Let's create a market for cryonics

by [anonymous]2 min read10th Apr 201223 comments

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My uncle works in insurance. I recently mentioned that I'm planning to sign up for cryonics.

"That's amazing," he said. "Convincing a young person to buy life insurance? That has to be the greatest scam ever."

I took the comment lightly, not caring to argue about it. But it got me thinking - couldn't cryonics be a great opportunity for insurance companies to make a bunch of money?

Consider:

  1. Were there a much stronger demand for cryonics, cryonics organizations would flourish through competition, outside investment, and internal reinvestment. Costs would likely fall, and this would be good for cryonicists in general.
  2. If cryonics organizations flourish, this increases the probability of cryonics working. I can think of a bunch of ways in which this could happen; perhaps, for example, it would encourage the creation of safety nets whereby the failure of individual companies doesn't result in anyone getting thawed. It would increase R&D on both perfusion and revivification, encourage entrepreneurs to explore new related business models, etcetera.
  3. Increasing the demand for cryonics increases the demand for life insurance policies; thus insurance companies have a strong incentive to increase the demand for cryonics. Many large insurance companies would like nothing more than to usher in a generation of young people that want to buy life insurance.1
  4. The demand for cryonics could be increased by an insightful marketing campaign by an excellent marketing agency with an enormous budget... like those used by big insurance companies.2 A quick Googling says that ad spending by insurance companies exceeded $4.15 billion in 2009.

Almost a year ago, Strange7 suggested that cryonics organizations could run this kind of marketing campaign. I think he's wrong - there's no way CI or Alcor have the money. But the biggest insurance companies do have the money, and I'd be shocked if these companies or their agencies aren't already dumping all kinds of money into market research.

What would doing this require? 

  1. That an open-minded person in the insurance industry who is in the position to direct this kind of funding exists. I don't have a sense of how likely this is.
  2. That we can locate/get an audience with the person from step 1. I think research and networking could get this done, especially if the higher-status among us are interested.
  3. That we can find someone who is capable and willing to explain this clearly and convincingly to the person from step 1. I'm not sure it would be that difficult. In the startup world, strangers convince strangers to speculatively spend millions of dollars every week. Hell, I'll do it.

I want to live in a world where cryonics ads air on TV just as often as ads for everything else people spend money on. I really can see an insurance company owning this project - if they can a) successfully revamp the image of cryonics and b) become known as the household name for it when the market gets big, they will make lots of money.

What do you think? Where has my reasoning failed? Does anyone here know anyone powerful in insurance? 

Lastly, taking a cue from ciphergoth: this is not the place to rehash all the old arguments about cryonics. I'm asking about a very specific idea about marketing and life insurance, not requesting commentary on cryonics itself. Thanks!


Perhaps modeling the potential size of the market would offer insight here. If it turns out that this idea is not insane, I'll find a way to make it happen. I could use your help.

Consider what happened with diamonds in the 1900s:

... N. W. Ayer suggested that through a well-orchestrated advertising and public-relations campaign it could have a significant impact on the "social attitudes of the public at large and thereby channel American spending toward larger and more expensive diamonds instead of "competitive luxuries." Specifically, the Ayer study stressed the need to strengthen the association in the public's mind of diamonds with romance. Since "young men buy over 90% of all engagement rings" it would be crucial to inculcate in them the idea that diamonds were a gift of love: the larger and finer the diamond, the greater the expression of love. Similarly, young women had to be encouraged to view diamonds as an integral part of any romantic courtship.

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Upvoted for presenting a half-baked and potentially very fruitful idea.

I love those mixed food metaphors. Yum, fruitcake...

A great idea, but I think the significant barrier to it that cryonics is low status and insurance companies wouldn't want to associate themselves with that. If that could be overcome somehow, I think this could be really successful.

Changing things' status is what marketing is FOR.

A well-designed marketing campaign should definitely be able to achieve this.

I can't imagine how, but I will quickly admit that this does not make it impossible, just me a bad marketing executive.

[-][anonymous]9y 2

Indeed. According to the link in Footnote 2, (roughly speaking) romance was introduced in Japan by De Beers in order to market diamonds.

The thing is, with Cryonics you aren't just fighting normal ignorance that can be destroyed with good publicity, you're fighting Religion. If you start telling people that (Zues Forbid) death is bad and worth a significant financial risk to avoid, the Christian Right are going to get upset. There would be boycotts organized against companies supporting Cryonics, who would be portrayed as avaricious atheists trying to fight the natural order.

The world's sanity level isn't high enough for this sort of thing, not yet.

[-][anonymous]9y 5

Contraception, abortion and divorce have become not-so-shocking in most of the developed world despite the Church being upset by them, though.

If you spin it as medical care, most Christian groups don't have much reason to oppose it.

Well, the question is how to spin it as medical care.

As I see it the political biases are very deep and pernicious, firstly there 's there right, with its view of a god given natural order, and how breaking free of that is an affront to any such entity. Then there's the woo laden portions of the left, which take a distinctly non-reductionist view of the world, accepting things like homeopathy and whatnot. Speaking from experience, a lot of people with that worldview have two major roadblocks to accepting cryonics, firstly a steadfast belief that 'natural == good' and a distinctly dualist view of consciousness. (how those translate into not liking cryonics is an exercise for the reader :P )

The big problem with any marketing campaign, is that is will trigger the ire/disdain/revulsion of these groups, and neither of them are known for being quiet. Coupled with the fact that both groups are quite susceptible to fads ...

Really, there's a significant risk that any marketing campaign will leave cryonics (and possibly rationalism) worse off culturally, due to the backlash, and the already low status if the idea.

There is a way around this though. One way to lift a low status idea is by associating it with a high status group. So what sort of group can we attach it to? Well, first let's see how we can evangelize here without trouble, it's partly our small size, but mainly because LW selects for the sort of people who'd like the idea anyway.

Now we're too small to have status, so yeah associating cryonics with us wouldn't help. But when thinking of groups that both have high status and have a probable friendly disposition to cryonics, one in particular comes to mind (i'm sure there are others though) googlers.

Now, people who work at google are preselected in a way that probably corresponds favorably to rationality. Google also has money, provides the people who work there with insurance, and there's good evidence that Larry Page has a distinctly singularitarian/transhumanist leaning.

I'd say we're likely to get more cultural cachet for cryonics if google were to quietly insert a little opt-in cryonics insurance checkbox on their insurance forms, than from a more direct marketing campaign. I mean, even keeping it quiet the word of it will leak, and it'll prompt a discussion among the tech business aware. There'll be little media backlash from the religious right and silly left, because it's all too easy to dismiss it as "silly geeks doing their silly geek things".

Anyway that's my probably silly take on this. Feel free to rip it to shreds ^_^

Edit: Erm, i forgot to answer my "How to spin it as medical care?" opening ... oops. Oh well, i'm too tired to fix it.

P.S. Alicorn: I've been reading your fiction, it's quite good :)

if ur saying the world, how about u? hey? y are u talking about the world? u must also c that scentist are gods favaurite,they never blaime gods for their ur own mistake it is people like u who blame god!

You should contact Rudi Hoffman, an insurance middleman who has helped many people get insurance for cryonics.

I want to live in a world where cryonics ads air on TV just as often as ads for everything else people spend money on.

We do live in a world where cryonics ads air on TV just as often as ads for everything else people spend money on for the set of goods for which the demand is as high as it is for cryonics.

We do live in a world where cryonics ads air on TV just as often as ads for everything else people spend money on for the set of goods for which the demand is as high as it is for cryonics.

Marketing is in part about creating demand where there was none. This happens all the time, but it hasn't happened here.

[-][anonymous]9y 4

You should contact Rudi Hoffman, an insurance middleman who has helped many people get insurance for cryonics.

Contact for ideas, or to get him to run an ad campaign? While he definitely has the incentive, I don't think he has the resources. I was imagining a company like Northwestern Mutual doing this, which someone like Rudi Hoffman shouldn't want.

He would be the obvious person to hire as a consultant for the marketers to ask about how people feel about various pitches and what they tend to think and say in response. The trove of practically-oriented-evidence-about-humans on this subject contained in his head is vast. In the course of selling to people I'm sure he's conversationally traversed nearly every line of thinking between the conclusion and various bits of evidence that people normally come up with, including the ones that make no sense. If the campaign is worth running, I'm pretty sure it would be worth hiring him for advice.

Ideas, feasibility and (perhaps most importantly) contacts at insurance companies.

"That's amazing," he said. "Convincing a young person to buy life insurance? That has to be the greatest scam ever."

Why is it a scam? The low rate of implied interest in whole-life policies? (Not that existing interests or returns are anything to write home about...)

Costs would likely fall, and this would be good for cryonicists in general.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/5w1/the_cost_of_universal_cryonics/

Increasing the demand for cryonics increases the demand for life insurance policies; thus insurance companies have a strong incentive to increase the demand for cryonics. Many large insurance companies would like nothing more than to usher in a generation of young people that want to buy life insurance.1

Going back to the previous question - the more capital that is looking for returns, the less returns are available. Hence, the more long-term capital looking for long-term returns, the worse the long-term returns...

A quick Googling says that ad spending by insurance companies exceeded $4.15 billion in 2009.

See above. Rational agents would spend on advertising up to the point where its marginal returns falls below other strategies; advertising is an arms race. Diamond advertising is famous, yes, but it was a very long time ago, is faltering in modern times, and is famous for how exceptional it is.

It's not obvious that young people would or should sign up. Time seems to make a big difference in quality of cryopreservation (at least, if you go with Alcor; with CI the preservation is apparently low-enough quality delays may not matter much). Young people are the most likely to die of things like accidents and crime rather than nice predictable diseases, are they not?

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Young people are the most likely to die of things like accidents and crime rather than nice predictable diseases, are they not?

Indeed, I think that, if I die before negligible senescence is achieved for humans, it's more likely to be something which makes me a good organ donor but a bad cryonic patient (e.g. an accident or homicide) than vice versa (e.g. a disease). Or am I just rationalizing my choice not to sign up for cryonics?

I've looked it up in the past, and I'm pretty sure I'm not rationalizing it. Here's one data-source: http://www.allcountries.org/uscensus/129_death_and_death_rates_by_age.html

For example, 15-24 (a non-trivial demographic on LW) mostly die from accidents, cars, murders, suicide, and cancer. The lead-time on cancer is not clear, but given the age group I imagine they are usually very quick and unexpected. Most of this is very bad for cryoncists - if you were diagnosed with systemic cancer today, would you fly out to California or Arizona immediately? Today I was reading the diary kept by Prince of Persia's maker during the writing of it, where he writes for one day:

Adam Derman is dead. A couple of weeks ago he went to the doctor because he’d been having headaches, and they found out his whole body was riddled with cancer. It was too late to do anything. He was 23.

25-44 is a little more doable. HIV is #1 (this dataset is from 1995 apparently), but probably not too relevant for any young people reading this who haven't reached that bracket, and then again accidents and car accidents (both bad for cryonics), cancer, heart disease, suicide, homicide, and liver disease. Of these, cancer and livers are the best ones for a cryonicists while heart attacks are pretty bad.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Adam Derman is dead. A couple of weeks ago he went to the doctor because he’d been having headaches, and they found out his whole body was riddled with cancer. It was too late to do anything. He was 23.

I was assuming that if I was going to die from cancer, I would likely know that a few years in advance, and hence shifting my probability assignment for myself dying by cancer within one year downwards from the statistic for people of my gender, age and country. I won't do that anymore.

25-44 is a little more doable.

Hmmm, yeah. If I think a little bit more long-term, cancer becomes more important in comparison. According to http://micromorts.org/MortStats.aspx a person of my gender, age and country has 1.5% probability of dying from cancers within the next 30 years. (Then, 1.2% from circulatory system diseases, 0.93% from accidents, 0.35% from digestive system diseases, 0.32% from suicide. Whereas if only look of probabilities of dying within one year, it's 499 ppm accidents, 100 ppm suicide, 69 ppm cancers, 55 ppm circulatory system diseases, 51 ppm “Ill-defined symptoms/causes” and 40 ppm “Mental and behavioral disorders” (how would that directly cause a death which wouldn't count as a suicide?).)

The Alcor FAQ has a question and answer relevant to this discussion:

Q: Why haven't more people signed up for cryonics?

A: People don't sign up for cryonics because: it's not traditional, they're skeptical of anything they haven't seen work, it costs money, they're afraid of what their friends might think, they live in denial of their own death, they don't want to think about the subject, they procrastinate, they don't like life well enough to want more of it, or they are afraid of a future in which they may be alienated from friends and family and a familiar social environment.

Typical Alcor members (if any Alcor member could be called "typical") tend to be highly educated independent minded people who enjoy life and think cryonics has a reasonable chance of working. They pay for it with life insurance and think the future is likely to work out pretty well. They often have friends or relatives who are Alcor members. They expect Alcor to revive them using nanomedicine and expect to continue their lives with as much passion and joy as today — only with much more amazing technology.