Optimism versus cryonics

Within the im­mor­tal­ist com­mu­nity, cry­on­ics is the most pes­simistic pos­si­ble po­si­tion. Con­sider the fol­low­ing su­per­op­ti­mistic al­ter­na­tive sce­nar­ios:

  1. Upload­ing will be pos­si­ble be­fore I die.

  2. Aging will be cured be­fore I die.

  3. They will be able to re­an­i­mate a whole mouse be­fore I die, then I’ll sign up.

  4. I could get frozen in a freezer when I die, and they will even­tu­ally figure out how to re­an­i­mate me.

  5. I could pickle my brain when I die, and they will even­tu­ally figure out how to re­an­i­mate me.

  6. Friendly AI will cure ag­ing and/​or let me be up­loaded be­fore I die.

Cry­on­ics—per­fu­sion and vit­rifi­ca­tion at LN2 tem­per­a­tures un­der the best con­di­tions pos­si­ble—is by far less op­ti­mistic than any of these. Of all the pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios where you end up im­mor­tal, cry­on­ics is the least op­ti­mistic. Cry­on­ics can work even if there is no sin­gu­lar­ity or re­ver­sal tech for thou­sands of years into the fu­ture. It can work un­der the con­di­tions of the slow­est tech­nolog­i­cal growth imag­in­able. All it as­sumes is that the or­ga­ni­za­tion (or its de­scen­dants) can sur­vive long enough, tech­nol­ogy doesn’t go back­wards (on av­er­age), and that cry­op­reser­va­tion of a tech­ni­cally suffi­cient na­ture can pre­date re­an­i­ma­tion tech.

It doesn’t even re­quire the as­sump­tion that to­day’s best pos­si­ble vit­rifi­ca­tions are good enough. See, it’s en­tirely plau­si­ble that it’s 100 years from now when they start be­ing good enough, and 500 years later when they figure out how to re­verse them. Per­haps to­day’s pop­u­la­tion is doomed be­cause of this. We don’t know. But the fact that we don’t know what ex­act point is good enough is suffi­cient to make this a worth­while en­deavor at as early of a point as pos­si­ble. It doesn’t re­quire op­ti­mism—it sim­ply re­quires de­liber­ate, ra­tio­nal ac­tion. The fact is that we are late for the party. In ret­ro­spect, we should have started pre­serv­ing brains hun­dreds of years ago. Ben­jamin Fran­klin should have gone ahead and had him­self im­mersed in al­co­hol.

There’s a differ­ence be­tween hav­ing a fear and be­ing im­mo­bi­lized by it. If you have a fear that cry­on­ics won’t work—good for you! That’s a perfectly ra­tio­nal fear. But if that fear im­mo­bi­lizes you and dis­cour­ages you from tak­ing ac­tion, you’ve lost the game. Worse than lost, you never played.

This is some­thing of a re­sponse to Charles Platt’s re­cent ar­ti­cle on Cry­op­ti­mism: Part 1 Part 2