Hope and False Hope

I’m trying to figure out why people don’t want to really consider cryonics as an option. E.g., maybe they never really consider anything; maybe life sucks for them and they don’t want to live; maybe they are afraid of future justice; maybe they are afraid of social punishment for doing weird stuff (woo-oo-oooh, Walt Disney’s severed head, woo-oo-oo-ooh); maybe they don’t have the money; maybe they judge that to even reconsider whether it’s actually a scam is to be scammed; maybe they don’t think humanity will last long enough; maybe they don’t think it’ll ever be feasible to reconstitute a person via superintelligent nanotechnology from frozen brain tissue (what a ridiculous opinion, lol). Stated reasons often include death being good, appropriate, comprehensible, poetic, expected, natural, etc., but I don’t feel like I can yet make any empathetic or logical sense out of that response, and it always strikes me as a cover for something else, though I don’t know.

Another hypothesis I hadn’t crystallized before, as a sort of generalization of the fear of scams: maybe they are afraid of taking on False Hope. Some terms:

- Having a Wish (that X) or Wishing (for X) is stance of being ready to take whatever opportunities are given to make the world be a certain way (be X). A Wish is ambiguously either the Wishing stance, or X itself (so you could reach a Wish).

- A person’s Life-force is their energy, attention, effort, care, thought, problem-solving, optimization, interest, planning, consideration, orientation, etc.

- A Hope is a way of comporting yourself that’s well-suited for pursuing a Wish that you believe you can reach. Someone with Hope in a Wish for X will invest their Life-force towards bringing about X. Footnotes: [1] [2]. Hope also ambiguously refers to elements of a strategy generated by Hope, which can also be a source of Hope (e.g. “This treaty is our last hope for peace.”). [3]

- A False Hope is a Hope that won’t actually bring about the Wish. [4] [5] False Hope is terrifying because Hope is powerful: if you’d go past the edges of the Earth to save a loved one, you might burn up all your Life-force for nothing on a False Hope, or worse, put your Life-force towards ends that are worse than nothing.

Some people exploit and create False Hope. Hope for money attracts pyramid schemers, Hope for growth in production via capital attracts predatory lenders, Hope for child-rearing attracts sexual users, Hope for any Wish shared by many people (i.e. political will) attracts politicians, Hope for any Wish that’s hard to verify progress towards attracts charlatans, and searching for someone to invest Hope in attracts narcissists and cult leaders. [6]

So, here’s my new guess about people who are not interested in seriously thinking about cryonics. They have a Wish to live and Wishes for each loved one to live, but they’ve mourned any Hope [7] in that Wish, including any Hope in their ability to discern new opportunities to reach the Wish. Cryonics offers (what therefore appears to be necessarily False) Hope. The Hope of cryonics is compelling, as it’s addressed at some of their true Wishes. So the seeming False Hope is terrifying to the core, because it has a shot at recruiting much or most of their Life-force, and then subjecting that investment to pointless incineration, permanent incarceration [8], or disastrous mistargeting.


[1] When someone yearns (wistfully, say) for X, they have a Wish for it but do not have Hope in that Wish; in X’s absence they don’t seek it, but if unsought it showed up for the taking, they’d take it and cherish it from then on. When someone despairs, they are being pushed to give up Hope. To mourn (for a person, but also for a mission, a place, a home, a friendship, etc.) is to give up Hope, but not always entirely to give up the Wish (a Hopeless prisoner can mourn but still yearn to be free).

[2] A Hope isn’t just a belief that a Wish is possible, as a world. You could Wish X and believe the world admits the possibility of X but believe that your Life-force isn’t enough to bring it about. The latter can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you don’t have Hope then you will not follow through on your plans and other people will not become Hopeful about your Wish, so you will have no help from your future self and from other people. So Hope is sort of like a decision and sort of like a belief, an equilibrium state between the world’s possibilities and your history of decisions. Cf. predictive coding.

[3] More precisely, you can invest a strategy with Hope by organizing the Hope’s Life-force under the assumption that you’ll pursue that strategy. So a strategy represents a Hope, and e.g. is something that multiple people participating in the same Hope can choose to coordinate to do. A belief that a strategy might work is cause/​reason to Hope in general, and is reason to invest that specific strategy with Hope.

[4] False Hope can, for example, be caused by mistakenly thinking that a strategy is coherent /​ can be enacted (“I’ll save the world by getting a lot of political power by any means necessary, and then [[somehow]] I’ll decide to make the right things happen.”); or caused by an incorrect belief that something is possible (e.g., a perpetual motion machine); or by trusting someone who isn’t trustworthy for this Hope; or by a runaway autogenesis of Hope (“I’m feeling good, so my efforts will work”) taken too far (following a “success spiral” off a cliff, perhaps as in a manic episode?). There can of course be a false lack of Hope (i.e. you actually could do it if you tried, maybe only if you really try for real), for the same reasons. People also exploit this, e.g. masters convincing the underclass not to revolt, or an abuser degrading their victim’s self-esteem to trick them into thinking they can’t do anything without the abuser. People can cause other people to have a False Hope or false lack of Hope by having or simulating the same.

[5] It might be righter to think of Hope as having a nested or network structure. (For example, mourning for a friendship, without giving up Hope in possible future friendships; or mourning for friendship in general, but keeping Hope in business partnerships.) Then a Wish is just a Hope that hasn’t invested Life-force into any particular strategy. Though, I’d want to say that it is always possible to choose to invest in a highly general meta-strategy of searching for new strategies and meta-strategies and understanding, and investing in that strategy constitutes a proper Hope, not a mere Wish. Maybe despair is giving up a certain False Hope, and it pushes also on the Hope that originally invested in the False Hope. Despair pushes to give up more Hope because the Hope has been revealed to be False or to have made an investment in False Hope, and perhaps it has been revealed to have been founded on False Hope, which poor foundation may feel, or be, nearly indistinguishable from poor investment. The process of despair is the conflict between pushing “from below /​ inside” to give up more Hope as False, and pushing “from above /​ outside” to not give up the broader Hope, because maybe it will regenerate new Hope that can’t be seen yet. Desperation is the conflict not quite resolving, leaving you stuck in a strategy that you know you shouldn’t be investing Life-force in. Mourning is fully giving up a Hope, though maybe never giving up the Wish (if your dead relative came to you alive, you wouldn’t ignore them).

[6] I think money isn’t exactly embodied Hope, but rather is a tool to replace some functions of Hope. SpaceX employees probably have a lot of Hope in SpaceX, Elon, Mars, etc., but they need to eat and sleep etc., and it’s somehow easier to arrange that with money than by having Hope in space also concentrated in specific farmers, house builders, etc. I think I’ve heard that sometimes people become less prosocial when paid a small amount of money than when paid no money (in many contexts) (which I’m not sure how to interpret but it’s suggestive to me of “oh, ok, they aren’t viewing this as part of some broader Hope we might share, it’s just trade between individuals”).

[7] Maybe there’s two kinds of desperation: there’s the kind where you feel stuck, but if only you had faith in the broader Hope, you could just mourn and then regenerate new Hope; and then there’s the kind where there isn’t any broader Hope, and if you mourn then you are giving up the Wish as well, and the only option is to desperately try to grow a new strategy out of nothing, out of the lack of a meta-strategy /​ broader Hope that you’ve left yourself with. This suggests somehow factoring your Hope in advance to be able to give up enough but not entirely, unless you really want to give up entirely.

[8] Hope that’s shaped a certain way, a way that deemphasizes [9] working with one’s self across time, gets fenced into an impoverished area of strategy-space. Like those people, the ones who’ve already got their strategy worked out, in whatever arena, and there’s just no convincing them to try something else. E.g., an activist who doesn’t have purchase on their mission, and just sort of wanders around exhorting deaf ears. They care, but they are stuck.

[9] Hope crucially has openness: exploration is valuable in part because explorers gain information, and information is valuable because it indicates effective decisions, and working with your future self is a key aspect of the stance I’m calling Hope; so Hope is connected to exploration. Hope is also connected to evaluating possible strategies with a type of optimism (“angelic semantics”), and expecting/​deciding that you’ll find the goodness mountains across the valleys that surround your local optimum if you perturb yourself.