How hard do we really want to sell cryonics?

by Strange71 min read29th Apr 201142 comments


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For a lot of serious charitable causes, people expend tremendous resources on 'raising awareness' which probably, on net, accomplishes little or nothing for the cause it nominally supports. For cryonics, though, the technology already exists, the target audience can pay for it themselves, the main obstacle is genuine ignorance and perverse fear-of-death countermeasures.

The second problem seems intractable, but in the long term we can just let the blind idiot god fix it.

For the first, have any of the organizations involved considered saving up for, say, a superbowl ad? Or even just some youtube videos. I am imagining it set up as a conversation between two people in, say, an office. The skeptic brings up some plausible-sounding objection (sticking to the saner stuff), which is illustrated by cartoons with the continuing conversation as voiceover.

See, I talked to a relative of mine, who I respect very highly, on easter. She's planning to get cremated. Mentioned some technical objections which I know have been resolved, but which I couldn't adequately explain on the spot, and didn't know where to point her for the source.

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...the main obstacle is genuine ignorance and perverse fear-of-death countermeasures. The second problem seems intractable, but in the long term we can just let the blind idiot god fix it.

If we want people to stop dying, but some people are harboring memes that make them averse to the idea of not dying, then waiting for them to die hardly counts as a "fix".

Do you want all people to stop dying, with mostly equal intensity? Or let's put it like this - to what degree would you agree with this statement

"The stronger a person's belief in pro-death ideas, the less I am unhappy about them dying"


I don't think death is an appropriate punishment for being victimized by predatory memes.

I don't think death is an appropriate punishment for much of anything, but try telling that to the second law of thermodynamics... or for that matter, the state legislature of Texas.

Fiddling around with preferences given a condition of absolute abundance is good for figuring out direction, but not distance. Scarcity and diminishing returns present different challenges. This is not a question of what, but of how badly, of how much would be good enough.

Would you be willing to become batman for this? Say some obnoxious redneck at a Tea Party rally shoots himself in the foot, gets infected, the faith healer can't fix it so it just gets worse until his whole leg smells like the week after Gettysburg. Would you break into the morgue, cut off his head and have it cryopreserved, at your own expense, against his wishes and the wishes of his surviving family, if you had the cash and were reasonably certain you could get away with it? How much do you care?

I would vote this up because the basic point seems to be valid, but I can't in good conscious vote up something that has the line about "some obnoxious redneck at a Tea Party rally shoots himself in the foot, gets infected, the faith healer can't fix it" which is such a long list of unhelpful stereotypes that I don't know where to start. Politics is the mindkiller, let's not let it kill any more minds than necessary. The basic point you are asking, how far should one go to cryonicly preserve those who don't wish to or are ambivalent is a very good point, but the mind-killing and ingroup-outgroup mentality just isn't helpful.

Incidentally, the Tea Party members itself look to be quite complicated and a surprisingly diverse proportion of the population. While there are some issues where the Tea Party members are factually confused, one of the largest differences between Tea Partiers and the general population seems to be that the Tea Partiers are more pessimistic than the general population. See e.g. here. There's evidence of glaring ignorance among individual Tea Partiers (such as thinking that Patrick Henry was a great supporter of the Constitution) but there's no strong evidence that those sort of confused and ignorant views are widespread or that the level of confusion is any worse than the general population. The Tea Partiers are not evil, stupid mutants.

I know, I was just trying to shake up the "save all humans no matter what" cached thought.

That particular stereotype probably wasn't the best way I could have handled it. Thank you for your criticism.

Would you be willing to become batman for this? Say some obnoxious redneck at a Tea Party rally shoots himself in the foot, gets infected, the faith healer can't fix it so it just gets worse until his whole leg smells like the week after Gettysburg. Would you break into the morgue, cut off his head and have it cryopreserved, at your own expense, against his wishes and the wishes of his surviving family, if you had the cash and were reasonably certain you could get away with it? How much do you care?

To be honest, yes, that does sound like a net moral positive to me. That doesn't mean there's no opportunity cost, though; right now that's probably nowhere near the optimal thing for most people to be doing, even if it wouldn't be a net negative.

About as much as I agree that the weak deserve to be dominated by the strong and that the sick deserve to suffer.

If someone who is mentally ill wishes to hurt themselves, do we, as a society, feel that it is alright to let them do so? No! As a matter of fact, medical professionals are required by law to restrain the suicidal, because intervention can often help.

Self-damaging virulent memes hijacking your brain do not make you a bad person, only a confused one, and confusion does not make death more justifiable. I would be happy to see someone who is pro-death become less confused and then become anti-death, but I would be sad to see someone who is pro-death die.

The problem isn't (only) that people who's memes keep them away from cryonics are going to die, its also that those people's memes make even more people die, even if they'd otherwise do cryonics.

I've decided to put 10 bitcoins up as a prize in a cryonics promotional video contest.

Cryonics is a field where raising awareness is genuinely beneficial to the believers- not just to the administrators of related organizations. Being frozen and then revived requires (inter alia): a dedication to proper freezing maintenance, a method of revivification, a willingness to spend resources to revive you in particular, and experience in curing/reviving humans. If cryonics falls out of favor for any period of time, the dedication to proper freezing maintenance is likely to suffer. The more people that are frozen, the more avidly entrepreneurs will seek to invent methods of revivification, and the more experience physicians will have in treating the newly-revived. If you do not have a plan in place to ensure that you will actually be revived once it becomes possible, you may at least hope that people you've convinced to be frozen may remember you.

I have an intuition that most people would find it less weird to hear a pro-cryonics advertisment from an actual cryonics company than a "Public Service Announcement" from a third party. The former would be processed more like a normal advertisement, to be judged on its merits, while the latter could invite suspicion of the creators' motives. I might be wrong - anyone from marketing or advertising have something to say here?

the second problem seems intractable, but in the long term we can just let the blind idiot god fix it.

The blind idiot god doesn't work this way. If this attitude doesn't impact reproduction negatively then the blind idiot god won't touch it.

Presumably ey meant after we have the technology to revive cryonics patients. However, by that point, many other new factors will be in effect, such as uploads, which will change reproduction to the point where evolution doesn't necessarily exist anymore.

I would be interested in helping with such a project, although I'm not comfortable with on-camera acting and do not know how to do animation.

You know how to write psychologically-plausible dialogue involving two intelligent people, one of whom is initially worried about the downsides of a specific shot at immortality but is eventually persuaded by the other. In fact, off the top of my head you're the only person I know of with that specific, highly relevant qualification. Write a script.

Points to include: ice crystal formation inside cells, cost, what if an asteroid hits the earth or something and civilization is destroyed before revivification becomes feasible.

A first pass at a script with the requested topics covered; may or may not be doable in under a minute but should be shy of 90 seconds. Not really aimed at people who've never heard of cryo before - couldn't fit that in with the rest of it. I could do more of these covering different subtopics/different audiences if that would be worthwhile.

[Scene: An office of some sort. Two women in business casual wear are talking.]

NADIA: So, how do you hold up with the ice crystals in your body? [cut to a cartoon of cells methodically sliced up by a diamond-shaped crystal expanding.] Voiceover: Won't they do damage, even if everything else works?

JOICE: Well, they're not going to drop me in a vat without some prep work. They have chemicals called cryoprotectants [fluid pours into the cartoon, wearing the crystal into a harmless little ball] that reduce the ice crystals. It's almost like what goes in ice cream [closeup of cartoon ice cream cone] to keep it smooth.

NADIA: Ice cream. [Zoom out from ice cream to show cartoon Nadia holding it, and looking at it skeptically.]

[Cut back to office scene.

JOICE: You know what I mean.

NADIA: Sure. But I looked at that website, and it costs thousands of dollars [cut to cartoon Benjamins piling up] to get preserved. Where'd you get that kind of money? [cartoon vignette of Joice wearing a ski mask holding a bag marked $ and posing evilly.]

JOICE: I didn't get that kind of money. [Ski mask and bag of $ disappear; cartoon Joice is wearing her normal clothes and shaking hands with a dude in a suit, who then departs.] Life insurance pays out when you're legally done for, [cartoon Joice keels over; cartoon doctor and cartoon lawyer with a briefcase appear on the scene and gesture energetically] but not too late for cryonics to step in [team of cryo folk troop in and carry cartoon Joice off in a stretcher]. I have my insurance set up to pay the cryonics organization. [Dude in suit shakes hands with one of the cryo folks] It costs me less than my phone plan! [Scale, with a phone weighing more than a snowflake]

NADIA: Not nothing, though. [Phone is replaced with a feather, scale tips] You'll feel silly if astronomers find, say, an asteroid on its way to destroy civilization. [Cut to asteroid, on its way to destroy civilization. Asteroid cackles evilly. Cartoon Joice smacks herself in the forehead.]

JOICE: I'd feel sillier about buying a house [zoom out from cartoon Joice with her hand on her forehead to show a house], if that happened. But in the real world, [asteroid goes poof] I need a house to live in [Joice in her house, smiling] - and cryonics to have the best shot at living.

I could just be mind projecting but for people similar to LWers, i.e. the low hanging fruit, it would be helpful to call attention to a meta issue: that the skepticism is motivated. In a finite amount of time, you can only refute a finite number of counter-arguments, the problem isn't that people believe the ice issue unsolved, it's that they are bottomless wells of objections because it feels icky.

Any commercial would make the idea more normal/available to people; there might actually be little difference in positive impact from a fairly well designed pro-cryonics commercial and an moderate quality anti-cryonics commercial that brings up the issue and implies the existence of an opposing side.

Any specs for who the characters should be or what characteristics they should exhibit via dialogue beyond pro-cryo/not-yet-pro-cryo?

Edit: In particular, to what extent should I be leaning on storyish tropes? e.g. "Remember that time when [allegorical event] happened? You did [sensible thing] which is analogous to cryo!" I know fiction writing, but I'm not versed in the ways of marketing...

A TV commercial is normally a minute long or less. Some handy references:

There is very little room for character development or well-supported arguments. Mostly it's just a succinct, quotable assertion, a memorable image, and enough keywords (brand name, easy-to-spell website, etc.) to allow further investigation.

[-][anonymous]10y 5

I'm absolutely interested in collaborating on something. I have a deep booming voice for voiceovers and I love to write. I emailed Nick Bostrom about doing an animated version of The Fable of the Dragon Tyrant, and he said I should go for it if I can make something of at least this quality.

If you can animate or have a project in mind, send me a message.

this is a great idea!

Could you clarify who the "target audience" is? I've long wondered about the apparent gap between the universal anti-deathism the Lesswrong community ostensibly espouses and the blase attitude on display as to the affordability of cryonics.

My guess: many LessWrongers are students or relatively recent graduates in highly specialised fields, so while their finances may currently average pretty low, it is common for them to believe they will eventually become, if not wealthy, at least well-off enough to be able to afford the costs of cryonic insurance.

While I've never managed to get an exact figure from someone who is signed up - I cannot fathom why, and it mildly annoys me - the vibe I get is that it's expensive but not outrageously so, and easily affordable for an upper-middle class person.

While I've never managed to get an exact figure from someone who is signed up

I just e-mailed my life insurance guy to check. This July I need to send them a check for $401.70. This will cover me for the subsequent year. The payment may become less over the years as complicated financial things happen, I am informed. I went with a whole-life policy so I don't have to deal with the headache of obtaining insurance more than once over my lifetime, so this is probably more expensive than what people with more headache-tolerance will be able to get.

Edit: Oh, and I'm young, and while I am not exactly the picture of health, I'm not unusually unwell in any of the ways they tend to check for, so this may be cheaper than what someone older or otherwise actuarially disadvantaged might get.

Perhaps I should clarify my interest. Why isn't making cryonics affordable for as many people as possible the priority, rather than focusing on marketing to people most similar to oneself? Looks an awful lot like tribalism.

Making it more affordable might have only a marginal impact, if most people are opposed for reasons other than price. I do think there should be some kind of charity raising funds for those who can't afford it -- but I'm not clear on there being much of a demand for such a thing if it existed.

I don't understand the question. How would a non-engineer like myself go about making it more affordable if not through economies of scale?

ETA: You mean donating money for this purpose? People do give money to the main organizations beyond the required amount. But sbharris wrote here about surprising people refusing free cryo-preservation. So throwing more money at the problem without first understanding this aspect and thinking of a way to address it seems unattractive.

Convincing people who can afford cryonics has a relatively straightforward solution, while decreasing the cost of cryonics is a complex technical and economic challenge. The fastest way to sign people up seems to be to convince the people who can already afford it. That does not mean though that effort should not be applied to the long term goal of lowering the cost though.

The more people are signed up, the more resources will be available to address cost reduction.

Also, it seems like cryonics might work quite well with economies of scale.

All else equal, it's easier to sell widgets to young people for $X/month each than to middle aged people for $10X/month each or old people for $1000X each.

Someone who wanted to sell widgets equally as much to all people would focus most effort on the first group.

I think it's like the transplant list phenomenon. Give people a list with 200 people and their survival chances, and they will distribute 100 organs to the 100 with the highest chance to live. Give them two lists of 100, they will instead distribute 50 organs to members of each list. I think I saw that here, but don't know the link.

On top of that, the more orders for widgets you get, the lower the cost you can make them at.

I've signed up with CI and I am paying for it with life insurance. I am 24 and in perfect health, so I was able to get a Universal Life insurance for $72.50 a month. It's locked into this rate for the rest of my life.

Alcor recently raised their suspension minimum to $200k for full body. CI only charges $28k. There are complex reasons for this difference, including that CI does not consider it their responsibility to provide standby-stabilization, and Alcor uses a more expensive preservation solution (the one used for vitrifying a rabbit kidney). Both of these figures are the amounts you would pay from your life insurance. They both also have ongoing membership costs. (IIRC Alcor charges $600 and CI $120, but there are discounts for couples and maybe students.)

You don't have to pay ongoing membership costs if you cough up a lump sum. I did this with CI; it set me back $1,250 and I never have to think about it again.

I've suggested before: make it material for an ad agency competition. I have no idea how to do this, but I do know such competitions exist, where agencies do it for fun and industry prestige. Cryonics is odd enough they might consider it suitable material. Anyone here work within a mile of advertising?

there will be no end to technical objections as long as the emotional response is ICK.

Competent advertising is capable of manipulating people's emotional responses.

Here's an idea for a commercial I had:

A 30-40 year old man wearing an army medal looks in the mirror. He sees himself as a child, growing older and older at an accelerated pace, finally morphing into an old man, then a corpse, then finally a skeleton. Then he turns and we see a close up of his face; there is a tear in his eye. Pan out, he is looking at photos of his deceased family members, childhood friends, and army buddies.

He turns to the table where there is a cryonics signup packet. He dramatically reaches out and touches it (it is distant, and he is barely capable of reaching it), at which point there is a lightning flash and a glimpse of a cryonics dewar. Suddenly we see a young boy wearing the same army medal. He salutes, and smiles.

I think this advertisement concept would be more effective if the man became, say, twenty-five instead. In other words, still quite young and full of potential, but not actually losing something, or being rendered helpless by youth. The idea of him being turned into a little soldier by cryonics struck me as creepy.

Or even just some youtube videos.

Like these ones?