He has resumed posting at his blog Chronopause and he is essential reading for those interested in cryonics and, more generally, rational decision-making in an uncertain world.
In response to a comment by a LW user named Alexander, he writes:
I have no objection to you promoting Chronosphere on LessWrong and would strongly encourage you to do so. But my guess is that you will find it an unrewarding, and possibly punishing exercise.... I’m not being trite when I say that people do NOT like reality.... Life is scary and hard, in fact, it is absolutely terrifying if looked at objectively, and things like cryonics and religion ostensibly exist to REDUCE that terror and to make to life (and death) more bearable.
For that to work, there has to be a happy sense of optimism and trust that everything is going to work out just fine. This makes sense, and, arguably, is even necessary, because the alternative would be that everyone who chose cryonics would have to more than a customer – they would have be involved – at least to some extent – as an activist. That’s asking an awful lot. But most of all, it is asking that people who opt for cryonics give up the comfort of the fantasy that they can be customers, buy the product, pay their money every month or every quarter, and that they will then be taken care of when the need arises. It means that they will have to do two exceedingly difficult and uncomfortable things:
1) Confront and understand the reality of the the many shortcomings and uncertainties of contemporary cryonics and live with them.
2) Work industriously, creatively and continuously to overcome those shortcomings.
It is very, very hard to create and sustain an organization and a community where the above two dictums are practiced. It is not only hard for the community members, it is hard for the community leaders.
(Sidenote: This reminds me of what Luke considers his most difficult day-to-day tasks.)
...[I]f you expect to see cryonics organizations to have validated the quality of their brain cryopreservation technology under a wide variety of real world conditions, you will be disappointed. If you expect to see contingency planning for serious, inevitable near-term existential risks, such as pandemic disease, you will also be disappointed. Similarly, if you expect to see technologies in place to mitigate post-cardiac arrest normothermic ischemic injury, more accurately predict when a patient will experience cardiac arrest (i.e., is truly terminal), experience less cold ischemic injury, or be better protected from outside attack, again, you will be disappointed.
LessWrong is structured around the rational cognition of Eli[e]zer Yudkowsky and his colleagues. They posit that they have a better (i.e., more rational, more functional) way of decision making and of living their lives. They also advocate being signed up for cryonics, and in particular making cryonics arrangements with Alcor. [ed note: Actually I think EY is with CI.] I don’t dispute that this a better and more rational choice than having no cryonics arrangements. I would say that this is necessary, but not sufficient. Or in other words, a small, but wholly inadequate step in the right direction. More generally, I would say that LessWrong suffers from the same sort of deficiency that cryonics does. The world is clearly racing towards catastrophe on many fronts. In some areas these catastrophes are not due to any kind of bad “active” decision making by humans. For instance, any competent epidemiologist at the CDC or WHO can give you fairly precise odds of when the next global pandemic will occur with a mortality of 30% to 50% of the population. No expert in this area voice any doubt that such an outbreak will occur. It is not a question of if, but of when. It is also clearly the case that the general population will not be prepared and that vast numbers of people will die, including some you reading this. It is also clear that most or all cryonics patients will be lost in any such pandemic.
My point is, that if “immortalism,” which includes both radical life extension and cryonics, is to have any material chance of working, a far higher degree of cohesion, activism, planning and commitment are required. Pandemic disease is just one example. Crazy behavior in a multitude of forms is another – and it is arguably more prevalent, more virulent and more of an immediate threat.
So, my guess is that most of the other cryonicists of your generation will prove singularly uninterested in my message and that they will not want to do anything – and indeed, that most have not even signed up for cryonics! I sincerely hope you prove me wrong!
As to your last question, by no means have I given up on cryonics, nor will I ever, within reason. As long as it is at all practical to be biopreserved, it makes sense to do so. No matter how small the odds, some chance is better than no chance at all. I am signed up with Alcor for now.
On a related note, Carl Shulman has said that more widespread cryonics would encourage more long-term thinking, specifically about existential risk. Is it a consensus view that this would be the case?
Every now and then people ask LW what sort of career they should pursue if they want to have a large impact improving the world. If we agree that cryonics would encourage long-term thinking, and that this would be beneficial, then it seems to me that we should push some of these people towards the research and practice of brain preservation. For example, perhaps http://80000hours.org/search?q=cryonics should have some results.