Since it came to my attention that signing up for cryonics is not as pointless as I'd once thought, I've been pondering how to sell my dad on the idea.

This is somewhat urgent for a couple of reasons. First, he's already pushing sixty and would meet increased resistance in acquiring another life insurance policy at a much steeper rate than myself. Second, even given his age, he could afford to sign us both up easily, and after some consideration, convincing him seems like the more efficient path to being signed up myself than trying to arrange it for myself alone. And, well, he's my dad, and while he has his flaws, he's kind of awesome.

The sticking point, I can easily predict, will be getting passed his Cached Skepticism towards the concept of Cryonics. He is proud of being Skeptical; it's important to his self-concept, so I need to hit him with an opening that he can't easily dismiss. I would predict that if I simply linked him to Alcor's webpage, absolutely nothing would happen. I need something that will motivate him to investigate.

The frustrating part, is that I'm quite sure that if he'd never heard of cryonics before, he'd have no resistance to the idea beyond the basic pain of dispelling the emotional numbness towards a Certain Doom by suggesting it might not be certain after all. Unless my model of him is very much inaccurate, his Cached Skepticism of Cryonics is the only notable obstacle. I would appreciate any recommendations on which if any articles in particular would be best for initially getting through that.

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You could start out with this document. It's an open letter signed by 61 scientists saying that "cryonics is a legitimate science-based endeavor". Below the list of signers is a list of research articles providing evidence for the feasibility of cryonics. If his skeptical self-image is at least partly based on identification with Science as a tribe, that should help.

I've voted your comment up as an interesting suggestion. But I don't think this strategy will work very well. As someone very involved in the skeptics movement, the first thing I think of when I see this sort of list is the similar lists made by the intelligent design proponents. Moreover, the list in questions seems to suffer some of the same problems- a large number of signatories are people whose expertise is in areas that are only marginally connected or not connected at all to cryonics (e.g. math, ophthalmology, astrophysics, aeronautics). This might even end up signaling in the wrong direction. If I saw this list presented as a part of an argument for cryonics I could almost see myself going and updating against simply because I expect people to present their strongest arguments.

I believe that is an accurate model of how my dad might respond, yes. Still, in combination with other arguments it might help. It is likely that letter would help convince him once he started seriously considering cryonics.

You could just give him the list of papers and leave out the letter.

Success!

Well, kinda.

He's considering it seriously and everything, and I'm pretty sure the idea will grow on him now that he's actually thinking about it and reading up on Alcor, based on the way he's talking about it now. Main problem now is probably going to be avoiding cryocrastination.

I don't know whether it would benefit you or not, but I found the Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant to be rather useful for getting over a lot of my own cached skepticism - it starts from the very simple premise that if we can EVENTUALLY do this thing, then we really ought to start NOW.

Selling him on the idea that it ought eventually be possible seems key, because right now we really only have half the technology: we can preserve people, but we can't revive them. The big leap is the assumption that we're doing preservation in a way that will allow for a revival in the future.

(Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant)[http://www.nickbostrom.com/fable/dragon.html]

To make a link with different text, the ( ) and [ ] should be the other way around.

Thank you! This is what I get for doing it from memory and not checking :)

I think it is going to have to be a slow process.

First, you should try to convince him on the intellectual level that cryonics is feasible. If he is willing to read and likes science, this might be a good post to send him a link of: http://chronopause.com/index.php/2011/02/23/does-personal-identity-survive-cryopreservation/. I also might send him a link to the wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryonics, which is pretty balanced. Frame it is an academic exercise. Who knows, maybe he can poke some holes in it? (And if he does, please report them back here.)

Second, only once (and if) he becomes convinced of its academic merits would I try to convince him to personally sign up. At that point I would pull out the "I'm your son and don't want to see your identity erased" card. Then use arguments similar to http://lesswrong.com/lw/wq/you_only_live_twice/.

But do note that the vast majority of people who are interested in cryonics self-select for it, and based on prior odds, you are unlikely to be successful in your endeavor. Sorry.

you should try to convince him on the intellectual level that cryonics is feasible

If I can get him to the point where he's wondering if it is feasible, I've already won. What I need is something to get him passed the Cached Belief that he already knows that it isn't feasible.

As I said in my original post, I'm confident that if he'd never heard of cryonics before, he wouldn't need anyone to talk him into it. I could just present him with the information.

Second, even given his age, he could afford to sign us both up easily

This doesn't answer your main question, but I imagine that if sufficient money is available it will be cheaper in the long run to just buy the cryonics outright, on the general principle of never insuring something you can afford.

He doesn't have anywhere close $80,000 laying around though; he's just has a reasonably high income and is very good at budgeting.

I find it hard to reconcile the three statements (1) he has a reasonably high income, (2) he is very good at budgeting, and (3) he doesn't have anywhere close to $80,000 lying around at age ~60. I mean, isn't it kinda imprudent not to have substantial savings available at that age? and if you're good at budgeting, wouldn't you have arranged that if you could? and if you have a reasonably high income, oughtn't it have been possible to accumulate a good quantity of savings by age (let's say) 55?

(Perhaps he has ample savings but they're all in illiquid forms like a house and a pension fund?)

[EDITED to add: Oh, and: If he doesn't have anywhere near the eventual cost of suspension handy now, are you really sure he could easily afford an insurance policy that would pay out that much on his death? Note that "can easily afford" means more than just "can find the money".]

maybe he would consider the one of the less expensive cryonics organizations. I heard the Cryonics Institue will cryo preserve people for 28,000$. This is somewhat more palitable for many people.

Forget cryonics for now, sell him on life. It's easier to convince someone of something if they don't see it as a realistic option. Once you're sure he's very much against death, then pitch cryonics.

Just make sure that you don't sound like you're trying to convince him for some other purpose, or the advantage is lost. Frame it as if its the obvious answer that you and he get, but other people seem not to. Stuff like that.

Actually, he's pretty much already sold on life. He doesn't have any Deathist leanings that I know about, and generally agrees that life ending is bad. (He still has the Cached objections about overpopulation and social stagnation, but that's all that stands between him and transhumanism, and I'm confident I can poke all kinds of holes in those.)

He still has the Cached objections about overpopulation

If you manage this in practice, tell me how.

I've often said to people that while overpopulation may be a problem, there are lots of problems in life, and lots of solutions. Regardless of any other considerations, constantly killing off the oldest generation is the absolute WORST solution to the overpopulation problem, and the only reason anyone accepts it at all is because they're so used to it.

He's retreated to the Boredom Argument, which I'm also in the process of poking, but I think I've succeed on those first two points.

My first argument was about getting him to treat his objections as problems to be solved rather than excuses to die. That didn't quite get through to him on its own, but I pointed out how there are already foreseeable solutions and none of them are actually worse than the continuing loss of life.

There were several arguments traded, including my pointing out that despite saying that he, personally, didn't want to die, he was arguing as if he hoped it was impossible.

Just pointing out that there were (less than ideal, but workable) solutions available today for the overpopulation issue got him to back off on that point. (The specific possibility I suggested was the immortality treatment being made contingent on birth control, along with a law that said "immortals can only have babies if they're not on earth" to finally get the general population investing in real space travel/colonization.)

He was a bit more stubborn on the societal stagnation, but I pointed out that society doesn't exist without the people in it and his concept was more about meta-society than actual society. I got him to admit that he, personally, wouldn't willingly die for the sake of an acceleration in the social advancement of meta-society. But the argument that finally broke through and made him retreat to the Boredom Argument was this:

I'm not arguing that new people aren't necessary, merely that the conscious sentient humans who already exist shouldn't be destroyed just so the new people can come into existence a bit sooner in a worse world.

I've already started working on his boredom argument, but I think he's going to be a bit more stubborn about that one. He as good as refused to read passed the first few paragraphs of Prolegomena to a Theory of Fun, complaining of "wordiness".

have you used the "If you run out of things to do at age 10 000 you can always resume the ageing and die THEN" argument?

Of course, but the one that got through to him was pointing out that boredom would be a marked improvement for a lot of humans alive today, who live lives of active misery rather than just up and dying and that's when they're going to die in just a few decades anyway. It follows that Boredom Argument proponents are vastly underestimating the human survival instinct.

[-][anonymous]11y 3

I second this request. I've brought up transhumanism with ~10 of my friends, and every single one immediately jumped to this objection and thought of it as a knockdown argument against cryonics/life extension. I've experimented with a handful of replies ("birth rates fall as societies industrialize",
"who are we to impose our values on the future and decide who gets to live?", etc.) but in all cases I was unable to prevent overpopulation from becoming a stopsign.

What would happen if you tried the flip side: "religion is necessary because there is no other way to have a sustainable population level, even of hundreds of thousands - the population would shrink to zero".

[-][anonymous]11y 2

I feel like I don't understand your point--can you clarify? Why would the population shrink to zero without religion?

Atheists have a low birth rate. I've heard the argument - why would world population grow to Malthusian catastrophe with life extension of a significant population?

Both statements depend on the fallacy that if one thing in a complex system changes absolutely nothing else will change, so the present equilibrium will spiral into a worst case scenario with no one consciously averting it and no self corrections within the system whatsoever.

Since the subject content triggers a mental block, you have to find the same rhetorical mechanism with benign content to form an analogous case they commit to, then show how the cases are analogous.

[-][anonymous]11y 2

Gotcha, thanks for expanding that. I will definitely give it a try.

Also, long lifespans are not the cause of overpopulation nearly as much as births. About fifty million people die yearly and around 170 million are born yearly.

Moreover, if one really believed the overpopulation argument he should be against medical care that extends his lifespan.

Overpopulation shouldn't be an issue because if there's a very serious population problem then people aren't likely to go and revive the cryonicly preserved.

Doesn't look like a frontal assault is likely to succeed. Instead find what cognitive biases he is susceptible to, and shamelessly use them.

Sunk cost is the usual one, so maybe if you make the first payment, he would be reluctant to waste it without looking into the issue first. Playing on his feelings ("I can't stand the thought of losing you forever") might also work. Or even "I want to have a chance of living forever, but it will not be the same without you". Another possible tactics is to ask him to research it as an option for someone else he cares about, like an old friend, a sick family member or even you.

Once you get him seriously thinking through the issue, you might be ready to discuss the merits and options ("Getting to Yes" is an old classic that works well in such discussions).

And do not be surprised if he ends up convincing you that cryonics is not such a good idea.

Given that EphemeralNight's father is apparently rather a clever chap, it seems to me that this course of action incurs a substantial danger that he notices EN is trying to manipulate him. The consequences of that would be bad in many ways.

First, you are grossly underestimating people's vulnerability to emotional levers, and second, it's not really a manipulation, as I implied in my last sentence. One might start the conversation with "Dad, I do not want to die forever, but I cannot figure out on my own if this cryonics thing has a chance in hell. Some smart people signed up for it, other equally smart people say it's a wishful thinking. It sounds so enticing, yet I cannot spot any con artistry. But I so do not want to waste my money on snake oil. I have always counted on your advice in life, and this seems like it could be one of the most crucial ones. Maybe we can chat about it some time."

So, in other words, you think he should lie to his father ("I cannot figure out on my own if this cryonics thing has a chance in hell", even though he's said here he wants to do it and he wants to try to "sell" the idea to his father), thereby exploiting his father's "vulnerability to emotional levers" ...

... and yet you also say "it's not really a manipulation". The hell it isn't. It may be a manipulation done with his best interests in mind; it may be a Good Thing overall; but it's still a manipulation. You may well be right that there's a vanishingly small chance that he notices, though.

(Though if his dad is at all internet-savvy, which I bet he is, there's surely a substantial probability that he'll try to help, do some research, run across Less Wrong (as a place where a bunch of cryonics advocates hang out and a few people have made serious-looking attempts to weigh the costs and benefits), and find this very thread. If so, EphemeralNight had better hope he's been absolutely straight with his father about the whole thing, because otherwise it's going to look very bad indeed.)

This is kind of a moot point anyway, since my dad would find it out-of-character for me to use those tactics, and I have a very weak skill in emotional manipulation anyway. (My sister got all of that talent, like I got all of the sanity she was supposed to get. In-joke about that is a thing.)

What I really need is a way to separate cryonics as it exists today in his mind from cryonics as he understood it in the 1990s. The problem isn't that he'd need talking-into it. The problem is his Cached Belief that he already knows it is pointless.