Effective Altruism and Cryonics, Contest Results

by lsparrish 1 min read19th Nov 20139 comments

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Thank you to each of the five contestants who entered an essay into the contest that was started a little over a week ago to explore cryonics as a prospective target for effective altruism. The five entries (listed chronologically) are:

  1. jkaufman
  2. deleted
  3. RomeoStevens
  4. jaime2000
  5. Ishaan

All five of essays show evidence of much thought and hard work. Based on multiple readings of each, here are some brief impressions from each essay:

  • The entry by jkaufman is intelligently written and even-handed, giving math-based arguments why cryonics might or might not be competitive with effective charities such as AMF. The bar set by such charities is very high. However, depending what utilitarian framework you use, cryonics could be competitive if the chances of it working are sufficiently good. On the other hand, when considered in person-neutral terms, advertising cryonics seems to be a better use of a given dollar than signing up, as chances are you could induce multiple others to sign up for the same money.
  • The entry by deleted, which is presented in outline form, brings up several good points, although it does not defend all of them at length, and comes up slightly short of the 800 word target. Despite the brevity (and some spelling errors), I had a positive reaction to it personally, particularly the discussion of cryonics as a possible alternative to end-of-life intensive care. It would be interesting to see a more fleshed out version and/or multiple essays exploring the points touched on in this outline.
  • The entry by RomeoStevens discusses, among other things, the prospect that money raised for cryonics is likely to be money that could not otherwise be raised for a beneficial purpose. Although similar in some respects to the jkaufman essay, it stresses the usefulness of self-interest in others (e.g. aging wealthy people) as a way to attempt to produce the most good. It also goes into some of the more counterintuitive points that argue for cryonics as potential EA, such as effects on low-funded/high-value research, and the altered time preference of a cryonicist.
  • The entry by jaime2000 examines the necessary conditions for someone to be signed up for cryonics to determine which is the most efficient use of additional funding. This essay is well organized and sourced. It recommends building public awareness (for example, advertising) as the most efficient path to promoting cryonics.
  • The entry by Ishann is an introspective look at why some utilitarians whose intuitions run contrary to cryonics (and life extension in general), as a person-neutral effective altruism target, might reconsider those intuitions when considering life extension in the absence of cognitive decline (the familiar status quo for extending life past 100).

Each of these impresses me as incredibly valuable in its own right, for its own reasons. I would encourage the authors to expand them into top-level posts now that the contest is over.

Prize Winner: The essay that that I think best makes its points is the one by RomeoStevens, which encompasses significant breadth and depth on this topic. Well done, RomeoStevens!

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