This post is not about arguments in favor of or against cryonics. I would just like to share a particular emotional response of mine as the topic became hot for me after not thinking about it at all for nearly a decade.

Recently, I have signed up for cryonics, as has my wife, and we have made arrangements for our son to be cryopreserved just in case longevity research does not deliver in time or some unfortunate thing happens.

Last year, my father died. He was a wonderful man, good-natured, intelligent, funny, caring and, most importantly in this context, loving life to the fullest, even in the light of any hardships. He had a no-bullshit-approach regarding almost any topic, and, being born in the late 1940s in relative poverty and without much formal education, over the course of his life he acquired many unusual attitudes that were not that compatible with his peers (unlike me, he never tried to convince other people of things they could not or did not want to grasp, pragmatism was another of his traits). Much of what he expected from the future in general and technology in particular, I later came to know as transhumanist thinking, though neither was he familiar with the philosophy as such nor was he prone to labelling his worldview. One of his convictions was that age-related death is a bad thing and a tragedy, a problem that should and will eventually be solved by technology.

I could see his decline, beginning about 15 years ago. He just was not as energetic anymore as I had known him, and I kept telling myself that this is a part of the usual aging process. Some five years ago, when he started to have troubles walking, I proposed to see a neurologist. He was diagnosed with cardiovascular dementia and it was clear where things were going.

I was alone with him, holding his hand and looking into his eyes when he took his last breath. It was one of the most intense experiences of my life. In the months after his death, I told myself that I did anything I could for him. But now it is clear to me that I did not, and my regrets weigh more heavily than my mourning.

I know that he would have been all in. A second chance to live, rejuvenation, a future with maybe endless possibilities. And I just was not aware anymore of the process that could have given him that chance. The funds were there, everything could have been arranged in time. I just did not think about the possibility then. And now he is gone without any chance to get him back.

My wife tells me that his brain was damaged to an extent that vitrification probably would have failed and pushes me to rationalize along the lines of „there was not much left to safe“. It does not work for me, I know what was left of him - though his brain looked like swiss cheese, his core personality was still there. The few things he was still able to speak told me enough about what he still knew and understood, his last utterance was a witty joke about me being there with him and not being at work instead.

I can easily accept most of the mistakes I made, I can live with my past shortcomings. But this I do regret, and I do not think that my regret will ever vanish, that I did not arrange for a second chance for my dad.

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I can easily accept most of the mistakes I made, I can live with my past shortcomings. But this I do regret, and I do not think that my regret will ever vanish, that I did not arrange for a second chance for my dad.

I have huge respect for the intellectual honesty here. My heart goes out to you.

On my end, I have both "succeeded" and "failed" to cryopreserve loved ones. The regret of failure remains. I take some solace in the fact that information is conserved in our universe. I do not know whether it is physically possible, let alone tractable, to info-resurrect the ones I love, but I know that as long as I exist, I will try. Such is my transhumanist oath.

It is painful to fully acknowledge that one has lost something irreplaceably beautiful in the death of a loved one. Thus why society encourages us to "move on". I find such a practice to be dishonest and dishonorable to love itself and, while perhaps soothing, ultimately a self-destructive severing from what matters most. I believe we do not rent the ones we love, we own them. And they us. There is more to say here, but it turns out, at least for me, the oath is an inspiration engine, sublimating vast pain into seemingly unlimited life fuel. If there is a way to resurrect the ones I love, I will find it, even if every stone in the universe must be turned over a trillion times. Anyone who feels the same will always find a true friend in me.

Success at cryopreserving a loved one creates a feeling of vast accomplishment. I share this tenderly, in the humble hope of further encouraging your (and others) efforts for those currently living. It's under discussed how even a mediocre cryopreservation can feel like your crowing life achievement. If you'll bear with me, earning a full merit scholarship to university, publishing cited AI safety papers, and gaining millions in paper net worth are events that made me proud... but are mere candles compared to the blazing sun of glory from cryopreserving my beloved mom. Staggering, absolutely staggering, feeling of achievement even 5 years later and I am eternally grateful to my friends here who were instrumental in helping make it happen. 

FWIW I have heard similar feelings described for cryopreserving pets.

Take care and thank you for sharing your story and dad with us.

If I am still around then, I‘d be happy to lend you a hand turning over stones, no matter how long it takes.

Lyrics that came to my mind (from Bruderschaft - Forever):

I will walk this ground forever and stand guard against your name. I will give all I can offer, I will shoulder all the blame. I am sentry to you now, all your hopes and all your dreams. I will hold you to the light, that’s what forever means.

You can start collecting and preserving all remaining data about him including your memories and his DNA samples, so future superintelligent AI will be to create a good model of him.

I am very afraid that the best even a superintelligent AI can come up with would be uncanny puppet versions of the people we cherished or rather completely new people with just some similiarities, more akin to clone siblings than to the original individuals. What I actually want is what was left over of his connectome, and that is, for all I know, gone forever. Unless some AI can extract it from thermodynamical noise - which does not seem all that likely to me.

We don't know for sure what is personal identity and how much data is actually is needed for it, but the data is decaying while we are hesitating to collect it.

That might be right, but it’s also very possible that the connectome will one day prove easier to reconstruct using functional data (like a set of thoughts he would agree with, to fine tune a brain model from a distribution of possible brains given his genetic information). Brain models based on the anatomical data left from present day vitrification technics are probably excellent for C Elegans, but not necessarily as good for larger brains.

Notice I might be biased from thinking to much about this for my own Alzheimer mother. Sorry for loss.

Are you taking any steps to preserve your mother's data? Can you explain how?

I don’t, for complicated ethical reasons, but if I would my present choice would be:

  • a frozen DNA sample (or the corresponding genomic sequence)
  • a detailed biography from interviewing her and anyone still available who can testify how she was perceived at any time point of her développement
  • any available data from participating in various fMRI, EEG, MEG, NIRS & behavioral experiments in academia (it doesn’t matter it’s academia, but in practice it’s the only place where you can get paid to participate instead of paying 500/hour - just make sure they accept to share their own data to the interested participants)

In the long run a detailed ECoG is probably the way to go, but I agree with Musk that it will likely need some surgeon robot to decrease costs and risks.

If you can recreate even 1% of his consciousness with this kind of data I would be surprised.

My mom was dying of throat cancer. I tried to get her to consider cryonics, no go. Suggested it to my Dad, no go. He died in the hospital after an accident. Suggested it to my wife, no go. Suggested it to my daughter, no go. Suggested it to my older brother, no go. With all of these people I offered to pay for it.

Most of the time the answer to “Would you consider cryonic suspension?” will be “Not a chance”. Hopefully the Overton Window will start to shift quickly. We are losing lots of people permanently.

I recently had a melanoma scare. Turned out to be nothing, but I found my ALCOR contract quite comforting.

Someone should work on this. This should be its own science, probably an area of study for people not good enough at math to do alignment research, or something. It seems like there's tons of easily-shared low hanging fruit here with family psychology. The failure rate with parents and grandparents is just too high. I successfully convinced both of my parents to take AI safety seriously (they are in their 60s), but my attempts to persuade them to go for cryonics didn't go well.

Right now, the strategy I'm trying is "figure out how to successfully approach them such that you ultimately convince them to read HPMOR" and I've already got one of them to start reading it and they're loving it, but it's easier to imagine that failing than succeeding e.g. they say "A agree with Harry with most of his statements but not everything, including cryonics" and they stick with that stance before they even get to the last third of HPMOR when cryonics stops being something Harry rants about and starts being real. 

Projectlawful is obviously a no-go, the first quarter of the story is meeting all these interesting relatable people, ~50% of whom are completely failing to realize that their day-to-day life is a distraction from the fact that they ought to be dropping everything and trying as hard as they can to die all the way ASAP so that they don't get infinite torture (not a spoiler). Yud and Hanson's dual posts supporting cryonics didn't work at all, failed the first impression in fact. I'm thinking that in order for it to work, it needs to 1) dazzle the way that HPMOR dazzles people, and 2) successfully convince them to notice that the society and culture they grew up in is confused, ill, and deranged. On the front of #2, obviously eliezerfic and the sequences are good, but the first 5 pages of Bostrom's paper existential risk as a global priority might also go a long way to show them that orienting towards reality means orienting away from the unreality that's currently dominant in every country. Has anyone tried chapter 1 of WWOTF? Are there lots of moments with highly optimal combinations of words there?

Good idea, but I tried that and sadly it didn't work.

I‘ve just read „Think Again“ from Adam Grant. If vaccine whisperers succeed in convincing lots of anti-vaxxers to eventually protect their children, their approach may generalize. Even more impressive is the case of Daryl Davis, an Afro-American musician, talking hundreds of KKK members out of their white supremacist worldview.

My heart aches to read this. I wish you freedom from self-blame. But I do understand.

I grew up in cryonics. My parents signed me up when I was a child. The ache of "If only I'd brought this up sooner, better, the right way" stayed with me a very long time. For every friend and relative who shrugged these things off. Especially for the handful already in graves now. So, so young.

I used to frequently imagine how, some decades or centuries from now, I'd be standing on a colony of the Moon looking up at our ancient cradle, the Earth. Standing there with the friends & family who'd made it. And younger folk too who love us and whom we love, hearing our stories of Ancient Earth when the chances were so slim.

And then we would sing the names. Those who could only continue as whispers on our lips. The beloved who did not make it.

I often find myself reciting Eliezer's ode to Terry Pratchett:

Even if the stars should die in heaven,
Our sins can never be undone.
No single death will be forgiven
When fades at last the last lit sun.
Then in the cold and silent black
As light and matter end,
We'll have ourselves a last look back
And toast an absent friend.

I am deeply sorry for your loss.

All the more aching for what might have been, had things been different.

We are all doing the best we can.

Even you, in your failures.

And me, in mine.

And it is heartbreaking, the cost of our learning. That sometimes it comes at the eternal loss of a beloved.

But all we can ever do is our best.

Setting aside our anger and self-blame,

out of deep heartfelt caring

we shall build a kinder world.

Or we shall die trying.

I appreciate your emotional honesty. I don't know anything much about cardiovascular dementia, in particular whether or how much it destroys memories. In the case of Alzheimers, there is growing evidence that most memories are intact and the problem is one of access. I don't know yet if this applies to other forms of dementia. If anyone has information or pointers, I'll check them out. 

MvB: It won't help your father but perhaps you can take a little comfort in the possibility that your post will induce others to make cryo arrangements for their parents (if the latter are willing).

Warning: potentially hazardous line of thought.

It‘s too late now for my father, but I have thought about consequences for the rest of my family that is willing to take the chance. My plan is now, in the case of onset of any type of dementia, to opt in for assisted suicide before too much damage will have occured. Careful planning should allow for near-optimal preservation, to the extent possible when and if this rather radical step becomes necessary. What could I possibly lose? Some years of cognitive and physical decline where any joy would be overshadowed by the losses.

And yes, the possibility you mentioned indeed provides at least a little comfort.

A degree of orientation to reality is required here. 

Progressive vascular dementia is the gradual progressive destruction of cerebral tissue due to occlusions of distal arteries and arterioles in the cerebreal circulation. These occlusions result in the ischemia - starvation - of the tissue to which they supply oxygen and glucose. This occurs in most cases in an indolent and insipid manner, as a 'death by one thousand cuts'. Tiny occlutions occur in the tiny vessels, again and again, without either the person or their family noticing. The summation after many years is clearly seen, however, both clinically and on sectional imaging (MRI og CT). The brain volume is significantly decreased, with the brain no longer tightly pressed against the dura and skull holding it in, but instead floating freely in the bath of cerebrospinal fluid. The axons, or 'white matter' is often also destroyed focally. The volume loss can be so large that the distance from the brain to the skull is increased to such a distance that the bridging veins tear, causing bleeds in the subdural space. In a strange turn of fortune, their volume loss is protective in such cases, as the expanding blood causes far less pressure on the brain than it would a healthy individual. 

The important point to understand in the context of cryonics - and specifically the OP's regret - is that a large amount of the brain is permanently missing by the time that progressive vascular dementia is clinically diagnosed. The brain state that represented the person of your father - at least as you knew him in his premorbid state - aligns poorly with the state it was at his death. The amount of physical loss of neural tissue is immense, representing often billions of neurons and up to trillions of connections. The information is simply gone. *Some* of your father is there, but the significant part that is gone is not recoverable. There is no RAR/PAR file to which you can trick your way back. It is gone. Freezing his brain will only give the beings of the hypothetical enlightened future a chance to reanimate the demented state of your father, without any conceivable means of reverting him to the state you knew him before his deterioration.

So there is no realistic grounds for regret. Some things that are destroyed are irreversable and unrecoverable. Cryonics does not change that. 

This is what I needed to hear. Thank you.

Edit: I‘m not sure anymore. It gives me aches to even think about what might be worth preserving and what possibly isn‘t anymore.

I truly hope the cost of cryo falls rapidly in the next few years. A back-of-the-napkin calculation I did shows that if I wanted to pay forward for an option to cryopreserve my children (should they ever need it) I would have to save money for over 20 years, skipping on every life luxury for them and myself. It would be a bizarre life in which we would live like ascetic monks who spend most of their lives preparing to die and achieve Afterlife. Uncannily like religion.

If, aside from paying for cryo for my kids, I also wanted to pay for my own, my  SO's, and my parents, my brother etc, I would need to be effectively immortal just to put in enough work-hours.

Cryo might end up being the absolute pinnacle of elitist technology, because if you are not rich and Western enough, you are unlikely to ever afford it, and thus, destined to not only die, but watch your loved ones die as well while average Middle Class people from US or western EU would just chuck their sick loved ones into a freezer with a near certainty of their eventual survival and health.

The religions had it all wrong. In order to achieve Immortality in the After-life, you do not need to be good, or without sin, or pious, you just need to be able so save around 30-80k. If you can't, well, sucks to be you. Should have thought of it before you decided to be born poor.

It definitely is not cheap. But it's more manageable if you start young, especially if you're using life insurance for funding. Or create a separate investment account and add to it every month. 

I'd love to see the cost of cryonics fall. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening soon. For real economies of scale, we would need at least one or two orders of magnitude growth in members. It's tough to reduce storage costs, although Alcor did it by using Steve Graber's "Superdewar" design. (I helped by renegotiating the liquid nitrogen charges.) Achieving economies in standby services is difficult. Currently, Suspended Animation's costs are heavily subsidized by Bill Faloon. 

With 100x or 1000x more business, enabling the hiring of full time staff (especially surgeons and perfusionists) and dropping the large annual fee for getting medical personnel, costs for SST should be able to come down. With serious growth, membership charges could go way down. I wrote about this ten years ago, but it should mostly still be relevant:

can you explain your calculations? isn't cryo around 50k right now? 

Which is a bit over 3 years of saving up every penny of the average wages where I live. If you subtract the average rent and starvation rations from that income, you're up to 5.5 years. The first info I could find on google (from 2018) claims the average person here saves around $100 monthly, which gives you over 40 years of saving. This is only for one person. If you have multiple children, a SO, etc., that starts ballooning quickly. This is in a country which while not yet classified as developed, is almost there (Poland). 

50k is a lot for pretty much most of the world. It's the cost of a not very nice flat (i.e. middling location, or bad condition) here.

$100 per month of savings is incredibly low for average earnings. About 2%. It's a matter of priorities. 

Depends where. Which is the whole issue. For the US average wage, yes. For non US people no. I agree that it's a matter of priorities. But it's also a matter of earnings minus costs. Both of which depend a lot on where you live.

A lot of people certainly could save a lot more. But usually at the cost of quality of life. You could say that they should work a job that pays more, or live somewhere where there is a lower cost of living, but both of those can be hard.

I'm not saying you're wrong that it's doable. The problem is that the feasibility is highly dependent on your circumstances (same as e.g. having an electric car or whatever), which can make it very hard for people who aren't in affluent places.

Its in the ballpark of 50k. I support a family of 4 on 10k a year, round-ish. I can save about 1k-2k a year, If we live on a very, very tight budget. It would thus take me a century to pay for cryonics just for my immediate family, if the prices do not fall quickly enough.

Wow.  Thank you for sharing this.  That must have been a difficult and painful post to write.  I hope that it reaches somebody who needs to hear this — someone with a loved one not yet beyond saving.

I think most of us will feel this way about most people, after we've grown up.

It's odd that I cannot bring myself to feel this way about my own parents now.

Sometimes I try to. But I know that their present lack of knowledge or interest in cryonics is a result of their own choices, and their own vices, vices that are going to kill not just them but many other people who trusted them. I know that if I bring it up they will not be grateful. They will say something pigheaded and fearful, "do not give me the hope". They seem not to want it.
I believe, abstractly, that there must be more to them, an inner world, unique, but I cannot see it, it never comes to the fore.

There are a lot of people like this.

How can I want to save these people?

Still, you can try to pursuade them so you do not feel remorse after.

I mean, the information probably isn't gone yet. A daily journal (if he kept it) or social media log stored in a concrete box at the bottom of the ocean is a more reliable form of data storage then cryo-companies. And according to my timelines, the amount of time between "revive frozen brain" tech and "recreate mind from raw information" tech isn't very long.

A trained psychologist on feelings of remorse and loss could help you. I know you know but it's good sometimes to be told.