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?
In addition to Andrew's point, promoters of cryonics aren't particularly skewed towards CEO-types — especially not more skewed than cryonicists themselves.
Most of the cryonicists I've met have interesting and exciting lives, enjoyable romantic lives, and seem happy. My sample does skew young though.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
The term "selfish" doesn't imply harm to others. You can check with the dictionary if in doubt.
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.)
Robin, at no point in that article does Brin suggest that future generations "should" steal your money and leave you dead.
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.
Nope, I'm childfree - deliberately and successfully avoided children.
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?
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.
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)