Survey: What's the most negative*plausible cryonics-works story that you know?

by Academian2 min read23rd Dec 201575 comments

5

Personal Blog

Warning: people will be trying to be pessimistic here.  Don't read this if you don't want to be reminded of scary outcomes.

Request: if you get an idea that you think might be too scary to post publicly even under the above warning, but you are willing to send it to me in a private message to aid in my personal decision-making, then please do :)

Motivation:

I like cryonics.  According to my parents and grandmother, I started talking about building an AI to help with medical research to revive frozen dead people when I was about 10 years old, and my memory agrees.  I began experimenting with freeing and unfreezing insects, and figured based on some positive results that it was physically possible to preserve life in a frozen state.  Cool!

But now that I'm in middle of convincing some folks I know to sign up for cryonics, I want to do due-diligence on some of the vague, hard-to-verbalize aversions they have to doing it.  This way, I can help them plan contingencies for / hedges against those aversions if possible, thereby making cryonics more viable for them, and maybe avoid accidentally persuading people do cryonics when it really isn't right for them (yes, I think that can actually happen).

There's already been a post on far negative outcomes, and another one on why cryonics maybe isn't worth it.  But what I really want to do here is conduct an interactive survey to compute which disutilities should be taken most seriously when talking to a new person about cryonics, to avoid accidentally persuading them into making a wrong-for-them decision.

And for that, what I really want to ask is:

 What's the most negative*plausible cryonics-works story that you know of?

Examples:

(1) A well-meaning but slightly-too-obsessed cryonics scientist wakes up some semblance of me in a semi-conscious virtual delirium for something like 1000 very unpleasant subjective years of tinkering to try recovering me.  She eventually quits, and I never wake up again.

(2) A rich sadist finds it somehow legally or logistically easier to lay hands on the brains/minds of cryonics patients than of living people, and runs some virtual torture scenarios on me where I'm not allowed to die for thousands of subjective years or more.

I think on reflection I'd consider (1) to be around 10x and maybe 100x more likely than (2)*, but depending on your preferences, you might find (2) to be more than 100x worse than (1), enough to make it account for the biggest chunk of disutility that can be attributed to any particular simple story or story-feature where cryonics works.

[* I would have said (1) was definitely more than 100x more likely before so many of my female friends have, over the years, mentioned that they were subject to some pretty scary sexual violence at some point in their dating lives.]

(Note: There's a separate question of whether the outcome is positive enough to be worth the money, which I'd rather discuss in a different thread.)

How to participate: 

  • Top-level comments = stories.  Post your most negative*plausible story or story-feature as a top-level comment.
  • A top-level upvote shall mean "essentially in my top-three".   Upvote stories that you'd consider essentially the same as one of your top-two stories, ranked by negativity*probability.  This means you can vote more than three times if your top stories get represented in variety of ways, so don't be shy.
  • Lower-level comments = discussion!  Let's disagree about the relative probabilities and negativities of things and maybe change some of our minds!

Thanks for playing :)

PS I hope folks use these ideas to come up with ways to decrease the likelihood that cryonics leads to negative outcomes, and not to cause or experience premature fears that derail productive conversations.  So, please don't share/post this in ways where you think it might have the latter effect, but rather, use it as a part of a sane and thorough evaluation of all the pros and cons that one should reasonably consider in deciding whether cryonics working is on-net a positive outcome.

ETA -- What not to post:

Some non-examples of what this survey should contain...

 

  • Examples where you don't get revived in any way.  These scenarios factor into the "will cryonics work for me" question, a question of probability that does not depend on your values, which I'd prefer to discuss is a separate thread because probabilities are easier to converge on without distracting ourselves with values questions. 
Personal Blog

5

75 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 10:40 AM
New Comment
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

Lets see. Perhaps corpsicles will be considered legally dead and thus don't get any legal rights even if it becomes technically possible to extract the original mind.

In the future there's lots of interesting experiments which could be done on "real" human minds but it would never get ethics approval. Fortunately there's some banks of old frozen brain matter not covered by the laws on what can be done with human subjects.

So you do wake up in an experiment which couldn't ethically be done on "real" legal humans. You suffer horribly and "die" but you wake up again. And again. And again. Duplicated millions of times, your mind treated much like HeLa cells and used in research in much the same way and with as little regard for your internal experience, suffering almost endlessly and being reset back to baseline. Damned to run through every hellish maze and every unpleasant experience that the futures Phd students can think of before they wipe you, tweak the variables and re-run the experiment.


Alternatively, perhaps they are considered legal humans, culpable for past crimes, even things which weren't crimes at the time.

You awake into a future with ver... (read more)

1capybaralet2yI'd suggest separating these two scenarios, based on the way the comments are meant to work according to the OP.

Corpsicles can be revived, but are regarded with as much suspicion as human-level AIs (from which there have been some narrow escapes) and are subject to strict physical sandboxing and cognitive modification to ensure Friendliness (defined primarily by obedience to orders and lack of initiative) before being allowed out into the world, where they are employed as a slave caste in a similar position to the azi in C.J. Cherryh's Alliance–Union universe.

I've seen people consider the Warren Ellis take plausible. Excerpt:

Looking at her new charity-donated clothes, still bearing the ammonia spoor of the man who wore them last, Mary's shocked brain started to a new understanding.

She wasn't wanted here.

She was Revived out of a sense of begrudged duty. She'd been foisted upon a future already busy enough with its own problems by a past that couldn't have cared less.

She could have told the future what it'd been like to meet Che Guevara in that old Cuban schoolhouse. She could've told them about the last Queen

... (read more)
1RowanE5yThat scenario still sounds awesome, as long as I'm comparing it to "no cryonics" instead of "best-case cryonics scenarios". I get to be dropped into a completely unfamiliar world with just my mind, a small sum of money, and a young healthy body? Sounds like a fun challenge, I mean I died once what have I got to lose?
0Academian5ySeems not much worse than actual-death, given that in this scenario you could still choose to actually-die if you didn't like your post-cryonics life.
6Kaj_Sotala5yYou're assuming that people who find life a net negative could simply choose to commit suicide. I don't think that this is a realistic assumption for most people. For many people, actively taking your own life is something that only becomes an option once it gets really, really shitty - and not necessarily even then. If someone falls into this class and puts high chance on their post-cryonics life being one of misery, but still not enough misery that they'd be ready to kill themselves, then cryonics may reasonably seem like negative expected value. (Especially if they assume that societies will maintain the trend of trying to prevent people from killing themselves when possible, and that a future society might be much better at this than ours, making suicide much harder to accomplish.)

You are one of the first to be revived.

The technique is imperfect, and causes you massive neurological damage (think late stage Alzheimer's), trapping you in a nonverbal yet incredibly painful and horrifying state.

Due to advances in gerontology, you have a nearly infinite lifespan ahead of you, cognizant only of what you have lost.

When neuroscience finally advances to the point where you can be fixed, it's still not yet advanced enough to give you back your memories.

You're effectively a completely different person, and you know that.

0Academian5ySeems not much worse than actual-death, given that in this scenario you (or the person who replaces you) could still choose to actually-die if you didn't like your post-cryonics life.
0RowanE5yWell, my current self and associated memories/opinions is fine with the second part, this is basically just a Buddhist hell where afterwards I get reincarnated into the post-singularity future. ETA: also highly unlikely, since it happening to me is conditional on the scenario happening to anyone.
0Gurkenglas5yCouldn't you get refrozen until they can fix that too?
0devas5yGood point. I'm going to make another, different post detailing the horrifying yet somewhat plausible idea your comment gave me which "fixes" that oversight. In the meantime, there's this: you're assuming that in the future, you'll have rights, and agency.

You have no mouth and you must scream.

You are revived successfully and find yourself in a totally changed world - say as different from today than today is from the middle ages. You have severe difficulties to adjust and basically feel inferior and useless all the time and nobody does or can help you (e.g. because altering minds is unethical or infeasible).

2NancyLebovitz5yIt won't just be you. There will be cohorts of people who can't or won't adjust, but this won't help except that you aren't completely isolated.

(1) A well-meaning but slightly-too-obsessed cryonics scientist wakes up some semblance of me in a semi-conscious virtual delirium for something like 1000 very unpleasant subjective years of tinkering to try recovering me. She eventually quits, and I never wake up again.

Revivees wake up with the memories they went to sleep with, but a great many of them have a growing conviction that they are the wrong person. For some this "dysidentity disorder" is acute and distressing, for others, merely a curiosity that they live with. All seem to have it to some extent. Nobody knows why.

0RowanE5yWould seem to imply memories don't make up who you are - I mean, what I'm inclined to read into it is "there are souls and they got moved around", but it could be anything - in which case, if there's a way to cause myself amnesia (and with this level tech why wouldn't there be?) I should just wipe out my memories and find out who I am. Ideally it'll also be possible to save the memories in backups somehow, or I'll have "external memory" like diaries and such, in case I start regretting the decision.

(2) A rich sadist finds it somehow legally or logistically easier to lay hands on the brains/minds of cryonics patients than of living people, and runs some virtual torture scenarios on me where I'm not allowed to die for thousands of subjective years or more.

[-][anonymous]5y 3

You manage to live long enough to witness progres in the field of cryonics. In your nineties, you are taken to the hospital, where you know you will die from some heart disease. Everyone arround you pays compliments on how serene you are for somebody about to die. But you trust cryonics better than some religious people have faith in heaven, so "dying" is not a big deal for you. Luckily, from your hospital bedroom, you even see the first revived man by the Cryonics Institute on TV.

When interviewed, he explain how painful were all those years, tha... (read more)

Almost-FAI insists "death is bad", human life has positive value. Other aspects of ethics are also gotten right, but personal choice and suffering avoidance is underrepresented.

As a consequence, almost-FAI makes copies of you and keeps them alive in the minimum resource state needed to keep you alive and safe, which spells billions of years of boredom for millions of copies.


Alternatively, CEV-FAI takes the world religions too seriously and implements hell for various sins.


Alternatively, some equivalent made by a ruling class of "moral" humans with longevity technology, possible even without AI.

You are one of the first to be revived. The technique is still experimental. Imagine all the things that could go wrong.

1bbleeker5yThe most likely scenario is that you'll just die anyway; this one is the second most likely. They probably made mistakes freezing you, and also when thawing you, and you'll end up with severe 'Alzheimer's'. After you've paid a lot of money that could've gone to your family/favorite charity.
0devas5yI thought of the premise, decided to expand on it and comment, and then I read this comment. So...huhh...I'm stealing this? I guess? From the future?

The process of revival is imperfect, and pieces of memories are frequently missing. None of your loved ones remember you, and some of them are in permanent Alzheimers-like states. One person claims to have been close to pre-revival you, but you don't remember them. Having felt the pain of being rejected by your closest friend, you decide to trust them. That turns out to be an elaborate scam, possibly motivated by pure sadism, and you're now alone in a world you don't recognize and where you have to be suspicious of everyone you meet.

0Academian5ySeems not much worse than actual-death, given that in this scenario you could still choose to actually-die if you didn't like your post-cryonics life.
0RowanE5yYou think I have friends and/or loved ones who are going into cryonics? Hahahaha! [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7erl9k01C2M]

A better way of resurrection was found and applied to most of dead people, but not to the ones that were cryopreserved. They will be return to live after all but were ridiculed and lost most of opportunities. Their memory is damaged.

According to the prevailing religion of the time you wake up in, souls exist but become more or less detached from the body during cold sleep. Revivees must recover their souls through the purifying activity of forced labour in state factories. They are deemed to have regained their souls when they are too worn down by toil to be profitable to employ. Those with exceptional talents that the authorities find useful may be selected out for more intellectual service, but anyone who has been passed over for five years will never leave the factories.

3Jiro5yA religion probably isn't going to teach that cryonic subjects should be enslaved unless someone benefits from having the religion teach that. So this reduces to the question "would it actually benefit future people to enslave cryonic subjects", which is doubtful given the existence of sophisticated enough technology to revive them in the first place.

You have been revived.

At first, everything seems pretty swell: people from all over come to talk to you, you've been tapped to reconstruct some languages and customs from your failing memory, etc. etc. Wonder why they have mirrors everywhere, though.

Then you ask to access your bank account, and they laugh in your face.

You don't have rights, you disgusting monster.

You're part of the cretinous, self-indulgent generation who nearly ruined our planet, and whose crimes and demeanor are so horrible we can't even contemplate them.

You've already been judged [i]i... (read more)

0RowanE5y"So, specifically my generation, not my parents' or Queen Victoria's or... yours? That's a bold strategy, let's see if it pays off." Maybe I have to spend a thousand years entertaining myself by making up total bullshit about my culture to troll the scientists, but eventually some group with completely different political beliefs will takeover, and maybe I'll share the same fate as the zookeepers but I'll damn sure be beaming the smuggest shiteating I-told-you-so grin at the zookeeper while the 41st-century neonazis hang us both in their day of the rope. But ok, sure, maybe it'd really suck, but the plausibility? Future generations collectively decide that punishing individuals for the crimes of the generation they were born in makes sense, future generations believe my generation committed crimes worth being that harsh in punishing, future generations think it's plausible they might accidentally commit said crimes but still find members of past generations culpable, criminals don't have rights in the future, future generations fail at between-generations prisoner's dilemmas, somehow the best way to learn about a previous generation is to examine in vitro an extremely eccentric sample of said generation... there could be more, but that's already enough conjunctions to flush the probability down the wazoo.

Playing off of #2: The process of revival also allows for essentially infinite cloning. Unable to reconcile this with a desire for uniqueness, people decided that revived humans aren't quite real, and don't have legal rights. Thousands of copies of you are cloned or simulated for human experimentation, which has become extremely common now that it can be accurately done without hurting "real" humans. No version of you is ever revived in a context you would enjoy, because after all, you don't count as real.

1Eph5yThis is unlikely in your scenario. If these clones or ems have no rights and are cheap and available, someone will probably create some in positive environments for "warm fuzzies", out of pity, or in a slavery/pet scenario that is actually comfortable or interesting. There is also the reasonable expectation that some will disagree with the legal status and provide some measure of positive compensation - no need for that to be illegal, and we do it for e.g. dogs today. And some of the research may provide insight into how pleasure works in the brain, and how to maximize it. Some of these experiments will be quite enjoyable, even if it is only a small percentage.

The longer you're in storage, the less worth while people find it to revive you. Eventually, many centuries in the future, you are awoken into a world you have no possibility of understanding, and are kept with your fellow revivees in a zoo of ancient human cultures.

There's a story by Greg Egan, "Transition Dreams", about the subjective experience of being uploaded, which is one form that cryogenic revival might take. Not a dystopia, as far as I recall, but an interesting view of the matter.

0HungryHobo5ySpoiler [/s]
0Good_Burning_Plastic5yI guess you meant for that link to go somewhere else.
0HungryHobo5yah, my mistake, I tried to use standard reddit-style spoilers but it treated it as a link. The text does however turn up as a mouseover.
0satt5yI don't think HungryHobo meant it to go anywhere in particular. It looks like a dummy link with the spoiler in its title attribute so the spoiler appears when the link's hovered over.
0Good_Burning_Plastic5yAh, I had only hovered the link long enough to read its target in the status bar and moved the mouse away too soon for the title text to appear.

Revivees are zombies. That is, they are animated, but not conscious. Depending on their background, they may conceptualise this in different ways, such as being still dead, being damned, having no soul, etc. This confirms suspicions raised by previous experimental work on freezing and reviving chimpanzees, and casts some doubt on how successful the celebrated first full revival of a dog really was. A scientist in a secret laboratory in China begins to experiment with freezing and reviving babies and very young children, who may be more free of preconceptions of what it is like to be alive, to see what sort of person they develop into.

1[anonymous]5yHow can that even work? Literally, how can it work? Consciousness is one of the things the brain does. How do they conceptualize, including forming self-concepts, and act "animated", without normal consciousness?
0Good_Burning_Plastic5yI think he means something like the Cotard delusion [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotard_delusion] (see also [http://lesswrong.com/lw/69/the_zombie_preacher_of_somerset/]).
0RichardKennaway5yExactly. Except that rather than being a remarkable but rare thing with no apparent causes and no known mechanism, it happens (in this imaginary scenario) every time to revivees. "Consciousness", after all, is a word we use to name a part of our conceptualisation of mental phenomena, and deductions about the real world made from its definition need not be accurate. It need not even match up to any word in some other human language, let alone the physical result of such a radical operation on the brain as cryonic time-travel.
0[anonymous]5yExactly. Except that rather than being a remarkable but very rare thing with no apparent causes, it happens (in this imaginary scenario) every time to revivees. "Consciousness", after all, is a word we use to name a part of our conceptualisation of mental phenomena, and deductions about the real world made from its definition need not be accurate. It need not even match up to any word in some other human language, let alone the physical result of such a radical operation on the brain as cryonic time-travel.
0RowanE5yWouldn't that be subjectively equivalent on the cryo-patient's end to "cryonics doesn't work, you just stay dead"?
0RichardKennaway5yIn this case whether it "works" is a matter of where to draw the line. The Zombie Preacher of Somerset that Good_Burning_Plastic linked had an animated body, with competent mental faculties and some psychological continuity with the former person. If he could become a zombie from a blow to the head, it seems quite plausible (for the purpose of writing fiction, not for making predictions) that the same could happen with cryonics.
0[anonymous]5yIn this case whether it "works" is a matter of where to draw the line. The Zombie Preacher of Somerset that Good_Burning_Plastic linked had an animated body, with competent mental faculties and some psychological continuity with the former person. If he could become a zombie from a blow to the head, it seems quite plausible (for the purpose of writing fiction, not for making predictions) that the same could happen with cryonics.

I think there are ordering constraints on the sequence of technological advances involved. One vision of how revival works goes like this: start with a destructive, high resolution scan of the body, then cure illness and death computationally, by processing the data from the scan. Finally use advanced nano-technology to print out a new, well body.

Although individual mammalian cells can be thawed, whole human bodies are not thawable. So the nano-technology has to be warm as well as macroscopic. Also a warm, half printed body is not viable, so printing has t... (read more)

[-][anonymous]5y 0

If we're weighting by plausibility:

  • You are dead, you stay dead, and your life insurance and charity-at-death money is gone.
2gjm5yThat isn't a "cryonics-works" story, it's a "cryonics-fails" story.
0[anonymous]5yHmmm. Fair enough. I guess I just don't really have a clear idea of what's genuinely plausible if cryonics works but things end up "negative".
0RichardKennaway5y"The operation was a success, but the patient died."

I've been thinking about this a lot for similar reasons, and one thing I've been concerned about is the market for human whole-brain emulations. A lot of the examples in this thread are horror stories that seem to me to lack clear pathways to their actual realization. (That would be bad, but how would it actually happen?) However, this seems like a very plausible pathway to some very bad futures for cryonics patients. There has always been an active market for humans (and I do mean as property, not for human services). It was moral progress to ban slavery,... (read more)

[-][anonymous]5y 0

I sign up for cryonics, but I live in Australia or I'm travelling outside of the US and don't manage to transport my body to the US in a reasonable amount of time.

0Academian5yThis is a cryonics-fails story, not a cryonics-works-and-is-bad story.

Most world changing technological breakthroughs are easy compared to resurrecting the frozen dead. Much precedes revival. As the centuries give way to millennia Humans are replaced by Post Humans. As the millennia give way to myriad years Post Humans are replaced by New Humans. As myriad years give way to lakhs of years New Humans are replace by Renewed Humans. As the lakhs give way to millions of years Renewed Humans are replace by Real Humans.

The Real Humans develop the technology to revive the frozen dead. They use it themselves as an ambulance to the f... (read more)

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
1RowanE5yIf you think this has non-negligible negativity*probability, you've got the conjunction fallacy [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ji/conjunction_fallacy/] up the wazoo. Although what it actually reads as is finding a LessWrong framing and context to post the kind of furry hate you'd see in any other web forum, not very constructive. So I'll respond at the same level of discourse to the scenario: "Bitch, I watched Monster Musume [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BGYzZYU3rM]. My anaconda don't want none unless she's part anaconda. Your furfags are tame. Didn't you at least bring back any pegasisters? IWTCIRD!" Now, not so much being inclined towards those fetishes as simply not being so stupidly fussy about it that I'd rather kill myself, I have a less immediate reaction that's more about dismantling the scenario: When I'm emulated, I'll ask about their criteria for printing me out into meatspace, and point out "if it's an interesting challenge you want and resurrections are conditional on that, why not just get creative and weird with the internal biology but challenge yourself to keep the exterior looking as human as possible? Like, what if you make my bones out of an entirely different material?" I mean, if I didn't make an argument like that, wouldn't I either be woken up in an anthropomorphic animal body or not be woken up at all, in this scenario?

Note: I'm still quite confused with how to think about subjective experience and sleeping beauty-type scenarios. I don't give this scenario much weight, but find it interesting to think about:

Ordinarily, your future is void of any future-self brain states following your death, so the probability of your subjective experience following a path that leads to death in the near future is low (assuming youth, good health, avoidance of risky sports/habits, etc). However, after signing up for cryonics, you open up new potential future-self brain states that follow... (read more)

You awake to find yourself strapped down to an operating table, surrounded by robotic machines busily installing devices into your still-numb body. A mechanical voice booms:

"SERVE THE COMPUTER. THE COMPUTER IS YOUR FRIEND.

"THE COMPUTER WANTS YOU TO BE HAPPY.

"IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY, YOU MAY BE USED AS REACTOR SHIELDING."

3Lumifer5y"Cake and grief counseling will be available at the conclusion of the test."

Society is completely different and technologically advanced. The only employment offered to mom and popsicles is as a historical icon from your approximate youth era, tasked with wandering the streets and acting your part, analogous to a Disney character at Disneyland. Your role choices are Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein, and someone else you've never heard of.

1RowanE5yIf they know that few names from my era, they probably know similarly little about each one. I play "Albert Einstein", but it's obvious to any popsicles from the same era that I'm actually Rick Sanchez [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5qfXni7gDY]. This develops into an in-joke where basically every "Albert Einstein" is really playing Rick Sanchez. We ruin everything with drunken debauchery, then ???, profit, take over the degenerate binge-drinking wasteland society becomes.
0[anonymous]5yIf they're a technologically advanced society, why is employment considered necessary?

Why Call Them Back from Heaven? by Clifford Simak. The whole society is focused around saving money and figuring out investments so as to be rich when revived.

Pelbavpf vf n gbgny senhq.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

The technology would work, but an existential threat wipes out humanity while you are asleep.

0Academian5yThis is an example where cryonics fails, and so not the kind of example I'm looking for in this thread. Sorry if that wasn't clear from the OP! I'm leaving this comment to hopefully prevent more such examples from distracting potential posters.
[-][anonymous]5y 0

We are living in a simulation.

Cryonics grows in popularity but our masters find it boring.

Eventually, it displeases them enough to start a new game file. Our game file is overwritten, our universe dies.

3PeerGynt5yHi there, Mac. I'm a Matrix overlord. Can I have my 10 dollars, please?
0[anonymous]5yYour request for money fills me with DETERMINATION. I can now SAVE.
0[anonymous]5yLOL. Upvote. Yes, my comment was quite Pascalian.

Souls exist and become detached from the body during cold sleep, where, unguarded by the flesh, they are easy pickings for the demons that infest the world. (You probably have half a dozen sitting on your shoulders right now, whispering into your ears.) Revivees report the horrors of hell.

Preservation and revival is possible, but not for the current technology of preservation. Everyone in Alcor's tanks right now is irretrievably dead. The gamble was worth making at the time, but it didn't pay off.

The bodies may be useful for their genetic information, especially from their gut biota.

I remember a poem that appeared in one of the science fiction magazines a long time ago, the gist of which was:

"Here are some diseases you may have forgotten about. I'm sorry I had nothing to wrap them in but the body of this old man. Yours, DEATH."

0Academian5yHmm, this seems like it's not a cryonics-works-for-you scenario, and I did mean to exclude this type of example, though maybe not super clearly: OP: There's a separate question of whether the outcome is positive enough to be worth the money, which I'd rather discuss in a different thread.