OK, slight disclaimer, this is a bit of a joke article inspired by me watching a few recent videos and news reports about cryonics. Nevertheless, there is a serious side to it.

Many people claim that it is irrational to sign up for cryonics, and getting into the nitty gritty with them about how likely it is to work seems to turn into a series of small skirmishes with no particular “win condition”. Opponents will not say,

“OK, I will value my life at \$X and if you can convince me that (cryonics success probability)*\$X is greater than the \$1/​day fee, I will concede the argument”.

Rather, they will retreat to a series of ever harder to falsify positions, usually ending up at a position which is so vague that it is basically pure mood affiliation and acts as a way to stop the conversation rather than as a true objection. I have seen it many times with friends.

So, I propose that before you debate someone about cryonics, you should first try to sign then up for inverse cryonics. Inverse cryonics is a very simple procedure, fully scientifically tested that anyone can sign up for today, as long as they have a reasonably well-off benefactor to take the “other side” of the bet. Let me explain.

The inverse cryonics patient takes a simple revolver with 6 barrels, with one bullet loaded and spins the barrel on the gun, then shoots themselves once in the head1. If the inverse cryonaut is unlucky enough to shoot themselves with a barrel containing a real bullet, they will blow their brains out and die instantly and permanently. However, if they are lucky, the benefactor must pay them \$1 per day for the rest of their lives.

Obviously you can vary the risk, rewards and timings of inverse cryonics. The death event could be postponed for 20 years, the risk could be cranked up or down, and the reward could be increased or decreased or paid out as a future discounted lump sum. The key is that signing up for inverse cryonics should be mathematically identical to not signing up for cryonics.

As a baseline, cryonics seems to cost ~\$1/​day for the rest of your life in order to avoid a ~1/​10 chance of dying2. Most people3 would not play ~10-barrel Russian Roulette for a \$1/​day stipend, even with delayed death or an instant ~\$50k payout.

In fact,

• if you believe that cryonics costs ~\$1/​day for the rest of your life in order to avoid a ~1/​10 chance of dying4 and

• you are offered 11-barrel Russian roulette for that same ~\$1/​day as a stipend, or even an instant \$50k payout

then
• as a rational agent you shouldn’t refuse both offers

Of course, I’m sure opponents of cryonics won’t bite this particular bullet, but at the very least it may provide an extra intuition pump to move people away from objecting to cryonics because it’s the “risky” option.

1. Depending on the specific deal, more than six barrels could be used, or several identical guns could be used where only one barrel from one gun contains a real bullet, allowing one to achieve a reasonable range of probabilities for “losing” at inverse cryonics from 1 in 6 to perhaps one in 60 with ten guns.

2. And pushing the probability of cryonics working down much further seems to be very hard to defend scientifically, not that people haven’t tried. It becomes especially hard when you assume that the cryonics organizations stick around for ~40 years, and society sticks around without major disruptions in order for a young potential cryonaut who signs up today to actually pay their life insurance fees every day until they die.

3. Most intelligent, sane, relatively well-off people in the developed world, i.e. the kind of people who reject cryonics.

4. And you believe that the life you miss out on in the future will be as good, or better than, the life you are about to live from today until your natural death at a fixed age of, say, 75.

Has this ever worked for you? Seriously? Even once?

The part 2 sentences later, where they ask you why you want to shoot them, and you explain that they aren’t smart enough to understand what you mean must be super persuasive.

You want to get someone to sign up for cryo? Tell them it is cheap and Beyonce is doing it. Tell them Trump will try to take away their right to get the good kind of cryo. Tell them the peace of mind from the policy will help them lose weight. Tell them you will pay them five hundred bucks in cash when you see the bracelet. Tell them anything but what you proposed.

• This is more something you would do for a laugh than something that is intended as a serious recruitment strategy. There is a disclaimer at the top of the post.

Cryo has bad signalling value—signals weird + selfish. It’s hard to overcome this but I am open to suggestions.

• Have you tried any of your own proposed tactics?

• Are you signed for cryonics?

• Nope, but my finances are pretty dire right now, though when I do I will certainly post about it. Thanks for asking.

• But won’t it be difficult convincing others to sign up (and sign up as soon as possible) if you are not signed up yourself? Even if it is financial, many people live paycheck-to-paycheck, but I believe could still afford cryonic preservation.

• many people live paycheck-to-paycheck, but I believe could still afford cryonic preservation.

I would not personally advise this course of action, so we’ll have to agree to disagree. Especially if you are young, I think it makes more sense to first sort out your finances.

Are you now signed up for cryonics? If not, email me at contact@matiroy.com for guidance to sign up.

• Are your finances so dire that if someone offered you \$1/​day in exchange for playing Russian Roulette, you would accept? If not, aren’t you being just as irrational as you are accusing those who fail to accept your argument of being?

• No, that doesn’t work if I expect to sign up soon.

• No, it’s not 1% of the bet. My income goes up in the future meaning that the utility of money goes down. My mortality rate goes up since I am young, so the value of cryonics goes up.

• By how many orders of magnitude? Would you play Russian Roulette for \$10/​day? It seemed to me that implicit in your argument was that even if someone disagrees with you about the expected value, an order of magnitude or so wouldn’t invalidate it. There’s a rather narrow set of circumstances where your argument doesn’t apply to your own situation. Simply asserting that you will sign up soon is far from sufficient. And note that many conditions necessitate further conditions; for instance, if you claim that your current utility/​dollar ratio is ten times what it will be in a year, then you’d better not have turned down any loans with APY less than 900%.

And how does the value of cryonics go up as your mortality rate does? Are you planning on enrolling in a program with a fixed monthly fee?

• By how many orders of magnitude? Would you play Russian Roulette for \$10/​day?

Back of the envelope I would say my chances of dying in the next 6 months and also being successfully cryopreserved (assuming I magically completed the signup process immediately) are about 1 in 10000. That trades off against using my time and money at a time when I’m short of both.

• Everyone plays Russian Roulette for \$10 per day, assuming that probabilities lower than 1 out of 6 count as Russian Roulette. Just walking out of the house increases my chance of dying, never mind actually driving to some place that is not necessary for staying alive.

• then you’d better not have turned down any loans with APY less than 900%.

Since I was unemployed with no assets, I wasn’t (until very recently, i.e. yesterday) eligible for any kind of personal loan.

By how many orders of magnitude?

Mortality rate in your late 20s is low, and when you add that accidents, sudden deaths and murder are already very bad for cryo, that is further compounded.

Then you have the problem that I’m not in the USA (I plan to eventually move, once my career is strong enough to score the relevant visa); being in the US is the best way to ensure a successful, timely suspension. If you are in Europe you have to both pay more for transport and you will be damaged more by the long journey, assuming you die unexpectedly in Europe.

And how does the value of cryonics go up as your mortality rate does?

Well obviously it is worth more to mitigate death if your death is more likely. Especially when the kinds of ways you die when young are bad for yoir cryo chances.

• Then you have the problem that I’m not in the USA (I plan to eventually move, once my career is strong enough to score the relevant visa); being in the US is the best way to ensure a successful, timely suspension. If you are in Europe you have to both pay more for transport and you will be damaged more by the long journey, assuming you die unexpectedly in Europe.

OTOH it looks like the mortality in your late 20s in the EU is less than half that in the US.

• Yeah, but I’m not planning on magically becoming a randomly chosen 29 year old American male. If you condition on being wealthy and living in Mountain view or something I would expect the correlation to go away.

• The key is that signing up for inverse cryonics should be mathematically identical to not signing up for cryonics.

Actually, no, it is not. In inverse cryonics what you place at risk is a few decades of your life. That’s the most you can lose. Say, around 60 years. And what you can win is 60 * 365 = about \$22K. In actual cryonics you are guaranteed to lose some \$X and you can win your IMMORTAL SOUL, err… sorry, I mean some very large number of years in PARADISE, um, there seems to be some interference going on, I meant in a technologically advanced society. These two bets are not identical at all.

• I mean some very large number of years in PARADISE, um, there seems to be some interference going on, I meant in a technologically advanced society. These two bets are not identical at all.

To the extent that you think PARADISE is better than the here and now, you could reduce the cash amount for inverse cryonics to try and equalize them as bets.

• Hum, first I find you numbers very unlikely—cryonics costs more than \$1/​day, and definitely have less than 10% of chance of working (between the brain damage done by the freezing, the chances that the freezing can’t be done in time, disaster striking the storage place before resurrection, risk of society collapse, unwillingness of future people to resurrect you, …).

Then, the “bullet” scenario isn’t comparable to cryonics, because it completely forgets all the context and social network. A significant part of why I don’t want to die (not the only reason, by far, but definitely not a minor on either) is that there are people I care about and who either enjoy me being around them, and/​or depend on me financially at least partially, and I enjoy spending time with them. If I were to die tomorrow of a bullet in the head, it’ll deprive me of time with them and them of time with me. If I were to die of whatever other cause, and then be resurrected centuries in the future, it wouldn’t change anything for them (unless they sign up to cryonics too, but that’s a wholly different issue).

That doesn’t mean cryonics isn’t worth it at all—but the two scenarios are far from being mathematically equivalent. And I would definitely pay more than \$1 a day to not have the “I’m cut from all the people I care about” scenario to happen.

• it completely forgets all the context and social network.

TBH I think this works out fairly heavily in favour of the future, I expect that the utility per unit time of future life is significantly higher than what we have today, even taking into account loss of social network. Of course this asymmetry goes away if you persuade your friends and family to sign up too.

I suppose your mileage may reasonably vary depending on how much of a nerd you are and how good your present day relationships are.

Personally, if cryonics was 100% and a positive future to wake up in was also 100% (both of which are false by a large margin), I would go to the future right now and start enjoying the delights it has to offer. I have spent some time thinking about how good the best possible human life is. It’s somewhat hard to tell as it is an underresearched area, but I think it’s probably 2-10 times better in utility than the best we have today.

• I expect that the utility per unit time of future life is significantly higher than what we have today, even taking into account loss of social network.

Perhaps, but that’s highly debatable. Anyway, my main point was that the two scenarios (bullet /​ cryonics) are not anywhere near being mathematically equivalent, there are a lot of differences, both in favor and against cryonics, and pretending they don’t exist is not helping. If anything, it just reinforces the Hollywood stereotype of the “vulkan rationalist” who doesn’t have any feeling or emotion, and that basically fails to understand what makes life worth being lived. And that’s pretty harmful from a PR point of view.

Even then it’s not the case, unless everyone dies and is frozen at the same time. If I sign to cryonics, die tomorrow and am resurrected in 200 years, and my 4 yo niece signs to cryonics when she’s adult and dies in 80 years and is resurrected too in 200 years, she’ll still have grown without her uncle, and I would still have missed her childhood—in fact, she would likely not even remember me, and the 84-yo person she would be wouldn’t be much like the one I remembered.

I think it’s probably 2-10 times better in utility than the best we have today.

Perhaps. There is a lot of uncertainty about that (which compounds with the odds of cryonics working at all), and while there are possible futures in which it’s the case, it’s not certain at all—especially from someone from now.

But you also forget a very important point—utility for other people. Perhaps I would be happier in the future than now—but to take the same example, my niece would still miss her uncle (and that would be even much worse if I were a father, not “just” an uncle), and less utility in her childhood because of it. And I value her life more than my own.

• Opponents will not say, “OK, I will value my life at \$X and if you can convince me that (cryonics success probability)*\$X is greater than the \$1/​day fee, I will concede the argument”.

Because if you put a high value on your life, this amounts to Pascal’s Mugging.

Also, 110 chance of cryonics working is ridiculously optimistic.

• Because if you put a high value on your life, this amounts to Pascal’s Mugging.

No, it doesn’t, not unless you’re talking about valuing your life at \$10^(10^10000000) or something ridiculous.

Also, 110 chance of cryonics working is ridiculously optimistic.

There’s a bit of room for disagreement here, but I haven’t heard a convincing argument for anything much lower. What did you have in mind?

• More like 1/​100000, and then when they thaw you you’ll be brain damaged and have to live in an institution forever. They don’t really know how to do this yet. How far along are they now? Have they frozen and thawed a mouse yet, and did it behave the same as before? I won’t let them freeze me earlier than that, because there’s essentially no chance I’ll be even able to walk and talk, let alone be someone present me would recognize as ‘me’.

• Well, the position you’re advocating here is certainly not one I—or other smart cryo advocates—agree with, but there is room for debate to be had. Let me keep it short for this comment though.

First of all, cryonics aims to vitrify people, not freeze them. This means they—ideally—turn into glass, not ice.

As such, they could not be thawed.

Going up a step in complexity, most cryo advocates don’t believe that they will be revived in the same body, rather that the information that makes them who they are will be extracted and used to construct a real or virtual or robotic body.

Also, this:

They don’t really know how to do this yet. How far along are they now? Have they frozen and thawed a mouse yet,

Putting aside that cryonics is not about freezing and thawing, there is the issue of wanting to wait until the revival side of cryonics is perfected. Well, sure, by the time science has advanced to that point, you would no longer have to make a probabilistic decision. But by that point, medical conditions—including aging—will probably have been eliminated. If you survive that far, good on you. But suppose we reach that point in 200 years’ time. If you refuse cryonics because it’s not yet proven, you will be dead by the time the proof comes.

So you have to make the decision right now: do you want to lose \$1/​day if cryonics doesn’t work, or do you want to gain your life back if it does?

And this:

I won’t let them freeze me earlier than that, because there’s essentially no chance I’ll be even able to walk and talk

I’m confused here. If you are cryopreserved (please, not frozen) at date X, and then at a later date X+100 they invent better revival technology, you can have that better revival technology used on you, even if it hadn’t been invented when you were deanimated and cryopreserved! This seems so obvious to me that I’m confused about why you’re objecting to it. Help me out?!

• I think the reason a person would object is that the default hypothesis would be that when revival technology is invented, it will be invented in conjunction with a matching cryopreservation protocol, and previous cases will not have used that protocol. So previous cases will not be revivable.

• default hypothesis would be that when revival technology is invented, it will be invented in conjunction with a matching cryopreservation protocol, and previous cases will not have used that protocol. So previous cases will not be revivable.

Right.

• I’m afraid the preservation techniques are still so bad that you can’t be revived correctly even with improved future techniques.

• Anyway, the bottom line here is that you can’t reasonably bet against cryonic preservation success at the kind of extreme odds you were proposing upthread. You wouldn’t bet on any medical claim at odds anywhere near 100,000:1, even in the case that there was a lot of evidence against it (and there is none at all against cryonics—the skeptical argument is entirely based on hypothetical information carrying entities that may or may not actually exist).

If you still think 100,000:1 against is reasonable, imagine making 100,000 statements about medical controversies, and being wrong only once.

• It is not known for certain whether modern cryopreservation preserves “enough”, partly because we are not entirely sure how long-term memories and personality are actually stored. We do know that the connectome is preserved, and modern techniqued such as aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation seem to preserve cell membranes, synapses, and intracellular structures. See Wikipedia and the relevant paper.

It is possible that some key piece of information is destroyed by these protocols, with no way of recovery. Everything that we know is required to be preserved, is preserved.

• There’s also “Persistence of Long-Term Memory in Vitrified and Revived C. elegans, Vita-More & Barranco 2015 - so we know that in at least one species (which did not evolve for being frozen) that long-term memory is preserved by the best cryonics techniques.

• Given that c. elegans survived vitrification, it’s not surprising that its memory persisted, though it does underline the point that memory is not some kind of magic—it’s physically recorded. Of course large mammals like humans are very different from c. elegans.

Given that

• humans survive immersion in freezing water and 60 minutes of brain death with their memories intact

• c elegans survives full vitrification with memories intact

• connectome information and intercellular structure survives aldehyde stabilised cryopreservation

we can conclude that the skeptical case is trying to thread through an ever narrower gap. If you claim that the physical correlates of memory are too delicate, you contradict existing results. If you claim they are too robust, you are forced to conclude that they are preserved by the best cryo.

• They’ve frozen and revived an animal kidney. Proving that cells, and the complex machinery in them, can be preserved intact and revived even today. I believe a few worms were also successfully revived with their brains still functioning fine.

Personally I think it’s very unlikely that cryopreservation destroys the information of the brain. The connectome, your learned synapses and behaviors, and memories are probably preserved.

Revival though is much more complicated. I don’t expect anyone to be revived pre-singularity, so waiting for a successful revival of a mouse is a bit silly. Preserving things is a lot easier than reconstructing them. But there is nothing in principle preventing it from being done.

Lastly even if some information isn’t preserved, I don’t think you would be brain damaged. The worst case is amnesia. But if they have the power to revive a brain from ice and rebuild the rest of your body, surely they could fix brain damage and get your neurons working again to a normal state.

• 21st Century Medicine cryopreserved and revived a rabbit kidney and planted inside a living rabbit. The kidney was still able to function. In a more recent study, memory retention seemed possible after cryopreservation, as mentioned. On top of this, 21st Century Medicine cryopreserved and thawed a rabbit brain with little damage: http://​​www.cryonics.org/​​news/​​mammal-brain-frozen-and-thawed-out-perfectly-for-first-time