I recently attended a small gathering whose purpose was to let young people signed up for cryonics meet older people signed up for cryonics - a matter of some concern to the old guard, for obvious reasons.
The young cryonicists' travel was subsidized. I suspect this led to a greatly different selection filter than usually prevails at conferences of what Robin Hanson would call "contrarians". At an ordinary conference of transhumanists - or libertarians, or atheists - you get activists who want to meet their own kind, strongly enough to pay conference fees and travel expenses. This conference was just young people who took the action of signing up for cryonics, and who were willing to spend a couple of paid days in Florida meeting older cryonicists.
The gathering was 34% female, around half of whom were single, and a few kids. This may sound normal enough, unless you've been to a lot of contrarian-cluster conferences, in which case you just spit coffee all over your computer screen and shouted "WHAT?" I did sometimes hear "my husband persuaded me to sign up", but no more frequently than "I pursuaded my husband to sign up". Around 25% of the people present were from the computer world, 25% from science, and 15% were doing something in music or entertainment - with possible overlap, since I'm working from a show of hands.
I was expecting there to be some nutcases in that room, people who'd signed up for cryonics for just the same reason they subscribed to homeopathy or astrology, i.e., that it sounded cool. None of the younger cryonicists showed any sign of it. There were a couple of older cryonicists who'd gone strange, but none of the young ones that I saw. Only three hands went up that did not identify as atheist/agnostic, and I think those also might have all been old cryonicists. (This is surprising enough to be worth explaining, considering the base rate of insanity versus sanity. Maybe if you're into woo, there is so much more woo that is better optimized for being woo, that no one into woo would give cryonics a second glance.)
The part about actually signing up may also be key - that's probably a ten-to-one or worse filter among people who "get" cryonics. (I put to Bill Faloon of the old guard that probably twice as many people had died while planning to sign up for cryonics eventually, than had actually been suspended; and he said "Way more than that.") Actually signing up is an intense filter for Conscientiousness, since it's mildly tedious (requires multiple copies of papers signed and notarized with witnesses) and there's no peer pressure.
For whatever reason, those young cryonicists seemed really normal - except for one thing, which I'll get to tomorrow. Except for that, then, they seemed like very ordinary people: the couples and the singles, the husbands and the wives and the kids, scientists and programmers and sound studio technicians.
At some future point I ought to post on the notion of belief hysteresis, where you get locked into whatever belief hits you first. So it had previously occurred to me (though I didn't write the post) to argue for cryonics via a conformity reversal test:
If you found yourself in a world where everyone was signed up for cryonics as a matter of routine - including everyone who works at your office - you wouldn't be the first lonely dissenter to earn the incredulous stares of your coworkers by unchecking the box that kept you signed up for cryonics, in exchange for an extra $300 per year.
(Actually it would probably be a lot cheaper, more like $30/year or a free government program, with that economy of scale; but we should ignore that for purposes of the reversal test.)
The point being that if cryonics were taken for granted, it would go on being taken for granted; it is only the state of non-cryonics that is unstable, subject to being disrupted by rational argument.
And this cryonics meetup was that world. It was the world of the ordinary scientists and programmers and sound studio technicians who had signed up for cryonics as a matter of simple common sense.
It tears my heart out.
Those young cryonicists weren't heroes. Most of the older cryonicists were heroes, and of course there were a couple of other heroes among us young folk, like a former employee of Methuselah who'd left to try to put together a startup/nonprofit around a bright idea he'd had for curing cancer (note: even I think this is an acceptable excuse). But most of the younger cryonicists weren't there to fight a desperate battle against Death, they were people who'd signed up for cryonics because it was the obvious thing to do.
And it tears my heart out, because I am a hero and this was like seeing a ray of sunlight from a normal world, some alternate Everett branch of humanity where things really were normal instead of crazy all the goddamned time, a world that was everything this world could be and isn't.
Then there were the children, some of whom had been signed up for cryonics since the day they were born.
It tears my heart out. I'm having trouble remembering to breathe as I write this. My own little brother isn't breathing and never will again.
You know what? I'm going to come out and say it. I've been unsure about saying it, but after attending this event, and talking to the perfectly ordinary parents who signed their kids up for cryonics like the goddamn sane people do, I'm going to come out and say it: If you don't sign up your kids for cryonics then you are a lousy parent.
If you aren't choosing between textbooks and food, then you can afford to sign up your kids for cryonics. I don't know if it's more important than a home without lead paint, or omega-3 fish oil supplements while their brains are maturing, but it's certainly more important than you going to the movies or eating at nice restaurants. That's part of the bargain you signed up for when you became a parent. If you can afford kids at all, you can afford to sign up your kids for cryonics, and if you don't, you are a lousy parent. I'm just back from an event where the normal parents signed their normal kids up for cryonics, and that is the way things are supposed to be and should be, and whatever excuses you're using or thinking of right now, I don't believe in them any more, you're just a lousy parent.
January 21, 2010
Eliezer Yudkowsky writes (in Normal Cryonics):
Comment: there’s that, but if that was all it was, it wouldn’t be harder than doing your own income taxes by hand. A lot more people manage that, than do atheists who can afford it manage to sign up for cryonics.
So what’s the problem? A major one is what I might term the “creep factor.” Even if you have no fears of being alone in the future, or being experimented upon by denizens of the future, there’s still the problem that you have to think about your own physical mortality in a very concrete way. A way which requires choices, for hours and perhaps even days.
And they aren’t... (read more)
I'm still trying to convince my friends.
It's still not working.
Maybe I'm doing it backwards. Who is already signed up and wants to be my friend?
If you need friends post suspension you can pay for my suspension (currently my budget goes to X-risk) and I will promise to spend a total of at least one subjective current human lifetime sincerely trying to be the best friend I can for you unless the revived get a total of less than 100 subjective human lifetimes of run-time in which case I will give you 1% of my total run-time instead. If that's not enough, you can also share your run-time with me. I will even grant you the right to modify my reward centers to directly make me like you in any copy running on run time you give me. This offer doesn't allow your volition to replace mine in any other respect if the issue is important.
I'd bet karma at 4 to 1 odds that Alicorn finds this proposal deeply disturbing rather than helpful.
With those values the 'find friends who are signed up to cryonics' sounds like the obvious plan. (Well, less obvious than the one where you kidnap your friends, cut of their head and preserve it against their will. But more sane.)
I don't think most of my friendships would survive kidnapping, decapitation, and non-consensual vitrification, even if my friends survived it.
A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a body. A great friend is the body.
That sounded pretty odd until I looked up the parent comment, I gotta tell you.
I'm actually still confused. That doesn't sound like 'Extrovert Hell'. Extroverts would just make a ton of new friends straight away. A lone introvert would have more trouble. Sure, it would be an Extrovert Very Distressing Two Weeks, but death is like that. (Adjust 'two weeks' to anything up to a decade depending on how vulnerable to depression you believe you will be after you are revived.)
Um... would I deeply offend you if I suggested that, perhaps, your worst fears and nightmares are not 100% reflective of what would actually happen in reality? I mean, what you're saying here is that if you wake up without friends, you'll be so shocked and traumatized that you'll never make any friends again ever, despite any future friend-finding or friend-making-prediction software that could potentially be brought to bear. You're saying that your problem here is unsolvable in the long run by powers up to and including Friendly superintelligence and it just doesn't seem like THAT LEVEL of difficulty. Or you're saying that the short-run problem is so terrible, so agonizing, that no amount of future life and happiness can compensate for it, and once again it just doesn't seem THAT BAD. And I've already talked about how pitting verbal thought against this sort of raw fear really is one of those places where rationality excels at actually improving our lives.
Are you sure this is your true rejection or is there something even worse waiting in the wings?
Because the last time you woke up in a brand-new world with no friends turned out so badly?
"If you don't sign up your kids for cryonics then you are a lousy parent. If you aren't choosing between textbooks and food, then you can afford to sign up your kids for cryonics."
This is flat-out classism. The fact is, the only reason I'm not choosing between textbooks or food is that the US government has deemed me poor enough to qualify for government grant money for my higher education. And even that doesn't leave me with enough money to afford a nice place to live AND a car with functioning turn signals AND quality day-care for my child while I'm at work AND health insurance for myself.
Shaming parents into considering cryonics is a low blow indeed. Instead of sneering at those of us who cannot be supermom/dad, why not spend your time preparing a persuasive case for the scientific community to push for a government-sponsored cryonics program? Otherwise the future will be full of those lucky enough to be born into privileged society: the Caucasian, white-collar, English-speaking segment of the population, and little else. What a bland vision for humanity.
Response voted up in the hopes that it shames comfortable middle-class parents into signing up their kids for cryonics. Which will, if enough people do it, make cryonics cheaper even if there is no government program. Or eventually get a private charity started to help make it affordable, which is far more likely than a government program, though still unlikely.
Considering that all parents so far have had children in the knowledge that they can't prevent the kid's eventual death, this question feels kinda absurd.
Most people would say that they prefer being alive regardless of the fact that they might one day die. Having a child who'll die is, arguably, better than having no child at all.
"Then why did you have a kid? If you knew that you couldn't afford to prevent your child's death why did you have one at all?"
Who said I knew that? When I was pregnant, I had a job which seemed to be secure at the time. Then the recession happened.
Also, what do you have to say to the 88% of the world's population who make less per year than I do?
If your children were about to leave for a strange country without you - or for that matter with you, to some place that none of you had ever been - would you, in your pity, shoot them?
WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? WHY IS YOUR BRAIN NOT PROCESSING THIS? IT'S YOUR KIDS' FUCKING LIVES NOT A FAIRY TALE YOU'RE WRITING. You don't get to be uncomfortable with the fairy tale and so refuse to write it. All you can do is kill your kids. That's it. That's all refusal means.
Your children are standing in front of the boat. You can send them on the boat. You can go with them on the boat. Or you can cut their throats. That's it. There's nothing else.
I hand you the knife.
What do you do?
I think I'm starting to understand what the absence of clicking is. People who click process problems as if they're in the real world. If they wouldn't cut their child's throat, then they sign their kid up for cryonics.
People who don't click don't process the problem like it's the real world. Strange reactions rise up in them, fears of the unknown, fears of the known, and they react to these fears by running away within the landscape of their minds, and somewhere on the outside words come out of their lips like "But who knows what will happen? How can I send my kids into that?" It's an expression of that inner fear, an expression of that running away, words coming out of the lips that match up to what's going on inside their heads somehow... the dread of losing control, the feeling of not understanding, the horror of thinking about mortality, all of these are expressed in a flinch away from the uncomfortable thought and put stumblingly into words.
So they kill their children, because they aren't processing a real world, they're processing words connected to words, ways of flinching and running away and giving vent to those odd internal feelings.
And the clickers are standing in front of that boat.
This is called the "consequentialist doppelganger" phenomenon, when I've heard it described, and it's very, very annoying to non-consequentialists. Yes, you can turn any ethical system into a consequentialism by applying the following transformation:
But this ignores what we might call the point of Non-Consequentialism X, which holds that you should follow it for reasons unrelated to how it will make the world be.
Well, crap. That's something I hadn't even thought of yet.
I'm currently struggling with actually signing up for cryonics myself so this angle hadn't even crossed my mind.
I'll face very strong opposition from my wife, family, and friends when I finally do sign up. I can't imagine what kind of opposition I'll face when I attempt to sign my 3-month old daughter up.
I've been planning a top-level post about the rational thing to do when you're in my position. What position you ask? You'll find out in my post. Suffice it to say for now that I don't think I'm a typical member of the LW community.
I, for one, look forward to reading your post.
If Eliezer's post has motivated you, I encourage you to write it soon before that motivation fades.
Point taken. Writing commenced.
I've written a 2000 word blog article on my efforts to find the best anti-cryonics writing I can:
A survey of anti-cryonics writing
Edit: now a top level article
To me cryonics causes a stark panic inducing terror that is only alittle less than death itself and I would never in a million years do it if I used my own judgment on the matter but I decided that Eliezer probably knows more than me on this subject and that I should trust his judgement above my own. So i am in the process of signing up now. Seems much less expensive than I imagined also.
This is at least one skill I have tried to cultivate until I grew more educated myself; the ability to export my judgement consciously to another person. Thinking for yourself is great to learn new things and practice thinking skills but since I am just starting out I am trying to build solid mindset so its kinda silly for me to think I can provide one to myself by myself without tons wasted effort when I could just use one of the good ones that are already available.
I would probably be more likely to try such a thing if I was younger but I am getting started abit late and need a leg up. Though I do guess the idea is abit risky but on an inituitve level it seems less risky than trusting my own judgement which is generally scared of everything. Yep.
Curiously -- not indignantly -- how should I interpret your statement that all but a handful of parents are "lousy"? Does this mean that your values are different from theirs? This might be what is usually meant when someone says someone is "lousy".
Your explicit argument seems to be that they're selfish if they're purchasing fleeting entertainment when they could invest that money in cryonics for their children. However, if they don't buy cryonics for themselves, either, it seems like cryonics is something they don't value, not that they're too selfish to buy it for their children.
Eliezer--don't know how many people reading this had the same response I did, but you tore my heart out.
As Nick Bostrom Ph.D. Director of the Oxford Future of Humanity institute, Co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association said about my book "21st Century Kids" "Childhood should be fun and so should the future. Read this to your children, and next you know they'll demand a cryonics contract for Christmas."
You know, I do what I can to educate others to the fact that cryonics is possible, and thus there is the common sense obligation to try. For me it is a noble endeavor that humans are attempting, I'm proud to help that effort. If you do a search on "teaching kids cryonics" you'll get: http://www.depressedmetabolism.com/2008/07/04/teaching-children-about-cryonics/ from a few years ago. I still do classes when I can, I've been talking to my children's friends and parents here in the UK after moving from Austin this past summer. The reception I get over here from parents and kids is generally the same as what I heard in the States--people express interest, but never really go through the effort of signing up.
I will be writing more, in the mea... (read more)
Sorry if this is a tedious question. Just started the conversation with my family in a more serious way after looking up life insurance prices (think it's going OK so far), and there's something I wanted to ask so that I know the answer if they ask. Do you have shares in Alcor or CI, or any other interests to declare?
As far as I know, there's currently no one on Earth who gets paid when another cryonicist signs up, except Rudi Hoffman who sells the life insurance. I'll go ahead and state specifically that I have no shares in either of those nonprofits (nor does anyone, but they have paid employees) and I do not get paid a commission when anyone signs up (nor does anyone AFAIK except Rudi, and he's paid by the life insurance company).
I see a disturbing surface similarity.
"If you don't teach your children the One True Religion, you're a lousy parent."
My own excuse for not signing up for cryonics is not that I don't think it will work, it's that I don't particularly value my own existence. I'm much more concerned about the effects of my death on other people than its effects on me; I've resolved not to die before my parents do, because I don't want them to suffer the grief my death would cause.
Incidentally, is it possible to sign someone else up for cryonics, if they don't object?
"If you don't teach your children the One True Religion, you're a lousy parent."
Given that the One True Religion is actually correct, wouldn't you, in fact, be a lousy parent if you did not teach it? Someone who claims to be a Christian and yet doesn't teach their kids about Christianity is, under their incorrect belief system, condemning them to an eternity of torture, which surely qualifies as being a lousy parent in my book.
IAWYC, but to nitpick, not all Christians believe in an eternity of torture for nonbelievers. Though of course the conclusion follows for any belief in a substantially better afterlife for believers.
(I feel like this is important to point out, to avoid demonizing an outgroup, but don't trust that feeling very much. What do others think?)
It's good reasoning (from respective premises) in both cases. It is believing that the One Religion is True that is stupid. We have further negative associations with that kind of statement because we expect most 'stable' religious people to compartmentalise their beliefs such that the stupidity doesn't leak out into their actual judgements.
Personally, I have a mild preference towards being alive rather than dead, but it's not strong enough to motivate me to look at cryonics options. (Especially since their availability in Europe is rather bad.) This is partially motivated by the fact that I consider continuity of consciousness to be an illusion in any case - yes, there might be a person tomorrow who remembers thinking the thoughts of me today, but that's a different person from the one typing these words now.
Of course, I'm evolutionarily hardwired to succumb to that illusion in some degree. Postulating a period of cryonic suspension after which I'm rebuilt, however, feels enough like being effectively killed and then reborn that it breaks the illusion. Also, that illusion is mostly something that operates in 'near' mode. Evoking the far, post-revival future gets me into 'far' mode, where I'm much less inclined to attach particular value for the survival of this particular being.
Finally, there's also the fact that I consider our chances of actually building FAI and not getting destroyed by UFAI to be rather vanishingly small.
Sorry, should have given more context.
Given the sky-high utility I'd place on living, I wouldn't expect to see the numbers crunch down to a place where a non-huge sum of money is the difference between signing up and not.
So when someone says 'if it were half the price maybe I'd sign up' I'm always interested to know exactly what calculations they're performing, and exactly what it is that reduces the billions of utilons of living down to a marginal cash sum. The (tiny?) chance of cryonics working? Serious coincidence if those factors cancel comfortably. Just smacks of bottom-line to me.
Put it this way - imagine cryonics has been seriously, prohibitively expensive for many years after introduction. Say it still was today, for some reason, and then after much debate and hand-wringing about immortality for the uber-rich, tomorrow suddenly and very publicly dropped to current levels, I'd expect to see a huge upswing in signing up. Such is the human being!
You know what? Someone should just go hunt down CronoDAS and forcibly cryo-suspend him. It'd be doing everyone a favour. He'd get to live in a future where he doesn't have to be geek-emo, a perceived 'murder' would be less shameful than a suicide for his parents and we wouldn't have the same old hand wringing conversation all the time.
See you on the other side. (Or not, as the case may be.)
I'm inclined to believe this number is a lie, as I refuse to believe you are stupid enough to make mistakes of this order of magnitude.
The claimed $180/year (claimed $300 figure minus membership costs) * 50 or so more years people will live only gives $9k. Safe investment gives you barely enough to keep up with inflation, so you cannot use exponential growth argument.
Real costs are around $100k-$200k reference.
Real life insurance costs increase drastically as you age, and as your chance of death increases. Surely you must know that. If you paid the same amount of money each year, you'd need to pay $2k-$5k depending on your cryonics provider and insurance company overhead.
What will very likely happen is people paying for life insurance, then finding out at age of 70 that their life insurance costs increase so much that they cannot afford it any more, and so they won't see any cryonics even though they paid big money all their lives for it. (Not that chances of cryonics working are significant enough for it to make much difference).
taw, real life insurance costs increase drastically as you age, but only if you are beginning the policy. They don't readjust the rates on a life insurance policy every year; that's just buying a series of one-year term-life policies.
I.e., if I buy whole-life insurance coverage at 25, my rate gets locked in. My monthly/annual premium does not increase as I age due to the risk of dying increasing.
Since learning, from Less Wrong, of Alcor and vitrification tech and such, I seriously considered cryonics for the first time in my life and really it was obvious. However slim, it is an actual chance to live beyond the meager handful of decades we get naturally, an actual chance to not die, and in the world as it is today, the only option. Even if the chance of it actually working as advertised (waking up after however long with a brand new perfectly healthy youthful nanotechnologically-grown immortal body) is vanishingly tiny, it is still the optimal action in today's world, is it not?
I should mention that (despite my efforts to hack it out of myself) I have a powerful neurotic phobia of medication, mind-altering substances, surgeries, and basically anything past or current technology can do to a human body that leaves traces, however beneficial. The idea of my still-active brain being pumped full of cryoprotectant upon my heart's last beat is more subjectively disturbing to me than eating flesh cut from my own body.
And I fully intend to sign up anyway.
(I'm currently living on a fixed income that has me occasionally going hungry in order to keep myself in air conditioning and int... (read more)
Are they going to keep having this conference? $300 a year seems like an outright bargain if I get a free trip to Florida every year out of it.
I have a cryonics related question, and this seems as good a thread as any to ask it.
I'm a New Zealander and most discussions of cryonics that I've been exposed to focus on the United States, or failing that Europe. If I have to have my head packed in ice and shipped to the US for preservation its going to degrade a fair bit before it gets there (best case scenario its a 12 hour flight, and that's just to LA, in practice time from death to preservation could be days). This is not a pleasant prospect for me, since it could lower the probability of success... (read more)
Just so I understand this part of your point, what do you mean by "hero" (as in "I am a hero" but also the previous paragraph where you talk about who is and isn't a hero)? Is that a reference to some earlier article I missed, maybe?
Presumably some would reserve the word "hero" for those who actually succeed in changing life as we know it (for the better), and thus would be confused by your usage.
OP upvoted for displaying emotions that fit the facts.
I’ve mentioned already in comments to this post that parents don’t have access to cryonics. I would like to describe in more detail what I mean by ‘access’. I think that childless adults often don’t realize the extent to which parents depend upon embedded social structures, though I’m sure they’ve noticed things like children’s menus, stroller parking stations and priority airplane seating. (One of my worst experiences as a parent was spending 14 hours with an 11 month old in Chicago-O’Hare ...)
Access certainly includes affordability. $300 per year is what... (read more)
I'm trying to avoid confirmation bias on this one, and I'm asking everywhere I can for links to the best anti-cryonics writing online. Thanks!
I thought this was rather tasteful media coverage: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/8691489/Robert-Ettinger-the-father-of-cryonics-is-gone-for-now.html
I am applauding this article. You have moved me. I am A-2561 neuro and I'm proud to be a member of Alcor. I am 16 years old. I got into the field myself when I watched Dr. De Grey's documentary Do You Want To Live Forever. I am unbelievably lucky. The average American has a better chance of being an A-list celebrity than being a cryonicist. As Mike Perry said; Cryonicists are born, not made. When I watched it, something just clicked and I decided to devote my life to it. A lousy parent also doesn't get memberships for the pets of their children. Cupcake an... (read more)
It seems obvious to me that if cryonics companies wanted more people to sign up, all they'd need to do is advertise a little. An ad compaign quelling top 10 parent fears would probably start causing people to sign up in droves. However, they remain quite quiet so I do assume that there's some kind techno-elitist thing going on ... they don't want everyone signing up.
AFAICT your statement is simply false.
Anecdote: I read sci-fi as a kid, learned of the concept of cryonics, thought it was a good idea if it worked... and then it never occurred to me to research whether it was a real technology. Surely I would have heard of it if it was?
Then years later I ran into a mention on OvercomingBias and signed up pretty much immediately.
You still need to create the nitrogen in the first place.
But you can read the financial statements yourself: http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/financial.html (Seriously, am I the only person here who can look things up? The answers are on, like, page 10.)
I should mention that I define 'running at a loss' as not being able to pay all bills out of either investment income or out of fees (membership dues, freezing fees, etc.); if there is a gap between expenses and the former, then they are running at a loss and depending on the charity of others to make it up.
And this is the case. In 2008, they spent $1.7 million - but they got 622k for freezing, and ~300k in fees & income, for a total of $990,999. In other words, Alcor is not currently self-sustaining.
(Why aren't they bankrupt? Because of $1,357,239 in 'contributions, gifts, and grants', and 'noncash contributions' of $753,979.)
A question for Eliezer and anyone else with an opinion: what is your probability estimate of cryonics working? Why? An actual number is important, since otherwise cryonics is an instance of pascal's mugging. "Well, it's infinitely more than zero and you can multiply it by infinity if it does work" doesn't cut it for me. Since I place the probability of a positive singularity diminishingly small (p<0.0001), I don't see a point in wasting the money I could be enjoying now on lottery tickets or spending the social capital and energy on something that will make me seem insane.
Uploading is likely to require a lot of basic science, though not the depth of insight required for AGI. That same science will also make AGI much easier while most progress towards AGI contributes less though not nothing to uploading.
With all the science done there is still a HUGE engineering project. Engineering is done in near mode but very easy to talk about in far mode. People hand-wave the details and assume that it's a matter of throwing money at a problem, but large technically demanding engineering projects fail or are greatly delayed all the time even if they have money and large novel projects have a great deal of difficulty attracting large amounts of funding.
GOFAI is like trying to fly by flapping giant bird wings with your arms. Magical thinking.
Evolutionary approaches to AI are like platinum jet-packs. Simple, easy to make, inordinately expensive and stupidly hard to control.
Uploading is like building a bird from scratch. It would Definitely work really well if people could just get all the bugs out, but it's a big, complicated, insanely expensive, and judging by history there will be lots of bugs.
Neuromorphic AI is like trying to build a bird while looking... (read more)
...because the first thing warlords do when they take over Scottsdale, Arizona, is invest great amounts of money in technology to revive old people, then use their highly advanced mind-controlling powers to turn them into mentally aware but vicariously controlled slaves, or otherwise coerce their few dozens of old computer scientists and physicists to kick babies and spit on puppies. Because warlords and UnFriendly AIs are evil for the sake of being evil. Makes perfect sense.
(Your parenthetical point is an argument for donating to FAI research, not an argument against getting froze.)
I was raised to consider organ donation to be the moral thing to do on my death.
I am less skeptical than average of cryonics, and nervous about "neuro" options since I'd prefer to be revived earlier and with a body. On the other hand, it still seems to me that organ donation is the more effective option for more-people-being-alive-and-happy, even if it's not me.
Am I stuck with the "neuro" option for myself? How should that translate to my children?
What do most people on LW think about organ donation?
ETA: the Cryonics Institute (the only page I've seen linked here) doesn't have that option, so am I stuck paying much more? Informative links would be appreciated.
For the record, does anyone have a good website I can link my father to containing a reasonably persuasive case for signing up for cryonics? He's a smart guy and skilled at Traditional Rationality; I think he can be persuaded to sign up, but I don't know if I can persuade him. (When I told him the actual price of cryonics, his response was something like "Sure, you can preserve someone for that amount, but revival, once it exists, would probably cost the equivalent of millions of dollars, and who would pay for that?")
My estimate of the probabilities involved in calculating the payoff from cryonics differs from your estimates. I do not think it follows that I am a bad parent.
I reject your framing. I would say that I had made a bad mistake. Errors do not a bad parent make. Or, to put it another way, suppose you woke up in the Christian Hell; would you plead that you had made the best decision on the available information? Scary what-ifs are no argument. You cannot make me reconsider a probability assignment by pointing out the bad consequences if my assessment is wrong; you can only do so by adding information. I understand that you believe you're trying to save my life, but please be aware that turning to the Dark Side to do so is not likely to impress me; if you need the power of the Dark Side, how good can your argument be, anyway?
The brain's functioning depends on electric and chemical potentials internal to the cells as well as connections between the cells. I believe that cryonics can maintain the network, but not the internal state of the nodes; consequently I assign "too low to meaningfully consider" to the probability of restoring my personality from my frozen brain. If the technology improves, I will reconsider.
Edit: I should specify that right now I have no children, lest I be misunderstood. It seems quite possible I will have some in the near future, though.
Predictable errors do.
One way of assessing probabilities is to ask how indignant we have a right to be if reality contradicts us. I would be really indignant if contradicted by reality about Christianity being correct. How indignant would you be if Reality comes back and says, "Sorry, cryonics worked"? My understanding is that dogs have been cooled to the point of cessation of brain activity and revived with no detected loss of memory, though I'd have to look up the reference... if that will actually convince you to sign up for cryonics; otherwise, please state your true rejection.
There is experimental evidence to allay that specific concern. People have had flat EEGs (from barbituate poisoning, and from (non-cryogenic!) hypothermia). They've been revived with memories and personalities intact. The network, not transient electrical state, holds long term information. (Oops, partial duplication of Eliezer's post below - I'm reasonably sure this has happened to humans as well, though...) (found the canine article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1476969/)
Since you expect some future cryonics tech to be successful, there's a strong argument that you should sign up now: you can expect to be frozen with the state of the art at the time of your brain death, not 2010 technology, and if you put it off, your window of opportunity may close.
Disclosure: I am not signed up for cryonics (but the discussion of the past few days has convinced me that I ought to).
I have no child; this is not coincidence. If I did have a kid you can damn well better believe that kid would be signed up for cryonics or I wouldn't be able to sleep.
I'll accept that excuse for your not being signed up yourself - though I'm rather skeptical until I see the donation receipt. I will not accept that excuse for your child not being signed up. I'll accept it as an excuse for not having a child, but not as an excuse for having a child and then not signing them up for cryonics. Take it out of the movie budget, not the existential risks budget.
I strongly advise you to immediately start donating something to somewhere, even if it's $10/year to Methuselah. If there's one thing you learn working in the nonprofit world, it's that people who donated last year are likely to also donate this year, and people who last year planned to donate "next year" will this year be planning to donate "next year".
Upon hearing this advice, I just donated $10 to SIAI, even though I consider this amount totally insignificant relative to my expected future donations. I will upvote anyone who does the same for any transhumanist charity.
Did your calculations for X take into account discounting at 0-10%? Money for research years from now does much less good than money now.
Was this the get-together in Florida from the 8th to the 10th? I decided not to go since I assumed everyone would be from the atheist/libertarian/male/nerd/singularity/etc group. I'm glad to see I was wrong.
I was going to leave a comment simply stating:
"Eliezer Yudkowsky - the man who can make a blatantly off-topic post and be upvoted for it."
But it occurs to me I might be missing something, so explanation please.
There's a final filter in rationality where you take your ideas seriously, and a critical sub-filter is where you're willing to take ideas seriously even though the people around you don't.
Going to a group where cryonics was normal was a shift of perspective even for me, and here I thought I had conformity beat. It was what caused me to realize - no, parents who don't sign their kids up for cryonics really are doing something inexcusable; the mistake is not inevitable, it's just them.
Strong negative emotional reactions, lots of psychological defense mechanisms activate, smart people say silly silly things. I'll never forget my best friend's girlfriend, a Cambridge medical student, saying that whilst cryonics, might save you from death, she said it was not certain to work and therefore "too risky".
Signing up for cryonics is kind of the textbook example of applied rationality around here, much as theism is the textbook example of applied irrationality, so I think it's interesting to know what kind of people did it, and why.
Please provide links to the cheap cryonics you speak of. When I looked into it for my kids it was not affordable (this was 20 years ago, though....). Is it still Alcor providing cryonics? Or have other people gotten into the game? I've been out of it for a bit...
Can anyone post a comparison of the services, (and other pros and cons) between Alcor and CI?
What are the arguments for either? Paying something like 2X price for a similar looking service implies that there should be a difference in the quality of service, perhaps the quality of the cryopreservation procedure. Maybe the most important one is the financial health of the company: the probability that they manage to exist long enough.
This might get me blasted off the face of the Internet, but by my (admittedly primitive) calculations, there is a >95% chance that I will live to see the end of the world as we know it, whether that be a positive or negative end. I do not see any reason to sign up for cryonics, as it will merely constitute a drain on my currently available resources with no tangible benefit. I am further unconvinced that cryonics is a legitimate industry. I am, of course, open to argument, but I really can't see cryonics as something that would rationally inspire this sort of reaction.
Here's a simple metric to demonstrate why alternatives to cryonics could be preferred:
Suppose we calculate the overall value of living as the quantity of life multiplied by the quality of life. For lack of a better metric, we can rate our quality of life from 1 to 100. Thus one really good year (quality = 100) is equal to 100 really bad years (ql = 1). If you think quality of life is more important, you can use a larger metric, like 1 to 1000. But for our purposes, let's use a scale to 100.
Some transhumanists have calculated that your life expectancy ... (read more)
"Hi, you have cancer. Want an experimental treatment? It works with >5% probability and costs $500/year." "No thanks, I'll die and give the money to charity."
Strangely enough, I don't hear that nearly as often as the one against cryonics. And it's even worse, because signing up for cryonics means more people will be able to (economies of scale, looks less weird, more people hear of it).
Not to mention that most charities suck. But VillageReach does qualify.
Welcome to LessWrong!
While it's not relevant to Mornedil's point (about his own quality of life), this was my major objection to cryonics for a while as well. There are a couple of problems with it: Most people don't currently donate all their disposable income to charity. If you do, then a cryonics subscription would actually trade off with charitable donations; if you're like most people, it probably trades off with eating out, seeing movies and saving for retirement.
As MixedNuts points out below, most people don't hesitate to spend that much on accepted medical treatments that could save their lives; another, related point is that people on cryonics may not feel the need to spend millions on costly end-of-life treatments that will only extend their lives by a few months. A disproportionate high portion of medical costs come from the last year of life.
Thirdly, if you estimate the money spent on cryonics could save 20 lives in a third world country, you are choosing between extending 20 lives for a few decades and (possibly) extending one life for millions of years. Which side of that tradeoff you prefer depends a lot on your view of immortality.
Finally, ask yourself "If I was offered cryonics for free, would I sign up?" If not, this isn't your true rejection.
I do. I give away all my earnings and my husband gives about 20% of his, so we live on a much smaller budget than most people we know.
This would be good. But it would be good if people laid off the end-of-life spending even without cryonics.
Maybe. I only heard of the idea a week ago - still thinking.
You have my great respect for this, and if you moreover endorse
and you've got some sort of numerical lives-saved estimate on the charities you're donating to, then I will accept "Cryonics is not altruistically maximizing" from you and your husband - and only from you two.
Unless you have kids, in which case you should sign them up.
The metric I care more about is more like quality-adjusted life years than lives saved. We've been giving to Oxfam because they seem to be doing good work on changing systems (e.g. agricultural policy) that keep people in miserable situations addition to more micro, and thus measurable, stuff (e.g. mosquito nets). The lack of measurement does bother us, and our last donation was to their evaluation and monitoring department. I do understand that restricted donations aren't really restricted, but Oxfam indicated having donors give specifically to something as unpopular as evaluation does increase their willingness to increase its budget.
We may go with a more GiveWell-y choice next year.
Only if I believe my (currently non-existing) children's lives are more valuable than other lives. Otherwise, I should fund a cryonics scholarship for someone who definitely wants it. Assuming I even think cryonics is a good use of money, which I'm currently not sure about.
The ethics of allocating lots of resources to our own children instead of other people's, and of making our own vs. adopting, is another thing I'm not sure about. If there are writings on LW about this topic, I haven't found them.
What has to be done ASAP is not vitrification it is cooling. Just dropping the body in a bath of icewater will prevent that kind of damage for days; and Suspended Animation or Alcor - either of which will be waiting right next to your bedside as fast as they can fly - have much more effective ways of cooling than a bath of icewater, and they're working on better ways yet. They also use a portable thumper to perform CPR while cooling (their special waterproof version has been patented by cryo orgs for marketing for other medical uses), just to make sure your blood stays oxygenated while you're in the metabolic danger zone, and I believe they pump you full of other protectants as well (using interosseous access, which is much faster than intravenous).
Local cryonics groups in faraway lands may not have thumpers and complicated blood medications and interosseous access, but they can at least dump you in a bathtub of ice water and perform CPR for a few minutes.
Also, with a bit more life insurance you can get the air ambulance option at Suspended Animation.
Here's an audio interview from 5 days ago with Ben Best, the president of the Cryonics Institute: