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Normal Cryonics

53 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 January 2010 07:08PM

I recently attended a small gathering whose purpose was to let young people signed up for cryonics meet older people signed up for cryonics - a matter of some concern to the old guard, for obvious reasons.

The young cryonicists' travel was subsidized.  I suspect this led to a greatly different selection filter than usually prevails at conferences of what Robin Hanson would call "contrarians".  At an ordinary conference of transhumanists - or libertarians, or atheists - you get activists who want to meet their own kind, strongly enough to pay conference fees and travel expenses.  This conference was just young people who took the action of signing up for cryonics, and who were willing to spend a couple of paid days in Florida meeting older cryonicists.

The gathering was 34% female, around half of whom were single, and a few kids.  This may sound normal enough, unless you've been to a lot of contrarian-cluster conferences, in which case you just spit coffee all over your computer screen and shouted "WHAT?"  I did sometimes hear "my husband persuaded me to sign up", but no more frequently than "I pursuaded my husband to sign up".  Around 25% of the people present were from the computer world, 25% from science, and 15% were doing something in music or entertainment - with possible overlap, since I'm working from a show of hands.

I was expecting there to be some nutcases in that room, people who'd signed up for cryonics for just the same reason they subscribed to homeopathy or astrology, i.e., that it sounded cool.  None of the younger cryonicists showed any sign of it.  There were a couple of older cryonicists who'd gone strange, but none of the young ones that I saw.  Only three hands went up that did not identify as atheist/agnostic, and I think those also might have all been old cryonicists.  (This is surprising enough to be worth explaining, considering the base rate of insanity versus sanity.  Maybe if you're into woo, there is so much more woo that is better optimized for being woo, that no one into woo would give cryonics a second glance.)

The part about actually signing up may also be key - that's probably a ten-to-one or worse filter among people who "get" cryonics.  (I put to Bill Faloon of the old guard that probably twice as many people had died while planning to sign up for cryonics eventually, than had actually been suspended; and he said "Way more than that.")  Actually signing up is an intense filter for Conscientiousness, since it's mildly tedious (requires multiple copies of papers signed and notarized with witnesses) and there's no peer pressure.

For whatever reason, those young cryonicists seemed really normal - except for one thing, which I'll get to tomorrow.  Except for that, then, they seemed like very ordinary people: the couples and the singles, the husbands and the wives and the kids, scientists and programmers and sound studio technicians.

It tears my heart out.

At some future point I ought to post on the notion of belief hysteresis, where you get locked into whatever belief hits you first.  So it had previously occurred to me (though I didn't write the post) to argue for cryonics via a conformity reversal test:

If you found yourself in a world where everyone was signed up for cryonics as a matter of routine - including everyone who works at your office - you wouldn't be the first lonely dissenter to earn the incredulous stares of your coworkers by unchecking the box that kept you signed up for cryonics, in exchange for an extra $300 per year.

(Actually it would probably be a lot cheaper, more like $30/year or a free government program, with that economy of scale; but we should ignore that for purposes of the reversal test.)

The point being that if cryonics were taken for granted, it would go on being taken for granted; it is only the state of non-cryonics that is unstable, subject to being disrupted by rational argument.

And this cryonics meetup was that world.  It was the world of the ordinary scientists and programmers and sound studio technicians who had signed up for cryonics as a matter of simple common sense.

It tears my heart out.

Those young cryonicists weren't heroes.  Most of the older cryonicists were heroes, and of course there were a couple of other heroes among us young folk, like a former employee of Methuselah who'd left to try to put together a startup/nonprofit around a bright idea he'd had for curing cancer (note: even I think this is an acceptable excuse).  But most of the younger cryonicists weren't there to fight a desperate battle against Death, they were people who'd signed up for cryonics because it was the obvious thing to do.

And it tears my heart out, because I am a hero and this was like seeing a ray of sunlight from a normal world, some alternate Everett branch of humanity where things really were normal instead of crazy all the goddamned time, a world that was everything this world could be and isn't.

Then there were the children, some of whom had been signed up for cryonics since the day they were born.

It tears my heart out.  I'm having trouble remembering to breathe as I write this.  My own little brother isn't breathing and never will again.

You know what?  I'm going to come out and say it.  I've been unsure about saying it, but after attending this event, and talking to the perfectly ordinary parents who signed their kids up for cryonics like the goddamn sane people do, I'm going to come out and say it:  If you don't sign up your kids for cryonics then you are a lousy parent.

If you aren't choosing between textbooks and food, then you can afford to sign up your kids for cryonics.  I don't know if it's more important than a home without lead paint, or omega-3 fish oil supplements while their brains are maturing, but it's certainly more important than you going to the movies or eating at nice restaurants.  That's part of the bargain you signed up for when you became a parent.  If you can afford kids at all, you can afford to sign up your kids for cryonics, and if you don't, you are a lousy parent.  I'm just back from an event where the normal parents signed their normal kids up for cryonics, and that is the way things are supposed to be and should be, and whatever excuses you're using or thinking of right now, I don't believe in them any more, you're just a lousy parent.

Comments (930)

Comment author: sbharris 21 January 2010 09:39:29AM *  26 points [-]

January 21, 2010

Eliezer Yudkowsky writes (in Normal Cryonics):

The part about actually signing up may also be key - that's probably a ten-to-one or worse filter among people who "get" cryonics. (I put to Bill Faloon of the old guard that probably twice as many people had died while planning to sign up for cryonics eventually, than had actually been suspended; and he said "Way more than that.") Actually signing up is an intense filter for Conscientiousness, since it's mildly tedious (requires multiple copies of papers signed and notarized with witnesses) and there's no peer pressure.<

Comment: there’s that, but if that was all it was, it wouldn’t be harder than doing your own income taxes by hand. A lot more people manage that, than do atheists who can afford it manage to sign up for cryonics.

So what’s the problem? A major one is what I might term the “creep factor.” Even if you have no fears of being alone in the future, or being experimented upon by denizens of the future, there’s still the problem that you have to think about your own physical mortality in a very concrete way. A way which requires choices, for hours and perhaps even days.

And they aren’t comforting choices, either, such as planning your own funeral. The conventional funeral is an event where you can imagine yourself in a comfortable nice casket, surrounded by people either eulogizing you, or kicking themselves because they weren’t nicer to you while you were alive. These thoughts may comfort those contemplating suicide, but they don’t comfort cryonicists.

No, you won’t be in any slumber-chamber. Instead they’ll cut your head off and it will push up bubbles, not daisies. At the very least they’ll fill your vessels with cold dehydrating solution and you’ll end up upside down and naked at 321 F. below zero, like some shriveled up old vampire.

Will you feel any of this? No. Is it any more gruesome than the alternatives of skeletonizing in a flame, or by slow decay? No. But the average person manages to mostly avoid thinking of the alternatives, and the funeral industry helps them do it. But there’s no avoiding thinking hard about this nitty-gritty physical death stuff, when you sign up for cryonics.

There’s even some primal primate fear involved, something like the fear of snakes. Except that cryonics taps into fears about being alone and alienated in the future, along with primal fears of decapitation (monkeys hate seeing monkey parts, particularly monkey heads). My illustration of the power of these memes is Washington Irving’s short stories: out of the very many he wrote, only two are now remembered, and yet, at the same time, remarkably almost everyone knows those two. They are Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. There’s a reason for this.

The psychological factors can surprise the most dyed-in-the-wool atheists who have experience with death. I myself came to cryonics as a physician, already having spent most of a year dissecting corpses, and later seeing much real-time dying. It didn’t completely fix the problem of my own physical mortality. When I came to actually signing up for cryonics, already having been convinced of it for some time, I felt significant psychological resistance, even so. There’s a difference between what you know intellectually and what your gut tells you. Cryonics is like skydiving in that regard.

At this point, it’s worth repeating two of my favorite cryonics stories (the intellectual world is composed of stories, as somebody said, in the same way the physical world is composed of atoms).

Story #1 involves the winner of the Omni magazine essay contest of Why I Want To Be Cryonically Suspended. The prize: a free sign-up to Alcor, no money needed. The young man who won with the best essay about why he wanted to do it, was duly offered the prize he’d eloquently convinced himself, and everyone else, that he wanted. And when it came down to doing it, he couldn’t make himself do it. Interesting.

Story #2 is about Frederik Pohl, atheist S.F. writer of a lot of good tales, including one of the better cryonics stories, The Age of the Pussyfoot. Thirty years ago Pohl was approached by a cryonics organization about signing up, on the basis of his novel and known beliefs. He gave the usual counter argument about the chance not being worth the expense. The return was an offer to cryopreserve him free, for the publicity. He was taken aback, and said he’d have to think about it. Later, after much prodding, he produced what he admitted (and hadn’t realized before) was the real reason: he couldn’t get past the creep factor. Pohl is still alive as of this writing (he’s 90), but he’ll eventually die and won’t be cryopreserved, even though his intellect tells him (and has long told him) that he should.

So, in summary, I’m happy that Eliezer spent some time in Florida socializing with happy yuppies who had already made it past the barrier to signing up for cryonics. But for those out in the world who haven’t actually done that yet--- signed and notarized--- there is one more test of mettle for the Hero, which even they may not realize yet awaits them. This is a test of the power of will over emotion, and it’s not for the faint of spirit. In some ways it’s like the scene from the Book of the Dead where the dead person’s heart is weighed, except that this is where the would-be cryonicist finds that his or her courage is being weighed. It’s like doing the long tax return while signing yourself up for organ donation or medical school dissection, or the like.

I wish them luck. I wonder if anybody asked people at the conference what their own experiences had been, in getting past the tests of the underworld, or the under-MIND, to gain that strange chance to be your own Osiris.

Steve Harris, M.D. Alcor member since 1987

Comment author: Blueberry 21 January 2010 11:36:05PM 6 points [-]

there’s still the problem that you have to think about your own physical mortality in a very concrete way. A way which requires choices, for hours and perhaps even days.

I'm baffled that this is the stumbling block for so many people. I can understand being worried about the cost/uncertainty trade-off, but I really don't understand why it's any less troublesome than buying life insurance, planning a funeral, picking a cemetery plot, writing a will, or planning for cremation. People make choices that involve contemplating their death all the time, and people make choices about unpleasant-sounding medical treatments all the time.

Is it not less gruesome than the alternatives of skeletonizing in a flame, or by slow decay? No. But the average person manages to mostly avoid thinking of the alternatives, and the funeral industry helps them do it.

Well, maybe more people would sign up if Alcor's process didn't involve as much thinking about the alternatives? I had thought that the process was just signing papers and arranging life insurance. But if Alcor's process is turning people away, maybe that needs to change.

Maybe I'm just deluding myself: I'm not in a financial position to sign up yet, and I plan on signing up when I am. But I can't see the "creep factor" being an issue for me at all. I have no idea what that would feel like.

Comment author: Technologos 22 January 2010 03:40:41PM 3 points [-]

buying life insurance

For what it's worth, I've heard people initially had many of the same hangups about life insurance, saying that they didn't want to gamble on death. The way that salespeople got around that was by emphasizing that the contracts would protect the family in event of the breadwinner's death, and thus making it less of a selfish thing.

I wonder if cryo needs a similar marketing parallel. "Don't you want to see your parents again?"

Comment author: Dustin 19 January 2010 07:59:22PM 16 points [-]

Well, crap. That's something I hadn't even thought of yet.

I'm currently struggling with actually signing up for cryonics myself so this angle hadn't even crossed my mind.

I'll face very strong opposition from my wife, family, and friends when I finally do sign up. I can't imagine what kind of opposition I'll face when I attempt to sign my 3-month old daughter up.

I've been planning a top-level post about the rational thing to do when you're in my position. What position you ask? You'll find out in my post. Suffice it to say for now that I don't think I'm a typical member of the LW community.

Comment author: MichaelGR 19 January 2010 10:03:01PM *  9 points [-]

I, for one, look forward to reading your post.

If Eliezer's post has motivated you, I encourage you to write it soon before that motivation fades.

Comment author: Dustin 20 January 2010 12:31:54AM 11 points [-]

Point taken. Writing commenced.

Comment author: Dustin 02 February 2010 08:56:28PM 3 points [-]

I'm still working on this post, but writing it has become more difficult than I anticipated.

Much of what I want to say is things that I would like to remain private for now.

When I say "private", I mean I don't mind them being connected with my LW user account, but I'd rather they weren't connected with my real life and since they're unique sort of things, and my real name is also my LW user name, I'm having difficulty with anonymizing the content of the post.

Comment author: CassandraR 20 January 2010 02:10:03PM 14 points [-]

To me cryonics causes a stark panic inducing terror that is only alittle less than death itself and I would never in a million years do it if I used my own judgment on the matter but I decided that Eliezer probably knows more than me on this subject and that I should trust his judgement above my own. So i am in the process of signing up now. Seems much less expensive than I imagined also.

This is at least one skill I have tried to cultivate until I grew more educated myself; the ability to export my judgement consciously to another person. Thinking for yourself is great to learn new things and practice thinking skills but since I am just starting out I am trying to build solid mindset so its kinda silly for me to think I can provide one to myself by myself without tons wasted effort when I could just use one of the good ones that are already available.

I would probably be more likely to try such a thing if I was younger but I am getting started abit late and need a leg up. Though I do guess the idea is abit risky but on an inituitve level it seems less risky than trusting my own judgement which is generally scared of everything. Yep.

Comment author: aausch 23 January 2010 04:52:03AM 3 points [-]

This is at least one skill I have tried to cultivate until I grew more educated myself; the ability to export my judgement consciously to another person. Thinking for yourself is great to learn new things and practice thinking skills but since I am just starting out I am trying to build solid mindset so its kinda silly for me to think I can provide one to myself by myself without tons wasted effort when I could just use one of the good ones that are already available.

I believe Eliezer has been assimilated.

Comment author: ciphergoth 07 February 2010 08:53:58PM *  13 points [-]

I've written a 2000 word blog article on my efforts to find the best anti-cryonics writing I can:

A survey of anti-cryonics writing

Edit: now a top level article

Comment author: orthonormal 07 February 2010 11:08:18PM 7 points [-]

An excellent post.

I have one issue, though. It may be poor form to alter your opening paragraph at this stage, Paul, but I'd appreciate it if you did. While it makes a very good 'hook' for those of us inclined to take cryonics seriously, it means that posting a link for other friends (as I'd otherwise do) will have the opposite effect than it should. (I am fairly sure that a person inclined to be suspicious of cryonics would read the first few lines only, departing in the knowledge that their suspicions were confirmed.)

An introduction that is at first glance equivocal would be a great improvement over one that is at first glance committed to the anti-cryonics viewpoint, for that reason.

Comment author: Kevin 07 February 2010 09:40:08PM 2 points [-]

Top-level post it

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 07 February 2010 11:16:10PM *  7 points [-]

Me too. This is not just about cryonics. It is not remotely just about cryonics. It is about the general quality of published argument that you can expect to find against a true contrarian idea, as opposed to a false contrarian idea.

Comment author: ciphergoth 20 January 2010 08:24:24PM 10 points [-]

Sorry if this is a tedious question. Just started the conversation with my family in a more serious way after looking up life insurance prices (think it's going OK so far), and there's something I wanted to ask so that I know the answer if they ask. Do you have shares in Alcor or CI, or any other interests to declare?

Thanks!

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 January 2010 06:31:28PM 11 points [-]

As far as I know, there's currently no one on Earth who gets paid when another cryonicist signs up, except Rudi Hoffman who sells the life insurance. I'll go ahead and state specifically that I have no shares in either of those nonprofits (nor does anyone, but they have paid employees) and I do not get paid a commission when anyone signs up (nor does anyone AFAIK except Rudi, and he's paid by the life insurance company).

Comment author: ciphergoth 22 January 2010 12:42:20PM 4 points [-]

BTW, thanks for the reference to Hoffman. Looking at Hoffman's page about life assurance for non-US people it looks like for me cryonics is much, much more expensive than your estimates - he quotes $1500-$3000 a year. Talking to my friends reveals no cheaper options in the UK and big legal problems. I definitely will not be able to afford this barring a big change in my circumstances :(

Comment author: pdf23ds 22 January 2010 01:56:43PM 4 points [-]

I would really like someone to expand upon this:

Understanding and complying with ownership and beneficiary requirements of cryonics vendors is often confusing to insurance companies, and most insurance companies will consequently not allow the protocols required by cryonics vendors. Understanding and complying with your cryonics organization requirements is confusing and often simply will not be done by most insurance companies.

Comment author: MichaelGR 22 January 2010 11:56:39PM *  3 points [-]

Don't let the prices on that page discourage your from doing independent research.

There might be life insurance providers in your areas that would have no problem naming Alcor or CI as the beneficiary and that could sell your enough life insurance to cover all costs for a lot less money than that.

edit: I've just had a look, and I could get a 10-year term insurance for $200,000 for about $200/year. Definitely doesn't have to be many thousands.

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 January 2010 08:11:25PM 2 points [-]

Magic, thanks! As it turns out, people's default assumption isn't that I've joined a cult, it's that this is my mid-life crisis. What I find very odd is that some of this is from people who knew me ten years ago!

Comment author: AngryParsley 21 January 2010 04:22:53AM *  3 points [-]

Alcor and CI are both 501(c)(3) nonprofits. From the IRS guide to applying for tax-exempt status:

A 501(c)(3) organization:

...

  • must ensure that its earnings do not inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual;

  • must not operate for the benefit of private interests such as those of its founder, the founder’s family, its shareholders or persons controlled by such interests;

The only people making money off this are the employees (all 15 of them between CI and Alcor) and the life insurance companies. The rest of us have to settle for a warm fuzzy feeling when people sign up.

ETA: Correction. CI is not a 501(c)(3), just a regular nonprofit. Thanks ciphergoth.

Comment author: byrnema 21 January 2010 04:33:01PM *  9 points [-]

Curiously -- not indignantly -- how should I interpret your statement that all but a handful of parents are "lousy"? Does this mean that your values are different from theirs? This might be what is usually meant when someone says someone is "lousy".

Your explicit argument seems to be that they're selfish if they're purchasing fleeting entertainment when they could invest that money in cryonics for their children. However, if they don't buy cryonics for themselves, either, it seems like cryonics is something they don't value, not that they're too selfish to buy it for their children.

Comment author: Unknowns 22 January 2010 03:26:11PM *  2 points [-]

Eliezer is criticizing parents who in principle think that cryonics is a good thing, but don't get it for their children, whether or not they get it for themselves.

My guess is that such parents are much more common than parents who buy it for themselves but not for their children, just because "thinking that cryonics is good in principle" is much more common than actually buying it for yourself.

Comment author: ata 19 January 2010 08:50:11PM *  7 points [-]

Just so I understand this part of your point, what do you mean by "hero" (as in "I am a hero" but also the previous paragraph where you talk about who is and isn't a hero)? Is that a reference to some earlier article I missed, maybe?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 January 2010 10:15:48PM 7 points [-]

You're not missing any context. I thought there was a pretty clear divide at the gathering between people living their ordinary lives as sound studio technicians or scientists or whatever; and people trying to change life as we know it, like me or the cancer-cure guy or the old guard who'd spent years trying to do something about the insane loss of life. I'm not sure how I could make it any clearer. Some were in class "heroes", some were in class "the ordinary lives that heroes protect".

Comment author: dclayh 19 January 2010 10:58:52PM 18 points [-]

Presumably some would reserve the word "hero" for those who actually succeed in changing life as we know it (for the better), and thus would be confused by your usage.

Comment author: Kevin 20 January 2010 12:46:51PM *  4 points [-]

I chose to interpret it as hero in the literary sense. There is something epic about Eliezer's life mission, no?

Let's just hope he isn't a tragic hero. You don't need to succeed at your mission to be a hero; you just need to be the protagonist in the story. It's all very absurd, but surely more so for Eliezer than you and me...

Comment author: ata 20 January 2010 12:04:37AM 3 points [-]

Yeah, maybe a better term to use in this context would be something like "revolutionary" (a bit aggrandizing, but so is "hero", and I'd say it's well-deserved). That would be for those who are actively trying, whether or not they have personally made any significant, lasting contributions — the heroes would be those who have.

(Not that we'd want this to turn into a status game, of course. The only point of debate here is whether clearer terminology could be used.)

Comment author: CronoDAS 20 January 2010 12:06:34AM 7 points [-]

"Aspiring hero" is good enough, I think.

Comment author: ata 20 January 2010 05:43:46AM *  2 points [-]

I could accept that. That's really the only point I was trying to make; that trying to do something noble, like curing cancer, is praiseworthy, but does not automatically make someone a hero. Lots of people try to cure cancer; most of them are well-intentioned kooks or quacks... and even of those who aren't, those who work on possible cancer cures within a rigourous scientific/rational framework, most of them will fail. As I said, they are worthy of praise and recognition for their efforts, but they are not automatically heroes. But I would be fine with calling them "aspiring heroes".

I'm trying to make sure I'm not arguing about definitions here, but I'm not sure if the disagreement is over the definition of the word "hero" or over what we value enough to consider heroic. I might be persuaded that even trying to cure cancer is a heroic act, but I'm not sure how we could avoid having that include the well-intentioned kooks too.

Edit: Actually, I think I just persuaded myself: the well-intentioned kooks tend to promote their kookery without sufficient evidence, possibly giving people false hope or even leading people to choose an ineffective treatment over one relatively likely to be effective. That is not heroic regardless of intent. I can accept that if a person is working on cancer treatments with rationality, scientific rigour, and intellectual honesty, then they can reasonably be described as heroic.

Comment author: Alicorn 19 January 2010 09:17:33PM 26 points [-]

I'm still trying to convince my friends.

It's still not working.

Maybe I'm doing it backwards. Who is already signed up and wants to be my friend?

Comment author: roland 19 January 2010 11:20:39PM *  3 points [-]

EDIT:

I found all the information I need here: http://www.cryonics.org/become.html

Comment author: scotherns 21 January 2010 01:47:13PM 2 points [-]

I find it rather odd that no one has answered the original question.

I'm signed up, and I'll be your friend.

Comment author: MichaelGR 20 January 2010 04:10:45AM *  2 points [-]

What's the difference between making friends now and making friends after you wake up? What's the difference between making a family now, and making a new family then? (here I'm referencing both this comment about finding new friends, and your comment in the other thread about starting a new family)

If a friendly singularity happens, I think it's likely that the desire of extroverts like you for companionship and close relationship will have been taken into account along the way and that forming these bonds will still be possible.

Of course right now I'd want to be with my current fiancé, and I'm planning to try to convince her to sign up for cryonics, but if I lost her, I'd still rather live and have to figure out another way to get companionship in the far future than to die.

Comment author: Alicorn 20 January 2010 04:14:41AM 2 points [-]

First of all, my friends aren't interchangeable. It's already a big step for me to be willing to make a presorted cryonics-friendly friend as a substitute for getting my entire existing cohort of companions on board, or even just one. Second of all, waiting until after revival introduces another chain of "ifs" - particularly dreadful ifs - into what's already a long, tenuous chain of ifs.

Comment author: MichaelGR 20 January 2010 04:33:21AM 2 points [-]

First of all, my friends aren't interchangeable.

Of course they aren't. I'm just saying that I'd prefer making new friends to death, and that despite the fact that I love my friends very much, there's nothing that says that they are the "best friends I can ever make" and that anybody else can only provide an inferior relationship.

Second of all, waiting until after revival introduces another chain of "ifs" - particularly dreadful ifs - into what's already a long, tenuous chain of ifs.

Once again, between the certitude of death and the possibility of life in a post-friendly-singularity world, I'll take the "ifs" even if it means doing hard things like re-building a social circle (not something easy for me).

I'm just having a really hard time imagining myself making the decision to die because I lost someone (or even everyone). In fact, I just lost my uncle (brain cancer), and I loved him dearly, he was like a second father to me. His death just made me feel even more strongly that I want to live.

But I suppose we could be at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to these kinds of things.

Comment author: Alicorn 20 January 2010 04:36:14AM 1 point [-]

I guess I'm just more dependent on ready access to deeply connected others than you? This sounds like a matter of preferences, not a matter of correctly turning those preferences into plans.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 21 January 2010 07:14:41AM 11 points [-]

If you need friends post suspension you can pay for my suspension (currently my budget goes to X-risk) and I will promise to spend a total of at least one subjective current human lifetime sincerely trying to be the best friend I can for you unless the revived get a total of less than 100 subjective human lifetimes of run-time in which case I will give you 1% of my total run-time instead. If that's not enough, you can also share your run-time with me. I will even grant you the right to modify my reward centers to directly make me like you in any copy running on run time you give me. This offer doesn't allow your volition to replace mine in any other respect if the issue is important.

Comment author: orthonormal 21 January 2010 07:26:32AM 9 points [-]

I'd bet karma at 4 to 1 odds that Alicorn finds this proposal deeply disturbing rather than helpful.

Comment author: wedrifid 21 January 2010 07:35:19AM 4 points [-]

You're on. Alicorn, would you be so kind as to arbitrate? We need you to evaluate which of these three categories Michael's offer fits in to:

  1. Deeply Disturbing
  2. Helpful
  3. Just 'somewhat' disturbing all the way through to indifference.

Would 'slightly amusing' count as helpful if it served to create slightly more confidence in the prospect of actively seeking out the friendship the potentially cryonically inclined?

Comment author: Alicorn 21 January 2010 02:11:02PM 5 points [-]

Yep, disturbing. "Deeply" might be pushing it a little. But a) I'll have to mess with my budget to afford one suspension, let alone two, and while I'd chip in for my sister if she'd let me, people I do not yet know and love are not extended the same disposition. b) There's presently no way to enforce such a promise. c) Even if there were, that kind of enforcement would itself be creepy, since my ethics would ordinarily oblige me to abide by any later change of mind. d) This arrangement does nothing to ensure that I will enjoy MichaelVassar's company; I'm sure he's a great person, but there are plenty of great people I just don't click with. e) I do not like the idea of friendships with built-in time quotas, I mean, ew.

Comment author: wedrifid 21 January 2010 02:16:52PM *  4 points [-]

Yep, disturbing. "Deeply" might be pushing it a little.

"Deeply" seemed unlikely given that 'deeply disturbing' would have to be reserved in case Michael had seriously offered his services as a mercenary to carry out a kidnapping, decapitation, and non-consensual vitrification.

I do not like the idea of friendships with built-in time quotas, I mean, ew.

But it is so efficient! Surely Robin has made a post advocating such arrangements somewhere. ;)

Comment author: AngryParsley 20 January 2010 01:13:19AM 1 point [-]

I'll say it again: It's much easier for you to sign up alone than it is to convince your friends to sign up with you.

Comment author: EphemeralNight 24 September 2011 08:45:55AM *  6 points [-]

Since learning, from Less Wrong, of Alcor and vitrification tech and such, I seriously considered cryonics for the first time in my life and really it was obvious. However slim, it is an actual chance to live beyond the meager handful of decades we get naturally, an actual chance to not die, and in the world as it is today, the only option. Even if the chance of it actually working as advertised (waking up after however long with a brand new perfectly healthy youthful nanotechnologically-grown immortal body) is vanishingly tiny, it is still the optimal action in today's world, is it not?

I should mention that (despite my efforts to hack it out of myself) I have a powerful neurotic phobia of medication, mind-altering substances, surgeries, and basically anything past or current technology can do to a human body that leaves traces, however beneficial. The idea of my still-active brain being pumped full of cryoprotectant upon my heart's last beat is more subjectively disturbing to me than eating flesh cut from my own body.

And I fully intend to sign up anyway.

(I'm currently living on a fixed income that has me occasionally going hungry in order to keep myself in air conditioning and internet, or I would have signed up already.)

The thing is, I want to convince my dad to sign himself up as well, and I think punctuating with this article, if presented in the proper context, could go a long way towards convincing him to sign us up all at once if I can just get passed his excessive skepticism. I'm not at all confident in my ability to sell him on it, though, so are there any good arguments to use when your primary obstacle is the other person's deep-seated irrational pride in their own skepticism? He could easily afford it, and he already lives in Arizona. I know he would totally go for it if I could just find a way to get passed his initial dismissal of it (a decade ago) as false hope for gullible cowards. I think he's been numbing himself to his mortality, and accepting the existence of a genuine hope against death would be difficult because it dispels the numbness. (This might even be why the majority of otherwise-sane people dismiss cryonics out of hand now that I think of it: for some, accepting a tenuous hope is more painful than having no hope at all.)

I'd appreciate any good advice on how to present my case to him, if anyone has any insights.

Comment author: lessdazed 24 September 2011 09:19:24PM *  2 points [-]

the chance of it actually working as advertised (waking up after however long with a brand new perfectly healthy youthful nanotechnologically-grown immortal body) is vanishingly tiny

Am I the only one who thinks it is far more likely that the institution will fail than that the technology is never developed or is never applied?

Corporations, nation-states - few things have lasted hundreds of years with their cores intact. Laws change, market prices of commodities change, wars happen. The United States is not immune.

Comment author: James_K 20 January 2010 05:38:26AM 6 points [-]

I have a cryonics related question, and this seems as good a thread as any to ask it.

I'm a New Zealander and most discussions of cryonics that I've been exposed to focus on the United States, or failing that Europe. If I have to have my head packed in ice and shipped to the US for preservation its going to degrade a fair bit before it gets there (best case scenario its a 12 hour flight, and that's just to LA, in practice time from death to preservation could be days). This is not a pleasant prospect for me, since it could lower the probability of successful revival by a large margin.

Since there are about 24 million people in Australia and New Zealand I'm sure I'm not the first person to realise this. Is anyone out there aware of any reputable cryonics organisations that are a bit closer to home? Alternatively, can anyone point me to sources that contradict my belief that the distance my head would have to travel would make cryonics a poor bet?

Comment author: AndrewH 20 January 2010 09:06:18AM 6 points [-]

I am also a New Zealander, AND I am signed up with Cryonics Institute. You might be interested in contacting the Cryonics Association of Australasia but I'm sure there is no actual suspension and storage nearby.

Besides you are missing the main point, if you don't sign up now and you die tomorrow, you are annihilated - no questions asked. I would be wary of this question as it can be an excuse to not sign up.

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 20 January 2010 05:57:23AM 4 points [-]

There has been talk of a cryosuspension facility in Australia. But flying the body to North America is the only way it's been done so far.

Comment author: magfrump 20 January 2010 04:56:58AM *  6 points [-]

I was raised to consider organ donation to be the moral thing to do on my death.

I am less skeptical than average of cryonics, and nervous about "neuro" options since I'd prefer to be revived earlier and with a body. On the other hand, it still seems to me that organ donation is the more effective option for more-people-being-alive-and-happy, even if it's not me.

Am I stuck with the "neuro" option for myself? How should that translate to my children?

What do most people on LW think about organ donation?

ETA: the Cryonics Institute (the only page I've seen linked here) doesn't have that option, so am I stuck paying much more? Informative links would be appreciated.

Comment author: D_Alex 20 January 2010 08:55:34AM 4 points [-]

The "best" organ donors are young people who suffered a massive head trauma, typically in a motor vehicle accident... If you die in a situation where cryopreservation can proceed, you will probably be too old or too diseased for your organs to be of use. So perhaps the two options are not exclusive after all.

Comment author: James_Miller 20 January 2010 05:29:17AM 4 points [-]

To make up for not being an organ donor cut back on some area of personal consumption and donate the money to a charity. Since the probability of someone actually getting your organs if you agreed to be an organ donor are, I think, very low you wouldn't have to give that much to a charity for you do be doing more social good through the charitable contribution than you would have as a potential organ donor.

Comment author: magfrump 20 January 2010 06:26:36AM 2 points [-]

So does the lack of discussion of organ donation stem from its perceived lack of efficacy? If so why discuss cryonics so heavily, when it costs money? I remember Robin Hanson assigning it around a 5% chance of success (for his personal setup, not cryonics eventually working at all which I assume would be much higher), and I would naively assume that I have a greater than 5% chance of my organs helping someone (any statistics on this?).

I agree that donating to charity is likely to be more effective, but it is also likely to be more effective than cryonics (as discussed elsewhere) and donating organs doesn't actually take away from my charity funds.

I don't mean to speak to making agreements for children, I think that stands as the right thing to do.

Comment author: James_Miller 20 January 2010 05:24:00PM 4 points [-]

You don't have a fixed amount of charity funds, you have the amount you choose to give.

Fly to a really poor country. Seek out a very poor family that has lots of kids. Give this family $1,000, which could easily be five years income for this family. On average you will have done much more good than if you spent this $1,000 on yourself and signed up to be an organ donor. Make sure this $1,000 does not reduce your other charitable giving.

If you had cancer would you forgo treatment because the out-of-pocket amount you would have to pay for the treatment would have been better spent helping others?

Comment author: byrnema 22 January 2010 07:06:44PM *  4 points [-]

This is not a rational answer to the question of whether it is more ethical to sign up for cryonics or donate organs, it is a rationalization. If magfrump decides it is more ethical to sign up for cryonics than donate his organs, he must decide this based on the ethics of those two choices. Someone might rationalize that it's OK to be less ethical 'over here' if they're more ethical 'over there', but it still doesn't change the ethics of those two choices.

The exception is if the ethics 'over here' and the ethics 'over there' are inter-dependent. So donating money to a family in a poor country would be ethically relevant if one choice facilitates donating to the family and one does not. Here, we have the exact opposite of what was suggested: magrump can use the money he saves from not signing up for cryonics to help the family, and so he can consider this an argument in favor of the ethicality of not signing up for cryonics.

(But, magfrump, I would add that we also have an ethical obligation to value our own lives. The symmetry in ethics-space can usually be found. Here, I can identify it in the hypothetical space where cryonics works: the person who needs an organ can also be cryonically suspended, perhaps until an organ is available. Then you both could live. In the space where cryonics doesn't work, organ donation is more ethical, since at least one of you can live.)

Comment author: ciphergoth 25 January 2010 11:44:33PM *  5 points [-]

I'm trying to avoid confirmation bias on this one, and I'm asking everywhere I can for links to the best anti-cryonics writing online. Thanks!

Comment author: ShannonVyff 21 January 2010 01:09:25PM 11 points [-]

Eliezer--don't know how many people reading this had the same response I did, but you tore my heart out.

As Nick Bostrom Ph.D. Director of the Oxford Future of Humanity institute, Co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association said about my book "21st Century Kids" "Childhood should be fun and so should the future. Read this to your children, and next you know they'll demand a cryonics contract for Christmas."

You know, I do what I can to educate others to the fact that cryonics is possible, and thus there is the common sense obligation to try. For me it is a noble endeavor that humans are attempting, I'm proud to help that effort. If you do a search on "teaching kids cryonics" you'll get: http://www.depressedmetabolism.com/2008/07/04/teaching-children-about-cryonics/ from a few years ago. I still do classes when I can, I've been talking to my children's friends and parents here in the UK after moving from Austin this past summer. The reception I get over here from parents and kids is generally the same as what I heard in the States--people express interest, but never really go through the effort of signing up.

I will be writing more, in the mean time I love hearing from fans of http://www.amazon.com/21st-Century-Kids-Shannon-Vyff/dp/1886057001 It was a thrill to get pictures and feedback from kids who got the book this Christmas and loved it!

Thank you for writing about the Teens & Twenties conference Eliezer, I sincerely look forward to further analysis from you. I'll be attending with my teens in the future, my 13 year old daughter actually had wanted to go this year but we were not able to work it in. She'll be more mature, and my son will be a teen by the time the next event occurs. It is great to have the heroes who have devoted their lives to cryoncis, meet the "normal folk" who sign up--and for the kids to make friends with other cryonicists.

I'm sorry about your brother Eliezier, your writing tore my heart out. I agree that parents should sign their kids up, my own were raised with it and plan on "talking their spouse" into doing it (that will be interesting ;-) ). I've seen other older cryonicists who have raised their kids with cryonics, and the kids kept up the arrangements. I've also seen it go the other way. We need more books written for kids :-)

Thanks for all you do.

Comment author: Halfwit 06 January 2013 07:01:23PM 4 points [-]
Comment author: gwern 06 January 2013 07:51:56PM 2 points [-]

Very positive too. Hard to ask for more favorable coverage than that.

Comment author: CronoDAS 20 January 2010 03:55:13AM 4 points [-]

For the record, does anyone have a good website I can link my father to containing a reasonably persuasive case for signing up for cryonics? He's a smart guy and skilled at Traditional Rationality; I think he can be persuaded to sign up, but I don't know if I can persuade him. (When I told him the actual price of cryonics, his response was something like "Sure, you can preserve someone for that amount, but revival, once it exists, would probably cost the equivalent of millions of dollars, and who would pay for that?")

Comment author: Morendil 20 January 2010 06:35:22PM *  5 points [-]

The technology to revive suspendees will likely cost billions to develop, but who cares about development costs? What matters is the cost per procedure, and we already have "magical" technologies which carry only a reasonable cost per use, for instance MRI scanning.

The Future of Humanity Institute has a technological roadmap for Whole Brain Emulation which tantalizingly mentions MRI as a technology which already has close to the required resolution to scan brains at a resolution suitable for emulation.

Freezing is itself a primitive technology, it's only the small scale at which it is currently implemented which keeps the costs high. You don't need to look very far to see how cheap advanced-to-the-point-of-magical technology can get, given economies of scale; it's sitting on your desk, or in your pocket.

If it is feasible at all, and if it is ever done at scale, it will be cheap. This last could be a very big if: current levels of adoption are not encouraging. However, you can expect that as soon as the technical feasibility is proven many more people are going to develop an interest in cryonics.

Even assuming no singularity and no nanotech, a relatively modest extrapolation from current technology would be enough get us to "uploads" from frozen brains. Of course, reaching the tech level is only half the story - you'd still have to prove that in practice the emulated brains are "the same people". Our understanding of how the brain implements consciousness might be flawed, perhaps Penrose turns out to be right after all, etc.

Comment author: CronoDAS 21 January 2010 06:17:19AM 2 points [-]

Yeah, Penrose's position that the human brain is a hypercomputer isn't really supported by known physics, but there's still enough unknown and poorly understood physics that it can't be ruled out. His "proof" that human brains are hypercomputers based on applying Godel's incompleteness theorem to human mathematical reasoning, however, missed the obvious loophole: Godel's theorem only applies to consistent systems, and human reasoning is anything but consistent!

Comment author: pdf23ds 21 January 2010 07:59:45AM 1 point [-]

His "proof" that human brains are hypercomputers based on applying Godel's incompleteness theorem to human mathematical reasoning, however, missed the obvious loophole: Godel's theorem only applies to consistent systems, and human reasoning is anything but consistent!

I thought the obvious loophole was that brains aren't formal systems.

Comment author: ciphergoth 20 January 2010 06:52:13AM 4 points [-]

Revival when first developed will probably cost the equivalent of hundreds of millions. You won't be revived until the cost is much lower; if progress continues and UFAI is avoided, I can't see how that can fail to happen.

Comment author: Eneasz 20 January 2010 06:00:32PM *  3 points [-]

Try You Only Live Twice ( http://lesswrong.com/lw/wq/you_only_live_twice/ ) perhaps?

Comment author: TheNerd 20 January 2010 05:37:41PM 19 points [-]

"If you don't sign up your kids for cryonics then you are a lousy parent. If you aren't choosing between textbooks and food, then you can afford to sign up your kids for cryonics."

This is flat-out classism. The fact is, the only reason I'm not choosing between textbooks or food is that the US government has deemed me poor enough to qualify for government grant money for my higher education. And even that doesn't leave me with enough money to afford a nice place to live AND a car with functioning turn signals AND quality day-care for my child while I'm at work AND health insurance for myself.

Shaming parents into considering cryonics is a low blow indeed. Instead of sneering at those of us who cannot be supermom/dad, why not spend your time preparing a persuasive case for the scientific community to push for a government-sponsored cryonics program? Otherwise the future will be full of those lucky enough to be born into privileged society: the Caucasian, white-collar, English-speaking segment of the population, and little else. What a bland vision for humanity.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 January 2010 07:47:25PM 10 points [-]

Response voted up in the hopes that it shames comfortable middle-class parents into signing up their kids for cryonics. Which will, if enough people do it, make cryonics cheaper even if there is no government program. Or eventually get a private charity started to help make it affordable, which is far more likely than a government program, though still unlikely.

Comment author: LucasSloan 20 January 2010 07:08:03PM *  0 points [-]

Then why did you have a kid? The consequences of an action are the same regardless of the circumstances in which it occurred. If you knew that you couldn't afford to prevent your child's death why did you have one at all? It isn't classist at all to say "don't live beyond your means." Is it acceptable for the father in the ghetto to beat his child to death, because he's too poor to afford a psychologist? Is it acceptable for a single parent to drive drunk with their child because they're too poor to afford a baby sitter or a cab fare when they want to drink? Eliezer said that he doesn't have children consciously so as not to expose them to the enormous risk and endemic suffering that life today means.

And to your last paragraph, there are better things to spend time, money and energy doing, especially given the absolute impossibility of convincing even 26% of the population to go for it.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 20 January 2010 07:26:36PM *  20 points [-]

If you knew that you couldn't afford to prevent your child's death why did you have one at all?

Considering that all parents so far have had children in the knowledge that they can't prevent the kid's eventual death, this question feels kinda absurd.

Most people would say that they prefer being alive regardless of the fact that they might one day die. Having a child who'll die is, arguably, better than having no child at all.

Comment author: TheNerd 20 January 2010 07:36:16PM 15 points [-]

"Then why did you have a kid? If you knew that you couldn't afford to prevent your child's death why did you have one at all?"

Who said I knew that? When I was pregnant, I had a job which seemed to be secure at the time. Then the recession happened.

Also, what do you have to say to the 88% of the world's population who make less per year than I do?

Comment author: LucasSloan 21 January 2010 01:04:55AM *  -2 points [-]

What do I say to that 88%? They are setting up their offspring for near-certain death, and they are ignorant of the fact. I can call them negligent. I can partially excuse them for circumstances. Regardless, they are endangering the lives of children. It is truly unfortunate, and the only response is to work harder.

Comment author: isacki 25 January 2010 06:32:23AM 1 point [-]

Is your position a kind of unfunny joke, like you were put up to say this? It is only because I am open enough to the possibility that this is actually your opinion that I feel forced to bother with a rebuttal.

It is unreasonable in the extreme, given current knowledge about cryonics, to force your own beliefs of what every child that is born in the world should have, almost as unreasonable as your comparisons above: "Is it acceptable for the father in the ghetto to beat his child to death, because he's too poor to afford a psychologist?" Why? Because it is yet not even remotely a proven technique, and explicitly acknowledges so in the hope of a smarter future, you are not to go about slinging moral outrage based on the presupposition that it is. For the average person, there are a million things they could spend the money on for a kid, and you bet that the certainty of them seeing a return on 99% of them are better.

To suggest people having kids are "endangering the lives of children" is so ironic that humour seems the only explanation to me. In addition to the fact that everyone, regardless of cryonics, will have to die, you appear to have myopically discounted the entire value of a life once lived.

I am not discounting cryonics being theoretically possible. I am saying that it remains exactly that, unproven, and until it is you can implore people to try it, but you are ridiculous to -demand- that they do.

Comment author: LucasSloan 25 January 2010 10:41:31PM *  2 points [-]

I believe that the acts of creation and destruction are not equivalent. Creating a life in the instant you murder does not absolve you of the latter. I do not believe that it is okay to eat meat, because you are allowing an animal to live, if only for a short while. Does that make sense? Maybe it is necessary to have children, and certainly I cannot prevent children from being born, but that does not mean that I have to like the fact that children are being born into intolerable situations, where they can never rise to the level of achievement, fulfillment and happiness I think all humans should. I was not joking when I said that, but I was comparing this world to a nowhere-place (utopia). Does that clarify my position?

Comment author: Kutta 19 January 2010 08:47:29PM 7 points [-]

OP upvoted for displaying emotions that fit the facts.

Comment author: Christian_Szegedy 21 January 2010 11:13:24PM 3 points [-]

Can anyone post a comparison of the services, (and other pros and cons) between Alcor and CI?

What are the arguments for either? Paying something like 2X price for a similar looking service implies that there should be a difference in the quality of service, perhaps the quality of the cryopreservation procedure. Maybe the most important one is the financial health of the company: the probability that they manage to exist long enough.

Comment author: taw 20 January 2010 07:01:26AM *  9 points [-]

in exchange for an extra $300 per year.

I'm inclined to believe this number is a lie, as I refuse to believe you are stupid enough to make mistakes of this order of magnitude.

The claimed $180/year (claimed $300 figure minus membership costs) * 50 or so more years people will live only gives $9k. Safe investment gives you barely enough to keep up with inflation, so you cannot use exponential growth argument.

Real costs are around $100k-$200k reference.

Real life insurance costs increase drastically as you age, and as your chance of death increases. Surely you must know that. If you paid the same amount of money each year, you'd need to pay $2k-$5k depending on your cryonics provider and insurance company overhead.

What will very likely happen is people paying for life insurance, then finding out at age of 70 that their life insurance costs increase so much that they cannot afford it any more, and so they won't see any cryonics even though they paid big money all their lives for it. (Not that chances of cryonics working are significant enough for it to make much difference).

Comment author: bgrah449 20 January 2010 08:27:15AM 10 points [-]

taw, real life insurance costs increase drastically as you age, but only if you are beginning the policy. They don't readjust the rates on a life insurance policy every year; that's just buying a series of one-year term-life policies.

I.e., if I buy whole-life insurance coverage at 25, my rate gets locked in. My monthly/annual premium does not increase as I age due to the risk of dying increasing.

Comment author: Morendil 20 January 2010 08:39:38AM 5 points [-]

"Funded by life insurance" strikes me as an oversimplified summary of a strategy that must necessarily be more sophisticated. Plus "life insurance" actually means several different things, only some of which actually insure you against loss of life.

I'm still trying to find out more, but it seems the most effective plan would be a "term" life insurance (costs about $30 a month for 20 years at my age, 40ish and healthy), which lasts a limited duration, isn't an investment, but does pay out a large sum to designated beneficiaries in the event of death. (I haven't done the math on inflation yet.) You would combine that with actual long-term investments earmarked for funding the actual costs of the procedure if you need it after 20 years. These investments may be "life insurance" of the usual kind, or stocks, or whatever.

Doing that mitigates the scenario I'm really worried about: learning in 2 to 10 years that in spite of being (relatively) young, healthy and wealthy I have a fatal disease (cancer, Lou Gehrig, whatever) and having to choose between my family's stability and dying for ever. Cryonics as insurance against feeling dreadfully stupid.

In twenty years I expect I will have obtained more information, and gotten richer, and might make different choices.

I'm interested enough in cryo that I'm actually trying to get actual quotes, as opposed to merely speculating; I have gotten in touch with Rudi Hoffman who was recommended earlier on LW. My situation - non-US resident - might mean that whatever results I get are not really representative, but I'm willing to report back here with whatever info I get.

Comment author: ciphergoth 20 January 2010 08:03:51AM 2 points [-]

"Lie" is much too strong a term, but I get the same result when I multiply 180 by 50, and I'm curious to understand the discrepancy.

Comment author: Dustin 20 January 2010 08:17:36PM *  3 points [-]

My current life insurance policy is what is called "term life insurance". It is good for a term of 20 years.

The payout if I die within those 20 years is $500,000.

My monthly premium is $40 for that whole 20 years.

You can get an instant online quote here. You don't have to put in real name and email address.

Comment author: taw 21 January 2010 07:03:44AM 2 points [-]

Even assuming best health class - something which won't happen as you age.

  • Age 27, quotes: 250-600
  • Age 47, quotes: 720-1970
  • Age 67, quotes: 6550-13890
  • Age 77: nobody willing to provide insurance

In other words, this is exactly what I was talking about - it's a big fat lie to pretend your premium won't change as you age.

Comment author: Dustin 21 January 2010 07:42:00PM *  3 points [-]

I'm 32. I fit in the "Preferred" health group. 30 year term life insurance with a 100k payout is 168/year as per the quotes page I provided above.

As AngryParsley mentions, if you purchase term life insurance you're planing on having savings to cover your needs after your policy expires. This is my plan.

However, I suppose in say 15 years, I could purchase another 30 year/100k term insurance policy. Let's say I slip a category to "Standard Plus".

My premium will be 550/year. That of course assumes I didn't save anything during those 15 years (not to mention the remaining 15 years in the original policy) and need a 100k policy.

Comment author: AngryParsley 21 January 2010 07:07:53AM 4 points [-]

Term life insurance is not the only type available. Most people who get term life insurance plan on having enough money saved up by the time the term runs out. Whole life insurance has no change in premium for the entire lifetime of the insured.

Comment author: CronoDAS 19 January 2010 09:36:36PM *  11 points [-]

I see a disturbing surface similarity.

"If you don't teach your children the One True Religion, you're a lousy parent."

My own excuse for not signing up for cryonics is not that I don't think it will work, it's that I don't particularly value my own existence. I'm much more concerned about the effects of my death on other people than its effects on me; I've resolved not to die before my parents do, because I don't want them to suffer the grief my death would cause.

Incidentally, is it possible to sign someone else up for cryonics, if they don't object?

Comment author: wedrifid 20 January 2010 01:40:27AM 9 points [-]

I see a disturbing surface similarity.

"If you don't teach your children the One True Religion, you're a lousy parent."

It's good reasoning (from respective premises) in both cases. It is believing that the One Religion is True that is stupid. We have further negative associations with that kind of statement because we expect most 'stable' religious people to compartmentalise their beliefs such that the stupidity doesn't leak out into their actual judgements.

Comment author: alyssavance 19 January 2010 10:04:52PM 23 points [-]

"If you don't teach your children the One True Religion, you're a lousy parent."

Given that the One True Religion is actually correct, wouldn't you, in fact, be a lousy parent if you did not teach it? Someone who claims to be a Christian and yet doesn't teach their kids about Christianity is, under their incorrect belief system, condemning them to an eternity of torture, which surely qualifies as being a lousy parent in my book.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 19 January 2010 10:59:24PM 9 points [-]

IAWYC, but to nitpick, not all Christians believe in an eternity of torture for nonbelievers. Though of course the conclusion follows for any belief in a substantially better afterlife for believers.

(I feel like this is important to point out, to avoid demonizing an outgroup, but don't trust that feeling very much. What do others think?)

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 20 January 2010 10:36:00AM 2 points [-]

Also, there are some Christian denominations which think that nonbelievers simply die and don't get revived after the world has ended, unlike the believers who are.

IIRC some also put more weight on doing good works during your life than whether you are actually a believer or not.

Comment author: MichaelGR 19 January 2010 10:08:38PM *  4 points [-]

My own excuse for not signing up for cryonics is not that I don't think it will work, it's that I don't particularly value my own existence.

Could you elaborate on this?

If you are depressed, or not enjoying life, or not satisfied with who you are for some reason or other, have you considered that if we get to a future where technology is vastly more advanced than it is now, that there might be ways to fix that and at least bring you to the level of "life enjoyment" that others who want to sign up for cryonics have (if not much more than that since we are currently very limited)?

Because of that possibility, maybe it would make sense to sign up, and if you get to the "other side" and realize that you still don't value your existence and there's no way to change that, then commit suicide.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 20 January 2010 10:48:35AM *  8 points [-]

Personally, I have a mild preference towards being alive rather than dead, but it's not strong enough to motivate me to look at cryonics options. (Especially since their availability in Europe is rather bad.) This is partially motivated by the fact that I consider continuity of consciousness to be an illusion in any case - yes, there might be a person tomorrow who remembers thinking the thoughts of me today, but that's a different person from the one typing these words now.

Of course, I'm evolutionarily hardwired to succumb to that illusion in some degree. Postulating a period of cryonic suspension after which I'm rebuilt, however, feels enough like being effectively killed and then reborn that it breaks the illusion. Also, that illusion is mostly something that operates in 'near' mode. Evoking the far, post-revival future gets me into 'far' mode, where I'm much less inclined to attach particular value for the survival of this particular being.

Finally, there's also the fact that I consider our chances of actually building FAI and not getting destroyed by UFAI to be rather vanishingly small.

Comment author: Dustin 27 January 2010 02:16:41AM 3 points [-]

This is partially motivated by the fact that I consider continuity of consciousness to be an illusion in any case - yes, there might be a person tomorrow who remembers thinking the thoughts of me today, but that's a different person from the one typing these words now.

Interesting. That thought process is how I made a case for cryonics to a friend recently. Their objection was that they didn't think it would be them, and I countered with the fact that the you of tomorrow isn't really the same as the you of today...and yet you still want to live till tomorrow.

Comment author: CronoDAS 19 January 2010 10:25:20PM *  7 points [-]

I don't know if I can be "fixed" without changing me to the point where I'm effectively somebody else. And that's not much different than someone in the future simply having a baby and raising it to be a better person than I am. Furthermore, if the future has to choose between resurrecting me and somebody raising a child from scratch, I prefer that somebody raise a child; I'd rather the future have someone better than "me" instead of someone that I would recognize as "me".

(Additionally, the argument you just made is also an argument for getting frozen right now instead of having to wait until you die a natural death before you get to be revived in a better future. "If the afterlife is so great, why not kill yourself and get there right now?")

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 20 January 2010 01:18:50AM *  2 points [-]

The future will have this choice (not to revive you), and will make it against you if this turns out to be a better option, but if you don't make it to the future, you won't give it the chance of doing this particular thing (your revival) in case it turns out to be a good thing.

Again, you can't be certain of what your preference actually says in the not-clear-cut cases like this, you can't know for sure that you prefer some child to be raised in place of yourself, and for this particular question it seems to be a false dilemma, since it's likely that there will be no resource limitation of this kind, only moral optimization.

Comment author: MichaelGR 19 January 2010 10:46:02PM 2 points [-]

I don't know if I can be "fixed" without changing me to the point where I'm effectively somebody else.

I don't want to get into a whole other discussion here, but I think people change a lot throughout their lives - I know I sure did - and I'm not sure if this would be such a problem. Maybe it would be, but comparing the certainty of death to that potential problem, I know I'd take the risk.

Furthermore, if the future has to choose between resurrecting me and somebody raising a child from scratch, I prefer that somebody raise a child; I'd rather the future have someone better than "me" instead of someone that I would recognize as "me".

The cost of another individual might be so low in the future that there might not be a choice between you and someone else.

(Additionally, the argument you just made is also an argument for getting frozen right now instead of having to wait until you die a natural death before you get to be revived in a better future. "If the afterlife is so great, why not kill yourself and get there right now?")

For someone who doesn't want to live at all right now and would commit suicide anyway, then yes, I'd recommend getting cryo'ed instead.

But for someone who enjoys life, then no, I wouldn't recommend it because it might not work (though having that possibility is still better than the certainty of annihilation).

Life > Cryo uncertainty > Death

Comment author: dclayh 19 January 2010 11:04:16PM 4 points [-]

This leads directly into the morbid subject of "What is the optimal way to kill oneself, for purposes of cryo?"

Comment author: MichaelGR 20 January 2010 12:14:20AM *  4 points [-]

I've actually been thinking about something similar;

What if I find out I have an incurable degenerative brain disease. At which point would I decide to get vitrified to improve my chances of being successfully revived by keeping my brain in better condition at the time of my death?

Now that's a tough decision to make...

Comment author: AngryParsley 20 January 2010 01:01:37AM 4 points [-]

If you live in the US, make sure you have had life insurance for at least two years. Then move to Oregon or Washington.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 January 2010 06:26:58PM 3 points [-]

Suicide is automatic grounds for autopsy; if this is not true in the assisted-suicide states, I haven't heard about it.

Comment author: AngryParsley 21 January 2010 06:44:48PM 7 points [-]

Technically, neither state considers it suicide. I don't know if that rules out autopsy in practice though.

From the Oregon Death with Dignity Act:

Nothing in ORS 127.800 to 127.897 shall be construed to authorize a physician or any other person to end a patient's life by lethal injection, mercy killing or active euthanasia. Actions taken in accordance with ORS 127.800 to 127.897 shall not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing or homicide, under the law. [1995 c.3 s.3.14]

From Washington Initiative 1000:

Nothing in this chapter authorizes a physician or any other person to end a patient’ s life by lethal injection, mercy killing, or active euthanasia. Actions taken in accordance with this chapter do not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing, or homicide, under the law. State reports shall not refer to practice under this chapter as “suicide” or “assisted suicide.” Consistent with sections 1 (7), (11), and (12), 2(1), 4(1)(k), 6, 7, 9, 12 (1) and (2), 16 (1) and (2), 17, 19(1) (a) and (d), and 20(2) of this act, state reports shall refer to practice under this chapter as obtaining and self-administering life-ending medication.

Comment author: CronoDAS 19 January 2010 11:26:19PM *  6 points [-]

Could you elaborate on this?

Most of my desires seem to take the form "I don't want to do/experience X". Those desires of the form "I want to do/experience X" seem to be much weaker. Being dead means that I will have no experiences, and will therefore never have an experience I don't want, at the cost of never being able to have an experience I do want. Because I want to avoid bad experiences much more than I want to have good experiences, being dead doesn't seem like all that bad a deal.

I'm also incredibly lazy. I hate doing things that seem like they take work or effort. If I'm dead, I'll never have to do anything at all, ever again, and that has a kind of perverse appeal to it.

Comment author: Dustin 20 January 2010 01:01:23AM 4 points [-]

I just wanted to note that your post seems completely alien to me.

Comment author: Bongo 20 January 2010 05:24:17PM 2 points [-]

Not to me.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 20 January 2010 01:40:26AM *  2 points [-]

Because I want to avoid bad experiences much more than I want to have good experiences, being dead doesn't seem like all that bad a deal.

This rejection doesn't work: if the world of the future changes so that bad experiences don't happen, and good experiences are better, it's in your interest to see it. Furthermore, do you prefer your current disposition, or you'd rather it'd change?

Comment author: CryoMan 23 June 2011 05:36:52AM 5 points [-]

I am applauding this article. You have moved me. I am A-2561 neuro and I'm proud to be a member of Alcor. I am 16 years old. I got into the field myself when I watched Dr. De Grey's documentary Do You Want To Live Forever. I am unbelievably lucky. The average American has a better chance of being an A-list celebrity than being a cryonicist. As Mike Perry said; Cryonicists are born, not made. When I watched it, something just clicked and I decided to devote my life to it. A lousy parent also doesn't get memberships for the pets of their children. Cupcake and Snugglemuffins have memberships because I begged my parents to get it for them. No child should see their dog rot in the ground followed by the 'Heaven' story that we've had shoved at us for thousands of years.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 21 July 2011 04:15:18PM 3 points [-]

I want to downvote you for naming a pet "snugglemuffins", but that would probably be an abuse of the system. :-)

Comment author: Kevin 21 January 2010 09:52:41PM *  5 points [-]

Are they going to keep having this conference? $300 a year seems like an outright bargain if I get a free trip to Florida every year out of it.

Comment author: LauraABJ 20 January 2010 03:56:41PM 5 points [-]

A question for Eliezer and anyone else with an opinion: what is your probability estimate of cryonics working? Why? An actual number is important, since otherwise cryonics is an instance of pascal's mugging. "Well, it's infinitely more than zero and you can multiply it by infinity if it does work" doesn't cut it for me. Since I place the probability of a positive singularity diminishingly small (p<0.0001), I don't see a point in wasting the money I could be enjoying now on lottery tickets or spending the social capital and energy on something that will make me seem insane.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 January 2010 04:19:35PM 9 points [-]

My estimate of the core technology working would be "it simply looks like it should work", which in terms of calibration should probably go to 90% or 80% or something like that.

Estimates of cryonics organizations staying alive are outside the range of my comparative advantage in predictions, but I'll note that I tend to think in terms of them staying around for 30 years, not 300 years.

The weakest link in the chain is humankind's overall probability of surviving. This is generally something I've refused to put a number on, with the excuse that I don't know how to estimate the probability of doing the "impossible" - though for those who insist on using silly reference classes, I should note that my success rate on the AI-Box Experiment is 60%. (It's at least possible, though, that once you're frozen, you would have no way of noticing all the Everett branches where you died - there wouldn't be anyone who experienced that death.)

Comment author: loqi 20 January 2010 06:45:56PM 7 points [-]

It's at least possible, though, that once you're frozen, you would have no way of noticing all the Everett branches where you died - there wouldn't be anyone who experienced that death.

Ha, Cryonics as an outcome lens for quantum immortality? I find that surprisingly intuitive.

Comment author: MichaelGR 26 January 2010 08:51:20PM 2 points [-]

Here's an audio interview from 5 days ago with Ben Best, the president of the Cryonics Institute:

http://itsrainmakingtime.com/2010/cryonics/

Comment author: MichaelGR 22 January 2010 11:52:52PM 2 points [-]

I have found this article which is about the same event (they even mention Eliezer as "an authority in the field of artificial intelligence"):

http://www.immortalhumans.com/what-type-of-personality-thinks-immortality-is-possible/

Comment author: AngryParsley 20 January 2010 12:55:29AM 2 points [-]

Was this the get-together in Florida from the 8th to the 10th? I decided not to go since I assumed everyone would be from the atheist/libertarian/male/nerd/singularity/etc group. I'm glad to see I was wrong.

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 19 January 2010 10:22:49PM 5 points [-]

My estimate of the probabilities involved in calculating the payoff from cryonics differs from your estimates. I do not think it follows that I am a bad parent.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 January 2010 10:38:43PM 3 points [-]

Suppose your child dies. Afterward, everyone alive at the time of a Friendly intelligence explosion plus the tiny handful signed up for cryonics, live happily ever after. Would you say in retrospect that you'd been a bad parent, or would you plead that, in retrospect, you made the best possible decision given the information that you had?

After all, your child could die in a car crash on a shopping trip, and yet taking them along on that shopping trip could still have been the best possible choice given the statistical information that you had. Is that the plea you would make in the above event? What probabilities do you assign?

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 19 January 2010 10:55:36PM *  13 points [-]

Would you say in retrospect that you'd been a bad parent, or would you plead that, in retrospect, you made the best possible decision given the information that you had?

I reject your framing. I would say that I had made a bad mistake. Errors do not a bad parent make. Or, to put it another way, suppose you woke up in the Christian Hell; would you plead that you had made the best decision on the available information? Scary what-ifs are no argument. You cannot make me reconsider a probability assignment by pointing out the bad consequences if my assessment is wrong; you can only do so by adding information. I understand that you believe you're trying to save my life, but please be aware that turning to the Dark Side to do so is not likely to impress me; if you need the power of the Dark Side, how good can your argument be, anyway?

What probabilities do you assign?

The brain's functioning depends on electric and chemical potentials internal to the cells as well as connections between the cells. I believe that cryonics can maintain the network, but not the internal state of the nodes; consequently I assign "too low to meaningfully consider" to the probability of restoring my personality from my frozen brain. If the technology improves, I will reconsider.

Edit: I should specify that right now I have no children, lest I be misunderstood. It seems quite possible I will have some in the near future, though.

Comment author: soreff 19 January 2010 11:41:14PM *  11 points [-]

I believe that cryonics can maintain the network, but not the internal state of the nodes; consequently I assign "too low to meaningfully consider" to the probability of restoring my personality from my frozen brain.

There is experimental evidence to allay that specific concern. People have had flat EEGs (from barbituate poisoning, and from (non-cryogenic!) hypothermia). They've been revived with memories and personalities intact. The network, not transient electrical state, holds long term information. (Oops, partial duplication of Eliezer's post below - I'm reasonably sure this has happened to humans as well, though...) (found the canine article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1476969/)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 January 2010 11:43:38PM 8 points [-]

So, how indignant are you feeling right now? Serious question.

Will you suspect the forces that previously led you to come up with this objection, since they've been proven wrong?

Will you hesitate to make a similar snap decision without looking up sources or FAQs the next time your child's life is at stake?

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 20 January 2010 08:28:19PM 4 points [-]

So, how indignant are you feeling right now? Serious question.

Not at all, on the grounds that I do not agree with this sentence:

Will you suspect the forces that previously led you to come up with this objection, since they've been proven wrong?

You are way overestimating the strength of your evidence, here; and I'm sorry, but this is not a subject I trust you to be rational about, because you clearly care far too much. There is a vast difference between "cold enough for cessation of brain activity" (not even below freezing!) and "liquid bloody nitrogen"; there is a difference between human brains and dog brains; there is a difference between 120 minutes and 120 years; there is a difference between the controlled conditions of a laboratory, and real-life accident or injury.

That said, this is a promising direction of research for convincing me. How's this? If a dog is cooled below freezing, left there for 24 hours, and then revived, I will sign up for cryonics. Cross my heart and hope not to die.

If it turns out the cryonics works, would you be surprised?

If it turns out that cryonics as practised in 2010 works, then yes, I would be surprised. I would not be particularly suprised if a similar technology can be made to work in the future; I don't object to the proposition that information is information and the brain is un-magical, only to the overconfidence in today's methods of preserving that information. In any case, though, I can't very well update on predicted future surprises, can I now?

Comment author: Cyan 20 January 2010 08:38:40PM *  10 points [-]

Since you expect some future cryonics tech to be successful, there's a strong argument that you should sign up now: you can expect to be frozen with the state of the art at the time of your brain death, not 2010 technology, and if you put it off, your window of opportunity may close.

Disclosure: I am not signed up for cryonics (but the discussion of the past few days has convinced me that I ought to).

Comment author: MichaelVassar 21 January 2010 12:14:56AM 5 points [-]

How high a probability do you place on the information content of the brain depending on maintaining electrochemical potentials? Why? Why do you think your information and analysis are better than those of those who disagree?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 January 2010 11:10:29PM 12 points [-]

Errors do not a bad parent make.

Predictable errors do.

Or, to put it another way, suppose you woke up in the Christian Hell; would you plead that you had made the best decision on the available information?

Hell yes.

You cannot make me reconsider a probability assignment by pointing out the bad consequences if my assessment is wrong; you can only do so by adding information.

One way of assessing probabilities is to ask how indignant we have a right to be if reality contradicts us. I would be really indignant if contradicted by reality about Christianity being correct. How indignant would you be if Reality comes back and says, "Sorry, cryonics worked"? My understanding is that dogs have been cooled to the point of cessation of brain activity and revived with no detected loss of memory, though I'd have to look up the reference... if that will actually convince you to sign up for cryonics; otherwise, please state your true rejection.

Comment author: loqi 19 January 2010 11:59:15PM *  9 points [-]

http://74.125.155.132/scholar?q=cache:ZNOvlaxp0p8J:scholar.google.com/&hl=en&as_sdt=2000

Conclusions: In a systematic series of studies in dogs, the rapid induction of profound cerebral hypothermia (tympanic temperature 10°C) by aortic flush of cold saline immediately after the start of exsanguination cardiac arrest-which rarely can be resuscitated effectively with current methods-can achieve survival without functional or histologic brain damage, after cardiac arrest no-flow of 60 or 90 mins and possibly 120 mins. The use of additional preservation strategies should be pursued in the 120-min arrest model.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 21 January 2010 07:17:03AM 3 points [-]

If even a percent or two of parents didn't make predictable errors we would have probably reached a Friendly Singularity ages ago. That's a very high standard. If only parents who met it reproduced the species would rapidly have gone extinct.

Comment author: mattnewport 19 January 2010 11:21:21PM 1 point [-]

How indignant would you be if Reality comes back and says, "Sorry, cryonics worked"?

I don't think this is really the issue. If I make a bet in poker believing (correctly given the available information) that the odds are in my favour but I go on to lose the hand I am not indignant - I was perfectly aware I was taking a calculated risk. In retrospect I should have folded but I still made the right decision at the time. Making the best decision given the available information doesn't mean making the retrospectively correct decision.

I haven't yet reached the point where cryonics crosses my risk/reward threshold. It is on my list of 'things to keep an eye on and potentially change my position in light of new information' however.

Comment author: JGWeissman 19 January 2010 11:40:44PM 2 points [-]

If you make a bet in poker believing that you have .6 chance of winning, and you lose, I believe your claim that you will not be indignant. In this case you have a weak belief that you will win. But, if you lose bets with the same probability 10 times in row, would you feed indignant? Would you question your assumptions and calculations that led to the .6 probability?

If it turns out the cryonics works, would you be surprised? Would you have to question any beliefs that influence your current view of it?

Comment author: Andy_McKenzie 20 January 2010 06:55:24AM 3 points [-]

Not sure what exactly you mean by the "internal state of the nodes." If you are referring to inside the individual brain cells, then I think you're mistaken. We can already peer into the inside of neurons. Transmission electron microscopy is a powerful technology! Combine it with serial sectioning with a diamond knife and you can get quite a lot of detail in quite a large amount of tissue.

For example consider Ragsdale et al's recent study, to pick the first sstem scopus result. They looked at some sensory neurons in C. elegans, and were able to identify not just internal receptors but also which cells (sheath cells) contain abundant endoplasmic reticulum, secretory granules, and/or lipid globules.

This whole discussion comes down to what level of scale separation you might need to recapitulate the function of the brain and the specific characteristics that make you you. Going down to say the atomic level would probably be very difficult, for instance. But there's good reason to think that we won't have to go nearly that far down to reproduce human characteristics. Have you read the pdf roadmap? No reason to form beliefs w/o the relevant knowledge! :)

Comment author: byrnema 28 January 2010 06:46:26PM *  5 points [-]

I’ve mentioned already in comments to this post that parents don’t have access to cryonics. I would like to describe in more detail what I mean by ‘access’. I think that childless adults often don’t realize the extent to which parents depend upon embedded social structures, though I’m sure they’ve noticed things like children’s menus, stroller parking stations and priority airplane seating. (One of my worst experiences as a parent was spending 14 hours with an 11 month old in Chicago-O’Hare ...)

Access certainly includes affordability. $300 per year is what it might minimally cost for one person. If it scales linearly and you have 3 kids, that would be $1,500 per year to cover the whole family. Consider that many families are struggling to cover health insurance or save for college tuition, and have already relinquished all but very occasional movies and dinners out.

Also, access includes general societal acceptance and a certain level of background participation.

  • I depend upon society to help me explore what the ethical issues are so that I can make up my own mind in an informed way. I’m not an ethicist or a pastor, I’ve specialized in a different area.

  • If there is a certain level of background participation, I can possibly count on any number of aunts and uncles and grandparents and godparents to sign up, in the case that my husband and I can’t be preserved at all or resuscitated as early as our child. (For example, my child might die of leukemia that they have a cure for in 100 years, but my husband might die of a cancer they don’t have a cure for for 150 years, and I might die of brain degeneration that makes it impossible to ever revive me.)

  • Placing a child in cryonics may ostracize a grieving parent from important components of community support. Without informed consideration of the issues and a collection of common experiences, society won’t know how to help the parents of a cryonically preserved child grieve. Even if you believe the child has a good chance of being revived, the parent still needs to come to terms with the terrible pain of not being able to care for their child every day anymore. When they’re reunited, the parent may have only a vague memory of their child. So an example of societal cryonics infrastructure would be the option of freezing a healthy parent with their child, if they choose to.

Access also includes the same elements that are of concern to childless adults – proximity to a large airport, access to hospitals that know about cryonics and that are willing to comply with initial steps, access to an ambulance that comes prepared with a big vat of ice.

Can you imagine a grieving parent, at the sight of the wreck, trying to arrange for someone to go to a grocery store and buy a bucket and 12 bags of ice?

One last remark about “access”. What happens once cryonics is more commonplace? Perhaps 1% of the population is signing up for cryonics and societal norms shift over a couple years. Certainly this number would rise to well above 75%. Could cryonics companies keep up with the 7000 people that die per day in the U.S, 2.5 million per year? How many billions of people will be cryo-preserved before revival is possible? Perhaps these are trivial issues, I don’t know, but they are nevertheless relevant to whether there is any real access to the 150 million parents in the US.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 January 2010 07:19:57PM *  3 points [-]

Eventually it might be easy, painless, and cheap for parents to save their children's lives. The more people sign up for cryonics, the closer we get to that world.

Meanwhile, though, we don't live in that world, and for now, only parents who actually care about their children's lives will bother.

See also: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/08/pick-one-sick-kids-or-look-poor.html

Comment author: byrnema 28 January 2010 08:35:58PM *  2 points [-]

See also: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/08/pick-one-sick-kids-or-look-poor.html

I've lived with families in third and second world countries, as a guest, and have my own and different ideas about this story. For example, depending upon some economic and cultural variables, it could be more likely that they don't fully trust Western solutions and didn't want to appear uppity or as though they were rejecting their native societal support structure, which they depend upon. Still, I wouldn't assert that anything is the case without actually talking to a Bolivian family. Doesn't it matter what they think of their experience?

Likewise, by insisting that it's a cut-and-dry, settled issue, you missed an opportunity at your conference to ask the couple with the kids how they overcame their initial qualms, if any, and what advice they would give to other parents thinking about cryonics. I think that I would have gotten along with this couple and after speaking together for a few minutes, neither one of us would have walked away thinking that the other set of parents were 'bad parents'.

Comment author: byrnema 21 January 2010 12:02:13AM *  3 points [-]

It seems obvious to me that if cryonics companies wanted more people to sign up, all they'd need to do is advertise a little. An ad compaign quelling top 10 parent fears would probably start causing people to sign up in droves. However, they remain quite quiet so I do assume that there's some kind techno-elitist thing going on ... they don't want everyone signing up.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 January 2010 12:22:03AM 5 points [-]

Doesn't, um, thinking about that for like 30 seconds tell you how unlikely it is?

Comment author: wedrifid 21 January 2010 12:30:47AM 4 points [-]

Do you know why cryonics is not more heavily advertised? Thinking about it for 30 seconds gives me some hypotheses but I'm too socially distant to make a reliable guess.

Comment author: gwern 21 January 2010 01:00:03AM 5 points [-]

I like the mockery explanation. Cryonics is as about as socially acceptable as furry fandom; if furries scraped up a few millions for some TV spots, do you think they would get more or less members in the long run? There is such a thing as bad publicity.

And existing cryonics members might be exasperated - money used for advertising is money not used for research or long-term sustainability (I hear Alcor runs at a loss).

Comment author: JamesAndrix 21 January 2010 09:26:02PM 6 points [-]

I'm pretty sure that at the root, most furries are furries because of anthropomorphized animal cartoon shows. I think a well designed commercial could push a lot of people over the edge.

Thanks, now I have an entertaining conspiracy theory about Avatar.

Comment author: Morendil 21 January 2010 01:16:08AM *  2 points [-]

Source ? A non-sustainable cryonics organization is one you don't want to be signed up with. These dewars use electricity (EDIT: oops, no they don't; substitute "rental for the space to store them").

Comment author: gwern 21 January 2010 02:41:52PM 14 points [-]

You still need to create the nitrogen in the first place.

But you can read the financial statements yourself: http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/financial.html (Seriously, am I the only person here who can look things up? The answers are on, like, page 10.)

I should mention that I define 'running at a loss' as not being able to pay all bills out of either investment income or out of fees (membership dues, freezing fees, etc.); if there is a gap between expenses and the former, then they are running at a loss and depending on the charity of others to make it up.

And this is the case. In 2008, they spent $1.7 million - but they got 622k for freezing, and ~300k in fees & income, for a total of $990,999. In other words, Alcor is not currently self-sustaining.

(Why aren't they bankrupt? Because of $1,357,239 in 'contributions, gifts, and grants', and 'noncash contributions' of $753,979.)

Comment author: byrnema 21 January 2010 01:47:23AM 4 points [-]

Cryonics is as about as socially acceptable as furry fandom

This is a myth. Techno-filia is very much part of our culture. Science fiction dominates our movies. People would scramble to sign up for cryonics if the infrastructure was there and they were certain it wasn't a scam. But that's a big IF. And that's the IF -- this idea of parents not choosing cryonics because they're lousy parents is a huge MYTH invented right on the spot. Parents don't have access to cryonics.

(If a cryonics company is reading this: I do suggest an ad campaign. I think the image you project should be 'safe household product': something completely established and solid that people can sign up for and sign out of easily -- just a basic, mundane service. No complications and lots of options. People aren't signing they're life away, they're buying a service. And it's just suspension till a later date -- I'd stay well clear of any utopian pseudo-religious stuff.)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 January 2010 01:49:15AM 7 points [-]

People would scramble to sign up for cryonics if the infrastructure was there and they were certain it wasn't a scam

AFAICT your statement is simply false.

Comment author: gwillen 05 February 2010 02:15:05AM 3 points [-]

I won't try to judge the original statement, but I do think that people believing cryonics to be a scam is a serious problem -- much more serious than I would have believed. I have talked to some friends (very bright friends with computer science backgrounds, in the process of getting college degrees) about the idea, and a shockingly large number of them seemed quite certain that Alcor was a scam. I managed to dissuade maybe one of those, but in the process I think I convinced at least one more that I was a sucker.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 February 2010 09:00:11AM 5 points [-]

Reasoning by perceptual recognition. Cryonics seems weird and involves money, therefore it's perceptually recognized as a scam. The fact that it would be immensely labor-intensive to develop the suspension tech, isn't marketed well or at all really, and would have a very poor payoff on invested labor as scams go, will have little impact on this. The lightning-fast perceptual system hath spoken.

I'm surprised that you say your friends are computer programmers. Programmers need to be capable of abstract thought.

Comment author: mattnewport 05 February 2010 06:56:16AM *  1 point [-]

It has struck me that if you wanted to set out to create a profitable scam, cryonics looks like quite a good idea. I don't have any particular reason to think that actual cryonics companies are a scam but it does seem like something of a perfect crime. It's almost like a perfect Ponzi scheme.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 February 2010 07:40:44AM 1 point [-]

This would require cryonics companies to lie about their finances. Otherwise they have no way to extract money from their reserves without alarming customers.

Comment author: Furcas 21 January 2010 02:21:55AM 4 points [-]

I think byrnema has a point. I don't think most people are even aware that cryonics isn't sci-fi anymore.

Comment author: pengvado 21 January 2010 03:41:55AM *  9 points [-]

Anecdote: I read sci-fi as a kid, learned of the concept of cryonics, thought it was a good idea if it worked... and then it never occurred to me to research whether it was a real technology. Surely I would have heard of it if it was?
Then years later I ran into a mention on OvercomingBias and signed up pretty much immediately.

Comment author: ciphergoth 05 February 2010 08:56:12AM 4 points [-]

The way people say "it's science fiction" as if it tells you anything at all about the plausibility of what's under discussion drives me crazy. Doctor Who and communications satellites are both science fiction.

Comment author: byrnema 21 January 2010 12:39:27AM *  1 point [-]

Not advertising is a clear signal. If any company wants the masses, they advertise to the masses. If Proctor & Gamble comes out with a great new detergent, they're not going to wait for people to do the research and find out about them.

Comment author: magfrump 21 January 2010 12:47:18AM 5 points [-]

A clear signal that cryonics companies don't have an advertising budget?

Comment author: byrnema 21 January 2010 12:48:04AM *  1 point [-]

thinking about that for like 30 seconds tell you how unlikely it is?

The more I think about it the more likely it seems... So: finding out about them is the first barrier to entry.

Comment author: Bindbreaker 19 January 2010 10:06:08PM *  3 points [-]

This might get me blasted off the face of the Internet, but by my (admittedly primitive) calculations, there is a >95% chance that I will live to see the end of the world as we know it, whether that be a positive or negative end. I do not see any reason to sign up for cryonics, as it will merely constitute a drain on my currently available resources with no tangible benefit. I am further unconvinced that cryonics is a legitimate industry. I am, of course, open to argument, but I really can't see cryonics as something that would rationally inspire this sort of reaction.

Comment author: soreff 19 January 2010 11:21:09PM 3 points [-]

I'm curious as to how you calculate that >95%. I ask because I, personally, overestimated the threats from what amounts to unfriendly AI at two points in time (during the Japanese 5th generation computer project, and during Lenat's CYC project), and I overestimated the threat from y2k (and I thought I had a solid lower bound on its effects from unprepared sectors of the economy at the time). Might you be doing something similar?

Full disclosure: I have cryonics arrangements in place (with Alcor), but I'm unsure whether the odds of actually being revived or uploaded justify the (admittedly small) costs. Since I've signed up (around 1990 or so) I've revised my guess as to the odds downwards for a couple of reasons: (a) full Drexler/Merkle nanotech is taking much longer to be developed than I'd have guessed - "never" is still a distinct possibility (b) If we do get full nanotech, Robin Hanson's malthusian scenario of exploding upload replication looks chillingly plausible (c) During the Bush years, biodeathicists like Leon Kass actually got positions in high places. I'd anticipated that life extension might be a very hard technical problem - but not that there would be people in power actively trying to stop it.

Comment author: blogospheroid 20 January 2010 08:16:23AM 4 points [-]

Think Global Soreff.

Japan and China have huge aging populations. Their incentive to develop life extension treatments will be much greater than the biodeathicists ability to impede the same in the United States.

China is facing a huge aging problem. They are probably the first country to get old before getting rich. if i were in the chinese politburo, I'd be POURING money into life extension research.

Though why Japan already hasn't done so seems surprising from this viewpoint. Any ideas Why Japan hasn't poured money into healthspan extension?

Comment author: anonymoushero 22 January 2010 05:16:55PM 2 points [-]

Chinese cryonics? There are rumors, but nothing concrete. http://www.cryonics.org/immortalist/january05/letters.htm

There are better results searching for "人体冷冻法 ", "人体冷冻学" or "人体冷冻技术": An article about Alcor ("ah-er-ke") http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2005-12/13/content_3913137.htm

On a related note, prospects for AGI research in China: http://www.hplusmagazine.com/articles/ai/chinese-singularity

Someone with working knowledge of hiragana/katakana might try the same for Japanese cryonics?

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 19 January 2010 10:53:59PM *  2 points [-]

This might get me blasted off the face of the Internet, but by my (admittedly primitive) calculations, there is a >95% chance that I will live to see the end of the world as we know it, whether that be a positive or negative end. I do not see any reason to sign up for cryonics, as it will merely constitute a drain on my currently available resources with no tangible benefit.

Probably no tangible benefit, but expected utility? Those few percent, or tenths of a percent, where cryonics saves you are worth a lot (assuming you have values that make cryonics worth considering in the first place).

(Full disclosure: I'm not signed up, but only because I think cryonics costs would come from the same "far-mode speculative futurism" mental account as better uses of money, rather than "luxury consumption". If not for that consideration — which I'm not all that sure about in any case — the decision would be massively overdetermined.)

Comment author: thomblake 19 January 2010 07:38:10PM 4 points [-]

I was going to leave a comment simply stating:

"Eliezer Yudkowsky - the man who can make a blatantly off-topic post and be upvoted for it."

But it occurs to me I might be missing something, so explanation please.

Comment author: bgrah449 19 January 2010 08:41:25PM *  7 points [-]

This is a sly way of still saying that but not taking the karma hit. (Upvoted, btw)

Comment author: Cyan 19 January 2010 08:49:27PM 18 points [-]
Comment author: bgrah449 19 January 2010 08:55:03PM 5 points [-]

Learning new very-specific words that completely nail a phenomenon I'm trying to describe is something I really enjoy, and it doesn't happen too often. Thanks!

Comment author: Cyan 19 January 2010 09:23:12PM *  3 points [-]

My pleasure. (It was a joint effort: my vague recollection that there was a term that means "mentioning without mentioning" plus Google equals... a lot of karma points, apparently.)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 January 2010 08:12:12PM 15 points [-]

There's a final filter in rationality where you take your ideas seriously, and a critical sub-filter is where you're willing to take ideas seriously even though the people around you don't.

Going to a group where cryonics was normal was a shift of perspective even for me, and here I thought I had conformity beat. It was what caused me to realize - no, parents who don't sign their kids up for cryonics really are doing something inexcusable; the mistake is not inevitable, it's just them.

Comment deleted 19 January 2010 10:06:58PM [-]
Comment author: MichaelGR 19 January 2010 10:26:51PM 3 points [-]

their brains just go walla-walla-bonk crazy

Anything specific you can share?

I'm thinking about mentioning cryo to a few people, and am curious to know what kind of reaction to expect.

Comment author: Kevin 20 January 2010 01:29:28PM 2 points [-]

I blame the education system.

Comment author: Furcas 19 January 2010 07:47:40PM *  10 points [-]

Signing up for cryonics is kind of the textbook example of applied rationality around here, much as theism is the textbook example of applied irrationality, so I think it's interesting to know what kind of people did it, and why.

Comment author: nerzhin 19 January 2010 08:09:23PM 2 points [-]

Quibble: "theism" itself isn't so much applied irrationality - that would be something more like wasting time at church, or buying lottery tickets - an action with a tangible cost.

Comment author: drimshnick 19 January 2010 08:38:50PM *  2 points [-]

Forgive my ignorance, but aren't the real costs of cryonics much higher than their nominal fees, given the need to ensure that the preserved are financially secure post re-animation? What is the relative utility of perhaps having the chance of being re-animated as compared to not having a poor lifestyle (i.e. "going to the movies or eating at nice restaurants") now?

Comment author: AngryParsley 20 January 2010 07:07:11PM 3 points [-]

The costs are anywhere from $300-$1500 per year depending on your choice of life insurance policy and provider. Most people would rather be alive but poor in the future than dead.

If you're really concerned about being poor in the future, there are financial instruments that can be (ab)used. Really though, any society that researches and implements the technology to revive dead people will probably treat poor people kindly as well.

Comment author: mariz 25 January 2010 01:50:11PM 2 points [-]

Here's a simple metric to demonstrate why alternatives to cryonics could be preferred:

Suppose we calculate the overall value of living as the quantity of life multiplied by the quality of life. For lack of a better metric, we can rate our quality of life from 1 to 100. Thus one really good year (quality = 100) is equal to 100 really bad years (ql = 1). If you think quality of life is more important, you can use a larger metric, like 1 to 1000. But for our purposes, let's use a scale to 100.

Some transhumanists have calculated that your life expectancy without aging is about 1300 years (because there's still an annual probability that you will die from an accident, homicide, etc.). Conservatively, let's assume that if cryonics and revivification are successful, you can expect to live for another 1000 years. Also, knowing nothing else about the future, your quality of life will be ~50. Thus your total life-index points gained is 50,000. But suppose that the probability that cryonics/revivification will be successful is 1 in 10,000, or .0001. Thus the expected utility points gained is .0001 * 50,000 = 50.

It will cost your $300/year for the rest of your life to gain those expected 50 points. But suppose you could spend that $300 a year on something that is 80% likely to increase your quality of life by 5 points a year (only 5%) for the rest of your life (let's say another 50 years). There are all kinds of things that could do that: vacations, games, lovers, whatever. That's .80 * 5 * 50 = 200 expected utility points.

You're better off spending your money on things that are highly likely to increase your quality of life here and now, then on things that are highly unlikely or unknown to increase your quantity and quality of life in the future.

Comment author: Morendil 25 January 2010 02:46:03PM 8 points [-]

To put this in perspective, $300/year is the cost of my ACM subscription. That's a rounding error as far as increasing my quality of life is concerned, way below 5%.

Comment author: juliawise 21 July 2011 02:03:31PM 3 points [-]

For about a billion people in the world, $300 a year (or $500, as it sounds the numbers probably really are) would double their income, very probably increasing their quality of life dramatically. I'd rather give my money to them.

Comment author: MixedNuts 21 July 2011 02:15:43PM 14 points [-]

"Hi, you have cancer. Want an experimental treatment? It works with >5% probability and costs $500/year." "No thanks, I'll die and give the money to charity."

Strangely enough, I don't hear that nearly as often as the one against cryonics. And it's even worse, because signing up for cryonics means more people will be able to (economies of scale, looks less weird, more people hear of it).

Not to mention that most charities suck. But VillageReach does qualify.

Comment author: KPier 21 July 2011 04:25:42PM 10 points [-]

Welcome to LessWrong!

While it's not relevant to Mornedil's point (about his own quality of life), this was my major objection to cryonics for a while as well. There are a couple of problems with it: Most people don't currently donate all their disposable income to charity. If you do, then a cryonics subscription would actually trade off with charitable donations; if you're like most people, it probably trades off with eating out, seeing movies and saving for retirement.

As MixedNuts points out below, most people don't hesitate to spend that much on accepted medical treatments that could save their lives; another, related point is that people on cryonics may not feel the need to spend millions on costly end-of-life treatments that will only extend their lives by a few months. A disproportionate high portion of medical costs come from the last year of life.

Thirdly, if you estimate the money spent on cryonics could save 20 lives in a third world country, you are choosing between extending 20 lives for a few decades and (possibly) extending one life for millions of years. Which side of that tradeoff you prefer depends a lot on your view of immortality.

Finally, ask yourself "If I was offered cryonics for free, would I sign up?" If not, this isn't your true rejection.

Comment author: juliawise 23 July 2011 11:51:06PM *  12 points [-]

Most people don't currently donate all their disposable income to charity.

I do. I give away all my earnings and my husband gives about 20% of his, so we live on a much smaller budget than most people we know.

People on cryonics may not feel the need to spend millions on costly end-of-life treatments</i>

This would be good. But it would be good if people laid off the end-of-life spending even without cryonics.

Finally, ask yourself "If I was offered cryonics for free, would I sign up?"

Maybe. I only heard of the idea a week ago - still thinking.

Comment author: jkaufman 25 July 2011 08:20:35PM *  4 points [-]

Most people don't currently donate all their disposable income to charity.

I do. I give away all my earnings and my husband gives about 20% of his, so we live on a much smaller budget than most people we know.

While we live on a much smaller budget than many people, we still have disposable income that we could choose to spend on cryonics instead of other things. If cryonics cost $500/year you would still have $28/week in discretionary money after the cryonics spending. Whether this makes sense depends on whether you think that you would get more happiness out of cryonics or that $10/week. As for me, I need to read more about cryonics.

(Some background: As she wrote, julia is very unwilling to spend money on herself that could instead be going to helping other people. Because this leads to making yourself miserable, I decided to put $38/week into an account as a conditional gift, where the condition is that it can be spent on herself (or on gifts for people she knows personally) but not given away. So cryonics would not in our case actually mean less money given to charity.)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 24 July 2011 12:04:10AM 8 points [-]

I give away all my earnings and my husband gives about 20% of his, so we live on a much smaller budget than most people we know.

You have my great respect for this, and if you moreover endorse

But it would be good if people laid off the end-of-life spending even without cryonics.

and you've got some sort of numerical lives-saved estimate on the charities you're donating to, then I will accept "Cryonics is not altruistically maximizing" from you and your husband - and only from you two.

Unless you have kids, in which case you should sign them up.

Comment author: juliawise 24 July 2011 12:41:55AM 13 points [-]

numerical lives-saved estimate on the charities you're donating to

The metric I care more about is more like quality-adjusted life years than lives saved. We've been giving to Oxfam because they seem to be doing good work on changing systems (e.g. agricultural policy) that keep people in miserable situations addition to more micro, and thus measurable, stuff (e.g. mosquito nets). The lack of measurement does bother us, and our last donation was to their evaluation and monitoring department. I do understand that restricted donations aren't really restricted, but Oxfam indicated having donors give specifically to something as unpopular as evaluation does increase their willingness to increase its budget.

We may go with a more GiveWell-y choice next year.

Unless you have kids, in which case you should sign them up.

Only if I believe my (currently non-existing) children's lives are more valuable than other lives. Otherwise, I should fund a cryonics scholarship for someone who definitely wants it. Assuming I even think cryonics is a good use of money, which I'm currently not sure about.

The ethics of allocating lots of resources to our own children instead of other people's, and of making our own vs. adopting, is another thing I'm not sure about. If there are writings on LW about this topic, I haven't found them.

Comment author: multifoliaterose 24 July 2011 01:08:05AM 4 points [-]

The ethics of allocating lots of resources to our own children instead of other people's, and of making our own vs. adopting, is another thing I'm not sure about. If there are writings on LW about this topic, I haven't found them.

In light of the sustainability concerns that Carl Shulman raises in paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 here; I'm not sure that it's advisable to base the (major) life choice of having or adopting children on ethical considerations.

That being said, if one is looking at the situation bloodlessly and without regard for personal satisfaction & sustainability, I'm reasonably sure that having or adopting children does not count as effective philanthropy. There are two relevant points here:

(a) If one is committed to global welfare, the expected commitment to global welfare of one's (biological or adopted) children is lower than that of one's own commitment. On a biological level there's regression to the mean and at the environmental level though one's values does influence those of one's children, there's also a general tendency for children to rebel against their parents.

(b) The philanthropic opportunity cost of having or adopting children is (in my opinion) so large as to eclipse the added value of a life in the developed world. The financial cost alone has been estimated as a quarter million dollars per child.

And even if one considers the quality of life in the developed world to be so large so that one extra person living in the developed world is more important than hundreds of people in the developing world, to the extent that there are good existential risk reduction charities the calculation still comes out against having children (if the human race thrives in the future then our descendants will have much higher quality of life than people in the contemporary developed world).

Comment author: utilitymonster 26 July 2011 12:21:05AM *  2 points [-]

Do you know about Giving What We Can? You may be interested in getting to know people in that community. Basically, it's a group of people that pledges to give 10% of their earnings to the most effective charities in the developing world. Feel free to PM me or reply if you want to know more.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 25 January 2010 02:47:06PM *  4 points [-]

The best alternative to cryonics is to never need it -- to live long enough to be able to keep living longer, as new ways of living longer are developed. Cryonics is only an emergency lifeboat into the future. If you need the lifeboat you take it, but only when the ship is doomed.

Comment author: ciphergoth 25 January 2010 03:28:25PM 5 points [-]

Or as Ralph Merkle put it, "cryonic suspension is the second-worst thing that can happen to you".

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 25 January 2010 02:06:39PM *  3 points [-]
  1. I don't think the 1 to 100 scale works; the scale should allow for negative numbers to accommodate some of the concepts that have been mentioned.For example, would you rather die at 50 years old, or live another decade while being constantly and pointlessly tortured, and then die?

  2. It seems reasonable to assume that selection bias will work in our favor when considering the nature of the world in cases where the revival will work. This is debatable, but the debate shouldn't just be ignored.

  3. Even assuming that your math is right, I'm having a hard time thinking of something that I could spend $300/year on that would give me a quality-of-life increase equivalent to 5% of the difference between the worse possible case (being tortured for a year) and the best possible case (being massively independently wealthy, having an awesome social life and plenty of interesting things to do with my time). I'd rate a week's vacation as less than 0.5% of the difference between those two, for example, and you can barely get plane tickets to somewhere interesting for $300.

Edit: Flubbed the math. Point still stands, but not as strongly as I originally thought.

Comment author: jhuffman 26 January 2010 01:08:07PM *  5 points [-]

For a single individual the cost is much more than $300. Alcor's website says membership is $478 annually, plus another $120 a year if you elect the stand-by option. Also you need $150K worth of life insurance, which will add a bit more.

Peanuts! You say...

I really don't see the point of signing up now, because I really don't see how you can avoid losing all the information in your mind to autolysis unless you get a standby or at least a very quick (within an hour or two) vitrification. That means I have to be in the right place, at the right time when I die and I simply don't think thats likely now - when any death I experience would almost certainly be sudden and it would be hours and hours before I'm vitrified.

I mean, if I get a disease and have some warning then sure I'll consider a move to Phoenix and pay them their $20k surcharge (about a lifetime's worth of dues anyway) and pay for the procedure in cash up-front. There is no reason for me to put money into dues now when the net present value of those payments exceeds the surcharge they charge if you are a "last minute" patient.

I understand this isn't an option if you don't have at least that much liquidity but since I happen to do so then it makes sense to me to keep it all (and future payments) under my control.

Hopefully that decision is a long time from now and I'll be more optimistic about the whole business at that time. I'll also have better picture of my overall financial outlook and whether I'd rather spend that money on my children's future than my doubtful one.

Comment author: dilaudid 01 February 2010 12:52:39PM 2 points [-]

jhuffman's point made me think of the following devil's advocacy: If someone is very confident of cryonics, say more than 99% confident, then they should have themselves preserved before death. They should really have themselves preserved immediately - otherwise there is a higher risk that they will die in a way that causes the destruction of their mind, than there is that cryonics will fail. The amount that they will be willing to pay would also be irrelevant - they won't need the money until after they are preserved. I appreciate that there are probably laws against preserving healthy adults, so this is strictly a thought experiment.

As people get older their risk of death or brain damage increases. This means that as someone gets older the confidence level at which they should seek early preservation will decrease. Also as someone gets older their expected "natural" survival time decreases, by definition. This means the payoff for not seeking early preservation is reducing all the time. This seems to bring some force to the argument - if there is a 10% probability that cryonics will succeed, then I really can't see why anyone would let themselves get within 6 years of likely death - they are putting a second lifetime at risk for 6 years of less and less healthy life.

Finally the confidence level relates to cost. If people can be shown to have a low level of confidence in cryonics, then their willingness to pay money should be lower. The figures I've seen quoted require a sum of $150,000. (Whether this is paid in life insurance or not is irrelevant - you must pay for it in the premium since, if you're going to keep the insurance until you die, the probability of the insurer paying out is 100%). If the probability of Cryonics working is 10%, then the average cost for a successful re-animation is $1.5 million. This is a pretty conservative cost I think - doubtless for some who read this blog it is small change. Not for me sadly though :)

Comment author: jhuffman 01 February 2010 02:44:33PM 2 points [-]

I don't think anyone is that confident...at least I hope that they are not. Even if cryonics itself works there are so many other reasons revival would never happen; I outlined them near the bottom of the thread related to my original reply to this post already so I won't do so again. Suffice it to say, even if you had 100% confidence in both cryonics and future revival technology, you cannot have nearly 100% confidence in actually being revived.

But if you are young and healthy and want to be preserved intact you can probably figure out how to do it; but it is risky and you need to take precautions which I don't know the least thing about... The last thing you want is to end up under a scalpel on a medical examiner's table, which is what often happens to people who die suddenly or violently.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 27 January 2010 03:15:12PM *  1 point [-]

I really don't see how you can avoid losing all the information in your mind to autolysis unless you get a standby or at least a very quick (within an hour or two) vitrification.

It's information, it doesn't need to be found in the same form that is necessary for normal brain's function. If there is something else correlated with the info in question, or some kind of residue from which it's possible to infer what was there before, it's enough. Also, concepts in the brain seem to be coded holographically, so even a bullet in the brain may be recoverable from.

(For the same reason, importance of vitrification seems overemphasised. I can't imagine information getting lost because of freezing damage. Of course, brain becomes broken, but info doesn't magically disappear because of that.)

Comment author: ciphergoth 27 January 2010 04:13:25PM 2 points [-]

Most cryonics literature concentrates on the possibility of direct bodily reanimation, not scanning and WBE.

Comment author: ciphergoth 09 February 2010 08:22:29AM 5 points [-]

I think this hugely underestimates both the probability and utility of reanimation. If I am revived, I expect to live for billions of years, and to eventually know a quality of life that would be off the end of any scale we can imagine.

Comment author: complexmeme 31 May 2010 03:39:31AM 2 points [-]

I can't argue that cryonics would strike me as an excellent deal if I believed that, but that seems wildly optimistic.

Comment author: ciphergoth 31 May 2010 08:10:37AM 3 points [-]

This seems an odd response. I'd understand a response that said "why on Earth do you anticipate that?" or one that said "I think I know why you anticipate that, here are some arguments against...". But "wildly optimistic" seems to me to make the mistake of offering "a literary criticism, not a scientific one" - as if we knew more about how optimistic a future to expect than what sort of future to expect. These must come the other way around - we must first think about what we anticipate, and our level of optimism must flow from that.

Comment author: PaulAlmond 14 November 2010 01:34:34AM 1 point [-]

I'll raise an issue here, without taking a position on it myself right now. I'm not saying there is no answer (in fact, I can think of at least one), but I think one is needed.

If you sign up for cryonics, and it is going to work and give you a very long life in a posthuman future, given that such a long life would involve a huge number of observer moments, almost all of which will be far in the future, why are you experiencing such a rare (i.e. extraordinarily early) observer moment right now? In other words, why not apply the Doomsday argument's logic to a human life as an argument against the feasibility of cryonics?

Comment author: Furcas 14 November 2010 02:23:11AM *  4 points [-]

Because that logic is flawed.

If I (the Furcas typing these words) lived in 3010, 'I' would have different memories and 'I' would be experiencing different things and thus I (the Furcas typing these words) would not exist. Thus there is no likelihood whatsoever that I (the Furcas typing these words) could have existed in 3010*.

There may be something left of me in 3010, just as there is something left of the boy I 'was' in 1990 today, but it won't be me: The memories will be different and the observations will be different, therefore the experience will be different. Asking why I don't exist in 3010 is asking why experience X is not experience Y. X is not Y because X does not equal Y. It's as simple as that.

*Except, of course, if I were put in a simulation that very closely replicates the environment that I (believe I) experience in 2010.

Comment author: patrissimo 25 January 2010 01:14:50AM *  1 point [-]

Your final paragraph is a very limited list of the ways parents can spend money on their children. For example, what if the choice is between spending more money on your current kids (like by signing them up for cryonics), and having more kids? By giving kid 1 immortality, you snuff out kid 2's chance at life. There are more life or not-life tradeoffs going on here than merely cryonics.

Anyway, there are a bunch of things mixed up in your (understandably) emotional paragraph. Like: what do parents owe their children? And: is cryonics a cost-effective benefit? Both of these links seem somewhat suspect to me.

I'm still a few million in net worth away from thinking cryonics is worth the cost.

Comment author: MichaelGR 25 January 2010 03:35:39AM *  3 points [-]

For example, what if the choice is between spending more money on your current kids (like by signing them up for cryonics), and having more kids? By giving kid 1 immortality, you snuff out kid 2's chance at life. There are more life or not-life tradeoffs going on here than merely cryonics.

Maybe there are better examples out there, but this isn't very convincing to me.

The limiting factor on the number of kids that people have very rarely seems to be money, despite what some people will say. Actions speak louder than words, and the poor have more kids than the rich.

And if cryonics is a problem because it makes people have fewer kids (which remains to be seen), it's pretty low on the list of things that produce that effect (f.ex. cheap birth control, careers, and the desire for a social life have certainly "snuffed out" many more potential kids than cryonics ever did (if any)).

I'm still a few million in net worth away from thinking cryonics is worth the cost.

How do you figure that?

Are you aware that cryonics paid for via life insurance usually costs a few hundreds a year for someone your age, and probably less for a young child? You've probably played bigger poker hands than that. If money's a limiting factor, it should be easy to trim that amount from the fat somewhere else in the budget.

Comment author: MichaelR 25 January 2010 01:50:20PM 0 points [-]

The tradeoff between kid 1 and kid 2 doesn't exist, because kid 2 doesn't exist. There is no kid 2 to whom to give life, any more than there is a kid 2 to whom to give a popsickle. To do good or ill by kid 2, kid 2 has first to exist; bringing kid 2 into existence is not a good for kid 2, nor is denying kid 2 existence a wrong, because kid 2 has no prior existence to grant hir good or ill. You can't harm an hypothesis.

Comment author: Rlive 20 January 2010 07:57:51PM 1 point [-]

Only three hands went up that did not identify as atheist/agnostic, and I think those >also might have all been old cryonicists.

Actually, I believe the question was "would you not describe yourself as athiest/agnostic" rather than "identify as" which is a very different question.

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 28 January 2010 07:35:55PM *  0 points [-]

Bah. Any FAI worthy of the name will reconstruct a plausible approximation of me from my notebooks and blog comments.

Comment author: mariz 20 January 2010 12:54:43PM 0 points [-]

Taking the cryonics mindset to its logical conclusion, the most "rational" thing to do is commit suicide at age 30 and have yourself cryopreserved. Waiting until a natural death at a ripe old age, there may be too much neural damage to reconstitute the mind/brain. And since you're destined to die anyway, isn't the loss of 50 years of life a rational trade off for the miniscule chance of infinite life?

NO.

Comment author: Morendil 20 January 2010 01:52:33PM *  4 points [-]

Please explain how suicide "logically" follows from what you call the "cyronics mindset".

One possible motivation for being interested in cryonics (mine, for instance) is that you value having enjoyable and novel experiences. There is a small probability that by having my brain preserved, I will gain access to a very large supply of these experiences. And as I currently judge such things, dying and having my brain rot would put a definite and irrevocable stop to having such experiences.

It would be stupid to commit suicide now, even if I had arranged for cryonics, because the evidence is largely in favor of my being able to arrange for 20 years of novel enjoyable experiences starting now, while successful suspension and revival remains a long shot. I do not feel confident enough in calculations which multiply a very large utility of future life after revival, by a very small probability of eventual revival.

However there is a small but non-negligible chance that I will be diagnosed with a fatal disease during that period. At the moment the diagnosis is established my options for funding suspension simultaneously vanish; and most of my capital at that time should rationally be invested in fighting the disease (and making plans for my family). My capacity to arrange for future enjoyable experiences will effectively plummet to near zero as a result; I will have lost an option I now have, which appears to be the only option of its kind.

As long as my brain remains capable of novel enjoyable experiences, and I have plenty of evidence around me that older people are so capable, there is no "neural damage" to protect against. I would reason differently if I were diagnosed with, say, Alzheimer's. I would prefer not to grapple with the question "how much of myself can I lose and still be myself".

It may seem odd to care that much about my 10-year-removed future self. But "caring about future selves" and "not committing suicide" are at least consistent choices, and they both seem logically consistent with an investment in cyronics.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 20 January 2010 01:10:58PM 4 points [-]

Taking the cryonics mindset to its logical conclusion, the most "rational" thing to do is commit suicide at age 30 and have yourself cryopreserved.

That might follow if you assign certain probabilities, utilities and discount factors, but it certainly isn't the obvious logical conclusion. Even for most cryonics advocates, very likely living for at least 40 years more beats the a small extra chance of being revived in the future. "Paying a bit extra for the chance of being revived later on is worth it" does not equal "killing yourself for the chance of being revived later on is worth it".

(Not even if we assumed the most inconvenient possible world where committing suicide at the age of 30 actually did improve your chances of getting successfully cryopreserved - in the world we live in, the following police investigation etc. would probably just reduce the odds.)

Comment author: Kevin 20 January 2010 01:04:25PM 4 points [-]

No, because cryonics is expected to improve dramatically during our lifetimes. So the longer you wait to be preserved, the more likely it will work.

Comment author: wedrifid 20 January 2010 02:43:29PM 3 points [-]

Capital letters don't change math. Something is either a logical, rational conclusion given what you know or it isn't.

Comment author: quanticle 20 January 2010 01:22:09AM -3 points [-]

I'm seeing a disturbing amount of groupthink here. We're all assuming that cryonics is a good thing, and that the only thing in dispute is whether the amount of good that cryonics generates is worth the cost. However, given that no one who has been cryogenically frozen has yet been revived, how do we know that cryonics is a good thing at all? I mean, what if the freezing process somehow changed neurochemistry so that everyone who came back was a psychopath? Given that we don't have any evidence either way, why are we all jumping to the conclusion that cryonics is something that we'd all sign up for if only we had the means?

Comment author: wedrifid 20 January 2010 01:32:11AM 9 points [-]

what if the freezing process somehow changed neurochemistry so that everyone who came back was a psychopath?

Or not.