Cryonics signup guide #1: Overview

by mingyuan5 min read6th Jan 202128 comments

108

CryonicsPractical
Curated

This is the introduction to a sequence on signing up for cryonics. In the coming posts I will lay out what you need to do, concretely and in detail. This sequence is intended for people who already think signing up for cryonics is a good idea but are putting it off because they're not sure what they actually need to do next. I am not going to address the question of how likely cryonics is to work – that's been covered extensively elsewhere

If you have no idea what cryonics is, or if you want a thorough refresher, I recommend WaitButWhy's Why Cryonics Makes Sense

Biases

This sequence is US-focused, since I went through the process in the US. It's also somewhat Alcor-biased, since I chose Alcor quite early on in the process. However, I've collaborated with both non-US cryonicists and people signed up with the Cryonics Institute, so I'm confident there will be useful information no matter where you are or which institution you choose to keep you in a vat of liquid nitrogen.

Epistemic status

I had intended to polish this sequence more before publishing it, but it was suggested to me that it might be really important to get it out ahead of fourth-wave COVID, so I'll be releasing a new post every Tuesday starting today. As a result, I'm not as completely confident in all of my claims and decisions as I had hoped to be, and some things are subject to change as I get farther in the process myself. However, points of uncertainty are noted clearly throughout the sequence, and I'm happy to answer any questions about my thought process.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Connor Flexman, Daniel Filan, Gordon Worley, Mati Roy, Seraphina Nix, and nameless others for letting me ask them endless questions. Thanks also to Eli Tyre and Oge Nnadi for their previous writeups on this topic, from which I borrowed liberally. 

Summary of the process

The first thing most people probably want to know is: What do I do now? It turns out to be really hard to figure this out, and I think unnecessarily so – the information is out there, but it's not all written down clearly in one place. This sequence is my attempt to rectify that. 

Basic process overview

Here is a basic overview of the cryonics signup process from start to finish:

  1. Preliminary decisions
    1. Neurocryopreservation vs whole-body cryopreservation
    2. Cryonics Institute vs Alcor
  2. Contact an agent to get life insurance
  3. Fill out and submit cryonics membership application
  4. Sign cryopreservation contract
  5. Optional additional paperwork
  6. Keep your policy and membership up-to-date forever
  7. Be cryopreserved upon your legal death

For those who want to get oriented visually, here's a flowchart covering the basics:

Sequence outline

And here is the outline of this sequence:

  1. Introduction (you are here!)
  2. Neurocryopreservation vs whole-body cryopreservation
  3. Cryonics Institute vs Alcor
  4. Intro to life insurance for cryonics
    1. Types of life insurance
    2. Cryonics-friendly life insurance carriers
    3. Cryonics-friendly life insurance agents
    4. The insurance underwriting process
  5. Making it official
  6. Optional additional steps
  7. Actually putting someone in cryostasis (on hold until further notice)
  8. Appendices

You may notice similarities to the process overview above, with the main difference being an outsize focus on paperwork, and particularly life insurance. This is because life insurance is a cesspool of bureaucratic bloat, and I wanted to lay things out really clearly so that you can navigate it without crying as much as I did. Once you've secured your funding method (whether that's life insurance or something else), the rest of the process is very straightforward!

I think the preliminary decisions – on whole-body vs brain and which provider to use –merit a fair amount of consideration as well. I've already made my decisions there, but you may have different cruxes than I do; the questions raised can get pretty philosophical.

What I chose

If you just want to offload all of the complex decision-making to me (the person who spent several months writing this sequence but has no other relevant qualifications), I chose Alcor neuropreservation, which I will most likely fund by a ~$200,000 indexed universal life insurance policy from Kansas City Life, with help from the insurance agent David Donato. I made these choices as a fairly well-off 25-year-old female US citizen with no major health problems and no history of drug use. If you are in a substantially different situation but still want to defer to my judgment, send me a DM and I can help you figure out what's right for you.

Should I sign up?

Even though this sequence assumes you think cryonics is a good idea in the abstract, you might be wondering if you, personally, should actually sign up for it, and if so when. Below I'll discuss a couple factors that might help you make that decision.

Costs

Monetary cost

Cryonics is not just for rich people. It does cost money, but it's really not exorbitant, especially if you're young and healthy. There's a wide range of possible costs (corresponding to different choices of cryonics provider or life insurance policy type) that bottom out around $25 a month. I personally (25-year-old female, who did not make decisions primarily based on price) expect to pay about $90/month. For my mom, who's in her mid 60s, I expect around $300/month – which means we're slated to pay similar total amounts, it's just that I'm paying over a longer time period.

For most people, I think this cost is probably worth a small (but not infinitesimal) chance at immortality. Sure, if it's a choice between paying life insurance premiums and having enough to eat, feed yourself first. But if you're at all financially secure, and you think cryonics is a good idea but just haven't gotten around to signing up, I don't think you should view the cost as a major deterrent.

Time cost

Signing up for cryonics takes a fair amount of time, even if you come in understanding exactly what to do, and also offload the paperwork to an insurance agent. So if you're busy with something very urgent – like, if you've been spending all your mental energy this year advising national governments on their pandemic response measures – then now is indeed probably not the best time to sign up. But if it's been like five years and you always feel too busy to get around to it, I recommend just biting the bullet and doing it now.

If you're not price-sensitive, you could pay someone to do nearly all of the work for you, but you'd still have to hire that person, provide them with your personal information for filling out forms, look over their decisions, sign papers, and potentially submit to a medical exam. My guess is it'd be hard to get it below ~10 hours total.

If you're not willing or able to pay someone to go through the signup process for you, expect more like ~40 hours. That's a significant chunk of time, but not an unmanageable one. 

Attention cost

The signup process just takes a while, even if you do everything right (Oge reports 11 weeks between seeking out a life insurance policy and receiving his medallions), and so there's a sustained back-of-the-mind attention cost until it's over. Being signed up for cryonics also requires a bit of ongoing maintenance (something I'll cover in a later post), but not much more than, say, taking out a rental insurance policy does.

Now vs later

I know someone who signed up with Alcor in their twenties, and then the next year was diagnosed with potentially fatal cancer. If they had waited any longer, they would have been uninsurable, or in the best case, their life insurance premiums would have been crazy, unaffordably high. As it turned out, they remain insured, grandfathered in at their previous price. Sure this is just an anecdote, but it really drives home for me that, while you may be at an age when it's statistically highly unlikely that you'll die, it's never impossible.

All that's to say: If you think it's a good idea, do it now; don't put it off. If you're uncertain whether it's a good idea, find the root of your uncertainty and make a real decision, rather than just indefinitely driving at half-speed.

But I'm not in the US!

Not a problem! You can still sign up with Alcor or CI, and fund your membership using life insurance, so nearly everything in this sequence will still apply to you.

If you're looking into the signup process and are not in the US (or need to work with anyone outside of the US), I strongly recommend finding cryonicists in the relevant country; they'll be able to help you with bureaucratic specifics more than I can. Here are some links I found (disclaimer that I'm not endorsing any of these and they might not even still exist):

Likely-outdated email contact info for additional groups available here.

What's the lowest-effort thing I can do right now?

If you don't expect yourself to go through the full process right away for whatever reason, but you want to increase your chances of cryopreservation in the event of your death, you should do the following two easy things:

Taken together, these constitute informed consent, making it much more likely that it will be legally possible to preserve you in case of an emergency. I expect these two steps to take less than 30 minutes in total.


That's it for now! Stay tuned for many more posts that are very technical and much longer than this, and please comment if you have any questions!

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28 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:22 AM
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Curated. Some posts convey a brilliant insight. Some entire sequences of posts are... just a lot of helpful information for people who need it. I'm hoping this sequence helps people who are thinking about cryonics get started on it, with a bunch of practical info.

I've left relevant comments on a number of the sections, but I think it's worth strongly emphasizing that you can have a much different experience than this sequence outlines! And having this different experience can be a very reasonable choice to make.

As someone financially constrained, who has high uncertainty on his finances and the state of technology 20+ years from now:

  1. I pursued term life insurance; it was fast, easy and cheap. I pay ~$10 / month for my cryo coverage, with the rate locked in for the next 20 years. All three providers I moved forward with were compatible with cryo, around the same price, and easy to work with. The policy I settled on is with Haven Life. I expect every insurance policy is compatible with the Cryonics Institute; they work with you to find a solution, and there are many. See this comment for why term life insurance can be a good choice: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/NPDSB3WEEAb8Swuyc/4-1-types-of-life-insurance?commentId=5sXoDYZzRr2AcafeF

  2. I went with CI, and paid the lifetime membership fee. A post in this sequence estimates that cost as equivalent to $2 / month. If I accept that, my total financial outlay is $12 / month for cryo coverage for the next 20 years; this is much cheaper (although also potentially less feature-rich) than the over $100 / month this sequence provides guidance to obtaining.

  3. Going with CI can be a very reasonable decision. Not only can it be significantly more affordable, but I personally don't believe there are meaningful differences in cryopreservation quality (it's all very bad and will require appx. equally advanced technology to reanimate). Furthermore, if you have short timelines, financial sustainability is less likely to matter between the two (it's more likely both last for 30 years than for 500 years).

  4. Many of the "optional additional steps" were a built-in part of the CI sign-up process, in my case.

Additionally, there are many more cryopreservation options and optional next steps you can potentially take. CI informs you of some of those (Alcor may as well) and there's a lot of unique information shared in this FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cryonicists/

For anyone in Europe (especially Germany, Switzerland, Austria), feel free to reach out. We're happy to offer advice on what the best options are in Europe, how to organize standby etc. Not only for the biostasis organization I'm running http://tomorrowbiostasis.com/ but in general. Of course, free of charge and without any obligations. 

Hi. I'm seeing this post because it's curated and assume this will be the case of quite a few other people who'll read this article soon. Before rushing to sign up on cryonics, I'd be interested in discussion on the grievances brought up against Alcor here by Michael-G-Darwin  https://www.reddit.com/r/cryonics/comments/d6s41b/can_alcor_get_any_worse/) . For reference Michael G Darwin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Darwin) worked at Alcor a long while. 

In the post I've linked he quite extensively explains faults he finds in how Alcor has handled patients in the last years. Having read it I'm not inclined to go forwards with cryonics before having good evidence that standards of care have improved, or that Mike Darwin's claims have been solidly refuted. In general I'd appreciate strong evidence that the level of care given to most patients (and that which anyone signing up would expect to receive) is 'the best we can do' and not 'just good enough that people continue paying and scandals don't break out too often'.

Are there any such discussions debating these points available elsewhere? I've currently only looked around for a couple hours max so I'm not knowledgeable on the subject. I'm mostly bringing this up so other novices at least know there's been some debate and there's more to look into than just what the companies offering those services say. 

A relevant data point is that, as of a few years ago, I believe Mike Darwin wrote that he was still signed up with Alcor. As he pointed out, despite the problems with existing organizations, cryonics is the only game in town for avoiding death. 

I was gonna point out the same thing

Just in case anyone cares: There are ways you can increase your own chances of a good preservation, notably by moving near Alcor.

The reddit post is about a year old, but pretty upsetting. It alleges a lot of incompetence around the transportation of patients who have recently died.

Poking around the r/cryonics for a few minutes I wasn't able to find any follow up. I'm eagerly following the issue.

I'm very surprised that you say informed consent requires signing a legal document AND paying a monthly fee to some non-governmental entity.  Why can't you consent using only a document?

I'm pretty sure paying a monthly fee is not required to have informed consent. Can you quote the part of the text that says otherwise?

Someone just mentioned to me that to get become an Alcor Associate Member, you also need to pay 60 USD to open a file

Time cost

Feel free to contract me for help signing up. I already helped multiple people. contact@matiroy.com

What I chose

Whole-body with a note that Alcor could choose what seemed best at the moment of my death (ex.: if they only have the equipment for neuro cryoprotection, then neuro seems better).

20 years term-life insurance for 350k CAD, because I have a high confidence in my capacity to save enough money to be able to pay cash in 20 years, and have other safety nets. Otherwise would recommend whole life insurance.

(I think universal life insurances are bad – better to buy your investments and insurances separately to avoid extra premium. Life insurance agents will likely tell you otherwise. Life insurance agents make more money on universal life insurances.)

From the Alcor Associate Member page:

To become an Associate Member use our Associate Membership Form to send a check, money order, or credit card information ($5 per month or $60 per year) to Alcor Life Extension Foundation, 7895 E. Acoma Dr., Suite 110, Scottsdale, Arizona 85260, or call Marji Klima at (480) 905-1906 ext. 101 with your credit card information.

Or you can pay online via PayPal using the Join button below (quarterly option is not available this way). Please note that this will set up automatic recurring charges of either $5 per month or $60 per year. You do not need a PayPal account to make a payment to Alcor (however, your browser will need to accept a harmless PayPal cookie or you will get an error message). If you want to receive Cryonics magazine, be sure to include your name and mailing address.

From what is written I gather that setting up the PayPal payment is enough to become an associate member and compiling the form is not necessary, correct?

Btw, thanks A LOT for this sequence. I currently live in Italy, my home country, but this is still HUGELY useful for me. I plan to move to the US eventually and even if I decide to postpone my real subscription for when I'll be there and I will have an actual income, this sequence will guide my decisions moving forward.

Nvm, I received confirmation and the answer was yes :)

Thank you for looking into that! I couldn't figure out the answer just by looking at the site.

But I'm not in the US!

For Québec: https://cryoquebec.org/

I'm curious why you chose an indexed universal life plan rather than a guaranteed universal life plan (and I guess rather than a variable universal life plan)?

I can't find it now but I remember being warned off IUL and VUL when I signed up because they can have some weird behaviors that can cause the insurance to have a negative payout if you aren't careful, whereas GUL is simple and safe (but expensive).

Yeah of course! I'll go into all of this more in my three posts on getting life insurance for cryonics, but in brief:

I received the same warnings about IUL, but it looks to me like it's not actually all that risky, and the small amount of risk seemed worth it given that IUL premiums are substantially lower than those for whole life (depending on who was giving me quotes I saw whole life premiums twice as high as IUL). I say whole life because I'm told that whole life and GUL are essentially the same, and I'm going through Kansas City Life, which offers whole life but not GUL. And, I'm using KCL because it's super cryonics-friendly and offers the cheapest rates for someone in my circumstances; if I were in a different actuarial class I might consider getting GUL via Nationwide.

As for VUL, my impression is that it's very much an investment vehicle and involves stock picking, so I didn't even bother looking into it for cryonics.

All that said, I haven't actually had a policy underwritten yet and am still scheduled for more conversations with my insurance agent, where we'll talk further about whole life vs IUL. That's one of the things subject to change, but hopefully I'll have more clarity on it by this time tomorrow :)

Interesting.

Also for what it's worth my policy officially describes itself as: "Flexible Premium Adjustable Death Benefit Life Policy, Nonparticipating". This is from KCL, and apparently this is just insurance legalese for GUL, although maybe IUL would be described the same way and the difference is in the details of how the interest rates are calculated?

I seem to recall we went with this because it has the nice feature, like a IUL does, of being able to pay its own premiums if it performs well enough, and for the ability to take out low interest loans against it, although I think that's a dangerous idea for insurance meant to fund cryonics.

Ah, I have figured out (part of) the mystery! In the time since you signed up, KCL has stopped offering the policy you bought (to new people) because it was too good a deal at current interest rates. Something like that. So in the absence of that IUL is the best option. 

Oh wow, interesting. Yeah I get a guaranteed 3% return, so clearly they must be getting less than that now. I'm guessing in a product like I have it can only be backed by certain classes of investments that are not yielding enough return to sustain it right now.

In order for cryogenics to work, blood vessels have to be smaller. Successful attempts have been made with hamsters and the like. But as soon as you try with larger creatures, the evidence suggests that enabling unfreezing requires a way to undo (or prevent) catastrophic damage to any kind of tube, which - because of how temperature works with liquids - is basically impossible due to how long it takes to freeze larger things such as a human head or body.

I've been reading on this a whole lot, and unless quantum physics change (and thereby the laws of the universe), the damage done with current cryo technology is too big to allow resurrection. That is, of course, not true if we somehow invent robots that can go in and 'remake' and/or undo the damage. But when we reach that point, the world is going to look way different. I don't think these facilities will be able to stay for centuries, and that's not even talking about the probability of the human race's self-destruction and/or proving that cryogenics is impossible if frozen without better technology.

 

A better bet would be the digitalization of the connections of the brain in a way that allows for replicating what they do, and how they interact.

A large amount of research has gone into freezing things with the technology we have available, and it's not really a good way to spend your money. Try putting it into AI, and technology that would enable digitalization or better freezing, instead of literally fixing all the tubes in your body that inevitably are going to break because of the laws of the universe. I mean, that's where some of the money is going, right? Toward research into how to freeze humans or just smaller creatures, like rabbits, in a quick enough way to not destroy the innards of said bodies?

I'm open for dialogue, but with the current state of technology, all you're doing is destroying the body and freezing it indefinitely, which again, isn't quite viable looking at how the world is going to change the next couple of centuries, just looking at landscaping and war.

One of the obvious resurrection routes is via digitizing frozen brains. My intuitive sense is that we're more likely to get the imaging and virtualization tech before we get the detailed nano-tech that could repair all the cells.

and unless quantum physics change (and thereby the laws of the universe), the damage done with current cryo technology is too big to allow resurrection.

You have a QM based proof that cryonics can't work? I'm sure we'd all be very interested to see the details.

If I'm highly likely to move around the world several times in the next ~5 years, what can I do? Is it still a good idea to sign up for cryonics in whatever place I'm at the moment?

Alcor offers worldwide standby services

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