# Cryonics Wants To Be Big

Cryonics scales very well. People who argue from the perspective that cryonics is costly are probably not aware of this fact. Even assuming you needed to come up with the lump sum all at once rather than steadily pay into life insurance, the fact is that most people would be able to afford it if most people wanted it. There are some basic physical reasons why this is the case.

So long as you keep the shape constant, for any given container the surface area is based on a square law while the volume is calculated as a cube law. For example with a simple cube shaped object, one side squared times 6 is the surface area; one side cubed is the volume. Spheres, domes, and cylinders are just more efficient variants on this theme. For any constant shape, if volume is multiplied by 1000, surface area only goes up by 100 times.

Surface area is where heat gains entry. Thus if you have a huge container holding cryogenic goods (humans in this case) it costs less per unit volume (human) than is the case with a smaller container that is equally well insulated. A way to understand why this works is to realize that you only have to insulate and cool the outside edge—the inside does not collect any new heat. In short, by multiplying by a thousand patients, you can have a tenth of the thermal transfer to overcome per patient with no change in r-value.

But you aren’t limited to using equal thickness of insulation. You can use thicker insulation, but get a much smaller proportional effect on total surface area when you use bigger container volumes. Imagine the difference between a marble sized freezer and a house-sized freezer. What happens when you add an extra foot of insulation to the surface of each? Surface area is impacted much as diameter is—i.e. more significantly in the case of the smaller freezer than the larger one. The outer edge of the insulation is where it begins collecting heat. With a truly gigantic freezer, you could add an entire meter (or more) of insulation without it having a significant proportional impact on surface area, compared to how much surface area it already has. (This is one reason cheaper materials can be used to construct large tanks—they can be applied in thicker layers.)

Another factor to take into account is that liquid nitrogen, the super-cheap coolant used by cryonics facilities around the world, is vastly cheaper (more than a factor of 10) when purchased in huge quantities of several tons. The scaling factors for storage tanks and high-capacity tanker trucks are a big part of the reason for this. CI has used bulk purchasing as a mechanism for getting their prices down to \$100 per patient per year for their newer tanks. They are actually storing 3,000 gallons of the stuff and using it slowly over time, which implies there is a boiloff rate associated with the 3,000 gallon tank in addition to the tanks.

The conclusion I get from this is that there is a very strong self-interested case (as well as the altruistic case) to be made for the promotion of megascale cryonics towards the mainstream, as opposed to small independently run units for a few of us die-hard futurists. People who say they won’t sign up for cost reasons may actually (if they are sincere) be reachable at a later date. To deal with such people’s objections and make sure they remain reachable, it might be smart to get them to agree with some particular hypothetical price point at which they would feel it is justified. In large enough quantities, it is conceivable that indefinite storage costs would be as low as \$50 per person, or 50 cents per year.

That is much cheaper than saving a life any other way. Of course there’s still the risk that it might not work. However, given a sufficient chance of it working it could still be morally superior to other life saving strategies that cost more money. It also has inherent ecological advantages over other forms of life-saving in that it temporarily reduces the active population, giving the environment a chance to recover and green tech more time to take hold so that they can be supported sustainably and comfortably. And we might consider the advent of life-health extension in the future to be a reason to think it a qualitatively better form of life-saving.

Note: This article only looks directly at cooling energy costs; construction and ongoing maintenance do not necessarily scale as dramatically. The same goes for stabilization (which I view as a separate though indispensable enterprise). Both of these do have obvious scaling factors however. Other issues to consider are defense and reliability. Given the large storage mass involved, preventing temperature fluctuations without being at the exact boiling temperature of LN2 is feasible; it could be both highly failsafe and use the ideal cryonics temperature of −135C rather than the −196C that LN2 boiloff as a temperature regulation mechanism requires. Feel free to raise further issues in the comments.

• The most important reason that cryonics wants to be big is because if people thought that they were going to be alive in the future, then they would work hard to prevent the future from going wrong. They would also work hard to prevent cryonics from going wrong, and it would be made illegal for cryopatients to be thawed, eliminating a huge risk in the success of cryonics.

• Developed societies in the 21st Century have started to break down in certain ways because we live in “the long run” discounted by people who made bad decisions for us when they ran things decades ago. I’ve seen this happen in cryonics organizations, even though, as Roko speculates, you’d expect that the members who have a stake in cryonics’ success would insist on better performance.

• Absolutely true. The cryonics meme spread widely is more sustainable—and thus more useful—than if only a few people have it.

Not to mention the fact that it could raise the sanity waterline quite a ways. That is a benefit that would be of lasting value (and perhaps steer us clear of a few existential risks) regardless of whether cryonics works.

Obviously if we knew cryonics wouldn’t work it would not raise the sanity waterline to pretend otherwise—but the fact is that we don’t know any such thing. It is a quite valid assumption that it will work, as far as we can tell. And the cheaper cryonics is, the less sane the refusal to consider it becomes.

• For me, the deciding factor is cost. I would be willing to sign up for cryonics at 13 the current cost. However, this is unlikely, since I had to negotiate to get the smaller amount of life insurance I actually needed—my cost would currently be about \$15/​month life insurance and \$10/​month CI fee. No matter how much we cut the cost of cryonics, my life insurance refuses to charge less. One solution is a cryonics group willing to take care of the life insurance themselves—go under \$100,000 -- then this would help cut the bottleneck cost.

Oh, also I’ll commit to signing up for cryonics when it drops below \$10/​month. And perhaps before, since there’s a good chance cryonics prices slowly drop or a singularity occurs before I’m 40.

• Interesting that you think cryo is worth £6 a month but not £15 a month. What calculation did you do to get this figure?

• As far as the cost-benefit tradeoff, it’s arbitrary. Gut feeling. I wrote a Scheme program to calculate the chance I would be successfully deanimated and then reanimated. It ended up being significantly lower than I expected—I was wavering before.

• what probability did you get out of your program? (I ask this as my figure for that probability for myself is ~ 15%, when I actually pay up for the contract)

• Here’s my program, with my probability estimates removed to avoid bias. If anyone wants to use it, feel free. It calculates the probablilty a person will be revived after X years. If you want a final probability, plug in some priors, including a distribution over how long you think it will take you to be revived.

#lang scheme (require plot)

(define (cycle-to-chance cycle-length) (/​ 1 cycle-length))

(define business-failure-cycle-length XXX) ;How often will a cryonics agency go out of business?

(define dark-age-cycle-length XXX) ;How often will a technical/​ethical/​economic dark age happen?

(define depression-cycle-length XXX) ;How often will a great depression hit North America?

(define Pnd XXX) ;Probability of a natural distaster

(define Pr XXX) ;Chance a corpse will be revived when cryogenic tech is available

(define Pbd XXX) ;Chance the information needed to revive a corpse is present

(define Pdh XXX) ;Chance humanity is destroyed (considered as a single time-indepenent factor)

(define Pcif (cycle-to-chance business-failure-cycle-length)) ;Chance the cryonics institute fails in a reasonable economy, per year

(define Pcif-cc XXX) ;Chance the corpse unfreezes if the cryonics institute fails in a reasonable economy

(define Pgef (cycle-to-chance depression-cycle-length)) ;Chance of a great depression in north america, per year

(define Pgef-cc XXX) ;Chance the corpse unfreezes in a great depression

(define Pda (cycle-to-chance dark-age-cycle-length)) ;Chance of a dark age, per year

(define Pda-cc XXX) ;Change the corpse unfreezes in a dark age

(define Pvc XXX) ;Probability a corpse is viable for freezing on death

(define Pst XXX) ;Probability a corpse is safely transported and frozen

(define entry-shock-pass-chance (* Pst Pvc (- 1 Pdh)))

(define exit-shock-pass-chance (* Pr Pbd))

(define yearly-pass-chance (min (- 1 ( Pcif Pcif-cc )) (- 1 ( Pgef Pgef-cc)) (- 1 (* Pda Pda-cc))))

(define (success-distribution time) (* entry-shock-pass-chance exit-shock-pass-chance (expt yearly-pass-chance time)))

(define (approx-integrate f start end step-size)

(apply +

``````    (map (lambda (inc-start)

(* (/ (+ (f inc-start)

(f (+ inc-start step-size)))

2)

step-size))

(for/list ((i (in-range start (- end step-size) step-size)))

i))))
``````

Here is my final probability, rot13ed: Gur cebonovyvgl V’yy or erivirq va svsgl, bar uhaqerq lrnef ner svir-cbvag-guerr-creprag, gjb-cbvag-guerr-creprag erfcrpgviryl.

Edit: I’m having a hard time getting this program source to display properly, but it should run fine with some line breaks.

• Okay, so I updated my chance that the correct information is present in the brain—from 75% to 99% after seeing this talk by Brian Wowk, with the team that preserved a rabbit liver. My estimates went down, not up. There was an error in my program, which I’ve corrected above. Even with this correction, I strongly recommend against using it without checking it yourself first.

My probability estimates are now nearly ten times higher, and I will sign up for cryonics. I guess I should either not stake my life on my programming skills, or program better.

• What do you think life after revival would be like? What is your median expectation? Your 80% expectation (i.e. the post-revival life that is just better than four fifths of the possibilities)?

• I haven’t the faintest idea. I don’t apply Bayesian rules in everyday life, and I don’t like to guess. But, let me even put that aside. Suppose my personal happiness would be about what it is now, and that I would continue to enjoy life for at least as long as I’ve been alive currently (about 2 decades). That’s already more happiness than I can get a subjective impression of, so I don’t feel like I can come up with a helpful answer.

• There seems little point in spending a relatively long time coming up with probabilities if you don’t have a rough model of what the utilities of the outcomes are…

One argument in favour of cryonics is that the utility of a life on the “other side” would be high, because the technology and willingness to revive, combined with your savings having grown via compound interest, seems to imply that you would be rich and in a world where the good life is very cheap. The unfriendly/​friendly AI dichotomy reinforces this point.

The value you are placing on your post-cryo life implied by your cost and probability is \$200,000 or so, which is about 41 times smaller than the \$5,000,000 EDIT \$8,200,000 standard statistical value of a life today. If you just assumed that your post revival life would be worth the same as the standard statistical value of a life, you would be prepared to pay \$410/​month for cryo. (unless you discount your future self, of course, in which case if depends on your discount rate)

EDIT: Suppose you discount exponentially at 5% per annum and expect to die in about 50 years, then once you die you’d be reanimated subjectively instantly. You should discount by a factor of 11 for 50 years, so you should pay \$410/​11 ~ \$38 per month for cryo.

If you make some allowance for increased quality of life, and increased length, this should go up. I am not sure how to make such allowances: discounting a billion year life exponentially at 5% seems silly to me.

• Where did you get \$5,000,000, and what exactly does it represent?

I’ll think about this, though. You’re right in saying I’ve spent too much time thinking about the probability of success, and not enough on the value of success. I strongly suspect my \$10 comes from some idea of what a reasonable monthly fee should be as an anchor, adjusted for the probability. As such, I should reconsider it.

• So you should look up value of a statistical life

Based on an extensive review of the research literature, the U.S. EPA (1997) suggests that a reasonable estimate of the VSL has a mean of \$4.8 million with a confidence interval of plus or minus \$3.2 million (in 1990 dollars. Note this is 8.2M +- 5.4M in 2010 dollars).

• IIRC the figure is the average life insurance pay-out in the US. In the UK, it’s more like £1,000,000

• Incidentally, what value would you place on life optimized by a friendly AI? i.e. how much per month would you be prepared to pay for, say, a 10% shot at it?

• Given the large storage mass involved, preventing temperature fluctuations without being at the exact boiling temperature of LN2 is feasible; it could be both highly failsafe and use the ideal cryonics temperature of −135C rather than the −196C that LN2 boiloff as a temperature regulation mechanism requires. Feel free to raise further issues in the comments.

Wow, that’s incredibly attractive—it would completely eliminate cracking as we pass through the glass transition temperature. I take it that would also reduce LN2 costs by a further 30% or so?

• -135 might not be cold enough. Some biological reactions persist at −140. Better not to take risks like that

• I haven’t directly applied the formula, but How Cold is Cold Enough? suggests that 500 years at −140 is equivalent to slightly over an hour at body temperature.

• Thanks for linking to that. I was having a hard time remembering where I had read about all this stuff. From the same article:

There is one bright spot. Below −100°C, the water in biological systems is finally all frozen, and molecules can’t move to react. We use cryoprotectants that have the effect of preventing freezing, but somewhere around −135°C they all have glass transition points, becoming so viscous that molecules can’t move and undergo chemical change. While the table indicates that staying below −150°C is safe from a rate of reaction standpoint, in fact any temperature below −130°C to −135°C is probably safe due to elimination of translational molecular movement as a result of vitrification.

In other words, the effect at −135C in terms of molecules being locked in place is better than before the glass transition is occurred. I assume he means in addition to the Arrhenius effect. The main reason for cooling in a cryogen like LN2 directly is the fact that its boiling point keeps the system at a constant temperature easily at a small scale. Scaled up, keeping the temperature constant should prove less of a challenge, or at least cheaper (per unit volume) to solve.

• I’m not convinced it is much of a risk. Maybe if you’re assuming thousands of years will need to pass.

• Does anyone have some actual numbers on what fraction of the expenses of existing cryonics companies are spent on cooling? That should give an indication on how much can be saved by scaling up.

• Here is a table with Alcor costs. Surprisingly, for a Bigfoot dewar the LN2 is less than half the total cost. The other big ones are janitorial work for the space around it and alarm systems.

• Interesting. Makes me wonder how those would scale. They also sound like they would scale well.

• In fact, we can be mathematically precise about this. Consider the equation for heat conduction (Q watts) through a spherical shell, where T and t are the outside and inside temperatures, R is the outer radius, r is the inner radius:

Q = 4 x k x pi x R x r x (T-t)/​(R-r)

For R > 2r, this equation says that the power getting from the outside to the inside scales only linearly in the overall size of the system (and further increases in R/​r make no more difference). But the volume of cryogen stored in the inside sphere scales as the size cubed. This means that the boiloff time scales inverse-quadratically in system size, which in turn means that you could construct a sufficiently large system that it wouldn’t need topping up for a century or so (sufficiently large being a mere r=15m or 3000 tons of liquid nitrogen, and a cost of \$50M or so). Such a system would virtually eliminate the risk that the patient is killed because the cryo company goes bust, because it would have zero maintenance cost, and would be like a “cryonics grave”.

• I wonder how much a 30 meter diameter dewar would cost? A cryonics system that needs such infrequent maintenance goes a long way to improving the odds, and might be worthwhile from an organization’s point of view.

• I used to be a cryogenic engineer. My impression is that the cost of a large-scale cryonics grave would be high, on the order of \$50-100M because of the reliability required of the vacuum and the extreme insulation requirements. It would probably require ~20 concentric layers of vapour shielded vacuum insulation (i.e. 20 concentric shells of metal with an ultra-high vacuum between each layer). The outermost layer might be 35-40 meters in diameter. The required strength of the neck to support 3000 tons is quite extreme.

Perhaps a better solution that I have thought of is an active cooling system that uses a no-moving parts refrigerator and a radioisotope power source. That way the system doesn’t need to be huge. In fact, it benefits from being small. The roadblock there is getting regulatory permission to bury a radioisotope power source, as they are highly radioactive and if they fell into the hands of terrorists could be used to build a dirty bomb. (The solution would be to bury in a very remote location like the Antarctic, and minimize knowledge that there even is radioactive material in it)

• Roko… you must have been dealing with small scale cryonics. I am an engineer in the LNG industry, and we routinely design cryogenic storage tanks up to 200,000 m3 in volume. Vacuum is never used on this scale, in fact we use pearlite powder insulation and wood blocks to support the inner liner, and glass or polyurethane foam to insulate the shell. The PU foam is cheap and can be more or less as thick as you wish. Heat loss for LNG tanks is around 5 watts/​sqm, for large tanks this represents a boil-off of around 1/​50th of 1% per day. I’m sure this can be lowered. \$100 million will buy a 140,000 m3 tank. If you want one, let me know :)

(AFAIK, powder is also used in vacuum flasks instead of multiple layers).

• My suspicion is that the best insulation performance for this application would be aerogel in a rough vacuum. This article states:

Vacuum insulations are commonplace in various products (such as Thermos bottles). These systems generally require a high vacuum to be maintained indefinitely to achieve the desired performance. In the case of aerogels, however, it is only necessary to reduce the pressure enough to lengthen the mean free path of the gas relative to the mean pore diameter. This occurs for most aerogels at a pressure of about 50 Torr. This is a very modest vacuum that can be easily obtained and maintained (by sealing the aerogel in a light plastic bag).

I suspect that with a vacuum of 1 Torr you could get down to 0.001W/​m-K or even below.

So perlite powder apparently has a thermal conductivity of 0.02W/​m-K

• Thanks for your comment. I worked with superconducting magnets and ultra-low temp systems, so yes, you are clearly more in the know about these kinds of sizes and temperatures.

Heat loss for LNG tanks is around 5 watts/​sqm, for large tanks this represents a boil-off of around 1/​50th of 1% per day

Could it be lowered by a further factor of 8 or so?

What is the thermal conductivity of pearlite powder? Is there something that isn’t a vacuum that is just one order of magnitude more insulating?

What about filling with a mix of aerogel and pearlite?

Seriously, if we can get a boiloff time of > 80 years for a cost of < 20 million we might have a serious chance of this being implemented.

• The boil-off can be lowered by increasing the insulation thickness, using better materials etc… the current designs are far from optimised for heat loss, since the gas companies do want to eventually sell the LNG in gaseous state. I think that a factor of 8 is doable with current techniques at abt 2x the overall price (this is a guesstimate not a quotation, OK? ;)

• I think that you can do much, much better than this by using a rough vacuum filled with powder or aerogel granules. I actually think that you can make a tank of diameter only 10 meters that would last for centuries. Such a small tank would probably only cost \$200,000 or so to build, yes? The main issue would be maintaining the vacuum, but it would only need to be a rough vacuum (1/​100 atmospheres).

I’m actually seriously considering pitching this idea to Ben Best when he comes to the UK in 15 days.

• So perlite powder apparently has a thermal conductivity of 0.02W/​m-K

• At 125 neuro patients per m3, we’re talking room for 25 million patients in a single 200,000 m3 tank. Total boiloff would be 40 m3 per day, which would take 5000 days if the tank is full of cryogen, or 1250 days (~4y) if the patients take up 75% of the volume.

If we wanted to get it to the century range, I wonder how much thicker the insulation needs to be… a factor of 25? Number of watts would need to go down to 200 milliwatt/​sqm.

• I used to be a cryogenic engineer. My impression is that the cost of a large-scale cryonics grave would be high, on the order of \$50-100M because of the reliability required of the vacuum and the extreme insulation requirements.

By my estimate, such a container could hold up to 125000 heads, at \$800 each. Very affordable. On the other hand, if you needed a coffin-size space for full body, the price would be more like \$25000.

• Sure, the problem is getting 125000 people to sign up for cryo. If you could just do that, you wouldn’t need to worry about thawed cryo bodies, because cryo would be practically mainstream at that stage.

• And that is the dilemma.

But I notice cryonics is popular among the geek-set, which is not as small as one might think. Most cryonicists have computer science backgrounds. What would happen if IT companies and engineering firms started offering cryonics as part of their standard benefits package?

• Cryonics doesn’t necessarily need more male propeller heads. I think it would benefit from more women, married couples and entire families, which would give it the vitality and durability of mainstream social structures like churches. Unfortunately I don’t know how to overcome the “hostile wife phenomenon,” as well as the fact that a commitment to cryonics resists generational transmission.

As an example of the latter, Marce Johnson entered the paleo-cryonics scene in the 1960′s, and she had 40 years to show her children through precept and example that she wanted cryonic suspension for herself. To summarize a long story, despite efforts to raise money for her cryotransport with CI after she developed Alzheimer’s and lost her suspension arrangements with another organization, she died and the daughter with POA over her had her cremated, then informed Marce’s cryonicist friends after the fact, apparently out of spite.

• Early adopters are (relatively) crazy and have to put up with ridicule from their friends because it’s not cool yet. That’s just how it goes. The trouble is that cryonics has stayed in the early adopter phase for 40 years.

Suddenly I have the mental image of a t-shirt reading “I was into cryonics before it was cool.”

• Suddenly I have the mental image of a t-shirt reading “I was into cryonics before it was cool.”

I want one.

• With a few exceptions, why does cryonics continue to repel female early adopters? I draw the contrast with Mormonism, which drew a lot of female early adopters despite sanctions against their participation in it. One, they had to defy taboos about getting involved in weird, heretical new religions; and two, they especially had to defy taboos against polygyny and adultery. Yet their participation turned Mormonism into a demographically successful church. If Mormonism had attracted mostly men, its demographic breakthrough wouldn’t have happened.

• With a few exceptions, why does cryonics continue to repel female early adopters?

A few exceptions? I don’t get the impression that the statistics are that severely skewed.

• I imagine Mormonism gave women the spiritual connection which most church groups do. I doubt it is coincidental that women outnumber men in churches. The protection of a powerful alpha male, as God is portrayed, might be something they can connect with more easily than men, on average.

But religion is not the only thing that disproportionately attracts women… For example, the Twilight fandom is mostly female.

• While we’re speculating, I think it’s that “kin work” (keeping up with family and friends, taking care of the elderly, child-rearing) primarily falls to women. Churches provide a framework to do that. If you’ve noticed, women are highly active in the parts of a church that aren’t explicitly about God—fundraising committees, education committees, various organizing functions. It’s community-building glue.

Cryonics, unlike Mormonism, doesn’t have that aspect. As of now, it’s a transaction made by an individual. I’m not sure how one would make cryonics by itself “church-like.”

You could try to make a rationalist social institution—like a Masonic lodge—that combined charitable work, socializing, activities for children, educational lectures, and activities/​volunteering opportunities for the elderly. Cryonics could be built into that. The point is, it has to be a family and community institution.

• Perhaps coincidentally, Twilight was written by a Mormon.

• Some of my favorite authors are Mormon. Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, and Howard Tayler. Somehow they seem to go to greater extremes in their fiction than non-Mormons on average. And they have no qualms about literally turning a character into God (given that Mormon theology includes this eventually happening to the faithful anyway). There’s a kind of balance of creepiness/​weirdness and old-fashioned family values, which is in itself perhaps more disturbing in a way.

I think it has to do with how success of a meme seems to have a lot to do with its power to resolve cognitive dissonance—but what this implies is that the cognitive dissonance must exist to begin with. When they encounter the creep factor of cryonics, most people resolve cognitive dissonance by ignoring it, downplaying its chances of success, or imagining fantastic reasons it would not work. Cryonicists themselves might resolve the dissonance factors by reassuring themselves that it’s the only sane thing to do in face of inevitable deanimation, reading up on the facts, and hoping for improvements in the process before they die. But that sort of thing takes a lot of activity in the logical areas of the brain.

Mormons seem to resolve the cognitive dissonance factors of their religion (and the weirder aspects of life in general) by turning to a focus on human relationships—family, romance, etc. Perhaps the cognitive functions involved in this are easier to stimulate in a group that is highly inclusive of women and children.

• Zenna Henderson is another splendid Mormon author. One of my Mormon friends aspires to write children’s books, although she’s not yet been published, and her writing is reasonably good as well. Said friend accounts for this strong representation of Mormons in the fiction world by saying that the religion encourages imagination and creativity. (It’s perfectly acceptable to plan for being one of the future deities who gets to run a universe later, so one may as well think about how one plans to do it.)

• It’s perfectly acceptable to plan for being one of the future deities who gets to run a universe later, so one may as well think about how one plans to do it.

Crikey, I didn’t know that… the other cool thing is, you learn about genealogy and get to save all of your unbaptized relatives from hell! That religion has some pretty kickass memes.

• They are so hardcore about genealogy. I have one friend whose tree goes back all the way to some crackpot king who demanded that genealogers trace his lineage back to Adam, so my friend can trace hers back that far too.

• They are so hardcore about genealogy. I have one friend whose tree goes back all the way to some crackpot king who demanded that genealogers trace his lineage back to Adam, so my friend can trace hers back that far too.

That’s impressive. I can only trace my lineage back to people who actually existed.

• Perhaps the cognitive functions involved in this are easier to stimulate in a group that is highly inclusive of women and children.

… per household?

• It’s true that social institutions do better if they have women and families on board.

Since you mentioned churches: keep in mind that anybody who believes in bodily resurrection will have a problem with their loved ones being buried without heads.

Cryonics would have to recruit from among the non-religious, which is a big handicap to begin with.

• Since you mentioned churches: keep in mind that anybody who believes in bodily resurrection will have a problem with their loved ones being buried without heads.

Anyone who believes in a resurrection that is so fixed in nature that their deity will have trouble resurrecting the person if the body is in two pieces is probably so far removed from rationality that it probably isn’t worth trying to convince them that cryonics is reasonable. (On a marginally related topic I’ve been thinking on and off of the halachic(Orthodox Jewish law) ramifications of cryonics and I think an argument can be potentially made for cryonic preservation as long as one does full body preservation. It might be interesting to talk to some Modern Orthodox Rabbis and see what they say. Judaism has generally been more willing to adopt new medical technology than Christianity so if one is trying to aim at religious individuals that might be one possible avenue of attack. ETA: Thinking slightly more about this, I think a strong argument can be made that if halachah allows for cryonics then halachah would actually mandate it (based on the rules about the measures one goes to save lives))

I suspect that among the less strongly religious, such as moderate Christians and Jews in the US, religion is not itself a major reason against cryonics. I suspect that the weirdness aura and cached thoughts about death are much larger elements.

• Yes, Christians I’ve talked to seem not to have a problem with God gathering scattered ashes on the resurrection day. It would detract from his omnipotence if he were unable to do so. And plenty of martyrs were burned at the stake or beheaded. In fact, the book of Revelation specifically reserves a place in heaven for those who are beheaded for not taking the mark of the beast. I don’t know if other religions feel differently, but Biblically based Christianity does not have anything that says separating the body from the head is cause for grief on the part of the individual.

• I don’t tell any of the programmers or computer scientists I work with about cryonics for social reasons. While many cryonicists have computer science backgrounds, I do not feel the reverse is true.

• Social reasons? You’re scared they’ll think you’re weird? I’d think most programmers would be open to a discussion about the brain as a program, at least. Is it really that weird?

• Things like this are 90% self-confidence and 10% innate weirdness. Talk about it like it’s obvious, normal, and you’re part of a community of smart people out there, and they’ll pick up on the cues.

I know saying that won’t help a lot of people, but it’s what I do. When I introduce cryonics to someone, I don’t sound nervous and timid and censure-expecting, I take off my necklace and say “This is my contract of immortality with the cult of the severed head.”

• Aren’t you signed up with CI, which doesn’t do neuro? Whence the severed head?

• I actually have the self confidence that it’s the correct decision, just not that I’ll be socially accepted. Analogously, I came out about being bi many years back and was completely wrong—it appears to be fine among people I know. It’s completely reasonable that I may be wrong again. Have you found that cryonics is socially acceptable, or do you just think it’s important to change its reputation?

• I have found that anything is socially acceptable so long as you effectively signal that your non-conformity is a choice, not a result of an inability to conform or a way of coping with fear of rejection. Weird is NEVER OK with successful people. Deliberately different is ALWAYS OK so long as you are willing to not draw attention to it all the time.

Example. Vibrams with a suit are generally the best attire for most formal situations in my experience. You show that you are able and willing to conform, not psychologically unable to do so, but you also show that you aren’t afraid of the penalties for not conforming and that you will stand up for some principles some of the time. That’s attractive. The devil classically does it, in myths where he can/​will take any form and disguise himself perfectly except for retaining cloven hooves, a tail and/​or some similar indication of his identity.

• So the trick to doing what you suggest is to conform on most axes, but be obviously non-conformist about the things you care about in a confident, but not confrontational way?

• Vibrams with a suit are generally the best attire for most formal situations in my experience.

Ew. I really hope no one seriously does that. Especially in a courtroom.

• Of course not in a courtroom. That’s not “most formal situations” but rather almost literally a contest to publicly display willingness to conform to elite norms and generally to submit.

• Can you elaborate on this? It seems obviously wrong to me.

I also don’t understand how wearing Vibrams with a suit to a formal occasion signals anything but lack of fashion sense and being unaware of social norms. I mean, sure, if you’re in charge, you can wear whatever you want, but if you’re not in charge, someone seeing you wear footwear that doesn’t go with the clothes will just think you don’t know how to dress appropriately.

• It’s a matter of how far you push it. It wouldn’t belong at a funeral or an opera, but it works well in any situation where a suit would be desirable but not close to mandatory. You want to signal awareness but lack of fear, not insensitivity. Vibrams aren’t something that someone could wear by mistake, or out of carelessness. Pushing things somewhat farther, you could be formally dressed with a very conspicuous fake tattoo.

• I’m wondering how much the vibrams + business suit works because you’re dealing with geeks, so that they’re responsive to a weird/​cool/​potentially practical combination—something which I don’t think would go over well with mainstream bankers.

• It works with a variety of types, not just geeks, as do the fake tattoos. It might not work with heirarchy climbing types, especially with the fearful types who climb a little way up a heirarchy and then sit there unable to go further, but I think its frequently a mistake to have anything to do with such people anyway except when absolutely necessary. You can’t influence their behavior with ideas, friendship or passion, only with fear of being ostracized or (to a much lesser extent) penalized.

• Unfortunately, the Vibrams-and-suit look is derivative and geeky, not original; but the principle (even applied using Vibrams) certainly works for me.

• So you will be wearing Vibrams at the Singularity Summit?

(there is actually some legitimate market demand for barefoot type shoes that are styled appropriately to be worn formally)

• I talk about the idea with a lot of people, and no one seems to think poorly of me for wanting to do it, though many people say they wouldn’t want to. I just don’t see it as that weird or not socially acceptable.

• I wonder if there is a measurable talent distribution? Are any of the really famous hackers also cryonicists, or open to the idea?

Come to think of it, I haven’t heard of any.

Too bad. If there was a link between being a good hacker and being a cryonicist, that would make it an easier sell.

• That’s an interesting question. Intense, good hackers might be more open to it than it’s-a-job-programmers, if only because people less mainstream in one area often are in others. I really have no idea. I’ll do an informal survey of people I know online (hackers) and people at my work (programmers). I’ve seen P.J. Eby posting to the python development list, so I’d label him a hacker. What is your opinion on cryonics, pjeby?

• I’m a hacker, good at it, and signed up for cryonics. I also know of at least one other hacker who is signed up, and another who is in the process of being signed up.

• There’s Hal) Finney, for one. Not sure if he counts as “famous”, though he’s at least famous enough to merit a Wikipedia article, and he surely qualifies as a “good hacker”.

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• Incorrect demanding further proof for an idea with as many single points of failure as cryonics is logical and sensible. The ability to make a rational decision means you need sufficient evidence of a sufficient quality to make you conclusions. Eliminate some more single points of failure from cryonics then maybe. Its like thinking you can solve a math problem with ten variables where you only have information and relations for two.

This paragraph seems very confused. You have made a decision, have you not? You have decided not to be cryopreserved. And you’ve made it with no more information than we have. The fact that your decision consists of deciding upon inaction, doesn’t make it not a decision. Whether you choose to be cryopreserved or not, you have to choose one way or the other, albeit not necessarily explicitly. You are simultaneously claiming that a rational decision is impossible while arguing for your decision! It’s not clear to me how that can be considered consistent. One of these choices is the “default” one, to be sure, but that’s just a result of current circumstances; it’s not inherent in the problem.

Furthermore you seem to be insisting that it is necessary to know cryonics works before considering it worthwhile. This is false; it is only necessary to assign it a sufficiently high probability of working to make it worth it. Ultimately, you look at the evidence you have, you assess a probability, and you make a decision based on that. Simply saying “we don’t know” doesn’t suffice to make a decision—in particular, it doesn’t suffice to make the decision not to be cryopreserved any more than it suffices to make the decision to be cryopreserved. An actual probability is needed.

I also don’t understand your claim that at sufficiently low levels of information, rational decision is impossible. What exactly do you propose as a way to make decisions at low information, how is it not rational, and how does it support the decision you’ve made not to be cryopreserved?

• Incorrect demanding further proof for an idea with as many single points of failure as cryonics is logical and sensible. The ability to make a rational decision means you need sufficient evidence of a sufficient quality to make you conclusions. Eliminate some more single points of failure from cryonics then maybe.

You seem to be confusing matters. It might help to reread the essay about the particular proof demand. No one is arguing that more evidence wouldn’t be a very good thing. I have my own list of things that I’d like to see. No one is arguing that one can’t say “I want more evidence” or “A,B and C would convince me that this was worthwhile.” What is a problem is when one your claims is “I want a demonstration of complete revival.” And the problem with that is simple: no one is claiming that we are able to do that now or that we are anywhere near that capability. This would be as if we were discussing the possibility of eventually sending a very slow probe to Alpha Centauri fifty or a hundred years from now and one insisted that the only thing that mattered is whether you could see a working probe now. See the problem? One is making a demand for something which even if everything the tech proponent says is correct, they shouldn’t be able to produce.

Incorrect demanding further proof for an idea with as many single points of failure as cryonics is logical and sensible. The ability to make a rational decision means you need sufficient evidence of a sufficient quality to make you conclusions. Eliminate some more single points of failure from cryonics then maybe.

Ok. So what are the single points of failure you want eliminated? Why don’t you give a list of what you think the single points of failure are and then we can discuss whether those points are as severe as you think they are.

Moving on, you discuss the work with rat hippocampal material, you say:

This is very different then taking a dead brain and re-activating it. Just because the cells are viable doesn’t mean you can restart the neural processes once stopped. Not to mention there is a huge amount of work to prove that which could be derailed easily.

I’m not sure what you mean by the second sentence. The first sentence is interesting because we know that neural processes can be restarted. For example, rats and dogs can be deprived of oxygen and brought to hypothermic temperatures so that brain activity is close to zero and then brought back up with minimal problems. Neural structure is pretty robust. To use what may be a weak analogy, it functions much more like a CPU than like RAM. This is well understood.

One organ revived and implanted in a living organism is a long way from some 100 year old corpse popsicle being revived from the dead. One in no way implies the other. (For gods sake have you ever actually studied biology)

The length of time of preservation is not very relevant. We know that at liquid nitrogen temperatures the vast majority of chemical reactions become negligible. So the “100 year old” part isn’t relevant. I also don’t think that anyone is claiming that these successful studies with rabbits imply that cryonics will work. To be very explicitly Bayesian P(cryonics working|rabbit kidneys can successfully be vitrified and revived with negligible damage) is greater than P(cryonics working).

(For gods sake have you ever actually studied biology)
In summary a swing and a miss from Roko.

It seems like you are personalizing this conversation unnecessarily. This does not help having an actual discussion where we each learn interesting things and come away with something useful. It is likely a major reason that you are getting voted down.

I have to wonder given your personal attacks above, and your apparent return to using the phrase “corpse popsicle” when even the simple “corpse” would get your point across, what are you attempting to accomplish? Are you trying to understand why some people here consider cryonics plausible or worth looking into? Are you trying to convince the individuals you are talking to that they shouldn’t engage in cryonics? Are you trying to convince people who are not posting but might read that they shouldn’t engage in cryonics? Are you trying to have an open exchange of ideas and information? It doesn’t seem like your strategy would succeed at any of those things. So what is your goal?

• On thing that strikes me: has anyone told you about information theoretic death vs. legal death?

The idea of somebody being information-theoretically alive is simply that if their brain is in a state such that you could read it with some kind of advanced technology (e.g. advanced nanotech) and logically infer what their brain used to be like before they died, which would then allow you to repair the brain atom-by-atom.

The difference between information theoretic death and what we would call medical or legal death is that legal death changes over time as technology gets better.

Information theoretic death is what cryonicists care about.

• I really think people shouldn’t downvote SamAdams to −7. This is a reasonable comment from somebody who hasn’t read the sequences.

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• Gosh I have no life here I am throwing more pearls before swine.

We are clearly not worth your time. Please give up on us.

• Looking at:

http://​​www.secularhumanism.org/​​fi/​​dealing-with-dying/​​hoffman.jpg

...it shows lots of small freezers on wheels—and not one big one.

So, perhaps there are factors involved which have not been considered in this analysis. It would seem that the benefits of large size run into diminishing returns, and the costs rise faster. It is the same reason why there are no surviving land animals bigger than an elephant.

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• I already stated that I disregarded the last link for lack of evidence that the source is trustworthy (published papers and the like).

I don’t see where you said that. And even given that, I find that response to be deeply confusing. We are talking about this post http://​​lesswrong.com/​​lw/​​1rv/​​demands_for_particular_proof_appendices/​​) yes? That post has nothing to do with specific claims of evidence. It is a self-contained argument about what sorts of arguments are or are not valid when discussing cryonics, or for that matter, when discussing any future technology. I don’t see what trustworthiness has to do with the arguments there. Can you point to specific claims in that post that you would want to be backed up by evidence that isn’t there?

Actually to be fair cryonics has to many single points of failure yet to be avoided to make deciding about it any thing more then a total crapshoot.

I’ll refrain from quoting The Princess Bride but what do you mean by “to be fair” in that sentence? Normally when that phrase is used people are mentioning an argument which goes against the position that they are arguing for, or to clarify that a position being argued against is not the position of some relevant source. How are you using that phrase?

In general, telling Bayesians that something is a “total crapshoot” isn’t generally helpful. We can make estimates for technologies.

Who knows but this falls in the realm of a problem with to many unknowns making it impossible to answer. So I say anyone claiming otherwise is claiming based on blind faith not on reason.

But there are many things which aren’t unknown. We have a pretty decent understanding of how brain tissue functions. We know that synapses (barring acousting fractures resulting in large sheering) are by and large intact. Many things aren’t unknowns. And this really doesn’t help given that even most proponents of cryonics agree that the chance of revival may not be very high. So where in any of that is there “blind faith?” Are you using the term “blind faith” in a non-standard fashion?

You guys like cryonics thats lovely I hope it works for you.

Another reason you are getting voted down may be the lack of grammar and spellchecking which reinforces the perception that you aren’t putting much effort into your posts. One doesn’t need perfect grammar and spelling. But many modern browsers have an option (often set as the default) so that words which are not in the spellchecker turn up with a red underline. “Thats” turns up red on Firefox for example. “That’s” does not. Your sentence above could also use a few other punctuation marks. Two periods and a capitalization of the T would be nice.

• Actually to be fair cryonics has to many single points of failure yet to be avoided to make deciding about it any thing more then a total crapshoot.

Are you stating a preference for allocating resources towards finding out whether it will work or not?

I can respect that. Let’s make a deal. When you can get science to prove cryonics is not going to work, I will give up my intention to be cryopreserved.

As a side note, what if you knew the exact odds of it working, and it was say 1 in a million. Assuming that your life is worth 5 million dollars, would you put \$5 towards cryonics?

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• I’ve already told this guy how to quote properly and he said he was too lazy. That’s just rude. People who are not even willing to follow basic standards for grammar, spelling and presentation and are disrespectful when asked are not likely to be welcome anywhere they go even in those rare cases that such an individual actually has something worthwhile to add!

• In fairness to Sam the post he was replying to for some reason wasn’t displaying any of the content between the two html links. His reply makes marginally more sense in that context. (And I got to learn a new German phrase).

• Still, the quality of discussion is better defended by driving him away than by writing quality rebuttals, at least after the points useful to general lurkers are covered. The problem is not his position, but his lack of skill for participating in a rational argument (which can change in the future, but not overnight).

• The problem is not his position, but his lack of skill for participating in a rational argument (which can change in the future, but not overnight).

I would go a step further and suggest it is a lack of skill in participating in community discussions. Terrible argument is by no means the distinguishing feature. In fact, a complete lack of skill in participating in rational argument would not stop someone from being accepted (even) here assuming they had the right set of social traits.

• Skill in participating in rational argument is one of the social traits that is valued here. Absent an actual example, I find your claim implausible.

Is there anyone who you think is socially accepted here while displaying such complete lack of skill?

• Is there anyone who you think is socially accepted here while displaying such complete lack of skill?

And exactly how would someone with rudimentary social skills answer that? Almost certainly not by supplying an example with proof! ;)

What I am comfortable saying, and I would be surprised if others didn’t share my sentiment at least partially, is that there are people here who I would welcome even if they lacked any talent in argument. There are contributions that can be made that are rather independent of being able to argue well.

• If one can be moved by a rational argument, other aspects become much less relevant.

• And yet I suggest that if one has those other aspects the ability to be moved by rational argument becomes less relevant to an even greater degree. For the purpose of predicting social acceptance even here it is useful to model ‘being moved by a rational argument’ as an act of submission, something that is vital if you lack social prowess but can be detrimental when other people would respect your dominance even when speaking nonsense. We may try to compensate for it but we’re still apes. Social considerations completely dwarf rational ones for the purposes we are considering.

• to many single points of failure = a crapshoot when trying to be rational about something

Actually, it’s pretty simple. Take each point of failure and rate its probability of actually happening. Then multiply all those chances. Say you stack three 99% chances of failure. That’s a one in a million chance. If your life (in terms of willingness to pay) is \$5M, it is rational to pay \$5.

• ...assuming independence. A die has a 50% chance of rolling an odd number in each roll and a 50% chance of rolling an even number in each roll, but the odds of rolling both simultaneously in each roll is 0% by definition. Or, going the other way, a 50% chance of even and ~16.7% chance of a six—but a 16.7% chance of an even six.

• Sorry. Er, that post had a formatting error that was making most of the post not appear (I don’t fully understand how to do html links. Sometimes they garble stuff up and make sections not visible). The full post is now actually visible. If someone else had wrote was visible there I’d have probably downvoted it to if I could.

• Maybe the guide on the wiki has what you need.

• Er, that doesn’t make at all clear what wasn’t working. When I tried to properly format the links everything between them would not display. I don’t see from there any obvious reason why that would occur.

• I don’t know what went wrong, but the usual thing that goes wrong with link formatting is that the URL contains characters that mean something special to the Markdown processor. See the “Escaping special symbols” section of the document that Vladimir linked to for the complete list and an example.

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• Ok, this is the point where I decide to be mildly obnoxious and use Sam’s work as an indication that humans have many more cognitive biases and fallacies than even people at LW realize. In particular, the above post displays a large amount of artificial classification in trying to claim that specific scale issues somehow become differences in kind. This seems very similar to (for example) creationists who claim to accept microevolution but not macroevolution. Moreover, the presence of these problems does not leave in some cases even after prolonged exposure to careful rational and critical thinking.

The fourth point does a good example of this:

Cryonics has many single-points of failure and many unresolved questions: A couple examples: a.) Is there anything fundamental about death the precludes the possibility of restoring life? b.) Is it possible to maintain self/​person-hood by simply maintaing physical state integrity? c.) Is the general concept of organ preservation able to be scaled to entire bodies or is there a limit to what can be restarted? d.) Is a living organism required to overcome the effects of the cryopreservation? etc.

To be sure, there are other problems here as well (such as the heavy overlap between a,b and c and the fact that a seems to take “death” as a potentially ontological fundamental phenomenon), but the issue I want to focus on is c, “is the general concept of organ preservation able to be scaled to entire bodies or is there a limit to what can be restarted?” This is an assertion that while any single part of a system can be restarted, somehow it takes a much higher burden of evidence to assert that the entire system can be restarted. This seems similar to the micro/​macro fallacy but I’m not sure what precisely the fallacy is. I’d almost be tempted to coin a new one, something like “failure to reduce.”

I have to wonder if this sort of thing is an indication that LW is not substantially succeeding in improving rationality. Sam’s first comment on LW was about a year ago, and his posting quality has either remained the same or declined during that time (although to be fair it is difficult to distinguish between rationality and civility issues in his case.) Now, it seems based on comments Sam has made that it is probable that he hasn’t read the sequences. Sam’s emphasis on wanting to only read “authorities” may play a role but that may be simply a specific defense in this case against reading posts which challenge his worldview (the strongest evidence for this case is that people have summarized the demand for particular proof argument and he’s still ignoring or misinterpreting it) . Is Sam a representative sample? If there are a substantial number of people here who have gone through and interacted with the community and yet have not improved their rationality, does that suggest we have a problem that requires a change in tactics?

Sam certainly isn’t the only example of this sort of problem, and even the general community here sometimes demonstrates strong biases that impact their evaluation of claims(I’ve noticed this most strongly where evaluations of historical claims are concerned). So, are we succeeding? Should the presence of people like Sam mean we should be concerned that we are not?

• Yes. I think LW’s problems as an introduction to rationality go far beyond this. The Sequences are a great introduction to rationality if you were in to them from early on and could take part in the discussions they generated, but as a sequence of cold blog posts they’re a large, disconnected and forbidding introduction, and in any case there’s no easy way to read them in order. LW in general doesn’t come across as a website with a mission of improving rationality so much as a community with curious shared interests like deciding how many boxes to take and getting our heads frozen.

• I’m not sure that’s the case. I read most of the sequences before posting here, and I’m aware of at least two people personally who’ve started reading the sequences fairly recently. And I know a third person who refuses to read anything linked to on LW because she’s heard that “LW’s archives are addictive like TVtropes on crack” which suggests that to at least some people the Sequences are interesting enough to read. I’m more inclined to wonder a) are they having an impact? And b) how do you get people like Sam who are clearly intelligent and educated to read them or to improve their rationality by some other means?

• That’s encouraging! Doubtless there’s much more we can do to make it easier for people to get into this sort of thing, but I’ll adjust my estimate of how well we’re doing right now upwards—thanks!

• Maybe we need to do more with “This ia a part of my life I’d like to improve, how do I apply rationality to it?”.

Sometimes it helps to have good examples of a skill in action rather than being told about solved problems.

• Rotten wood cannot be carved.

Failure to reach Sam in a year of text-only contact is not a strong indictment of our rationality, any more than failure to transcend mass-energy conservation and speed-of-light limits is an indictment of intelligence. Some people just can’t be persuaded, and others can’t be persuaded within the resources and ethical principles we’re willing to apply.

Sam has claimed repeatedly that he wishes to disengage from this discussion. This isn’t a particularly credible claim, considering his willingness to violate it, but let’s honor it anyway. Move on to someone who might be a better investment.

• One solution would be to “Do Science” to the problem. I.e. fund cognitive psychology experiments to ascertain what methods actually verifiably work best for making people rational.

• I think that the problem is humans innately, viscerally prefer motivated cognition to bayesian-style belief updating.

Humans engaging in rationality rather than sophistry is like (to borrow a metaphor from Ciphergoth) dogs walking on their hind legs.

I mean sure, you can train an able and willing human to do it, under favorable circumstances. But don’t expect it to always work or be easy.

• Sam,

The nanotech required is so far outside of current science that trying to predict what it can do is a hard problem at best

I wanted to pick on this in particular, because you seem to be saying “there’s no overwhelming evidence either way, so I can believe whatever I want”. But really, advanced molecular nanotechnology does have evidence in favor of its eventual achievement:

For example, progress in self-assembly with DNA nanotechnology (http://​​www.physorg.com/​​news9322.html), primitive nanomachines that locomote (http://​​www.nature.com/​​nnano/​​journal/​​v2/​​n2/​​abs/​​nnano.2006.210.html), etc. These are small steps that we are seeing today, yes.

You can’t claim to be doing good-quality futurism if you don’t assign some probability to current trends continuing, and it is especially bad to say “you can’t prove that X will happen, therefore I’m allowed to believe that it definitely won’t happen”.

Rather, you should assign a probability to the events in question occurring.

Which means that there is a probability of cryonics working, and most people say it’s around 10%.

• Is it established that molecular nanotech is required? Uploading might be possible with scanning technology of sufficient speed and accuracy, for example. Just because someone three hundred years ago might have suggested that flapping wings was necessary to flight doesn’t mean that the technology that eventually succeeds need use them.

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• The reply link isn’t there for the post where you laid out your point of view.

I can understand thinking that cryonics is unlikely to work and therefore thinking that it’s not worth doing. What I can’t figure out is why you’re so angry about it.

• Using a large unit for cryonics does have some complications. One would need to be able to be able to add people in at different times without disrupting the temperature. And when we eventually start taking people out they’ll need to be able to remove the the then repairable ones without disruption to the more injured/​sick. I suspect that neither of these will be a large technical hassle. Maybe someone who knows more about low temp engineering can comment if that’s correct.

• I envision a steady stream of new patients for one or more years after its construction. There would be a robotic system to place them, and they would be cooled prior to entry. Delivery mechanism could be as simple as lowering them on a chain, but I suspect getting them settled in stably would involve some kind of robotic mechanisms operating withing the container itself. It would make sense to stack with accessible spaces given to more repairable patients, But with high-precision robotic removal it shouldn’t be impossible to shuffle patients without shock. (They would be wrapped in something like fiberglass within their boxes to minimize this anyway.) On the other hand, it might be simpler to just take them out, assess them one by one, and place the ones that need to wait into a different dewar.

• Are there robots that operate at those temperatures?

• Maybe someone who knows more about low temp engineering can comment if that’s correct.

It’s not so much of a problem. Liquid cryogens such as LN2 will ensure the temperature stays constant until they have entirely boiled off, so you just open the thing up, put the body in, and close it again.

• I’m wondering whether the most efficient size isn’t the largest imaginable—that there’s some medium-sized unit which would be better.

• The largest imaginable is probably somewhere in the millions of cubic meters. Bringing in futuristic mass-beam tech (hey, it’s feasible with superconductors and you’re under cryogenic temperatures already) and you can go bigger than any building built to date, perhaps even hitting the kilometric cube—a billion cubic meters.

So we might say 30 meters is a relatively small one.

But even still, you are absolutely right that smaller ones are worth considering. In fact they are more worth considering because they can be done sooner. Every time you scale up by 1000, thermal transfer drops by 10. So if you just want to go from \$22k to \$2.2k, all other things equal, you can do this by going from 14 patients to 14000 patients.

The next wave of cryonics could take the form of relatively small (but still huge) urban cryo-centers that replace graveyards. A place like the UK where they are running short on grave spaces might be a good starting point for that.

Another important idea to look at is piggybacking cryonics onto other forms of cryogenic storage, or perhaps renting out storage in our cryogenic warehouses for other purposes as a source of funding.

• Wrong scaling. See my post: if you scale up by 1000 in volume, boil-off time goes down by 100. It’s better than you think!

• I’m not quite sure I understand the math, but it sounds like you are saying that since there is a tenfold increase in volume per unit area that means not only does less heat reach the cryogen there is more of it to be reached. So the energy efficiency is 10 times, but the storage capacity is also 10 times. Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

100 times as much slack time between refills, wow. That reduces a lot of costs and risks.

• The math is simply that the heat leak scales linearly with radius, not quadratically, because as you pointed out in your post, a larger container can have thicker walls.

So, heat leak ~ r

Volume ~ r^3

Volume/​(heat leak) ~ r^3/​r = r^2

• Oh, that makes sense.

If you scale outer radius at the same rate as inner radius, the thickness increases. And that impacts cost of boiloff by bringing it down by 100 times. Beautiful.

• Cryonics wants to be small, or why should the future want you?

All this technical discussion misses what I see as the major problem of cryonics if it works as advertised—why should the future want us?

Imagine if today were discovered few frozen Homo habilis and had technology to revive them. After, they would spend their lives in comfortable zoo that is paradise by ape men standards ( plentiful food! no dangerous beasts! warm shelter!)

Now try the same scenario, but with few millions of our frozen ancestors. The results will be same—at best, few dozens would be picked to be resurrected and studied, but I cannot see us welcoming millions of new hairy citizens.

Conclusion—to me it seems that if you want to maximize chance of future society resurrecting you, keep cryonics as close guarded secret of tiny elite...

• Conclusion—to me it seems that if you want to maximize chance of future society resurrecting you, keep cryonics as close guarded secret of tiny elite...

I hear this from cryo skeptics all the time. Doubts—not so much as to whether it works or not, but as to whether the patients who could be revived are human or not. Your whole argument treats the patients as dead and gone, and the people who would die without cryonics as expendable. It is simply not consistent with cryonics working in the first place.

If cryonics works in the first place, it means everyone who could be preserved but isn’t, is a human casualty—and everyone who could be reanimated but isn’t is stuck in a coma against their will. I don’t care if you give that an arbitrarily low probability, but if you are going to argue about what is the case if it does work, you have to remain consistent with that assumption if you want to criticize it effectively.

Luckily, future humans will have experience with suspended animation and radical surgery long before they can realistically revive a cryonics patient. Getting someone suspended with near-zero damage is an unsolved challenge, but few seem doubtful that it will be solved at some point. Repairing the damage of a current-day cryonics case is necessarily further down the road.

Simply having experience with reanimating suspendees (and seeing major surgery such as full body replacement using regrown organs), I expect they will have a much more enlightened perspective on this situation than your average cryonics critic today. Death will then be viewed as something extremely uncommon and in need of extremely good evidence before medical procedures and ethics can be cast aside.

• I hear this from cryo skeptics all the time. Doubts—not so much as to whether it >works or not, but as to whether the patients who could be revived are human or not.

No, the question is whether the advanced posthuman civilisation will see the frozen primitive men as human beings.

How many resources are we spending to save and improve lives of apes?

If cryonics works in the first place, it means everyone who could be preserved but >isn’t, is a human casualty

The purpose of cryonics , at least as as advertised here, is to save specifically your life, not humanity in general. And, for the purpose, is simply better to be one of a few rare specimens than one in a mass.

and everyone who could be reanimated but isn’t is stuck in a coma against their will.

why would they care about our will?

Death will then be viewed as something extremely uncommon and in need of >extremely good evidence before medical procedures and ethics can be cast aside.

death of one of them, yes, but one of us?

• How many resources are we spending to save and improve lives of apes?

How many resources are we spending to save and improve lives of the mentally retarded? My cursory research has over half a billion U.S. dollars in the United States in the year 2002.

• How many resources are we spending to save and improve lives of the mentally retarded? My cursory research has over half a billion U.S. dollars in the United States in the year 2002.

Surely the US spends more on healthcare than that?

• About a thousand times more by the government on health care, yes. This is just the estimates I found of governmental spending on people with mental retardation.

• Too subtle.

• I thought I was quite explicit. AlexM implied that future posthumans would not be interested in reviving comparatively moronic predecessors by suggesting their attitude towards these would be akin to our attitude towards apes. I suggested that the more appropriate analogy would be to human beings with developmental disabilities, for whom substantial sums of public money are spent. What’s overly subtle about that?

• I meant I was too subtle. It was a joke. Apparently a failed one.

• Oh, yeah. That is clever. Probably would have worked better in person.

• This might depend on how long it takes to develop revival. Any estimates?

If it’s just a few decades, cryonics companies might want to signal trustworthiness by reviving everyone.

In The First Immortal, a science fiction novel about cryonics, there’s a law that no one gets revived unless there’s someone willing to do the work of integrating them into the future society.

In other words, you’d do well to be an interesting person, and better to be from a family with a very strong culture of loyalty, though I suppose that integration could also be a matter of contract with a cryonics company.

• This might depend on how long it takes to develop revival. Any estimates?

It depends on the gap between us and the future society—if the wilder/​more optimistic predictions of transhumanism and artificial intelligence come true—and they have to come true for cryonics to work, the gap between 2050 and now will be bigger that between us and Stone Age.

Would you invite your great...grandfather Ugg for dinner?

• I’ve wondered if the revived people might end up as an underclass, or as several underclasses.

• and they have to come true for cryonics to work

What’s wrong with getting revived in 2320?

• why should the future want us?

Someone who knew you may want to bring you back.
If it takes centuries, then the more people frozen the better since it will be more likely that someone you knew would be brought back by someone else. And then he may bring you back too.
This assumes that the government does not prevent people form doing this.

• In large enough quantities, it is conceivable that indefinite storage costs would be as low as \$50 per person, or 50 cents per year.

Could you provide a cite for this? Thanks!

• I’ll echo this. My research suggests that most of this post is wildly optimistic, if it’s talking about whole-body cryonics...

• I don’t think we should go into details on this. It’s creepy enough that lifesaving stasis now involves having your head cut off. I don’t think it will reassure people to learn that the ideal it to then drop it into a giant jar of heads. i know it would be a giant frost metal ball, but in my mind’s eye it’s transparent and the heads are shrunken.

• It seems like the focus of this post is not to do public outreach directly. The comparative advantage we have here at LW (in the particular domain of promoting cryonics) probably lies further upstream than that: coming up with ideas behind business strategy rather than hashing out marketing campaigns to make cryonics seem less “creepy” and more acceptable to the general public.

• What I had in my mind’s eye was more like this. Jar is probably not the best metaphor. More like a long-term warehouse.

• I’d expect the liquid nitrogen to provide an interesting set of challenges in the design of warehousing equipment. I suppose there would at least have to be shelves to prevent crushing.

But I was thinking this setup would be a lot easier to work with on the assumption that there would one day be a general immortality solution, and you could take heads out top to bottom. It just seems easier to design the whole thing if you never try to get someone out of the middle, and never have to immerse complex machinery in the nitrogen. Maybe this method would still be popular as a budget solution, while wealthier patients retain the option to be revived as soon as it is possible for them.

• Point taken. Complex machinery on the inside seems like it would be a pain to maintain. A hoist that lowers patients from the top could be simplest. Computer controlled for precision and safety (perhaps still human operated).

Rather than shelves, I suspect steel boxes of a cubic meter or more would be used to contain the patients. Stacking the heads in a heap sounds like a recipe for crushed skulls and mixed-up brain matter. (Though who knows what nanotech can solve, eh?) In the cold-air version of the system (above LN2 temperature), these would act as heat sink and thermal conductor while providing strength. Fans would probably also be used to circulate the air to prevent stratification.

Stacking directly in LN2 might prove interesting. A reason to use cold-air temperatures over LN2 might be to make the stacking mechanism easier to design. Remember, the process of stacking patients is only going to take a few years, and it can be filled with cryogen later.

Cooling to LN2 temps over that last few degrees could be done at a rate that takes months (or even years), which I assume would induce fewer cracks. Then it would be filled with LN2. If we use the steel boxes, the inside of the boxes might need to be filled as well in which case they would need to have openings. (Perhaps they should be cages rather than solid boxes.) This is just to maximize cryogen volume; you could always keep it cool by just cooling the outside.

• You guys are aware that the type of cryonics you are talking about doesn’t exist. So far nobody has been revived from a frozen state. Sure they may be able to freeze organs or small scale things but that is a long ways from resurrecting a dead frozen human.

You also do realize that cryonics may never work in which case you are turning yourself into a corpse popsicle and having to pay for the honor.

How in the world can you assign any value to that proposal? There is a total lack of evidence in support of resurrecting a frozen human because its never been done and as of now nobody knows if it is even possible. So essentially cryonics is a way to spend money on a one in a million chance you might be revived in the future. Why? I would much rather bet on life extension then cryonics.

What you hope is that in the future, if it happens, where this is possible that they won’t just ditch all these warehouses of corpse popsicles because it is deemed to be a waste of money or not cost effective to defrost millions of 1000 year old, way past their prime, corpse popsicles.

Food for thought my future corpse popsicles.

• First, I don’t think anyone’s welcomed you to Less Wrong yet. It looks from your comments like you’ve been a lurker for a while?

Secondly, we do take these questions pretty seriously; it’s just that we think that the best answer, based on the evidence available, is at least cautious optimism about cryonic revival (given some advances in technology well within the limits of possibility). See for instance ciphergoth’s investigation of critiques for a discussion of this.

How in the world can you assign any value to that proposal? There is a total lack of evidence in support of resurrecting a frozen human because its never been done and as of now nobody knows if it is even possible.

See this post (Section B in particular).

• That’s lovely and all. But how is it that my question got voted down and this nothing response got voted up?

Is it because I refer to people in cryostasis as corpse popsicles?

Let’s be frank here the arguments for cryonics are positively flaccid. If what you are banking on is based on some set of technologies not yet invented, many not even thought up yet, with no large scale tests behind your claims then this is a matter of faith not science. This is trying to make the myth of the after-life not a myth.

Cryonics to date, at least the evidence, that these popsicle people will be revived from popsicle land, which is the flip side of Mr Rogers neighborhood, is essentially 98% hand waving and 2% sketchy evidence.

The last link you posted was especially unhelpful since I am inclined to discredit the source for reasons that I have already commented on.

• Er, do you have an issue with any of the arguments, rather than with Eliezer or the karma system? The only critique I can see above is the exact objection that’s discussed in the “particular proof” post, and you’re not presenting any argument against the analysis there.

I can’t claim that the karma here is unbiased, but one pattern I can point to is that LW contrarians who engage with particular objections get upvoted more than contrarians who just reiterate conclusions. I’ve pointed you to a specific argument that in rationally making important decisions under uncertainty, one has to make do with the evidence that can be gathered at the time of decision (and there really is a wealth of such evidence in the case of cryonics). Do you disagree with this general principle or with this application, and if so, on what grounds?

• That’s lovely and all. But how is it that my question got voted down and this nothing response got voted up?

Is it because I refer to people in cryostasis as corpse popsicles?

As a general rule of thumb, in any online forum that uses a karma system, remarks which are polite and well written are more likely to be voted up. Remarks which are insulting or seem to be quickly typed up with little thought are more likely to be downvoted. Now, there’s also a general trend that comments which agree with the general attitude in a forum are more likely to be voted up than comments which do not. All these details apply to LW. Although LW prides itself on trying to be rational, and one could argue that comments which agree with the consensus here are simply more likely to be rational, I suspect that some amount of simply agreeing with what someone is saying does lead to upvoting. However, this seems to be less of a problem at LW than elsewhere (especially compare say Slashdot and Reddit). Now, there’s one other aspect that’s very important, the two factors (agreement with status quo, and quality of post) don’t combine in a nicely linear fashion. In particular, comments which do not seem well thought out or indicate a lack of knowledge about a topic and which go against the status quo consensus are likely to be voted down a lot.

In that regard, your repeated use of the phrase “corpse popsicles” was apparently an indication of an attempt at emotionalism, something which really doesn’t go over well at LW. Moreover, it also demonstrates a lack of detailed familiarity with cryonics since one would otherwise know that the standard derogatory pourmanteau is “corpsicle” rather than the long phrase “corpse popsicle.” (I’m under the tentative impression that this is actually a pourmanteau of corpse and icicle)

The last link you posted was especially unhelpful since I am inclined to discredit the source for reasons that I have already commented on.

This is the sort of thing that is probably getting you voted down. It wasn’t at all clear (and after rereading what you’ve wrote still isn’t at all clear) why you discredit that source. It might help for you to state what exactly in that link you object to.

Note that comments that discuss potential problems with cryonics are not in general downvoted. For example, my comment here was not downvoted (granted a single upvote isn’t much but the point is clear).

In general when posting a comment in an environment which does not by and large support your view it is extremely important to make a comment as polite and well-reasoned as you can. Directly insulting the people one is addressing may make one feel good, but it is unlikely to actually change anyone’s opinion. Moreover, it is the sort of thing which generally causes bystanders and audiences to not favor your opinion. This will likely still be true for otherwise pretty rational individuals. And judging from your remarks here and in previous posts on LW you seem to have a low opinion of the general level of rationality here. If you are correct in that assessment then it is even more important that you don’t trigger hostile emotions in the people you are trying to convince.

• with no large scale tests behind your claims then this is a matter of faith not science.

There is a relatively concise rebuttal of this statement in “demands for particular proof”, which I quote:

“Demanding that cryonicists produce a successful revival before you’ll credit the possibility of cryonics, is logically rude; specifically, it is a demand for particular proof.

A successful cryonics revival performed with modern-day technology is not a piece of evidence you could possibly expect modern cryonicists to provide, even given that the proposition of interest is true. The whole point of cryonics is as an ambulance ride to the future; to take advantage of the asymmetry between the technology needed to successfully preserve a patient (cryoprotectants, liquid nitrogen storage) and the technology needed to revive a patient (probably molecular nanotechnology).

Given that you don’t currently have molecular nanotechnology, you can’t reasonably expect to revive a cryonics patient today even given that they could in fact be revived using future molecular nanotechnology.

You are entitled to arguments, though not that particular proof, and cryonicists have done their best to provide you with whatever evidence can be obtained. For example:

A study on rat hippocampal slices showed that it is possible for vitrified slices cooled to a solid state at −130ºC to have viability upon re-warming comparable to that of control slices that had not been vitrified or cryopreserved. Ultrastructure of the CA1 region (the region of the brain most vulnerable to ischemic damage) of the re-warmed slices is seen to be quite well preserved compared to the ultrastructure of control CA1 tissue (24). Cryonics organizations perfuse brains with vitrification solution until saturation is achieved...

A rabbit kidney has been vitrified, cooled to −135ºC, re-warmed and transplanted into a rabbit. The formerly vitrified transplant functioned well enough as the sole kidney to keep the rabbit alive indefinitely (25)… The vitrification mixture used in preserving the rabbit kidney is known as M22. M22 is used by the cryonics organization Alcor for vitrifying cryonics subjects. Perfusion of rabbits with M22 has been shown to preserve brain ultrastructure without ice formation (26).”

• In my experience, it’s quite fruitless to get into the discussion of evidence on this particular problem. That’s because it’s absolutely clear that cryonics (on current evidence) does not work. The entire argument in favor of cryonics is based on projections for future discoveries and technologies, which any cryonics proponent will admit. Thus their argument is not really an argument based on evidence—it is more of an argument based on expectation. Now, this expectation may very well be solid and well justified, but in my experience, the LW community tends to really bastardize the argument and claim that the evidence is somehow solid and well worked out. To the extent that you should dish out a lot of money, starting now. This goes so far as to the IMO absurd idea in ciphergoth’s post above, whereby he states that the burden of proof or evidence should be put on the cryonics critics.

• Could you break down your objection?

EDIT to look at it from another angle: it’s clear that the first serve in this discussion has to come from the cryonicists, since we’re the ones trying to change people’s minds. But cryonicists have served and served and served; there’s a massive literature arguing in favour, of which I’d pick out Ben Best’s “Scientific Justification of Cryonics Practice”. If you don’t feel that anything in that literature is enough to show that cryonics might be a good idea, you’re going to have to make some sort of actual return to those serves, at least to be more specific about what you feel is missing from them that could and should be there to justify signing up. Because as I’ve shown, no-one is even trying to return any of those serves.

• I understand that there is work supporting the idea that cryonics/​regeneration/​etc. will eventually be successful. However, I don’t feel the need to respond to this work very directly, because this work, after all, is very indirect, in the sense that it is only making plausibility arguments. As a cryonics skeptic, I am not attempting to rule out the plausibility or possibility of cryonics. After all, it seems fairly plausible that this stuff will eventually get worked out, as with the usual arguments for technological advancement. As a cryonics skeptic, I am only asserting that there is insufficient evidence that it will work for my personal freezing/​revival to justify my substantial investment.

The response to this might be to claim that I am unfairly or erroneously making “demands for particular proof”. I think that this point is an intelligent point, but that it is being somewhat abused or overused in this context. In areas like physics or biology, it is completely status-quo to believe nothing except that which has been shown by fairly direct evidence. You might even abstractly characterize the entirety of professional science as an area in which “demands for particular proof” are the centralizing, unifying, distinguishing feature. Seeing as how cryonics is essentially an area of physics and biology, I view it in much the same way. I expect to see more concrete proof of its ability before being willing to believe in it, invest in it, or rely on it for my supposed personal immortality.

• I understand that there is work supporting the idea that cryonics/​regeneration/​etc. will eventually be successful. However, I don’t feel the need to respond to this work very directly, because this work, after all, is very indirect, in the sense that it is only making plausibility arguments.

In this case, indirect evidence is the only kind of evidence you can hope to obtain, so your current conclusion has to be formed based on indirect evidence. And this applies to any conclusion. If you believe that cryonics won’t work, this is also based only on indirect evidence. It has to be.

Now, in most cases, the prior of a given idea not working is high enough, so we have a “by default” argument, believing something is impossible until proven possible. But this is a matter of framing: is it possible to implement a manned expedition to Mars, say? Is it possible to travel faster than light? The difference is always in intuitive estimation of detail that goes into the question, and what exactly is being asked matters. The “impossible by default” heuristic is a good tool, but has apparent points of failure, and you have to be aware of these where obtaining explicit evidence is not expected.

• You’re saying the level of confidence to look for is one that would be appropriate for any new medical treatment, rather than (say) the confidence you’d look for when making a change in foreign policy.

One reason we’re so demanding in the realm of medical evidence is because we can be, and since it can be life and death, if we can be we probably should be. In the case of a pill, we can do an RCT, providing high quality, repeatable statistical evidence on its efficacy—so anyone proposing I take a pill who doesn’t have an RCT backing them up is a bit suspicious. In the case of cryonics, I hope it’s clear that it’s not because of a lack of respect for evidence that we’re unable to show you an RCT.

There is absolutely insufficient evidence to have the same confidence in cryonics as we do in, say, ibuprofen for reducing inflammation. Because of this lack of evidence, we have great uncertainty. What we’re trying to ask is, in the face of that uncertainty, how will you make a decision? Is it always appropriate in the medical sphere to choose inaction whenever the evidence in favour of action is only weak and circumstantial?

• The response to this might be to claim that I am unfairly or erroneously making “demands for particular proof”. I think that this point is an intelligent point, but that it is being somewhat abused or overused in this context. In areas like physics or biology, it is completely status-quo to believe nothing except that which has been shown by fairly direct evidence. You might even abstractly characterize the entirety of professional science as an area in which “demands for particular proof” are the centralizing, unifying, distinguishing feature.

That’s very much not the case. If one has a hypothesis we don’t care which method of bringing evidence for that hypothesis you do as long as it is actual evidence. For example, the neutrino was originally hypothesized based on very indirect evidence. That evidence then became progressively stronger. But at no point did anyone assert that they wouldn’t accept neutrinos unless a specific experiment was performed.

• So following on from my other comment, I say to you: go ahead. Perform the experiment of whether

“believe nothing except that which has been shown by fairly direct evidence.”

or

“incorporate all available evidence to arrive at probabilistic beliefs and then calculate expected utilities”

is best. Go ahead and perform it in on yourself by not getting cryo. If you do this, and cryo works, then I will be revived and know that you and many others just got proved wrong catastrophically. If cryo fails, then I will be 80 cents a day poorer and I’ll be just as dead as you.

• How is that an “experiment”? You don’t get to answer any questions because of performing specifically the described actions, as opposed to performing any other actions.

• You have a point about the epistemology at work in the sciences. But the founders of this rationality movement actually think that they know better, that they are smarter than the average scientist, and that they can prognosticate probabilisitically about the future.

And really, I think that in this case, it isn’t too hard to be smarter than a scientist; scientists know a lot about science and mostly nothing about philosophy of science/​epistemology. Scientists (especially biologists) mostly still work with a yes/​no epistemology rather than a probabilistic one and so underperform versus a good probabilistic reasoner.

In areas like physics or biology, it is completely status-quo to believe nothing except that which has been shown by fairly direct evidence.

• Investment and sociological acceptance seem to me separate from the purely physical and biological aspects. For example, I am signaling optimism about the future very strongly by signing up for cryonics. Even an extremely low probability rating for cryonics working would not change this fact.

But in any case, the specific proofs needed for at least some guarded acceptance in physics and biology are already available. We know cells survive in large numbers, memories are structural (not dependent on electric fields), and vitrification limits damage (to the point that a kidney can survive in working condition). If you want to be a scientific skeptic of cryonics you need to be begin as literate of these facts and refer to reasons why you are still skeptical.

The demand for reanimation of a whole human or complex animal is far in excess of what is necessary to prove this as a good bet based on physical and biological data. The cost of ignoring the evidence in favor of cryonics that can accrue before that particular demonstration is vastly disproportionate to the cost of a false positive.

• That’s because it’s absolutely clear that cryonics (on current evidence) does not work.

Doesn’t work? It quite clearly gets heads and freezes them in a static state. You appear to be demanding evidence regarding functional medical nanotechnology, a rather different problem.

• The extent of qualification necessary to clearly convey a meaning on here is absolutely unfathomable. No, it’s beyond unfathomable, it’s really utter rubbish, it’s exasperating and despicable how this happens almost every time one starts a substantive disagreement.

It’s perfectly clear from context that I am referring to the entire cryonics refrigeration and revival process, but in case that wasn’t clear, let that be clearly stated now. In case that was clear and it was intentionally or subconsciously disregarded, as I must shamefully and cynically suspect, then you can simply go fuck yourself.

• On the other hand I suggest I understand you perfectly and have attempted to respond to the core objection I have with your comment. That is, it is a demand for unobtainable evidence.

The entire purpose of cryonics is to freeze a person pending the availability of future technologies. If that technology was, in fact, available now it would be evidence that cryonics was unnecessary.

You make the claim:

he entire argument in favor of cryonics is based on projections for future discoveries and technologies, which any cryonics proponent will admit. Thus their argument is not really an argument based on evidence—it is more of an argument based on expectation.

There is no other interpretation that can be made of that than a demand for unobtainable evidence. You explicitly include, “Thus their argument is not really an argument based on evidence—it is more of an argument based on expectation”. That is absurd. Projections are a form of (or, if you prefer, contain and depend on) evidence. If you question those projections then you can question the evidence they have. You can not assert that they are not basing their claims on evidence just because it is evidence about the future.

In case that was clear and it was intentionally or subconsciously disregarded, as I must shamefully and cynically suspect, then you can simply go fuck yourself.

I appreciate it when people can make their aggression explicit, rather than try to foist it off via whatever mechanisms decorum allows. In this case however, I’d like to point out that I am not signed up for cryonics and, while some of the reason for that is economic and akrasiatic factors, cryonics is still not a core element of my identity. I have little vested interest in supporting cryonics but something I do seem to take personally is aggressive, fallacious argument.

If you go reread your earlier post, take some time to think through what you are really trying to say, remove the overgeneralisations and sloppy reasoning and write your position down clearly and with some semblance of respect for your audience then I will almost certainly acknowledge your point.

• I am something of a cryo-skeptic because I think at best all you will get is a copy of the person who was frozen. I am much more interested in SENS-style rejuvenation efforts. But I am curious about the source of your (and Sam Adams’) skepticism. Are you of the opinion that it would be impossible to set all those frozen molecules in motion again, or impossible to make a living copy of the frozen original? Do you doubt that the important information (memory, personality...?) survives the freezing process?

Contemporary science and technology are showing that nature permits atoms to be manipulated with extraordinary precision. Of course, your molecular structure is a lot more complex and dynamic than that of Carbon Monoxide Man. But then we would hardly need to get every atom back to exactly where it was, in order to make something a lot like you. We would just need tissues grown from cells containing your genome, and then arranged in a structure grossly resembling your current body. The brain is presumably the place where certain fine details matter the most. But I really don’t see what is to stop us from growing a decerebrated body in your image (having first synthesized a copy of your genome a la Craig Venter), and then carefully filling its skull, layer by layer, with synthetic neural tissue made in imitation of the microstructure of your frozen brain, assuming that we have it available.

That is a procedure for making a copy of you; but I would tend to think that something which reanimates the frozen carcass is also possible, albeit more difficult to describe. These things are very high technology by current standards, but how to do them is not an unfathomable mystery. It’s of a level of difficulty more akin to constructing an inhabited space station that will orbit Neptune. A big engineering challenge.

• It’s perfectly clear from context that I am referring to the entire cryonics refrigeration and revival process

Ok. So you are talking about the entire process. What then is your objection to the refrigeration aspect? Do you think that the information is irretrievably destroyed? Do you think that the information is not destroyed but that the body is too far damaged to ever be restored in any useful way? Do you think that the preservation process does not do a good enough job at preventing ongoing damage? Do you think that the probability of thawing due to the catastrophic events or economic problems is too high? Or do you have some other objection that I have not listed?

• Thus their argument is not really an argument based on evidence—it is more of an argument based on expectation.

Expectation can only be obtained based on currently available indirect evidence.

• In my experience, it’s quite fruitless to get into the discussion of evidence on this particular problem.

What ought we discuss if not evidence?

• it’s absolutely clear that cryonics (on current evidence) does not work.

Cryonics either works, or does not; there’s no way for it to work “on current evidence” but not work on some other set of evidence. Perhaps you mean that cryonics hasn’t worked yet, but this is also what you would expect to see if it would eventually work.

Thus their argument is not really an argument based on evidence—it is more of an argument based on expectation. Now, this expectation may very well be solid and well justified, but in my experience, the LW community tends to really bastardize the argument and claim that the evidence is somehow solid and well worked out.

In part, this seems to merely be a disagreement over the definition of “evidence”.

• There is a total lack of evidence in support of resurrecting a frozen human because its never been done and as of now nobody knows if it is even possible.

Others have already addressed this claim but I’d like to address it another way briefly. In particular, just because a specific technological goal has not yet been achieved does not mean there is no evidence for that goal. If one said in 1968 that there was no evidence that humans could go to the Moon that would be regarded as likely incorrect. Here’s a brief list of technologies we don’t have today. I’d be deeply surprised if you don’t consider it likely that we’ll have at least some of these at some point in the future: 1) practical fusion power, 2) A human mission to Mars 3) Substantial life extension 4) direct brain-computer interfaces.

All of these examples fit your model of being technologies which we don’t have yet. The third example, life extension seems particularly relevant. Based on your comment above I’m pretty sure you would not be willing to say “There is a total lack of evidence in support of substantial life extension of humans because its never been done and as of now nobody knows if it is even possible.”

• This kind of rebuttal absolutely fails, because it simply doesn’t address the point. You’re taking the OP completely out of context. The OP is arguing against cryonics evidence in the context of having to dish out substantial money. The pro-cryonics LW community asserts that you must pay money if you believe in cryonics, since it’s the only rational decision, or some such logic. In response, critics (such as the OP) contend that cryonics evidence isn’t sufficient to justify paying money. This is totally different from asserting that you don’t believe in cryonics or the possibility of cryonics out of context.

In your examples, you don’t have to pay out of your wallet if you believe that 1) practical fusion power, 2) human mission to Mars, 3) substantial life extension exists. These examples are misleading.

• Take your beliefs seriously. If you believe something, you must accept all consequences; if you don’t accept some consequences, you must stop believing. The alternative is hypocrisy, compartmentalization, curiosity-stopping.

Paying money is a decision made based on your beliefs, not the other way around. You are not allowed to change your beliefs based on the decisions your beliefs suggest, only on evidence pertaining to the beliefs themselves.

• Perhaps Sam can clarify his remarks but that’s strongly not what I got from the context. That argument has some validity, but he actually wrote:

How in the world can you assign any value to that proposal? There is a total lack of evidence in support of resurrecting a frozen human because its never been done and as of now nobody knows if it is even possible. So essentially cryonics is a way to spend money on a one in a million chance you might be revived in the future. Why? I would much rather bet on life extension then cryonics.

He didn’t say one needs to assign low value to the probability that it will happen but had a problem assigning “any value” due to a “total lack of evidence.” That sounds like a much stronger claim especially when he then refers to making a “bet” by comparison on life extension. If that is what Sam meant, I’d be particularly curious what the monetary level would be where he’d sign up.

Incidentally, the claim that because a technology does not yet exist we must assign it a very low probability of arising seems almost trivially false. The largest hard drives today are in the 2-4 terabyte range. I’m pretty willing to bet that we will see 10 terabyte hard drives pretty soon and almost certainly will eventually. The only major ways for this not to happen are a very large scale catastrophe or the discovery of new technologies that render large hard drives unnecessary. Thus, the tiny chance of this not occurring is even smaller if one instead talks about compact data storage objects in the 10 TB range.

One can use other examples which are slightly less trivial. Currently, the best Go programs are in the mid to low dan rankings. But I don’t think anyone seriously thinks that because no one has demonstrated a better program that the probability of such programs arising is therefore very low.

The argument type used fails even more badly when one is talking about something like cryonics where we don’t even need the technology soon, it just needs to eventually exist.

This argument might be different if Sam focused on technical aspects that would make cryonics difficult in the long-term or if one focused on sociological aspects (which he did briefly touch upon but not in any detail). But the argument being dealt with by my comment seems to focus simply on the claimed lack of “evidence” due to the technology not yet existing. That style argument fails.

• M, but that doesn’t seem to be what SamAdams said. He didn’t just say the probability was low enough for it to not be worth it, he said “There is a total lack of evidence in support of resurrecting a frozen human because its never been done and as of now nobody knows if it is even possible.” Admittedly, he did say immediately afterward, “So essentially cryonics is a way to spend money on a one in a million chance you might be revived in the future. ” So that seems to be a little inconsistent? I would think that if things really were as he described before, one in a million would be quite an overestimate.

• So would it be right to say your objection is based on the expected utility of working cryonics instead of its probability?

• I think that the pro cryonics people in this mini-debate have failed miserably—several people have posted “demands for particular proof” but it is not having any effect on SamAdams, who is clearly an intelligent person.

I guess this just underscores the difficulty of using a rational argument to actually change someone’s beliefs, unless that person is already a high-grade rationalist.

I think that the nub of the problem is that SamAdams probably wants to win the debate more than he wants accurate beliefs (which is a problem that we all suffer from), because he probably doesn’t have any memorable instances of motivated cognition causing him to forego reward, but he has many memorable instances of feeling a small rewarding feeling of satisfaction on winning a debate against some “nutty” belief or other.

To Sam, I say, try to concretely visualize some incorrect belief that you hold hurting you long after you decided that it was a belief you wanted to hang on to. For myself, I think about times when I have convinced myself that I can hand in some important form just a few days late, or that I can jump down a high drop with a slightly injured knee and obviously I’ll be OK. (the pain when my knee gave way at the bottom was horrific)

• I think that the pro cryonics people in this mini-debate have failed miserably—several people have posted “demands for particular proof” but it is not having any effect on SamAdams, who is clearly an intelligent person.

I suggest that the ‘pro cryonics people’ have cause to object to your presumption. You have defined their success and failure in terms of their ability to make SamAdams concede a point. Why on earth would people want to accept either that challenge or that judgement?

I haven’t taken a pro-cryonics stance in this mini-debate but I suspect you refer to me too, given that I brought up “demands for particular proof”. For my part convincing SamAdams to preserve himself with cryonics is exactly the opposite of what I desire. I want him to go away. Not go and preserve himself so we’re stuck with him forever.

• I want him to go away. Not go and preserve himself so we’re stuck with him forever.

While I appreciate this display of cruelty (it’s high-status and fun), I believe it is a moral error to exert control (in any nontrivial amount) towards murdering a person.

• Excuse me? You make both a moral and, more importantly, an epistemic error in your accusation. I take offence.

I am in no way morally obliged to persuade coerce others into cryogenic preservation. Even assuming that moral presumption it would still be a simple factual error to apply the label ‘murder’ to the action ‘not expending considerable effort to persuade someone to freeze their head’. If you sincerely do not understand that distinction, go and read any serious analysis of a debate on abortion or euthanasia from last century. Then further understand the moral and semantic difference between murder and inaction by watching some batman begins: “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you.”

It is also high status and fun, in fact it is the very core of politics and debate, and misrepresent it as the nearest possible ‘Bad Thing’. You may well have some moral and philosophical positions you wish to express, along the lines of encouraging over-responsible egalitarianism. But an accusation here of a ‘nontrivial amount’ of action towards ‘murdering a person’ is both a factual error and socially hostile. It is not something I take lightly.

• Would you react differently if one were directly discussing committing suicide? Would saying that you don’t want Sam around indefinitely so don’t mind if you don’t convince him? Would that seem morally distinct? If so, why?

• If there is some aspect of moral philosophy about which you are particularly curious then by all means make a post on it. In this particular subthread, however, the only comment I am interested in reading is a retraction with apologies from Vladmir.

(Meta Tangent: In general I would advise against engaging in casual conversation in the wake of any accusation that happens to include the keyword ‘murder’, particularly if such conversation takes the form of questioning or the expectation of justification. In various times and places better approaches to such situations have included: challenging the accuser to a duel, pressing a civil lawsuit for libel, public smear campaigns, Machiavellian political undermining or simple assassination.)

• Regardless of whether “murder” was the most appropriate label to use here, you were expressing a desire for the life of another human being to end so as to save you a minor annoyance. This is a sentiment that I and your other critics (I presume) find abhorrent; that you have compounded your signaling of disregard for human life by suggesting that criticism on the internet is sufficient justification for “simple assassination” leads me to suspect that either your moral philosophy is fundamentally inconsistent or you are a sociopath.

Bad argument gets counterargument. Does not get bullet. Never. Never ever never for ever.

• leads me to suspect that either your moral philosophy is fundamentally inconsistent or you are a sociopath.

Or, perhaps, that abstract anthropological discussion of the real use, and typical responses to, morality based social attacks are of interest to me. Far more interesting than signalling how naive and banal I can make my far mode moral philosophising sound.

The fact that you took ‘assassination’ out of the context of specific reference to various times and places, alongside ‘challenge them to a duel’ is significant. It made me think back, trying to recall whether you had previously made yourself an adversary. To understand what the conversation is really about.

or you are a sociopath.

This indicates that you don’t understand how sociopaths behave. Sociopaths are among the very best at signalling their moral virtue. They take the usual ability of humans to keep their far mode moral assertions and near mode actions uncorrelated and they make it an art-form. In most cases they would actually find it extremely difficult to segue from inside a battle for moral territory into epistemic observation about how such games actually play out. Nature and entrenched habit would make that extremely difficult for them.

Bad argument gets counterargument. Does not get bullet. Never. Never ever never for ever.

Where do you think the actual metaphorical bullets are in this conversation? Here’s a hint: none of them have been fired based on bad argument.

• The fact that you took ‘assassination’ out of the context of specific reference to various times and places, alongside ‘challenge them to a duel’ is significant. It made me think back, trying to recall whether you had previously made yourself an adversary. To understand what the conversation is really about.

Specific times and places are all well and good, but you said:

In various times and places better approaches to such situations have included: challenging the accuser to a duel, pressing a civil lawsuit for libel, public smear campaigns, Machiavellian political undermining or simple assassination.)

where the antecedent of “better” is “casual conversation” that “takes the form of questioning or the expectation of justification.”

I won’t speculate about what you meant by “better,” but it sounds like a moral judgment to me.

• I won’t speculate about what you meant by “better,” but it sounds like a moral judgment to me.

That meaning would make absolutely no sense in the context. It clearly means ‘more effective’.

• It is possible to reason about things that have never happened.