We really need a "cryonics sales pitch" article.

by CronoDAS1 min read3rd Aug 201599 comments


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Every so often, I see a blog post about death, usually remarking on the death of someone the writer knew, and it often includes sentiments about "everyone is going to die, and that's terrible, but we can't do anything about it have so we have to accept it."

It's one of those sentiments that people find profound and is often considered Deep Wisdom. There's just one problem with it. It isn't true. If you think cryonics can work, as many people here do, then you believe that people don't really have to die, and we don't need to accept that we've only got at most about a hundred years and then that's it.

And I want to tell them this, as though I was a religious missionary out to spread the Good Word that you can save your soul and get into Christian Heaven as long as you sign up with Our Church. (Which I would actually do, if I believed that Christianity was correct.)

But it's not easy to broach the issue in a blog comment, and I'm not a good salesman. (One of the last times I tried, my posts kept getting deleted by the moderators.) It would be a lot better if I could simply link them to a better sales pitch; the kind of people I'm talking to are the kinds of people who read things on the Internet. Unfortunately, not one of the pro-cryonics posts listed on the LessWrong wiki can serve this purpose. Not "Normal Cryonics", not "You Only Live Twice", not "We Agree: Get Froze", not one! Why isn't there one? Heck, I'd pay money to get it written. I'd even pay Eliezer Yudkowsky a bunch of money to talk to my father on the telephone about cryonics, with a substantial bonus on offer if my father agrees to sign up. (We can discuss actual dollar amounts in the comments or over private messages.)

Please, someone get to work on this!

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This is from my book Singularity Rising:

I have encountered many of the same objections to cryonics in the numerous conversations I have had on the subject, and I’m going to assume that you object to cryonics for one or more reasons I have heard before. Below this paragraph is a list of cryonics objections, and beneath each objection is a question. For reasons that either I will provide or should seem obvious, answering any question in the affirmative means that its corresponding objection shouldn’t block you from joining the cryonics movement.

Objection 1: Cryonics is unnatural.

Question 1: Would you support a law prohibiting all medicine not used by our hunter-gatherer ancestors?

Objection 2: Once you have died, you are dead.

Question 2: You fall into a lake while ice skating, and your body quickly freezes. A year from now your body thaws out and for some crazy reason, you think, look and act just as before. Are you alive?

Objection 3: Even if cryonics works, the “person” that would be revived wouldn’t really be me.

Question 3: Were you alive ten years ago?

If you answered yes, then you are not defining “you” by the physical makeup of your body, because almost none of the ... (read more)

7Diadem5yI'd say the most important objection to cryonics is the one you raise last, and only spend 1 line on. As a result your entire list seems rather weak. Because it's not just that cryonics has a low chance of working. If cryonics was free I'd sign up tomorrow, low chance be damned. But it isn't free, it is in fact very expensive. So let's rephrase your question 12: You have a rare fatal disease. There is a complicated medical procedure that can cure you. The good news is that it is painless and has no side effects. The bad news is that it costs $200,000 and has only a 5% chance of working. I'd expect many people would still say yes, but also many people would say no. And a 5% chance of cryonics working seems hopelessly optimistic to me. So let's make that a 0.0000001% chance of working. Suddenly it seems like a pretty lousy deal. Do you think any rational person would still say yes?
3advancedatheist5yThe lottery model doesn't apply to cryonics because the individual cryonicist's choices in the here and now bear on the probability of success. Cryonicist Thomas Donaldson, Ph.D. in mathematics, wrote about this back in the 1980's. http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/probability.html [http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/probability.html]
1RichardKennaway5yNo, they wouldn't. If that really is your estimated probability (where did you get those six zeros from? why not three, or twenty?), then you should not sign up for cryo. Those involved think there's a much higher chance than that. In fact, 5% is the usual order of magnitude. And you won't have any other use for that money when you're dead. Whether it would be better to give it away and certainly die is a whole other issue. (EA meets cryonics — there's a subject for an interesting debate.) So yes, those signing up are betting on a long shot, but not an impossibly long one.
4Jiro5yMost people are bad at converting their beliefs to numerical probabilities, are bad at estimating low probabilities in general, and will pick numbers in a certain range that sound low enough even when the number that is actually consistent with their beliefs is much lower. It's like vegetarians who say "well, maybe chickens are sentient enough that they have 1% of the moral value of humans". Almost nobody who asserts that would then save 101 chickens in preference to 1 human.
0HungryHobo5yWhat's your value for a micromort to you? How much would someone have to bet you to chug 500ml of wine? 5 dollars? Lets go with 5 for now. For an investment of 200K to be worth it it would have to be worth at least 40000 micromorts. If I was certain that my method of death would preserve the brain and thus had the full million micromorts to play with then odds of 4% that the procedure would work would be just, just good enough to make it vaguely reasonable. Also you perform a few actions every day that could see you dying in a manner that involves your brain being destroyed or damaged too significantly for cryonics to help much. We're not starting from the full million, accident, fire, bodyloss, alzheimer's, too-slow freezing, people ignoring the advanced directive about what's to be done with your head etc eats up a big chunk of the probability space. Lets say there's a 50/50 chance, now it needs a procedure that's 8% successful to be reasonable. Optimistic people like to say around 5%, I wouldn't be surprised if it's bellow 1% or even 0.1% or if it could turn out once they figure out how to actually do it that most current freezing methods are unsuitable and lead to a husk vaguely like you with most of it's memories mangled. People value their lives but most don't value their lives above everything else in the universe and would prefer to give their grandkids a college fund rather than taking a long shot at immortality.
0RichardKennaway5yThis is really an argument to have with those who advocate signing up. But as it's directed to me, I'll point out one factor that needs to be included in that calculation. What's the size of a micromort? A millionth of an ordinary lifetime, or a millionth of the lifetime one might have if cryonics pays off? Given commensurate advances in medicine generally, if you get revived, you might expect a much longer lifespan. BTW, it would take a lot more than $5 to persuade me to drink a gratuitous half litre of wine. For me, that amount would be close to throwing up in the street and having the following morning wiped out recovering from the hangover. I've done that a few times in the past, but only enough to know better. Some do prefer that, some sign up for cryo, some can afford both, some neither, and some do completely different things with their resources. People are different and there's no need for everyone to do the same thing.
0HungryHobo5yFor that we'd have to get into QALY's which is tough since we can't make any kind of reasonable estimates for how many QALY's someone would gain (perhaps future government decides to deal with a population crisis by setting maximum year limits). Micromorts aren't perfect but do make it possible to compare because 1 micromort suffered today can be used to judge cash value something is worth. If you'd accept a minimum of $10,000 to perform a 100 micromort task today(making you quite a bit more cautious than average) that still reduces your chances of immortality even if you're signed up for cryonics which allows you to do some kind of cost/reward tradeoff calculations.
0ike5yThat's assuming you'd otherwise die with enough money to pay for it, and neglecting fees that need to be paid while alive. "Life insurance" doesn't solve this, you still need to pay for it.
1CBHacking5yMany employers provide life insurance. I've always thought that was kind of weird (but then, all of life insurance is weird; it's more properly "death insurance" anyhow) but it's a think. My current employer provides (at no cost to me) a life insurance policy sufficient to pay for cryonics. It would currently be given charitably - I have no dependents and my family is reasonably well off - but I've considered changing that.
0ike5yThat doesn't change the situation much, if you can sell it (or get higher pay for refusing it). If you somehow can't extract value from it (doubtful unless there are laws against selling), then it's relevant.
0CBHacking5yI haven't investigated selling it, but up to a certain multiple of my annual salary it's included in my benefits and there is no value in setting it lower than that value; I wouldn't get any extra money. This is a fairly standard benefit from tech companies (and others that have good benefits packages in the US), apparently. It feels odd but it's been like this at the last few companies I worked for, differing only in the insurance provider whose policy is used and the actual limit before you'd need to pay extra.
1ike5yI just looked it up, and apparently reselling life insurance is so popular it has its own word: viatical. I expect you'd get reasonably close to fair value for it, and if you wouldn't pay fair value for it, you probably should be willing to accept fair value for it. Although I'm not entirely clear if you can resell life insurance bought by an employer.
0Diadem5yNo that one in a billion was meant to be illustrative, not a real estimate of probability. But honestly even if you lower that 5% probability by only 1 or 2 orders of magnitude the proposition already becomes very dubious. Don't forget that you can also extend your life by spending that money some other way. I think the singularity will probably happen somewhere between 2040 and 2060. So when I'm between 58 and 78 years old. This means I have a good chance to make it even without cryonics. Instead of taking that extra life insurance to pay for cryonics, I could for example also decide to work a few hours a week less, and spend that time on exercise. Not only would that be more enjoyable, it would also probably do more for my chances to reach the singularity. If you're significantly older now, that particular math may change. But cryonics is still a long shot, and spending so much money still means a significant hit in quality of life. I'm very curious why you think 5% is a realistic estimate of the probability of cryonics working (actually on the probability of cryonics working for you personally. So some of that probability will have to be spent on you not dying in a way that makes cryonics impossible, or on the cryonics company not going bust, or on there being no unexpected legal obstacles, etc). If you want to sell me on cryonics, this is what you will have to sell me on.
1RichardKennaway5yI don't have a particular opinion on that. It's just the sort of figure I've seen from people in favour of cryo — that is the chance they are betting on, not a lottery jackpot. I am not signed up and am not planning to, despite having a sufficient pile of money. At the same time, I don't think the whole cryo movement is misguided either. It's an idea that should be pursued by those with the motivation to do so, both by freezing bodies now and researching preservation and revival methods. I also don't have a particular opinion about how soon a singularity may happen (or a global extinction). For those who think that one of those is very likely to happen before they need cryo, cryo is also not a good bet. At least, they might want to keep their cryo funding in a more liquid form than an insurance policy. Yes, those are real concerns that anyone contemplating signing up, or urging other people to, has to assess.
7advancedatheist5yThat already happens to everyone. We call it "birth." People make a living now with allegedly primitive skills. I live in rural Arizona, and I know guys who work as cowboys and ranch hands. One of them told me the other day that he had to round up and brand some steers. Or try to rape you, like in the "reverse cryonics" time travel story Outlander. Claire seems to manage regardless. People in a post-transition world might have a quite different value system regarding this "fair share" notion. "This guy in cryo lived only 77 years? Wow, he died young. Give him priority for revival and rejuvenation." God calls you home according to his schedule, not yours. If you survive to a future era via cryotransport, God obviously hasn't called your number in the going-to-heaven queue yet. Wait your turn like everyone else, even if you have to wait for centuries. Paraphrasing Luke 19:13, Jesus tells his servants to occupy themselves until he comes for them to account for their service to him.
1gjm5ySmall children are better at adjusting themselves to radically new things than adults. (Though it's possible that, conditional on cryonics working well at all, whatever technology allows the raising of the kinda-dead would also allow you to increase your neuroplasticity without wrecking your brain.)
2[anonymous]5yQuestion 14: Wait so you're like... one of those crazy people that thinks that you can freeze yourself then be reincarnated. You actually think that would work? You should know that my sister knows where I am! Question 15: Wait what, you actually want me to pay money for this crazy shit, how much? Question 16: You do realize that's more than I make in a year, right? Go find some other sucker to peddle your wares on. You're acting like there's a logical, well thought out argument against cryonics, but most people are acting on some perfectly reasonable heuristics that basically boil down to: "I'm not gonna pay crazy people ridiculous amounts of money for something that's impossible."
0jeff_davis5y"You're acting like there's a logical, well thought out argument against cryonics, but most people are acting on some perfectly reasonable heuristics that basically boil down to: "I'm not gonna pay crazy people ridiculous amounts of money for something that's impossible."" Exactly right except for the "perfectly reasonable heuristics". Should be "...seemingly reasonable but in fact faulty heuristics..." Otherwise they wouldn't end up with "crazy people": not; ridiculous amounts of money: not; and "something that's impossible": not.
-1James_Miller5yI agree with your last paragraph, but I'm trying to reach the 1% or so who might be open to logical arguments.
2SilentCal5yI wrote http://lesswrong.com/lw/jx6/on_irrational_theory_of_identity/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jx6/on_irrational_theory_of_identity/] a while ago to explain more-or-less why I'm not signed up and hopefully draw some counterarguments, but the latter didn't really materialize. The tl;dr is that my System I currently doesn't care much if I'm signed up for cryonics or not, while it cares a great deal about being seen as weird. To System II it's clear that signing up for cryonics would be more consistent, but probably also more selfish (I'd estimate a double-digit percentage of the money I don't spend on cryonics will go to charity). So I could override my intuitive preference, but what I'd accomplish by doing so is higher utility for myself and lower utility globally, and why would I put in effort to do that?
2James_Miller5yStrongly disagree. The more people who sign up for cryonics the less weird it becomes, so your joining Alcor would have a positive externality. Two enormous problems facing mankind are death and short-term thinking. Widespread cryonics membership would mitigate both.
0Jiro5yIf you knew an intelligence explosion would occur tomorrow, the possibility of being tortured would certainly reduce the expected utility of that intelligence explosion, but in order for suicide to be appropriate, it would have to reduce the expected utility below zero. However, for it to be a factor in cryonics, it needn't reduce the expected utility below zero, it only need reduce the expected utility below the cost of the cryonics. Several of the arguments in this list have the same problem. For question 7, I'd certainly prefer getting a painless medical procedure to dying of cancer if the medical procedure has no cost. It's easy for the utility I get from the procedure to exceed the cost if the cost is zero. If the procedure had a cost, however, I would have to decide whether the procedure is worth it (particularly if the procedure only has a chance of working, thus reducing the expected utility I get from it).

Cryonics organizations themselves have neglected the obligation to generate and update current expository literature. I see the urgent need for a "Cryonics for Dummies" book which incorporates the experience base of real, existing cryonics organizations over the last 50 years and explains what the bearing of current neuroscience, cryobiology, gerontology and biotechnology have on what cryonicists want to do.

Fred was the best supporter I had at work. He was in his 70s, and about to retire. I invited him to lunch to try to convince him to sign up for cryonics. He was a perfect candidate. He had lots of money, was (I think) an atheist, had a strong belief in the power of technology to improve society, had teenage children, and most importantly he loved life and had plans to travel the world after he retired. About ten seconds after I started my cryonics pitch I knew I had lost him, and he would be just politely humoring me. I had about as much chance of getting him to join Alcor as of convincing him to donate $50,000 to a cult of Cthulhu. Fred died of pancreas cancer shortly after retiring.

0CronoDAS5yI am sorry to hear that.

"Many Are Cold But Few Are Frozen"


2advancedatheist5ySteve Harris, M.D., beat you to it over 20 years ago: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/11700148_Many_are_cold_but_few_are_frozen_a_humanist_looks_at_cryonics [http://www.researchgate.net/publication/11700148_Many_are_cold_but_few_are_frozen_a_humanist_looks_at_cryonics]
0Mirzhan_Irkegulov5yReminds me of Anybody can be cool, but awesome takes practice [http://oddbloggings.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/cover.jpg].

The cryonics movement needs more people with clinical medical backgrounds involved, but then it also needs people with practical business experience.

I will give you a business intelligence test. Look at just the home page of the website for this startup cryonics organization in Oregon, and tell me one obvious thing that it lacks - just on the home page:


3jordansparks5yI wrote it, so I find the question and MattG's answer interesting. I will try to figure out what you think is lacking, but it's probably just a difference of opinion on the purpose of the website. Just so we're clear, the purpose is NOT to get customers to buy our service. We are still in the startup phase. Maybe you think it's the phone number that's lacking. That's very intentional. We don't want people calling us right now.
0[anonymous]5yWhat is the purpose of the website?
2jordansparks5y-To inform the existing cryonics community of our level of readiness and of our unique approach to the various issues. -To exchange technical information with other cryonics organizations. -To educate the public -To build and refine the information framework that will eventually become the website that informs and attracts customers. -To rank higher on google by publishing large amounts of detailed quality content. We just made it to page 2 on the results and are working our way toward page 1. -Discussion forum, as soon as I get that server up and running.
1Paul Crowley5yIt doesn't say what the hell they actually do.
2Username5yOr why you should care, or what you should do next. (Learn more, join the org, sign up for cryonics?) Needs catchy bylines, and about 500 fewer words.
0Artaxerxes5yWhere's the answer?
0[anonymous]5yIt lacks a whole bunch of things, like a CTA, USP, any sort of trust indicators... I could go on here, but this is really quite a hard test to choose just one :).
-1[anonymous]5yScientific evidence for its treatment being noticeably different from having died.

Agreed; in fact, I think that we need a better "cryonics sales pitch" everything. Note that I may have used a more critical and more cynical tone than I meant to in writing these quick thoughts:

  • Neither CI nor Alcor's logos are particularly memorable, and neither organization has a mascot. Why not include a cute cartoonized polar bear on Alcor's website?
  • CI's home page is well done. Alcor's is decent. The pictures on the home pages of both sites could be improved-- instead of using pictures of a room full of freezing/storage tanks on the home pa
... (read more)
2Viliam5ywith a slogan: "Be Cool -- Live Forever!"
1ChristianKl5yBecause Alcor is a conservative organisation. It needs to be to stay around for a long time.
2Micaiah_Chang5yI think you're confusing conservative-as-facade with conservative-as-need-for-survival. Do you really think that having a mascot would decrease the chance of it surviving?
3ChristianKl5yIf the internal culture of a company doesn't match it's external culture often bad.
0Lumifer5yDo a deal with Disney and license Elsa X-D

As we talk about sales pitch here, just one question: how can we distinguish between genuine cryonics research and quackery?

Don't forget that wishful thinking is deeply ingrained into human psychology, and it seems that many people on this site are ready to throw money at any organization who claims to work on cryonics.

Given that we don't have any evidence of cryonics working (as far as I know, no successful revival has been ever done), it is only hoped that it might work some day in the future. This can also attract scammers.

2James_Miller5yAuthority. Look at who has signed up for cryonics. Peter Thiel, Robin Hanson, Ray Kurzweil, and Aubrey de Grey are all Alcor members.
3advancedatheist5yEh, smart people can rationalize doing dumb things - Skepticism 101. I would point to cryobiologist Greg Fahy, Ph.D., as a more relevant authority: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Fahy [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Fahy]
2Val5yIf I wanted to play the devil's advocate, i would point out two issues with this: 1. Most of the people in your example seem to be very rich. For such a very rich person the costs might be as insignificant as the cost of buying a beer might be for me. This means, if it turned out to be a scam, they wouldn't lose almost anything. I, on the other hand, might lose a significant portion of my net worth, which might have had a better use in the hands of my family than in the hands of a fraudster. 2. There are famous celebrities who join a certain very infamous cult disguising itself as a religion, whose name I don't mention because that might be enough for them to sue me. Of course, most of those celebrities are no scientists or engineers, so this point can be weak against your list of examples.
0advancedatheist5yIf everyone outside of cryonics thinks of it as a rich man's indulgence, then why haven't adventuresses showed up? In the real world, cryonics acts like "female Kryptonite."
1[anonymous]5yThose are all also examples of famous contrarians, as well as famous futurists... anyone who knows who those people are will also know that.
1Vaniver5ySuccessful revival doesn't seem it's the right thing to look at--but there are probably preservation metrics that we can track and judge cryonics organizations by, like time involved in suspension, some metrics of how well the suspension went, and so on. One might be also interested if anything happened in the wake of Melody Maxim's criticisms 5 years ago [http://lesswrong.com/lw/343/suspended_animation_inc_accused_of_incompetence/] (I haven't looked into it since then).

So far, cryonics looks like a great SF idea. One of those things that should be possible in theory, but may not be possible in practice. If you get frozen now, what I think will happen is that they'll do it wrong, and the people who thaw you will do it wrong, too. And those people will learn about what to avoid next time they thaw someone, and what the people who froze you should have done differently.

That's great, because it'll help people they freeze in 2215 to maybe have a real chance of being revived, so I'd be prepared to volunteer for it (but not pa... (read more)

0RichardKennaway5ySuch are the hazards of early adoption.

Gregory Benford, Ph.D., the physicist and science fiction writer, talks about cryonics in a new video:


Ah, I also wish there were some posts about the practical parts of signing up. An overview of options, like Alcor or CI, standby service, life insurance costs, whether to consider relocation to Phoenix or whatnot, whether to get one of those bracelet things or something, and for god's sake let the guide not be so US-centric.

Though possibly this masterpost-thing exists and I haven't heard of it, or my unusual distaste for not having every detail planned out beforehand is biasing me.

Focus on the goal more than the means:

I want to stay alive in good shape.

Life allows for experiences.

Experiences can lead to skills.

Accumulate enough skills, and you can become a futuristic badass like something out of science fiction, kind of like the character Rutger Hauer plays in Blade Runner, but really old and "ultramature," as Max More says, if you do it right: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. . . "

And then, some day, young people - I don't mean ones in their teens and twenties, but ones only a few centuries old af... (read more)

0Lumifer5yBeing a badass is not a function of how many skills have you accumulated.
1advancedatheist5yPersonality certainly plays a role in the early-peaking badass. But then an introverted person thrown into a lot of sticky situations that he has to figure out and survive through could wind up with a pretty impressive résumé, and in effect become a different kind of badass.

Seeing as how you're potentially willing to put money toward this, have you considering running a contest?

Is there a foundation devoted to promotion of cryonics? If no, it would be probably very desirable to create such. Popularizing cryonics can save an incredible amout of existences and so, many people supporting cryonics would probably be willing to donate money to make some more organized promotion. Not to mention personal gains - the more popular cryonics would become, the lower the costs and better logistics.

If you are or know someone supporting cryonics and having experience/knowledge in non-profit organisations or professional promotion, please consider that.

2Andy_McKenzie5yYes. This is part of the mission of the Brain Preservation Foundation. The American Cryonics Society is also in this space, I believe.

It doesn't depend on the quality of the writing if someone is mourning over a death then it's a bad time to speak about how the death could have been prevented.

CronoDAS, I'm glad you brought up this issue. Sadly, I don't think there's good evidence that cryo, as practiced today, works. I think it is reasonable (but of course, not ideal) for people to dismiss things which are only theoretically possible but not practically possible.

If we had verifiably working cryo today, it might be easier to change people's minds.

2jordansparks5yCryonics is being deeply confused with suspended animation in this thread. Cryonics has nothing to do with cellular viability. It's only about preserving the wiring and physical structure of the brain by any means necessary. In current cryonics, all cells are totally and completely dead long before the procedure is finished. But we also have electron micrographs showing very good structural preservation of these dead cells. The cryonics revival technology will need to manipulate trillions of atoms inside of each of billions of cells. No low tech is going to be able to revive them.
0oge5yThank you for clarifying this point. FYI I was referring only to "Cryonics" when I said cryo in the parent comment, not to "suspended animation".
2ike5yI think your "might" is a severe understatement. If people could actually see other previously dead people walk, this would have an immediate and large effect.
1bbleeker5yIf they could even just revive a mouse, that'd help a lot already.
0Error5yWhat is the largest living thing that has been successfully pulled out of cryo? A single cell? Disconnected tissue? An organ? I'd find a single cell not terribly convincing, a working organ much more so. (context: I haven't signed up and don't currently intend to, but it's mentally marked as "keep an eye on this, additional information may change my mind.")
4AndreInfante5yTechnically, it's the frogs and fish that routinely freeze through the winter. Of course, they evolved to pull off that stunt, so it's less impressive. We've cryopreserved a whole mouse kidney before, and were able to thaw and use it as a mouse's sole kidney. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781097/ [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781097/] We've also shown that nematode memory can survive cryopreservation: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3107805/Could-brains-stay-forever-young-Memories-survive-cryogenic-preservation-study-shows.html [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3107805/Could-brains-stay-forever-young-Memories-survive-cryogenic-preservation-study-shows.html] The trouble is that larger chunks of tissue (like, say, a whole mouse or a human brain) are more prone to thermal cracking at very low temperatures. Until we solve that problem, nobody's coming back short of brain emulation or nanotechnology.
0CBHacking5yNitpick: The article talks about a rabbit kidney, not a mouse one It also isn't entirely clear how cold the kidney got, or how long it was stored. It's evidence in favor of "at death" cryonics, but I'm not sure how strong of evidence it is. Also, it's possible to survive with substantially more kidney damage than you would even want to incur as brain damage.
0Lumifer5yWaterbears [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tardigrade] routinely survive freeze-thaw cycles (and much more besides).
[-][anonymous]5y 0

How about arguments from analogy that are broadly evocative.

The underlying question seems to be:

To what extent should an agent's utility definition extend beyond their own person?

A ready example would be effective altruism - should an effective altruism care about bequesting their fortune after death, given that they are not around to process the outcome? Intuitively, subcultural conditioning would bring most people to say yes, but how about if I turned it around? For example, a suicidal woman may strongly advocate for a right to suicide. Would she be maxi... (read more)

0Dagon5yI'm not sure how to evaluate "should" in the question, but most people I know (including myself) "do" include events they'll never directly perceive in their decisions. Personally, I recognize that some of my current happiness and motivation is based on imagining potential future events that I think are exceedingly unlikely for me to actually experience. I make decisions based on likely impact on others outside of my perception-cone, such as strangers I'll never meet or interact with, and who may well be figments of the mass-media's imagination. Whether these un-meetable person-placeholders in my imagined decision-consequence timeline are contemporaneous but physically removed, or distantly removed in time is kind of irrelevant.
0[anonymous]5yI wonder what this philosophical stance is called?

Obviously related: D.J. MacLennan's new book, Frozen to Life:


Cryonics: A Glass-state Time Travel

by D.J. MacLennan on August 6, 2015 0 Comments

Frozen to Life

What if we gave people a way to escape absolute death at the end of their biologically-allotted lifespans? Wouldn’t many of them jump at it? Of course, and they do, and have been for some time now. Religionists believe that the metaverse (or whatever they wish to call the whole macro-everything, including all the ‘spiritual’ bits) ... (read more)

My argument against cyronics:

The probability of being successfully frozen and then being revived later on is dependent on the following

1)Being successfully frozen upon death (loved ones could interfere, lawyers could interfere, the manner of my death could interfere)

2)The company storing me keeps me in the same (or close to it) condition for however long it takes for revivification technologies to be discovered

3)The revivification technologies are capable of being discovered

4)There is a will to revivify me

These all combine to make the probability of su... (read more)

1advancedatheist5yYou have to play a Long Game here, something I find increasingly easy to do as I have reached my 50's. I told my original "loved ones" - my mother, my father (divorced from the former), and my sister - about cryonics a quarter century ago. They all considered it weird, but then whatever problems that might have caused me tend to correct themselves with time. My father died last October, for example, and now his ashes reside in a veterans' cemetery in Arkansas. As for other "loved ones," I have had no candidates for that role so far. (Don't sign up for cryonics for the dating prospects, in other words.)
0James_Miller5y(2) was a big deal for me as well, until I got used to it. Now cryonics has become a positive part of my identity that I'm proud to tell others about. A friendly super-intelligence would easily solve (3) and (4). Keep in mind that most of the probability mass of cryonics working occurs if things turn out really well for the world. Conditional on cryonics working, you almost certainly would get an enormous benefit from greatly extending your life.
0V_V5yAssuming that (3) is practically solvable. Super-intelligence is not omnipotence. Depending on the definition of "friendly".
0ChristianKl5yCould you provide a probability value for "quite low"?
0thakil5yLess than 1%. I haven't thought hard about these numbers, but I would say 1 has a probability of say 50/60%,2 10% (as 2 allows for societal collapse, not just company collapse) 3 10% (being quite generous there) and 4 40% which gives us*0.4=0.0024. If I'm more generous to 3, bumping it up to 80% I get 0.0192. I don't think I could be more generous to 2 though. These numbers are snatched from the air without deep thought, but I don't think they're wildly bad or anything.
0James_Miller5ythakil, I have a deal for you: I offer you an extra .5% probability of your getting to spend a million years in utopia. How much are you willing to pay?
0thakil5yA fairly small amount. Again, risk aversion says to me that a 1 in 1000 chance isn't worth much if I can only make that bet once.
0James_Miller5yI don't think that "risk aversion" is the right phrase. Risk aversion arises when you would get a high marginal utility of wealth in future states in which you are relatively poor. As a result, you want to even out your wealth across different states so you buy insurance. Cryonics is like insurance in that it reduces the harm of bad states so all else being equal the more risk adverse you are, the more willing you should be to buy cryonics.
0V_V5yRisk aversion generally occur when your subjective utility with respect to some quantity X is monotonically but sublinearly increasing. In most economic analysis X is generally considered to be money, but it can be really anything else, including years spent in utopia.
0Lumifer5yRisk aversion can be demonstrated even in trivial cases where you offer people a certain payout of $10 or a 50% chance of getting $20. I don't think it's about high marginal utility of wealth in certain future states. Cryonics is not at all like insurance: insurance is about paying to protect yourself from a small chance that a bad thing will happen. Cryonics is about paying to get a small chance that a good thing will happen. It's much more akin to a lottery (as Vaniver already pointed out).
0V_V5yRisk aversion generally occur when your subjective utility with respect to some quantity X is monotonically but sublinearly increasing. In most economic analysis X is generally considered to be money, but it can be really anything else, including years spent in utopia.
0James_Miller5yExplaining my position would be more appropriate for a full post rather than a response to a response to a response, so for now I will tap out on this issue.
0Vaniver5yI think this gets into prospect theory territory: psychologically, cryonics is perceived more like a lottery ticket than it is like insurance, in that you pay in the common case to gain wealth in the rare case. To the extent that one is sensitive to losses (rather than having a concave utility function), that makes cryonics seem like a worse idea (and insurance better).
0Lumifer5yPlease demonstrate that your offer is credible :-P
0James_Miller5ySee my book [http://smile.amazon.com/Singularity-Rising-Surviving-Thriving-Dangerous/dp/1936661659/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438878040&sr=8-1&keywords=singularity+rising] for why a singularity is likely near and the implications of this for cryonics.

As someone who has read a bit about cryonics and is not convinced, I'd be interested in a summary of the arguments for cryonics. However, I'm skeptical it would convince me to sign up.

0sentientplatypus5yWhat are your main concerns?
3btrettel5yI'm not convinced that revival of most cryopreserved people will ever be possible in any reasonable sense, even if we have strong AI. Brain damage sets in quickly, so to me you have to take it on faith that being preserved when they can is adequate. Add on a host of other things which you have to take on faith about the entire process, and it seems closer to a scam than the fountain of youth to me. The entire scheme seems to be wishful thinking. I find it hard to estimate the probabilities involved with this because it's so speculative. With that being said, I gave about a 2% chance of a cryopreserved human being revived before 2040 [http://predictionbook.com/predictions/123283], mostly because I don't know what the future holds. (Note that this prediction is fairly weak. This is a 2% probability that at least 1 human will be revived. If there are 100 attempts and 1 is a success then that's enough, but the track record would be pretty bad. I don't anticipate there will be many attempts by that date, though.) Assuming I would be revived if preserved, I don't see any reason to believe I'll come out unscathed. I would rather be not revived at all than to be revived severely mentally retarded, for example. With that being said, I'm not opposed to the idea and give it serious consideration, but I believe maximizing my own QALYs in more established ways like physical fitness is much more important. Also, it's worth noting that I don't believe immortality is necessarily a good goal in isolation. If I were immortal, I'd want my memory erased every couple hundred years or so just to keep things interesting (I assume if cryonics works then this is likely possible with no ill effects. Might also be possible to reverse wiping someone's memory if they store it somewhere.). I recently had the realization that cryo might actually have some unintended consequences. I can think of one which would need to be addressed before I'd sign up: risk compensation [https://en.wikipedia.org
2James_Miller5yThe best "death" for cryo members is one where you have time to notify your provider before hand. You have an incentive to take extra care against accidents where this wouldn't happen. My being a member of Alcor in part motivated this post [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/mk0/wear_a_helmet_while_driving_a_car/].
2btrettel5yExcellent point I had not considered. I'd still be curious to see whether those signed up for cryonics have healthier habits (with respect to exercise, diet, wearing bike helmets, etc.), but this seems like reasonable evidence to believe they do. In fact, it seems to me that signing up for cryonics, even if you believe it to be overwhelmingly unlikely to work, might provide strong incentive to have good habits. I don't know if this is cost effective, but it's worth considering.
0CronoDAS5yI'm just hoping for something that will get people to think about the possibility. Obviously, you already have.