Search Results for: cryonics

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?


“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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Expats Like Cryonics

At the end of that ABC Good Morning America segment on cryonics, they pointed viewers to a poll on “Would you have your body cryonically frozen after death?”  Out of 15,335 answers so far, 78% said “No, that’s too weird!”, 14% “I’m not sure”, and 8% “Yes, I believe in the science.” Of course these are mostly made up opinions; far less than 8% of the show’s 4.6 million viewers of the show will actually sign up. (Over forty years, only two thousand have signed up worldwide.)

Interestingly, the poll website shows a graphic that breaks votes down by location, and the 274 who live outside the US, probably expats, like cryonics the most – 18% say yes and 19% not sure. Arizona, where the cryonics provider Alcor is located, is second at, 13% yes, 14% not sure, out of 146. (I ignore Rhode Island, with only 26 votes.) Are people more comfortable with moving to foreign lands also more comfortable with moving to the future?!

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First Cryonics Hour

Me two years ago:

I hereby offer to talk for one hour on any subject to anyone who can show me they’ve newly signed up for cryonics. You can record the conversation, publish it, and can sell your time to someone else.

Stuart Armstrong has signed up for cryonics, and then redeemed my offer. Congrats Stuart! We talked for an hour, and he recorded the conversation. If he does something with that recording, I’ll post a link here.

Any other takers?

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Cryonics is Very Far

Kajta is right; cryonics is very far:

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

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

But I disagree with what Katja says here:

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

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

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

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Cryonics As Charity

Products and services (i.e., “goods”) can be divided into two types: those that on net suffer from congestion effects, and those that instead benefit from scale effects. For congestion goods, the more that one person consumes of the good, the harder it gets for others to consume it. For scale goods, in contrast, the more that some consume, the easier it gets for others to consume.

Creating a new person with a demand for some good, or raising an existing person’s demand for that good, has very different effects on others, depending on whether it is a congestion or scale good. Adding new demand for congestion goods hurts others, while adding new demand for scale goods helps others.

For example, an increase in your demand for limited beachfront property, or for food prepared personally by today’s most famous chef, hurts others who also demand those goods. Your increased demand for certain computer chips could also hurt others, if such chips required a special metal in limited supply.

Chips, however, are usually net scale goods: bigger chip plants make chips cheaper, and larger demand justifies higher fixed costs such as in chip design, and induces faster innovation in chip design, manufacture, use, etc. Larger communities of users for a good can also benefit from network externalities, such as when a phone or IM system becomes more valuable because more other folks can be contacted via them. Note, however, that apparent “network” gains via more folks following a new fashion are usually negated by the harm to those following older fashions.

Tyler recently said the world would be better if tech nerds donated to charity instead of buying cryonics (he didn’t explain why this isn’t just as true for most consumption.) But while many dislike cryonics because they see it as especially selfish, in fact cryonics has such huge scale effects that buying cryonics seems to me a pretty good charity in its own right. Consider:

  1. The main risk for cryonics failure, and the reason I usually only give it a >5% chance of success, is social — it will be hard for small disliked marginal organizations with only thousands of scattered customers to survive for a century or two. With millions or more supporting customers, however, such survival would be far more likely. Reputation, regulation, and reinsurance would more effectively ensure that cryo orgs kept their commitments.
  2. Cryonics cost is now dominated by fixed costs, such has to maintain skilled teams ready to do procedures. With millions of customers, the cost to freeze could fall to a few thousand dollars.
  3. The marginal cost to store another frozen person in liquid nitrogen is dominated by the cost of liquid nitrogen, which goes as the surface area of the containers used. Larger containers have a smaller surface area relative to enclosed volume, and so cost less per person.
  4. Millions of customers would induce a better adapted regulatory treatment, making it legally easier to freeze folks, and especially for frozen folks to save and grow assets to use decades later for revival and reintegration into society. With enough customers who cared enough, interest rates could even fall.
  5. Another major cryonics risk is that a rich powerful future able to revive frozen folks may never arrive. But the more folks hope to use cryonics to live in such a future, the more folks will care more about that future and try harder to make sure it happens.  Which will of course could greatly benefit innumerable future generations.
  6. One possible cryonics congestion effect is that the future may have a limited capacity to absorb workers not trained in then-current techniques. But this effect seems minor relative to the others here; enough savings can pay for retraining.
  7. New fashionable goods, that gain users status, hurt others by making them look less fashionable.  Cryonics is not only not in fashion, it tends to make users worse.  This effect adds to its status as a charity.

OK, even if consuming cryonics helps others, could it really help as much as direct charity donations? Well it might be hard to compete with cash directly handed to those most in need, but remember that most real charities suffer great inefficiencies and waste from administration costs, agency failures, and the inattention of donors.

If cryonics does ever succeed, the failure of humanity to actually use it much until many decades after it was possible will seem like one of humanities greatest failures, and those the who opposed it as some of histories greatest villains.

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Break Cryonics Down

The essence of analysis is to "break it down", to take apart vague wholes into clearer parts.  For the same reasons we make point lists to help us make tough job decisions, or ask people who sue for damages to name an amount and break it into components, we should try to break down these important social claims via simple calculations.  And the absence of attempts at this is a sad commentary on something. [Me last July]

Imagine you disagreed with someone about the fastest way to get from your office to Times Square NYC; you said drive, they said fly.  You broke down your time estimates for the two paths into part estimates: times to drive to the airport, wait at the airport, fly, wait for a taxi, ride the taxi, etc.  They refused to offer any component estimates; they just insisted on confidence in their total difference estimate. 

Similarly imagine some someone who disagree about which of two restaurants was better for a certain group, but wouldn't break that down into who would like or dislike what aspects of the two places.  Or imagine someone who claimed their business plan would be profitable, but refused to break this down into how many of what types of units would be sold when, or what various inputs would cost.  Or someone who said US military spending was worth the cost, but refused to break this down into which enemies were how discouraged from what sorts of damage by that last spending increment.

Such silent disputants reject our most powerful tool for resolving disagreements: analysis – breaking vaguer wholes into clearer parts.  Either they have not used this tool to test or refine their estimates, or they are not willing to discuss such parts with you.  I felt Tyler made this analysis-blocking move in our diavlog:

Continue reading "Break Cryonics Down" »

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My Cryonics Hour

To encourage people to sign up for cryonics, I've offered to debate influential bloggers on the subject.  Spurred by recent successes, and failures, I'll up the ante:

I hereby offer to talk for one hour on any subject to anyone who can show me they've newly signed up for cryonics.  You can record the conversation, publish it, and can sell your time to someone else. 

Yes, I know, this may not exactly be a huge incentive to most people, but its what I have to offer. 

Added: The Blogging Heads TV folks are interested in a cryonics debate, if that tips any of you influential bloggers over the line.

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Tyler on Cryonics

My friend and colleague Tyler Cowen is smart, well-traveled, writes on cultural diversity, and manages a large organization.  If his political writings forced him to flee for his life to live in "off the grid" in a distant foreign land, with only a small chance of success and even less of returning, I expect he'd take a very practical approach, and try with all his considerable strength.  Tyler's wife would try hard to help him, easily preferring the uncertainty of never knowing if he made it over the certainty of turning him in to certain death.  Even imagining the remote prospect of such a situation years ahead of time, I expect Tyler would be pretty rational and practical about this scenario.

But when Tyler considers the prospect of fleeing for his life into the future via cryonics, he thinks very differently:

[On cryonics] my current view is this: one's attention is extremely scarce and limited, as are one's affiliations.  Insofar as you have the luxury of thinking "bigger thoughts," those thoughts should be directed at helping others, not at helping oneself. … Furthermore the universe (or multiverse) may be infinite, so in expected value terms it seems my copies and near-copies are already enjoying a kind of collective immortality. … What probability of future torture would cause us to wish to die forever rather than be resurrected?  And should I therefore be scared by the idea of an infinite universe?  Do Darwinian selection pressures — defined in the broadest possible way — suggest it is worth spending energy on making entities happy?  Or do most entities end up as suffering slaves?

Huh?  Can you imagine Tyler giving himself up to be killed for his writings because maybe other Tylers exist in an vast universe, because maybe he'd be tortured in a foreign land, or because saving his live would be a selfish "big thought"?  No, like the woman in Monty Python's "Can we have your liver?" sketch, cowed into giving her liver after hearing how vast is the universe, Tyler has succumbed to the severe human bias to think about distant times and places in impractical abstract symbolic terms.   

Though I think they are mistaken, I can at least respect those, like Bryan Caplan or Penn and Teller, who reject cryonics because they think it has too little chance of working.  But most other reactions seem just bizarre.

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Cryonics Is Cool


By Fortune Elkins.

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How To Not Die (Soon)

You don’t want to die. If you heard that an asteroid would soon destroy a vast area around your home, you’d pay great costs to help you and your loved ones try to move. Even if you’d probably fail, even of most of your loved ones might not make it, and even if success meant adapting to a strange world far from home. If that’s not you, then this post isn’t for you.

Okay, you think you don’t want to die. But what exactly does that mean?

“You” are the time sequence of mental states that results from a certain large signal processing system: your “brain.” Each small part in this system takes signals in from other parts, changes its local state in response, and then sends signals out to other parts. At the border of this system, signals come in from “sensors”, e.g., eyes, and are sent out to “actuators”, e.g., hands.

You have differing mental states when these signals are different, and you live only as long as these signals keep moving. As best we can tell, from all the evidence we’ve ever seen, when these signals stop, you stop. When they stop for good, you die. As your brain is made out of completely ordinary materials undergoing quite well understood physical processes, all that’s left to be you is the pattern of your brain signals. That’s you; when that stops, you stop. (So yes, patterns feel.) Continue reading "How To Not Die (Soon)" »

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