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!