All of Merkle's Comments + Replies

85%? Seriously??? The near-certain impossibility of anything resembling the molecular nanotechnology favored on that page alone blows that out of the water as does the severe apparent institutional incompetence of cryonics providers.
This is nonsensical. Even if you're right, then most people who don't want cryonics are just mistaken about the probability of success. Being mistaken about something cannot be either suicidal (in the ordinary sense) or selfish, since both of those require conscious decisions. If you think a bridge is safe, drive over it, and fall through to your death, was your decision to drive over the bridge "selfish"? Of course not. It caused pain and grief for the survivors, but not knowingly. PS: What's your estimate of the probability of success for being rescued by time travellers if you make sure you die in a closed vault so you can be rescued without changing the past?
I don't expect that my friends and loved ones will experience less pain and grief when I stop breathing, talking, thinking, etc. if my brain has been cryopreserved against a possible future when its information-theoretical content can be extracted and those functions re-enabled, than if it hasn't been. So if my deciding against cryonics is selfish, it is not for this reason.

There is a helpful web page on the probability that cryonics will work.

There are also some useful facts at the Alcor Scientists' Cryonics FAQ.

The neuroscientist might wish to pay attention to the answer to "Q: Can a brain stop working without losing information?" The referenced article by Mayford, Siegelbaum, and Kandel should be particularly helpful.

To quote a discussion of long term memory and the specific synaptic changes that take place from Molecular Repair of the Brain:

What, exactly, might these changes be? Very strong statements are possible in simple "model systems". Bailey and Chen, for example, identified several specific changes in synaptic structure that encoded learned memories from sea slugs (Aplysia californica) by direct examination of the changed synapse with an electron microscope[36].

"Using horseradish peroxidase (HRP) to label the presynaptic terminals (varicosities) ... (read more)

A few comments:

1) Sign up for cryonics now. Do not delay because you think "Plastination might be better someday in the future".

  • No one is offering plastination now, and you can die now.
  • It's not clear when, if ever, anyone is going to offer plastination.
  • It's not clear that plastination, if actually offered, will actually be better than cryonics.

2) With chemical preservation, good vascular perfusion is critical. Brain tissue which is not perfused is lost.

3) With cryopreservation, good vascular perfusion results in excellent preservation by vi... (read more)

You'll need to read Molecular Repair of the Brain. Note that it discusses a variety of repair methods, including methods which carry out repairs at sufficiently low temperatures (between 4K and 77K) that there is no risk that "molecular drift" would undo previous work. By making incredibly conservative assumptions about the speed of operations, it is possible to stretch out the time required to repair a system the size of the human brain to three years, but really this time was chosen for psychological reasons. Repairing a person "too quickl... (read more)

The Alcor FAQ has a question and answer relevant to this discussion:

Q: Why haven't more people signed up for cryonics?

A: People don't sign up for cryonics because: it's not traditional, they're skeptical of anything they haven't seen work, it costs money, they're afraid of what their friends might think, they live in denial of their own death, they don't want to think about the subject, they procrastinate, they don't like life well enough to want more of it, or they are afraid of a future in which they may be alienated from friends and family and a familia... (read more)

You might want to read Cryonics, cryptography, and maximum likelihood estimation.

Short summary: if cryptanalytic methods can recover the wiring of World War II rotor machines knowing only some input-output pairs and with only limited information about the actual wiring, then similar algorithms should be able to recover the neuronal "wiring" between different cortical areas when we already have a wealth of information about that wiring plus a good knowledge of acceptable input-output pairs.

How many bytes in human memory? is a very brief article providing estimates of just that. Evidence from human learning experiments suggests that, after using a very good data compression algorithm, human long term declarative memory holds only a few hundred megabytes.

How much of that information is common knowledge, such as knowledge of the English language, memories from media such as books or television, or knowledge of local buildings and streets, is unclear.

Additional information specific to an individual could be gained from email, internet posts, and... (read more)

General advice: if you can afford it, sign up with Alcor. If you can't, sign up with CI.

If you want more information, I'd recommend the Alcor FAQs.

I should provide some context for my comments on Alcor's previous track record on creating endowments: we had just received a $7M bequest, had placed $3.5M into the Patient Care Trust Fund, and the Board had decided to put the other $3.5M into an Endowment and withdraw only 2% per annum, or about $70,000 per year, for Alcor's operational needs. Some members were feeling quite euphoric and were proposing that we ... (read more)


the Board had decided to put the other $3.5M into an Endowment and withdraw only 2% per annum, or about $70,000 per year, for Alcor's operational needs.

Have they stuck to this plan, or has the piggy bank been smashed open?

(For anyone reading this, some context: Merkle is on Alcor's Board of Directors)

There has been some discussion on this thread about who would revive you once you were cryopreserved, and how they would pay for it.

This is covered in the Alcor FAQ (which is really excellent, and well worth browsing):

Q: Who will revive the patients?

A: The short answer is "Alcor will revive them."

The third item in Alcor's mission statement is: "Eventually restore to health all patients in Alcor's care."

Reviving the patients is also required by Alcor's contracts with members: "When, in Alcor's best good faith judgement, it is determ... (read more)

I think there's a decent chance that even if some of us are revived we won't have any ability to create anywhere near the economic value needed to revive others. We'd probably be pretty useless to the future, so that if reviving people is at all expensive the people revived first would not be able to continue the process.

The probability that cryonics will work likely exceeds 85%, discounting dystopian futures, assuming a good quality of cryopreservation, and assuming that MNT is developed more or less as expected.

The usual error made in these analyses is to imagine many different kinds of "disasters", all correlated, that could cause cryonics to fail, and then multiply their probabilities together. But because all the probabilities are correlated, the resulting overall probability is unrealistically low, often by orders of magnitude.

The only real problems are (a)... (read more)

If cryonics is not performed extremely quickly, ischemic clotting can seriously inhibit cortical circulation, preventing good perfusion with cryoprotectants, and causing partial information-theoretic death. Being cryopreserved within a matter of minutes is probably necessary, barring a way to quickly improve circulation.
You write off as 0% likely a whole lot of things I would put at at least 20%, such as alcor falling apart and nanotechnology not being developed. Those things a̶d̶d̶ multiply up. I have a vague impression that "the laws of physics are reversible" is not actually true.

In discussions with a friend, who expressed great discomfort in talking about cryonics, I finally extracted the confession that he had no emotional or social basis for considering cryonics. None of his friends or family had done it, it was not part of any of the accepted rituals that he had grown up with -- there was an emotional void around it that placed it outside of the range of options that he was able to think about. It was "other", alien, of such a nature that merely rational evaluation could not be applied.

He's in his 70's, so this issue ... (read more)

Alcor is indeed a charity, both formally in the legal sense and in the sense that everyone in the Alcor community donates their time, money, resources, their names, and anything else that will help Alcor grow and prosper. The Board all donate their time, and often much more. The staff put in long hours for modest wages. And we have countless volunteers and part-time contributors and contractors who make an immense contribution. We also have contractual relationships with other companies, who are also dedicated to the same cause.

This is because we believe i... (read more)

Scenario Analysis using a Simple Econometric Model of Alcor Finances by Robert A. Freitas Jr., October 2010, provides the most recent discussion of Alcor finances.

It includes a discussion of total costs to cryopreserve members, and has references to previous estimates along with inflation adjustments.

To quote from the article: "This procedure yields: TE$2010 = ($76,520)ncryo + ($1,614)Nmemb + ($622.5)Ncryo with the square of the correlation coefficient (i.e., the coefficient of determination) R^2 = 0.77. In this formulation, each member costs Alcor $1... (read more)

While higher prices might lead to lower adoption rates, there is the opposite possibility, that more sophisticated procedures would be trusted and recommended more by physicians. Also it seems plausible that a higher degree of profitability would lead to a better marketed product.
A great read; thanks for the link.

I wrote Signing up your relatives to help cryonicists do exactly that.

Towards the end of the article it says:

Well, you’ve tried all the soft sell approaches. You’ve used all the rational arguments. You’ve pointed out all the simple, easy, straightforward reasons why Pat should choose cryonics. They haven’t worked. It’s time to try something with a bit more punch:

“How would you feel if I put a shotgun in my mouth and blew out my brains?”


Pat might well try to evade answering the question. The obvious counter to any attempt at evasion is to simply re... (read more)