Modern Male Sati

To most feminists, the practice of sati, where a wife is burned alive on her husband’s funeral pyre, is iconic of patriarchy’s disrespect of women. Even though the practice was always rare (<0.1%), and mostly happened in higher social castes, the fact that a society would even consider it was called a terrible indictment.

Sati is now illegal. So have we have cast off the yoke of patriarchy, just papered it over a bit, or what? Here’s an interesting clue: a large fraction (>10%) of wives today are inclined to divorce husbands who try to live longer than they via the unusual med tech of cryonics, i.e., freezing in the hope of future revival. Today at NYT:

“Cryonics has been known to frequently produce intense hostility from spouses who are not cryonicists.” The opposition of romantic partners … is something that “everyone” involved in cryonics knows about … To someone who believes that low-temperature preservation offers a legitimate chance at extending life, obstructionism can seem as willfully cruel as withholding medical treatment. Even if you don’t want to join your husband in storage, ask believers, what is to be lost by respecting a man’s wishes with regard to the treatment of his own remains? …

Cryonicists have created support networks with which to tackle marital strife. … (The ratio of men to women among living cyronicists is roughly three to one.) “She thinks the whole idea is sick, twisted and generally spooky,” wrote one man … The air of hurt confusion stems, in part, from the intuition among believers that cryonics is a harmless attempt at preserving data, little different from stowing a box of photos. … “If you have a hard drive on a computer with a lot of information that is important to you, you save it,” says J.S., a 39-year-old cryonicist and software engineer who lives in Oregon and who will not allow his full name to be used out of fear that his wife would divorce him. … A small amount of time spent trying to avoid certain death would seem to be well within the capacity of a healthy marriage to absorb. The checkered marital history of cryonics suggests instead that a violation beyond nonconformity is at stake, that something intrinsic to the loner’s quest for a second life agitates against harmony in the first. …

James Hughes, the executive director of … a nonprofit organization enamored of life extension … has chosen not to participate in what he considers a worthy experiment. “Although it’s a rather marginal bet for a potentially huge payoff,” he says, “I value my relationship with my wife.” … “If you don’t tell your wife you’re involved with cryonics, you don’t really love her,” says S.B., … who reports that his marriage is suffering and that two of his previous relationships failed because of cryonics.

The article features my wife Peggy and I:

Peggy Jackson, an affable and rosy-cheeked hospice worker … doesn’t like the militant cast of “lost her battle with,” as in, “She lost her battle with cancer.” … She doesn’t like these phrases, but she tolerates them. The one death-related phrase she will not abide, will not let into her house under any circumstance, is “cryonic preservation.” … That this will be her husband’s chosen form of bodily disposition creates, as you might imagine, certain complications in the Jackson household. “You have to understand,” says Peggy, who at 54 is given to exasperation about her husband’s more exotic ideas. “I am a hospice social worker. I work with people who are dying all the time. I see people dying All. The. Time. And what’s so good about me that I’m going to live forever?”…

Peggy’s initial response to this ambition, rooted less in scientific skepticism than in her personal judgments about the quest for immortality, has changed little in the past 20-odd years. Robin, a deep thinker most at home in thought experiments, says he believes that there is some small chance his brain will be resurrected, that its time in cryopreservation will be merely a brief pause in the course of his life. Peggy finds the quest an act of cosmic selfishness. …

The United States is not necessarily an easy place to take up the banner of letting go; we’re likely to call it “giving up,” and there is of course no purer expression of this attitude than the pursuit of cryonics. … When he dies … it will fall to someone else to call Alcor and explain Robin’s wishes to the hospital staff. “My husband has said, on numerous occasions, ‘Choose life at any cost,’ ” Peggy says. “But I’ve seen people in pain. It’s not worth it.” …

Robin’s expertise extends to the economics of health care, a domain in which enormous amounts of money are spent on experimental procedures with only a small chance of extending life. Like many cryonicists, he says he thinks of bodily preservation as experimental end-of-life medical care, and it is within a medical context that he typically introduces the subject of cryonics to his health economics class at George Mason. … In other words, while his wife says that medical technology has an unfortunate stranglehold on the way we die, Robin longs to claim the mantle of medical science for his attempt to avoid death altogether. But here he doesn’t expect to succeed, and as with most societal attitudes that contradict his intuitions, he’s got a theory as to why.

It seems a bit unfair to cast me, the author of Cut Medicine In Half, as “never give up” on med. I fully agree med has “an unfortunate stranglehold on the way we die”, think there is way too much end of life med, that docs wait way too long before giving up, and am a huge fan of hospices and Peggy’s contribution to them.  I’m pro cryonics not because I’m pro all-med-no-matter-what, but because its cost benefit seems favorable – a >5% chance of decades more life for a few tens of thousands of dollars.  And this isn’t at all about immortality, the odds of which are far lower, but mainly about more decades of healthy interesting life.

Still, I’m delighted this article appeared, and thank its author Kerry Howley for making it happen.

Added: Bryan weighs in. Tyler too.

Added 6p:  It seems clear to me that opposition is driven by the possibility that it might actually work.  If people were sure it wouldn’t work there’d be no point in talking about selfishness, immortality, etc.  If the main issue were a waste of money we’d see an entirely different reaction.

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  • Brutal. Older lifelong couples are potentially monstrous, in the cases where the reason they lasted so long is because one (or both) are willing to endure tremendous abuse, and are unwilling to consider a life (even briefly) alone. Old folks certainly can find a new mate (online senior dating anyone?), but they probably don’t feel optimistic.

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  • Albert

    I think your scenario of being de-frozen and living “more decades of healthy interesting life” very small.

    I think there are only 3 likely outcomes:
    1- ressurecting frozen patients will prove impossible
    2- ressurecting frozen patients will happen but quality of life will be very bad (lost memories/amnesia, pain, multiple handicaps)
    3- ressurecting frozen patients is a big success and you are immortal in the sense you dont age anymore, so potentially many millenia of healthy life

  • TP

    It seems to me that the selfish party here is not the one who wants to take a chance on potential resurrection, but the party who demands permanent death from another as the ultimate signal of love.

  • nazgulnarsil

    I would be unable to prevent myself from constantly making jokes about it. I would make a utility calculation that included “girlfriend/wife no longer alive” and leave it around the house.

    luckily my current sigoth was interested before we met.

    • Roko


  • Curt Adams

    How often are the objections religiously rooted? Cryonic preservation is a pretty strong challenge to the idea of a soul going to an afterlife. (E.g. what happens with a reanimation? Is the soul “recalled”? Or is arrival in the afterlife held up until reanimation is absolutely impossible? That would raise questions about the status of a few high-quality mummies.)

    • Some versions of an afterlife feature a resurrection “at the end of days” instead of a transfer to another world that exists at the same time.

      More generally, why would cryonics be incompatible with a belief in an afterlife? Even an immortal lifespan is a mere aleph-null years and much larger cardinalities are possible.

    • Most religions that make a big deal out of a personal eternal afterlife (you retain your identity and go somewhere else) also believe in some kind of eschaton so there is no real problem.

      For instance Christian denominations tend to believe in a second coming which bring about some final judgment. I don’t remember what happens in Islam but you’d similarly find your ‘immortal’ life cut short by either Armageddon or direct divine summons for judgment.

  • Jeffrey Soreff

    If we were to cut medicine in half, I very much doubt that
    the medical research needed to ultimately revive cryonics
    patients would be done. Cryonics doesn’t just require
    Moore’s law. It requires biomedical application of
    advanced technology (probably Drexler/Merkle nanotech).
    If the funding of medicine were cut in half, where will the funding
    for discovering in detail which neural connections do what
    come from?

    • Carl Shulman

      That requires some contesible claims about either the marginal returns on medical research at a given time (would we get more progress on cancer with ten times the current number of researchers for the next year, or twice the researchers for five years? Think about background technologies advancing, serial steps in research, etc.) or in political economy (we eliminate medical research almost entirely to reallocate money to low-value medical procedures).

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        Carl, I appreciate the response, but I’m not quite following you. I’m concerned that both public and private funding for biomedical research is largely motivated by the prospect of medical applications, and that drastic cuts in the applications would be likely to also cut the research. I think that you are suggesting that the funding for the two can be considered as independent policy knobs. Your “political economy” comment sounds like a description of a direction that the settings on these fundings could be changed under the constraint of a fixed total budget. Is that what you meant?

        My worry is that these knobs are probably not independently tunable. If a dozen recent oncology drugs get removed from a national formulary as having too low a benefit/cost ratio, getting research done for the next candidate is going to get harder. I’m also not too sanguine about certain background technologies advancing if the medical funding environment is cut back sharply. If the technologies are generic, and apply outside of medicine (e.g. nanoscale fabrication), then a medical cutback won’t affect them. If, however, they are somewhat more narrowly targetted (e.g. biochemical probes) then they may well be stopped by a cutback.

        My apologies if I’m misreading you and critiquing a straw man.

      • Jeff Soreff, I share your concern and I apply it to bubbles that overcapitalize biotech (may be good from a life extension perspective).

  • John Judge

    The “Modern Male Sati” title and intro is more than a little over-the-top. I don’t know Robin or his wife, but I’d hazard a guess that she wouldn’t begrudge him a few extra decades of ordinary, natural life… say if she died at 60, I doubt she’d mind if he continued to live until 80.

    If someone has a problem with their spouse or partner outliving them in general, then the analogy to sati holds. But if the problems are specific to cryonics, then there’s really nothing whatsoever in common with sati. It may be hard for a believer in cryonics to understand, but if their spouse doesn’t believe it’ll work (or believes the likelihood is extremely small), then the opposition can’t have anything to do with denying their partner extra life.

    If I oppose my wife’s plan to spend lots of her income on lottery tickets, that in no way implies I support a patriarchy that denies women the right to have large sums of money. It doesn’t even mean I wouldn’t be happy if my wife had large amounts of money… our disagreement would be purely about the utility of lottery tickets as a way to achieve wealth. To a non-believer, cryonics presumably looks a lot like the lottery: the cost-benefit seems extremely unfavorable because the odds of success are deemed to be zero or extremely low.

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      But if the problems are specific to cryonics, then there’s really nothing whatsoever in common with sati.

      Nothing? Don’t both involve a reduction in the spouse’s life expectancy due to an excessively high temperature? 🙂

  • To go somewhat off topic, I think another of the reasons that people dislike cryonics is our intuition that immortality should have to be earned. It isn’t something that a person is automatically entitled to. I’ll be frank, the thought of certain people existing forever fills me with horror. And good number of the cryonics advocates I’ve read (not Robin) do seem to vastly overestimate how wonderful they are.

    Our intuitions seem as follows:

    1. Once someone comes into existence they have a right to a certain term on the earth, not to be killed etc, even if we don’t like them. But if they are assholes, let’s face it, we really do want them to die off eventually.

    2. Also, it seems a lot more acceptable to prevent a bad or obnoxious person from coming into existence in the first place, than to kill off bad or obnoxious people who already exist.

    • I think another of the reasons that people dislike cryonics is our intuition that immortality should have to be earned. It isn’t something that a person is automatically entitled to.

      That’s a thought that wouldn’t have occurred to me on my own, and it makes a lot of sense. If you think of immortality as something that only legendary heroes from novels are supposed to get, rather than as a human right everyone is being deprived of, then cryonicists are hugely overreaching their appropriate tribal status and will get huge amounts of flak from the appropriate instincts.

      • Agree this is interesting. Also supported by Peggy’s explanation of her position, ‘I see people dying All. The. Time. And what’s so good about me that I’m going to live forever?”…

  • I agree with @Albert. What are the details of Robin’s most-likely scenario (>5%) for cryonics giving him a few more decades (but that’s all!) of quality life?

    • Roko

      I think Robin is engaging in propaganda. No way are you going to get decades of extra life from cryo. Either none or effectively infinity.

      • tim

        What, no significant difference in the probability of reviving people from cryo vs. the human race surviving beyond the end of the universe? Get real. The first problem is utterly trivial compared to the second.

    • Infinity is a very long time. Nothing you can imagine is remotely close.

      • Jess Riedel

        Sure, but conditional on someone being reanimated after being cryo-preserved (or whatever the verb is), the chance that they live only a few decades seems very small. It should basically be the same as the chance that there is an existential-ish event.

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        >Nothing you can imagine is remotely close.

        Could we use the difference in present value as the metric, and call a present value of a long, finite life within 1% of the present value of an infinite life as being remotely close? 🙂

    • vinc

      Well, one scenario would be that by 2100 or 2200 nothing resembling what we currently think of as human is left anywhere. Robin dies in 2030, is revived in 2050, and lives for the few decades until the ems take over/AIs take over everything/genetic engineering renders conventional humans obsolete/civilization is destroyed in any of a dozen ways/we get hit by the Great Filter/etc.

  • Robert Koslover

    Really? You mean the main objections aren’t simply about money?? I can fully appreciate money-related objections, i.e., that if you invest money in being preserved (an investment which carries a very considerable risk of no return at all), then you are taking that money away from other things that you, as a couple, could/could have spend it on during your conventional lives, including leaving it to your children after you die. Except for those with specific religious objections (no shortage of those, I suppose), I would have thought that disagreements about whether to pursue cryonics or not would thus stem primarily from differing opinions regarding the worthiness of taking on the financial risk. What else am I missing here?

    • JamieNYC

      Unfortunately, I don’t think that explains it. Think of a hobby a man may have. It’s costs money, keeps him away from his family, and after he dies, it’s all for nothing. True, some spouses complain about hobbies, but not so vehemently.

      I really wonder what’s at work here. This makes for a very unpleasant reading (as the first commenter said – “brutal”).

      Disclosure: I’m not a subscriber to cryonics services. I don’t feel identity with a person who would be frozen and then revived after a long period of time. May be I’ll change my mind one day, who knows?

      • Abelard Lindsey

        Thats funny. Because I actually consider the money issue to be the ONLY legitimate opposition by a spouse or other family members. If I am married and or have a family, I consider their well-being when I’m not able to provide for them to be my number one priority. In practice, this means I have several insurance and other asset provisions so that my wife is well taken care of, financially, in the event of my deanination, but that I also get cryonic suspension. This is a reasonable POSITIVE-SUM solution that should be acceptable to all parties.

        I have absolutely zero tolerance for those whose objections to cryonics has nothing to do with money.

      • “I have absolutely zero tolerance for those whose objections to cryonics has nothing to do with money.”

        What does tolerance have to do with it. In a rational world, you learn what you can about the feelings, objections, thoughts someone has about something, even if it is one of your own golden calves, and you proceed rationally from there.

        The whole Rationalist == Cryonics thing has me recognizing the extent to which rationalism can be just another tribe/religion.

    • Why don’t the wives want cryonics for themselves? Why is it always the husband?

      Anyway, that aside, the reason the wives are angry about it isn’t just the financial selfishness that might be involved or moralistic issues but that if the husband believes in cryonics and loves his wife, he would prevail on her to get with the program. At more than a single level, the wife resents his indifference to her welfare.

  • KrisC

    The observation that some people view cryonics as a way to arrange an alternative future life as a result of dissatisfaction with a current life is insightful. This opinion though seems fundamentally flawed.

    Comparing life to a rollercoaster: if I don’t like my first rollercoaster ride, why would I get in line for another?

    • gwern

      Your analogy isn’t much better; what rollercoaster is constantly changing, can change *dramatically* over the course of a single ride, and has improved significantly over the last few rides?

  • Quentin

    The article claims that men outnumber women in cryonics 3-to-1, and I therefore suspect that the majority of spouses who object are on the female side. When a woman claims that using cryonics is selfish, she doesn’t mean that its selfish of arbitrary person in general – she is accusing YOU of being selfish with respect to HER. In what way, you might ask? If not for the direct objections of many, I’d wager that it is more about her sense of entitlement and significance in his life, which is threatened by the prospect of a permanent or much longer life on his part.

    I have had conversations with people of both sexes about this topic because gender relations and their differences of opinion are of great interest to me. What follows below is the patchwork I have stitched together of the true female objections to a mate undergoing cryonic suspension.

    I believe many women have a constant low-level hatred of men at a conscious or subconscious level and their narcissistic quest for entitlement and significance begrudges him any pursuit that isn’t going to lead directly to producing, providing, protecting, and problem solving for her. It would evolutionarily be in her best interest to pull as many emotional and physical levers to bend as much of his energies toward her and their offspring as she can get away with and less away from himself. That would translate as a feeling of revulsion toward cryonics that is visceral but which she dares not state directly to avoid alerting her mate to her true nature.

    She doesn’t want him to live for decades, centuries, or millenia more in a possibly healthier and more youthful state where he might meet and fall in love with new mates. She doesn’t want her memory in his mind to fade into insignificance as the fraction of time she spent with him since she has died to be a smaller and smaller fraction of his total existence; reduced to the equivalent in his memory of an interesting conversation with a stranger on the sidewalk one summer afternoon. She doesn’t want him to live for something more important than HER.

    So why not just insist she join him in cryonic suspension? Many of these same wives and girlfriends hate their life even when they are succeeding. Everyone is familiar with the endless complaints, tears, and heartache that make up the vast majority of the female experience stemming from frustration of her hypergamous instinct to be the princess she had always hoped to be and from resentment of his male nature, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. She thinks: “He wasn’t sexually satisfying! He isn’t romantic enough! He never took me anywhere! He didn’t pay attention to me! Our kids aren’t successes! We live in a dump! His hobbies are a waste of time and money! My mother always told me I can do better, and his mother will never stop criticizing me! I am fat, ugly, unsuccessful, old, tired, and weary of my responsibilities, idiosyncrasies, insecurities, fears, and pain. My life sucked but at least it could MEAN something to those most important to me.” But if they are around for too long it shrinks in importance over time.

    She wants you to die forever because she hates what you are. She wants to die too, because she hates what she is. She wants us all to die because she hates what the world is and has meant to her.

    With some of the details changed the men who object to their mate undergoing cryonics probably boils down to the same principles of jealousy and fear of insignificance. Personally, if I had a mate who objected strongly I would tell them it was too bad and do it anyway. If they made direct moves to prevent me from doing so it would be better off to lose them and be with someone more supportive of what I believe in and hope for.

    • nazgulnarsil

      the baisc hypothesis here being that women don’t hate themselves enough to kill themselves but do hate themselves enough to allow themselves to die when an alternative is presented. I don’t think this can be tested without civil rights violations.

    • Mitchell Porter

      “She doesn’t want him to live for decades, centuries, or millenia”

      Well, I haven’t done any field research on the topic, but this attitude requires that the spousal critic of cryonics thinks it has some chance of working. And I would have thought that most of them just do not believe it’s possible – that it’s a sad waste of time and money which distracts you from making the most of the only life you do have, etc. If the skeptical spouse makes some negative comments regarding the morality of cryonic suspension or the desirability of extended life, that may simply be an attempt to engage with their partner’s point of view. It doesn’t mean they accept the premises of the discussion as remotely plausible.

      • JRF

        Even if the wife believes cryonics has 0 probability of working she could still resent the *desire* to go on without her. Especially if the spouse spends significant time discussing and hypothesizing about the subject.

      • dbachmann

        I would have said the same.
        Engaging in cryonics makes you unattractive to your spouse not because they think it might just work, but because YOU think it might work, and your jumping at this possibility reflects badly on your character and your ability to live in the here-and-now.
        “You want to live for millennia as a revived personality program in some virtual Eden? Sure, go and have your head frozen then, I don’t see how you can bear to spend another day with us mere mortals.”

    • Abelard Lindsey

      This is, by far, the best explanation I have heard of for the hostile attitudes that many wives and women, in general, have towards cryonics.

      • Mitchell Porter

        I would have hoped for more wisdom from someone using your alias. Such understanding of women as Quentin may possess appears to be distorted almost towards fanatical contempt, and I would attribute this to (i) frustration at failing to find women who share his outlook, goals, intelligence or whatever (ii) a very strong investment in the idea that cryonics can work, will work, must work.

        I have often wondered whether the surname of your character (from Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix) is a tribute to the Scottish fantasist David Lindsay, who published his own book describing a voyager through posthuman landscapes, back in 1920. I happen to be studying that work right now, trying to formulate the literal meaning of its allegories, the better to judge its philosophy. That’s work in progress so I can’t just tell you its lessons plainly. But compared to these present discussions about male and female nature, I think it goes deeper in its allegorical way. Men theorizing about women here seem to care mostly about (1) the conditions under which women will have sex (2) what women want from men in a relationship (3) why so few women support cryonics, life extension, or various other male-majority ventures. I think it’s time there was some comparable scrutiny regarding the male ego, the male will, and its relationship to life and reality. In David Lindsay’s allegory, women are pleasure-seekers, but so are men, and both are thereby in denial of reality. Ultimately he has an austere gnostic outlook to convey, with the ethical ideal a sort of warlike bodhisattva, helping everyone to rediscover the heroism of facing reality… I’m still figuring it out, I don’t 100% endorse it by any means. But I would recommend Lindsay’s 1920 novel to anyone who wants to take the analysis a little further.

      • Abelard Lindsey

        Mitchell Porter,

        Abelard Lindsey does indeed come from Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix. You seem to be the first to have figured this out. Do remember that the character does choose immortality at the end of the story. I relate to the character because he bounces around from city-state to city-state, and plays a role in creating a new city-state near the end of the novel. Like the character, I have also bounced between U.S. and Asia (lived in Asia 10 years) and was involved in two start-ups in Asia (one in Taiwan and the other in Malaysia).

        As for the women, I am not embittered in the way Quentin is. However, the socio-biology of women that he describes is very real, at least with regards to Western women (East Asians are somewhat different). I was in the dating game in SoCal (prior to my Asia life) and I can tell you that the sociobiology of women being hypergamous and always seeking the alpha-male stud is absolutely spot-on.

        I will also tell you that I have been in the cryonics/life extension scene for over 20 years. It is in my blood and is my passion in life. Of course I would never have anything to do with any philosophy or worldview that is critical of healthy life extension.

    • Roko

      I suspect that there is truth in what you say, though I think it could be said in a form that is more true; I suspect that you could paint a picture like this that had fewer details and therefore applied to more cryo-wives.

      For example, I think that many manifestly non-self-hating women would probably also object to hubby-cryo, and I think that the most important reason for this phenomenon is a quite fundamental block against nonconformity that women have, combined with lower understanding of technical subjects and higher understanding of human motivations.

      • echotronich

        So a gay cryonicist would be less likely to have problems with his husband?

      • Abelard Lindsey

        Actually, there are a disproportional number of gays involved in cryonics. Some of them have played key roles in the development of the field. And, yes, they do not experience the “hostile spouse syndrome” as often as married heterosexual members.

        Also, since gays do not have kids. The “stealing the future from the kids” issue does not apply to them (same for heterosexual who do not have kids either).

    • Roko

      Also: yes, female hypergamy. You’re clearly way above average in seeing gender differences clearly, which I find extremely rare (even in these circles).

    • Abelard Lindsey

      For anyone who doubts this explanation and the underlying socio-biology of most women, I recommend the Roissy blogosphere starting with Roissy himself:

      • curious

        and for anyone who buys this explanation and the “underlying sociobiology of most women,” i recommend a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. seriously, you’re kind of making me sad. and i tend to score very low on empathy, so that’s really saying something.

      • Abelard Lindsey

        and for anyone who buys this explanation and the “underlying sociobiology of most women,” i recommend a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. seriously, you’re kind of making me sad. and i tend to score very low on empathy, so that’s really saying something.

        Testability, my friend. If Roissy and others are correct about the sociobiology of women, then “Game” should work. If they are incorrect, then “Game” should not work.

        Guess what, dude?

        “Game” works in the vast majority of the cases. It works even in cases where the women know full-well that they are being “Gamed”. These kind of women simply cannot control their socio-biological instincts.

      • curious

        promoters of “game” have somehow managed to package a trivial truth–that visible, palpable desperation is unattractive–as if it’s some kind of magical secret. frankly, it blows my mind that a large group of men was willing to pay a bunch of wannabe-gurus to tell them something so ridiculously obvious. of course “game” works, when you realize that’s all it is.

        but if you’re going to try to pass off some deep psychological grasp of the other sex, i’m going to laugh and point out that your “test” doesn’t bear any relation to your hypothesis. to claim that you understand women’s minds and motivations because a guy who has some confidence (or can fake it) is more successful at flirting girls into bed is like saying you understand automotive mechanics because you know how to start a car by turning the key in the ignition. dude: spare us your insight.

      • anon

        promoters of “game” have somehow managed to package a trivial truth

        Since this blog is called Overcoming Bias, I have to point out that you are projecting. Unless you have studied the claims of “game” promoters in reasonable detail, you should not trust your intuition of these claims as trivialities. How can we be sure that you aren’t just dismissing many important details which you’re not keen to think about?

      • curious: Try repackaging most of the game talk in a less contentious/judgemental tone. For instance instead of saying women are attracted to men who neg them reword it as, pretty women like prefer men who are confident enough to speak their mind over the usual eager to please flatterers. There are a lot of valid, if fairly mundane and widely observed, psychological generalizations in the game stuff and it is reasonable to assume it is the result of fairly simple evo psych considerations of mate selection (simplest theory and all)…evo psych just has a bad name because it’s so easy (as the game people also do) to fudge it to justify your sexist/racist/etc theory.

        Abelard Lindsey: Success in dating isn’t the same as robust scientific experimentation. It’s quite plausible, indeed likely in my opinion, that many of the explanations proferred by the game afficianados as to why various tricks works are complete BS and much of the expertise is simply accumulated empirical wisdom. I think some of the evo psych stories the game people defend are mostly right but I bet it will turn out that others are total BS.

        However, there is some truth to the criticism in that people with sufficient natural social skills intuitively realize that it’s important to signal that you aren’t the kind of person who is really into that game stuff for both life and dating success.

        curious: The propositional content of the game theory is fairly basic I’ll admit but ultimately the people who are into this are trying to master an art not understand a scientific theory. It’s really easy to SAY that you need to project confidence and high status or that your body language.

        Indeed, we have good reasons to believe that mastering effective pickup tricks MUST be quite difficult or biological and social evolution would have made them virtually universal.

        Finally just as a bit of explanation to the game people as to why their theory generates such a negative response it’s because the monomaniacal focus on using evo psych and little psych tricks to manipulate EXCLUSIVELY women for the purpose of sex suggests an underlying sexist attitude. Indeed, many game afficianados seem to particularly driven to conceptualize women and only women as shallow, sexually conniving creatures that can be easily manipulated using mental tricks. It’s not that it’s not true, it’s the glaring lack of recognition that it’s equally true of men.

        I mean the lack of interest in using the same tricks to get the guys at the gym to think you’re cool or to impress people in a job interview reveals a level of resentment/insecurity about women they wish to compensate/remedy and the constant need to push home the shallow sounding evo psych hypothesises about female behavior comes off as anti-woman though it’s motivation is largely simple ego protection (it doesn’t mean anything that women only like me when I use my tricks they are shallow anyway).

      • Has it occurred to anyone that game may work on some significant minority of women, but that it has little to say about women in general?

        Nightclubs, large concerts, raves, riots, and mass political rallies all “work” in that they attract lots of people and can repeatably be used to create certain behaviors in those people. Every one of those venues is repulsive to me, and indeed, there are probably very few people indeed who are attracted to all of them. Does it make sense to make deep statements about the motivations of all human beings by reference to what must be happening in each of these venues?

      • mjgeddes

        Hey curious, did you know:

        ‘The speed of light is independent of the motion of the source, the laws of physics are the same in all reference frames, and gravity is locally equivalent to acceleration’?

        That’s relativity theory in its entirely. ‘simple’ no?
        Only in retrospect and only to sometime with some natural talent in grasping physics. Same with the game stuff. Ideas may sound pretty basic in retrospect, but the thoughts would never have occurred to most people without a lot of experience. To someone with strong social skills it may seem ‘obvious’. But most people don’t have strong social skills. Certainly it was all news to me.

        Case in point, you have the basics of ‘game’ wrong, and obviously don’t understand it. The basic idea is captured by the three male archetypes Robin Hanson mentioned:


        and ‘game’ is about mimicking the behaviours of these three personality archetypes.

    • Raven Morris


      The 3 to 1 ratio means that 25% of MALES are the ones with OBJECTIONS to cryonics. That is not a small group of people, and it entirely disproves your rampantly sexist hypothesis.

      Any time you give blanket statements like that about a particular gender, and you’re not talking about gender-related anatomy, you are merely stereotyping, generalising, being sexist.

      The differences between males and females when it comes to cryonics is merely the same societal differences which puts few women into most high-tech fields. Find me a community of males and females that grew up the same without enduring social biases, and I’ll show you a group of people with equal opinions on cryonics versus natural death.

  • Hal

    I am lucky that my wife is fully on board with it. She has relatively “male” attitudes in many areas, very hard-headed and practical. I in turn have some “female” traits, being adaptable, unassertive and empathetic. We share a common vision and have grown closer over 30 years of marriage.

    Since I was diagnosed with ALS a year ago, we have met others with the disease, and four of them have died. Two went through hospice. But my wife’s attitude is very much “life at any cost”. It has gotten to where she is paranoid about hospice and upset that society makes it so easy for people to choose death. Everything on this topic is focussed on how to facilitate death. I have been encouraged countless times to fill out a living will and DNR (do not resuscitate). I always want to ask, where’s the DR (do resuscitate) form? I guess that’s still the default. Hopefully.

    This positive attitude towards death makes me wonder how society will react if and when medicine cures aging and death? Naively I would have expected it to be a cause for rejoicing. But I wonder if Peggy’s perspective might not be more influential, and the response would be overwhelming guilt. That is what I see as behind her rejection of cryonics, that she would feel guilty and unworthy of surviving when everyone else has faced death.

    • I think of rationalism as a bringing in to neo-cortical consciousness a lot of the mammalian brain emotional programs which we all share with each other, dogs, rabbits (to a lesser extent) and chimps (to a greater extent).

      In this context, the identification of rationality with
      1) Life Extension
      2) Game
      are strikingly strange. It seems to me clear enough that two of our strongest mammalian-emotional drives are to stay alive and to get laid. And yet it seems in the rationalist community that without irony the “correctness” of the conclusions reached from what are clearly just instinctive inborn emotions is not only unquestioned, but in an ironical twist, the neo-cortex is put blindly in the service of these mammalian emotions.

  • Anne

    Well, as a woman, I do have the exact same gut reaction. I’d never want to be involved with a guy who wanted this. It just seems horribly inappropriate and wrong, and no it’s nothing to do at all with throwing away the money, I mean I would rather not throw away money but I could be with a guy who spent money foolishly without these strong feelings.

    I don’t know that I can exactly explain why I find this so distasteful, but it’s a very instinctive recoil. And I’m not religious and do not believe in any afterlife. It’s sort of like being with a cannibal, even a respectful cannibal who would not think of harming anyone in order to eat them would not be a mate I would ever want.

    • Jess Riedel

      I would really like to know if you could get at the root of these feelings. As a guy, I really can’t relate. At worst, I might think of a potential wife who was interested in cryonics as weird.

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      I’d also really appreciate if you could elaborate.
      “inappropriate” is a term that always creeps me out, because it says that
      something is objectionable with no statement of what the objection is.
      I could understand an economic objection – cryonics is certainly a
      long shot. The skeptics might even wind up being right is all cases…
      I could understand (though not agree with) a religious objection.
      I don’t understand an instinctive recoil. Cryonics is unnatural – but so
      is all of modern life, from silicon chips to vaccinations to chlorinated
      tap water.

    • What would you think of a man with extreme distaste for any wife who wouldn’t die on his funeral pyre?

    • Rob

      I’m a dude who totally shares Anne’s intuitive repugnance. I would no more get romantically involved in a long-term relationship with a women who’s into cryonics than, as an atheist, I would ever again with a Christian, and for essentially the same reason: an inordinate investment in hope for an afterlife.

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        an inordinate investment in hope for an afterlife.

        I have to admit, part of my motivation for maintaining my Alcor membership isn’t so much the chance of being successfully revived (at best, perhaps 10%, at worst, perhaps a chance in a million) as the fact that it lets me signal dissent from both the Christian and the Deep Green theologies. Its a modest expenditure to tell the first that I don’t believe in their souls, and to tell the second that I only count the biosphere as worthy of my interest if I’m in it.

      • Rob

        Jeffrey: I can well appreciate your dissent from Christians’ belief in souls, though I think its expression is misguided. But I can’t fathom how it can be admirable or a source of self-respect to give expression to such a value-solipsistic regard for the biosphere. Wouldn’t the right thing be to reallocate the disposable income from Alcor to endeavors which promote the idea that the biosphere has value that is independent of your mere existence?

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        Rob, as I said, I dissent from the Deep Greens: The biosphere is only of value to me while I get to use it. I am, after all, making a choice about my

        expenditures. Now, there are a certain amount that I allocate to public goods – while I am there to receive the benefits of mutual cooperation. A dead man, however, benefits from neither nature nor deities, nor nation, nor children, nor wealth, nor fame. Après moi le déluge. If I was going to reallocate my funds from my Alcor membership to something else, it certainly won’t be to anything with merely post-mortem effects.

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        ‘scuse the missing close-tags in the previous append

      • Brian 2

        an inordinate investment in hope for an afterlife

        Would you feel the same way about a woman who donated to anti-aging research, or to a foundation researching brain scanning and emulation?

        And really, “inordinate”? Compared to how much people spend today for treatments which at best keep themselves or loved ones alive for a few extra months or years, I have a hard time seeing that as a real objection.

    • Brian 2

      Ditto what Jess said. Most of the time when I disagree with somebody I can at least see where they’re coming from, but here I really can’t. Do you believe its fundamentally wrong to live too long? Presumably medical research is ok. Are you offended at the idea that your partner can conceive of a meaningful life without you? Presumably you wouldn’t insist that he kill himself if you were to die…

    • John Maxwell IV

      “It’s sort of like being with a cannibal, even a respectful cannibal who would not think of harming anyone in order to eat them would not be a mate I would ever want.”

      Where does the vampire from Twilight fit in to this?

      I’d love to meet such a cannibal, and become friends with them to signal my open-mindedness, tolerance, and rejection of conventional thinking.

      Tyler is probably right that most people interested in cryonics are the ones who want to signal the characteristics that it signals. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

      • Vampires, like certain gay guys, give great game.

    • I’m a woman. I think cryonics is a reasonable choice. I don’t understand the people who feel a deep, reflexive repugnance to it, and I join the chorus who hopes that those who do can find a way to explain what’s driving their feelings on the subject.

      I think there’s enough overlap between men’s and women’s mentalities that evo psych explanations don’t buy much of anything.

  • I’d like to see the best argument for the “hostile” wife’s position. Is there something like that available on the net, or perhaps can we get Peggy to write a guest post here?

    • Cryonics is probably seen partly as a waste of money – that diverts resources away from offspring.

  • amanda

    Could it be more to do with the uncertainty that is created? Most wedding vows include some variation of ’til death do us part. Cryonics would introduce a “not alive but not really dead” state for the frozen spouse. So, if the wife were still alive, she would not feel that she could move on because her spouse isn’t fully dead.
    The wife could also be wondering what happens when her husband is thawed, decades later. She would probably think her husband will find another mate, which could feel like betrayal of the marital vows, to some women.

    • Surely this is an issue, but would you “stab the corpse” at a funeral just to reduce uncertainty, to make sure it is dead?

      • Economics

        This is an hyperbolically rhetorical response, and you should recognize that, Robin.

  • Ian

    Are wives more likely to be opposed to cryonics than husbands, or do we just see more hostile wives because there is a 3:1 sex ratio among those interested in cryonics?

    • Raven Morris

      That’s a very good question, and as with all statistics… you need to know the way they were taken, in order to know what their real meanings might actually be.

  • I think most humans like there to be a clear divide between the dead and the living. Cryonics violates that and hence is rather creepy to most people. (Hence the appeal of half dead creatures like vampires and zombies in fictions that are supposed to creepy you out.)

    Hence, the thought of your dead spouse only being sort of dead might be harder to handle emotionally. Since women seem to rely more on this sort of essentialist thinking, this might be part of the reason that they tend to be the most disturbed by cryonics.

    • I think I overused hence in that last comment. Also, should be “creep people out” not “creepy people out.”

    • Andrea

      Since women seem to rely more on this sort of essentialist thinking, …

      I have to say, I’m greatly impressed that anyone could write that un-ironically.

      • JamieNYC

        Ha, ha Thursday, you got what you deserved. 🙂

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  • T

    I assign a not insignificant chance that my marriage would cease to exist if I signed up for cryonics. I assign an even larger chance that my marriage would fall apart and my wife would get custody of my newborn daughter if I attempted to sign her (my daughter) up for cryonics.

    I love them both dearly despite her close-minded rejection of cryonics and this subject is at the forefront of my thoughts nearly every day.

  • trait subpopulation advocacy (men) here, not good faith attempt to overcome bias.

  • B

    Alcor takes a yearly payment — and presumably a lump sum at the time of death?

    How is that enough to pay for their preserving your brain until the technology to upload it to a computer or to awaken it in a new body is developed?

    You admit the odds are long. But I think you’re not so much betting on the probability of those technologies — or any other that would revive your consciousness in the future from a dead frozen brain — coming about as you’re betting on the time such a technology takes to come about being short.

    And the odds on that are longer still.

    • gwern

      How much do you think it costs for a year’s supply of liquid nitrogen for an efficient cryogenic freezer? How little do you think the annual return on investment for Alcor will be?

      (Look! I can make vague rhetorical question-objections whose answers are easily found online too!)

  • B

    I find it interesting that I don’t get this ‘yuck’ reaction that seems to be common.

    What interests me most is the incredible unlikelihood of cryonics working. Am I, I ask myself, so desperate to live beyond my meagre allotment that I’ll take those odds and run with them, discounting the emotional wages and financial losses in this life for the ghostliest chance of seeing the fourth millennium?

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      incredible unlikelihood of cryonics working

      How do you know what the odds are? Every attempt to calculate them that I’ve made or seen has very wide error bars. If the real odds are 10%, then cryonics is a very good deal (for someone in the middle class). If the real odds are 0.01%, then cryonics is a very bad deal. Can you actually show that the odds are worse than, say, 0.1%?

      • I’ve never understood the “bad deal angle” in absolute terms. I understand the diversified portfolio approach to maximizing one’s persistence odds, but not the “immortality is too expensive/unlikely, I’ll take information theoretic death, please” angle.

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        In response to Hopefully Anonymous’s comment with respect to the “bad deal angle”: The way I look at it is to make a bunch of approximations: (1) I approximate the value to me of an extra year of my life as comparable to the value of an extra year of vacation. (2) The financial cost of my cryonics arrangements is comparable to a years’ wages. Very roughly speaking, my tradeoff is between an extra year of retirement vs. my cryonics arrangements. (3) I approximate the worth of a successful revival from cryonic suspension as the net present value of an infinite lifespan. Picking a discount rate of 1% (feels roughly right, psychologically), the value to me is equivalent to 100 times the value of an extra year of life. Putting these together, if the odds of revival are better than 1%, then cryonics is a good deal for me – I’m better off losing the year of retirement and betting on the 1% chance of revival. If the odds are worse that 1%, then I’d be better off spending the membership and insurance costs to give me an extra year of retirement instead. Does that explain why I’m not purely trying to maximize my persistence odds? I also have the option to use the same cash to get more utilons/hedons in the shorter term, and, for low enough revival odds, that term dominates.

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        Oops – when I wrote:

        I also have the option to use the same cash to get more utilons/hedons in the shorter term, and, for low enough revival odds, that term dominates.

        I meant to say
        that this was another way of phrasing

        the same tradeoff.

      • It seems to me to be an absurd calculation of the damned, to trade between hedons and persistence optimization.

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        I like your line:

        calculation of the damned

        (Hieronymus Bosch meets John von Neumann? 🙂 )
        but I’m not sure what you would suggest as an alternative. Do you view any optimization besides pure maximization of persistence odds as irrational? (I apologize if I’m setting up a straw man here.) Certainly maximizing persistence/lifespan is one perfectly reasonable, perfectly self-consistent goal. My personal preferences are a bit different, and e.g. I value vacation time at around double the rate of work time. (To phrase it another way, I’d trade some life expectancy to get the extra hedons that come with the vacation time.) I don’t think that this is an uncommon preference, or an irrational one.

    • Financial loss is interesting.
      Together with cryonics, one should probably put a huge amount of one’s disposible income towards life insurance rather than hedonistic pursuits. I’ve thought about doing so, but haven’t committed to, for example, $20 million in life insurance to set up an entity devoted to maximizing my persistence odds while I’m frozen.

      I think it analogizes to the calorie restriction folks -hyperrational, but a deviantly high pleasure-denial barrier to overcome than simple cryonic plan purchase or moderate healthy diet + exercise.

  • Re: “If the main issue were a waste of money we’d see an entirely different reaction.”

    If it were expensive necklaces for other women, the problem would be more associated with the *symbolism* of the expenditure – the willingness to devote resources away from the family unit. In one case its genetic immortality, in the other it is pyschological immortality – but the underlying distaste is probably much the same.

    • One might hypothesise that women treat resource expenditure on anything other than themselves and their kids as a rival for their man’s time, energy and attention – activating jealousy-related circuits.

  • Popeye

    If I’ve learned anything from this blog, it’s that most of human behavior is about signalling. People claim that they have some deep profound reason for acting in a certain way, but they’re really interested in telling other people something about themselves.

    So obviously husbands who are interested in cyronics are primarily signalling something about themselves… is it surprising that 10% of their wives don’t like what is being signaled? The moral indignation and hilarious over-the-top comparison to sati are clear indicators that some uncomfortable truth is being papered over.

    “I am a hospice social worker. I work with people who are dying all the time. I see people dying All. The. Time. And what’s so good about me that I’m going to live forever?”

    I for one appreciate Peggy’s evidence-based approach to this issue.

    • Cryonics bling suggests signalling – but I am now reasonably convinced that the phenomenon is more down to survival instinct. People often think that they *are* their personalities and egos – and that their immortal essence has no other chance of surviving the death of their body. With that mindset, cryonics can seem attractive.

      • Abelard Lindsey

        I don’t think anyone actually believes that human consciousness survives bodily death. After all, how many old people do you know who talk about death and going on to some other universe the same way a high school senior talks about graduation and going on to college? Like me, you probably know none.

        If “conventional” old people do not think of death the same way as a high school senior thinks of graduation, how can they expect someone like myself to accept any claims of an “afterlife”?

        Of course, cryonics is about personal survival. There’s simply no other game in town.

      • One might expect people to act so as to maximise replicator success – since differential replication explains most goal-directed behaviour in biology. Cryonic suspension is typically bad for people’s genes – which normally do better if resources are given to relatives. However, their memes could (sometimes) benefit.

        Genes usually build a memetic immune system – to allow symbiotic memes, while rejecting pathogenic ones. So: one theory is that cryonauts have poor quality memetic immune systems – or high exposure to pathogenic memes – with the result that memes hijack their bodies – against the best interests of their organic genes.

      • Luke

        Not even wrong.

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        Cryonic suspension is typically bad for people’s genes

        So what? I am no more my genes than I would be a clone.

  • Carl Shulman

    It seems clear to me that opposition is driven by the possibility that it might actually work. If people were sure it wouldn’t work there’d be no point in talking about selfishness, immortality, etc. If the main issue were a waste of money we’d see an entirely different reaction.

    This from Robin Hanson? Signaling selfishness, caring more about immortality than the spouse, and so forth can be of great interest even if cryonics were certain (to the hostile spouse) to fail.

    • Why can’t whether something would actually happen be relevant to what related acts symbolize or signal? Pointing a fake gun at you signals something different than pointing a real gun at you, even if in both cases I do not intend to kill you.

    • Relatively few *want* to signal selfishness. Cryonics signals other things – including that you think you are important enough for the glorious future to be still interested in you – that you are a geek – and that you have more money than you know what to do with.

      • Abelard Lindsey

        Cryonics “signals” the desire to seek freedom and openness in an unlimited future. People who sign up for cryonics seeking to “immigrate” across time to a more open personal future in the same manner that people immigrated across a distance from Europe to the more open future of the American frontier 200 years ago. You would understand this intimately if you actually spent time around the members of the various cryonics organizations.

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        Abelard – yes, and cryonics also signals the desire to seek freedom in the more immediate sense of not being locked into a claustrophobically limiting life script. The very fact that it is not a standard choice makes it a signal that the chooser values autonomy. Their preferences matter and their consent to breed/work/die can’t just be taken for granted.

  • “I am a hospice social worker. I work with people who are dying all the time. I see people dying All. The. Time. And what’s so good about me that I’m going to live forever?”

    What’s so bad about you that you deserve death?

  • mjgeddes

    I have just the sci-fi move recommendation for Peggy and Robin:

    ‘Vanilla Sky’,

    “A successful publisher finds his life taking a turn for the surreal after a car accident with a jaded lover.”

    Deals with relationships in the context of cryonics. Not exactly a masterpiece of cinema (in fact, for some reason I found myself laughing out loud at a number of points in the film, which I’m sure wasn’t the intended effect), but certainly entertaining and thought-provoking.

    • bs23

      (in fact, for some reason I found myself laughing out loud at a number of points in the film, which I’m sure wasn’t the intended effect)

      Could be a Tom Cruise effect. Maybe try the original?

      My 2 cents: cryonics is yucky because it denies the essence of what it means to be human, which I learned from Star Trek: TNG is to struggle in the face of inevitable defeat.

      • mjgeddes

        the essence of what it means to be human, which I learned from Star Trek: TNG is to struggle in the face of inevitable defeat.

        Never draw lessons from episodes of ‘Star Trek’! The essence of humanity? I say it’s right here in this video, watch:

        Spanish Flamenco, ‘life on the edge’ and the creative ‘hacker spirit’. What exactly is this? Well, read this article by Software designer Joel Spolsky:

        “The iPod is the most seamless piece of consumer electronics I have ever seen. It’s beautiful. It feels beautiful, like a smooth river stone…”

        “Apple made a decision based on style, in fact, iPod is full of decisions that are based on style. And style is not something that 100 programmers at Microsoft or 200 industrial designers at the inaptly-named Creative are going to be able to achieve”

        Note, rationality and intelligence are not mentioned. He then talks about:

        “…what make the huge hits, in software products, in movies, and in consumer electronics.”

        Again, ‘rationality’ is nowhere mentioned. Only one thing:


  • curious

    as far as i’m concerned, John Judge nailed it. spending on cryonics looks to me like a colossal waste of money on a lottery ticket with an extremely low chance of any payoff.

    i have two x chromosomes and no yuck-factor or philosophical objections. i just don’t assign a high-enough probability of success to want to share resources with someone who wants to buy in.

    • JamieNYC

      “colossal waste of money”. Hmm… then, if it was not more expensive overall then model trains hobby (some of those toy trains can be awfully expensive), it wouldn’t make a difference to you whether your husband engages in one or the other?

      I’m not being snarky, just trying to get to the bottom of this, it’s really a fascinating question.

      • curious

        basically, yeah.

        direct comparison with the cost of an existing hobby doesn’t quite hit the mark, because if someone wants to throw money into model trains, at least he actually gets the advertised product/service out of the transaction — once you’ve paid up, you are now the proud owner of a sweet little train, or whatever it is you had your heart set on. it’s the paying-gobs-for-something-you-will-probably-never-get aspect that would piss me off.

        but if you are asking whether my objection would disappear at some sufficiently-low price point, the answer is yes, absolutely. (a friend of mine is all signed up, and the thought of that doesn’t bother me in the least, although of course i think he’s throwing his money away.)

      • What about a country club membership. You only get to hang out with a certain crowd nothing to take home and cryonics provides that as well.

      • curious

        when you pay for a club membership, you’re getting exactly what’s advertised. you know what you’re buying (social activity) and that you’ll get it once you pay. you do your utility calculation and decide if you want it. but if cryonics doesn’t work (or doesn’t work in time for you), buying it would be like paying for club membership and then never getting in the door.

  • andrew kieran

    i personally feel somewhat revulsed at the idea. it could be a standard reaction to paradigm-shifting tech. it could be an evolutionary thing.

    the idea of life-extension technologies revulses me also. my reasoned argument for this is that i feel it would stagnate social change due to these technologies being monopolised by societies elite. from my reading of history it seems there’s only two ways that society can change (avoiding using the term “move forward”).

    1: old elites die and are replaced by new elites with different working methods or ideaologies. This is how the western world has changed mostly since the second world war
    2: the elite is violently overthrown and butchered by those lower down the scale who are usually the unwitting supporters of a new elite, as in the french revolution, to name a popular example.

    it seems that cryonics and life-extension technologies (EM for example) prevent the old elite from dying off, which leaves us with the danger that the only possibility for change would be through violent revolution. and i’m sure nobody wants that.

    on the other hand it could just be a symptom of western individualism, manifesting itself as the belief that one is important enough to somehow actually have some place in the future as anything other than a historical curiosity

    of course, i’m completely open to the premise that these ideas of mine are simply rationalisations of instinctive drives

  • goddinpotty

    Life extension obsessives are quite obviously creepy, although it’s hard to articulate why. Maybe it’s the excessive focus on self as opposed to others? The normal thing to do is to have kids and then die so you can get out of the way of future generations. To not do that is to proclaim that you think yourself above the most basic processes of life.

    Here’s an analogy: what do you think of a guy who spends all day masturbating? He’s not harming anyone, and presumably generates a lot of utility for himself, but we hold him in contempt and think he’s somewhat creepy because he’s isolating himself from society; his utility is disconnected from everybody else’s.

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      The important thing to remember is that there is a basic difference between defecting in a prisoners’ dilemma situation, where the other party actually exists, and rejecting claims for hypothetical future generations, which don’t yet exist. No one is obligated to breed and to kill themselves to make lebensraum for their offspring. This is quite separate from mutual aid amongst the living. When I donate blood, I may someday receive it in return. Doing something with merely post-mortem benefits can never be reciprocated. No way, no how.

      Also, don’t overvalue “the basic processes of life”. They used to include smallpox. Fortunately, medical advances have eliminated that. They currently include aging. Perhaps that may eventually be cured as well.

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      No one is obligated to breed and to kill themselves to make lebensraum for their offspring – and even more strongly: not obligated to on behalf of _other_ people’s offspring.

      • goddinpotty

        No one is obligated to do anything. The comment was about people’s reactions to other people, and possible reasons for it.

    • Abelard Lindsey

      What I don’t understand is why anyone who is not interested in cryonics and life extension would even care that someone else is? If someone is not into this, why would they even think about it at all? This is what confuses me about people who “oppose” life extension or cryonics.

      • goddinpotty

        Unless you believe that cryonics is a merely a trivial hobby, like stamp-collecting, this is just being disingenuous. Everybody is engaged in the memetic competition to define what is good.

        I don’t spend much time thinking about cryonics, but the position of cryonics enthusiasts in the center of nerd culture and the increasing importance of nerd culture to the developing world cognitive infrastructure makes it relevant to all, and a perfectly acceptable target of critique.

        Here’s someone who has apparently made attacking transhumanism one of his chief preoccupations, so maybe you should ask him about his motivations.

      • Luke

        Dale and people like him attack cryonics to get attention. They do that because cryonics is a shocking topic for many impressionable readers, and not because there is anything wrong with cryonics or any kind of rational case to be made against it. This isn’t memetic competition, it’s attention-whoring. He’s not interested in building a case against cryonics, just capitalizing on people who are too phobic about it to care.

      • Substitute an undesirable cult for “cryonics” in that line of argument to help understand why others might engage, I figure.

      • Luke

        I think it is pretty clear that most people who attack cryonics substitute “undesirable cult” for cryonics, the question is why. The vehemence and lack of informed argument on their part suggest phobia of some kind.

  • Catamount

    Isn’t 10% a ridiculously low divorce rate (given that the divorce rate overall is closer to %40 or %50)?

  • Violet

    Cryonics is harder on the surviving member, with the whole “till death do us part” thing.

    If in a monogamous marriage (till death) one member is cryopreserved what should happen? If we think that the person “just sleeps till technology advances” then the “good” thing for the spouse would be to wait (and cryopreserve themselves) rather than finding a new partner.

    Thus moving on is much harder to do.

    Then again religion with heaven has the same issues and I have never fully understood the mental acrobatics there done by the religious people.

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  • What baffling about the selfishness argument is that the amount of money spent over the course of a lifetime is well in line with what you might spend to keep up a nice AV room (gotta upgrade that TV), buying books/media, belonging to a country club or any number of widely accepted ‘selfish’ personal expenditures.

    Regardless of whether cryonics works the social (and certainly psychological) benefit to the cryo enthusiast is a reasonable return on the expenditure. It’s way less selfish and wasteful than buying yourself a high status car.

    What makes this even more puzzling is that I’m unaware of a similarly widespread response to a spouse’s weekly affordable donations to their church when their partner doesn’t believe. Unlike mere waste in this case the partner presumably thinks it’s desirable not to promote belief in something they view to be false. (Yes they do charity but weekly collections are largely used to run the organization/employ vicars/imams/etc).

  • Hypothesises:

    (I’ll refer to the objecting spouse here as the wife)

    1) The wife, like many people (women more??) is quite afraid of death and finds it extremely unpleasent to confront the doubts she feels about the religious afterlife fairy tale she claims to believe. Her husbands involvement with cryonics not only forces those unpleasent thoughts into the forefront but also threatens/intimidates her simple unanalyzed religious beliefs with it’s aura of rationality and implicit dismissal of those beliefs as too foolish even to consider. Also further insecurity is added if they feel poorly equipped to understand technical considerations.

    The norm of not challenging people over their religious beliefs means that cryonics, and not religious beliefs, means that cryonics is unique in forcing the wife to confront the shaky, unconvincing nature of her beliefs.

    It’s much like trying to argue about god’s existence as an atheist with your usual theist. Theoretically you might expect them to appreciate the change to save a non-believer or at least to better analyze their own conclusions about the deity. In fact, however, the reaction is to resent or even hate the atheist as it raises doubts in their mind and they feel insecure/inferior when they are unable to give satisfactory responses and are reduced to saying what they realize sounds like a childish fantasy (which they credit to a personal failing and assume a more virtuous smarter person who had thought this all through would give a good defense).

    Indeed the anti-cryonics reaction seems to mirror the anti-atheist sentiments that many religious people feel since we tend to blame the individuals who make us feel bad even if it’s our own failing.

    2) The wife parses her husband’s subscription to cryonics without her as a form of emotional abandonment or desire to be free of her. However, the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars on something she finds unappealing or religiously objectionable so she doesn’t parse her husbands hobby as this kind of hurtful signalling isn’t a real live option for her.

    3) People like to think that death serves an important purpose and that their loved ones (parents etc..) didn’t die only because they weren’t lucky enough to be born after death has been abolished or didn’t sign up for cryo. Relatedly they may feel guilty for not signing up their parents if they admit the force of the reasons for joining.

  • Cryonics is narcissistic.
    The opposite of sacrifice.
    That in and of itself is repulsive.
    It is proof that you are not giving 100 %
    that she can never get 100 % from you.
    It is also proof that even if she could give 110% you would still want more.
    You want it all.
    Her capacity to “give” relative to your capacity to “want” becomes farcical.

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  • Renalto

    Robin, I think your in the wrong relationship. You should have chosen somebody who also supported cryonics. I have a lot of friends who are women who also support cryonics. They aren’t impossible to come by you know.

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