Cryonics is Very Far

Kajta is right; cryonics is very far:

Cryonics is about what will happen in a *long time* when you *die*  to give you a *small chance* of waking up in a *socially distant* society in the *far future*, assuming you *widen your concept* of yourself to any *abstract pattern* like the one manifested in your biological brain and also that technology and social institutions *continue their current trends* and you don’t mind losing *peripheral features* such as your body (not to mention cryonics is *cold* and seen to be the preserve of *rich* *weirdos*).

You’re not meant to be selfish in far mode! Freeze a fair princess you are truly in love with or something.  Far mode livens our passion for moral causes and abstract values.  If Robin is right, this is because it’s safe to be ethical about things that won’t affect you yet it still sends signals to those around you about your personality. It’s a truly mean person who won’t even claim someone else a long way away should have been nice fifty years ago.

But I disagree with what Katja says here:

If this theory is correct, does it mean cryonics is unfairly slighted because of a silly quirk of psychology? No. Your desire to be ethical about far away things is not obviously less real or legitimate than your desire to be selfish about near things, assuming you act on it. If psychological distance really is morally relevant to people, it’s consistent to think cryonics too selfish and most other expenditures not. If you don’t want psychological distance to be morally relevant then you have an inconsistency to resolve, but how you should resolve it isn’t immediately obvious.

I say psychological distance is less morally relevant than people take it to be:

  1. We think of actions as near or far depending on how they are described to us, and where/when we are when we think about them.  But the morality of an act should not depend on how that act is framed or who thinks of it when/where, if it is the act (not the thought about the act) that is moral or not.
  2. If doing right is just making good (i.e., consequentialism), then the morality of acts shouldn’t depend much on who exactly does them when/where; what should matter is how the act changes the universe.
  3. The tendency of far thought to be more hypocritical and less influential to our important actions does weigh somewhat against it.

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  • Carl Shulman

    “The tendency of far thought to be more hypocritical and less influential to our important actions does weigh somewhat against it”

    Important actions like cryonics?

  • Roko

    If psychological distance really is morally relevant to people, it’s consistent to think cryonics too selfish and most other expenditures not.

    This is an interesting suggestion. There are many cases where it isn’t clear whether a given innate urge should be interpreted as a preference or a bias.

    The position that value dependence on psychological distance should be interpreted as a preference rather than a bias seems very hard to defend. It would seem to imply that you care not just about an event, not just about an event in relation to you, but to how an event is framed or spun. You could then be manipulated by someone re-framing the same facts, and you could be hurt by information.

    For example, people are likely to help a relatively rich tramp by giving $10 than to give the same money to help people in the third world much more efficiently ($10 is one QALY in the third world, I believe, whereas the tramp would spend it in a day). But if they wanted to justify that as a preference, rather than a bias, they would have to agree that it is just and fair to punish someone based upon where they happen to be standing; people who give to tramps have a sufficiently strong commitment to justice that they would agree that their habit of donating based upon psychological distance is a bias that they want to get rid of rather than a preference that they want to keep.

    • michael vassar

      $30-$60 is more like one QALY in the third world if you believe Givewell, who seem to have done the best research. It’s only even that if you REALLY know where to shop, how to do the analysis, and at the very margin. Given to the the first charity to ask? Who knows. Still very likely a better bet than the tramp, but wouldn’t be if everyone did that. Given to the best charity a very smart person could find with a bit of research? My guess is several hundred dollars but its just a guess, might be thousands.

  • http://remnantsofthecampaign.wordpress.com/ Matt

    There is nothing far about signing your life insurance over to Alcor and setting instructions to have strangers rush in and chop off your head should some accident befall you.

    We are better at arguing ethics in far mode, of course, so it makes sense to justify the immediate gut reaction with the assumed far consequences.

  • http://rationalmechanisms.com Donald Weetman Cameron

    Frozen heads, frozen eggs, frozen sperm, organ transplants, cadaver flesh for burn victims – I am sure there are more for this list than I can imagine.

    Declare someone a non person and harvest away.

    We don’t use our alimentary canals to consume human flesh.
    Notwithstanding this, we are still consuming human flesh.
    I think we are well into cannibalism on an industrial scale.

    My point is precedence.

    My second point has to do with “contact”. Will they decide we are cannibals and wipe us out in horror?
    Or get us to play against each other by offering different menus to different groups of people whom perceive each other as enemies?

    • Luke

      I am not sure where you are going with this. Do I detect a hint of phobia towards reuse of body parts? The association with cannibalism strikes me as really pointless. Consuming deceased flesh for nourishment is very different from integrating living flesh for survival.

      On the topic of cryonics, nobody is reusing someone else’s body parts. The head (which is the person) gets preserved, sometimes along with their damaged body parts, and new body parts are grown in a vat or robotic equivalents are manufactured at such a time as it becomes technologically and economically feasible to do so.

      • http://rationalmechanisms.com Donald Weetman Cameron

        hello

        Do I detect a hint of phobia towards reuse of body parts?

        Nope : a phobia is an irrational fear.
        Reusing body parts is an irrational practice.

        Consuming deceased flesh for nourishment is very different from integrating living flesh for survival.

        Well it does sound very different as you have expressed it above.
        IMHO they are not all that different.

        On the topic of cryonics, nobody is reusing someone else’s body parts. The head (which is the person) gets preserved, sometimes along with their damaged body parts, and new body parts are grown in a vat or robotic equivalents are manufactured at such a time as it becomes technologically and economically feasible to do so.

        You/we have no idea how the brains will be revived nor how grafting on parts will work.

      • Luke

        Can you justify your statement that reusing body parts (to save lives) is an irrational practice? I mean, given that it accomplishes the goal of saving lives. I’d call that pretty rational. What specific reasons would we have not to reuse them?

  • Abelard Lindsey

    The fact that cryonics is described as “selfish” makes it clear that the objection is really about the money involved with it. People who go into cryonics are considered “selfish” because they are spending money on it that they should spend on other people. Since the perception is that people in suspension are “dead”, the money they have spent on their cryonic suspension is not “theirs” to spend for this purpose.

    As always, its all about the money.

    • Luke

      What is ironic is that there are a number of people dying on a daily basis, at a young age, due to incurable illness, who could have some hope of survival if cryonics were universal and hence cheap. These people who think they are doing the world such a wonderful service by sacrificing their lives in service of The Way Things Have Always Been Done are actually taking away the chances of other lives besides their own.

      • John Sabotta

        I laugh horribly to imagine that by not accepting “cryonics” I am condemning hordes of you materialist and reductionist types to inevitable death. I sneer at the notion that I am obliged to support your fantasies of eternal life in Singularity Village. I deny you your repulsive and base paradise! Ah hahahahah!

        Well, I would laugh horribly if “cryonics” were anything more than a pitiable fraud.

      • John Sabotta

        Incidentally, “Luke”, don’t think I don’t see you trying to cobble together a moral case for compulsory funding of or participation in the cryonics fraud. But you are SOL in this case, as, these days, there are so many thieves demanding that the State steal for their pet causes that I’m afraid that you cryonics cranks – a fringe minority at best – simply don’t have the numbers or the political clout to get anyone to steal for you.

        Too bad! Guess you’ll all have to rot in lonely graves, just like everybody else! Hahahahahah!

      • http://essentialmeat.blogspot.com/ Luke

        Anti-cryonics cranks say some of the most horrible, sociopathic things sometimes. I don’t know how they can imagine such behavior to be acceptable. I presume they are too distracted by the horror of their own impending demise (from natural causes of course) to really think about what they are saying. John Sabotta is a case in point:

        “I laugh horribly to imagine that by not accepting “cryonics” I am condemning hordes of you materialist and reductionist types to inevitable death.”

        John, you have completely misunderstood my point. Materialists and rationalists dying of AIDS in third world countries are hurt by your decision. The materialists and reductionists you are thinking about are not suffering at all by the current expense of cryonics. It is after all quite cheap by the standards of one living in a developed country.

        However, they do suffer in chances of survival by the fact that stabilizations are unnecessarily delayed because of the fact that this is not a universal standard in hospitals yet. Rather than causing certain death, you are increasing their chance of death — in other words, if there is anyone to be saved, fewer are actually being saved. It’s sort of like stabbing a person who just had a heart attack instead of doing CPR — because hey you might not kill them, they are already headed to the hospital, and they probably would have died anyway.

        Public funding is completely unnecessary for cryonics to be universalized. It also has absolutely nothing to do with the inherent morality of the practice (i.e. immorality of not doing it). Accusing me of wanting to steal your money is the about stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. The total investment required is quite small compared to typical health and retirement budgets. The only sane argument is a cost-benefit analysis. If chances of survival are small enough, you might still gain more utility by funding vaccinations. But if costs of preservation are small enough, the utility is higher even then. I’m just pointing out that the cost goes down and the chance of survival goes up when you advance to a larger scale.

        Restricting access to rationalists, materialists, atheists, rich people, etc. is the last thing any cryonics advocate wants. Unfortunately it is the first thing that anti-cryonics cranks seem to want. Perhaps this is some kind of psychological mechanism to distance themselves from the source of their phobia.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    “The tendency of far thought to be more hypocritical and less influential to our important actions does weigh somewhat against it.”
    There are some who say hypocrisy is the tribute vice plays to virtue and that it is better to be a flawed advocate of virtue than to merely be honestly base. Jeremy Lott gave something like that argument in “In Defense of Hypocrisy”. I promised to review that years ago, but never actually did.

    • Roko

      > it is better to be a flawed advocate of virtue than to merely be honestly base.

      How is preventing cryonics virtuous? Who does it help?

      Sometimes people try to signal virtue in a way that doesn’t accomplish anything other than hurting others.

      • michael vassar

        The idea that such people endorse, presented non-sympathetically, is that BLINDLY verbally accepting WHATEVER moral consensus is socially safest to endorse and attacking all who do otherwise IS virtue. Presented sympathetically, virtue is being the sort of person who most people admire most and the above description happens to be a description of that sort of person. The key question is whether you want to be the sort of person who is most admired in near mode or in far mode. Near mode doesn’t care about eventual hypothetical admiration (which is probably safer with most people, as allowing such admiration to count gives a lot of carte blanche).

        By either near or far mode definitions of virtue, preventing cryonics is virtuous if cryonics will never gain acceptance because virtue isn’t about helping, but in far mode, if cryonics wins then those who present it will turn out to be monsters and its advocates tragically flawed heroes.

    • Abelard Lindsey

      The “in Defense of Hypocricy” argument was the one that finally convinced me that social conservatism, as a political ideology, is a form of mental illness.

  • http://rationalmechanisms.com Donald Weetman Cameron

    Luke
    July 18, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Can you justify your statement that reusing body parts (to save lives) is an irrational practice? I mean, given that it accomplishes the goal of saving lives. I’d call that pretty rational. What specific reasons would we have not to reuse them?

    Because reusing body parts is cannibalism. I am against cannibalism in all its forms.
    We can do these “things of virtue” through better technology.

    Viruses and bacteria and do not need any help.

    Technology has lifted us up for millennium, and it will continue to do so.
    Playing with flesh and DNA is playing with a construct that has developed for a billion years. Playing with flesh and DNA is complicated, retards the development of technology, and endorses premature death.

  • mjgeddes

    I would have thought this was all obvious. Of course cryonics is very far. So is the ‘Singularity’. Trouble with far mode is that it’s so easy to just ‘make stuff up’, and you just end projecting your own fears and hopes on to the future, that’s basically all most ‘futurists’ end up doing.

    As soon as possible outcomes are precisely defined I think you’re in near mode. Bayesian Induction and Decsion Theory are near mode, because the implicit ontology (model of possible outcomes) must already be precisely defined in order to calculate odds and utilities.

    Far mode is so tricky because its not even clear what the actual space of outcomes actually entails – it’s all fuzzy and unclear and thus serves as a great canvas for the exercise of imagination and grand passion plays.

    Near mode is consequentalist, but I don’t think far mode is. That is, in far mode, how an act is framed (i.e. the thought about an act) does determine whether its moral or not. See above – the space of possible outcomes itself is not clear in far mode. Ergo, consequentalist (decision theory-style) calculations don’t cut the mustard.

  • Abelard Lindsey

    I think all of this discussion of cryonics and the “hostile wife phenomenon” is hogwash.

    I think the real reason for the hostile wife phenomenon is the fear of loss of control on the part of the woman. Women like to have control over the big decisions in life. For example, whether or not to have kids, etc.

    I read a blog discussion along with several media articles on the effects of a male birth control pill. One thing I noticed from one of the articles was one women (who was interviewed for the article) said she would never date a guy who had gotten a vasectomy and that it was “common knowledge” that women “run away screaming” from any guy who has had a vasectomy.

    The NY Times cryonics article about a few weeks later and I noticed the commonality of a man getting a vasectomy (without the wife or girlfriend’s consent) and signing up for cryonics. Its the same deal. A man is making decisions involving future-time orientation unilaterally. This creates the sensation of loss of control that is emotional disorientating to many women. I think a man expressing future-time orientation in anything except for bringing home the bacon is very, very frightening to a great many women.

    I think this is the real deal underlying the “hostile wife phenomenon” in cryonics.

  • Abelard Lindsey

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1251868/Of-course-women-dont-want-male-pill–end-happy-little-accidents.html

    Key paragraph:

    The same goes for a vasectomy. Most single women would run a mile from a man who’s had one, even if they don’t particularly long for children, because we don’t really like our men making unilateral decisions, whether that’s about curtains or babies.

    This mentality is the root of the “hostile wife phenomenon” with cryonics.

    I rest my case.

    • John Sabotta

      Your complete alienation from and ignorance of normal human attachments is truly impressive, and not at all untypical for this forum.

      • Abelard Lindsey

        Golly-gee, such an articulate, intelligent response. You’re such an erudite person.

  • Robert Wiblin

    This would explain why cryonics is more disturbing when planned ahead – those who try to get cryonics on their death bed (when it is a near issue) are more symapthetic figures.

  • John Sabotta

    “The essential Saltes of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious Man may have the whole Ark of Noah in his own Studie, and raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of its Ashes at his Pleasure; and by the lyke Method from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestour from the Dust whereinto his Bodie has been incinerated.” – Borellus

    So why bother with cryonics? Joseph Curwen will have ye up eventually anyway. Of course, he may have some questions to ask you.

    “Once, for example, an alternately raging and sullen figure was questioned in French about the Black Prince’s massacre at Limoges in 1370, as if there were some hidden reason which he ought to know. Curwen asked the prisoner – if prisoner he were – whether the order to slay was given because of the Sign of the Goat found on the altar in the ancient Roman crypt beneath the Cathedral, or whether the Dark Man of the Haute Vienne Coven had spoken the Three Words. Failing to obtain replies, the inquisitor had seemingly resorted to extreme means; for there was a terrific shriek followed by silence and muttering and a bumping sound.”

    I hope you have some answers for him.

    (This makes perfect sense in the context of Nieztche’s Eternal Recurrence. Lovecraft’s Providence will occur, sooner or later, Joseph Curwen will have ye up from ye essential Saltes and he will, being highly dissastisfied with Robin Hanson going on about “futarchy” when he is demanding answers about the Dark Man of the Haute Vienne Coven, feed Robin Hanson to a shoggoth.)

    So, really, cryonics is the least of your little problems.

    • Abelard Lindsey

      Are you for real?

      • John Sabotta

         Yes, you horrible little nerd.

  • John Sabotta

    The other problem (aside from the waste of money) is well illustrated here.

    http://www.empire-of-the-claw.com/Eeriepubs_html/ddemons5.htm

    You see, by freezing yourselves and becoming undead corpses, neither alive nor dead, you will become (to use the phrase employed by the essay linked to above) unearthly beings. You will join the strange procession that marches slowly towards the edge of doom and the world of darkness. And you will (as illustrated above) go where all unearthly beings live, in the (if you’ll excuse the phrase) painful fires of eternal damnation!

    Or maybe you’ll enjoy eternal life in a crappy nineties Vernor Vinge novel! Six of one, half a dozen of another, I say.

  • mjgeddes

    I found out that one of the worlld’s most famous PUAs (Pick Up Artists) ‘Mystery’ in the Seduction Community has signed up for cryonics along with another PUA friend of his ‘Herbal’:

    http://tynan.net/when-i-die


    A couple months ago I walked into Style’s living room. Mystery was there.

    “Herbal!”

    “Mystery!”

    I’m not sure that either of us has ever called the other by his real name.

    “Want to see something really cool?”

    Of course I do.

    He pulls off his boot, and from under his sock he finds a stainless steel anklet. It looks like a medical tag.

    “I’m getting frozen.”

    No way. We’d talked about it years ago when we lived in Project Hollywood, but he’d actually done it. Sure enough, his tag had instructions on it to call Alcor, the leading cryonics outfit.

    All transhumanists should become PUAs and I’m sure the donations and praise would be flowing in to all organizations (Imagine a Robin Hanson economics lecture with thousands of women cheering and throwing their panties).