Normal Cryonics

I re­cently at­tended a small gath­er­ing whose pur­pose was to let young peo­ple signed up for cry­on­ics meet older peo­ple signed up for cry­on­ics—a mat­ter of some con­cern to the old guard, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons.

The young cry­on­i­cists’ travel was sub­si­dized. I sus­pect this led to a greatly differ­ent se­lec­tion filter than usu­ally pre­vails at con­fer­ences of what Robin Han­son would call “con­trar­i­ans”. At an or­di­nary con­fer­ence of tran­shu­man­ists—or liber­tar­i­ans, or athe­ists—you get ac­tivists who want to meet their own kind, strongly enough to pay con­fer­ence fees and travel ex­penses. This con­fer­ence was just young peo­ple who took the ac­tion of sign­ing up for cry­on­ics, and who were will­ing to spend a cou­ple of paid days in Florida meet­ing older cry­on­i­cists.

The gath­er­ing was 34% fe­male, around half of whom were sin­gle, and a few kids. This may sound nor­mal enough, un­less you’ve been to a lot of con­trar­ian-cluster con­fer­ences, in which case you just spit coffee all over your com­puter screen and shouted “WHAT?” I did some­times hear “my hus­band per­suaded me to sign up”, but no more fre­quently than “I pur­suaded my hus­band to sign up”. Around 25% of the peo­ple pre­sent were from the com­puter world, 25% from sci­ence, and 15% were do­ing some­thing in mu­sic or en­ter­tain­ment—with pos­si­ble over­lap, since I’m work­ing from a show of hands.

I was ex­pect­ing there to be some nut­cases in that room, peo­ple who’d signed up for cry­on­ics for just the same rea­son they sub­scribed to home­opa­thy or as­trol­ogy, i.e., that it sounded cool. None of the younger cry­on­i­cists showed any sign of it. There were a cou­ple of older cry­on­i­cists who’d gone strange, but none of the young ones that I saw. Only three hands went up that did not iden­tify as athe­ist/​ag­nos­tic, and I think those also might have all been old cry­on­i­cists. (This is sur­pris­ing enough to be worth ex­plain­ing, con­sid­er­ing the base rate of in­san­ity ver­sus san­ity. Maybe if you’re into woo, there is so much more woo that is bet­ter op­ti­mized for be­ing woo, that no one into woo would give cry­on­ics a sec­ond glance.)

The part about ac­tu­ally sign­ing up may also be key—that’s prob­a­bly a ten-to-one or worse filter among peo­ple who “get” cry­on­ics. (I put to Bill Faloon of the old guard that prob­a­bly twice as many peo­ple had died while plan­ning to sign up for cry­on­ics even­tu­ally, than had ac­tu­ally been sus­pended; and he said “Way more than that.”) Ac­tu­ally sign­ing up is an in­tense filter for Con­scien­tious­ness, since it’s mildly te­dious (re­quires mul­ti­ple copies of pa­pers signed and no­ta­rized with wit­nesses) and there’s no peer pres­sure.

For what­ever rea­son, those young cry­on­i­cists seemed re­ally nor­mal—ex­cept for one thing, which I’ll get to to­mor­row. Ex­cept for that, then, they seemed like very or­di­nary peo­ple: the cou­ples and the sin­gles, the hus­bands and the wives and the kids, sci­en­tists and pro­gram­mers and sound stu­dio tech­ni­ci­ans.

It tears my heart out.

At some fu­ture point I ought to post on the no­tion of be­lief hys­tere­sis, where you get locked into what­ever be­lief hits you first. So it had pre­vi­ously oc­curred to me (though I didn’t write the post) to ar­gue for cry­on­ics via a con­for­mity re­ver­sal test:

If you found your­self in a world where ev­ery­one was signed up for cry­on­ics as a mat­ter of rou­tine—in­clud­ing ev­ery­one who works at your office—you wouldn’t be the first lonely dis­sen­ter to earn the in­cre­d­u­lous stares of your cowork­ers by uncheck­ing the box that kept you signed up for cry­on­ics, in ex­change for an ex­tra $300 per year.

(Ac­tu­ally it would prob­a­bly be a lot cheaper, more like $30/​year or a free gov­ern­ment pro­gram, with that econ­omy of scale; but we should ig­nore that for pur­poses of the re­ver­sal test.)

The point be­ing that if cry­on­ics were taken for granted, it would go on be­ing taken for granted; it is only the state of non-cry­on­ics that is un­sta­ble, sub­ject to be­ing dis­rupted by ra­tio­nal ar­gu­ment.

And this cry­on­ics meetup was that world. It was the world of the or­di­nary sci­en­tists and pro­gram­mers and sound stu­dio tech­ni­ci­ans who had signed up for cry­on­ics as a mat­ter of sim­ple com­mon sense.

It tears my heart out.

Those young cry­on­i­cists weren’t heroes. Most of the older cry­on­i­cists were heroes, and of course there were a cou­ple of other heroes among us young folk, like a former em­ployee of Methuse­lah who’d left to try to put to­gether a startup/​non­profit around a bright idea he’d had for cur­ing can­cer (note: even I think this is an ac­cept­able ex­cuse). But most of the younger cry­on­i­cists weren’t there to fight a des­per­ate bat­tle against Death, they were peo­ple who’d signed up for cry­on­ics be­cause it was the ob­vi­ous thing to do.

And it tears my heart out, be­cause I am a hero and this was like see­ing a ray of sun­light from a nor­mal world, some al­ter­nate Everett branch of hu­man­ity where things re­ally were nor­mal in­stead of crazy all the god­damned time, a world that was ev­ery­thing this world could be and isn’t.

Then there were the chil­dren, some of whom had been signed up for cry­on­ics since the day they were born.

It tears my heart out. I’m hav­ing trou­ble re­mem­ber­ing to breathe as I write this. My own lit­tle brother isn’t breath­ing and never will again.

You know what? I’m go­ing to come out and say it. I’ve been un­sure about say­ing it, but af­ter at­tend­ing this event, and talk­ing to the perfectly or­di­nary par­ents who signed their kids up for cry­on­ics like the god­damn sane peo­ple do, I’m go­ing to come out and say it: If you don’t sign up your kids for cry­on­ics then you are a lousy par­ent.

If you aren’t choos­ing be­tween text­books and food, then you can af­ford to sign up your kids for cry­on­ics. I don’t know if it’s more im­por­tant than a home with­out lead paint, or omega-3 fish oil sup­ple­ments while their brains are ma­tur­ing, but it’s cer­tainly more im­por­tant than you go­ing to the movies or eat­ing at nice restau­rants. That’s part of the bar­gain you signed up for when you be­came a par­ent. If you can af­ford kids at all, you can af­ford to sign up your kids for cry­on­ics, and if you don’t, you are a lousy par­ent. I’m just back from an event where the nor­mal par­ents signed their nor­mal kids up for cry­on­ics, and that is the way things are sup­posed to be and should be, and what­ever ex­cuses you’re us­ing or think­ing of right now, I don’t be­lieve in them any more, you’re just a lousy par­ent.