Being Half-Rational About Pascal's Wager is Even Worse

For so long as I can remember, I have rejected Pascal's Wager in all its forms on sheerly practical grounds: anyone who tries to plan out their life by chasing a 1 in 10,000 chance of a huge payoff is almost certainly doomed in practice.  This kind of clever reasoning never pays off in real life...

...unless you have also underestimated the allegedly tiny chance of the large impact.

For example.  At one critical junction in history, Leo Szilard, the first physicist to see the possibility of fission chain reactions and hence practical nuclear weapons, was trying to persuade Enrico Fermi to take the issue seriously, in the company of a more prestigious friend, Isidor Rabi:

I said to him:  "Did you talk to Fermi?"  Rabi said, "Yes, I did."  I said, "What did Fermi say?"  Rabi said, "Fermi said 'Nuts!'"  So I said, "Why did he say 'Nuts!'?" and Rabi said, "Well, I don't know, but he is in and we can ask him." So we went over to Fermi's office, and Rabi said to Fermi, "Look, Fermi, I told you what Szilard thought and you said ‘Nuts!' and Szilard wants to know why you said ‘Nuts!'" So Fermi said, "Well… there is the remote possibility that neutrons may be emitted in the fission of uranium and then of course perhaps a chain reaction can be made." Rabi said, "What do you mean by ‘remote possibility'?" and Fermi said, "Well, ten per cent." Rabi said, "Ten per cent is not a remote possibility if it means that we may die of it.  If I have pneumonia and the doctor tells me that there is a remote possibility that I might die, and it's ten percent, I get excited about it."  (Quoted in 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb' by Richard Rhodes.)

This might look at first like a successful application of "multiplying a low probability by a high impact", but I would reject that this was really going on.  Where the heck did Fermi get that 10% figure for his 'remote possibility', especially considering that fission chain reactions did in fact turn out to be possible?  If some sort of reasoning had told us that a fission chain reaction was improbable, then after it turned out to be reality, good procedure would have us go back and check our reasoning to see what went wrong, and figure out how to adjust our way of thinking so as to not make the same mistake again.  So far as I know, there was no physical reason whatsoever to think a fission chain reaction was only a ten percent probability.  They had not been demonstrated experimentally, to be sure; but they were still the default projection from what was already known.  If you'd been told in the 1930s that fission chain reactions were impossible, you would've been told something that implied new physical facts unknown to current science (and indeed, no such facts existed).  After reading enough historical instances of famous scientists dismissing things as impossible when there was no physical logic to say that it was even improbable, one cynically suspects that some prestigious scientists perhaps came to conceive of themselves as senior people who ought to be skeptical about things, and that Fermi was just reacting emotionally.  The lesson I draw from this historical case is not that it's a good idea to go around multiplying ten percent probabilities by large impacts, but that Fermi should not have pulled out a number as low as ten percent.

Having seen enough conversations involving made-up probabilities to become cynical, I also strongly suspect that if Fermi had foreseen how Rabi would reply, Fermi would've said "One percent".  If Fermi had expected Rabi to say "One percent is not small if..." then Fermi would've said "One in ten thousand" or "Too small to consider" - whatever he thought would get him off the hook.  Perhaps I am being too unkind to Fermi, who was a famously great estimator; Fermi may well have performed some sort of lawful probability estimate on the spot.  But Fermi is also the one who said that nuclear energy was fifty years off in the unlikely event it could be done at all, two years (IIRC) before Fermi himself oversaw the construction of the first nuclear pile.  Where did Fermi get that fifty-year number from?  This sort of thing does make me more likely to believe that Fermi, in playing the role of the solemn doubter, was just Making Things Up; and this is no less a sin when you make up skeptical things.  And if this cynicism is right, then we cannot learn the lesson that it is wise to multiply small probabilities by large impacts because this is what saved Fermi - if Fermi had known the rule, if he had seen it coming, he would have just Made Up an even smaller probability to get himself off the hook.  It would have been so very easy and convenient to say, "One in ten thousand, there's no experimental proof and most ideas like that are wrong!  Think of all the conjunctive probabilities that have to be true before we actually get nuclear weapons and our own efforts actually made a difference in that!" followed shortly by "But it's not practical to be worried about such tiny probabilities!"  Or maybe Fermi would've known better, but even so I have never been a fan of trying to have two mistakes cancel each other out.

I mention all this because it is dangerous to be half a rationalist, and only stop making one of the two mistakes.  If you are going to reject impractical 'clever arguments' that would never work in real life, and henceforth not try to multiply tiny probabilities by huge payoffs, then you had also better reject all the clever arguments that would've led Fermi or Szilard to assign probabilities much smaller than ten percent.  (Listing out a group of conjunctive probabilities leading up to taking an important action, and not listing any disjunctive probabilities, is one widely popular way of driving down the apparent probability of just about anything.)  Or if you would've tried to put fission chain reactions into a reference class of 'amazing new energy sources' and then assigned it a tiny probability, or put Szilard into the reference class of 'people who think the fate of the world depends on them', or pontificated about the lack of any positive experimental evidence proving that a chain reaction was possible, blah blah blah etcetera - then your error here can perhaps be compensated for by the opposite error of then trying to multiply the resulting tiny probability by a large impact.  I don't like making clever mistakes that cancel each other out - I consider that idea to also be clever - but making clever mistakes that don't cancel out is worse.

On the other hand, if you want a general heuristic that could've led Fermi to do better, I would suggest reasoning that previous-historical experimental proof of a chain reaction would not be strongly be expected even in worlds where it was possible, and that to discover a chain reaction to be impossible would imply learning some new fact of physical science which was not already known.  And this is not just 20-20 hindsight; Szilard and Rabi saw the logic in advance of the fact, not just afterward - though not in those exact terms; they just saw the physical logic, and then didn't adjust it downward for 'absurdity' or with more complicated rationalizations.  But then if you are going to take this sort of reasoning at face value, without adjusting it downward, then it's probably not a good idea to panic every time you assign a 0.01% probability to something big - you'll probably run into dozens of things like that, at least, and panicking over them would leave no room to wait until you found something whose face-value probability was large.

I don't believe in multiplying tiny probabilities by huge impacts.  But I also believe that Fermi could have done better than saying ten percent, and that it wasn't just random luck mixed with overconfidence that led Szilard and Rabi to assign higher probabilities than that.  Or to name a modern issue which is still open, Michael Shermer should not have dismissed the possibility of molecular nanotechnology, and Eric Drexler will not have been randomly lucky when it turns out to work: taking current physical models at face value imply that molecular nanotechnology ought to work, and if it doesn't work we've learned some new fact unknown to present physics, etcetera.  Taking the physical logic at face value is fine, and there's no need to adjust it downward for any particular reason; if you say that Eric Drexler should 'adjust' this probability downward for whatever reason, then I think you're giving him rules that predictably give him the wrong answer.  Sometimes surface appearances are misleading, but most of the time they're not.

A key test I apply to any supposed rule of reasoning about high-impact scenarios is, "Does this rule screw over the planet if Reality actually hands us a high-impact scenario?" and if the answer is yes, I discard it and move on.  The point of rationality is to figure out which world we actually live in and adapt accordingly, not to rule out certain sorts of worlds in advance.

There's a doubly-clever form of the argument wherein everyone in a plausibly high-impact position modestly attributes only a tiny potential possibility that their face-value view of the world is sane, and then they multiply this tiny probability by the large impact, and so they act anyway and on average worlds in trouble are saved.  I don't think this works in real life - I don't think I would have wanted Leo Szilard to think like that.  I think that if your brain really actually thinks that fission chain reactions have only a tiny probability of being important, you will go off and try to invent better refrigerators or something else that might make you money.  And if your brain does not really feel that fission chain reactions have a tiny probability, then your beliefs and aliefs are out of sync and that is not something I want to see in people trying to handle the delicate issue of nuclear weapons.  But in any case, I deny the original premise:  I do not think the world's niches for heroism must be populated by heroes who are incapable in principle of reasonably distinguishing themselves from a population of crackpots, all of whom have no choice but to continue on the tiny off-chance that they are not crackpots.

I haven't written enough about what I've begun thinking of as 'heroic epistemology' - why, how can you possibly be so overconfident as to dare even try to have a huge positive impact when most people in that reference class blah blah blah - but on reflection, it seems to me that an awful lot of my answer boils down to not trying to be clever about it.  I don't multiply tiny probabilities by huge impacts.  I also don't get tiny probabilities by putting myself into inescapable reference classes, for this is the sort of reasoning that would screw over planets that actually were in trouble if everyone thought like that.  In the course of any workday, on the now very rare occasions I find myself thinking about such meta-level junk instead of the math at hand, I remind myself that it is a wasted motion - where a 'wasted motion' is any thought which will, in retrospect if the problem is in fact solved, not have contributed to having solved the problem.  If someday Friendly AI is built, will it have been terribly important that someone have spent a month fretting about what reference class they're in?  No.  Will it, in retrospect, have been an important step along the pathway to understanding stable self-modification, if we spend time trying to solve the Lobian obstacle?  Possibly.  So one of these cognitive avenues is predictably a wasted motion in retrospect, and one of them is not.  The same would hold if I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself that I was allowed to believe that I could affect anything large, or any other form of angsting about meta.  It is predictable that in retrospect I will think this was a waste of time compared to working on a trust criterion between a probability distribution and an improved probability distribution.  (Apologies, this is a technical thingy I'm currently working on which has no good English description.)

But if you must apply clever adjustments to things, then for Belldandy's sake don't be one-sidedly clever and have all your cleverness be on the side of arguments for inaction.  I think you're better off without all the complicated fretting - but you're definitely not better off eliminating only half of it.

And finally, I once again state that I abjure, refute, and disclaim all forms of Pascalian reasoning and multiplying tiny probabilities by large impacts when it comes to existential risk.  We live on a planet with upcoming prospects of, among other things, human intelligence enhancement, molecular nanotechnology, sufficiently advanced biotechnology, brain-computer interfaces, and of course Artificial Intelligence in several guises.  If something has only a tiny chance of impacting the fate of the world, there should be something with a larger probability of an equally huge impact to worry about instead.  You cannot justifiably trade off tiny probabilities of x-risk improvement against efforts that do not effectuate a happy intergalactic civilization, but there is nonetheless no need to go on tracking tiny probabilities when you'd expect there to be medium-sized probabilities of x-risk reduction.  Nonetheless I try to avoid coming up with clever reasons to do stupid things, and one example of a stupid thing would be not working on Friendly AI when it's in blatant need of work.  Elaborate complicated reasoning which says we should let the Friendly AI issue just stay on fire and burn merrily away, well, any complicated reasoning which returns an output this silly is automatically suspect.

If, however, you are unlucky enough to have been cleverly argued into obeying rules that make it a priori unreachable-in-practice for anyone to end up in an epistemic state where they try to do something about a planet which appears to be on fire - so that there are no more plausible x-risk reduction efforts to fall back on, because you're adjusting all the high-impact probabilities downward from what the surface state of the world suggests...

Well, that would only be a good idea if Reality were not allowed to hand you a planet that was in fact on fire.  Or if, given a planet on fire, Reality was prohibited from handing you a chance to put it out.  There is no reason to think that Reality must a priori obey such a constraint.

EDIT:  To clarify, "Don't multiply tiny probabilities by large impacts" is something that I apply to large-scale projects and lines of historical probability.  On a very large scale, if you think FAI stands a serious chance of saving the world, then humanity should dump a bunch of effort into it, and if nobody's dumping effort into it then you should dump more effort than currently into it.  On a smaller scale, to compare two x-risk mitigation projects in demand of money, you need to estimate something about marginal impacts of the next added effort (where the common currency of utilons should probably not be lives saved, but "probability of an ok outcome", i.e., the probability of ending up with a happy intergalactic civilization).  In this case the average marginal added dollar can only account for a very tiny slice of probability, but this is not Pascal's Wager.  Large efforts with a success-or-failure criterion are rightly, justly, and unavoidably going to end up with small marginally increased probabilities of success per added small unit of effort.  It would only be Pascal's Wager if the whole route-to-an-OK-outcome were assigned a tiny probability, and then a large payoff used to shut down further discussion of whether the next unit of effort should go there or to a different x-risk.

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In summary, you could say that I'm in this field less because of what you could do with a quantum computer, than because of what the possibility of quantum computers already does to our conception of the world. Either practical quantum computers can be built, and the limits of the knowable are not what we thought they are; or they can't be built, and the principles of quantum mechanics themselves need revision; or there's a yet-undreamt method to simulate quantum mechanics efficiently using a conventional computer. All three of these possibilities sound like crackpot speculations, but at least one of them is right!

  • Scott Aaronson, in the preface of "Quantum Computing Since Democritus"

Ideally, you put yourself in a scenario where verifying any possibility has a huge payoff.

Are you classifying 10% as a Pascal-level probability? How big does a probability have to get before you don't think Pascal-type considerations apply to it?

Are you suggesting that if there was (for example) a ten percent probability of an asteroid hitting the Earth in 2025, we should devote fewer resources to asteroid prediction/deflection than simple expected utility calculations would predict?

No, he's saying that 10% and 1% are non-Pascalian probabilities for x-risks, but that 1-in-10,000 is effectively Pascalian.

I don't think it counts as "Pascalian" until it starts to scrape below the threshold of probabilities you can meaningfully assert about propositions. If we were basically assured of a bright astronomical future so long as person X doesn't win the lottery, I wouldn't say that worrying that X might win the lottery was a Pascalian risk.

I didn't like his anecdote, either.

I think you've read him wrong. He's opposed to "don't pay attention to high utility * small probability scenarios", on the basis of heroism.

I'm usually fine with dropping a one-time probability of 0.1% from my calculations. 10% is much too high to drop from a major strategic calculation but even so I'd be uncomfortable building my life around one. If this was a very well-defined number as in the asteroid calculation then it would be more tempting to build a big reference class of risks like that one and work on stopping them collectively. If an asteroid were genuinely en route, large enough to wipe out humanity, possibly stoppable, and nobody was doing anything about this 10% probability, I would still be working on FAI but I would be screaming pretty loudly about the asteroid on the side. If the asteroid is just going to wipe out a country, I'll make sure I'm not in that country and then keep working on x-risk.

What probability are you assigning to cryonics working that makes you think it's a good idea? I was under the impression that the standard LW argument for signing up was (tiny probability of success)*(monumental heap of utility if it works)=(a good investment). If that's not your argument, what is?

I was under the impression that the standard LW argument for signing up was (tiny probability of success)*(monumental heap of utility if it works)=(a good investment). If that's not your argument, what is?

The standard LW argument is that cryonics has a non-tiny probability of success. I did my own estimate, and roughly speaking, P(success) is at least P(A)P(B|A)P(C|A,B)P(D|A,B,C), where

  • A = materialism, i.e. preserving the brain or just the information of the brain-state is enough to preserve the mind
  • B = the freezing process preserves the information of the brain-state in such a way that plausible future tech can recover it
  • C = future society develops the tech to actually recover the info from cryopreserved brains without extravagant energy costs
  • D = my cryonics provider keeps me frozen for the entire time, and someone in the future sees fit to revive me

And my honest estimates were, roughly, P(A) > .95, P(B|A) > .8, P(C|A,B) > .3, and P(D|A,B,C) > .2, giving an overall lower-bound estimate of about 5% (with a lot of metauncertainty, obviously); then I tried to estimate how much waking up in the future would really be worth to me in terms of my current values compared to the value of money now, and overall determined that it was worth it for me to sign up (but not overwhelmingly; had it been 10 times the actual cost of $20 a month for the insurance and dues, I'd have waited until I was significantly richer).

And the point of the post is that 5% is not a Pascal's Wager-esque tiny probability, but something on the level of health risks that we do in fact take seriously.

(You're welcome to take exception to my estimates, of course, but the main point is that I signed up for non-Pascalian reasons. There's actually more to consider, including the effect of MWI and anthropic reasoning on C and D, and consideration about the motivations that someone might revive cryopreserved people, but this is a good enough sketch for current purposes.)

E (should go between A and B given your chronological ordering scheme): You die in such a way that high-quality vitrification/plastination is possible. (This variable gets overlooked way too frequently in these calculations).

Ah, good call. For a young and healthy person like me, that's a significant factor, since the likely causes of untimely death would probably be unexpected and/or violent. (Anyone have an idea about how to estimate this one properly?)

(Anyone have an idea about how to estimate this one properly?)

Get some base rate cause-of-death statistics for people in your age group and geography. Exclude those deaths for which you are certain you are exempt (or just discount them appropriately according to your beliefs that you might die of them, but that's a lot of work and the uncertainty is already so large that this won't affect much of anything).

The hard work is finding good comprehensive stats on this. The WHO databases could be good fallback if you don't have anything better / more specific. For Canada, these proved quite useful to get a general picture.

I did some research for myself, and came to the conclusion that E is (probably) low enough until some age group that I shouldn't bother with cryonics until then. For my specifics, the rough base rates for sudden or destructive death are above 50%, while it's down to something like 15% at 45-54.

The actual math for deciding that I used ended up having a few more factors, but overall what I've got is "don't sign up for cryonics until 40+ unless some other evidence comes up (or the price goes down)".

I did some research for myself, and came to the conclusion that E is (probably) low enough until some age group that I shouldn't bother with cryonics until then.

On the other hand, while E increases with age, so does the cost of life insurance. On the third hand, so does your income and your net worth.

And on the fourth hand, anti-agathics becoming available while you're still alive would bring E back down.

I'm surprised your math came out close enough for a factor of less-than-two to make a difference.

Well, yeah, it wasn't just a factor of less than two. Discounting rates, decrease of marginal u / $, P(B) probably increasing over time, and a few other things came into account.

Not to mention the sheer increase in natural mortality rates - %-of-deaths gives you a ratio by which to cut down odds of success, but deaths-per-population is what counts in calculating expected utility of signing up for cryonics at a given time. These rates climb very sharply past 40, especially for the causes of death that cryonics can actually help with.

Overall though, I must admit (after taking another look at it) that my math is/was full of potential holes to poke at. I may be going over it more carefully at some point in the near future, or I may just end up signing up for cryonics to save myself the trouble and never have to think about it this much again (barring new evidence or other events, of course).

Expanding conjunctive probabilities without expanding disjunctive probabilities is another classic form of one-sided rationality. If I wanted to make cryonics look more probable than this, I would individually list out many different things that could go right.

For the purpose of establishing that it's not a Pascalian probability, it suffices to talk about a lower bound on the main line of reasoning.

Ah, I see that I said "estimate" instead of "lower bound" in the critical place. I'll edit.

In this case, I'm not seeing the disjunctive possibilities that lead one to sign up for cryo in this particular case. ABCD seem to be phrased pretty broadly, and A and B in particular are already pretty big. Do you mean as an alternate to D that, say, a new cryo provider takes over the abandoned preserved heads before they thaw? Or as an alternate to C, that even though the cost is high, they go ahead and do it anyway?

Beyond that, I only see scenarios that are nice but don't point one toward cryopreservation. Like, time travel scans of dying people meaning no one ever really died is wonderful, but it means getting cryopreserved only did good in that your family wouldn't be QUITE as sad you were gone in the time before they 'died'.

Do you mean as an alternate to D that, say, a new cryo provider takes over the abandoned preserved heads before they thaw?

Sure. That happened already once in history (though there was, even earlier, a loss-thaw). It's why all modern cryo organizations are very strict about demanding advance payment, despite their compassionate hearts screaming at them not to let their friends die because of mere money. Sucks to be them, but they've got no choice.

Or as an alternate to C, that even though the cost is high, they go ahead and do it anyway?

Yep. I'd think FAI scenarios would tend to yield that.

Basically I always sigh sadly when somebody's discussing a future possibility and they throw up some random conjunction of conditional probabilities, many steps of which are actually pretty darned high when I look at them, with no corresponding disjunctions listed. This is the sort of thinking that would've led Fermi to cleverly assign a probability way lower than 10% to having an impact, by the time he was done expanding all the clever steps of the form "And then we can actually persuade the military to pay attention to us..." If you're going to be silly about driving down all impact probabilities to something small via this sort of conjunctive cleverness, you'd better also be silly and multiply the resulting small probability by a large payoff, so you won't actually ignore all possible important issues.

"And then we can actually persuade the military to pay attention to us..."

The government did sit on it for quite a while, delaying the bomb until after the defeat of Germany. Nudges from Britain were important in getting things moving.

The military "paid attention to them" long before that though.

Ah. Your reasoning seems to be sound, but I would estimate P(B|A) << 0.8. Thank you for the explanation.

My estimate of P(B|A) would be lower, too, had I not read Drexler's Engines of Creation. The theoretical limits of useful nanotech allow for devices way smaller and more efficient than the behemoths of weakly-bonded amino acid chains that make up our cells, so that cheaply repairing intracellular damage is not unreasonable at that point. (Let alone the alternative of scanning the contents and doing the real work on a computer simulation.)

At that point, it becomes a question not of whether cells are structurally intact, but of whether their inter-relationships at the necessary scale remain stably encoded after the vitrification process. (Since there are several different scales which might be "the necessary scale" for recovering a mind, this does involve some uncertainty.) Pending the outcomes of the BPF Prize and the NEMALOAD Project, I'm pretty optimistic on that front. (See here for my declarations of how I'd update given bad news on either of those projects.)

My understanding of neurobiology (BS in biology, current Plant Biology grad student) leads me to believe that the mind is not stored strictly statically in relationships between neurons, but also in the subcellular states of several proteins. These states are unlikely to be preserved in time for cryopreservation. They probably will be disrupted by the freezing process even if a living brain were to be preserved.

I need to write my "You appear to be making an argument against the technical feasability of cryonics as a comment on a blog post" blog post. I've already blogged all the pieces, but I need to write the one piece that ties it all together.

There's a lot of good reasons to believe that cyronics is highly infeasible. I agree that P(B|A) is low, and P(D|A,B,C) is also absurdly low. We don't care about starving people in Africa today; what is the likelihood that we care about dead frozen people in the future, especially if we have to spend millions of dollars resurrecting them (as is more than likely the case), especially given how difficult it would be to do so? And that's assuming we can even fix whatever caused the problem in the first place; if they die of brain cancer, how are we supposed to fix them, exactly?

Senility is another issue, as it could potentially permanently destroy portions of your brain, rendering you no longer you.

But really I find the overall probability of everything incredibly bad.

But even if we CAN do it, I suspect that it would not be worth doing because what we'd really be doing is just building a copy of you from a frozen copy most likely, in which case you, personally, are still dead; the fact that a copy of you is running around doesn't really change that, and also raises the problem that they could make any numbers of copies of people, which likely would make them dubious about doing so in the first place.

"what is the likelihood that we care about dead frozen people in the future?"

I wondered that as well when I first heard about cryonics. It is true that society in general won't care about frozen people in the future. But that isn't necessary for cryonics to work. Rather its enough that cryonics organizations care about frozen people.

Why would they care? Because the people running the organization have a vested interested in making their clients live. Among other reasons, the people running the organization might one day be clients as well, so they have to care about the success of the project.

what is the likelihood that we care about dead frozen people in the future, especially if we have to spend millions of dollars resurrecting them (as is more than likely the case), especially given how difficult it would be to do so?

This is a standard criticism people come up with after 5 seconds of thought, and a perfect example of http://lesswrong.com/lw/h8n/litany_of_a_bright_dilettante/

Do you really think that no one in cryonics hasn't ever thought - 'wait a second! why would anyone in the future even bother putting in the work?' - and you have successfully exposed a fatal ~70-year-old blindspot in a comment written in a few seconds?

And it's not necessarily that the replies to this problem are good, but that they are what you need to reply to. There's nothing to be said for making a serve we've already returned; to advance the discussion, you need to actually hit the ball back into our court, by reading and replying to the standard replies to this point.

I have never actually seen any sort of cogent response to this issue. Ever. I see it being brushed aside constantly, along with the magical brain restoration technology necessary for this, but I've never actually seen someone go into why, exactly, anyone would bother to thaw them out and revive them, even if it WAS possible to do. They are, all for all intents and purposes, dead, from a legal, moral, and ethical standpoint. Not only that, but defrosting them has little actual practical benefit - while there is obvious value to the possible cryopreservation of organs, that is only true if there aren't better way of preserving organs for shipment and preservation. As things are today, however, that seems unlikely - we already have means of shipping organs and keeping them alive, and given the current trend towards growing organs, it seems far more likely to me that the actual method will be to grow organs and keep them alive rather than keep them in cryopreservation, and without that technology being worked on, there is pretty much no value at all to developing unfreezing technology.

That means that, realistically speaking, the only purpose of such technology would be, say, shipping humans to another planet, which while probably not really rational from an economic perspective is at least somewhat reasonably likely. But even still that is a different kettle of fish - the technology in question may not resemble present day cryogenics at all, and as such may be utterly useless for unfreezing people from present-day cyrogenic treatments. Once you can prove that people CAN be revived in that way, then there is much more incentive towards cryogenics... but that is not present day cryogenics, and there is no evidence to suggest future cryogenic treatments will be very similar to present ones.

Okay, so even all that technology aside, let's assume, at some point, we do develop this technology for whatever reason. At this point, not only do you have to bear the expense of unfreezing these people, but you also have to bear the expense of fixing whatever is wrong with them (which, I will note, actually killed them in the past), as well as fixing whatever damage was done to them prior to being cryogenically frozen (and lest we forget, 10 minutes without oxygen is very likely to cause irreparable brain damage in humans who survive - let alone humans who are beyond what we in the present day can deal with). This is likely to be very, very expensive indeed, and there is little real incentive for someone in the future to spend their money in this way instead of on something else. You are basically hoping for some rich idiot to not only be capable of doing this, but also being willing to do it and having the legal ability to do so (as, lest we forget, there are laws about playing around with human corpses, and I suspect that it is unlikely they will change positively for frozen people in the future - as if they do change, what are the odds that your frozen body won't be used in some other sort of experiment?).

I have never seen arguments which really address these issues. People wave their hands and talk about nanotechnology and brain uploading, but as someone who has actually dealt with nanotechnology I can tell you that it is not, in fact, magical, nor is it capable of many of the feats people believe it will be capable of, nor will it EVER be capable of many of the feats that people imagine it will be capable of. Nanomachines have to be provided with energy the same as anything else, among other, major issues, and I have some severe doubts about the unfreezing process in the first place due to various issues of thermodynamics and the fact that the bodies are not frozen in a setup which is likely to facilitate unfreezing them.

A lot of cryonics arguments basically boil down to "future technology is magic", and that's a pretty big problem for any sort of rational argumentation. "You can't prove that they won't be able to revive me" can be used for all sorts of terrible arguments, as the burden of proof is on the person making the argument that it IS possible, not on the person holding to the present day "we can't, and see no way to do so."

I mean, you look at things like:

http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/resuscitation.htm

The technology in here is, quite literally, magic. It doesn't exist, and it won't exist. Ever. Things on the level are very dumb; they cannot be intelligent, and they cannot act intelligently, because they are too small, too simple. The bits where they stick stuff into your cells is where things get really ridiculous, but even before then, those little nanomachines are going to have real issues doing what you are hoping for, and would have to be custom built for the task at hand. We're talking enormous expense if it is even possible to do at all, and given the extremely small cryogenic population, the odds of perfecting the technology prior to running out of dead people is not very good. Remember, if the result is brain dead or severely brain damaged, it is still a failure. But even these sorts of nanomachines are very questionable; transistors are only going to get 256 times smaller at most, which makes me question whether said nanomachines can function in the way that is hoped for at all. Of course, this is not necessarily a barrier to, say, a different sort of nanomachine (though they'd be more micromachines really, on the scale of a cell rather than on the scale of large molecules) which was controlled by some sort of external process with the little machines being extensions/remotes of it, but this is still questionable.

Extreme expense, questionable technology (which would have to be custom developed for the purpose), the question of whether cryonics is even a viable technological route for something else for cryogenic revival to piggyback on, likely custom technology for reviving people who have died of things that people no longer die of because of earlier preventative measures (why build something to fix someone with late stage cancer when no one gets late state cancer anymore?), legal problems, the necessity for experimental subjects... all of these things add up to the question of why these hypothetical future people are even going to bother. That's assuming it is even ethical to revive someone who is, say, not genetically engineered and therefore would be at the bottom of the societal heap if they were revived.

We spend millions of dollars digging up dinosaurs.

People get really excited when we find things like Troy.

Look at all the antique stores that are around.

Why WOULDN'T people get revived?

Humans aren't dinosaurs, nor can you put them on your mantlepiece as a conversation piece. They are not property, but living, independent persons.

That only makes them insanely more valuable for reality tv

Humans aren't dinosaurs, nor can you put them on your mantlepiece as a conversation piece.

Speak for yourself. (People have at times kept humans for similar purposes and there is no reason why future intelligent agents could not do so.)

They are not property, but living, independent persons.

That is either a false dichotomy or a No True Scottsman equivocation on 'property'.

This implies that the Drake equation for cryonics needs an explicit term for "being one of the lucky first few revivals, in the short time when that's still novel".

Dunning-Kruger and experience with similar religious movements suggests otherwise.

It takes someone who really thinks about most things very little time to come up with very obvious objections to most religious doctrine, and given the overall resemblance of cryonics to religion (belief in future resurrection, belief that donating to the church/cyronics institution will bring tangible rewards to yourself and others in the future, belief in eternal life) its not really invalid to suggest something like that.

Which is more likely - that people are deluding themselves over the possibility of eternal life and don't actually have any real answers to the obvious questions, but conveniently ignore them because they see the upside as being so great, or that this has totally been answered, despite the fact that you didn't even articulate an actual answer to it in your response, or even link to it?

I'm pretty sure that, historically speaking, the former is far more likely than the latter.

If someone comes up to you and starts talking about how you have an immortal soul, if you've spent any time studying medicine or neurobiology at all, or have experience with anyone who has suffered brain damage, it really doesn't take you very long to come up with a good counterargument to people having souls. And people have argued about the nature of being for -thousands- of years, and dubiousness about souls has been around for considerably longer than cryonics has been. And yet, people still believe in souls, despite the fact that a very simple, five minutes of thought counterargument exists and has never been countered.

The fact that you did not have a counter for my argument and instead linked to a page which was meant to be a "take that" directed at me is evidence against you having an actual answer to my query, which is always a bad sign. This is not to say that it doesn't have an answer, but a quick, simple answer (or link) would be no more difficult to find than the litany article.

Indeed, after looking at the Alcor site, and reading around, all I really find are arguments against it. The best argument for it that I've seen is that resurrecting 20th century people might be profitable from an entertainment/educational standpoint, but I find even that to be a weak argument - not only is resuscitating someone for the purpose of entertainment deeply morally repugnant (and likely to be so into the future), but wikipedia and various other sources from the 20th and 21st century are likely to be far more valuable to historians, while writers will benefit more from creating their own characters who are considerably more interesting than real people - and it is considerably cheaper and less morally and legally questionable to do so.

So what is the argument for it? If it is so simple to resolve, then what is the resolution?

As ciphergoth pointed out, there isn't really a good answer here. And that is troubling given that the whole thing is pointless if no one is ever going to bring you back anyway. I was reading one article on Alcor which suggested that, even for a cyronics optimist, the odds of it actually paying off were 15% if he only used his most optimistic numbers - and I think his numbers about the technology are optimistic indeed. That's bad news, especially given the guy is someone who actually thinks that doing cryonics is worthwhile.

Dunning-Kruger

You obviously have not actually read the Dunning-Krueger paper and understood what it showed.

and experience with similar religious movements suggests otherwise.

Name three. Like V_V, I suspect that for all that you glibly allude to 'cults' you have no personal experience and you have not acquainted yourself with even a surface summary of the literature, much like you have not bothered to so much as read a cryonics FAQ or book before thinking you have refuted it.

It takes someone who really thinks about most things very little time to come up with very obvious objections to most religious doctrine

And it takes even less time to notice that there are long thorough answers to the obvious objections. Your point here is true, but says far more about you than religion or cryonics; after all, many true things like heliocentrism or evolution have superficial easily thought-of objections which have been addressed in depth. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't; the argument from evil is probably the single most obvious argument against Western religions, there are countless replies from theists of various levels of sophistication, and while I don't think any of them actually work, I also don't think someone going 'My mother died! God doesn't exist!' is contributing anything whatsoever. What, you think the theists somehow failed to notice that bad things happen? Of course they did notice, so if you want to argue against the existence of God, read up on their response.

Which is more likely - that people are deluding themselves over the possibility of eternal life and don't actually have any real answers to the obvious questions, but conveniently ignore them because they see the upside as being so great, or that this has totally been answered, despite the fact that you didn't even articulate an actual answer to it in your response, or even link to it?

If you had spent less time being arrogant, it might have occurred to you that I see this sort of flip reaction all the time in which people learn of cryonics and in five seconds think they've come up with the perfect objection and refuse to spend any time at all to disconfirm their objection. You are acting exactly like the person who said, "but it's not profitable to revive crypatients! QED you're all idiots and suckers", when literally the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on ALCOR implies how they attempt to resolve this issue; here's a link to the discussion: http://lesswrong.com/lw/gh5/cryo_and_social_obligations/8d43

Notice how you are acting exactly like cheapviagra. You've come up with an obvious issue for cryonics, and rather than do any - gasp! - research; you commented on it. OK, fine. I then told you that there were replies to the issue, and that you should've known this because the issue is so obvious, and rather than learn a lesson about useful contributions, you are instead self-righteously criticizing me for not willing to drop everything and dig up every answer to every idle passing thought you have!

By the way, a benchmark I've found useful in discussing factual matters or matters with a long pre-existing literature is number of citations and hyperlinks per comment. You're still batting a zero.

I'm pretty sure that, historically speaking, the former is far more likely than the latter.

I'm impressed you've failed to notice that LW is maybe a little different from other sites and we have higher standards, and what happens 'historically' isn't terribly relevant.

The fact that you did not have a counter for my argument and instead linked to a page which was meant to be a "take that" directed at me is evidence against you having an actual answer to my query, which is always a bad sign. This is not to say that it doesn't have an answer, but a quick, simple answer (or link) would be no more difficult to find than the litany article.

Apparently you missed the point. The point was: stop being arrogant. Think for a freaking second about how obvious an argument might be and at least what the reply might be, if you cannot be arsed to look up actual sources. Do us the courtesy of not just thinking your way to your bottom line of 'cryonics sucks' but maybe a step beyond that too.

Indeed, after looking at the Alcor site, and reading around, all I really find are arguments against it. The best argument for it that I've seen is that resurrecting 20th century people might be profitable from an entertainment/educational standpoint

Really? That's the best argument? What did you read, exactly? Where do they say 'there's no reason to revive people except for entertainment'? Or are you just picking out the weakest possible argument because that's what you want to talk about?

As ciphergoth pointed out, there isn't really a good answer here.

What? No! That's not what ciphergoth meant at all! Here is what he said:

And it's not necessarily that the replies to this problem are good, but that they are what you need to reply to.

He did not say the answers were not good. He said, that even if the answers were not good, they are still what you need to deal with. You need to work on your reading comprehension if that's what you got out of his comment. (Shades of Dunning-Kruger, since you brought it up...) Or is this another aspect of you refusing to do any research, bring up the weakest lamest arguments you can find as strawmen, and grossly misinterpret what people have said?

I was reading one article on Alcor which suggested that, even for a cyronics optimist, the odds of it actually paying off were 15% if he only used his most optimistic numbers - and I think his numbers about the technology are optimistic indeed. That's bad news,

No, it's not bad news. It's just news. Expected value is about payoff, cost, and probability. 15% means nothing more and nothing less than 15%; without additional details, it does not mean that something is a good idea and it does not mean something is a bad idea either.

By the way, a benchmark I've found useful in discussing factual matters or matters with a long pre-existing literature is number of citations and hyperlinks per comment. You're still batting a zero.

So that means your comment is worthless, and thus can be safely ignored, given your only "citations" do not support yourself in any way and is merely meant to insult me?

In any case, citations are mostly unimportant. I use google and find various articles to support my stances; you can do the same to support yours, but I don't go REF Fahy et. al. "Physical and biological aspects of renal vitrification" Organogenesis. 2009 Jul-Sep; 5(3): 167–175.

Most of the time, you aren't going to bother checking my sources anyway, and moreover, you're asking for negative evidence, which is always a problem. You're asking for evidence that God does not exist, and rejecting everything but "Hey look, God is sitting here, but he's not".

You're acting like someone who was just told that they don't have a soul and therefore won't go to heaven when they die, because heaven doesn't exist.

You can take ten seconds to see a long list of objections by googling "Cryonics is a scam". You can go to Alcor and read a paper where a true believer suggests that the odds of revival are, at best, 15%, and that's assuming magical nanomachines have a 99% chance of existing. You can read the opinions of various experts who point out the problems with ice crystal formation, the toxicity of vitrification chemicals (which would have to be purged prior to revival), the issues of whether microdamage to structures would cause you to die anyway, the issues of whether you can actually revive them, and pointing out that, once you do warm them up, you've got a dead body, and all you have to do from there is ressurect the dead. We do know that even short times wtihout oxygen cause irreparable brain damage, and even at cold temperatures, that process does not stop completely - once they're in LN2, sure, maybe, assuming the process doesn't destroy them. Or you know, that the process of putting in the chemicals doesn't cause damage.

The truth is that none of the objections will sway you because you're a believer.

IF it is possible to do this sort of thing, there is a very, very good chance that it will require a very specific freezing process. A process which does not yet exist.

I'm impressed you've failed to notice that LW is maybe a little different from other sites and we have higher standards, and what happens 'historically' isn't terribly relevant.

The problem is that it isn't, and a cursory search of the internet will tell you that. :\

I was a bit excited to find a site devoted to rationality, and was rather disappointed to learn that no, it wasn't.

I wrote a little hymn about it a while ago. It starts with "Our AI, who art in the future", and you can imagine that it goes downhill from there.

In fact, a cursory search of the net showed at least one topic that you guys preemptively banned from discussion because some future AI might find it and then torture you for it. If that isn't a religious taboo, I don't know what is.

The singularity is not going to happen. Nanomachines the way that they are popularly imagined will never exist. Cyronics, today, is selling hope and smoke, and is a bad investment. You've got people discussing "friendly AI" and similar nonsense, without really understanding that they're really talking about magic, and that all this philosophizing about it is pretty silly.

I'm good with doing silly things, but people here take them seriously.

Just because you call yourself a rationalist doesn't make you a rationalist. Being rational is hard for most people to do. But perhaps the most important aspect of being a rationalist is understanding that just because you want something to be true, doesn't make it true. Understanding that deep in your bones.

Most people will be deeply insulted if you imply that they are irrational. And yet people on the whole do not behave rationally, given the goals they claim to possess.

I understand you are deeply emotionally invested in this. I understand that arguing with you is pointless. But I actually enjoy arguing, so its okay. But how is it for you? If you've invested in cryonics, is your brain more or less likely to believe that it is true?

Historical trends are always important, especially when you see obvious similarities. There are obvious and worrisome similarities between basic tenants (ressurrection of the dead, some sort of greatly advanced being who will watch over us (the post-singularity AI or AIs)) and the tenents of religions. You can't claim "we're different" without good evidence, and as they say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

And all the evidence today points towards cyronics being a very expensive form of burial. There is no extraordinary evidence that it will allow for ressurection in the future. Thus, it is a waste of money and resources you could spend to make today more awesome.

Apparently you missed the point. The point was: stop being arrogant. Think for a freaking second about how obvious an argument might be and at least what the reply might be, if you cannot be arsed to look up actual sources. Do us the courtesy of not just thinking your way to your bottom line of 'cryonics sucks' but maybe a step beyond that too.

Maybe you should take your own advice?

I am quite aware that this is upsetting to you. I just told you you're going to die and be dead forever. It is an unsurprising reaction; a lot of people react with fear to that idea.

But really, there is no evidence cryonics is useful in any way. The argument is "Well, if you've rotted away, then you've got no chance at all!" Sure. But what if you could spend your money on present-day immortality research? The odds of that paying off are probably much higher than the odds of cryonics paying off. There is a path forward there. We don't know what causes aging, but we know that many organisms live longer than human beings do, and we may be able to take advantage of that. Technology such as artifical or grown organs may allow us to survive until brain failure. Drugs to treat brain disease may allow us to put off degredation of our brains indefinitely. The list goes on.

That is far more promising than "freeze me and hope for the best". Heck, if you really wanted to live forever you'd do things to work towards that. If cyronics is truly so important, why aren't you doing relevant research? Or working towards other things that can help with life extension?

Isn't that far more rational?

Cryonics is a sucker's bet. Even if there was a possibility it worked, the odds of it working are far less than other routes to immortality.

Instead, cryonics is just a way to sell people hope. Just as Christians make peace with the idea of death that they will be going to a better place, that they will be okay, Christians avoid death as much as anyone else does. The same is true of cryonics. The rational thing to do, if it is important to avoid dying, is to work towards avoiding it or mitigating it as much as possible. Are you? If the answer is no, is it really so important to you? Or is paying that money for cryonics just a personal way to make peace with death?

You're missing something on the local variation of cryonics. The approach employed here is to repeat that it is not "information theoretic death" and go on about future super-intelligences which mind upload you (rather than revive), while avoiding/ignoring the issue that a: proteins are denatured by the cryo-protectants and b: the state of proteins (e.g. a channel being open or closed) is a likely candidate for mechanism of long term storage of information in the brain. It's akin to tossing a wet book into the bucket of solvent then freezing it, except the letters are on microscale so there's no hope you'll recover pressure marks on the paper if the ink has been washed off.

You can take ten seconds to see a long list of objections by googling "Cryonics is a scam". You can go to Alcor and read a paper where a true believer suggests that the odds of revival are, at best, 15%, and that's assuming magical nanomachines have a 99% chance of existing.

I'll note here that the average estimated chance among regulars here for cryonics working is actually lower than that, and the difference in how seriously people on Less Wrong tend to take cryonics compared to the general population is less to do with thinking it's much more likely than most people, and more to do with thinking that a chance of revival on that order is worth taking seriously.

I was a bit excited to find a site devoted to rationality, and was rather disappointed to learn that no, it wasn't.

I wrote a little hymn about it a while ago. It starts with "Our AI, who art in the future", and you can imagine that it goes downhill from there.

I'm sorry, what is the intended content here? Because you can write a hymn that parodies strong AI claims that therefore we need to take them less seriously?

In fact, a cursory search of the net showed at least one topic that you guys preemptively banned from discussion because some future AI might find it and then torture you for it. If that isn't a religious taboo, I don't know what is.

Many people are not in favor of discussing the basilisk not because of the issue with a potential AI, but because of the danger that mentally vulnerable people will be disturbed by the notion. But in any event, you are pattern matching in an unhelpful way. The fact that something resembles something done by religions doesn't make it intrinsically wrong. Note for example, that large amounts of computer programming and maintenance look heavily ritualistic if you don't know what it is.

The singularity is not going to happen. Nanomachines the way that they are popularly imagined will never exist. Cyronics, today, is selling hope and smoke, and is a bad investment. You've got people discussing "friendly AI" and similar nonsense, without really understanding that they're really talking about magic, and that all this philosophizing about it is pretty silly.

So these are all conclusions, not arguments. And speaking as someone who agrees with you on a lot of this stuff, you are being both highly irrational and unnecessarily insulting in how you lay out these claims.

Cryonics is a sucker's bet. Even if there was a possibility it worked, the odds of it working are far less than other routes to immortality.

What other routes are you comparing it to? You mention a few methods of life-extension, but none are methods likely to add by themselves more than a few centuries at most.

Instead, cryonics is just a way to sell people hope. Just as Christians make peace with the idea of death that they will be going to a better place, that they will be okay, Christians avoid death as much as anyone else does. The same is true of cryonics. The rational thing to do, if it is important to avoid dying, is to work towards avoiding it or mitigating it as much as possible. Are you? If the answer is no, is it really so important to you? Or is paying that money for cryonics just a personal way to make peace with death?

Don't confuse not having a certain goal set with disagreeing with you about what will most likely accomplish that goal set.

You can read the opinions of various experts who point out the problems with ice crystal formation, the toxicity of vitrification chemicals (which would have to be purged prior to revival), the issues of whether microdamage to structures would cause you to die anyway, the issues of whether you can actually revive them, and pointing out that, once you do warm them up, you've got a dead body, and all you have to do from there is ressurect the dead.

You have just declared yourself ignorant of what cryonics is intended to do and screened off whatever value your opinion may otherwise have had.

I was a bit excited to find a site devoted to rationality, and was rather disappointed to learn that no, it wasn't.

I invite you to leave and find another place where the style of thought is more in accord with that of your own contributions. (I strongly oppose any attempts to make lesswrong more like that.)

I understood Dunning-Kruger quite well. Dunning-Kruger suggests that, barring outside influence, people will believe themselves to be of above-average ability. Incompetent people will greatly overestimate their capability and understanding, and the ability to judge talent in others was proportional to ability in the skill itself - in other words, people who are incompetent are not only incompetent, but also incapable of judging competence in other people.

Competent people, conversely, overestimate the competence of the incompetent; however, they do have the ability to judge incompetence, so when they are allowed to look at the work of others relative to their own, their estimation of their own personal ability more closely matches their true ranking - while incompetent people being exposed to the work of others had no such effect, though training in the skill improved their ability to self-judge, judge others, and at the skill itself.

People, therefore, are unfit to judge their own competence; the only reliable way to get feedback is via actual practice (i.e. if you have some sort of independent metric for your ability, such as success or failure of actual work) or if you have other competent people judge your competence. As you might imagine, this, of course, creates the problem where you have to ask yourself, "Who is actually competent in cryonics?" And the answer is "cryobiologists and people in related disciplines". And what is THEIR opinion of cyronics?

Quite poor, on the whole. While there are "cryonics specialists" there are no signs of actual competence there as there is no one who can actually revive frozen people, let alone revive frozen people and fix whatever problems they had prior to being frozen. Ergo, they can't really be viewed as useful judges on the whole because they have shown no signs of actual competence - there is no proof that anyone is competent at cryonics at all.

Dunning-Kruger definitely applies here, and applies in a major way. The closest things to experts are the people working in real scientific disciplines, such as cyrobiology and similar things. These people have real expertise, and they are not exactly best friends with Alcor and similar organizations. In fact, most of them say that it is, at best, well-intended stupidity and at worst a scam.

Name three. Like V_V, I suspect that for all that you glibly allude to 'cults' you have no personal experience and you have not acquainted yourself with even a surface summary of the literature, much like you have not bothered to so much as read a cryonics FAQ or book before thinking you have refuted it.

Similar religious movements? How many movements don't have some concept of life after death? It is very analogous.

I have indeed read papers on cyrobiology and on cryonics, though I could not name them off-hand - indeed, I couldn't tell you the name of the paper I read on the subject just yesterday, or the others I read earlier this week. I am, on the whole, not very impressed. There are definitely things we can freeze and thaw just fine - embryos and sperm, for instance. We can freeze lots of "lower organisms". We've played around with freezing fish and frogs and various creatures which have adapted to such things.

But freezing mammals? Even reducing mammalian body temperatures to the point where freezing begins is fatal, albeit not immediately; we have revived rats and monkeys and hamsters down to very low temperatures (below 0C) and revived them, but they don't tend to do very well afterwards, dying on the scale of hours to days. Some organs, such as the heart and kidney, have been frozen and revived - which is cool, to be fair. Well, frozen is the wrong term really - more "preserved at low temperatures". There was the rabbit kidney which they did vitrify, while the hearts I've seen have mostly been reduced to low temperatures without freezing them - though you can apparently freeze and thaw hearts and they'll work, at least for a while (we figured that out more than half a century ago).

However, a lot of cryobiology is not about things applicable to cryonics - we're talking taking tissue down to like, -2C, not immersing it in LN2. The vitrified rabbit kidney is interesting for that reason, but unfortunately the rabbit in question only lasted nine days - so while it could keep them up for a while, it did eventually fail. And all the other rabbits they experimented on perished as well.

And it takes even less time to notice that there are long thorough answers to the obvious objections. Your point here is true, but says far more about you than religion or cryonics; after all, many true things like heliocentrism or evolution have superficial easily thought-of objections which have been addressed in depth. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't; the argument from evil is probably the single most obvious argument against Western religions, there are countless replies from theists of various levels of sophistication, and while I don't think any of them actually work, I also don't think someone going 'My mother died! God doesn't exist!' is contributing anything whatsoever. What, you think the theists somehow failed to notice that bad things happen? Of course they did notice, so if you want to argue against the existence of God, read up on their response.

The length of an answer has very little to do with its value. Look at Alcor's many answers - there are plenty of long answers there. Long on hope, that is, short on reality. In fact, being able to answer something succicently is often a sign of actual thought. It is very simple to pontificate and pretend you have a point, it is much more difficult to write a one paragraph answer that is complete. And in this case, the answer SHOULD be simple.

If it was so easy, again, why are you writing a long response?

If you had spent less time being arrogant, it might have occurred to you that I see this sort of flip reaction all the time in which people learn of cryonics and in five seconds think they've come up with the perfect objection and refuse to spend any time at all to disconfirm their objection. You are acting exactly like the person who said, "but it's not profitable to revive crypatients! QED you're all idiots and suckers", when literally the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on ALCOR implies how they attempt to resolve this issue; here's a link to the discussion: http://lesswrong.com/lw/gh5/cryo_and_social_obligations/8d43

I enjoy how you are calling me arrogant, and yet you still are not answering my question.

At least other people have tried. "Dead people are valuable artifacts! People are excited about Jurassic park, that would totally be a viable business venture, so why not dead people?" Now that is a quick, succicient argument. It makes a reasonable appeal - dead people could be valuable as an attraction in the future.

The problem with that is the idea that it would make you any money at all. The Thirteenth Amendment prohibits owning people, and that kind of puts a major crimp in the idea of a tourist attraction, and given the sheer expense involved, again, you need some sort of parallel technology to get rid of those costs in any case. Humans are also a lot less exciting than dinosaurs are. I'm not going to go to the zoo to see someone from the 17th century, and indeed the idea is morally repugnant. Sure, I might go to ren faires, but let's face it - ren faires aren't run by people from the 10th century, they're run by people from the 21st century for people from the 21st century.

You are comparing the current state of the art (freezing mammals and rabbits) with what may or may not be theoretically possible, potentially centuries down the line.

How long a rabbit survived upon being revived using current methods is besides the point - how long rabbits (and humans) can possibly survive when revived a long time into the future would be more relevant. Potentially no survival would be necessary at all, if the informational state was uploaded to a different hardware substrate. Not postulating magic, just not postulating anything which would contradict our current understanding of the laws of physics - and even that is more of a lower bound.

Concerning the technological feasibility, all we can say is that we can't say one way or the other how closely a reconstituted / scanned brain would resemble the original person. There is little indication that a high-fidelity reconstruction is in principle impossible. And a supposed impossibility cannot be established by looking at how long rabbits survive using current methods, molecular biology in its more theoretical variants would be more relevant.

So, the jury's still out for the "technological viability in the future" part. The "would any agent (group of agents) get to the point where it (they) could revive us, and if so, would it (they) want to, and if so, would we want to be revived that way" are different questions. Let's not muddle the issues.

Few cryonicists expect to be revived if Earth is rendered uninhabitable during World Wars III to X. Or if the facility in which they were stored went bankrupt, and the cadavers thrown out. Or if the facility were destroyed in some natural disaster (building on tectonic fault lines is a dumb long-term plan).

Also, few cryonicists would want to be revived by some uncaring alien civilization stumbling upon our remains, and reanimating us to test the pain endurance of 21st century human specimens. Maybe for whatever reasons resources would be scarce, and revival and retraining frozen Homo-heidelbergensis-equivalents may be prohibited (although it stands to reason that if the capabilities to do so in the first place are there, energy isn't an issue anymore. There's plenty around, after all).

There's a danger of being revived just to serve as some sort of living exhibit, or to be reconfigured into a database, either inert with no consciousness, or forced to relive selectively looped memories over and over (a sort of cryonics-based simulation argument). Most cryonicists would probably count such a successful revival as a failure.

Yet for all that, you mention a US-amendment as if it could be relevant at that future point in time? Historically, the dominating constant has been hard to predict change. There are many future scenarios in which you'd want to have been frozen, and many in which you wouldn't. It's not a large monetary investment. Why not? People spend more on experimental cancer treatments, or antibodies that give them a few additional weeks on average.

When I'm in my own galaxy, I'll think back on you, and maybe construct a best-guess facsimile based on your comments, invested into the body of Statler or Waldorf (which would you prefer?). See you then!

gwern's interpretation of what I wrote here is entirely correct.

90% confidence intervals the way that I understand the cases(B and C require you to involve your interpretation because they are too interdependent under the default interpretation):

.02< P(B|A) < .2

.6<P(C|A,B)< .8

Hanlon has claimed 6% before, based on a Fermi estimate that may or may not mean anything.

The difference between this and Pascal's Wager is that there's no tradeoff between small probability scenarios; there's either assured death or almost-assured-death. The argument is roughly (small probability)*(high utility) > (lost utility of cheap investment).

(But of course see gwern's remarks on the cheapness of the investment.)

You can rephrase it as a small probability of revival vs a small probability of REALLY needing that money.

I think it was more like (moderate probability of success)*(monumental heap of utility if it works) = (a great investment) so this argument clearly doesn't apply.

Okay, seriously, how the hell did you get this impression?

If that's not your argument, what is?

Yeah, did you ever write up a full summary of why you think signing up for cryonics is a good idea? Including, hopefully, not just the information theory stuff,, but also how likely you think it is that you will remain funded and get unfrozen even if the technical problems are all solved, etc. Can't find such an article under the cryonics tag, and I'd love to read such a thing from you.