Alcor vs. Cryonics Institute
I searched but did not find any discussion comparing the merits of the two major cryonics providers in the US, so I figured it might be productive to start such a discussion myself by posing the question to the community: which provider would you choose, all things being equal: Alcor or the Cryonics Institute?
From my research, Alcor comes across as the flasher, higher-end option, while CI seems more like a Mom-and-Pop operation, having only two full-time employees. Alcor also costs substantially more, with its neurosuspension option alone running ~$80k, compared with CI’s whole-body preservation cost of ~$30k. While Alcor has received far more publicity than CI, much of it has been negative. The Ted Williams fiasco is probably the most prominent example, although the accuser in that case seems anything but trustworthy. However, Alcor remains something of a shadowy organization that many within the cryonics community are suspicious of. Mike Darwin, a former Alcor president, has written at length on both organizations at http://www.chronopause.com, and on the whole, at least based on what I’ve read, Alcor comes across looking less competent, less trustworthy, and less open than CI.
One issue in particular is funding. Even though Alcor costs much more, it has many more expenses, and Darwin and others have questioned the long term financial stability of the organization. Ralph Merkle, an Alcor board member and elder statesman of cryonics who has made significant contributions to other fields like nanotechnology, a field he practically invented, and encryption, with Merkle’s Puzzles, has essentially admitted(1) that Alcor hasn’t managed its money very well:
“Some Alcor members have wondered why rich Alcor members have not donated more money to Alcor. The major reason is that rich Alcor members are rich because they know how to manage money, and they know that Alcor traditionally has managed money poorly. Why give any significant amount of money to an organization that has no fiscal discipline? It will just spend it, and put itself right back into the same financial hole it’s already in.
As a case in point, consider Alcor’s efforts over the year to create an “endowment fund” to stabilize its operating budget. These efforts have always ended with Alcor spending the money on various useful activities. These range from research projects to subsidizing our existing members — raising dues and minimums is a painful thing to do, and the Board is always reluctant to do this even when the financial data is clear. While each such project is individually worthy and has merit, collectively the result has been to thwart the effort to create a lasting endowment and leave Alcor in a financially weak position.”
Such an acknowledgement, though appreciated, is frankly disturbing, considering that members depend utterly on these organizations remaining operational and solvent for decades, perhaps even centuries, after they are deanimated.
Meanwhile, CI carries on merrily, well under the radar, seemingly without any drama or intrigue. And Ben Best seems to have very good credentials in the cryonics community, and Eliezer, one of the most prominent public advocates of cryonics, is signed up with them. Yet the tiny size of the operation still fills me with unease concerning its prospects for long-term survivability.
So with all of that said, besides cost, what factors would lead or have led you to pick one organization over the other?