Tyler Thursday on cryonics: “My question is: why not save someone else’s life instead?” Today, Tyler elaborates:
[Some] asked why I compare cryonics (unfavorably) to acts of charity, rather than comparing other acts of personal consumption (I enjoy the gelato here in Berlin) to charity. My view is this: the decision to have one’s head frozen is not primarily instrumental but rather expressive. Look at the skewed demographics of the people who do it, namely highly intelligent male readers of science fiction, often with tech jobs. … It’s a chance to stand for something and in a way which sets them apart … for instrumental rationality, for Science, … for the conquering of limits, … and for the notion that the subject sees hidden possiblities and resources which more traditional observers do not. …
People interested in cryonics are often highly meritorious. … So I’m … happy to endorse laissez-faire for the practice but still I don’t find myself settling into really liking the idea. … The world would be better off, and the relative status of the virtuous nerds higher, if instead the cryonics customers sent more signals which were perceived as running contrary to type. Ignoring cryonics, and promoting charity, would do more to raise the status of intelligence and analytical thinking than does cryonics.
Tyler’s argument is hard to follow here. Is he merely saying the world is better if anyone acts more contrary to type, expresses less relative to instrumenting, or donates more to charity? If so, why pick on cryonics and tech nerds in particular, why not just rail in general against all expressing, typed-acts, and non-charity? If the argument is that the world gains unusually more from tech nerds acting against type, expressing less, and giving to charity, then we need to hear an argument for that. It certainly seems odd to complain that tech nerds, usually critiqued for being overly practical, are actually overly expressive.
Let’s be concrete. Tyler goes way out of his way to be, and call attention to his being, a “foodie” – his eating a gelato in Berlin, and then mentioning on his blog, clearly has a big expressive component. Being a foodie lets Tyler join a high status community and stand for art, culture, etc. in a way that sets him apart and supports the notion he can see hidden food quality that the rest of us do not see. (I like “great” food, but honestly not much more than ordinary food.) Does Tyler think the world would be equally better off if foodies were to act contrary to type, express less via buying less fancy food, and give the difference to charity? If so, why has he never mentioned it in his hundreds of food posts?
Could it be Tyler knows that tech nerds are low status in our society and fair game for criticism? Is this really any different than rich folks complaining about inner city kids who buy $100 sneakers instead of saving their money or giving it to charity, even while they buy $1000 suits and dresses instead of saving their money or giving it to charity?
Added: Tyler responds, sort of.