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.