Within the immortalist community, cryonics is the most pessimistic possible position. Consider the following superoptimistic alternative scenarios:
- Uploading will be possible before I die.
- Aging will be cured before I die.
- They will be able to reanimate a whole mouse before I die, then I'll sign up.
- I could get frozen in a freezer when I die, and they will eventually figure out how to reanimate me.
- I could pickle my brain when I die, and they will eventually figure out how to reanimate me.
- Friendly AI will cure aging and/or let me be uploaded before I die.
Cryonics -- perfusion and vitrification at LN2 temperatures under the best conditions possible -- is by far less optimistic than any of these. Of all the possible scenarios where you end up immortal, cryonics is the least optimistic. Cryonics can work even if there is no singularity or reversal tech for thousands of years into the future. It can work under the conditions of the slowest technological growth imaginable. All it assumes is that the organization (or its descendants) can survive long enough, technology doesn't go backwards (on average), and that cryopreservation of a technically sufficient nature can predate reanimation tech.
It doesn't even require the assumption that today's best possible vitrifications are good enough. See, it's entirely plausible that it's 100 years from now when they start being good enough, and 500 years later when they figure out how to reverse them. Perhaps today's population is doomed because of this. We don't know. But the fact that we don't know what exact point is good enough is sufficient to make this a worthwhile endeavor at as early of a point as possible. It doesn't require optimism -- it simply requires deliberate, rational action. The fact is that we are late for the party. In retrospect, we should have started preserving brains hundreds of years ago. Benjamin Franklin should have gone ahead and had himself immersed in alcohol.
There's a difference between having a fear and being immobilized by it. If you have a fear that cryonics won't work -- good for you! That's a perfectly rational fear. But if that fear immobilizes you and discourages you from taking action, you've lost the game. Worse than lost, you never played.
This is something of a response to Charles Platt's recent article on Cryoptimism: Part 1 Part 2
I like this post. Upvoted.
On a tangiential node, I had an experience today that made me take cryonics much more seriously. I had a (silly, in retrospect) near-miss with serious injury, and I realized that I was afraid. Ridiculously, helplessly, calling-on-imaginary-God-for-mercy afraid. I had vastly underestimated how much I cared about my own physical safety, and how helpless I become when it's threatened. I feel much less cavalier about my own body now.
So, you know, freezing myself looks more appealing now that I know that I'm scared. I can see why I'd want to have somewhere to wake up to, if I died.
Your comment suggests a convenient hack for aspiring rationalists to overcome their fear of cryonics.
Since you mentioned Benjamin Franklin, apparently when he died he left two trust funds to demonstrate the power of compound interest over a couple of centuries. The example of these trusts shows that the idea of a reanimation trust staying intact for centuries doesn't sound absurd:
You forgot the most optimistic of all:
Indeed; I think the cryonics organizations themselves have a saying, "Cryonics is the second worst thing that can happen to you."
This doesn't alter your overall point much but this seems unlikely. Aside from the issue of the high probability of something going drastically wrong after more than a few centuries, low-level background radiation as well as intermittent chemical reactions will gradually create trouble. Unfortunately, estimating the timespan for when these will be an issue seems difficult but the general level seems to be somewhere between about 100 to a 1000 years... (read more)
Good post, upvoted.
I think that your remark
assumes a utility function which may not be universal. In particular, at present I feel that the value of my personal survival into transhuman times is dwarfed by other considerations. But certainly your points are good ones for people who place high value on personally living into transhuman times to bear in mind.
Although it's not marked as the inspiration, this post comes straight after an article by many-decades cryonicist Charles Platt, which he wrote for Cryonics magazine but which was rejected by the Alcor board:
Cryoptimism Part 1 Part 2
Platt discusses what he sees as the dangerously excessive optimism of cryonics, particularly with regard to financial arrangements: that because money shouldn't be a problem, people behave as though it therefore isn't a problem. When it appears clear that it is. To quote:... (read more)
After reading Eliezer on it, I with certainty to sign up for cryonics, but I figured I'd wait until I had a more stable lifestyle. I'm currently traveling through Asia - Saigon, Vietnam right now, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia next. I figure if the lights go off while I'm here, it's not particularly likely I'd make it to a cryonics facility in reasonable time.
Also, it's the kind of thing I'd like to research a bit, but I know that's a common procrastination technique so I'm not putting too much weight on that.
Nice post, though it avoided the reason why I don't intend to get cryopreserved. That is, because it's way too expensive.
I think cryonics is a waste of money unless you want to make living copies of a dead person or otherwise have a reason to preserve information about the dead. Cryonics does not prevent the death of you, it just prevents the destruction of the leftovers as well.
What about - The SAI can reborn me no matter how long I will be dead and how poor my remains will be then?