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Cryonics Wants To Be Big

28 Post author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 07:50AM

Cryonics scales very well. People who argue from the perspective that cryonics is costly are probably not aware of this fact. Even assuming you needed to come up with the lump sum all at once rather than steadily pay into life insurance, the fact is that most people would be able to afford it if most people wanted it. There are some basic physical reasons why this is the case.

So long as you keep the shape constant, for any given container the surface area is based on a square law while the volume is calculated as a cube law. For example with a simple cube shaped object, one side squared times 6 is the surface area; one side cubed is the volume. Spheres, domes, and cylinders are just more efficient variants on this theme. For any constant shape, if volume is multiplied by 1000, surface area only goes up by 100 times.

Surface area is where heat gains entry. Thus if you have a huge container holding cryogenic goods (humans in this case) it costs less per unit volume (human) than is the case with a smaller container that is equally well insulated. A way to understand why this works is to realize that you only have to insulate and cool the outside edge -- the inside does not collect any new heat. In short, by multiplying by a thousand patients, you can have a tenth of the thermal transfer to overcome per patient with no change in r-value.

But you aren't limited to using equal thickness of insulation. You can use thicker insulation, but get a much smaller proportional effect on total surface area when you use bigger container volumes. Imagine the difference between a marble sized freezer and a house-sized freezer. What happens when you add an extra foot of insulation to the surface of each? Surface area is impacted much as diameter is -- i.e. more significantly in the case of the smaller freezer than the larger one. The outer edge of the insulation is where it begins collecting heat. With a truly gigantic freezer, you could add an entire meter (or more) of insulation without it having a significant proportional impact on surface area, compared to how much surface area it already has. (This is one reason cheaper materials can be used to construct large tanks -- they can be applied in thicker layers.)

Another factor to take into account is that liquid nitrogen, the super-cheap coolant used by cryonics facilities around the world, is vastly cheaper (more than a factor of 10) when purchased in huge quantities of several tons. The scaling factors for storage tanks and high-capacity tanker trucks are a big part of the reason for this. CI has used bulk purchasing as a mechanism for getting their prices down to $100 per patient per year for their newer tanks. They are actually storing 3,000 gallons of the stuff and using it slowly over time, which implies there is a boiloff rate associated with the 3,000 gallon tank in addition to the tanks.

The conclusion I get from this is that there is a very strong self-interested case (as well as the altruistic case) to be made for the promotion of megascale cryonics towards the mainstream, as opposed to small independently run units for a few of us die-hard futurists. People who say they won't sign up for cost reasons may actually (if they are sincere) be reachable at a later date. To deal with such people's objections and make sure they remain reachable, it might be smart to get them to agree with some particular hypothetical price point at which they would feel it is justified. In large enough quantities, it is conceivable that indefinite storage costs would be as low as $50 per person, or 50 cents per year.

That is much cheaper than saving a life any other way. Of course there's still the risk that it might not work. However, given a sufficient chance of it working it could still be morally superior to other life saving strategies that cost more money. It also has inherent ecological advantages over other forms of life-saving in that it temporarily reduces the active population, giving the environment a chance to recover and green tech more time to take hold so that they can be supported sustainably and comfortably. And we might consider the advent of life-health extension in the future to be a reason to think  it a qualitatively better form of life-saving.

Note: This article only looks directly at cooling energy costs; construction and ongoing maintenance do not necessarily scale as dramatically. The same goes for stabilization (which I view as a separate though indispensable enterprise). Both of these do have obvious scaling factors however. Other issues to consider are defense and reliability. Given the large storage mass involved, preventing temperature fluctuations without being at the exact boiling temperature of LN2 is feasible; it could be both highly failsafe and use the ideal cryonics temperature of -135C rather than the -196C that LN2 boiloff as a temperature regulation mechanism requires. Feel free to raise further issues in the comments.

Comments (160)

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 09:53:01AM [-]
Comment author: advancedatheist 05 July 2010 04:25:55PM 10 points [-]

Developed societies in the 21st Century have started to break down in certain ways because we live in "the long run" discounted by people who made bad decisions for us when they ran things decades ago. I've seen this happen in cryonics organizations, even though, as Roko speculates, you'd expect that the members who have a stake in cryonics' success would insist on better performance.

Comment author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 02:59:15PM *  4 points [-]

Absolutely true. The cryonics meme spread widely is more sustainable -- and thus more useful -- than if only a few people have it.

Not to mention the fact that it could raise the sanity waterline quite a ways. That is a benefit that would be of lasting value (and perhaps steer us clear of a few existential risks) regardless of whether cryonics works.

Obviously if we knew cryonics wouldn't work it would not raise the sanity waterline to pretend otherwise -- but the fact is that we don't know any such thing. It is a quite valid assumption that it will work, as far as we can tell. And the cheaper cryonics is, the less sane the refusal to consider it becomes.

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 09:33:47AM *  [-]
Comment author: gwern 05 July 2010 09:51:27AM 2 points [-]

I wonder how much a 30 meter diameter dewar would cost? A cryonics system that needs such infrequent maintenance goes a long way to improving the odds, and might be worthwhile from an organization's point of view.

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 10:04:45AM *  [-]
Comment author: D_Alex 06 July 2010 04:15:45AM 8 points [-]

Roko... you must have been dealing with small scale cryonics. I am an engineer in the LNG industry, and we routinely design cryogenic storage tanks up to 200,000 m3 in volume. Vacuum is never used on this scale, in fact we use pearlite powder insulation and wood blocks to support the inner liner, and glass or polyurethane foam to insulate the shell. The PU foam is cheap and can be more or less as thick as you wish. Heat loss for LNG tanks is around 5 watts/sqm, for large tanks this represents a boil-off of around 1/50th of 1% per day. I'm sure this can be lowered. $100 million will buy a 140,000 m3 tank. If you want one, let me know :)

(AFAIK, powder is also used in vacuum flasks instead of multiple layers).

Comment deleted 06 July 2010 11:14:13AM *  [-]
Comment author: D_Alex 08 July 2010 05:07:47AM 3 points [-]

The boil-off can be lowered by increasing the insulation thickness, using better materials etc... the current designs are far from optimised for heat loss, since the gas companies do want to eventually sell the LNG in gaseous state. I think that a factor of 8 is doable with current techniques at abt 2x the overall price (this is a guesstimate not a quotation, OK? ;)

Comment author: lsparrish 06 July 2010 04:59:00AM 2 points [-]

At 125 neuro patients per m3, we're talking room for 25 million patients in a single 200,000 m3 tank. Total boiloff would be 40 m3 per day, which would take 5000 days if the tank is full of cryogen, or 1250 days (~4y) if the patients take up 75% of the volume.

If we wanted to get it to the century range, I wonder how much thicker the insulation needs to be... a factor of 25? Number of watts would need to go down to 200 milliwatt/sqm.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 05 July 2010 12:52:56PM *  4 points [-]

I used to be a cryogenic engineer. My impression is that the cost of a large-scale cryonics grave would be high, on the order of $50-100M because of the reliability required of the vacuum and the extreme insulation requirements.

By my estimate, such a container could hold up to 125000 heads, at $800 each. Very affordable. On the other hand, if you needed a coffin-size space for full body, the price would be more like $25000.

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 01:08:43PM [-]
Comment author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 01:40:15PM *  4 points [-]

And that is the dilemma.

But I notice cryonics is popular among the geek-set, which is not as small as one might think. Most cryonicists have computer science backgrounds. What would happen if IT companies and engineering firms started offering cryonics as part of their standard benefits package?

Comment author: advancedatheist 05 July 2010 04:43:35PM *  5 points [-]

Cryonics doesn't necessarily need more male propeller heads. I think it would benefit from more women, married couples and entire families, which would give it the vitality and durability of mainstream social structures like churches. Unfortunately I don't know how to overcome the "hostile wife phenomenon," as well as the fact that a commitment to cryonics resists generational transmission.

As an example of the latter, Marce Johnson entered the paleo-cryonics scene in the 1960's, and she had 40 years to show her children through precept and example that she wanted cryonic suspension for herself. To summarize a long story, despite efforts to raise money for her cryotransport with CI after she developed Alzheimer's and lost her suspension arrangements with another organization, she died and the daughter with POA over her had her cremated, then informed Marce's cryonicist friends after the fact, apparently out of spite.

Comment author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 05:28:01PM 13 points [-]

Early adopters are (relatively) crazy and have to put up with ridicule from their friends because it's not cool yet. That's just how it goes. The trouble is that cryonics has stayed in the early adopter phase for 40 years.

Suddenly I have the mental image of a t-shirt reading "I was into cryonics before it was cool."

Comment author: ata 06 July 2010 06:42:43AM 4 points [-]

Suddenly I have the mental image of a t-shirt reading "I was into cryonics before it was cool."

I want one.

Comment author: Alicorn 06 July 2010 07:12:32AM 4 points [-]

I want a shirt that says "I was into cryonics before I was cooled."

Comment author: advancedatheist 05 July 2010 06:12:30PM 4 points [-]

With a few exceptions, why does cryonics continue to repel female early adopters? I draw the contrast with Mormonism, which drew a lot of female early adopters despite sanctions against their participation in it. One, they had to defy taboos about getting involved in weird, heretical new religions; and two, they especially had to defy taboos against polygyny and adultery. Yet their participation turned Mormonism into a demographically successful church. If Mormonism had attracted mostly men, its demographic breakthrough wouldn't have happened.

Comment author: RobinZ 06 July 2010 01:50:44AM 3 points [-]

With a few exceptions, why does cryonics continue to repel female early adopters?

A few exceptions? I don't get the impression that the statistics are that severely skewed.

Comment author: lsparrish 06 July 2010 02:01:44AM 1 point [-]

I imagine Mormonism gave women the spiritual connection which most church groups do. I doubt it is coincidental that women outnumber men in churches. The protection of a powerful alpha male, as God is portrayed, might be something they can connect with more easily than men, on average.

But religion is not the only thing that disproportionately attracts women... For example, the Twilight fandom is mostly female.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 July 2010 12:43:41AM 3 points [-]

It's true that social institutions do better if they have women and families on board.

Since you mentioned churches: keep in mind that anybody who believes in bodily resurrection will have a problem with their loved ones being buried without heads.

Cryonics would have to recruit from among the non-religious, which is a big handicap to begin with.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 06 July 2010 01:20:43AM *  2 points [-]

Since you mentioned churches: keep in mind that anybody who believes in bodily resurrection will have a problem with their loved ones being buried without heads.

Anyone who believes in a resurrection that is so fixed in nature that their deity will have trouble resurrecting the person if the body is in two pieces is probably so far removed from rationality that it probably isn't worth trying to convince them that cryonics is reasonable. (On a marginally related topic I've been thinking on and off of the halachic(Orthodox Jewish law) ramifications of cryonics and I think an argument can be potentially made for cryonic preservation as long as one does full body preservation. It might be interesting to talk to some Modern Orthodox Rabbis and see what they say. Judaism has generally been more willing to adopt new medical technology than Christianity so if one is trying to aim at religious individuals that might be one possible avenue of attack. ETA: Thinking slightly more about this, I think a strong argument can be made that if halachah allows for cryonics then halachah would actually mandate it (based on the rules about the measures one goes to save lives))

I suspect that among the less strongly religious, such as moderate Christians and Jews in the US, religion is not itself a major reason against cryonics. I suspect that the weirdness aura and cached thoughts about death are much larger elements.

Comment author: lsparrish 06 July 2010 01:42:19AM 2 points [-]

Yes, Christians I've talked to seem not to have a problem with God gathering scattered ashes on the resurrection day. It would detract from his omnipotence if he were unable to do so. And plenty of martyrs were burned at the stake or beheaded. In fact, the book of Revelation specifically reserves a place in heaven for those who are beheaded for not taking the mark of the beast. I don't know if other religions feel differently, but Biblically based Christianity does not have anything that says separating the body from the head is cause for grief on the part of the individual.

Comment author: apophenia 05 July 2010 03:38:29PM 3 points [-]

I don't tell any of the programmers or computer scientists I work with about cryonics for social reasons. While many cryonicists have computer science backgrounds, I do not feel the reverse is true.

Comment author: Blueberry 05 July 2010 06:50:15PM 2 points [-]

Social reasons? You're scared they'll think you're weird? I'd think most programmers would be open to a discussion about the brain as a program, at least. Is it really that weird?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 July 2010 07:16:55PM *  20 points [-]

Things like this are 90% self-confidence and 10% innate weirdness. Talk about it like it's obvious, normal, and you're part of a community of smart people out there, and they'll pick up on the cues.

I know saying that won't help a lot of people, but it's what I do. When I introduce cryonics to someone, I don't sound nervous and timid and censure-expecting, I take off my necklace and say "This is my contract of immortality with the cult of the severed head."

Comment author: Alicorn 05 July 2010 10:56:58PM 7 points [-]

Aren't you signed up with CI, which doesn't do neuro? Whence the severed head?

Comment author: apophenia 05 July 2010 08:08:55PM 5 points [-]

I actually have the self confidence that it's the correct decision, just not that I'll be socially accepted. Analogously, I came out about being bi many years back and was completely wrong--it appears to be fine among people I know. It's completely reasonable that I may be wrong again. Have you found that cryonics is socially acceptable, or do you just think it's important to change its reputation?

Comment author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 04:11:27PM 1 point [-]

I wonder if there is a measurable talent distribution? Are any of the really famous hackers also cryonicists, or open to the idea?

Come to think of it, I haven't heard of any.

Too bad. If there was a link between being a good hacker and being a cryonicist, that would make it an easier sell.

Comment author: apophenia 05 July 2010 07:59:59PM 3 points [-]

That's an interesting question. Intense, good hackers might be more open to it than it's-a-job-programmers, if only because people less mainstream in one area often are in others. I really have no idea. I'll do an informal survey of people I know online (hackers) and people at my work (programmers). I've seen P.J. Eby posting to the python development list, so I'd label him a hacker. What is your opinion on cryonics, pjeby?

Comment author: Jolly 14 July 2010 01:42:42AM 1 point [-]

I'm a hacker, good at it, and signed up for cryonics. I also know of at least one other hacker who is signed up, and another who is in the process of being signed up.

Comment author: ata 06 July 2010 06:46:49AM *  2 points [-]

There's Hal Finney, for one. Not sure if he counts as "famous", though he's at least famous enough to merit a Wikipedia article, and he surely qualifies as a "good hacker".

Comment author: ciphergoth 05 July 2010 08:37:03PM 5 points [-]

Given the large storage mass involved, preventing temperature fluctuations without being at the exact boiling temperature of LN2 is feasible; it could be both highly failsafe and use the ideal cryonics temperature of -135C rather than the -196C that LN2 boiloff as a temperature regulation mechanism requires. Feel free to raise further issues in the comments.

Wow, that's incredibly attractive - it would completely eliminate cracking as we pass through the glass transition temperature. I take it that would also reduce LN2 costs by a further 30% or so?

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 09:03:21PM *  [-]
Comment author: ciphergoth 06 July 2010 07:55:35AM 4 points [-]

I haven't directly applied the formula, but How Cold is Cold Enough? suggests that 500 years at -140 is equivalent to slightly over an hour at body temperature.

Comment author: lsparrish 06 July 2010 05:58:28PM 3 points [-]

Thanks for linking to that. I was having a hard time remembering where I had read about all this stuff. From the same article:

There is one bright spot. Below -100°C, the water in biological systems is finally all frozen, and molecules can't move to react. We use cryoprotectants that have the effect of preventing freezing, but somewhere around -135°C they all have glass transition points, becoming so viscous that molecules can't move and undergo chemical change. While the table indicates that staying below -150°C is safe from a rate of reaction standpoint, in fact any temperature below -130°C to -135°C is probably safe due to elimination of translational molecular movement as a result of vitrification.

In other words, the effect at -135C in terms of molecules being locked in place is better than before the glass transition is occurred. I assume he means in addition to the Arrhenius effect. The main reason for cooling in a cryogen like LN2 directly is the fact that its boiling point keeps the system at a constant temperature easily at a small scale. Scaled up, keeping the temperature constant should prove less of a challenge, or at least cheaper (per unit volume) to solve.

Comment author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 11:26:01PM 1 point [-]

I'm not convinced it is much of a risk. Maybe if you're assuming thousands of years will need to pass.

Comment author: Blueberry 06 July 2010 01:14:42AM 0 points [-]

Was this comment a joke? If so, I like it.

Comment author: apophenia 05 July 2010 03:50:01PM 8 points [-]

For me, the deciding factor is cost. I would be willing to sign up for cryonics at 1/3 the current cost. However, this is unlikely, since I had to negotiate to get the smaller amount of life insurance I actually needed -- my cost would currently be about $15/month life insurance and $10/month CI fee. No matter how much we cut the cost of cryonics, my life insurance refuses to charge less. One solution is a cryonics group willing to take care of the life insurance themselves -- go under $100,000 -- then this would help cut the bottleneck cost.

Oh, also I'll commit to signing up for cryonics when it drops below $10/month. And perhaps before, since there's a good chance cryonics prices slowly drop or a singularity occurs before I'm 40.

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 05:33:11PM [-]
Comment author: apophenia 05 July 2010 07:55:14PM 0 points [-]

As far as the cost-benefit tradeoff, it's arbitrary. Gut feeling. I wrote a Scheme program to calculate the chance I would be successfully deanimated and then reanimated. It ended up being significantly lower than I expected--I was wavering before.

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 08:09:09PM *  [-]
Comment author: apophenia 05 July 2010 08:23:24PM *  4 points [-]

Here's my program, with my probability estimates removed to avoid bias. If anyone wants to use it, feel free. It calculates the probablilty a person will be revived after X years. If you want a final probability, plug in some priors, including a distribution over how long you think it will take you to be revived.

lang scheme

(require plot)

(define (cycle-to-chance cycle-length) (/ 1 cycle-length))

(define business-failure-cycle-length XXX) ;How often will a cryonics agency go out of business?

(define dark-age-cycle-length XXX) ;How often will a technical/ethical/economic dark age happen?

(define depression-cycle-length XXX) ;How often will a great depression hit North America?

(define Pnd XXX) ;Probability of a natural distaster

(define Pr XXX) ;Chance a corpse will be revived when cryogenic tech is available

(define Pbd XXX) ;Chance the information needed to revive a corpse is present

(define Pdh XXX) ;Chance humanity is destroyed (considered as a single time-indepenent factor)

(define Pcif (cycle-to-chance business-failure-cycle-length)) ;Chance the cryonics institute fails in a reasonable economy, per year

(define Pcif-cc XXX) ;Chance the corpse unfreezes if the cryonics institute fails in a reasonable economy

(define Pgef (cycle-to-chance depression-cycle-length)) ;Chance of a great depression in north america, per year

(define Pgef-cc XXX) ;Chance the corpse unfreezes in a great depression

(define Pda (cycle-to-chance dark-age-cycle-length)) ;Chance of a dark age, per year

(define Pda-cc XXX) ;Change the corpse unfreezes in a dark age

(define Pvc XXX) ;Probability a corpse is viable for freezing on death

(define Pst XXX) ;Probability a corpse is safely transported and frozen

(define entry-shock-pass-chance (* Pst Pvc (- 1 Pdh)))

(define exit-shock-pass-chance (* Pr Pbd))

(define yearly-pass-chance (min (- 1 (* Pcif Pcif-cc )) (- 1 (* Pgef Pgef-cc)) (- 1 (* Pda Pda-cc))))

(define (success-distribution time) (* entry-shock-pass-chance exit-shock-pass-chance (expt yearly-pass-chance time)))

(define (approx-integrate f start end step-size)

(apply +

 (map (lambda (inc-start)
(* (/ (+ (f inc-start) (f (+ inc-start step-size))) 2)
(for/list ((i (in-range start (- end step-size) step-size))) i))))

Here is my final probability, rot13ed: Gur cebonovyvgl V'yy or erivirq va svsgl, bar uhaqerq lrnef ner svir-cbvag-guerr-creprag, gjb-cbvag-guerr-creprag erfcrpgviryl.

Edit: I'm having a hard time getting this program source to display properly, but it should run fine with some line breaks.

Comment author: apophenia 10 July 2010 07:14:22PM *  2 points [-]

Okay, so I updated my chance that the correct information is present in the brain - from 75% to 99% after seeing this talk by Brian Wowk, with the team that preserved a rabbit liver. My estimates went down, not up. There was an error in my program, which I've corrected above. Even with this correction, I strongly recommend against using it without checking it yourself first.

My probability estimates are now nearly ten times higher, and I will sign up for cryonics. I guess I should either not stake my life on my programming skills, or program better.

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 08:43:00PM *  [-]
Comment author: apophenia 05 July 2010 10:15:41PM 1 point [-]

I haven't the faintest idea. I don't apply Bayesian rules in everyday life, and I don't like to guess. But, let me even put that aside. Suppose my personal happiness would be about what it is now, and that I would continue to enjoy life for at least as long as I've been alive currently (about 2 decades). That's already more happiness than I can get a subjective impression of, so I don't feel like I can come up with a helpful answer.

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 10:32:50PM *  [-]
Comment author: apophenia 05 July 2010 11:30:20PM *  2 points [-]

Where did you get $5,000,000, and what exactly does it represent?

I'll think about this, though. You're right in saying I've spent too much time thinking about the probability of success, and not enough on the value of success. I strongly suspect my $10 comes from some idea of what a reasonable monthly fee should be as an anchor, adjusted for the probability. As such, I should reconsider it.

Comment author: Larks 05 July 2010 11:50:38PM 1 point [-]

IIRC the figure is the average life insurance pay-out in the US. In the UK, it's more like £1,000,000

Comment author: twanvl 05 July 2010 03:49:27PM 5 points [-]

Does anyone have some actual numbers on what fraction of the expenses of existing cryonics companies are spent on cooling? That should give an indication on how much can be saved by scaling up.

Comment author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 04:02:32PM 6 points [-]

Here is a table with Alcor costs. Surprisingly, for a Bigfoot dewar the LN2 is less than half the total cost. The other big ones are janitorial work for the space around it and alarm systems.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 06 July 2010 04:30:54PM 1 point [-]

Interesting. Makes me wonder how those would scale. They also sound like they would scale well.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 05 July 2010 01:03:33PM 2 points [-]

Using a large unit for cryonics does have some complications. One would need to be able to be able to add people in at different times without disrupting the temperature. And when we eventually start taking people out they'll need to be able to remove the the then repairable ones without disruption to the more injured/sick. I suspect that neither of these will be a large technical hassle. Maybe someone who knows more about low temp engineering can comment if that's correct.

Comment author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 01:20:13PM 4 points [-]

I envision a steady stream of new patients for one or more years after its construction. There would be a robotic system to place them, and they would be cooled prior to entry. Delivery mechanism could be as simple as lowering them on a chain, but I suspect getting them settled in stably would involve some kind of robotic mechanisms operating withing the container itself. It would make sense to stack with accessible spaces given to more repairable patients, But with high-precision robotic removal it shouldn't be impossible to shuffle patients without shock. (They would be wrapped in something like fiberglass within their boxes to minimize this anyway.) On the other hand, it might be simpler to just take them out, assess them one by one, and place the ones that need to wait into a different dewar.

Comment author: ciphergoth 05 July 2010 06:33:27PM 5 points [-]

Are there robots that operate at those temperatures?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 05 July 2010 01:41:15PM 1 point [-]

I'm wondering whether the most efficient size isn't the largest imaginable-- that there's some medium-sized unit which would be better.

Comment author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 01:56:12PM *  5 points [-]

The largest imaginable is probably somewhere in the millions of cubic meters. Bringing in futuristic mass-beam tech (hey, it's feasible with superconductors and you're under cryogenic temperatures already) and you can go bigger than any building built to date, perhaps even hitting the kilometric cube -- a billion cubic meters.

So we might say 30 meters is a relatively small one.

But even still, you are absolutely right that smaller ones are worth considering. In fact they are more worth considering because they can be done sooner. Every time you scale up by 1000, thermal transfer drops by 10. So if you just want to go from $22k to $2.2k, all other things equal, you can do this by going from 14 patients to 14000 patients.

The next wave of cryonics could take the form of relatively small (but still huge) urban cryo-centers that replace graveyards. A place like the UK where they are running short on grave spaces might be a good starting point for that.

Another important idea to look at is piggybacking cryonics onto other forms of cryogenic storage, or perhaps renting out storage in our cryogenic warehouses for other purposes as a source of funding.

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 02:34:27PM *  [-]
Comment author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 04:08:37PM 1 point [-]

I'm not quite sure I understand the math, but it sounds like you are saying that since there is a tenfold increase in volume per unit area that means not only does less heat reach the cryogen there is more of it to be reached. So the energy efficiency is 10 times, but the storage capacity is also 10 times. Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

100 times as much slack time between refills, wow. That reduces a lot of costs and risks.

Comment deleted 05 July 2010 05:36:16PM *  [-]
Comment author: AlexM 12 July 2010 01:15:24PM 1 point [-]

Cryonics wants to be small, or why should the future want you?

All this technical discussion misses what I see as the major problem of cryonics if it works as advertised - why should the future want us?

Imagine if today were discovered few frozen Homo habilis and had technology to revive them. After, they would spend their lives in comfortable zoo that is paradise by ape men standards ( plentiful food! no dangerous beasts! warm shelter!)

Now try the same scenario, but with few millions of our frozen ancestors. The results will be same - at best, few dozens would be picked to be resurrected and studied, but I cannot see us welcoming millions of new hairy citizens.

Conclusion - to me it seems that if you want to maximize chance of future society resurrecting you, keep cryonics as close guarded secret of tiny elite...

Comment author: lsparrish 12 July 2010 03:30:54PM *  4 points [-]

Conclusion - to me it seems that if you want to maximize chance of future society resurrecting you, keep cryonics as close guarded secret of tiny elite...

I hear this from cryo skeptics all the time. Doubts -- not so much as to whether it works or not, but as to whether the patients who could be revived are human or not. Your whole argument treats the patients as dead and gone, and the people who would die without cryonics as expendable. It is simply not consistent with cryonics working in the first place.

If cryonics works in the first place, it means everyone who could be preserved but isn't, is a human casualty -- and everyone who could be reanimated but isn't is stuck in a coma against their will. I don't care if you give that an arbitrarily low probability, but if you are going to argue about what is the case if it does work, you have to remain consistent with that assumption if you want to criticize it effectively.

Luckily, future humans will have experience with suspended animation and radical surgery long before they can realistically revive a cryonics patient. Getting someone suspended with near-zero damage is an unsolved challenge, but few seem doubtful that it will be solved at some point. Repairing the damage of a current-day cryonics case is necessarily further down the road.

Simply having experience with reanimating suspendees (and seeing major surgery such as full body replacement using regrown organs), I expect they will have a much more enlightened perspective on this situation than your average cryonics critic today. Death will then be viewed as something extremely uncommon and in need of extremely good evidence before medical procedures and ethics can be cast aside.

Comment author: AlexM 12 July 2010 05:54:32PM 2 points [-]

I hear this from cryo skeptics all the time. Doubts -- not so much as to whether it >works or not, but as to whether the patients who could be revived are human or not.

No, the question is whether the advanced posthuman civilisation will see the frozen primitive men as human beings.

How many resources are we spending to save and improve lives of apes?

If cryonics works in the first place, it means everyone who could be preserved but >isn't, is a human casualty

The purpose of cryonics , at least as as advertised here, is to save specifically your life, not humanity in general. And, for the purpose, is simply better to be one of a few rare specimens than one in a mass.

and everyone who could be reanimated but isn't is stuck in a coma against their will.

why would they care about our will?

Death will then be viewed as something extremely uncommon and in need of >extremely good evidence before medical procedures and ethics can be cast aside.

death of one of them, yes, but one of us?

Comment author: RobinZ 12 July 2010 08:15:12PM 3 points [-]

How many resources are we spending to save and improve lives of apes?

How many resources are we spending to save and improve lives of the mentally retarded? My cursory research has over half a billion U.S. dollars in the United States in the year 2002.

Comment author: mattnewport 12 July 2010 08:57:40PM 3 points [-]

How many resources are we spending to save and improve lives of the mentally retarded? My cursory research has over half a billion U.S. dollars in the United States in the year 2002.

Surely the US spends more on healthcare than that?

Comment author: RobinZ 12 July 2010 09:09:19PM 0 points [-]

About a thousand times more by the government on health care, yes. This is just the estimates I found of governmental spending on people with mental retardation.

Comment author: mattnewport 12 July 2010 09:52:32PM 0 points [-]

Too subtle.

Comment author: RobinZ 12 July 2010 10:07:49PM 1 point [-]

I thought I was quite explicit. AlexM implied that future posthumans would not be interested in reviving comparatively moronic predecessors by suggesting their attitude towards these would be akin to our attitude towards apes. I suggested that the more appropriate analogy would be to human beings with developmental disabilities, for whom substantial sums of public money are spent. What's overly subtle about that?

Comment author: mattnewport 12 July 2010 10:11:35PM 3 points [-]

I meant I was too subtle. It was a joke. Apparently a failed one.

Comment author: RobinZ 12 July 2010 10:13:59PM 3 points [-]

Oh, yeah. That is clever. Probably would have worked better in person.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 July 2010 02:38:43PM 3 points [-]

This might depend on how long it takes to develop revival. Any estimates?

If it's just a few decades, cryonics companies might want to signal trustworthiness by reviving everyone.

In The First Immortal, a science fiction novel about cryonics, there's a law that no one gets revived unless there's someone willing to do the work of integrating them into the future society.

In other words, you'd do well to be an interesting person, and better to be from a family with a very strong culture of loyalty, though I suppose that integration could also be a matter of contract with a cryonics company.

Comment author: AlexM 12 July 2010 06:00:53PM 0 points [-]

This might depend on how long it takes to develop revival. Any estimates?

It depends on the gap between us and the future society - if the wilder/more optimistic predictions of transhumanism and artificial intelligence come true - and they have to come true for cryonics to work, the gap between 2050 and now will be bigger that between us and Stone Age.

Would you invite your great...grandfather Ugg for dinner?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 July 2010 06:20:14PM 0 points [-]

I've wondered if the revived people might end up as an underclass, or as several underclasses.

Comment author: Soki 12 July 2010 02:42:11PM *  1 point [-]

why should the future want us?

Someone who knew you may want to bring you back.
If it takes centuries, then the more people frozen the better since it will be more likely that someone you knew would be brought back by someone else. And then he may bring you back too.
This assumes that the government does not prevent people form doing this.

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 July 2010 09:59:26AM 1 point [-]

In large enough quantities, it is conceivable that indefinite storage costs would be as low as $50 per person, or 50 cents per year.

Could you provide a cite for this? Thanks!

Comment author: handoflixue 26 May 2011 01:21:49AM 0 points [-]

I'll echo this. My research suggests that most of this post is wildly optimistic, if it's talking about whole-body cryonics...

Comment author: timtyler 06 July 2010 05:12:04AM *  1 point [-]

Looking at:


...it shows lots of small freezers on wheels - and not one big one.

So, perhaps there are factors involved which have not been considered in this analysis. It would seem that the benefits of large size run into diminishing returns, and the costs rise faster. It is the same reason why there are no surviving land animals bigger than an elephant.

Comment author: JamesAndrix 05 July 2010 08:00:04PM 0 points [-]

I don't think we should go into details on this. It's creepy enough that lifesaving stasis now involves having your head cut off. I don't think it will reassure people to learn that the ideal it to then drop it into a giant jar of heads. i know it would be a giant frost metal ball, but in my mind's eye it's transparent and the heads are shrunken.

Comment author: Kazuo_Thow 05 July 2010 09:21:26PM 3 points [-]

It seems like the focus of this post is not to do public outreach directly. The comparative advantage we have here at LW (in the particular domain of promoting cryonics) probably lies further upstream than that: coming up with ideas behind business strategy rather than hashing out marketing campaigns to make cryonics seem less "creepy" and more acceptable to the general public.

Comment author: lsparrish 05 July 2010 09:27:27PM 2 points [-]

What I had in my mind's eye was more like this. Jar is probably not the best metaphor. More like a long-term warehouse.

Comment author: JamesAndrix 06 July 2010 06:05:28AM *  3 points [-]

I'd expect the liquid nitrogen to provide an interesting set of challenges in the design of warehousing equipment. I suppose there would at least have to be shelves to prevent crushing.

But I was thinking this setup would be a lot easier to work with on the assumption that there would one day be a general immortality solution, and you could take heads out top to bottom. It just seems easier to design the whole thing if you never try to get someone out of the middle, and never have to immerse complex machinery in the nitrogen. Maybe this method would still be popular as a budget solution, while wealthier patients retain the option to be revived as soon as it is possible for them.

Comment author: lsparrish 06 July 2010 03:08:00PM 3 points [-]

Point taken. Complex machinery on the inside seems like it would be a pain to maintain. A hoist that lowers patients from the top could be simplest. Computer controlled for precision and safety (perhaps still human operated).

Rather than shelves, I suspect steel boxes of a cubic meter or more would be used to contain the patients. Stacking the heads in a heap sounds like a recipe for crushed skulls and mixed-up brain matter. (Though who knows what nanotech can solve, eh?) In the cold-air version of the system (above LN2 temperature), these would act as heat sink and thermal conductor while providing strength. Fans would probably also be used to circulate the air to prevent stratification.

Stacking directly in LN2 might prove interesting. A reason to use cold-air temperatures over LN2 might be to make the stacking mechanism easier to design. Remember, the process of stacking patients is only going to take a few years, and it can be filled with cryogen later.

Cooling to LN2 temps over that last few degrees could be done at a rate that takes months (or even years), which I assume would induce fewer cracks. Then it would be filled with LN2. If we use the steel boxes, the inside of the boxes might need to be filled as well in which case they would need to have openings. (Perhaps they should be cages rather than solid boxes.) This is just to maximize cryogen volume; you could always keep it cool by just cooling the outside.