Michael Geisen

Michael Geisen

Alcor Member Profile

By Nicole Weinstock

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Minnesotan by birth and adventurer by nature, Michael Geisen is one of the hungry minds of the West Coast cryonics community, radiating life from his maverick spirit to his reputedly spry constitution. With his Alcor membership spanning two decades, combined with a robust, eclectic background in naval aviation and sales, he offers a unique perspective to the future of cryonics and the priorities therein.

“Pretty much everything about my life is a rolling stone.... I, for the most part, have the sense that we have free will and we all are free to live the life we choose. But I also have the experience, and it seems true for others, that we each are following a path, that there may actually be something to the idea of fate. Looking forward, I’ve always felt free to choose, but in retrospect, it usually feels like there wasn’t really any way I would have done it differently.”

So says Michael Geisen, weekend yogi, space enthusiast, and Alcor member of twenty years. From his Midwestern roots to his Northwestern bibliophilia, Michael’s life is indeed a kind of living stained glass—different experiences of varying origin and hues soldered together into something bold and unlikely, but yet entirely fluid.

From the Land ‘O Lakes

Michael was born in a little town called Saint Paul, Minnesota. Though smaller than its Twin City of Minneapolis, Saint Paul was, in his opinion, a great place to grow up. “You get a good balance of Midwestern values, but a more progressive mindset as well.” People were generally law-abiding, polite, and considerate. You knew you had someone who would shovel your snowed-in drive when you were struck ill on a -20°F day.

Apart from being above average neighbors, Saint Paulites also held their natural resources in high respect. “There’s a pretty good cultural connection with the environment,” says Michael. After all, Minnesotan license plates don’t read “Land of 10,000 Lakes” for nothing. (The fact that there are actually closer to 12,000 lakes in the state only serves to confirm the charming humility of Midwestern society). The most significant body of water in Michael’s hometown is the Mississippi River, its u-shaped stretch forming part of Saint Paul’s southern border. “It was kinda fun being near such an iconic landmark,” he admits. “Growing up, we’d walk down to the river to fish, climb on a bridge or just explore.” With the size of his family, it was unrealistic to swing a cabin by the lake as did many of his classmates’ families, but they’d venture out frequently enough to get their fair share of sun, swimming, or picnicking.

The Geisen family counted nine kids in its midst. Michael’s parents also opened up their home as an emergency receiving shelter for foster children, so his gaggle of eight siblings increased on occasion. Nevertheless, even with first cousins considered, Michael was the oldest of his generation. Were there special privileges to being the oldest? “Oh yeah, definitely,” says Michael. Even today, his siblings still joke about how he was “such an overlord” who occasionally doled out big brother punishments when left in charge, like making his sisters stand with their noses against the wall!

Fortunately for Michael, it was understood in their youth that a few minutes of such nasal oppression were far less threatening than the alternative. Mrs. Geisen, who eventually earned her MSW and became a counselor, managed the mayhem at home during Michael’s childhood, yet it was Mr. Geisen who was called in for disciplinary action. A policeman with the Saint Paul Police Department and a retired Army Artillery Officer, he was, contrary to association, almost entirely unphysical with his kids. “He didn’t need to get physical,” Michael recalls, “He had the voice of God.... His direction told your soul you had to obey, and if that didn’t work, there was the look, the look of death.”

When all was said and done however, the Geisen home was fairly peaceful—a well-oiled machine. Michael was able to pursue activities outside the home, such as Boy Scouts, summer camp, and—to the excitement of teachers everywhere—reading. “I always have had, as far back as I can remember, a hungry mind. I remember, in the winter, walking three or four blocks down the road to the local library and hanging out.” Michael’s early appetite for reading was refreshingly indiscriminate; he was drawn to a wide variety of writing styles, themes, and topics, as is still the case today. “If I had the opportunity, I’d love to go back to college at the undergrad level. I can think of half a dozen things I’d like to work on, like computer science, biology, math, or physics.”

Michael’s zeal for variety combined with a certain independent streak—something many cryonicists have in common—played out in his choice of sport. In high school, he joined the swim team, excelling in none other than the Individual Medley (IM), a race including all four strokes: freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke, and backstroke. These same subconscious preferences would guide him towards triathlons in adulthood. But before that, they would play a role in those first formative years after high school.

In the Navy

“It’s surprising to see the traction that I get when people see that I have an aerospace engineering degree.” Though Michael now has a career in sales and marketing with a distinguished track record in the tech sector, he envisioned himself as an astronaut back in high school. An aerospace engineering degree felt like the best collegiate focus considering his star-studded dreams, and the military seemed like a solid launchpad. Michael’s father was an Army man, but Michael had reservations about his qualifications for both the Army and the Air Force. His pragmatism and gut served him well in the end. He ultimately pursued the Navy, winning a full four-year scholarship to the University of Minnesota that would launch a naval aviation career of nearly a decade.

Michael Geisen
As a Lieutenant assigned to HSL-35, Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, CA, Michael flew LAMPS Mk II (SH-2G) helicopters off the flight decks of destroyers and frigates while cruising through the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the Arabian Sea, c. 1984.

“Being a Naval Aviator, oftentimes, was like being in a movie, because it’s spectacular for a lot of it. There are a lot of times where you’re thinking, ‘Ha! They’re paying me to do this?!’” In truth, the Navy was not only suitable for Michael’s qualifications, but, similar to swimming and triathlons, it supported his attraction to variety, independence, and adventure. The reigning attitude in the Navy’s flight operations manual explains it all: “[In the Air Force] their book was all the stuff that they were allowed to do.... In the Navy you can do whatever you want, just don’t do the stuff in this book.” Evidently, there is more fact than fiction in Tom Cruise’s defiant, daredevil portrayal of Maverick in the naval blockbuster movie, Top Gun (1986).

Michael wasn’t the only one with a taste for salty air in the Geisen lineage. Most of his eight siblings served in the military; another two brothers were Navy pilots like him, and currently, one of his nieces is as well. Additionally, two brothers have, and another will soon, retire as senior officers. One of those even taught a couple of times at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Michael Geisen
Michael’s adventurous spirit has drawn him to adventure far beyond the Navy chapter of life. In 2011, he visited the Step Pyramid in Egypt, among other historic structures in the country.

Beyond just grandchildren

“I’ve really, in the last 20 years I think, gained a whole lot more understanding of the value, just the incredible value, of family,” says Michael. Now, more than four decades since he left the nest in Saint Paul, he continues to fill the role of sibling elder, organizing family reunions whenever possible at the 20-acre farm property his parents later purchased an hour north of the city. It’s no longer just about meeting the parents, his siblings, and their cousins. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to be the father of two wonderful daughters, with excellent husbands, and two also amazing granddaughters.” His grandchildren form just a small fraction of the 35 or so that have come along over the years. They are also just the beginning, Michael explains: “...I plan to have close, active relationships with my large and growing family for many decades into the future. I’m 60 today. I imagine getting to know my grandchild’s grandchild.”

Michael Geisen
In November of 2015, for the first time in decades, Michael and his eight siblings gathered at the home of their parents, Duane and Donna. It was a bittersweet celebration, as Donna was fighting a losing battle with cancer at the time.

Daughters and granddaughter
Together with his two daughters, Danielle and Kyle, Michael attended the first dance recital of his granddaughter, Hayden (Kyle's daughter), in Connecticut in 2015.

His vision of the future is tremendously influenced by his commitment to cryonics and his Alcor membership, which he views as the ultimate life insurance policy. “It’s just changed, in a fundamental and powerful way, the way that I experience and think about life,” he admits. “I don’t have a bucket list. Instead, I have a constantly expanding list of things I want to do in life.” He plans to walk on the Moon sometime around 2030 and be one of the first Mars colonists by 2050. Did I mention he’s a huge Elon Musk fan?

Michael has also set personal health goals for himself moving forward, such as this resolution posted to his Facebook profile in 2011: “By the time I’m 80, I want to be biologically younger than when I was 50.” His strength of conviction is supported by a number of things, not least of which is this anecdotal confirmation. “In conversations where age comes up and someone asks, ‘Well, how old are you?’ and I tell them ‘I’m 60,’ people are surprised...I think most people would guess I’m in my mid-40s.” Strangers, recent acquaintances, and others who haven’t had the chance to scrutinize his driver’s license consistently remark that he looks and acts more than a decade younger than he is.

Though it’s a common occurrence, Michael is still hard pressed to pinpoint the reasons as to why he beat old Ponce de León in the Fountain of Youth race. He’s recently wondered about the role of the Life Enhancement supplements that he took for some time a few decades back. Designed by anti-aging and brain biochemistry experts, Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, Michael acquired them shortly after reading the couple’s book, Life Extension (1982), and watching a rerun of their appearance on the Merv Griffin show (1962-1986). In more recent years, Michael switched out to a multivitamin by the prominent futurist and so-called “restless genius,” Ray Kurzweil. Along the way, he’s also become a weekend yogi, taking Saturday and Sunday classes at the local gym. “We have these amazing bodies,” he says, “and if we get busy and use them and take care of them, we get so much more out of life.”

That said, Michael’s perspective is that there are limitations to what we can do to retard aging at this particular point in time. “It’s my opinion that there are no effective ways to reduce the rate of aging on a significant basis [today], so all we can really do for the time being is exercise, try and eat healthy, and take a daily multivitamin.” He is however, excitedly anticipating the next five to ten years, which he believes will herald the release of much more effective options. Michael is also confident that in his lifetime he will be able to reverse the aging process and, barring the errant bus, or cancer, not require him to put his ultimate life insurance policy to use.

Michael Geisen
The future beckons, just like Mt. Rainier from Michael’s dining room table! Inspired by his breakfast views, he resolved to summit this iconic beauty, only to find that it was a slightly overambitious day hike for his taste.

The path of least resistance

“I went on a date once with somebody in LA. We had a great time and had fun together. And we were just getting ready to say, ‘Ok, this was great and let’s do this again.’” But just before Michael and his date parted ways, she noticed his Alcor ID necklace and inquired about its meaning. “I told her what it was for,” he says, chuckling in recollection. “And as I’m telling this to her, I could see the shock in her eyes. It was just so far beyond anything that she had ever even imagined or heard of, it was just overwhelming for her.... I was just laughing [on the inside]. I’m thinking, ‘I’m never gonna see her again.’”

It’s certainly not the only first date that’s gone Titanic when the subject of cryonics arose. And, as Michael so astutely observes, many cryonicists still find themselves with a committed partner who is not particularly supportive of, or interested in, longer life of the cryonics kind.

As Michael explains, this kind of psychological resistance exists even with people who are familiar with cryonics. “The most powerful story I ever witnessed, was at the SENS Conference at UCLA in 2008.... I was sitting with Chris Heward, president of the Kronos Science Laboratories, a Phoenix-based anti-aging hub. Clearly, he was interested in and aware of cryopreservation. So I met him there,” he remembers. “Within two or three months on Facebook I saw that he had been diagnosed with cancer. And the community rallied and did everything they could to get him to sign up for cryonics. And he wouldn’t do it, and within six months he was dead.”

Observing this same kind of behavior in both the personal and professional realms, Michael has arrived at the conclusion that, “Understanding what it is about humanity that is that psychological roadblock, is a critical thing to the future of cryonics, of Alcor.” He hopes to eventually position himself to apply crucial observations like this, along with his years of sales and marketing experience, to advance both membership and funding at Alcor. Michael already has a skeleton plan in mind that addresses both those psychological roadblocks, as well as the general member experience.

Speaking to the former, he envisions a multi-channel, mostly digital marketing campaign, with clear milestones and intelligent tools to track and optimize performance that would be focused towards early adopters, people who are already primed for the science and reasoning behind cryonics. “It’s such a huge leap to go from normal human to cryonicist.... The marketing campaign would find people who are already open to that and introduce them to the rationale behind and benefits of cryonics, and a streamlined application process.” Michael also emphasizes the importance of addressing reintegration after revival at Alcor:

“For a long time, I’ve felt that physically reanimating a body from liquid nitrogen temperature is not going to be the hardest part of the cryopreservation process. Rather, the hardest part is going to be successfully reintegrating people into a repaired and rejuvenated body and mind, and a new world. I’ve talked to many people who seem to think we’ll reanimate people and tell them something like, ‘Here’s a monthly stipend and a place to live. Good luck.’ Most people seem to understand that revival will include repairing damage caused by aging and any fatal illness, but what about the OCD, the PTSD, the bipolar disorder, etc.? To give members and prospective members some assurance that revival will have a happy outcome, that their future after cryopreservation is one they truly want, we need to begin developing, and publishing a comprehensive plan to address any issues: biological, psychological and sociological. This plan will also directly address one of the more common objections to cryonics: a fear of what happens after revival.”

To help accelerate membership growth, Michael proposes a simpler application process, where some of the current process is completed after an individual becomes a member. He also endorses the use of a sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) system which would help improve retention and communication with members by giving them the ability to pay dues, check details about their cryopreservation arrangements, read any important updates from Alcor, and more. This CRM would also help with the previous idea of completing some of the current membership process after one becomes a member.

Michael joined Alcor because he loves the experience of being alive—everything about it. Until we conquer aging, Alcor will be an essential part of his plan for a long, healthy, adventurous life. Because the success of the Alcor mission is far from assured, he has always tried to be an active member. He regularly attends Alcor and other related conferences and events in Scottsdale, and elsewhere. For five plus years he was a member of the SoCal Cryo Transport Team, and he continues to serve as an Advisor to the Alcor Board of Directors. As opportunity allows, he will continue to be active, so if you are too, he invites you to say hello anytime in the next century or two.

Michael currently resides with the cryonics-supportive love of his life, Sue Cassidy, in Capitola, CA. If you would like to contact Michael about any marketing ideas or opportunities in relation to cryonics or otherwise, you can find him at .

Michael Geisen
Michael met the love of his life, Sue Cassidy, in late 2017 in Bellevue, WA. It wasn't long before they were in love, and Michael resolved to move to Capitola, CA to make their life together.

 

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