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.
You don't have to be rich or selfish to be a cryonaut. I want to get to the future to help a disabled boy. He will be then much older and need my help. If they could they would revive me because I would have rare gold coins hidden in a National Park. There is only one way they can get to it in the future.
This is about people who reject the hope of cryonics as not worth the trouble. It is a separate question from the probability of success. And I absolutely defend my right to dilute my assessment of the value through distancing techniques.
Let's take the flee-to-another-country metaphor. You secretly learn that a tsunami will hit your city in a short time. You know that you cannot convince all your friends that this will happen. For some reason, there is only one way out of town: a single truck, which will take you to a place you have never been, which you may or may not like. In order to be loaded on the truck, you have to agree to be anaesthetized and put in a box. But there are more people in line for the procedure than there are spaces, so what they are going to do is anaesthetize everyone and then randomly choose which ones to load on the truck. There is also some opportunity cost for agreeing; say, you give up the chance to live it up/help people/write the perfect haiku/understand general relativity in your precious remaining time.
OK, the details need work, but the aspects are all there: on the one hand death, on the other uncertain value, imperfect probability, temporary total loss of control, opportunity cost. There are clear models (expected value) for discounting for all of the latter factors, except temporary total loss of control. For me, that break in the causal chain needs a discount too. What I am doing is *deliberately* using the it to dilute my sense of self and so assume a more universal standpoint: here ends me, the only thing that matters after that is world peace/maximum fun/ whatever.
So would I forego life-saving surgery with total anaesthesia? Well, yes, actually, the fact of total anaesthesia would probably significantly alter the opportunity cost/success probability package I'd accept - say, I'd need a 15% instead of a 10% chance for the surgery to work perfectly before committing half of my current and future savings to it. And yes, if the doctor was someone I could know nothing about before the surgery - if in fact I'd never met a surgeon in my life, or ever heard of anybody surviving anaesthesia - that would also make me increase my price to accept the deal - say, 25% in the same case. And if the surgery were opt-in and the death it prevented years in the future, sure, 50%. It may seem that I value my life especially poorly, as many people would give their whole life savings for a smaller chance of perfect recovery. Though I admit I am possibly exaggerating, I am pretty sure I'm atypical in the direction I signal - not that my life is cheap, but that that I value quality (opportunity to help others included) over quantity, and the cost of the surgery is ultimately expressed in foregone quality.
The point is, I am perfectly willing to live with a bias here, an extra penalty factor on the expected value of cryonics because of passing through what my experience counts as death, the universal price for birth. Because it is just using one bias - deliberate distancing to use "far" thinking - to overcome another - my bias for personal survival, instead of maximum worldwide fun and minimum suffering.
I don't know if that's Tyler's conscious reasoning, but given that he refers to the ultimate distance - his copies and near-copies in distant corners of the multiverse - I think that that is what he's striving for here.
Would I have come to this conclusion in a world where freezeheads were as common as religious folk in this one, so I could opt out and use the money for myself and the poor? Maybe not, but quite possibly.
can anyone tell me groups that are against cryonics
Can someone enumerate the advances in cryonics since it first started in the late 60s? That seems like an amazing amount of time for innovations, yet afaict not much has changed. On the flip-side, what happens if better preservation techniques are discovered that don't involve cryonics. Will your policy be transferable, or will you be locked into an obsolete technology?
"The cryonics facilities of today will be the creepy haunted ruins of the far future" - me
"The cryonics facilities of today will become the creepy haunted ruins of the far future" - Me
Sternhammer: I'd like to see your response to the points about asteroids and about the nuclear threat initiative.
"who reject cryonics because they think it has too little chance of working"
I remember Evan Gamble giving me a copy of Varley's Ophiuchi Hotline, which features cloning, when we were stuck in a miserable public school. I believe it was the social studies teacher who saw me reading this and asked what it was about.
He responded to my summary with "Cloning is impossible; it will never happen, what a foolish story for you to waste your time with." And he thoughtfully gave me a cookbook from the school library.
That would have been in '77, before Evan left jr. high for college. Not 20 years later Dolly the Sheep was made.
Some parts of biotech are proceeding faster than Moore's Law. There are no guarantees, but it might be rational to ask Bryan to update his estimates accordingly and politely inquire if he would think again.
Thanks for the tip on Givewell. We could debate the numbers, but you might be right that I was underestimating. I am thinking of clean water wells -- say $8000 -- that could eliminate giardia and amebic dissentery for a substantial village population. Could I save 160 lives for that? Maybe not, but I would guess 20. And 10 very cheap mosquito nets might save a life. I think those are like $5 each, but I guess I am leaving out program costs. I cede your point.
I would push back on life years being a good with convex utility. In the Eliezer/Aubrey bloggingheads Aubrey says that earlier years are more strongly recalled, hence more deeply felt. That matches my partial experience (I'm only 42), with the exception that years with young children are also very vivid. If you could choose to live a year at any age, to maximize hedonistic utility, what year would you pick? I'd go for 20. Partly that's bodily decay, but part of it is the curiosity and wonder that come from inexperience. The first time you fall in love is better than the 10th, or would be if you held quality of lover constant.
Exactly, the fact is is that aid does help, when the spending and the goals are defined right:
More broadly, however, aid can be effective even if it doesn't boost economic growth ... these days, there are far fewer ... blind beggars, and one reason is the extraordinary work that Jimmy Carter has done in leading the fight against river blindness. It hasn't been quite wiped out, but in a quarter-century it has gone from a major peril in Africa to a marginal problem.In fact aid efforts in fighting disease have been extraordinarily effective—with one big exception, AIDS. Average life expectancy in the developing world was forty in 1950 and has risen in those countries to about sixty-five today. It's difficult to quantify the economic impact of medical aid or be sure that it has boosted economic growth, but in any ordinary sense of the word it has been hugely effective. Leprosy has been a burden on humanity for thousands of years, and you still see victims in Africa and India who lost their fingers, toes, and noses to it decades ago. But international aid efforts have largely overcome leprosy, and when people get it now it is treated before patients lose their extremities.
Sternhammer: I'm pretty sure then that you should be looking at www.givewell.netI'm sorry to say that $50 with a high probability sounds like a false promise to me, though $500 might be realistic and $5000 certainly is, leaving your point intact. To even save a life for $500 requires a lot of research. OTOH, it's highly plausible that $50 can be used to influence the allocation of aid money in such a manner as to transfer thousands of dollars from a project that doesn't effectively save lives to one that does, in which case $50/life may be an underestimate if the money is combined with careful thought about how to do this. Cryonics advocates might plausibly suggest that with adequate economies of scale cryonics could be equivalently cheap, but this is a much less certain claim. Life isn't a good in the relevant sense to apply to your behavioral psychology point, but it isn't needed to make your case WRT Africa. OTOH, asteroid and comet detection for non-extinction threatening threats might still be a highly measurable better deal. Impacts by large objects of less than a billion tons would be expected to kill several hundreds of millions to a couple billion people happen every million years or so, hence with a .01% chance in the next century. Such bodies, if detected years in advance would be deflected with high probability, but because of the low (though fairly precisely calculable) probability of danger there has been long term underinvestment in finding them. (as discussed in books such as Richard Posner's "Catastrophy: Risk and Response" http://www.amazon.com/Catas.... The expected value of a dollar spend on detecting such objects may be subject to calculation more precise than the expected value of a dollar spend on aid to Africa and may simultaneously be lower.
Another potential target for donations is the nuclear threat initiative. Its expected value is difficult to calculate as precisely as that of asteroid defense but seems unlikely not to be greater. http://www.nti.org/index.php
Eliezer: Your link shows evidence that marginal aid fails to cause economic development, which doesn't surprise me, not that aid fails to save lives, which would surprise me. Showing aid to fail to provide non-survival health benefits, e.g. in cleft pallet correction and the like, would require something really weird to be happening, though it could be that at the margin this is true, or that other effects of those charities make them a net bad.
PK was talking about people like you.
If I said something irrational or bizarrely reasoned, I'm afraid you'll have to elaborate.
I'm currently researching cryonics options available in Canada (Ottawa region). Will probably sign up if it's possible.
Fair point. I phrased that poorly. It sounds like I was saying that one life is more valuable than two.
What I meant to say was that giving the opportunity for one complete life to a person who would otherwise die before age 5 seems more important to me than giving an extra life to someone who had already lived 80 years. Simple distributional equity.
Also, if, as I think Kahneman and Tversky (1974) showed, utility curves for any good are convex, then we would predict less expected utility for years 81 - 160 than for 1 - 80. Yeah, I know, the kind of person who has faith in Cryonics probably also believes that their resurrected body will be immortal, will have a flying car, etc, so the calculation is more complex than that.
I'd rather move someone 0 to 1 than 1 to 2. And since moving someone 0 to 1 has about a 100% chance of success for very little money, like say $50, that seems a much better use of that pile of money I allocate for human life expansion than a very slim chance of moving someone 1 to 2 for $150k. Even if the beneficiary is me.
Can't Say No Spending
Robin: I think that Aron was giving you back your explanations for not agreeing with Eliezer. PK is accusing Tyler of something which is between a sort of dishonesty and an error. How smart Tyler is may be irrelevant if he's also not an outlier truth seeker.
Eliezer: You ignored Toby, but I'll ask again. Can you cite a source on the claim that most money sent to Africa is counterproductive? In any event, the relevant concern is the average of the charities one can identify as "best", not the over-all average, and certainly not the median, but I am also somewhat skeptical of the fact you are asserting about the median.
Sternhammer "I'd rather give one life to the poor than two to the privileged."That's very odd. I'm not sure I understand your reasoning. It would be interesting to hear it.
Jason Malloy: PK was talking about people like you.