I've been considering lately whether it would perhaps be best to develop and promote terminology that splits cryonics into two distinct concepts for easier consumption:

1) old-style cryonics, cryopreserving people at the cost of nontrivial damage that can't yet be reversed, and

2) the tech goal of being able to demonstrably bring someone back from a (very low-damage) cryopreserved state.

"Real cryonics" vs "sci-fi cryonics", if you will.

As I reckon it, trying to achieve cryonics definition #2 in your lifetime is no more incredible on the surface than trying to defeat aging or engineer self-improving AI in a similar timeframe. Actually in some ways it seems easier. Yet it gets so much less press. Even cryonics advocates seem rarely prone to enthuse about it.

Is it possible that cryonics #1, as a feature of the collective mental map, is actually in the way of cryonics #2? Should I be worried, for example, that promoting cryonics #1 actually costs 100,000 lives per day over some stretch of future time because it is preventing people from noticing cryonics #2 and actually taking action on it?

Many people I talk to who are new to the topic seem to have some hazy preexisting idea of cryonics #2 that gets mangled up with cryonics #1. Perhaps they would grow into enthusiasts with attention spans for the subject matter if encouraged to pursue this simple-to-grasp concept in its own right, instead of trying to forcibly retrain into more advanced concepts.

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Working up on larger and larger animals would probably help. "CAN YOU BRING BACK A HUMAN, HUH?" "No, but we can bring back C.Elegans and we're getting promising results on mice." This is the "bring back the human running on the same body" approach rather than the "bring back the human as an em" one. This might also be an approach that would net actual funding for the science.

Similar things are true of bringing back a C.Elegans as an em.

Various research groups are working on this already, with partial sucess.

Yep. But I suggest this line as frozen C.Elegans have been brought back alive and apparently well, and there's a bit of money in cryobiology for organ preservation. (Modulo possible ongoing conflicts between cryonicists and the Society for Cryobiology. But I suspect a bit of success on something bigger than C.Elegans to wave around would have a salutary effect.)

For obvious reasons, with cryonics #2 you have to aim at reviving a large mammal and then primate. As for people, for cryonics treatment not to be considered murder the patient has to be beyond the of revivability even without cryonical treatment before (no cryonical treatment can improve the state of health, after all).

The main thing is that cryonical treatment would induce a pain-free, degradation-free state that could last a very long time while they await the outcome of clinical trials and new approaches. However it could also be useful for certain kinds of surgery.

Laser microtomes could be used to separate out chunks of the body, and printed surgical glues to patch things back together with capillary-level precision (given that there is no chance for them to wriggle around). Surgery (or should I label it "anatomical engineering"?) under cryonic conditions would have no time limit, and would be a more predictable system to deal with than a metabolically living body.

while they await the outcome of clinical trials and new approaches

http://xkcd.com/989/ seems relevant despite the slightly different subject matter. Clinical trials can't happen if all the potential subjects are frozen.

The effect does not seem likely to be very strong to me. What we would need for this to be a problem is serious long-term delays in progress. A few short term delays would actually be acceptable in this context.

Consider that:

  • Most potential test subjects lives are currently being wasted. Disease progression and death does not happen on a set schedule, and we only have data and brainpower to support a limited number of experiments anyway. This would give us a high precision control over the death and dying process, making it easier to study.
  • There is still a pretty good chance of getting volunteers, since it would be a very meaningful way to go. And further, patients who "die" could be given high quality cryonics, or reversibly suspended during the terminal phase of their disease progression. They could then await either em conversion or much better therapies.
  • With more time available to patients who need it, less risky trials with lower chances of loss of life could be justifiably used. This could perhaps delay the science, but at a reduced direct human death toll.
  • Reducing the direct political pressure for immediate results on hard to measure outcomes could actually result in less bad data and thus produce faster progress in the long term. The political pressure would be more for accurate data that does not get refuted in the long run.

There are a lot of hidden benefits and costs to be considered.

Would healthy people use it, like the comic suggests? If so, would it be a net negative or a net positive?

It is not clear to me that even STEM people using this on an individual basis is a bad thing for progress -- e.g. some might use it to get past phases of cultural boredom that would otherwise trigger a counterproductive binge of video gaming or scientific crankery. In fact, it might remove counterproductive cranks at a higher rate than productive rationalists, because they (presumably) have lower satisfaction with their current lives.

The worst hidden costs I see are essentially apathy and inertia related. If you can "fix" the problem by putting it in a freezer, you haven't really fixed it yet. Say we use this on homelessness/joblessness/insurancelessness. Huge potential economic savings there -- but then where's the motive to take people out of the freezer? Perhaps as a sanity measure it should be required that healthy individuals be brought out every 4 years or so to participate in the political process.

Well, once there is an unfrozen primate, this will be a topic for discussion.

Once there is a plausible research programme leading up to one. A string of ever-increasing successes would, my human-simulator tells me, be quite a convincing argument there might be something here.

I meant that you were talking about applications and unfreezing a mammal is an interesting thing on its own. Until someone unfreezes a primate, any talks about cryonics application to humans are quite easy to write off as speculative and trying even on willing living humans without success on primates would still be considered a murder...

Our minds are not alike on this. You've explained and I still don't know what you're saying in enough detail to respond. Please use more explicit language. How cold of a primate are you talking about? With cryoprotectant or without? How do you propose we avoid cryoprotectant toxicity in the primate study you suggest?

I am not proposing any specific path. I agree with the importance of not forgetting cryonics #2.

Original post mentions "bring someone back from low-damage cryo-preservation" and I tried to add a disambiguation that first "someone" would probably have to be a primate, not human (for various reasons).

Common sense suggests that probably "a mammal", "a large mammal" and a "primate" could be turning points: until we reach each one, anything beyond that point (like predicting practical applications for humans) is too uncertain to predict.

I think that treating them as prediction-crushing points is safe, because it seems very likely that to revive a large mammal one would need all the knowledge learned from revivial of a small mammal and some more.

I am not sure what should be threshold for true preservation; probably something like long time (hours? days? duration of 10000 normal heartbeats?) without any blood circulation.

Ok, sounds like you are modeling this a bit different from me, probably because I have had relatively more exposure to cryonics ideas. Cryonics (#1) involves perfusion with high concentrations of cryoprotectant to prevent ice formation, and cooling to either -135 C or cooler. Liquid nitrogen is cheap and abundant, so its boiling point is preferable (-196 C) for long term storage. As much as feasible, damage is avoided, but we can't avoid enough that we can possibly bring people back. So to me cryonics #2 is mainly just an extension of cryonics #1, only the idea is to avoid damage completely -- an unachieved goal thus far.

That said, there are other takes on cooling mammals. Hibernation is seen in mammals in nature, and with less concentrated cryoprotectants you can temporarily lower the temperature of mammals to below the ordinary freezing point of water. Some animals such as wood frogs have high ice tolerance, and while their cells don't freeze there are compartments of their body that do while the cells become concentrated with salts and sugars (and thus relatively dehydrated). But a wood frog cannot handle liquid nitrogen or the glass transition temperature and come back alive.

The chance that cryonics #2 is not achievable by damage reduction (assuming damage reduction is possible) is something I rate rather low, it would require rewriting what we think we know about the brain. Cryonics #1 might be unachievable because of too much damage to be recovered from, but that is uncertain.

I know the pitch and the current practices of cryonics #1. What you said is not new factual information for me, but the way you present it surely helps to understand your point of view.

It is just that with cryonics #2 we can know whether we are succeeding, and with cryonics #1 we can never be sure (and that's why it can only be applied to dead patients without being considered murder). Personally, I would support legalization of cryonics treatment before natural death - on equal ground with all other forms of assisted suicide (with same informed consent requirements - some safeguards are needed).

I think that scientific development of cryonics #2 would benefit from explicitly saying that it doesn't know when (and whether) it will be able to offer a verified way to do what cryonics #1 (blindly) tries to do now (maybe succesfully, maybe not - we have no way to find out it yet).

Not sure whether the terminology change is necessary, but I am certainly interested in the state of cryonics research on animals. Seems like it's a massively important proof of concept.