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Optimism versus cryonics

34 lsparrish 25 October 2010 02:13AM

Within the immortalist community, cryonics is the most pessimistic possible position. Consider the following superoptimistic alternative scenarios:

  1. Uploading will be possible before I die.
  2. Aging will be cured before I die.
  3. They will be able to reanimate a whole mouse before I die, then I'll sign up.
  4. I could get frozen in a freezer when I die, and they will eventually figure out how to reanimate me.
  5. I could pickle my brain when I die, and they will eventually figure out how to reanimate me.
  6. Friendly AI will cure aging and/or let me be uploaded before I die.

Cryonics -- perfusion and vitrification at LN2 temperatures under the best conditions possible -- is by far less optimistic than any of these. Of all the possible scenarios where you end up immortal, cryonics is the least optimistic. Cryonics can work even if there is no singularity or reversal tech for thousands of years into the future. It can work under the conditions of the slowest technological growth imaginable. All it assumes is that the organization (or its descendants) can survive long enough, technology doesn't go backwards (on average), and that cryopreservation of a technically sufficient nature can predate reanimation tech.

It doesn't even require the assumption that today's best possible vitrifications are good enough. See, it's entirely plausible that it's 100 years from now when they start being good enough, and 500 years later when they figure out how to reverse them. Perhaps today's population is doomed because of this. We don't know. But the fact that we don't know what exact point is good enough is sufficient to make this a worthwhile endeavor at as early of a point as possible. It doesn't require optimism -- it simply requires deliberate, rational action. The fact is that we are late for the party. In retrospect, we should have started preserving brains hundreds of years ago. Benjamin Franklin should have gone ahead and had himself immersed in alcohol.

There's a difference between having a fear and being immobilized by it. If you have a fear that cryonics won't work -- good for you! That's a perfectly rational fear. But if that fear immobilizes you and discourages you from taking action, you've lost the game. Worse than lost, you never played.

This is something of a response to Charles Platt's recent article on Cryoptimism: Part 1 Part 2

Kahneman's Planning Anecdote

25 Eliezer_Yudkowsky 17 September 2007 04:39PM

Followup toPlanning Fallacy

From "Timid Choices and Bold Forecasts: Cognitive Perspective on Risk Taking" by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and Dan Lovallo, in a discussion on "Inside and Outside Views":

In 1976 one of us (Daniel Kahneman) was involved in a project designed to develop a curriculum for the study of judgment and decision making under uncertainty for high schools in Israel.  When the team had been in operation for about a year, with some significant achievements already to its credit, the discussion at one of the team meetings turned to the question of how long the project would take.  To make the debate more useful, I asked everyone to indicate on a slip of paper their best estimate of the number of months that would be needed to bring the project to a well-defined stage of completion: a complete draft ready for submission to the Ministry of education.  The estimates, including my own, ranged from 18 to 30 months.

At this point I had the idea of turning to one of our members, a distinguished expert in curriculum development, asking him a question phrased about as follows:

"We are surely not the only team to have tried to develop a curriculum where none existed before.  Please try to recall as many such cases as you can.  Think of them as they were in a stage comparable to ours at present.  How long did it take them, from that point, to complete their projects?"

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Planning Fallacy

41 Eliezer_Yudkowsky 17 September 2007 07:06AM

The Denver International Airport opened 16 months late, at a cost overrun of $2 billion (I've also seen $3.1 billion asserted).  The Eurofighter Typhoon, a joint defense project of several European countries, was delivered 54 months late at a cost of £19 billion instead of £7 billion.  The Sydney Opera House may be the most legendary construction overrun of all time, originally estimated to be completed in 1963 for $7 million, and finally completed in 1973 for $102 million.

Are these isolated disasters brought to our attention by selective availability?  Are they symptoms of bureaucracy or government incentive failures?  Yes, very probably.  But there's also a corresponding cognitive bias, replicated in experiments with individual planners.

Buehler et. al. (1995) asked their students for estimates of when they (the students) thought they would complete their personal academic projects.  Specifically, the researchers asked for estimated times by which the students thought it was 50%, 75%, and 99% probable their personal projects would be done.  Would you care to guess how many students finished on or before their estimated 50%, 75%, and 99% probability levels?

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