We Agree: Get Froze

My co-blogger Eliezer and I may disagree on AI fooms, but we agree on something quite contrarian and, we think, huge:  More likely than not, most folks who die today didn't have to die!  Yes, I am skeptical of most medicine because on average it seems folks who get more medicine aren't healthier.  But I'll heartily endorse one medical procedure: cryonics, i.e., freezing folks in liquid nitrogen when the rest of medicine gives up on them. 

Yes even with modern anti-freezes, freezing does lots of damage, perhaps more than whatever else was going to kill you.  But bodies frozen that cold basically won't change for millennia.  So if whole brain emulation is ever achieved, and if freezing doesn't destroy info needed for an em scan, ifs we think more likely than not, future folks could make an em out of your frozen brain.  Since most folks who die today have an intact brain until the rest of their body fails them, more likely than not most death victims today could live on as (one or more) future ems.  And if future folks learn to repair freezing damage plus whatever was killing victims, victims might live on as ordinary humans.

Now there are a few complications:

  • If too many folks are frozen, the future might not want to revive them all.  But in four decades of cryonics, only about a thousand folks have signed up, and a hundred have actually been frozen.  So this isn't remotely problem yet.  And by investing, frozen folk could easy pay to be revived. 
  • Some people don't want to live as future ems. Maybe we'll just have to let such prudes die. 
  • Many people don't want to come back to a world without their friends and associates. But the more who are frozen, the less of a problem this becomes.  Sign up together with your loved ones.
  • Organizations charged with keeping bodies frozen could fail before revival is possible. But the more who are frozen, the less often this will happen, and the cheaper cryonics will become as well.  There are huge scale economies to freezing folks.

Amazingly, while we subsidize most medicine but gain little directly from that, we actively discourage cryonics, which could literally save billions of lives.  No health insurance covers it, it gets no government subsidy, doctors won't call it "medicine", and it has to be done under the fiction of "organ donation", as frozen folks are legally "dead."  And in a society that is relatively tolerant of various religious beliefs and funeral procedures, prosecutors often attack it, family members often actively prevent relatives from being frozen, and spouses commonly threaten to divorce folks wanting to be frozen.  (HT to Kerry Howley.) 

It seems far more people read this blog daily than have ever signed up for cryonics.  While it is hard to justify most medical procedures using standard health economics calculations, such calculations say that at today's prices cryonics seems a good deal even if you think there's only a 5% chance it'll work – at least if you have a typical US income and think you'd enjoy living in a future world.  In addition, you'd make it easier for others to avoid death.  It really is hard to find a clearer example of an avoidable Holocaust that you can personally do something substantial about now.  And you'd help yourself in the process!

If anyone here disagrees, do speak up, as should any influential blogger out there who wants to debate this.  You who agree, however, let other readers here know it isn't just the two of us.  The rest of you, consider saving your life!

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  • Gregory Conen

    This is one of the areas where the “silliness” heuristic rears it’s ugly head. The idea seems so “out-there” to many people that they wouldn’t even consider it, and think anyone who does is weird. This tends to increase the effective cost considerably.

    I would throw out a caveat: Organ donation.
    A healthy organ donor has a good chance of saving at least one person, often more than that. Depending on the person and the cause of death, the expected number of lives saved may be greater than one. With that in mind, it may make more sense (from a selfless perspective) to sign up for organ donation rather than cryonics. This would obviously depend on the person, and their general health.

    • http://www.ashtreehill.com Andre Infante

      So just freeze your head. Everything below the neck can still go to organ donation when the cryonicists are done with it. It’s even cheaper.

  • Aaron

    A stumbling block for me is brain emulation = immortality. A perfect model of me is not the same as me continuing to experience things. I still believe that the entity created from my brain would be conscious and a self, I just think that my personal experience as a dead person at that time would be no different had a been frozen and had my brain emulated, then if I hadn’t.

  • http://causalityrelay.wordpress.com/ Vladimir Nesov

    Gregory: you can freeze your head, and donate the rest.

  • Cameron Taylor

    An interesting one. I will most likely sign up for cryonics when I have some spare cash. Still, I am not entirely sure that cryonically preserving myself gives a particularly utility according to what I value. As Aaron mentioned, brain emulation is not the same as immortality. I, unfortunately, don’t have the self improvement capabilities to expect em-Cam to by competitive in the future environment. It may well be that I can create a greater impacting in shifting the expected future utility of the universe by actions more localised to this time.

    I’ve seen Cryonics mentioned here with some fervor. Particularly in Eleizer’s post a while back. I’m not familiar with all the reasons why the choice is quite as clear cut. Is it because the cost is trivial in resources and negligible/nil in terms of loss of life now? I’ve seen some proponents mention their plan to freeze themselves some years before they actually die, to maximise the chance of preservation. Is this an obviously rational choice too?

    I currently think along the lines of “Freeze myself. Sure, why not?”. This is in contrast to “All rational people with sane utility functions should have themselves frozen at the time of death!” I don’t see overwhelming evidence that convinces me that having a frozen Cam around for the next few hundred years is the most effective strategy for ensuring my legacy.

    What am I missing? Is this a matter of me simply assigning different utilities to outcomes or is my ambivalence inconsistent or ill-informed?

  • Joe Teicher

    Robin,

    I am interested in getting frozen. Where are you signed up?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/mporter/ Mitchell Porter

    “If anyone here disagrees, do speak up”.

    I am skeptical that it would work because of my eccentric views on the nature of the self, which I take to be a big irreducible tensor factor of the entangled quantum brain, rather than a sort of digital mosaic of classical neural bits. I suppose that information about the experience and disposition of the dead person survives in the brain, like a fingerprint or a genome but rather more informative, but that the person per se ceases to exist when that quantum tensor factor does. It seems plausible that a rough copy of the dead person could be created in a new quantum medium, but I don’t count copies as survival; only if you could quantum-teleport that big tensor factor out of a dying brain and into a new supportive physical matrix, without actually breaking it up, would you have true survival. Or if you froze the dying brain, then unfroze it and fixed it, and if it was still there all along; but it seems plausible that the freezing process is going to destroy any hypothetical room-temperature quantum condensate in the microtubules, or wherever it is that the self-factor is supposed to be living.

    However, I recognize that this is a fuzzy personal theory, more the best idea I’ve managed to have rather than something that I know is likely to be true, and so I certainly encourage people to investigate cryonics and support it; and if I had the income I might well be a subscriber myself.

  • http://www.allancrossman.com/ Allan Crossman

    Aaron, have you read Parfit? He gives some pretty compelling arguments to the effect that our normal situation (of continuing existance) is no better than the situation where we are copied with the original destroyed…

  • http://profile.typekey.com/robinhanson/ Robin Hanson

    Vladimir, that is possible in principle, but I thought current laws made that hard.

    Joe, I’ve been an Alcor customer for many years.

  • Aaron

    Allan, I haven’t, but he’s on my list. Is he coming from an optimistic standpoint (for instance, that there would a continuity of consciousness) or a pessimistic one (that what we take as continuity now is itself illusory)? I certainly do understand that the brain I have now is not the one that was here previously, material wise. I think, though, for some hard to describe reason (though Michael gave a noble try), that the continuity that is present in our current condition of our is extremely important to experiencing things. Maybe that’s just my 7 years old or so brain’s bias against new modes of consciousness.

  • Aaron

    Sorry, I should have said Mitchell and not Michael.

  • Tiiba

    What I wonder about cryonics is the pickup process. I don’t suppose that Alcor has agents at every hospital in America. I’ll skip over all the ways to die where they can’t hope to get to you before you rot.

    Also, I kinda assumed that cryonics patients would be woken up by having their cells repaired, not by uploading. I would prefer to be woken up in a way that alters me least, so I would have a chance to look at the options and make an informed choice about further transformations.

  • http://www.allancrossman.com/ Allan Crossman

    Aaron: I think you can take it either way. You can say that having a copy made (with the original destroyed) is as good as surviving normally, or you can say that surviving normally is as bad as having a copy made (with the original destroyed).

    Incidentally, he views the reductivist view as a reason not to be so concerned about death:

    “Instead of saying, ‘I shall be dead’, I should say, ‘There will be no future experiences that will be related, in certain ways, to these present experiences’. Because it reminds me what this fact involves, this redescription makes this fact less depressing.”

    From the point of view of cryonics, then, I think Parfit would say:

    * Death is not as bad as is commonly supposed, but in any case,
    * Being copied (with the original destroyed) is as good as surviving.

    By the way, it’s Reasons and Persons, part 3. In general I recommend not reading parts 1 and 2, which I found quite dull. :)

  • Vizikahn

    I agree.

  • Aaron

    Allan: thanks for the tip! Dull philosophy should be avoided at all costs, regardless if immortality is achievable.

  • http://shagbark.livejournal.com Phil Goetz

    “at today’s prices cryonics seems a good deal even if you think there’s only a 5% chance it’ll work”

    What if I have only a 3% chance of dying in the next 10 years? Is it still worth it? How much does it cost?

  • http://thomblake.com Thom Blake

    >>More likely than not, most folks who die today didn’t have to die!

    More likely than not, most folks who are alive today should die. The future doesn’t need them in society, and it’s probably not even worth keeping more than a few of us in a museum. Humans with the kind of confusion, bad architecture, and bad culture that is prevalent now will (hopefully) have no place in the future, and if you’re going to ‘repair’ all of those things in an emulated human, I’d wonder what it is that you were trying to save.

    It should be noted that I’m not the anti-human sort. I think humans today are the most awesome humans that have ever lived. Relative to humans of the future, though, we suck. And if that’s not the case, the future isn’t a place I want to go.

  • Vizikahn

    Oh, BTW, I read a story about a cryonics procedure where the patient was overweight and this complicated transportation and cryoprotectant intake among other things. I think this is a good reason to keep your weight in acceptable limits, would you agree?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p010536535125970b/ Thomas Nowa

    @Phil: For Alcor, a quick google search returns figures in the $150,000 range for the whole body and $80,000 for just the head. These figures may be slightly outdated but the costs will be in this general range.

  • Aaron

    Thom,

    I think that comes down to what form the future defrostees take. In a heavily populated human world, more humans would be a problem. But if everyone’s uploaded into a superfast computer, I don’t see it being much of a resource drain, even if their virtual social environment continues to have problems.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/robinhanson/ Robin Hanson

    Phil, Thomas probably has the right prices, but you buy insurance so that only gets paid when needed. If the insurance is priced well, it doesn’t matter your chance of death; the lower your chance, the lower your insurance price.

    Thom, stay away from my foxhole.

  • cryonically doubting

    But what if you go to all the trouble of having yourself frozen only to be woken up and tortured for eternity at the hands of an unFriendly AI?? You see, there’s a downside to the infinite wager. Indeed, this might happen even if you don’t sign up for cryonics. One day you’re strolling along with your wife and kids, content as can be. The next day the UFAI performs 10^15 serial operations, FOOMs, takes over the world, renders you immortal and proceeds to torture you for eternity. Obviously, the only way to prevent this outcome is immediate suicide. I think we can all read the writing on the wall.

  • advanced altruist

    The rest of you, consider saving your life!

    x2

  • Miguel

    I’m a supporter of cryonics. Haven’t signed up myself, since I live in frickin Brazil, so there’s nothing I can do about it now. Would certainly sign up if it were feasible (paying life insurance to cover the costs is relatively cheap, even in a crappy country).

  • Grant

    I’m not sure I see the relationship between making a copy of myself in the future, and saving my own life. This is mostly because I don’t have the slightest clue what consciousness is.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/EWBrownV/ Billy Brown

    As a 20-year Alcor customer I couldn’t agree more. Get insured when you’re young and the cost is insignificant, while the potential payoff is huge. To those uncertain about em revival I’ll add that yes, the usual plan is to revive you when biotech and/or nanotech is advanced enough to repair the freezing damage plus whatever killed you. Sure, there are plenty of things that could go wrong, but I’d rather have a 70% chance with cryonics than a 0% chance under a tombstone.

  • http://billmill.org Bill Mill

    I totally fail to understand the economics of why future peoples would want to resurrect your head out of a frozen jar.

    You claim that you can pay to get out of the freezer; I claim that future people are unlikely to feel much obligation to honor contracts to a frozen head and would rather have the money.

    This is my really serious stumbling block to cryonics: what motivates a future person to revive me? Why is it to their advantage to have another emulation in their sim world? Is/why is there a shortage of them?

  • Frank McGahon

    “If too many folks are frozen, the future might not want to revive them all. But in four decades of cryonics, only about a thousand folks have signed up, and a hundred have actually been frozen. So this isn’t remotely problem yet. And by investing, frozen folk could easy pay to be revived. ”

    “Organizations charged with keeping bodies frozen could fail before revival is possible. But the more who are frozen, the less often this will happen, and the cheaper cryonics will become as well. There are huge scale economies to freezing folks.”

    So which is it? Are the organizations going to stay in business because they have loads of customers and economies of scale resulting in too many frozen folk to revive or are they going to go out of business before they get to revive the small number of clients who have already signed up?

    I’ve commented on this before here but I’m not sure if anyone noticed or if this is a common argument but it strikes me that the fatal problem with cryonics is that it relies on technology, a smaller component part of which obviates the need for cryonics in the first place. Once the technology exists to extend life (or upload a living brain), there is no customer base for cryonics and the technology to extend life is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a successful revival (or emulation).

  • http://profile.typekey.com/sentience/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    @cryonically doubting: “Unfriendly AIs” are those that don’t care about people at all, one way or the other – you’re just made of atoms they can use for something else. Only evil uploads, crazy uploads, and 95% successful Friendly AI projects leave people alive to experience disutility. If you deliberately tried to build an evil AI using the sort of naive methods that I usually hear proposed, it would just end up tiling the galaxy with tiny molecular frowny faces.

    …I hope.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/sentience/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    @cryonically doubting: “Unfriendly AIs” are those that don’t care about people at all, one way or the other – you’re just made of atoms they can use for something else. Only evil uploads, crazy uploads, and 95% successful Friendly AI projects leave people alive to experience disutility. If you deliberately tried to build an evil AI using the sort of naive methods that I usually hear proposed, it would just end up tiling the galaxy with tiny molecular frowny faces.

    …I hope.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/aroneus/ Aron

    I think the probability of success can become low enough that the trade-off (argued by cost) for most non-wealthy people is at least debateable. But it seems like with scale, this wouldn’t have to be so nearly expensive. You could probably throw my head in the community jar for a discount as far as I am concerned.

  • MZ

    There are two problems with cryonics right now. The first is that brain degeneration starts to occur after several minutes of anoxia. Even if they can perform the procedure in an hour, that could be too long and severe degeneration has already occurred. In reality it takes several hours before all the paperwork (certifying death) and other hurdles are cleared, even if the technicians are waiting on hand in your last moments.

    The second is that we don’t know if they are doing the procedure correctly. There’s no formal training program or certification like there is, for example, in a mortuary apprenticeship, and all those folks have to do is perfuse the body with embalming fluid long enough for presentation a few days later. Who are these cryonics technicians? What is their background? The fact that only a hundred bodies have been frozen demonstrates how little practice they’ve had on actual humans. A surgical resident will perform operations on thousands of people during a residency, all under strict guidance, before they certify her as qualified to do the procedures. Even if we acquire the technology to emulate or revive people, we don’t know how well the technicians perfused the bodies.

    All that being said, I suppose that you literally have nothing to lose in trying.

  • http://www.depressedmetabolism.com/ megapolisomancy

    Tiiba writes:

    “What I wonder about cryonics is the pickup process. I don’t suppose that Alcor has agents at every hospital in America. I’ll skip over all the ways to die where they can’t hope to get to you before you rot.”

    See Rapid Stabilization in Human Cryopreservation

    Here are about 100 other blog entries on cryonics

  • http://profile.typekey.com/Psy-Kosh/ Psy-Kosh

    I agree. The only reason I haven’t yet is I literally don’t have the money to do so.

    I plan to sign up (probably as a neuro, especially since the more advanced techniques are usually available to neuros before whole body patients, IIRC, not to mention the cost benefit. (though I have heard that nowadays even whole body patients end up with vitrified brains.)) the moment I have the money.

    It is a personal priority, not one of those “maybe perhaps sorta kinda” things to me. I just really don’t have the money right now.

  • Ben Jones

    It seems plausible that a rough copy of the dead person could be created in a new quantum medium, but I don’t count copies as survival; only if you could quantum-teleport that big tensor factor out of a dying brain and into a new supportive physical matrix, without actually breaking it up, would you have true survival.

    Mitchell, you’re not going to like this, but you’re thinking way way too hard about this. The following assumes that freezing retains all the important stuff (as sounds plausible).

    I’m sure you already know that the change in state of your brain from one minute to the next is enormous. The ‘entangled quantum state’ of your brain when you go to sleep and when you wake up are absolutely nothing like one another. To the extent that you’re still you when you wake up, you’re still likely to be you when you get thawed out in Singularity Springtime. But even that’s overthinking it.

    You clearly hold a high utility value on the continued coherent existence of the bits of stuff that make up your brain, right? Or, at least, a collection of stuff as similar to your brain as possible. In the same way that brothers and sisters share genes and look out for each other. Compare the way present-Mitchell thinks about the well-being of future Mitchell. Now compare this with post-freezing Mitchell.

    Your problem isn’t your fuzziness, it’s your precision. This blog has taught me that any attempt to nail down the self atom by atom is foolhardy (ask the Ebboreans). You’ve got to accept that your self is a mysterious boundary around a piece of territory in constant flux. If you care about the existence of that self, such as it is, freezing makes complete sense.

    I think this is a good reason to keep your weight in acceptable limits, would you agree?

    Vizikahn, staying in good physical shape risks you surviving until you can actually be uploaded, so this is a false economy. Either sign up and get fat, or stay fit and buy a pony.

  • http://aidevelopment.blogspot.com/2008/12/cryonics.html Dennis Gorelik

    Robin,

    1) You are extremely optimistic with the chances of revival of frozen person.
    5% is way too optimistic.

    Because revival was never successfully tested, it’s pretty safe to assume that it would never be possible to revive currently frozen bodies.

    2) The cost of maintaining your frozen body for several hundred years is pretty high. The chance that your frozen body would never be heated up to unacceptable temperature during these these hundred years is pretty low.

    3) Even if it would be possible to revive your frozen body — what would be the motivation to unfreeze you? In 25th century it would be much more productive to clone genetically modified super-humans (or better yet — silicon AGIs) than revive hardly functional brain of Robin Hadson [~95 years old + ~several hundred years in the freezer].
    (See also Bill Mill’s arguments on that).

    I think that the whole Cryonics business is a scam

  • Patrick (orthonormal)

    Ditto on the cryocrastinating. Given my current low odds of death/ developing an uninsurable condition, and given my current financial straits as a graduate student, I’ve decided to put this off (for about two years.

    However, I do want to say that I think that some of the objections stated here are obviated for those who accept a Many-Worlds Interpretation. First, it seems clear to me that naive theories of personal identity are just absurd given MWI (recall Timeless Identity), so being revived in any future (physically or as an upload) feels no different than “ordinary” continuity of experience.

    Secondly, cryonics is the one ideal “quantum suicide” experiment; you continue existing if there’s some future where you’re revived, and you should expect to find yourself in any of those universes with the relevant conditional probability weights. So assuming that some future branch from a point where I die includes cryonic awakenings, then cryonics will work from my standpoint.

    Finally, I assign a much higher likelihood that a utopian future would revive the frozen than that a dystopian one would; so unless dystopias are vastly more common than utopias (which I think unlikely, given that I expect most non-utopian futures to end in total extinction rather than dystopia), I should expect to wind up somewhere I’d like.

  • http://neuraltransmissions.wordpress.com MZ

    As an example of anoxic neural degeneration, Terri Schiavo collapsed from cardiac arrest around 4:30 am, paramedics arrived on the scene around 6:30 am, so the severe brain damage that she suffered occurred over 2 hrs, perhaps 2:15.

    If you can’t get stabilized in less time than that, there’s not going to be much left of your brain to emulate or revive.

  • Aaron

    Patrick:

    “…so being revived in any future (physically or as an upload) feels no different than “ordinary” continuity of experience.”

    I would say that until I personally experience that, I wouldn’t be able to say that this is definitely the case, though a person who thinks just like me may say it. I believe that there are other me’s in other worlds, but I will not experience their realities when I die. Some iteration of me may be quantum-ly immortal, but I fear I will not be that iteration.

  • luzr

    “society that is relatively tolerant of various religious beliefs and funeral procedures, prosecutors often attack it, family members often actively prevent relatives from being frozen”

    IMO, this has a lot to do with major barrier that H+ has to encounter in some point of feature: “deathism”.

    Immortality is now considered as immoral and anybody who wants to live forever either as lunatic or even criminal.

    (For the record, yes, I would like to be immortal. Save your “environment” and “friends” arguments, I am eager to see how environment changes and to find new friends :).

    As for cryogenics itself, I reserve my hopes for somewhat higher temperatures:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspended_animation

    BTW, if such technology, where body wear slows down e.g. 20-30 times, matures, it could have a very interesting applications even outside medicine and cosmic flight.

    I think it is reasonable to believe that “suspended” humans consume significantly less resources than those in higher gears of metabolism. Means maybe e.g. in times of financial crisis, unemployed could rather opt to spend some time sleeping, until better times :) (OTOH, it also means less customers :)

  • http://www.depressedmetabolism.com/ megapolisomancy

    “As an example of anoxic neural degeneration, Terri Schiavo collapsed from cardiac arrest around 4:30 am, paramedics arrived on the scene around 6:30 am, so the severe brain damage that she suffered occurred over 2 hrs, perhaps 2:15.”

    This is a common error in evaluating cryonics. It is not the two hours of circulatory arrest that destroyed her brain but her resuscitation at room temperature. Circulatory arrest sets off a cascade of damaging events that take many hours, if not days, to complete. This cascade can be stopped if the patient is stabilized at low temperatures. That is the real tragedy about today’s cardiac arrest and stroke victims. They would have a better chance of recovery if they would be cryopreserved.

    See: Preventing vegetative patients through cryonics

  • http://www.depressedmetabolism.com/ megapolisomancy

    “As an example of anoxic neural degeneration, Terri Schiavo collapsed from cardiac arrest around 4:30 am, paramedics arrived on the scene around 6:30 am, so the severe brain damage that she suffered occurred over 2 hrs, perhaps 2:15.”

    This is a common error in evaluating cryonics. It is not the two hours of circulatory arrest that destroyed her brain but her resuscitation at room temperature. Circulatory arrest sets off a cascade of damaging events that take many hours, if not days, to complete. This cascade can be stopped if the patient is stabilized at low temperatures. That is the real tragedy about today’s cardiac arrest and stroke victims. They would have a better chance of recovery if they would be cryopreserved.

    See: Preventing vegetative patients through cryonics

  • Tim Tyler

    The cryonics business is a scam link is a reasonable representation of some of my views on this subject.

    Also, cryonics is for those who value their mind more than their genes. Since I view my mind as a disposable production of my genes, cryonics does not seem to make much sense to me.

  • http://causalityrelay.wordpress.com/ Vladimir Nesov

    I suspect it’s theoretically possible to restore a person from a pretty damaged frozen brain, if you put a superintelligence equipped with nanotech to the task. All you need is information, so knowing how it’s all organized in the brain, all the expected and inferred statistical regularities, both in the tissue and in the cognitive content represented by it, it might be possible to restore pretty much everything from a state that cryonicists would declare completely destroyed.

  • http://neuraltransmissions.wordpress.com MZ

    mega: While it’s true that reperfusion injury is a problem, the statement “this cascade can be stopped if the patient is stabilized at low temperatures” is inaccurate. Perhaps mitigated to some extent. That increases your window of opportunity, but not indefinitely.

    The body starts to decompose one way or another after several hours. A friend of mine who did a mortuary apprenticeship once told me that bodies start to smell after about 12 hours. So significant decomposition has already occurred by then.

  • http://shagbark.livejournal.com Phil Goetz

    “Also, cryonics is for those who value their mind more than their genes. Since I view my mind as a disposable production of my genes, cryonics does not seem to make much sense to me.”

    Um… so, are you going to have your genome sequenced and written down in stone?

    Just because your brain evolved to make you want to preserve your genes, doesn’t mean you have to play along.

  • steven

    Finally, I assign a much higher likelihood that a utopian future would revive the frozen than that a dystopian one would; so unless dystopias are vastly more common than utopias (which I think unlikely, given that I expect most non-utopian futures to end in total extinction rather than dystopia), I should expect to wind up somewhere I’d like.

    It’s not just probability, it’s probability times utility difference. It seems possible to me that living in a dystopian future would be much worse than living in a utopian future would be good. If this is true then it has all sorts of utilitarian futurist strategy implications that nobody seems to be thinking about much.

  • http://shagbark.livejournal.com Phil Goetz

    Actually, it would be nice if more smart people valued their genes. Most of the very smart people I know are never having kids; a few have one or two. Some of them, because they expect to be able to make designer babies in the near future; or because they think saving the world is too important.

  • http://everythingisinthemind.blogspot.com/ Sudeep

    Robin,

    This is my strongest argument for not signing up for cryonics.

    I don’t know how likely it is that humanity will be able to survive to the point where we have enough technology to revive the frozen. But even if there is a 1 in 100 chance, it might well be worth it for many people and also for me.

    My main concern is the following: Consider Eliezer’s talk about AI going foom. Now suppose the singularity does occur in the not-so-distant future and whoever built the superintelligent AI was not careful enough. Eliezer has asserted many times that unless you really really know what you are doing, things can go very wrong. Suppose that after another say, 100 (or 300) years, the planet is completely under the control of a malevolent superintelligence. Now, this superintelligence may according to its utility function subject the frozen brains to eternal torture. It will be Hell in reality. Even if there is a 1 in 10000 chance that the most intelligent AI on the planet will eventually become malevolent, I would die rather than risk it.

  • haig

    Forget cryonics, what if it were possible to upload yourself right now non-destructively? After the upload is complete and you continue on your merry way living your life as before, are you considered to be immortal? Should you not fear death then since you are already uploaded? Are you the same as your upload?

    So then say I sign up for cryonics and then some time in the future after my death my brain is scanned and some mind that resembles mine is recreated computationally on some other substrate. Does this make me, the person typing this, immortal?

    I can understand the need to preserve oneself. Our desire to have children, create art, or do anything that will survive our biological death is commendable. In this light, if you want to preserve your mind for posterity just like you would want your writing or your children to survive, then I see no problems with that. But if you want to freeze your brain because your trying to escape certain death, then I find that view very hard to swallow.

  • bambi

    sudeep, it could happen while you’re sleeping tonight; you probably won’t even be able to wake up in time to stop it.

    Oh, and I don’t give a crap about my genes. Why on earth should I?

  • Tim Tyler

    Um… so, are you going to have your genome sequenced and written down in stone?

    That would obviously be ineffective. Genetic immortality comes through making lots of copies – not through making long-lived artefacts.

    Just because your brain evolved to make you want to preserve your genes, doesn’t mean you have to play along.

    Of course not – but just because I understand why I want to preserve your genes that doesn’t mean I have to rebel. I don’t want to rebel.

    I think rebellion would be a sign of failure and stupidity: nature gave me a brain to allow me to preserve my genes despite environmental irregularities and fluctuations – via developmental canalisation and plasticity – so I might as well use it for that purpose. My position on all this is here.

  • Patrick (orthonormal)

    Forget cryonics, what if it were possible to upload yourself right now non-destructively?

    This sounds counterintuitive, but I think it’s exactly right: As I’m walking into the upload chamber, I anticipate a 50% chance of sitting in the chair for a while and then continuing on my ordinary mortal physical existence, and a 50% chance of sitting in the chair and then suddenly waking up in the virtual upload environment. After all, both the upload and the biological human will have continuous memory and experience of being me (otherwise there’s some property of my mental operations that’s not reflected in my brain state, a metaphysical thesis I take to be rejected); so how do I know whether “I” am going to be one or the other?

    I realize that this idea grates on our innate metaphysical sense of self, but this sense is not rationally justified. Repeat “I am not a thing that thinks, I am these thoughts” or something of the sort if that helps.

  • http://jamesdmiller.blogspot.com/ James D. Miller

    Sudeep wrote “Even if there is a 1 in 10000 chance that the most intelligent AI on the planet will eventually become malevolent, I would die rather than risk it.”

    So you would commit suicide if you thought that an AI might soon go Foom?

  • Lord

    I will sign up when I believe the chances reach 5%. I would guess that to be in a millenia or two, if then.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/halfinney Hal Finney

    I have been signed up with Alcor for cryonic suspension for over 20 years. But recently, majoritarian considerations have made me less certain that this is a wise investment. “Six billion people can’t be wrong.”

  • Robin Powell

    I’m signed up, and I consider it one of my better decisions.

    I use ACS, for what it’s worth, which hasn’t been mentioned here that I’ve seen.

    -Robin

  • Paul Rhodes

    I signed up for cryonics with Alcor last summer after learning of it in the spring and doing extensive research. I am a college student in my early twenties, and the combined fee for my $250,000 level term life insurance policy and cryonics membership is EASILY affordable: $40 monthly.

    I don’t plan on dying any time soon, but I have peace of mind knowing that I got a good deal on insurance while healthy and that I am not procrastinating on a potentially life-and-death decision. I consider cryonics arrangements be an excellent investment even if there is only a 0.1% chance of success.

    I urge anyone dragging their feet because of financial concerns to at least research it enough to estimate the cost if you were to sign up today. You may find that working part-time for minimum wage would not exclude you!

  • Anonymous

    Forget cryonics, what if it were possible to upload yourself right now non-destructively? After the upload is complete and you(*1) continue on your merry way living your life as before, are you(*2) considered to be immortal? Should you(*3) not fear death then since you(*4) are already uploaded? Are you(*5) the same as your upload?

    This wording assumes there could be only one “you”, which human intuition suggests to be true (since we weren’t copying brains left and right in our EEA), but science+logic claims otherwise. Disambiguate these you’s and I think a better understanding emerges.

    (*1):your fleshy instance
    (*2):who? your em instance is immortal
    (*3):who? fleshy instance should fear its own death because it’s a loss of information created after uploading process took place and a loss of vehicle capable of acting on that information
    (*4):uploaded is the information up to the point of scanning, then paths diverge and there are two you’s, only one of which is safe
    (*5):only at the start, differences accumulate over time

  • Manon de Gaillande

    haig: If you don’t want to avoid death, why didn’t you kill yourself already? Fear and the need to actively kill yourself rather than passively wait for death are flimsy excuses; you could choose a lifestyle that’d kill you very quickly. Isn’t it weird that the point at which you stop valuing life is so close to whenever you’ll actually die?

  • http://pancrit.org Chris Hibbert

    I apologize for not posting these responses earlier. But I think the questions are still hanging, so I’m going to respond to several things that were said or asked previously. I signed up quite some time ago. I think of it in terms of enjoying life and wanting it to continue. The arguments in favor are plausible (they were plausible 20 years ago and have only gotten more believable over time) and the costs aren’t high.

    Organ donation is seldom possible even for neuro patients. The process of preservation is invasive and toxic, and the team isn’t paying attention to saving your kidneys, so people who are interested in conventional organ donations wouldn’t want the remaining organs when they’re done.

    “I don’t suppose that Alcor has agents at every hospital in America.”
    You can still die permanently if you die far from help or at an inconventent time (like in a large earthquake) when Alcor can’t get to you quickly. If you’re in a hospital and likely to die soon, Alcor will station a team ready to freeze you quickly. (Someone gave a reference that would have told you the same thing, but you’d have had to read a lot of articles to find that point.)

    Cryonicists don’t tend to live their lives in fear of dying far from help. I’m a rock climber and a hockey player. I don’t curtail my activities to ensure that I won’t die violently or inaccessibly. There was a science fiction story long ago in which everyone lived as a shut-in because immortality was becoming possible. It’s a confused point of view. Living is worthwhile so we can continue to do stuff, and some of it requires taking chances.

    “[…] a story about a cryonics procedure where the patient was overweight and this complicated transportation […] among other things. I think this is a good reason to keep your weight in acceptable limits”

    Most cryonicists keep their weight under control because that’s the best longevity strategy. Our first choice is a long life. “Getting frozen is the second worst thing that can happen to you” is a common refrain.

    “What motivates a future person to revive me?”
    It’s a Last-In, First Out kind of thing. People are going to be cryopreserved until the technology for revival is perfected (first on rats, then dogs, then monkeys before any of us) and then a little bit longer. The last to be preserved will be the best preserved, and will have the least damage to repair, so they’ll be the first to be revived. They’ll have loved ones who were preserved before them, and they’ll want to spend the money or effort to ensure they are revived as well. The process will cascade all the way back to the earliest preservations. This way of thinking about it keeps cryonics an active community. Everyone wants to make sure that other cryonicists think they’re worth reviving.

    “There are two problems with cryonics right now. The first is that brain degeneration starts to occur after several minutes of anoxia. […]”
    Even when an Alcor team is not present, it’s common for conventional hospitals to follow the directions on your medic alert bracelet and begin cooldown in an ordinary ice bath soon after death. That increases the amount of time that Alcor has until they can usefully begin a preservation.

    “[…] The second is that we don’t know if they are doing the procedure correctly.”
    Alcor publishes detailed transcripts of all their procedures in the magazine they send to all their members. They are constantly improving their processes, and have recently cited mainstream groups that have adopted their process improvements for conventional organ preservation. You want to be frozen as far into the future as possible (if at all), but next year’s preservations are going to be better than last year’s.

  • mjgeddes

    Here’s a careful assessment of the odds of cryo working By Greg Benford from a whle back- taking into account all factors (including non-techincal factors), the odds he gives of it working are between one and thirty percent (1-30%) which makes it a fair bet.

    Cryo Article

    I agree with functionalism that thoughts are instantiated as physical patterns and the actual physical stuff of which the patterns are composed is not important for identity. Actually, I’m convinced that even functionalism is too conservative!

    I am now sure that you don’t even need to enact the same patterns to maintain the same personal identity. This because I now think that
    identity is rooted in the *semantics* (representational system)
    of the brain. You can have the same semantics with quite different functional patterns. The important point is not the physical stuff, and not even the patterns themselves, it’s what the patterns represent (the semantic net) So cryonics may be even easier than functionalists think.

    There are some probems. For one thing, what about people who are not US citizens? For another, there are legal problems in the US, having to do with the fact that you cannot be legally frozen until declared legally dead. And with only a few cryo locations, its all too likely they may not get your body in cryo quick enough.

    I should again mention Switzerland, which to my mind is the ideal location for a cryo center. It’s a highly stable, liberal democracy, and also a very suitable location in the physical sense too,and allows assisted suicide. I urge all readers to consider organizing to work towards a cryo center there (as yet there are no cryo facilities in Switzerland to the best of my knowledge).

  • Anonymous

    Tim Tyler:
    but just because I understand why I want to preserve your genes that doesn’t mean I have to rebel. I don’t want to rebel.

    That’s a very interesting position to me. Suppose a not-so-friendly AI fooms in the next minute and gives everyone a choice: either a) you are allowed to live forever under condition that you won’t be able to have offspring (suppose you don’t already have any kids at the moment), or b) you are allowed to live for 100 more years at the biological age of a healthy adult and have no more than 100 children and then be terminated with certainty. Will you really choose b)?

    Chris Hibbert:
    There was a science fiction story long ago in which everyone lived as a shut-in because immortality was becoming possible.

    Could you please provide the title?

  • frelkins

    @Anon

    a) you are allowed to live forever under condition that you won’t be able to have offspring

    This reminds me of the Greg Egan podcast Crystal Nights.

  • Paul Rhodes

    Anon,

    Why would Tim even think twice about that dilemma if his ultimate goal is to preserve his genes?

    If he chooses a) he will succeed in preserving his genes forever (as manifested in himself).

    b), on the other hand, doesn’t guarantee immortality to his offspring, so no eternal genetic preservation either

  • samantha

    Thom,

    Compared to possible intelligent beings, compared to what humans can become, who among us is “worthy” of immortality? Who is but a tiny fraction of what is possible? Every single human being you meet is a potential transhuman and a potential immortal or none are. Do you wish to be judge over relatively small ranges of difference to determine who sho live and who should die? Are you prepared to be similarly judged by your betters? Or do you see that there is no human being that cannot transcend their current condition given the appropriate technology and will to do so?

  • Manon de Gaillande

    Hal Finney: Most of these six billion people don’t even know cryonics exist. This weakens the majoritarian argument.

    Just so that it gets said: Cryonics is outlawed in France. In 2002, Rémy Martinot was sued for keeping his cryopreserved parents, Raymond Martinot and Monique Leroy, in his basement, he lost the trial, and they were killed (I think cremated). AFAIK, cryonics is legal everywhere else in the world.

  • Lightwave

    Suppose you are uploaded using non-destructive brain scanning techniques. I assume that you (=the biological you) and the upload are different entities once the process is complete. What do you experience after that? You continue living your life, and the upload ‘lives’ a separate life, right?

    Now, suppose that you’re uploaded using a destructive brain scanning technique (i.e. each neuron is destroyed in the process of scanning and the information acquired is sent to a computer which then emulates the neuron). What do you experience after the process is completed?

    I would say that in the second scenario, you DON’T EXPERIENCE ANYTHING, SINCE YOU’RE DEAD (you were destroyed during the scanning process). The upload experiences the same thing in both scenarios. Same applies for uploads of frozen brains.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/aroneus Aron

    Lightwave, every millisecond, the you of a millisecond ago dies. The synapses and configurations of the older you are permanently overwritten to make way for the new slightly altered copy and never to be seen again. However strange and incomprehensible this all is, *you are already experiencing it*.

  • http://www.allancrossman.com Allan Crossman

    Lightwave: Suppose you are uploaded using non-destructive brain scanning techniques. I assume that you (=the biological you) and the upload are different entities once the process is complete. What do you experience after that? You continue living your life, and the upload ‘lives’ a separate life, right?

    You should expect a 50% chance of “being the original” and a 50% chance of “being the upload”.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/aroneus Aron

    “You should expect a 50% chance of “being the original” and a 50% chance of “being the upload”.”

    haha. And when you ask the other who he is, they will say ‘I was gonna ask you the same question’.

  • Lightwave

    Allan: 50% chance? So in my second example (being uploaded and the original destroyed) there’s a 50% chance you don’t experience anything (you’re destroyed) and 50% chance you experience being the upload? Or what?

    Aron: What happens to a person’s experience after he’s dead? You’d agree that, being dead, a person doesn’t experience anything. Let’s say a person is killed 1 week after he was uploaded. You’d agree that the person dies and doesn’t experience anything, while the upload lives a separate life? What if you kill the person a second after the uploading completes? What about a billionth of a second? What is so special about the time of or before uploading that somehow lets you continue living as an upload?

  • Manon de Gaillande

    Lightwave: In the destructive upload scenario, you expect a 100% probability to be the upload, since you can’t experience not experiencing anything.

    Why is it so special? Well duh, it’s the time of forking! If you have two identical copies of Lightwave, you can destroy one without any qualms – Lightwave is still there, alive, kicking and undistinguishable.
    If you have two identical copies of Lightwave and you let them run separately, you end up with two different people – and killing LightwaveA is permanently destroying a person, no matter whether LightwaveB stays alive or not. However, letting Lightwave run and transform into LightwaveA is not murder; it’s normal functioning.
    As to when independantly running Lightwaves become LightwaveA and LightwaveB – we can’t draw a sharp line (“The moral of the Sorites paradox is: If you try to draw sharp lines on a continuous process and end up looking silly, it’s your own damn fault.”), but before any neural operation is completed, they’re the same person; after they start forming different beliefs, they’re different persons.

  • http://www.allancrossman.com/ Allan Crossman

    Lightwave: 50% chance? So in my second example (being uploaded and the original destroyed) there’s a 50% chance you don’t experience anything (you’re destroyed) and 50% chance you experience being the upload? Or what?

    In the case of non-destructive copying, I am not saying that one of the people will be you and the other will not be – as if there was a soul with a 50% chance of jumping to the copy. I take Parfit’s view that there is no deep fact of the matter regarding which one “actually is you”.

    Before the split, I feel it would be irrational to have the thought “there is zero chance of me being the copy” because that results in the creation of an individual who remembers believing that, and yet is the copy!

    But in the case where there is only one person at the end of the process, you can expect to be him without any such problem.

  • http://www.cawtech.freeserve.co.uk Alan Crowe

    Remembering the callous indifference to the suffering of chattel slaves makes me think that revival can go horribly wrong without AI and without malevolence. After Alcor goes bust and the official receiver sells the meat popsicles to be made into soylent green, what happens to the few that are smuggled away, still cold, by the coldly curious.

    Perhaps your brain scan is a success and your functioning em is sold on to a sadistic pimp to provide a sentience in his clade of robo-rent boys. That is probably the good outcome for I can see little use for partially successful brain scans that result in damaged em’s. They probably get sold to video game developers to use as the in-game AI for the zombie non-player characters. They writhe and scream like that when dismembered because the the video game developers upregulate the pain systems.

    Will the harrassed, jostled living of an all too crowded future treat the bit patterns of the long dead with respect? That is not a bad question. Some people worship their ancestors.

    Presumably the point of ancestor worship is that although grandfather is frail and cannot impose his will on father and son, he is a more plausible intermediary to great-great-grandfather than father or son. He gets to say what the ancestors would have wanted. I doubt that grandfather will be happy to see great-great-grandfather thaw out and disintermediate him. So my prediction is that ancestor worship will split into respect for mythical ancestors, disrespect for actual ancestors, and quite powerful social pressures to disparage actual ancestors, coming from those gain power from mediating the mythical ancestral past to the young.

  • Lightwave

    Allan: Ah, I understand, thanks for the clarification. See below.

    Manon de Gaillande, Aron: I have a question on one more thought experiment then, please bear with me.

    A person is signed up for cryonics. At the end of his life the following sequence of events happens:

    1. The person is in his bed one evening, at a very old age, and this particular night he dies in his sleep.
    2. The person gets frozen quickly.
    3. Years later, using brain scanning techniques, the person’s brain structure is uploaded to a computer.
    4. The brain emulation is finally booted up.

    Question: From that person’s point of view, which of the following happens during that time and up to the point described above:

    A: The person feels he’s drifting away into sleep. An instant later, he wakes up (as if from a deep sleep) to find himself an upload.
    OR
    B: The person feels he’s drifting away into sleep. (Up to that point of time nothing more happens.)

    Now, lets add the next thing that happens in the sequence of events:

    5. The person’s original brain is completely reconstructed using nanotech and his body is restored.
    6. The person wakes up in a hospital bed.

    My question is: again, from the point of view of the person who goes to sleep that night, does he wake up an upload, or does he wake up in the hospital bed?

    I realize that both the upload and the reconstructed person will have exactly the same memory of going to sleep, but if you were the original person that was falling asleep, what would you experience?

  • Manon de Gaillande

    Scenario 1: Definitely A.

    Scenario 2: The person experiences waking up as an upload with 50% probability, and waking up in a fleshy body with 50% probability.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/aroneus Aron

    “from the point of view of the person who goes to sleep that night, does he wake up an upload, or does he wake up in the hospital bed?”

    It’s a nonsensical question to ask what someone from the past thinks about the present. Both copies perceive a seamless continuation of their pre-fork existence.

  • Manon de Gaillande

    Aron: It’s not nonsense. Before you fall asleep, you expect something to happen in the future – otherwise you wouldn’t be signed up for cryonics. Post-fork, there is no such thing as “the person who went to sleep” – but it’s not the same thing as death.

    I am not the person I was yesterday, but I am a continuation of this person, rather than of the person the Queen of England was yesterday. Same goes for me-equivalents in all worlds, if MWI is true.

  • Lightwave

    “Scenario 1: Definitely A.”

    Manon de Gaillande: But at the point of time when the the upload is booted up, both are the same scenarios (reconstruction of the original brain hasn’t happened yet, they might as well destroy the original brain instead of reconstructing it), therefore if it is definitely A at that point, there’s a 0% chance that the person will wake up in a fleshy body later (since he’s already woken up as an upload).

  • Manon de Gaillande

    Uh, no. He’ll wake up twice. That is, each of the two copies will wake up.

    Maybe this would be clearer:

    If Dying Dude knows scenario 1 will happen, he expects to wake up as Unique Upload.
    If Dying Dude knows scenario 2 will happen, he expects to wake up as Unique Upload with 50% probability, and Fixed Flesh with 50% probability.

    When Unique Upload wakes up, Dying Dude doesn’t exist anymore. Unique Upload has experienced being Dying Dude, then waking up as Unique Upload.
    When Fixed Flesh wakes up, Dying Dude doesn’t exist anymore. Fixed Flesh has experienced being Dying Dude, then waking up as Fixed Flesh.

    “He” is a confusing word, since there is a fork. It still makes sense to speak about subjective experiences, which is what Aron seems to miss.

  • http://www.allancrossman.com/ Allan Crossman

    Lightwave, the disagreement comes because you think there’s a correct answer to the question of “who will I be” whereas myself, Aron, and Manon all deny this (I think).

    i.e. the three of us seem to agree that:

    * At the start, there is one person.
    * At the end, there are two people, both of whom remember being the original person.
    * There are no further relevant facts.

    We’re basically denying that the question has a meaningful answer.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/aroneus Aron

    Allan, I agree.

    Manon, I am not sure how pre-fork person’s future expectation (he can anticipate anything he wants to) has any bearing on post-fork copy’s subjective experience of the present and past.

  • Lightwave

    But Dying Dude doesn’t know what will happen and what to expect! My question is, what does he experience from the time he starts falling asleep onwards? Or are you saying that both scenarios will happen in 2 split universes, and the chance of you being in each one is 50/50?

  • Manon de Gaillande

    Lightwave: No, it isn’t a whole universe split as in QM+MWI, it’s a personal fork. Dying Dude doesn’t know what he’ll experience, and there is indeed no such hidden variable as “What Dying Dude will experience”, but his uncertainty is lawful, and objectively objective, like the uncertainty of a physicist who expects a detector to be triggered with 50% probability.
    Both “Dying Dude becomes Unique Upload” and “Dying Dude becomes Fixed Flesh” will happen, but Unique Upload and Fixed Flesh are separate people, so that neither has memories of the other event. So both *will* happen to Dying Dude, but he expects to *experience* each with 50% probability.

    Aron: It’s the other way around. Dying Dude *should* expect to be Unique Upload with memories of being Dying Dude in scenario 1, because, well – that’s what will actually happen.

  • Lightwave

    Allan, Aron: I experience falling asleep each night and waking up next morning. Why is it meaningless to ask what I will experience after falling asleep and being frozen, and later being revived?

  • http://www.allancrossman.com/ Allan Crossman

    Why is it meaningless to ask what I will experience after falling asleep and being frozen, and later being revived?

    In the case of forking, it’s meaningless to ask which fork will be you. You can still say what the two forks will remember and experience.

  • Lightwave

    Manon: Same question. How is the freeze/revive scenario different from just falling asleep/waking up? Shouldn’t I have exactly the same experience in both cases?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/aroneus Aron

    “he expects to *experience* each with 50% probability.”

    In the case of the physics experiment, the 50% detector prediction is evaluated after the event that would trigger it has passed. How do you evaluate which way he ‘experienced’ the fork after it has happened? (or forget the physics analogy entirely for that matter..)

  • Lightwave

    But you’re just dodging the question. “What will I experience?” cannot be a meaningless question, the same way “Will radioactive atom A have decayed after time T” is not meaningless. You can definitely say that there’s a chance of X% that atom A will have decayed, and 100-X% chance that it will not have decayed, X depending on the type of atom A and the time T.

    What is the answer to “What will I experience?” (even if there are several things than I can experience, we should still be able to list them).

  • http://www.allancrossman.com/ Allan Crossman

    “he expects to *experience* each with 50% probability.”

    I think this is really just short-hand for “he knows there will be two people, one of whom is an upload that remembers being him, and the other a physical person who remembers being him.”

    Lightwave: What is the answer to “What will I experience?”

    I think we’ve all answered this already, in basically the same way, despite some differences of wording. :)

    It’s equivalent to the MWI case where you expect some event to occur with 50% probability, but in reality (if MWI is true) the event both happens and doesn’t, and two versions of “you” experience this.

  • Manon de Gaillande

    Lightwave: “How is the freeze/revive scenario different from just falling asleep/waking up?” It’s not. What did anyone say that shows a difference?

    Aron: Huh? Once the photon has or hasn’t hit the detector, the probability is nearly zero or nearly one (nearly because you might be hallucinating it, etc.) – it’s 50% before you run the experiment.
    Post-fork, Dying Dude *has* experienced both – but not the same instance of Dying Dude. So Dying Dude should expect to *subjectively experience* ending up on either side of the fork with 50% probability.

    Also, I think I agree with Allan and Aron, but we’re just interpreting questions differently. I think I disagree with Lightwave.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/aroneus Aron

    We are having communication issues manon so should prolly wind this down. I don’t think there is any merit in using probabilistic language here. We know exactly what will happen, so there are not multiple scenarios between which we are expressing uncertainty. At time T there is 1 person. At time T+1 there are 2 people both of whom think they were (and for all purposes were) the person at time T. There is no useful statement at time T that is expressed as a probability of belief about what is going to occur at time T + 1, because we know for 100% what is going to happen at T + 1. I’ll happily read your response but think we need to terminate.

  • Manon de Gaillande

    Aron: That’s seen from the outside. I fail to see how Dying Dude wondering “What will I see when I next open my eyes?” is nonsense – if you can’t predict what sensory experiences will happen to you, why would you even want to sign up for cryonics, or claim “I’ll be alive and happy.”?

    It’s fully determined what the future will look like, yes. But the *subjective experience of becoming one person* isn’t. Just like it’s fully determined that the world will split and the photon will hit the detector in only one of them – since you will split too, you expect to see the photon hit the detector with 50% probability. You know the outside picture with certainty, but you’re still unsure about the subjective experiences.

  • Lightwave

    Manon: But aren’t the 2 events, creating and running the emulation and reconstructing your brain, causally unrelated? How can you expect (pre-fork) to be one or the other with 50% probability when they’re unrelated. What is more, they’re running the upload strictly before (ever thinking of) reviving your original body. At the time the upload is running, you’ve either had the subjective experience of waking up as an upload, or you haven’t had it.

  • Manon de Gaillande

    Lightwave: It’s not the same you! There are two instances! At each revival, a new instance is created that experiences something.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robinhanson Robin Hanson

    Guys, it doesn’t look like this conversation is going anywhere.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/aroneus Aron

    Alright Manon, I caught up on the point you were making and I agree. There does need to be some answer for the subjective experience and that’s actually a satisfying one for me. Now in our next discussion we can tackle the future of everything and the possible end of humanity. Thanks for stepping me through that.

  • http://www.philosophyetc.net Richard

    Robin – I dunno how liberally you intend the term ‘influential’, but in any case here’s a response: Cryonics and Continuity.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/hopefullyanonymous Hopefully Anonymous

    One can support cryopreservation as a better way to avoid information theoretic death than cremation, without jumping on your uncritical, fanboy promotion of em. I half suspect that you think the only thing better than “being” (one or more) em is being an em … on mars. Unlike those prudes who are just ems on some deep mine on Earth?

    I’m unconvinced that you’re uncautious about the transition from wetbrain to em(s) for any reason other than scifi fanboydom.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robinhanson Robin Hanson

    Hopefully, I based my cryonics argument on ems because we have a clearer argument that ems will be possible soon than that typical freezing and other damage can be repaired soon.

    Richard, I’ll respond soon.

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    Robin, I think you miss my point that you don’t seem to care much about whether an em would conserve my subjective conscious experience (you just seem to assume it does). I think that’s because you care much less about persistance than you do about bringing cool sci fi into reality, it seems to me.

  • Andrew

    You are, of course, even righter than you let on.

  • liam

    This is not a debate about ethics as it should be a debate about the possibility of this scientific method. To me, i value life more than anything as should everyone and i can hardly see why someone would want to die. Think about it, 3 choices, rot, burn, or get frozen with the possibility of living life as it was before. This at least gives people hope and hope is something that need be much desired in this world. I give you my words and hopefully you can take a liking to them.

  • b421u3q

    “What I wonder about cryonics is the pickup process. I don’t suppose that Alcor has agents at every hospital in America. I’ll skip over all the ways to die where they can’t hope to get to you before you rot.”

    This confuses me as well. Do people signed up for cryonics worry about the circumstances of their death? I read on Alcor’s website that the company encourages terminally ill patients to relocate close to their Arizona headquarters. On the other hand, not everyone gets advanced warning of his or her impending death. Suppose you die peacefully in your sleep, and no one notices for several hours. Then, are you just out of luck? I suppose you could have a device that constantly measures your heart rate and notifies Alcor (or another cryonics organization) in the event of cardiac arrest. Do cryonics organizations encourage any such thing? Are cryonics patients occasionally “lost” in this way?

  • Uploaded Corpsicles Corporation

    You either turn to digital dust or you turn to dust.

  • homunq

    Is there really nobody here taking the position that the deal we get without cryogenics (a lifetime, then we are survived by our works and descendents, physical and intellectual) is not so bad? I understand that such a position is suspect because of stockholm-syndrome like biases, but there are also biases at least as large and silly for me-me-me-me-me.

    I think about it this way: let me just consider the utility of the last millenium with or without reincarnation having some truth. I get almost exactly the same number, in fact slightly less for reincarnation. I think I would even get the same number if I’d been born at the start of it, and was facing the prospect of either a millenium of people I don’t know, or one of myself and those I love constantly being reborn in new situations. (I focus on the last millenium to avoid unimaginable near-infinities. I’m actually seriously skeptical about a singularity or any very strong transhumanism, but that’s not the point at debate, so 1000-2000 is a good slice.)

    So that’s my objection. Sure, it’d be fun to resurrect, for me, but is that the best use of those resources? (Even in a singularity, resources only multiply unimaginably, they are not infinite.) I doubt it. And the nice thing about death is it lets me stop being so selfish, so I can really worry about the resources and the fun, and not about me.

  • Manon de Gaillande

    homunq: Most of this falls into two standard patterns with standard answers , “We should spend resources on something less selfish.” – we should start by cutting on luxuries like going to the cinema and buying new clothes before vital expenses – and “I want to die at some point for reason X.” – why in a few decades instead of in a million years or tomorrow? Life expectancy is not optimized for Fun, just for genetic fitness. “Death ends selfishness” is a good argument, though; it’s a benefit of death we can’t emulate without dying (because of akrasia). Still, if it justifies not signing up for cryonics, then it justifies killing yourself right now.

  • Jake

    I actually started the process of signing up for cryonics but the insurance requirements have changed recently and it’s no longer possible to do any of the labwork outside of the United States (or even within NY apparently). I guess this will have to wait until the next time I cross the pond.

  • http://jaics.blogspot.com Jai_C

    re. Fork
    “he knows there will be two people, one of whom is an upload that remembers being him, and the other a physical person who remembers being him.”

    The upload and the physical person in addition to remembering being him, will each also have the memory of the original thinking or knowing there may be 2 of him in the future, ie. they will know about a probable existence of another copy, they will know of a possible fork.

  • http://allegedwisdom.blogspot.com/ Richard Bruns

    I do not understand how your belief in the effectiveness of cryonics is compatible with your prediction of a hyper-competitive em economy. Your vision of the future is one where ems are constantly being evicted from their bodies because they cannot generate enough value to pay for their hardware rental. Under this situation, why would anyone ever pay to run an em of you? You could not possibly compete against highly trained and specialized and optimized ems.

    The only way for you to be revived as a free person is if you have sufficient capital invested to pay for everything yourself, and for the legal system to respect your wishes and your property rights to that capital. The former is plausible, assuming your investments do not get wiped out in one of the economic shocks between now and the time they learn how to make an em out of a cryopatient. But the legal problems seem insurmountable at the present time; if there is a chunk of capital sitting unclaimed for the purpose of doing something to a person who is legally dead, someone will hire a lawyer to figure out how to appropriate it.

    Suppose that we found several thousand primitive hominids frozen in ice in a condition that would allow for revival. Suppose further that these people had somehow managed to accumulate, store, and protect enough wealth to pay for their revival and maintain a decent standard of living for the rest of their lives. What kind of life would they live? They would not be able to function as members of society; they would not have the intellect or training to understand or follow the basic rules of our legal and social system. The best they can hope for is to be put on some kind of reservation, a walled garden, where they interact with each other, an artificial environment, and the occasional anthropologist.

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  • http://www.FoolQuest.com/kriosgrad.htm Aaron Agassi

    Miguel, you do not absolutely need to live (or die) near a Cryonics facility local to you. Cryonics patients are shipped from all around the world. And now the logistics have just become far simpler: http://www.engadget.com/2011/01/25/federal-excess-fedex-introduces-liquid-nitrogen-cooled-biotech I recommend http://www.KrioRus.ru for the most competitive terms and pricing.

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  • Charles

    In every discussion I find about cryonics, I never see anyone talking about the one factor that weighs most heavily (in my opinion) on my decision… The effect that cryopreservation has on your loved ones, friends, and family that you (hopefully temporarily) leave behind. For anyone who has ever stood at the bedside of a loved one as that loved one passed away, you know how difficult and painful it is to let go. Even after the person has most certainly passed, you need to hold that person’s hand and come to terms, for your own sake, with that person’s passing. This takes time — different amounts of time for each individual — and should not be rushed. And the process is not over when you finally physically let go. It continues through the wake and the funeral and for months thereafter. It is the grieving process, it is natural, it is essential to emotional health, and it cannot be suppressed or mitigated by logic. It happens within each of us, no matter what science, religion, or other coping mechanism we may have.

    And so, when I think of cryonics, I am torn. I believe in it. I believe it can work. I believe we will, in the “near” future, cure aging and most diseases. We will have the medical technology to un-freeze those who have been preserved. We will have the technology to repair at least some of the damage done by the anoxia of death and the cryopreservation process, such that a substantial portion of identity and memory is restored. (even if not all)

    And yet… when I think about my family standing at my bedside, grieving as I pass, I do not want a small army of technicians looking over their shoulders, impatiently tapping their watches, knowing that every second of delay means further damage to my brain. My family will need to grieve. They will need to let go in their own time, at their own pace. And they probably will not understand, despite my best efforts to explain it and prepare them, why these guys in white coats so desperately need to interrupt their grieving RIGHT NOW to drain my blood and put me on ice. And their necessary process of grieving will be muddled and confused — because even as they conduct my funeral and bury a box somewhere, they will all know that it is empty, and they will wonder… What are we doing?? Is he dead or what? Do we let go now, or what? The potential for psychological and emotional trauma is huge. I love my family, and I do not want to put them through that.

    I really don’t care about what the future will look like when I wake up. I don’t care if there’s a super-AI running everything, or if I’m uploaded to a simulator headed for Gliese, where I only get 1 subjective year of processing every 200 actual years, due to power constraints. Whatever. It’s so utterly unpredictable, I don’t even try. As others have explained, the cost is not an issue, either. No… really, the only hangup in my cryonics calculus is how it will affect my family.

    I guess it’s all on me to prepare them for it. But I worry that it’s simply not possible, no matter how hard I try. It is my love for them, and my desire to never put them through the pain of grieving (or make it worse than it already is), that paradoxically makes me hope they all die before me. If I was alone in this world, cryonics would be a no-brainer. (haha, get it? “no-brainer”…)

  • Brevon Davis

    Thank you. You have no idea how much this article has impacted me. It is a large part of my worldview, and I think back to it every day.

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