no other goals are possible so defeating aging and living long should always be a priority.”
She also indulges her artistic side and enjoys drawing, painting and writing poetry. “I’ve been drawing all my life, but stopped in university,” she sighs. “I thought I would be a graphic designer when I was a kid. Or a philosopher or an artist. I fought with my parents about it a lot, but ultimately wound up going into science.” But then Carrie brightens when she describes her boyfriend as an “amazing artist” who inspired her to start drawing and painting again.
Carrie’s painting of jellyfish.
Traveling is another of Carrie’s passions. “Traveling is a big part of my life and I love traveling all over the States to meet my online friends. I have been to New York City twice, Seattle, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, New Jersey, and other places. I get the travel bug often and I try to leave town a few times a year.”
One of Carrie’s favorite traveling memories is attending the “Teens and Twenties” cryonics conference in Florida last year. “Just being with all the coolest, most interesting people I’ve ever met was an amazing experience,” she gushes.
It may come as no surprise that Carrie’s favorite childhood memory is of her first journey to a distant land, when her family went to Hawaii when she was twelve. “It’s the first time I remember thinking ‘This is a completely different place.’ I was blown away; it was such an eye opening experience. Even the air smelled different. Of flowers and paradise.” And, though she dislikes the cultural pressure placed on her as the eldest to be more responsible than her brother (who is only a year her junior), some of her other favorite memories are of playing video games with him.
When it comes to indulgences, Carrie admits “I guess I have had a weakness for the drink, but I mostly drink a life-extending amount of booze.” She says her go-to drink is Jameson whiskey, “sometimes on the rocks, sometimes neat.”
Lastly, Carrie likes hanging out with her friends, and says she regularly spends her time with four or five other Alcor members in Vancouver. “I’m dating an Alcor member and I met 30 other Alcor members at the Teens and Twenties event,” she states. “I was amazed at the quality of young cryonicists I met in Florida. I’ve never been in a room so packed with accomplished and intelligent people at such a young age. I have to say: Don’t ever change.”