Here is my understanding - correct me if I'm wrong:
Cryonics is only allowed once a person is determined legally dead: when the heart stops beating.
One of the reasons why they have to be dead seems to be that the majority of the population consider cryonics to be a death-sentence, as there is no guarantee at this time that subjects can be revived - regardless of if there's a cure for whatever ailment caused a person's death.
It is difficult at this time to improve the revitalizing process as the patients - or clients - are incapable of surviving as their body was already in the process of shutting down, and we do not have the technology to bring them fully back.
Now, to some conjecturing.
We might be able to more reasonably test the effectiveness of procedures to revive current patients if we had healthier people, ones not yet at death's door.
Here's where the ethical dilemma hits home: we could use people who are in good health, here defined as 'not terminally-ill or otherwise dying from health complications in the near future,' who are already intending to end their life. Simply stated, those who are suicidal.
For all intensive purposes they would cease to exist, which would be part of the appeal to that subgroup. At this time there is a probability of them dying from the procedure, which should be ok as they were self-destructing anyway. And if they don't die, they get the chance to reflect on their life or go at it again. In this way their death would be more beneficial to the whole.
The benefits to this would be the additional research into the effects of cryonics on the body and how to develop a procedure to guarantee that you CAN be revived once put under.
I am aware of a couple of problems: legal complications, how to find willing participants, etc., and am thinking of ways to resolve that.
I've just been thinking about this for the past week or so and wanted additional insight. Thoughts?
For those opposed to suicide: this idea does not encourage people to kill themselves. Rather, it provides those who are already intent upon ending their existence a means to do so more honorably.
In case people have not read it, I recommend Schopenhauer's Essay on Suicide, found here: http://www.egs.edu/library/arthur-schopenhauer/articles/essays-of-schopenhauer/on-suicide/
Last month, two people far at the periphery of my social circles have threatened suicide. Seems like a sign for me to learn some ledge-fu.
I reviewed the stuff I'd learned back in high school ("Listen." "Be supportive." "Don't argue." "Etc etc etc.") I have trouble believing that this would work outside of movieland, especially on strangers. More so, in person I'm an awkward, fidgeting introvert---the impact of everything I say is thus diminished, and I sound very insincere or clinical, like I'm following a bad movie script, when I say anything like, "You are not alone in this. I’m here for you." or "How can I best support you right now?" I doubt that this would sound any better in writing.
I suppose I could split my question into two related ones: what would you say to a person threatening to commit suicide, 1. in person, and 2. in an email?
I'm looking for out-of-the-box ideas that don't rely on charisma or compassion shining through. Personally, if I ever need to talk myself out of suicidal thoughts, I apply the "bum comparison principle": if my life is so crummy that I'm willing to commit suicide, then I should be willing to just walk out on everything I value and drift off in a random direction, survive by dine-and-dashing out of cheap restaurants and wash dishes if I get caught, maybe take odd jobs or hitchhike or gather roots and berries or blog from public libraries. I don't see this possibility in a negative light, and yet I still haven't done it. To me, it means that however bad my life may seem, I'm still too attached to it to walk out; therefore, suicide isn't on the menu.
People have different reasons to want suicide, and I understand that what works for me with my first world problems probably won't work for a person who is in too much physical pain from an incurable disease. To the best of my knowledge, the two people I mentioned earlier are both unskilled laborers who had lost their jobs, one of them so long ago that he's no longer eligible for unemployment benefits. I don't think I'll meet these particular people again, but I'd appreciate everyone's thoughts on what I could've said if my brain hadn't frozen.
The Less Wrong community has discussed negotiating with one's conflicting sub-agents as a method to defeat akrasia and other forms of dynamic inconsistency, with some mix of reactions about how possible or effective that strategy can be. This article presents a successful example in my life, though it is probably an extreme outlier for a number of reasons.
I have been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. It is one of the most significant challenges in my life, and certainly the one with the most dire implications. I can be fairly well modeled as three major sub-agents1:
- Neutral: asymptomatic. Attempting to control mood swings has resulted in me spending the vast majority of my time as "neutral".
- Hypomanic: anxious and energetic. I have some trouble focusing, but can be extremely productive. I often exercise several hours a day and sleep an average of two hours a night (often six hours every three days). I've written a 70 page paper in three days, and a 12 KLOC compiler in five days.
- Depressed: listless, and suicidal. I have serious insomnia, but stay in bed all day. I can't stand other people and would really sincerely prefer not to exist. Ironically, I can credit my inability to motivate myself to do anything with not having killed myself in this state. Sometimes I'm very emotional (crying, etc.), sometimes I'm emotionally dead.
- Hypomanic loves being who he is and doing what he wants. The main difficulty of transitioning back to Neutral is unwillingness, rather than inability.
- Hypomanic despises Depressed, and thinks that Neutral is boring. He recognizes that staying Hypomanic for too long will likely result in a crash followed by Depressed taking over, but still wants "one more day".
- Depressed loathes all of us. He doesn't like the others more than himself, but is usually willing to trade knowledge and pain for ignorance and happiness. However, he's unmotivated to bother taking the steps to make that happen. Again, the difficulty in forcing a transition is not really about inability, although difficulty and self-discipline are an issue.
- Depressed doesn't really want to kill himself, but he's very desirous of nonexistence.
- Neutral is scared of and pained by Depressed. He is wary of Hypomanic but recognizes his usefulness. He spends much more time thinking of the other two than they think of him, and actively prevents transitions to the other two, which are fairly easy to accidentally trigger otherwise.
- Neutral is somewhat careful for his own sake, but all are motivated by other's concern for him. The latter is the only other significant reason Depressed hasn't gone through with a suicide attempt.
Neutral feels it necessary to let Hypomanic take control more often to ensure that the compromise has weight to Depressed, but has started using Hypomanic to accomplish goals that are otherwise too exhausting to attain (a several-day code crunch or a need to meet and make a good impression on dozens of people). Meanwhile, Hypomanic has been more responsible lately in relinquishing control within days rather than weeks, partially because of these negotiations, but mostly because of other people in my life who have been conscripted to help monitor and rein me in.
I do not have a great deal of proven success with this strategy. I started doing this less than a year ago, and have not dealt with a full-blown major depressive episode since then. During that time I have also been more successful than ever at preventing myself from slipping into depression in the first place and treating early depression aggressively. In the end, that makes a much more significant difference, but on the two occasions when I became depressed enough to start feeling suicidal I was positively influenced by this agreement.
It seems unlikely that this approach will help many people with anything, but I feel like it is interesting in the debate about dynamic inconsistency, and I encourage others to find mutually-beneficial agreements they can make with themselves if they also feel like they deal with mutually incompatible agents from time to time. Also, this is my first post that is more than a link, so please be constructive.
1 I've never used names to refer to myself in different states, and don't think of my major sub-agents as individuals, but I felt that it was useful for didactic purposes to refer to myself in different states as different proper nouns.
2 I don't race cars, do drugs, or get in fights (except at the dojo). I do push my physical limits farther than I should (do parkour that I'm not be ready for, run 20km when I usually run 5, etc.), and I have injured myself this way, but just pulled muscles, sprains and once a broken finger.
3 I haven't heard this argument before, but this is the reason I haven't signed up for cryonics.
If it's not obvious, I was in a neutral state when I wrote this. It would have been impossible for me to do while depressed, and unlikely for me to try while hypomanic. I tried to de-bias myself, but no matter what state I'm in, I prefer my own viewpoint, and speak less highly of the others that diverge.
My various interweb browsings stumbled me upon a potential Cockatrice in written, philisophical form. I've thus far read through the first chapter, and it is less anti-rational than most philosophical writings.
I'm reading through it right now, and will provide my feedback when I'm done, likely as a front-page post.
Personally, I'm a Fatalist, with some sort of Weird Soldier Ethic, who plans to go out the same way that Hunter did (if the cops don't get me first), but I've got a bunch of nonsense to Write first. I figure that'll make me somewhat immune. That aside, I doubt it's a real cockatrice - or we would've heard about it before.
It is a strong exercise in Nihilism. So, with those cautions given, I offer it to you: an extensive suicide letter.
Tip of the hat to this guy.
I came to the idea after a previous lesswrong topic discussing nihilism, and its several comments on depression and suicide. My argument is that wire heading in its extreme or complete/full form can be easily modeled as suicide, or less strongly as volitional intelligence reduction, at least given current human brain structure and the technology being underdeveloped and hence understood and more likely to lead to such end states.
I define Full Wire Heading as that which a person would not want to reverse after it 'activates' and which deletes their previous utility function or most of it. a weak definition yes, but it should be enough for the preliminary purposes of this post. A full wire head is extremely constrained, much like an infant for e.g. and although the new utility function could involve a wide range of actions, the activation of a few brain regions would be the main goal, and so they are extremely limited.
If one takes this position seriously, it follows that only one's moral standpoint on suicide or say lobotomy should govern judgments about full wire heading. This is trivially obvious of course, but to take this position as true we need to understand more about wire heading, as data is extremely lacking especially in regards to human like brains. My other question then is to what extent could such an experiment help in answering the first question?