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?

1: http://​​www.al­cor.org/​​Library/​​html/​​Cry­op­reser­va­tionFund­ingAndIn­fla­tion.html