Brin Says Cryonics Selfish

Like Tyler, sf author David Brin says cryonics is selfish:

A majority of citizens today perceive cryonics enthusiasts as kooky. … I share some of this skepticism. … Wouldn’t any reasonable person — one worthy of revival — dedicate a lifetime’s accumulated resources to helping their children and posterity, instead of splurging it all on a chancy, self-important gamble for personal immortality?

Consider:

“Median total [US Medicare] expenditures in the last 6 months of life [in ’00 to ’06] were $22,407.” (More)
“Out-of-pocket medical expenditures … for the years 1998-2006 … in the last year of life is estimated to be $11,618 on average.” (more)

Since US medical spending has more than doubled since then, we must now spend over $50K per person on the last six months of life. And this spending seems to, if anything, reduce lifespan. In contrast, a ~$40K (30 + 10) cryonics procedure gives a chance of a whole new life, and increases the chance of others gaining the same benefit at a lower cost. So why don’t Cowen or Brin first complain about selfish end-of-life care?

Brin continues:

Some people who sign up for storage believe their bank accounts alone — set up to earn dividends until some future era — will suffice to make them worthy of being thawed, repaired, and given full corporeal citizenship in a coming age of wonders. Somehow, I wouldn’t give that bet anything like sure odds, no matter how many technological barriers future people overcome.

Let me get this straight. People who suffer ridicule and fierce conformity pressures to pay to take a chance to avoid death and help others avoid death, who actually end up being right, and who in addition save money that gets invested in the world economy to help it to grow faster and larger, in order to generously pay future folks to revive them, do not deserve to be revived?! Even if they are quite willing to work to pay their way upon revival? Future folk should instead steal their money and refuse to revive them?! Why doesn’t Brin suggest that we today kill old folks a few weeks early to save thousands in medical costs? How exactly are they deserving yet cryonics patients not?

Btw, a second person has finally taken their cryonics hour. Any more takers?

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  • Carl Shulman

    Your cost figure for cryonics leaves out additional membership fees not included in that price, and financing gaps that have historically been met by a combination of charitable donations and Social-Security-like pay-as-you-go subsidy of current suspendees by more numerous (for now) unsuspended members. See this discussion (using Alcor examples, but the basic problem applies to CI as well).

    If you’re talking about societal impact, you need to talk about the real costs, not the sticker price (of one part of multiple fee streams) charged to patients who are not covering the full cost of their own care. After all, by that logic the end-of-life medical care often has a marginal sticker price of zero to the patient (covered by government or pre-existing insurance).

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      If you can give me a credible source for a real marginal cost per CI patient, I’ll use that in this post.

      • Carl Shulman

        In 2010 CI had a loss of around 40% of revenue. In 2009 losses were around 150% of revenue, in 2008 around half revenue. See their financial statements page. That is with about 1000 members paying dues (many of them front-loaded lifetime memberships), and only 100 suspendees. Standby and transportation fees are several times those for suspension. Do you believe that the 30k figure is not an underestimate, given that information?

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        I upped my estimate to $40K based on a transport cost estimate. Operating losses tell about fixed plus marginal costs, but don’t tell marginal costs.

  • Jonah S

    What’s the marginal decrease in cryonics cost per person signed up?

    • http://www.gwern.net gwern

      We’re losing money on every unit we sell, but we’ll make up for it on volume!

  • http://jcwitmer.blogspot.com Jake Witmer

    David Brin is often great, but he’s an incredibly inconsistent thinker. He’s really hit or miss. I agree with him that proxy activism is a good idea, though.

    I recommend he read the book “The First Immortal” by James Halperin. If he read it, he didn’t get it.

    This is a really luddite argument. Especially because he doesn’t credit the immense contribution these pioneers are making, if they are right. Moreover, it’s against the objectivist ethic. (This probably doesn’t matter to Brin, but Rand was right about the problem of altruism being considered a primary virtue –that collectivist worldview is destroying civilization.)

    I give great thanks to those cryonics pioneers who are reducing the marginal cost of entering the cryonics market. Hopefully, they demand payment with gold and not FRNs, given coercive collectivism’s track record. I find it funny how people assume that state or family intervention will be necessary. The whole system is set up to ensure it’s not, and the state and unenlightened families have a terrible track record. The government often actively tries to thaw/murder cryonics patients, because our civilization no longer recognizes our right to our own bodies. See also: http://www,alcor.org –the FAQ.

  • Abelard Lindsey

    I fail to see how cryonics is any more selfish than buying an expensive car or a big house.

    Also, Bryan Caplan is dead wrong (no pun intended) about the reason why people sign up for cryonics. The vast majority of members are signed up because they really do want to live forever and do not expect the advances (SENS, etc.) to come in time. The choice is instrumental rather than expressive. How do I know this? Because the vast majority of members do not talk about their involvement in cryonics publicly or in casual conversation, thus belying the “expressive” reason for being in cryonics.

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      More like a very small house (at least in my area of the country)…

      The very fact that Brin is phrasing this in terms of
      “worthy of revival” is a mistake. Do we routinely talk about
      people being worthy of routine medical care? Both Alcor and CI
      are shoestring operations. The only way cryonicists will get
      revived is if technical advances driven by other forces and
      sufficient per capita wealth make revival easy.
      If it requires a noteworthy, heroic effort – the kind of thing where
      we talk about whether the recipient was worthy – it just won’t happen.

      Brin’s alternative is also bizarre: Why would anyone certain of
      annihilation be motivated to care about posterity?
      “Apres moi les deluge” is the beginning of wisdom. Mortality
      doesn’t connect us to the future, it decouples us from the future.

      • Nick Tarleton

        Why would anyone certain of
        annihilation be motivated to care about posterity?

        Why not?

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        Jeffrey, where have you been? Of course people talk about those “worthy” of routine medical care. Routine medical care is reserved for those with the money to pay for it, or with the money to pay for insurance to pay for it, and the luck to have a health insurance company that pays the claim. If not, then they have the “freedom” to die in the gutter from lack of health care.

        If you expect posterity to take care of your frozen remains, then you should care about posterity.

        If you don’t care about posterity, why should they care enough about you to not use your frozen remains as worm food or fertilizer? And sell all that stainless steel for scrap.

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        daedalus2u – sorry, I guess I was unclear. In the absence of cryonics, it would be insane for me to care about anything that happens after my death. I would not be there to see it. If I decided that that the odds of being revived from cryonic suspension were too low to justify continuing my cryonics arrangements, then posterity would become completely irrelevant to me, and I’d divert the funds involved to something that I can use now.

      • Doug S.

        In the absence of cryonics, it would be insane for me to care about anything that happens after my death. I would not be there to see it.

        Do you have children?

      • Jeffrey Soreff

        Doug S.

        Nope, I’m childfree – deliberately and successfully avoided children.

      • Finch

        I care about what happens after my death in the same sense that I care about what happens after I go to sleep. Presumably you could sneak into my house, shoot me, and I’d never wake up. I, right now, would care a lot about that plan. I think the analogy with children is obvious.

      • http://lukeparrish.rationalsites.com/ Luke Parrish

        In the absence of cryonics, it would be insane for me to care about anything that happens after my death.

        I think a mentally healthy person usually cares about the state of the world after their death. It’s a normal human trait. It is probably incorrect that your only reason for caring is cryonics, more likely you would have cared even without cryonics but it provides handy justification.

        On the other hand I would guess it is valid to say it causes you to care in a different, perhaps more strategic and less instinctive manner, given an anticipation of actually seeing the future.

        In any case, the connection of cryonics to selfishness is overrated. It is extremely unselfish to be concerned about the 100,000 people dying per day who can be saved (with many high quality years to be added) via cryonics. (I estimate cost trade offs to be low, since cryonics is a scale good. Also I estimate the value of it working to be high in quality life years per individual compared to other methods of life saving.)

    • Mark Plus

      Cryonics has as reputation as a rich man’s display of conspicuous consumption, despite the fact that plenty of nonwealthy people have signed up for it.

      Normally the kinds of things allegedly only rich people can afford become status signals and objects of envy. We saw that psychology at work in the Occupy movement, for example, despite the fact that some rentiers with Roman numerals after their names reportedly participated in the protests.

      For some reason cryonics hasn’t reached that level yet as a sign of decadent opulence, despite the fact that at least two men in the top one percent of wealth – Don Laughlin and Ed Thorp – have both gone public with their cryonics arrangements. Cryonics’ mortality salience probably serves as an obstacle to its wider adoption by society’s wealthiest members.

  • Steve

    The only thing keeping me from signing up for cryonics is my desire for immediate gratification, even though I know cryonics gives me an opportunity for much more gratification in the future. I like to display my taste in automobiles, clothing and other things. Perhaps, should my income increase as it has, my costs for immediate gratification may level, allowing me to divert some income to cryonics. I don’t agree with David Brin’s argument at all, I’ve come to think of him as a Malthusian, and therefore misguided, and often plain wrong.

    • subtle troll detector

      yes

  • Robert Koslover

    I question the validity of asserting that high spending in the last 6 months of life indicates that such folks are just as “selfish” as would-be cryonics customers. Rather, I think that many such dying people (and their relatives) are hoping that all that expense will extend their lives much, much more than 6 months. If they truly knew in advance that spending all that money wouldn’t help (or wouldn’t help much), then I really doubt they would do it. (That said, I still think cryonics customers should have every right to spend their money as they darn well please, whether or not it is appropriate to call them “selfish.”)

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      Actually, I suspect that even if the financial cost were zero, if most of us knew when medical efforts to keep us alive were going to fail, I think there would be a lot of cases where we would terminate them early. The last stages of most terminal illnesses, and the last attempts at medical interventions to keep them at bay, are frequently quite unpleasant to the patient. I made some guesses here about what fraction of us probably wind up in this situation and for how long. (That said, I echo Robert Koslover’s view in this context, that patients should have every right to decide as they damn well please.)

  • Ben

    Robin,

    If you got to choose the topic of the hour-long chat, assuming the recording would be posted on overcoming bias, what would you choose to talk about?

    What if the listener was your demographically median audience member and the recording would not be released?

    Been meaning to sign up for a long time; my excuse was unsteady finances. Things have stabilized since.

    -Ben

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Probably whatever I had just been thinking about. 🙂

    • Andrew Rettek

      I have an hour coming to me that I’m intending to claim, I just need to find something worth while to do with it.

  • http://www.chariotofreaction.blogspot.com Jehu

    Those of you who are contemplating cryonics can rest assured of one thing. Serious religious people like myself WILL be inclined to foot the (almost certainly VERY minor) costs to thaw and revive you, be it decades or centuries from now. Whether you are ‘worthy’ of such a second chance won’t cross our minds. What does ‘deserve’ have to do with it? No, some more extreme members of my faction go so far as to adopt frozen embryos that nobody wants and bring them to term. We do this because we love Life, not Death, and we always have, some misguided bioethics types and preachers in the grip of a Stockholm syndrome with sin and Death not withstanding. Between extreme Christianists like myself and future graduate students, for whom reviving you and interviewing you in depth is likely to be a slam-dunk dissertation topic, I think your chances on that score are good, even if we assume that the revival and repair costs on you are comparable to the equivalent of $50k present US dollars. Another aid that is likely is your own family, if it is still a going concern. Would my wife and I pay $50K, right here, right now to repair and regenerate, say, my great-great grandfather who neither of us had ever known outside of family stories had he been a soul on ice for many decades? Hell yes, and we’d consider it a bargain at the price. Of the things a cryonics patient might have to worry about, the worry that nobody would WANT to revive you strike me as the least.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      So why would you save your money until there are cryonic bodies to revive instead of saving many more lives in Africa right now?

      • http://www.chariotofreaction.blogspot.com Jehu

        Daedalus2u,
        Perhaps you’ve mistaken us for utilitarians? We tend much more towards duty-based ethics.
        But a society that is capable of thawing and repairing cryonics patients has almost certainly gone through a singularity such that it is exceedingly unlikely that resources would be short for Africa. Even today, the problems in Africa are really more of infrastructure, delivery and appallingly bad governance than actual shortage of resources.

    • Mark Plus

      Serious religious people like myself WILL be inclined to foot the (almost certainly VERY minor) costs to thaw and revive you, be it decades or centuries from now. Whether you are ‘worthy’ of such a second chance won’t cross our minds.

      I noticed that people went to extraordinary efforts to rescue those trapped miners in Chile a couple years ago. Nobody ran a check on their financial condition to see if they could reimburse the expenses when they came out. (Billionaires don’t ordinarily get trapped n mines.) Nobody denounced the miners as “selfish” for wanting to live. Nobody dismissed the effort to rescue them as “denial,” “wishful thinking,” a “science fictional fantasy” and other phrases I’ve heard aimed at cryonics. Nobody argued that people on the surface had a stronger claim to the resources used to rescue the miners And nobody argued for keeping the miners underground and forgetting about them because they probably couldn’t adapt to conditions on the surface after so many weeks.

      • http://www.chariotofreaction.blogspot.com Jehu

        Yes, you get it. It doesn’t matter to us if you aren’t necessarily going to have a good probability of reintegrating into society or being a particularly valuable member. The orthodox Christian belief is that such things are in God’s hands and that our part is only to give you a chance, assuming that is your stated wish printed on your cold casket, or we can reasonably infer it from the totality of circumstances. You don’t need a government ethics or utility committee to make this decision, only a small group or individual with the wherewithal to make it happen.

        What you SHOULD worry about is governments taking active steps against your preservation and revivification. If the worst thing you have to worry about is that nobody deciding that it’s worth the bother to revive you you’ll be in pretty good stead. 99.99% of the population could view you as worth no more than fertilizer. All it takes is the few or the one.

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      Many Thanks!

  • Mark Plus

    If we don’t deserve radical life extension in good physical and cognitive shape (implied by Brin’s idea of “worthiness”) because of an accident of birth, then why would people in a conjectural future society deserve it if it becomes technologically doable for them?

    In other words, why does the goal of cryonics seem “selfish” to Brin now? Does he condemn the goal of indefinite individual survival as metaphysically “selfish,” forever, even if it becomes possible some day as part of normal health care? If not, then where does Brin postulate a cut off point?

  • Lord

    Whether they are worthy will be determined by the circumstances and people living then. It is fairly easy to see circumstances that may not accord with their presumed wishes such as considering it unethical to create a clone and transferring a consciousness into it or resurrection but only in a virtual simulated environment. The odds of deciding to wait for another century and another after that become quite high. It may be considered unethical to wake and cure someone when it is already known what future ailments they will suffer or have to wait until the end of time for the cure to everything or in the knowledge there can never be a cure. It may even become considered unethical to reanimate someone after so long that they can no longer relate to society. Willingness to work would be a joke. They may have to be re educated and may not even be capable of it in some fundamental way. If this had been available in ancient times, how likely would we be to reanimate some petty tyrant with an entitlement complex, a primitive knowledge and ethical sense. They would presumably have to be stripped of their wealth simply to be tolerable to live with in a new society. Certainly the more wealth they had the less likely it will be to reanimate them as those in control of it will not be willing to give it up, and the less wealth they had the less likely as they would be a drain. Reanimation would carry with it the responsibility for the reanimated and while there may be those willing to, whether society would be willing is a different matter. I am sure if we knew who would not survive end of life treatments we would cut them off and it would even be considered the ethical and humane solution. It would not even be surprising to find that after a few unfortunate reanimations that it be found cruel and unethical. While one may hope things will be different, there can be no assurances with respect to the future.

  • http://www.chariotofreaction.blogspot.com Jehu

    One final note for prospective cryonauts. I’d seriously consider laying out what your risk tolerance for being revived is. For instance, what probability P of a successful renew operation would you be willing to accept? Would you want to gamble on technology improving so that the operation is as trivial as Lasic is today, or would you be an early adopter? Best to have that information printed very clearly and durably, because guys like myself care a lot about such things. If we thought our protocols were good enough to give you maybe a 25% chance to survive the ordeal, we wouldn’t want to use them on you unless you had previously consented that much appetite for risk. So don’t inflict on my descendants messy issues of probabilistic consent and risk, especially if it turns out that there is an escalating probability of survival as technology increases but a decreasing probability the longer you’ve been on ice. Think about it now and record it properly.

  • sjv

    Of course cryonics is selfish.

    So is retirement. Shouldn’t you keep working until you drop dead, so you can give all that money to your children instead of spending it? Vacations too. Come to think of it, but couldn’t you be working some overtime?

    And do you really need both kidneys? Selfish bastard.

  • Stephen Day

    In the absence of cryonics, it would be insane for me to care about anything that happens after my death

    Nobody thought this was scary? Or sociopathic? Or how about precisely what is going wrong in the world right now?

    Is anyone concerned that historically the ache for eternity has been a very male preoccupation? Does anybody else sense the fleshing-out of a narcissistic pathology in these posts on cryonics?

    Maybe cryonics is no more selfish than buying an expensive car, but that argument doesn’t make it unselfish. It makes this, in spirit, a messageboard for car enthusiasts/mid-life crises. In fact, I would wager it is tautological around here that to be alive is to be in crisis.

    I am curious what people here expect living forever to be like. Where would challenges come from? Or love? Wouldn’t you miss the deepness of values that finitude generates? And how much is fear motivating the decision to freeze oneself? Are you as curious as I am to see some statistics about the “type” of person who elects to freeze themselves, or are you worried there would be an unflattering pattern of loner-ism and unrequited love slapped with a band-aid of unjustified self-importance?

    I am pretty new to this topic, but my gut reaction is that there is something revolting in aspiring to live “forever.” I am certain I sound like a lowly, superstitious sensualist. Understand that as a group you sound to me like you’ve already exchanged a perfectly good brain for a bumbling emulation.

    I expect to be ignored or excoriated based one what I’ve read here so far, but I would love for someone who “gets it”–particularly someone who once thought as I do–to explain why the call of the future is so tempting. I see that my post may come off insulting, but cryonics sounds to me, on first blush, like an affront to life. Is it possible to “get” cryonics without first believing that death is wrong in an absolute sense?

    • Chris Manning

      You wrote in part:

      ‘Are you as curious as I am to see some statistics about the “type” of person who elects to freeze themselves, or are you worried there would be an unflattering pattern of loner-ism and unrequited love slapped with a band-aid of unjustified self-importance?’

      Yes, I would be, but you can’t argue about the validity of cryonics (or any other procedure) based on who signs up.

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      Stephen, cryonics is much more pedestrian than you make it out to be.

      First of all, if someone has a deep fear of death – cryonics is not much
      help. It is a bet with rather long odds. It is questionable as to whether
      it still leaves us with a 90% chance of winding up dead, or a 99.9%
      chance, but it certainly isn’t better than the former.

      Second, even if we do wind up revived, and even if aging is solved, there
      are still all the usual random hazards of life. I’ve read estimates of
      non-aging-limited lifespans anywhere in the range from 10^3 years to
      10^5. It would be much longer than ~75, but still quite finite.

      I am curious what people here expect living forever to be like.

      I would expect that for most of us, it would be much like what we
      do now from day to day. Rather few of our plans now have very long
      timeframes. There would just be time for more of them.
      Food, work, sex, reading, walking, conversation, the usual…

      This isn’t an ache for eternity. This is a long shot fallback position
      for aging. Think of it as another approach to fixing arthritic joints…

      It also doesn’t require any notion of self-importance. I am not important,
      but that is irrelevant to whether I wish to place a bet on cryonics.

      Oh, and “apres moi les deluge” goes back way further
      than cryonics does – it has classical antecedents at least back to
      Lucretius (99-55 B.C.). That is simply the default position for mortals.
      We have preferences and alliances and agreements while we are alive,
      but that all ends once our last neuron fires for the last time.
      Sociopathy is about how we interact with other living people while we
      are alive, not about post-mortem events.

      Wouldn’t you miss the deepness of values that finitude generates?

      Huh? That sounds backwards. It is precisely because I age, and have
      a finite time horizon, that, over time, more and more items go into the
      category of stuff that no longer matters to me. E.g. at 53 global warming
      is something I don’t lose sleep over. Now, if I had a 10^3 year life
      expectancy, I’d have a big stake in it.

    • http://lukeparrish.rationalsites.com/ Luke Parrish

      Is it possible to “get” cryonics without first believing that death is wrong in an absolute sense?

      I think so. If you just think in terms of increasing the number of voluntarily experienced, high quality years available to each person, it is not necessary to first suppose the number is (or should be) infinite.

      The only real requirement to be in favor of it is to see additional years (above the human norm) as having positive utility. The utility might not be completely from its desirability to the particular individual — historical continuity, reduction in grief, etc. are valid alternative motives.

      One reason to favor cryonics is out of an altruistic desire for billions of people (not including oneself, except perhaps incidentally) to have extended healthy lifespans.

  • http://twitter.com/opirmusic Spencer Thomas

    I have a lot of respect for Brin, but in this instance his ideas about the matter seem incredibly wrong-headed. Just one example here on the “worthiness” point: if we found someone who was somehow frozen in ice 20k years ago and we were sure we could thaw them out and revive them we certainly would. For scientific, anthro- and sociological reasons along with pure curiosity about what it was like to live at that time.

    I’m planning to write a longer post about the larger matter, but to summarize here: as a species, we’re still nowhere near the basics of individual and collective “freedom from harm”, in all of its forms. Getting ourselves to a state where we have freedom from disease, starvation, aging, and decrepitude (along with a number of other harms) should be considered more important than nearly anything else (*that* state should be considered the baseline of our existence – what we have to live with right now, and all the time leading up to now should be considered very ugly), and things that advance that goal should be considered of extremely high importance. Cryonics is something that advances that goal and people signing up for it should be commended.

    If Brin could wave a sci-fi wand and make some portion of the population immortal/disease-free/non-aging, would he not? I certainly would, and would be doubly motivated to do so if we could study them to figure out how we could do it for the rest of us in our lifetimes. Cryonics, as one example, serves this goal, if only in slow-motion/not as usefully.

  • Shocked

    It’s really shocking reading his and some of these other comments. How anyone who is familiar with Consent Theory could consider this “selfish” boggles my mind. For something to be considered “selfish”, it would have to harm others, otherwise we call it “enlightened self interest.” To travel this road would potentially consider just about ANYTHING you do for yourself “selfish.” How many of you have dedicated yourselves to a life of nun-like servitude? Talk about continuums of self-interest. Many of these naysayers would find themselves quite far from the Mother Theresas of the word. Wow. Just wow.

    To bring the children stuff in the conversation makes it even worse. Few things are more selfish than forcing someone to exist without any possibility of consent. I cannot believe there are people who still think this way. Is it really 2012?

    • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

      The term “selfish” doesn’t imply harm to others. You can check with the dictionary if in doubt.

  • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

    I think the whole idea of “living forever”, or “life after death” was a meme generated by male patriarchal leaders who practiced polygamy as something to convince young virgin males that they should fight to the death or martyr themselves to support the patriarchal system those leaders benefit from.

    I suspect the same meme is strong in the cryonics movement, and for the same reasons. Work really hard in your cubical coding while the CEO gets rich and has a great life, and when the Singularity comes, there will be a virtual beer volcano for you.

    • Andrew Rettek

      Most of the cryonicists I’ve met have interesting and exciting lives, enjoyable romantic lives, and seem happy. My sample does skew young though.

    • Nick Tarleton

      In addition to Andrew’s point, promoters of cryonics aren’t particularly skewed towards CEO-types — especially not more skewed than cryonicists themselves.

  • http://tehom-blog.blogspot.com Tom Breton

    Wouldn t any reasonable person one worthy of revival dedicate a lifetime s accumulated resources to helping their children and posterity, instead of splurging it all on a chancy, self-important gamble for personal immortality?

    That’s like saying that it’s selfish to call an ambulance when you are having a heart attack or other medical emergency. Around here, an ambulance call, be it ever so short, is billed at upwards of $1000. It’s chancy in the same way that cryonics is: it doesn’t raise your odds of survival to 100%.

    Is an ambulance ride a chancy, self-important gamble for personal survival?

    (Yes, I changed “personal immortality” to “personal survival”. “Immortality” was just a cheap shot, unless David Brin wants to argue that his stance would be different were the cryonicists “merely” planning on living a few million years)

  • Captain Oblivious

    I don’t see how money spent on cryonics DOESN’T benefit posterity / society at large.

    The money spent on the procedure itself ends up being spent on labor, energy, and materials; the money one invests to help finance thawing and/or a nice life after thawing is available (via the bank’s lending process) to others who wish to buy houses, start business, etc. None of the money goes into the freezer with you! (though it might not be all bad if it did, as taking money out of circulation would help to slow down the inflation that’s robbing us all)

    The only real difference I can see is that the greedy selfish cryonics bastards benefit all of society more or less evenly, whereas the “selfless” ones like Brin most likely end up disproportionately benefiting their own offspring.

  • Michael Wengler

    Robin, at no point in that article does Brin suggest that future generations “should” steal your money and leave you dead.

  • sjv

    I just realized why the whole “worth of revival” thing bothered me. It is very reminiscent of the German phrase “Lebensunwertes Leben”, usually translated as “life unworthy of life”. The foundation of the Nazi euthanasia program.

  • Eliezer Yudkowsky

    The thought occurs to me that I’d like to have some sort of normative policy I could point to and say, “Although we live in a world in which cryonics is not the single most efficient use of a marginal dollar to create good, we should nonetheless praise people who spend money on cryonics because it’s more efficient than average and more efficient than its nearby substitutes like end-of-life medical expenses and fancy funerals.” Maybe something like, “Praise the unusually good marginal dollar, even if it’s not the best” with the cutoff level set at the 95th percentile or something. Certainly, someone is not blameworthy for spending money on cryonics unless you have reason to believe that expenditure is substituting with more efficient ways of creating good, rather than substituting with watching movies in theaters or something like that. Though, to be fair, the policy “No dollar is blameworthy unless it is humanity’s worst marginal dollar” is equally foolish with the policy “No dollar is praiseworthy unless it is humanity’s best marginal dollar”, and I don’t know what, in human practice, would actually produce the most utility if adopted as a standard of virtue among our kind.

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