Nathan Shafer's Personal Account of the Manifest Infinity Life Extension Foundation
The Manifest Infinity Life Extension Foundation
The (x) mass of 1999, Joelle and I were visiting our family who had moved back to the Lower-48 (that’s what we call the rest of the US from Alaska, where I was living at the time). On a ride from Knoxville, TN to Chattanooga, TN my mother asked me a very personal question, one that took me for quite a ride.
“What do you want done with your body when you die?”
It was that time in my life, when everyone I knew was discussing the practicalities of their ultimate, unavoidable and impending death(s). It was also an awkward moment, for me to discuss this with my mother because I had to come out of the closet as a transhumanist. To my pleasant surprise, mother dearest was not displeased by this news, though she was rather startled (we were raised Mormon after all). I told her I wanted my body to be placed in cryonic suspension, because that is one of the things transhumanists do is ‘life extension and cryonic suspension’ as Kevin Rabelaisman, who later changed his name to Lord Kevin, the Uncanny used to say (he is now in cryonic suspension at the Manifest Infinity Life Extension Foundation).
“That’s when they freeze you after you die, then maybe, if the brain makes it out okay…a long, long time from now, I can live forever,” I told my mother.
My mother and I talked for a little bit about the possibility of living forever in an afterlife, as opposed to a thermos filled with liquid nitrogen. She seemed to just not to want to talk practically about my body being put into cryonic suspension. I got this bright idea to cushion the uncomfortable image of her dead son frozen in a container for a couple hundred years by telling her that I wanted to make an art piece out of it. I wanted a large tank to be filled with those plastic balls from fast food indoor playgrounds, then placed over top of my frozen body, so kids could play there and I wouldn’t be hogging up space. Then maybe it would seem like my “suspension would be more like recess and less like decaying.”
My mother laughed and we got to Chattanooga without having to get much more involved with it than that.
But when (x) mass was over, Joelle and myself were back home in Anchorage, I realized what a great idea that would be not to waste space like that. So I brought it up with this group I was a member of Alaskan Transhumanists, and boom, they thought it was a good idea too.
Before too long, I brought it up with the art organization I had just started working with, the Meme-Rider Media Team (also transhumanists) and they liked it.
There was one problem, however, there were no life extension or cryonics facilities in Anchorage at that time. The nearest cryonics facility was in Vancouver, Canada, a little too long of a drive to actually be a realistic option.
The Alaskan Transhumanists decided to build a state-of-the-art cryonics facility in Alaska. We had a bit of an issue raising the money for a facility, but an anonymous British oil company loaned one of the members of the Alaskan Transhumanists some start up money and a small, rather simple facility was set up on Fifth Avenue in the downtown section of Anchorage, near Cyrano’s Playhouse and Coffee Shop.
The Manifest Infinity Life Extension Foundation was officially formed, as a non-profit organization to “assist in the immediate cryonics needs of people who wished to have their bodies suspended after their deaths” was what we said.
At the time of its inception, its original members included: Kevin Rabelaisman, 58, poet and ‘Alaskan Bush’ adventurer, former member of the Situationist International; Cassandra Platzmanck, 44, pediatric physician, former mayor of the Township of Unalaska, Alaska from 1995-1997 (Green Party); Hayley Numbaum, 30, small business owner, book enthusiast; Otto Tiknik, 75, civil rights activist, local community theater actor; Nathan Shafer (me), 21, bricoleur, tactical imagineer, media art student, University of Alaska Anchorage; Portia de Numeria, 26, barista, mother of 1, transfeminist, post-structuralist, grad student in the creative writing program, University of Alaska Anchorage; Kendra Talles, 39, mother of 1, architect for the Geodesic Dyson Sphere Project on Elmendorf Air Force Base; Paul Rychoones, 55, science fiction author of “Saucer & Milk Mysteries, Inc.”, Assistant Professor in Literary Studies, Alaska Pacific University; Henry Toggs, 23, semiotician, chemistry student, Alaska Pacific University; Alice Kendall, 33, transhumanist, performance artist, mother of 2 beautiful children; Rebecca Monsaintclaire, 61, ‘pataphysician, Professor II of Biology, Anchorage Polytechnic Institute for Engineering and Applied Sciences, mother of 3, grandmother of 5; Bert Colbert, 45, father, insurance salesman, art collector, ceramicist; Gerry Senugetuk, 25, technophile, painter, art student, University of Alaska Anchorage; F. Austin Love, 32, high school guidance counselor, poetic terrorist; Chandra Khundalhi, 29, environmentalist, activist, gardener and student of physics, University of Alaska Anchorage.
After a few months, several new members and a real-life secretary later, we bought ten Bigfoot dewars (that is the name of the big cryogenic thermoses they keep frozen people in) and I got quite fond of the way those tanks looked. A Bigfoot dewar is an enormous piece of equipment, it is sort of like family style housing for the cryonic suspended. It can hold four full human bodies, and eight human heads, although the first three suspensions performed at the Manifest Infinity Life Extension Foundation were animals: Woof Teegar, a husky; Porkpie, a tuxedo cat; and Sophie Darling, a tortoise.
After dealing with the Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) for a few months, I began to understand how they were made, had a few of the more technical parts fabricated and was cooking with chemistry before too long, all the while thinking, cryonic dewars would be kick ass sculptures. The problem was that they are not the type of thing ones sees everyday or would expect to be what frozen people are actually kept in with liquid nitrogen. The movies are partially to blame. For one, dewars aren’t made of glass, and they are not see-thru. It is a big steel tank on rollers. Dewars aren’t particularly whimsical machines either, they don’t plug into the wall. Dewars are just big, glorified thermoses. It is silvered glass inside fiberglass and metal with airtight lids.
And that is when we got the news that the transhumanist mathematician Epoh Gnirb had died in Norway.
In the autumn of 1998, the Alaskan Transhumanists attended a lecture given by Epoh Gnirb at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She had just published a book about a mathematical formula she had worked out for zepto-metric systems analysis. Zepto-metric systems are the size of electrons. One of her conclusions was a paradox in the definition of integers in extremely small systems. She stated that numbers as we use them are really only good for describing the immediate world we are part of, but they break down in very big systems, very small systems and in parallel (extra-dimensional) systems. Epoh was working with very small systems. The paradox she found was that an integer between the integers 6 and 7 would begin to appear during zepto-metric calculations. She referred to this integer as the ‘homunculus integer’, after the alchemical principle of the homunculus, an artificial human the alchemist Paracelsus claimed to have created from blood, semen and vegetal tissues. This was one of the coolest things I had ever heard.
Epoh Gnirb also talked about her transhumanism, and how she thought that for humans to evolve past the various singularities they will encounter as technology evolves, we must be ready to evolve past being humanity in its strictest sense.
The news of her death was unfathomable. She died tragically in a boating accident off the coast of Norway, during a relaxing fishing trip with her husband, the noted ethnographer and photojournalist Svenska Brenskvisky. Epoh’s body was never found, but her husband was saved, tough with a broken collar bone, three broken ribs, he lost most oh his teeth and was in deep hypothermia, which lead to him having three toes and five fingers amputated.
He recovered after several months in the hospital. Apparently the boat broke after on ninety-foot swell in the water. Noam had survived only because his body was luckily thrown into the starboard side rowboat during the crash.
The poetic irony of Epoh Gnirb’s transhumanism was in her untimely death in ice-cold Norwegian water. The Meme-Rider Media Team collaboratively built a cryonic suspension device in memoriam for Epoh Gnirb called, ‘Dislocation Eulogium and First Cryogenic Supplement’. It was displayed inside an architectural glass structure in downtown Anchorage near the MILE Foundation office at a gallery then called the Decker-Morris Annex Gallery.
During the run of the show we bred homunculi using the old alchemical recipe: “an Arcanum of spagyric substances” (Paracelsus) is distilled in a cucurbit for forty days and forty nights in a bath of composting horse dung. It was a nice poetic tie-in between Gnirb’s homunculus integer, a single serving full body cryonic suspension device and the actual alchemical legend of homuncular cryptogenesis. All these delicious ways of bringing things back to life.
More or less, this is the point when the Manifest Infinity Life Extension Foundation became half a speculative art media organization and half a cryonics/transhumanist foundation. Several sub-departments and research groups were designed to supplement the cryonics work, providing research and aesthetic developments, we called these researchers ‘tactical imagineers’.
The ‘Cryonic Think Tank’ was established, a loose collection of people discussing the memetic implications of transhumanism and cryonics. Ettinger House in Fairbanks, Alaska was founded in 2001. A sub-group formed a tactical committee called the Committee for Tactical Investigation of Claims of the Cryopathic, to research neural stimulation and semiotic communication during cryonic suspension. It developed a program based on the movie Demolition Man starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes, where frozen people can have information downloaded straight into their minds. This program was called ‘The Snowflake Program’.
Another program I was involved in creating with fellow Meme-Rider, Isaac Boatright was the ‘Fauster & Fauster Program’. We used another mathematical paradox, this one called the Banach-Tarski Paradox that deals with the problems of the definition of volume, it states that when matter is capable of being infinitely reduced, using rigid motions, one can dissect a pea and reassemble it into a sphere the size of our sun. We used this method to construct multiples of cryopatient’s souls, to be sold as works of art. We sold them on e-bay for a few years, making enough money to keep the cryopatients in fresh liquid nitrogen for decades.
And the rest, as they say is on ice.