[Link] Reddit, help me find some peace I'm dying young

Saw this on reddit.


Hey Reddit,

I'm a 23 year old girl with recurrent Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a highly aggressive type of brain cancer. I posted a couple of months ago asking for suggestions for things I should try before I die (life expectancy is 3-6 months) and got a lot of great ideas (many of which I've fulfilled).

At the time of my last post, my treatment was undecided. I ended up participating in a phase I trial at Dana-Farber, but I progressed after two months of treatment. There are not many great treatment options left for me, but my next move will be five radiosurgery treatments at Duke University next week. My prognosis looks pretty bleak at this point, and though I am hoping to exceed the 6-10 month median survival, I have to prepare to die. In a way, I am fortunate because the lesion is primarily in my brain stem (controls things like breathing), so I will likely die before the tumor spreads to the areas central to who I am.

I'm back on Reddit again, mostly to ask for help because I want to be cryogenically preserved upon my death. I've been interested in cryonics since long before I was even diagnosed, but I never thought that I would have to secure the finances so fast, and without a career or savings to stand on. As weird as it feels to ask for help here, I feel I should just give it a shot and sees what happens.

I caused a lot of family controversy last week by breaking the news to my parents. I can tell I've alienated them quite a bit as they are Christian and don't see why I'd want to be preserved; in their mind, I am going to heaven and my "soul" will forever leave my body when I die anyway. I clearly upset both of them with the implication that I was agnostic (I didn't say this outright, but it's true). My mom is fairly supportive of my plans to be preserved, but unfortunately, my dad isn't a fan of the idea, and he's really the only family I have that could offer financial help (my parents are divorced and not on good terms). The company I'm looking into, Cryonics Institute, costs $30,000-35,000 with transportation to the facility accounted for. My boyfriend is fully supportive, but like me, he's broke and barely out of college.

I know this is a big thing to ask for, and I'm sure many people are doubtful that preservation is plausible with cryonics. I'm far from convinced, but I would rather take the chance with preservation than rot in the ground or get cremated. The company I'm looking into, Cryonics Institute, has a good intro on their FAQ page that offers a hopeful outlook on future technology: http://cryonics.org/prod.html

A lot of people on reddit wanted to start a fundraiser for me awhile ago to aid in doing fun things before I die. I am hoping that redditors will still have some interest in helping me even if it's not going towards vacation or skydiving and shit like that. Cryopreservation is sincerely what will bring me the most peace in death.

I wish I could give a particularly compelling reason why I deserve another chance at life, but there's not much to say. I'm still just a kid, and hadn't even finished college when I was diagnosed. Unfortunately the most interesting thing I have yet to do is get a terminal disease at a young age.

If you guys can help me out, I would be grateful to a degree I can't possibly describe. I'm desperate. If you care to donate to the cause, the link to my blog and fundraiser is HERE. Anything, and I mean ANYTHING, you can do to help would be endlessly appreciated. If you don't want to look at my dumb cancer blog, the direct link to the preservation fund can be found HERE

On a lighter note, I'm open to the idea of trading donations for anything you might want in exchange (within legal limits). This could be fun!

Proof can be found on my earlier post, but here's a pic from today: http://i.imgur.com/Qdkzn.jpg?1

I'm also open to any questions about brain cancer, or my rationale for wanting to be preserved.


I want to explain in a little more detail why I think cryopreservation is worth a try. (Even an expensive try).

First, I want to make it clear that I'm not betting my life on cryopreservation. I am aware of the problems with the current state of cryonics, but I have the hope that technology might come up with a solution in the future. No one knows what technology will be available in 50 years. Yes, it takes "faith" in technology, but it takes faith to assume that technology won't be sufficient to reverse these problems someday.

The main point I want to make here is that it's a better shot at living again than if I were decomposing somewhere or cooked into ash. The relative value of even a slight chance at living again is a huge payoff for what seems like a lot of money to me now, but probably would be an easy decision for me if I had a steady job. Compare the cost of preservation to the cost of traveling overseas to pursue experimental treatments; I think the current state of glioblastoma treatment is just as bleak (if not more), but it doesn't seem so crazy to pursue those routes.

I'm trying to be preserved because I've done everything else in my power to help me extend my life. I've looked at essentially every diet, supplement, clinical trial, and "miracle treatment" out there. This is the last thing I can possibly do to fight for another chance, and if does happen to work, it will be incredible.

Live again or die trying.

EDIT 2: A cool quote

"The correct scientific answer to the question "Does cryonics work?" is: "The clinical trials are in progress. Come back in a century and we'll give you a reliable answer." The relevant question for those of us who don't expect to survive that long is: "Would I rather be in the control group, or the experimental group?" We are forced by circumstances to answer that question without the benefit of knowing the results of the clinical trials." - Dr. Ralph Merkle

TLDR; I want to be cryogenically preserved when I die from brain cancer but can't afford it. I am literally begging for financial help.

I couldn't help be moved by this. I felt a very strong sense that she is one of us, whoever "us" is. Looking at some of the negative comments and worst of all bad arguments people are using as reasons not to donate made me more upset.

I hope some here might join me in dismantling them. I'd also encourage those like me for who this buys a lot of warm fuzzies to donate. Though it might be wise to wait until we hear from CI or some other third party on the matter.

Edit: She has since made a comment on LW! The provided information has made me pretty much certain that this is a genuine plight.

redditors where willing to give her money to go skydiving, they don't want to give her money to buy cryonics. Sometimes I can only weep.

I think it pretty clear that promoting efficient charity in that particular thread is very unlikely to result in people giving money to better causes. Also I just plain want her to be rewarded in some small way! Note the part starting in the second paragraph that I bolded, not only did she realized what she really was, but she stepped over the entire set of pro-death rationalizations and faced the social pressure people she loved exerted on her because they think she might go to heaven ... its not her fault that a few cells in her brain went haywire before she could afford an insurance policy, I just don't want people like that not having something to show after getting so much stuff right.

2n Edit:

For anyone who just realized the universe sucks and wishes to do something about that whole people dying thing, they are welcome to engage in some optimal death defeating philanthropy by donating to The Brain Preservation Prize that has been endorsed by both Robin Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky. 

I know that there are more than 17 other people like me in the world, who really want to see the results of these attempts. A world in which brains can be cheaply preserved indefinitely is a world I want to live in - and it would just be sad if this project fizzled because it lacked the funds to verify the already-existing results.

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Ugh. The top comment seems to fall into all the traps of someone rationalising their mortality, and it has received so much positive feedback too! :(

(And also they clearly don't properly know what they are talking about: calling it "cryogenics" and saying the vague and awkwardly phrased "it's been debunked by science".)

I felt somewhat phygish when I went into that little chain and started down-voting with a passion after following your link. I guess I would have done the same if I had found such blatant deathism on my own, but it feels weird. Eh, it's an emotional problem, not a logical one.

Is there any third-party or objective evidence whatsoever that this is not just another Reddit scam?

I don't recall any third party evidence but I would say the pictures of her in the first reddit post count as weak evidence this is real, also if it was a scam isn't it a bit silly that she didn't go for the skydiving thing? Expected income from that seems higher no?

I suggest you make a comment on her blog or on the thread defining what you would find acceptable evidence and asking for it. Those who agree with you and want to donate can then commit to donating should she provide it. Or if you won't do that people who would otherwise donate but are concerned about this can use the tactic to discover if that is their true objection.

Even if it was a scam deathist rants still need debunking.

Why would you donate to her, with a highly nontrivial chance of the money being wasted, spent on something else, or turning out to be just another Reddit scam - even if some iota of evidence was presented - rather than donate straight to ALCOR or CI or the Brain Preservation Prize? Especially given her claimed aim to give the money to ALCOR/CI? Why would you not cut out a highly dubious middleman? (And don't tell me that it will help create an additional suspension at the margin: ALCOR runs at a loss, and money is fungible.)

I'm astonished that on a site that discusses charity & philanthropy all the time, anyone could think donating a good idea.


I already covered this in the OP, I felt a strong sense of kinship, I would get a lot of warm fuzzies from doing this, if it is real, that I wouldn't from other things. It buys me more hedons than eating more ice cream this summer.

I didn't claim this was the best thing people could do with their money, I just wanted to encourage and alert those who might feel as I do.

Also I did think the Brain Preservation Prize was worth donating to. Its just that perhaps you didn't notice that I haven't exactly been around on the forums here for the past month+, no?

I already covered this in the OP, I felt a strong sense of kinship, I would get a lot of warm fuzzies from doing this

I agree that it feels uncharitable to ask hard questions of someone claiming to go through a rough time. But gwern's proposed suggestion- of donating the money to CI directly, and trying to earmark it for her suspension if she does sign up- feels like it should give the same fuzzies while protecting you from this being a scam. You can even send her an email saying "I donated to CI on your behalf" for some extra fuzzies.

That was in response to this not being optimal philanthropy (something I'm well aware of), not about asking for third party evidence with which I don't have a problem.

This is more than purchasing fuzzies to me. I'm counting on people sufficiently like me to cooperate on cases of this nature. It's the superrational thing to do.

If you have the time, could you elaborate on an issue? That is, if you were acting rationally in this particular scenario, and not super-rationally, how would your behavior differ?

If you were acting "rationally" and not "super-rationally" in this context - you would declare this an absurd expense of fuzzies, which can be obtained much more cheaply, and not dare divert your resources from the much more effective things you're already doing.to maximize your goal system

This is missing the point, assuming you a somewhat comparable person here (and if this doesn't really apply to you, then there is no "superrational" justification for this), that cooperating and encouraging cooperation on cases of this nature increases your chances that, should you yourself (or anyone else you care about for that matter) be caught in a situation like this, there will be a safety net to catch you.

Granted it would be improbable for me personally to end up in this situation, but it's much the same economy as insurance for me - I pay for health insurance and cryonics (my life insurance) despite the long odds I'll ever need them in anywhere near as much quantity as I'm paying in the next 25 years, at least, so a hundred bucks or whatever one-time is just a drop in that budget.

Call me paranoid, but for me there is a clear superrational justification here.

Shouldn't this community be tabooing this behavior (going for fuzzies rather than optimal philanthropy) even though it might be a reasonable personal decision? I think by upvoting Konkvistador's comment and post, this community is enforcing obviously suboptimal norms and making this behavior acceptable and even appreciated (16 karma to gwern's 0?). By tabooing this behavior, this community could enforce the opposite reaction (i.e., fuzzies for optimal philanthropy while humiliation and shame just purchasing fuzzies [actually suboptimal charity]).

I guess. But then to be consistent we should probably also make a norm against buying medicine for relatives too. This is only a half joking proposal since there are excellent arguments in favour of not spending more on last ditch attempt treatments. Also the general Hansonian argument on the uselessness of medical spending our society indulges in.

Oh and since we are on this topic we should shame everyone who uses cryonics because that clearly isn't optimal charity. And we don't want people to be selfish.

A strange thought has struck me, if it is de facto ok for me to be selfish for myself, why isn't it ok for me to be selfish on someone's else's behalf? I'm pretty sure I'm selfish enough on say my daughters behalf that its worth at least a few lives when we do the number crunching.

I just care more about some people than others. I'm generally ok with this. I don't recall a rule carved into the fabric of reality demanding I care about all humans equally. And if there is one... pshaw... no thanks I'm going to follow something that's more fun and in tune with my values. I wouldn't take objective morality that wanted me to stone adulterers seriously either, why should I treat this hypothetical one thus?

Neither do I aspire to eventually take such a rule seriously. In fact I would find a society where I couldn't treat some people preferentially a horrible one to live in as I have pointed out in a different context. This has been my ethical stance for quite some time.

So, that was a long winded way of saying, "okay, if this community taboos buying fuzzies rather than optimal philantropy [note: there's a lot to unpack in that], then what's to stop this community from sliding down the undesirable slope towards ultimately tabooing any nonessential personal spending?"

The answer is simple. While completely avoiding nonessential personal spending is suboptimal in the most obvious sense it's, as you alluded to, unmaintainable. I.e., a society like that is likely to die from emigration and stagnation.

Here's an example of tabooing and how it works in realistic terms: Large SUVs, especially in certain areas, have become taboo for their environmental impact. Now, you could say, "if we're going to taboo large SUVs for their negative environmental impact, why then don't we all ride bicycles, because that's obviously where this is leading, isn't it?" But, no; that isn't where it leads at all. The taboo is an communal awareness of an obviously bad thing.

On lesswrong, and in this context, we could start with tabooing pet charities, and quickly move towards your example, but I'm doubtful that we would find that we'd want to take that to dystopic levels. And this reminds me of a common criticism of consequentialism in yvain's faq:

7.1: Wouldn't consequentialism lead to [obviously horrible outcome]?

Probably not. After all, consequentialism says to make the world a better place. So if an outcome is obviously horrible, consequentialists wouldn't want it, would they?

(also, personal objections are irrelevant in the context of a community taboo; "but I drive a hummer because I want a warmer climate!")

"okay, if this community taboos buying fuzzies rather than optimal philantropy [note: there's a lot to unpack in that], then what's to stop this community from sliding down the undesirable slope towards ultimately tabooing any nonessential personal spending?"

Just for reference it should be pointed out that people have already attacked people spending money on medicine or buying cryonics based on this reasoning on LW.

To be clear, you mean people have attacked others for investing in cryonics for themselves rather than, e.g., a GiveWell charity. All I have to say regarding that is that it's been, as you say, attacked rather than tabooed, and that I think it should be attacked (or without the negative connotation of attack, 'questioned').

The issue of cryonics being a worthwhile expenditure is currently somewhat unclear, and I don't see it being tabooed soon. Knowingly buying fuzzies (in the context of charity) over more optimal charity is clear.

To put in within my previous analogy, cryonics is on the slope towards driving a prius rather than a bike, and you're more towards driving a hummer than a prius.

Personally, I am not in a financial position to engage in philanthropy. I contributed $100 to her (and I contributed $100 to thefirstimmortal on the immortality institute forums, who did get cryopreserved with the Cryonics Institute after dying of cancer shortly thereafter), because I will always help someone who is terminal and begging for cryo. This girl is literally begging for her life. I hope to meet her someday in the distant future...

(As a side note, everyone should get started signing up for cryonics BEFORE anything bad happens - like now! I highly recommend just giving Rudi Hoffman a call. He makes it easy.)

I am not in a financial position to engage in philanthropy.

Of course you are, you just gave away $200. Good grief.

Not to pick on you... Well actually yes, to pick on you: What the hell is wrong with you people? If this were religious-oriented - for a pilgrimage to Mecca or buy Mormon underpants or pay for one last course of Scientology auditing - you'd be laughing your ass off hysterically! But because it's cryonics...

How could you fail and compartmentalize so epically? This is like, fractally bad: at every level, donating is a bad idea. It's probably a scam, so donating is a bad idea; if it weren't a scam, you still have no idea what she would really do with it or how close to the cryonics fee she'd come, so donating is a bad idea; even if she would collect enough, donating to ALCOR or the Brain Preservation Prize is a better idea; even if you wanted to donate to them, they're still almost certainly not as good as Givewell's best charity; and so on.

As Konkvistador points out, I don't think people are being philanthropic, they're purchasing fuzzies.

Well they're going to lose a whole lot of fuzzies when the scam is exposed.

A scam like this is hard to expose if done right. How would you expose it in the absence of specific actionable information like a name, whose omission can be justified on privacy grounds? (Even a frontal photograph would give you little to go on unless you were lucky.)

As NancyLebovitz asked MileyCyrus... would you care to put odds on this being a scam? I see three broad outcomes: exposed as scam, confirmed by CI as not a scam (or similar strong evidence), and something inconclusive. A prediction on all three options (or more, if you see interesting ones) would be nice, or feel free to lump any two together.

I'll give an informal prediction: 5% of scam exposed, more likely confirmed by CI than not.

Before Hank's claim about the Facebook profile (for which I will take his word), I would've given 75% chance of an underlying fraud. With the years of Facebooking up front, I'd revise downwards to 5-10%. Will CI confirm or will everyone be left hanging? That's harder... She might just be too lazy or events could intervene. I don't have a good guess about that sort of thing, so I'd too only give around >60% odds of CI confirming her.

Still hoping she might get some cryo-financial assistance from her Christian family could have inhibited her from making her identity completely transparent. Becoming a cryonics cause-celebre could also be the last straw in her relations with her parents.

So, let's take bets, given those odds: 5% chance of a confirmed scam, 50% chance confirmed not a scam, and 45% chance that evidence is inconclusive.

So, you would gladly accept cash bets where you lose $5 if it is confirmed not a scam and gain $1 if it confirmed a scam. Anyone willing to bet against those odds?

I think you got the numbers backwards.

I would take a bet where I lose $5 if it is confirmed a scam and gain $1 if it is confirmed not a scam. (I'm assuming the bet is off if there is no confirmation either way.)

At $5 vs $1, I'm not sure the bet is worth the hassle. Make it $25 vs $5, and I'm in. I'm happy to work with payment via paypal or mailed cash or check.

Myself, I judge the odds differently: I'd call it about a 20% chance of a scam, but a .2% chance of what I would call confirmation of that; and about an 80% chance that it is confirmed not to be a scam (such as by a independent verification from the CI. I can't describe the criteria which, if met, would result in a inconclusive result, so I won't take any bets on that outcome; I also won't take the small bet, and can't afford the large bet.

Assuming this is not a scam, I would donate for practical reasons (and not only fuzzies) - for those who plan to be frozen, we want cryonics to be popular. A public incident like this might make it into news, etc., and make a difference. Plus Reddit has gotten quite big.

There are a lot of things I'd like to say, but you have put forth a prediction

It's probably a scam

I would like to take up a bet with you on this ending up being a scam. This can be arbitrated by some prominent member of CI, Alcor, or Rudi Hoffman. I would win if an arbiter decides that the person who posted on Reddit was in fact diagnosed with cancer essentially as stated in her Reddit posts, and is in fact gathering money for a her own cryonics arrangements. If none of the proposed arbiters can vouch for the above within one month (through September 18), then you will win the bet.

What odds would you like on this, and what's the maximum amount of money you'd put on the line?

As I said in my other comment, I'm now giving 5-10% for scam. I'd be happy to take a 1:10 bet on the CI outcome risking no more than $100 on my part, but I think 1 month is much too tight; 1 January 2013 would be a better deadline with the bet short-circuiting on CI judgment.

Done. $100 from you vs $1000 from me. If you lose, you donate it to her fund. If I lose, I can send you the money or do with it what you wish.

Wait, I'm not sure we're understanding each other. I thought I was putting up $100, and you'd put up $10; if she turned out to be a scam (as judged by CI), I lose the $100 to you - while if she turned out to be genuine (as judged by CI), you would lose the $10 to me.

Well I still accept, since now it's a much better deal for me!

Um, the way I'm reading this it looks like gwern is taking the position you were originally trying to take?

Yes, that's my take too... I'm not sure what mtaran is doing here - maybe he doesn't care at all about the odds or which side he's taking? I don't mind betting, but I do insist that - when it's for real sums of money like $100 - that my counterparty knows what he's agreeing to. And I'm not sure mtaran does.

For what it's worth, I too haven't understood what side you are taking. Usually people bet on outcomes which they think are more probable than their opponent thinks.

I spent way too much time thinking about the same thing. It seems to me, if mtaran believes chance of scam is lower than Gwern's, they should both agree that Gwern take the larger payout for smaller chance of being correct about it being a scam.

For what it's worth I do not think that mtaran's original bet is was that great for Gwern to begin with. A $1,000 to $100 bet implies odds of scam is at 9.1%, however Gwern stated his probability is 5%-10% putting the odds at the higher end of Gwern's estimate. If Mtaran is truly confident he needs to offer at least $1,900 to $100 payout for as this will match Gwern's lowest percentage for being a scam (5%).

Ok, I misread one of gwern's replies. My original intent was to extract money from the fact that gwern gave (from my vantage point) too high a probability of this being a scam.

Under my original version of the terms, if his P(scam) was .1:

  • he would expect to get $1000 .1 of the time
  • he would expect to lose $100 .9 of the time
  • yielding an expected value of $10

Under my original version of the terms, if his P(scam) was .05:

  • he would expect to get $1000 .05 of the time
  • he would expect to lose $100 .95 of the time
  • yielding an expected value of -$45

In the second case, he would of course not want to take that bet. I'd thus like to amend my suggested conditions to have gwern only put $52 at stake against my $1000. For any P(scam) > .05 this is a positive expected value, so I would expect it to have been satisfactory to gwern[19 August 2012 01:53:58AM].

Alright then, I accept. The wager is thus:

  • on 1 January 2013, if CI confirms that she is really dying and has or is in the process of signing up with membership & life insurance, then I will pay you $52; if they confirm the opposite, confirm nothing, or she has made no progress, you will pay me $1000.
  • In case of a dispute, another LWer can adjudicate; I nominate Eliezer, Carl Shulman, Luke, or Yvain (I haven't asked but I doubt all would decline).
  • For me, paying with Paypal is most convenient, but if it isn't for you we can arrange something else (perhaps you'd prefer I pay the $52 to a third party or charity). I can accept Paypal or Bitcoin.

she is really dying and has or is in the process of signing up with membership & life insurance

This isn't fair. She probably can't get life insurance with a terminal diagnosis. She's more likely to pay for the suspension outright.

Oh right; I'm so used to cryonics funding always being life insurance I forgot it wouldn't apply here. Hm... I was trying for some sort of verification of financial commitment to being preserved. Suggestions on wording?

My understanding is that if CI confirms this, they're likely to set up a fund, which is what I plan to donate to.

I'm not sure at what point during the process CI would take the suspension money, so I don't know.

From a hedonistic point of view, what would you propose to be a better way to buy warm fuzzies for those already moved by and emotionally invested in the story?

Maybe a charity specializing in Africans which will send you pictures of little kids? Another option might be to go to the local pound, play with some of the kittens, and then donate; if warm fuzzy kittens and cats don't get you warm fuzzies, I dunno what will!

(Best of course would be to not fall for the trap in the first place.)

Maybe a charity specializing in Africans which will send you pictures of little kids?

You're missing the similarity drive. Pictures of smiling Africans is different from "this girl thinks like me"- the former are just kindred bodies, the latter are kindred spirits.

I felt a very strong sense that she is one of us, whoever "us" is

Not to fall into the "trap" of buying warm fuzzies? Do you advocate a policy of never buying yourself any warm fuzzies, or just of never buying warm fuzzies specifically through donating to charity (because it's easy to trick your brain into believing it just did good)?

Yes, I am deeply suspicious of Eliezer's post on warm fuzzies vs utilons because while I accept that it can be a good strategy, I am skeptical that it actually is: my suspicion is that for pretty much all people, buying fuzzies just crowds out buying utilons.

For example, I asked Konkvistador on IRC, since he was planning on buying fuzzies by donating to this person, what utilons he was planning on buying, especially since he had just mentioned he had very little money to spare. He replied with something about not eating ice cream and drinking more water.

He replied with something about not eating ice cream and drinking more water.

I was going for how this increase in fuzzy spending would be counteracted by me specifically cutting out fuzzy spending elsewhere, so total fuzzy spending remains unchanged by this particular decision.

Also me loosing weight does bring me utility.

So now you're passing the buck twice: you're passing the buck from donating to her to actually cutting down on the ice cream, and from there, you're passing the buck to having increased hedons to at some point buying more utilons. Do you see why this sort of reasoning makes me go all -_- ?

Also me loosing weight does bring me utility.

More rationalizing doesn't make me feel better either!

More rationalizing doesn't make me feel better either!

You've shamed me not currently donating much to optimal charity. This has caused me to want to lower my current warm fuzzies spending increasing my available financial resources and give more to SIAI (which I currently think is the optimal charity). Thus I've decided to cut the last thing on the list of stuff I enjoy: Ice cream and sweets. The loosing weight comment was indeed searching for a silver lining to cutting it off my list.

If you hadn't shamed me I'd still be happily enjoying my large supply of warm fuzzies from ice cream and other things, but you've unfortunately devalued it depriving me of that fun. That's probably worth it for you since its more than offset by gains in other people.

I am however pretty bothered by how worked up some people where getting over this. I'm pretty certain that if I shared a good deal for buying a huge collection of anime on LessWrong and said that some people might find this valuable and they should totally check it out, no one would bring up optimal charity. I explicitly put this in the same bin as buying anime yet people attack it nevertheless.

Do you see why this sort of reasoning makes me go all -_- ?

I can see why.

Looking at myself from the outside I think I'm clearly defending an emotional attachment to a course of action. But I don't remember deceiving myself or anyone else into thinking this was something worth doing on efficient charity grounds for the good of the world. This was framed as personal expenditures spending and talking about such spending. We do this all the time, check out the fictional book and other media recommendation threads we have running. I don't see optimal charity advocates stomping there haranguing people for consuming such media. Indeed I can take this comparison further in this case and point out she is producing media (videos, writing), lots of people consume media that is available for free yet still donate to the authors for creating such content.

I didn't even expect as many people as have to donate or feel inclined to donate on LessWrong, I was actually hoping more for people here to go and engage the pro-death arguments on reddit than donate themselves. I also made the argument that efficient charity advocacy in that thread (thought perhaps not here) won't result in more efficient charity, but anti-cryonics or pro-death memes might be impacted in a way we'd all like.

Fuzzies are utilons.

Personally, I prefer Kickstarter projects for my fuzzies, because they typically also come with direct physical rewards.

Not sure if your suggestion would work at this stage. This dying (assuming it's not a scam) person is already real and embedded in their hearts, especially if they read her older posts. They would have to pick cute kittens or sad pictures over a cancer girl, not an obvious decision. Like Murder-Gandhi, they have been irreversibly changed and would require a sobering pill to snap out of it, which they would probably refuse to take.

Assuming her story is not a scam, ponder why I find the idea of donating for cute kittens instead of helping another human being facing death and begging for help repugnant.

I have; now please ponder why I might find repugnant the idea of donating towards something as inefficient and low-probability as cryonics rather than the very high probability charities identified by GiveWell, based solely on some identity politics and a Reddit post.

If everyone is going to justify donating to her on fuzzies, then have the guts to defend fuzzies. Fuzzies are not a good way of helping human beings 'facing death': that's the point. Don't equivocate between arguing that donating to her is a good way of making you feel better, and arguing that donating to her is a utilitarianly optimal sort of donation.

I have. You know what, you're perfectly right, there are better ways to help people, and that's even if you're selfish and wish to help groups in which you're likely to find yourself, for instance setting a precedent of people helping needy, terminally ill cryonics patients because "someday I could be in her shoes".

You're also too good at rhetoric for your own good. I wouldn't have been so distracted from the content of your message if you hadn't been acting so aggressive, indignant and grandiloquent in the comments from the beginning on. Why did you have to? Do you feel like the strength of your arguments alone wouldn't suffice? Or were you too engrossed in the game of putting your ideas forward and destroying those on the other side?

Why did you have to? Do you feel like the strength of your arguments alone wouldn't suffice?

That's exactly it. This page is stuffed with identity politics, prewritten bottom lines, base-rate neglect, likely sexism, sheer abandonment of optimal charity, scope insensitivity, equivocation & abuse of fuzzies vs utilons, and so on.

This is all LW orthodoxy to the extent there is such a thing, yet even so, the pull of 'dying cute girl wants cryonics! MUST HELP!' is so strong that LW orthodoxy + good rhetoric* still earns me a mix of heavy down and upvotes with the flow of donations apparently unabated.

* I don't think I'm very good at rhetoric, but I'll take your word for it.

Do you think your strategy is channeling more money to efficient charities, as opposed to random personal consumption (such as a nice computer, movies, video games, or a personal cryonics policy)?

A more positive approach might work well: donate for fuzzies, but please extrapolate those feelings to many more utilons. I just used this technique to secure far more utilons than I have seen mentioned in this thread, and it seems like it might be the most effective among the LW crowd.

You make an interesting assumption that we care about other people in general. If you assume that we model the human species as a group of people with the bell curve split fifty percent above and below the zero value line symmetrically, then it's perfectly rational to give only to people who are familiar enough with to rank in the positive half.

Note: I do not believe this.

Also, if you actually believe in optimal charity for utilitarian reasons, then abusing people for sub-optimal charity is ridiculous. It does not make them more likely to engage in optimal charity, it makes them more likely not to engage in charity at all. You're shooting your cause in the foot at least as much as they are.

It does not make them more likely to engage in optimal charity, it makes them more likely not to engage in charity at all.

It may make them overall less likely to engage in charity, yes, but if they do, it also makes them more likely to engage in optimal charity*. Since optimal charity is something like 2-3 orders of magnitude better than this particular instance of fuzzy charity, I should be willing to cause a lot of overall drops in charity in exchange for diverting a small fraction of that to an optimal charity.

* If it doesn't even do that, though, then I have some serious problems on my hand.

The next time people are presented with an opportunity for charity(any opportunity), their last memory is now changed from 'hey, I was charitable a couple of months ago, and that was nice' to 'hey, I was charitable a couple of months ago, and this optimal-charity jerk made me feel terrible about it.'

You're making them less likely to give in general, and, by being rude about it, you're also damaging the PR brand of your cause, which will hurt you more than you think. I don't know of any corporation that advertises its product by abusing its customers.

This is likely to be the case if gwern were to act in such a way in the vast majority of environments. However, in this particular online community, criticizing people for publicly donating to suboptimal charity may well be a fairly good method for gwern to produce utilons.

Indeed. Consistent with this situational point, I also recently advised not attempting to go over the The Oatmeal and related forums and evangelizing for optimal charity.

Which doesn't address my point, but just reiterates the argument of the first comment.

Great textbook example of the biases affecting charitable giving, isn't it? People will give more to a single, identifiable person than to an anonymous person or a group. People want to feel like they actually changed something they can directly see, rather than contributing a small amount to a big goal; etc.

People will give more to a single, identifiable person than to an anonymous person or a group.

As a counterpoint to your generalization, JGWeissman has given 82x more to SIAI than he plans to give to this girl if her story checks out.

More and more, if I can do anything about it. (Edit since someone didn't like this comment: That's a big if. I'm trying to make it smaller.)

I think what hankx means is that (s)he's not in a position to donate large amounts of money (as in large enough to save 50 or more life-years). However, $100 is still enough to buy warm fuzzies.

FYI, I'm now friends with this girl on facebook. She has posts going back to 2005 and ample evidence that she is legit. But I did not need to see this to know she was legitimate. I highly recommend you re-evaluate whatever cognitive process you were using that led to such over-skepticism... you obviously need to update something.

I'm glad your blind faith in this 'hot' girl seems to have been rewarded, but I stand by my comments: it had many characteristics of a scam, and even if not, is suboptimal on multiple levels.

Well I wasn't going to dignify this with a response, but since you're getting up-votes for some reason...

You're right gwern, you caught me. My enthusiasm for supporting this girl's cause has nothing to do with life and death issues and my ability to wisely judge the context and available evidence, but rather is better explained by the hypothesis that this is all a bunch of motivated cognition on my part deriving from my secret fetish for cancer girls...

my secret fetish for cancer girls...

There's a fetish for everything. You laugh, but Neon Genesis Evangelion was so successful in part because of bandaged Rei, and we recently saw an entire fan-made English visual novel (_Katawa Shoujo_/"Cripple Girls") on this sort of thing. Fight Club also comes to mind.

Of course, you don't need a fetish to want to help out a girl. As I commented yesterday on The Last Psychiatrist - 'organisms are adaptation-executers, not fitness-maximizers'.

I do hope you cited the aphorism rather than taking credit for it as original. But seeing it repeated once again forced me for once to pay attention to its meaning: to find it vacuous. The point should be stated Don't confuse functional and mechanistic explanations. Organisms don't "execute" their adaptations, this being just another confusion of kinds of explanation, at least if taken literally. And organisms can be said to be fitness maximizers, once it is realized that functional generalizations are always riddled with exceptions.

I presented it as a quote, and it's very easily googleable, so I didn't provide a full cite or anything, no.

And organisms can be said to be fitness maximizers, once it is realized that functional generalizations are always riddled with exceptions.

One of the exceptions is exactly the point of the quote.

A few of my favorite posts in this thread:

And Death is not something I will ever embrace.
It is only a childish thing, that the human species has not yet outgrown.
And someday...
We'll get over it...
And people won't have to say goodbye any more...


And someday when the descendants of humanity have spread from star to star, they won't tell the children about the history of Ancient Earth until they're old enough to bear it; and when they learn they'll weep to hear that such a thing as Death had ever once existed!


Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light!


I have donated $1000, and I really do believe that our community can get her fully funded. I understand how CI has to be cautious about these sorts of things, but I've seen enough evidence to be more than convinced.

She posted her first vlog on youtube:


Also per facebook, she's working on setting up a more official donation route with CI or Alcor. I expect donations will pour in once that gets established.

Look at the evidence:

  • Her Reddit account is only five months old, and most of her posts are about her cancer.
  • Her blog is less than a year old, and contains only six posts (all about cancer).
  • She won't share any serious proof, not even with the Reddit mods.
  • She's using a Paypal account that doesn't identify her real name.

If pizzarules1000 (that's what we have to call her, since she won't share her real name) is desperate for her life, she could have fooled me. Why didn't she PM the reddit mods, so that they could verify her information? Why didn't she ask the Cyrogenics Institute to handle preservation fund? Why won't she videoblog? The whole think looks like a lazy attempt to make a few bucks, rather than a desperate attempt to preserve her own life.

There is a conversation going on about her on the CI Facebook page that seems to indicate that she has been in contact with them. According to info there, her name is Kim Suozzi. Also they will set up a fund at CI for her, once she becomes a member and they vet her story. So If you are considering donating, but worried its a scam, it might be best to hold off until then.

This needs to be at the top of this page or linked in the main post.

I agree with this, this is why I've decided to wait with my donation.

Hey guys, you may know me as pizzarules1000, but I want to formally introduce myself to the community. My name is Kim Suozzi. Here's a link to my Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/kimsuozzi), a video I made today (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rW3peOK1X9E), and Twitter, which you might enjoy (https://twitter.com/dblchb). I'd be happy to upload some documents confirming my identity/that I have cancer. I'll be at Duke tomorrow and can have my medical records sent to whomever. I also could upload a pathology report today, or have one of my doctors email you guys a document confirming my condition/treatment. I always have my driver license to show you as well. I just made a payment to CI (http://imgur.com/VVdoU) and asked them if they could help with handling the fund. I don't blame you for wanting to be careful.

Anyway, now that I have all of that out of the way (sort of), I want to express how deeply I appreciate everyone's support so far in donating, spreading my story, and otherwise advocating for me. I'm so glad that there's this robust community of intelligent and compassionate people that have come to my aid. As much as it sucks to die now, I'm goddamned lucky to live in the place and time that I do. You guys are giving me hope that I can achieve my goal. Again, it's hard to describe how much that means to me; people like you are offering me the most peace that can feasibly be found with knowledge that I'm going to die.

Kim, I am so sorry about what has happened to you. Reading your post was heartbreaking. Death is a stupid and terrible thing.

Like JGWeissman, I planned to donate $500.

Stephan has been a close friend of mine for the past decade, and when he told me he was planning to donate $5,000, I wrangled a commitment from him to do what I do and donate a significant and permanent percentage of his income to efficient charities. There are many lives to save, and even though you have to do some emotional math to realize how you should be feeling, it's the right thing to do and it's vital to act.

He wrangled a commitment from me too: when CI manages a fund for you, I will donate $5,000.

Hi Kim, I'm Stephan. Your story hit me harder than probably anyone else here - I'm 29, I intend to sign up for cryonics in the next few years, and glioblastoma multiforme has killed two of my ancestors: my maternal grandmother when I was very young, and my dad in 2010. If I were diagnosed with GBM now, much less at 23, I'd be mewling like a kitten in terror. I am truly sorry to hear of the shitty hand that nature has dealt you.

I will donate $5,000 when CI manages a fund for you (like JGWeissman said).

While some people have been offering you terrible "advice" on Reddit, I swear that this is completely different - I want to point out two important things that you may have missed. (Obviously, you haven't had a ton of time to look into your options here!)

  • CI's fee structure is confusing. I've been looking at Alcor, so I'm not very familiar with CI, but you appear to have created a Yearly membership ($75 one-time initiation fee, plus $120 per-year membership). With this membership, you need $35,000 for cryopreservation. There's another kind of membership, the Lifetime membership. That has a $0 initiation fee and a $1,250 one-time membership fee, after which cryopreservation is $28,000.

The Yearly membership makes sense for people who can't scrape together $1,250 at the beginning. But for your purposes, the Yearly membership is significantly more expensive.

The good news is that you can reduce the amount you'll need to raise from $35,195 to $29,250: "Yearly Membership members may switch to Lifetime Membership at any time, by paying the $1,250 Lifetime membership fee. If Yearly Member decides to covert to a Lifetime Membership, all Yearly Membership payments paid in the year prior to the conversion date can be counted toward the one-time Lifetime Membership fee of $1,250.00. This means that the $75.00 Initiation Fee can only be applied to the Lifetime Membership fee during the first year of Yearly Membership."

  • Unlike Alcor, CI's basic membership doesn't include "Standby" - CI presents it as a significantly more expensive feature that you can add for $88,000 (in fact, you must set it up with a separate organization, Suspended Animation). CI has a pros/cons page about this. Alcor's $80,000 neurocryopreservation includes Standby. If your fundraising is wildly successful, you should definitely consider it.

I intend to sign up for cryonics in the next few years

Why not sign up now? To get started, just fill out this form and Rudi Hoffman will find insurance policies for you and walk you through the rest of the process. (You have clearly put some research into this, so if you have some other path, take it, but "the next few years" is too vague of a time frame for you to ever decide "now is the time to do it".)

I'm not completely irrational. The primary roadblock is not my paperwork allergy (which is admittedly intense) but the fact that I like to completely think through major decisions. My financial situation is unlike most people's, and insurance may not be optimal for me. While researching Kim's options, I looked at Alcor's funding methods closely for the first time, and a trust may be best for me. I try to collect other data, like this found today. Then it all goes into my brain, I heavily weight whatever Luke thinks, and bam - decision. Then I procrastinate on paperwork.

I'll be in Seattle in two weeks, and I'll take care of it (final three paragraphs).


I plan to donate when CI manages a fund. I appreciate your understanding that I want to be careful. (And set up the right incentives for future cases. I'm pretty confident you are legit.) (ETA: There is now a fund set up by the Society for Venturism, and I have made my donation through them.)

You had mentioned on your Reddit post that your boyfriend is supportive of your decision to pursue cryonics. Is he interested in cryonics for himself? Cryonics is much more affordable when you set things up when you are young and healthy, he may be able to do it on his own. I have been figuring out ways to get interested people to actually do this (and it turns it to be really easy), and I'm sorry I didn't figure this out and meet you earlier, when you were thinking about cryonics but not yet diagnosed. You actually inspired me to post about that now instead of waiting to see how many people I got to start made it through the whole process.

I contributed twenty dollars. I wish I could help more, but... college student. You seem like a cool person, and I wish you long life and prosperity, current inconveniences aside. With prompt cryopreservation, your odds (in my estimation) are actually pretty good. The big risk is that either a major, civilization-disrupting disaster will occur in the next century, or CI will suffer economic failure, and be unable to afford containment costs. With chemo-preservation as a backup option in the latter case, you may take some comfort in knowing that if you die the real death, as Zelazny would say, odds are pretty good you're taking western civilization down with you.

Best of luck to you on your fundraising, and subsequent vacation from the mortal coil.

4 points