New York City
- We all imagine a future that we believe we will never see come to fruition. Perhaps we envision peace everywhere on earth, passenger travel to other galaxies, a vaccine that prevents all cancer. We envision such things, but we do not believe we will live long enough to see them actually happen. Well, as that certainly may be true today, a new book proposes that we may indeed one day in the future "re-live" to see them happen.
Architect Stephen Valentine
has written a book that not only speaks to the science of cryogenics, life extension and nanotechnology, but has presented the detailed architectural plan for the structure that will facilitate that science and store our bodies until the future we imagine comes to pass.
Dust jacket for Valentine's new book.
The book is called "Timeship: The Architecture of Immortality"(Image Publishing Group). Following an August Hamptons pre-launch at the Pink Elephant
in Southampton, Hamptons.com attended the book launch and signing at Rizzoli Bookstore and the after-party on Sept. 9 in Manhattan. Hmmm, 09-09-09 - interesting!
On the second floor of the seminal NYC book shop, a packed audience made up of a significant number of architects, scientists, professors and students listened to Valentine first defend the science of cryogenics and then explain the project he was commissioned to develop by Life Extension Foundation founder Saul Kent
and Bill Fallon
in 1997. After being introduced by Thomas F. Schutte
, the president of his alma mater Pratt Institute, Valentine quoted his client Kent from a 2004 New Yorker
article in saying, "Timeship is part of a comprehensive plan to conquer aging and death."
Admitting that the project is based on future technologies that Valentine conceded could be viewed as a "utopia or 'udopeia' and just a mad, impossible dream." He went on to say, "Let's take the year 1900 - since that decade whom among us could have imagined then that so many human advancements and scientific achievements could have been realized over such a brief period of time? It can be summarized in just a few words; we went from the man in the moon to men on the moon."
Valentine went on to note that a seminal moment in science occurred in the year 2000 with the mapping of the human gene pool and the advancements in longevity that are direct results of that discovery. "Now prominent scientists are predicting that by the end of the 21st century, it will be remembered as the century of immortality. That those children born today will most likely pass their hundreds and their children may never die as death is defined today."
A definition of death offered by Valentine included the destruction of the brain, organs, intelligence and memories. His contention is that the preservation of such aspects of human anatomy and behavioral cognition can and will be successfully achieved at 'Timeship' for regeneration at a time when science has conquered the debilitating causes of aging and disease and solved the riddle of immortality. Valentine then jokingly noted, "In other words, the last thing you want to do is get cremated."
Design model for 'Timeship,' the Fort Knox of cryogenics.
Although some may view this science as fantasy, Valentine noted that over 250,000 cases of human birth have occurred from frozen sperm that have been implanted in embryos and brought to term in the form of humans who have come to be known as Snowflake Children. In experimentation on animals, whole organs have been removed, cryogenically frozen and transplanted with full function. Recently, a human brain was preserved and then warmed, exhibiting no deterioration to the cell structure and potential functionality. Along with its role as a cryogenic storehouse for up to 10,000 human bodies, 'Timeship' will serve as a life extension, stem cell/DNA and cloning research facility and a donor bank for preserved human organs, tissues and endangered species.
The moral questions regarding life extension and immortally abound, but as Valentine noted, "When Christian Barnard
successfully performed the first human heart transplant in 1967 it was decried as an abomination to God, nature and morality. Since then an average of 2,000 heart transplants are performed each year." He also suggested to the bookstore audience, "The question you may want to ask is, 'Do you design the future or does the future design you?'" Quoting the man considered by many to be the father of cryonics, Robert Ettinger
, Valentine stated, "Being born isn't a crime and it doesn't deserve the penalty of death."
Although not a trained expert in the area of life preservation, Valentine is clearly well versed in the subject and its history. That being said, in an attempt to not over-arch his expertise he has included essays in the forward of his book by three renowned experts that includes Dr. Michael D. West
, a founder of the field of regenerative medicine and stem cell research who played a pioneering role in the collaborative effort that led to the first isolation of human embryonic stem cells, Robert A. Freitas, Jr.
, author of "Nanomedicine" the first book-length technical discussion of medical nanotechnology, and Arthur Caplan
, PhD., one of the most prominent bio-ethicists in the U.S., who serves as the Chair of the School of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Stephen Valentine signing copies of 'Timeship' at the Rizzoli Bookstore launch in Manhattan.
Admittedly not a scientist, Valentine is, however, an architect of considerable note. Among the many projects since his graduation from Pratt in 1977, he has been on the architectural teams that designed the Jacob Javits Center in NYC and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, when he worked as senior design architect for James Ingo Freed
at Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners.
I asked Valentine to comment on the challenge and responsibly of designing a building of such profound importance as the Holocaust Museum, "There was no question about the seriousness and importance of that building. One had to take every issue at a profound level because basically what we where going to do was interpret the entire horror of humanity and incorporate it into that building. It was architecture at its very best by sending a message to the world. That is what the building does, it speaks to the world."
Valentine took exception to my comment that the Holocaust Museum and 'Timeship' represent opposing challenges in design, as one was historic and the other futuristic, "In actuality I took references from the past and created a building that is absolutely timeless. I tried to link history from the beginning of time that overlaps cultures and religion without picking any one belief system. I tried to do that without compromising on the architecture, the engineering or the science. It is totally integrated."
That integration of design and science is stunningly illustrated in Valentine's book, whose breathtaking images were flashed on huge screens throughout the after party at the appropriately named Manhattan venue, Providence, where the party was held. Eloquently described in Valentine's writing, aided and edited by Pratt professor John Lobell
, 'Timeship' represents a departure from any architectural style and design that came before it, yet incorporates an iconology in design concept that symbolically represents humanity since the dawn of time. All achieved while at the same time fulfilling the criteria of creating a massive structure that must sustain state-of-the-art scientific technology and be impervious to natural disasters and human sabotage. Coined the Fort Knox of cryogenics, the six acre 'Timeship' structure is designed to last at least 100 years and, after almost a decade of site searching, will be built in the lower 48 states. The actual 100 acre location will be revealed in the coming months.
The question of immortality is one steeped in moral, social and political controversy - 20 years ago it was the dream of a few - it is now the hope of many and in another 20 years may manifest into a movement of monumental proportions. It will undoubtedly be a battle of opinions expressed by our greatest scientific, religious and political minds on both sides of the argument. A singular point that must be specifically addressed is who will have immortality, those that can afford it or those that deserve it? Presently, the cost of cryogenic preservation is $120,000 and there are 200 people cryogenically preserved with approximately 1,000 others waiting in the wings.
Very real, privileged class fears aside, 'Timeship' is an architectural reality that is about to begin construction, as perhaps it should be, for its realization is both an intellectual and scientific inevitable next step in human evolution. The question is not will it happen, but will we be prepared when it happens? Knowledge is power and on this subject there is powerful knowledge derived from a reading of Stephen Valentine's brilliant, beautiful and controversial book, "Timeship: The Architecture of Immortality."
For more information go to: www.timeship.org.
Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com