Freeze or you're a goner
March 24, 2016 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Why Cryonics makes sense [SMLWbW (Single Massive Link Wait but Why)]
posted by Baldons (118 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've been curious, in this scenario, about the billions of bacteria living inside you that help get stuff done. Do they freeze at the same time you do? (If not, what do they eat in the meantime?) Do they all get revived when you thaw out? Would you need a transfusion?
posted by kurumi at 4:17 PM on March 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Allen Steele has a fun book called A King of Infinite Space that is set in a time when cryonics patients are being revived. It's really expensive to bring someone back from the dead so only giant corporations do, pressing the newly revived (called "deadheads") into indentured servitude to pay off their life debt. That scenario didn't make it into WbW's assessment, somehow.

What's the relationship between wait by why and lesswrong? I feel like that's the only other place I see ideas like this taken so seriously.
posted by macrael at 4:18 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


"There's a fun sci-fi book about people whose hearts stop working. Hospitals have a deal with rich corporations where they transplant new hearts into them, but it's really expensive so the revived people become indentured servants. I wonder why nobody is questioning research into organ transplantation on this basis. I, for one, have a Do Not Transplant order because even though I think transplants almost certainly won't work, I'm very worried about how I'll pay for them if they do."
posted by Rangi at 4:25 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Be warned isn't all bending robots, one eyed love interests and jobs working in interstellar delivery service for your mad scientist relative.
posted by humanfont at 4:26 PM on March 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


I thought the first several attempts to do this were very idealistic flimflam. Keeping something frozen for years let alone centuries is an expensive proposition, let alone getting the tech right. From what I've read previously it was largely, freeze it fast, worry about the legality and funding later, oh, "damn what's that smell, are they thawing already"?
posted by sammyo at 4:27 PM on March 24, 2016


Allen Steele has a fun book called A King of Infinite Space that is set in a time when cryonics patients are being revived.

A similar scenario exists in Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan. There's an issue describing a 20th-century woman's revival in the chaotic future setting of the series, where it turns out that a large number of revivees aren't able to quite assimilate and end up living on the margins of society, in addition to assuming the aforementioned financial debt.
posted by Strange Interlude at 4:27 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Then there is Larry Niven's The Defenseless Dead. If a person in cryogenic suspension runs out of funds to pay for their support, they can have their organs harvested for transplants.
posted by Splunge at 4:28 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Every Wait but Why piece only gives me further evidence that (charitably) the author just gets so caught up in the excitement of his topic that he never bothers to take a step back to consider the question from a broader perspective. Everything is "cool" and "totally," and he always dodges the tough questions in favor of exhaustive coverage of unimportant details. The Mars piece was so disappointing for exactly that reason.

Same deal here -- despite the title "Why Cryonics makes sense," the vast bulk of the piece is not an investigation into the merits of cryonics but rather a detailed step-by-step look at the process with a short dismissal of objections at the end. If you want to convince me that cryonics isn't simply people fooling themselves into believing that they might live forever, you have to really address the objections in this sort of article instead of simply assuming a future magical technology will solve the problem. Don't make up some probabilities and give me a Pascal's Wager-style argument.

I agree with macrael that there's also something suspicious about Wait but Why -- the ideas promoted seem to be similar to those advocated for in unsavory corners of the internet like lesswrong.
posted by crazy with stars at 4:28 PM on March 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


Your friendly neighbourhood cryonicist here, if you have any questions for someone who's signed up with the Cryonics Institute. My original blog post on my reasoning is http://blog.datapacrat.com/2012/11/01/dpr-is-now-a-full-fledged-cryonicist/ .
posted by DataPacRat at 4:29 PM on March 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


This is a really well written and interesting essay! It's long and I don't have time to finish it right now, but I got to the part they talk about vitrified kidneys and definitely will come back to read the rest! Can't stop on a cliffhanger like that.

I always thought the biggest problem with cryonics was reviving someone after ice crystals had destroyed every cell in their body, but it sounds like the cryonicists have come up with a fix for this problem, in the rare best case scenario where a patient has signed a DNR and they can get to the body immediately after death. Alas, the vast majority of people don't die in convenient locations or cirumstances, so they wouldn't be good candidates for freezing.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:31 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


How do you pay to be frozen if you can't know how long you're going to have to pay for electricity and space and all the other costs?
posted by dilaudid at 4:35 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


As I was reading this I was increasingly thinking "wow, this guy is really in the tank for cryonics."

Spoiler: he is.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:35 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]




>Alcor’s annual membership fee is about $700, and their transport fee is bundled together with the treatment/storage/revival fee—together they cost $200,000. Alcor gives you the option of ditching your body and just freezing your brain (this is called “neuropreservation”), which brings the price down to $80,000.

>Cryonics is the morbid process of freezing rich, dead people who can’t accept the concept of death, in the hopes that people from the future will be able to bring them back to life, and the community of hard-core cryonics people might also be a Scientology-like cult.
>We can get rid of “rich,” because at least for younger people, cryonics can be paid for with a not-that-expensive life insurance plan.



"It's totally affordable for anyone, guys!" Uh-huh. I'm not comfortable when these gainfully employed engineers and other successful folk reassure me about the ease or affordability of anything.
posted by constantinescharity at 4:37 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you think science will advance to the point where scientists can figure out what shape (down to the cellular level) a mass of ice crystals and organic slurry was before it was a mass of ice crystals and organic slurry, then knock yourself out, but not before you invest in one of my many real estate opportunities in coastal Florida.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:39 PM on March 24, 2016 [16 favorites]


> How do you pay to be frozen if you can't know how long you're going to have to pay for electricity and space and all the other costs?

The same way that people who buy burial plots pay for the graveyard to be maintained in perpetuity; the cash goes into a fund which is invested, and the dividends from that fund are what's used for long-term maintenance costs.

> I'm not comfortable when these gainfully employed engineers and other successful folk reassure me about the ease or affordability of anything.

To keep things reasonably private, I'll say that my annual income is equivalent to somewhere under full-time minimum wage in the US. And I am quite capable of paying the $300 per year that it costs to be signed up; about half that cost is dues to the cryo organization, the other half is to pay for a life-insurance policy whose proceeds will cover the cost of my cryo-preservation.
posted by DataPacRat at 4:41 PM on March 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Corey Pein had a nice article in the Baffler the other day on cryonics.

But this is great — I wonder what other crackpot nonsense his beloved rich technocrats can get Urban to advocate by surrounding it with a white-coated vaguely sciencey aura. Roko's Basilisk and AI eschatology comes next, right?
posted by RogerB at 4:41 PM on March 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Corrected first paragraph:

There’s been an explosion in the engine, and the plane is going to crash in 15 minutes. There’s no chance of survival. There is a potential way out—the plane happens to be transferring a shipment of parachutes, and anyone who would like to use one to escape the plane may do so. But I must warn you—the parachutes are experimental and completely untested, with no guarantee to work. We also have no idea what the terrain will be like down below. Please line up in the aisle if you’d like a parachute, and the flight attendants will sell you one for $200000, which will, of course, be removed from the bank account your children were about to inherit.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:43 PM on March 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


But Roko's Basilisk is far from crackpot nonsense! I, for one, support it wholeheartedly!

*glances around warily*
posted by leotrotsky at 4:43 PM on March 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


Gotta admit that writing in this style (technical, enthusiastic, super-detailed) is like catnip for me. So I might not be totally objective at the moment.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:44 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


> Corey Pein had a nice article in the Baffler the other day on cryonics.

If by 'nice' you mean 'deliberately slants everything to the worst degree possible', sure. For example, the way he "translates" a line from the case report makes it sounds like Kim's head fell to the floor when, in reality, it slipped an inch or two in the neuro ring. Easily corrected. That's not the only item worth wincing about, but there's not much I can do to correct said article.
posted by DataPacRat at 4:45 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


A long time ago, I made a post about this: Cryonics in the UK.
posted by veedubya at 4:45 PM on March 24, 2016


I wish someone had told me the life insurance hack while I was younger. I would have signed up. Maybe I will anyway, but I fear age and medical conditions will price me out.

It probably is a type of Pascal's wager, but for those of us that like the idea of more life (and I know not everyone does), it's not to hard to imagine a scenario where technology improves to extend lifespans and cure illnesses previously thought to be fatal.

I am skeptical of just freezing someone's head and assume that idea came from a man. As a women with hypothyroidism, I'm accurately aware of how much parts of my body play into who I am as a person. Not just figuratively- hormones play an important role in emotions. I suppose there is a small chance they regrow the rest of your body, but even then? Dunno if it would be the same. You in a computer wouldn't unless they figure out how to create subroutines that can mimic your hormones - not just anyone's hormones.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:45 PM on March 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


As I was reading this I was increasingly thinking "wow, this guy is really in the tank for cryonics."
posted by Going To Maine at 4:46 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Pascal's wager is the perfect analogy, crazy with stars.

And while the SF angle I mentioned above was flippant, I do think it's legit to wonder where the money for your revival is going to come from. Presumably most of the 200k is going toward perpetual storage costs. 60 (or 600) years from now, what incentive will these companies have to revive you at all?
posted by macrael at 4:49 PM on March 24, 2016


Corpsicles. (h/t Philip K. Dick)
posted by sudogeek at 4:50 PM on March 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


> Pascal's wager

Just because a cost/benefit analysis fits into a two-by-two grid, and involves a low probability of a high payout, doesn't make it a Pascal's Wager.
posted by DataPacRat at 4:50 PM on March 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Does the payout being eternal life not tip the scale?
posted by macrael at 4:52 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


You in a computer wouldn't unless they figure out how to create subroutines that can mimic your hormones - not just anyone's hormones.

True. Although while we're speculating about the distant future, simulating you in a computer isn't the only option—it might even be possible to physically create a brain with your connectome, and put it in an appropriate body. At least one surgeon wants to transplant a human head onto a donor body, and believes that the challenge is not keeping them alive, but curing their inevitable paralysis by reconnecting the spinal cord.

Just because a cost/benefit analysis fits into a two-by-two grid, and involves a low probability of a high payout, doesn't make it a Pascal's Wager.

Right, otherwise disaster insurance for fires or floods would be dismissed as "Pascal's wager".
posted by Rangi at 4:53 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does the payout being eternal life not tip the scale?

Not if it is physically impossible to collect that payout.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:56 PM on March 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


> Does the payout being eternal life not tip the scale?

'Eternal' life assumes a whole lot of things about long-term thermodynamics which may or may not be true. To steal a relevant quote:

"I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice." -- CEO Nwabudike Morgan, Morganlink 3D-Vision Interview
posted by DataPacRat at 4:57 PM on March 24, 2016


I wonder what other crackpot nonsense his beloved rich technocrats can get Urban to advocate by surrounding it with a white-coated vaguely sciencey aura. Roko's Basilisk and AI eschatology comes next, right?

ahem
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:58 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Does the payout being eternal life not tip the scale?

Not if it is physically impossible to collect that payout.


Sounds exactly like Pascal's Wager to me.
posted by ckape at 5:00 PM on March 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sounds exactly like Pascal's Wager to me.

There's a difference between "Does God exist?" and "Are the brains of frozen heads anything but mush?"
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:01 PM on March 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is there any sourcing for the "scientist prediction" numbers in his reason 2 "This chart."? They feel high to me, given how fringe-ey cryonics is; are they ass-pulling to make his "hey, you've got no chance if you're buried or cremated" point feel more sciencey?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:08 PM on March 24, 2016


Eh, people are doing this with their own money, so I guess it doesn't really hurt anyone (although maybe I'm overlooking something). I've come across the occasional kook calling me a "death lover" for daring to suggest that I want to learn to cope with the inevitability of death, but aside from that this doesn't really affect me in any way. There's weirder beliefs out there.
posted by teponaztli at 5:12 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Every Wait but Why piece only gives me further evidence that (charitably) the author just gets so caught up in the excitement of his topic that he never bothers to take a step back to consider the question from a broader perspective. Everything is "cool" and "totally," and he always dodges the tough questions in favor of exhaustive coverage of unimportant details.

Yeah. I feel like the audience for this article is for people who may or may not care about the subject but just like that there's a lot of graphs, and that they make a big show out of "hey we're not taking ANYTHING for granted, we're gonna science every last bit of this!" and don't mind the big yawning hole where any kind of actual human perspective on the subject is supposed to go. It's just like a performance piece.

I didn't see any questioning of the premise that a future society will must be axiomatically devoted to reviving all possible preserved humans as a matter of utmost principle. It seems like a pretty tight target to land on.
posted by anazgnos at 5:12 PM on March 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


As a scholar who deals with history, it would be pretty cool to revive someone from the past, but the way humanities budgets are going these days...
posted by teponaztli at 5:14 PM on March 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


N-thing the Corey Pein Baffler article. That was awesome. If you think it was slanted against your interests, maybe read it over again, because that's your circus. Unless your real name is Nibbler.
posted by sneebler at 5:18 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


The article posits that, without cryonics (the "experimental parachute"), "There’s no chance of survival". The thought experiment falls down pretty badly here, I think.

I'd argue that belief in the usefulness of cryonics makes a set of assumptions about the nature of consciousness and identity that are just as fundamentally faith-based as other potential options for post-mortem survival of the self. And yes, like Pascal, this argument fails to interrogate those assumptions effectively. It's not quite as bad, I think, because Pascal's metaphysics strongly imply the possibility of a god who hates gamblers, while the metaphysics at work here are less problematic by dint of their sketchy nature.
posted by howfar at 5:19 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


> Is there any sourcing for the "scientist prediction" numbers in his reason 2 "This chart."?

I don't know where he got his numbers from, but you might want to look at the calculations some people have made that are listed here.

> I didn't see any questioning of the premise that a future society will must be axiomatically devoted to reviving all possible preserved humans as a matter of utmost principle.

It doesn't have to be /all/ of a future society. There are some arrangements being made in the present-day where people agree to some version of "If I'm alive when the tech arrives for you to be revived, I'll try to help bring you back to life, help you out until you're back on your feet, and so on; and you promise the same for me".
posted by DataPacRat at 5:21 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a difference between "Does God exist?" and "Are the brains of frozen heads anything but mush?"

But "is our apparent experience of ourselves as continuing beings through time an illusory product of processing in this moment?" or "is consciousness the product of the human brain or rather a universal phenomenon observed by it?" are very much questions of the same order as the question of God. And you need to have a position on these to take a view on the utility of cryonics. The tendency to neglect philosophical problems exists in all kinds of faith-based worldviews, including the scientistic one.
posted by howfar at 5:26 PM on March 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


We had a deal, Kyle: "Is there any sourcing for the "scientist prediction" numbers in his reason 2 "This chart."? They feel high to me, given how fringe-ey cryonics is; are they ass-pulling to make his "hey, you've got no chance if you're buried or cremated" point feel more sciencey?"

I'm pretty sure they're straight out of his ass. Note that they're much higher than what DataPacRat links to.

I also would recommend that people read the Corey Pein piece in the Baffler that RogerB linked to. In typical Baffler style, it's a pretty entertaining discussion of the unsavory ideological origins of the revival of cryonics (the same libertarian seasteading Silicon Valley types you'd expect, e.g. Peter Thiel) and the incompetence of those running it today. Highlights include the botching of the preservation of their showpiece Kim Suozzi and the call for the genocide of every living inhabitant in Afghanistan to accelerate the uploading of minds into computer hardware.
posted by crazy with stars at 5:27 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


I guess I need to be convinced that the custodians of the far future have sufficient incentive to properly revive anybody.

Cryonics is dependent on the unfounded assumption that the contracts are immutable through any changes in government and social order. The expectations that preservation will be undisrupted and technology will continue to progress to the point where full revival and cure is possible are reasonable by comparison.
posted by ardgedee at 5:29 PM on March 24, 2016


Wait, so the article says you can transfer brains/consciousness to computers because some researchers think consciousness is stored in the electrical activity of the brain, not the structure - but doesn't freezing a brain, you know, stop the electrical activity?
posted by teponaztli at 5:30 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


But "is our apparent experience of ourselves as continuing beings through time an illusory product of processing in this moment?" or "is consciousness the product of the human brain or rather a universal phenomenon observed by it?" are very much questions of the same order as the question of God.

And all of that is irrelevant, because all the information stored in the structure of your brain goes bye-bye the instant the water in your brain cells expands into ice crystals, destroying the cellular structure of your brain.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:31 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I get the feeling that in the far future there will be less land due to the seas rising and more people due to life extension science and medicine. Would they really want to revive people? If there already wasn't enough food and places to live anyway?
posted by Splunge at 5:36 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


> Cryonics is dependent on the unfounded assumption that the contracts are immutable through any changes in government and social order.

Not at all. There's a clever bit of social engineering at work in the cryonic organizations I'm currently aware of: the people who are in charge of the companies are, themselves, signed up for cryopreservation, and so have a certain incentive to try to work towards having a system in place so that people who die and are cryopreserved have a good social support structure in place if-and-when resurrection is possible.

> the water in your brain cells expands into ice crystals

You might want to search through the article for the partial-word 'vitrif', as part of the words 'vitrify' and 'vitrification'.

> Would they really want to revive people? If there already wasn't enough food and places to live anyway?

From the article:

Argument: Cryonics will cause an overpopulation disaster.

Actual cryonicist response: This is a common one I’ve heard in my discussions. Here’s what Alcor says: “What about antibiotics, vaccinations, statin drugs and the population pressures they bring? It’s silly to single out something as small and speculative as cryonics as a population issue. Life spans will continue increasing in developed parts of the world, cryonics or not, as they have done for the past century. Historically, as societies become more wealthy and long-lived, population takes care of itself. Couples have fewer children at later ages. This is happening in the world right now. The worst population problems are where people are poor and life spans short, not long.”
posted by DataPacRat at 5:38 PM on March 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


And all of that is irrelevant, because all the information stored in the structure of your brain goes bye-bye the instant the water in your brain cells expands into ice crystals, destroying the cellular structure of your brain.

This is explicitly addressed in the article.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:40 PM on March 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


OK, on reading the Corey Pein piece I take back what I said about not hurting anyone. What a creepy, culty organization.

Also:

I am no longer “Max O’Connor.” I’ve changed my name to “Max More” in order to remove the cultural links to Ireland (which connotes backwardness rather than future-orientation) and to reflect the extropian desire for MORE LIFE, MORE INTELLIGENCE, MORE FREEDOM.


Wow, that guy sucks. If we all end up getting cryogenically frozen, I want to be unfrozen when he's not around.
posted by teponaztli at 5:40 PM on March 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


DataPacRat: "For example, the way he "translates" a line from the case report makes it sounds like Kim's head fell to the floor when, in reality, it slipped an inch or two in the neuro ring. Easily corrected."

Do you know any of the specifics about this? I've googled for images of the holding ring but can't find any. Without knowing what the holding ring looks like, I find it hard to imagine what exactly "cephalon fell out of holding ring" means.
posted by crazy with stars at 5:43 PM on March 24, 2016


I was wondering how the "you can take out a life insurance policy! it's cheap if you're young!" argument holds up.

Yes, life insurance is cheaper per month if you start young. But what he's not considering is that Alcor's "cryopreservation minimum" fee is currently $200,000 but will probably increase during his lifetime.

I was curious; turns out that Alcor's Cryopreservation Agreement explicitly allows them to increase the fee during the life of the agreement. Section II.2: "Alcor may increase the minimum required amounts of funding with ninety (90) days written notice to the Member."

So probably he should be considering insuring his life for the value of $200,000 in today's dollars inflation-adjusted to the end of his most optimistic lifespan estimate: a much bigger number. Or he should be prepared to take out additional insurance policies during his lifespan -- and at increasing cost as he gets older -- to cover increases as they occur.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:43 PM on March 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


> Do you know any of the specifics about this?

Not very many; I'm on an email list of fellow cryonicists, one of whom mentioned that detail in a conversation on that article. It's somewhere in the recent archives of https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/new_cryonet/info [link], though I'm not familiar enough with Yahoo's interface to know exactly how to dig it up.
posted by DataPacRat at 5:48 PM on March 24, 2016


To expland on why we would revive those cryonicly preserved, the article offers the idea that the point of death is a moving target, and that society will stop seeing those "frozen" as dead and instead as injured patients on the verge of death. His argument for such is supported at least a little bit by the argument that we're researching cooling gravely injured and ill people as part of life saving measures, and it's only a matter of time before society adapts to that new standard.

I am nowhere near as sure as he is, but it certainly sound plausible.

That and theoretically the organization is set up to service them as patients and bound to revive them. There are many ways they may not, including laws and bankrupcy, but they idea isn't so much that society as a whole decide to revive people, but that the company storing them will as part of their contract.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:50 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I, for one, have a Do Not Transplant order because even though I think transplants almost certainly won't work, I'm very worried about how I'll pay for them if they do

I don't have a "Do Not Cryopreserve" order, I'm just, you know, not actively planning to have my savings directed toward freezing my corpse.
posted by atoxyl at 5:59 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


"The worst population problems are where people are poor and life spans short, not long."

But almost entirely because of the way that the rich have brutalised those societies as a means of extending the period of their dominance over them. The idea that what the future needs is more rich people who want to sit on their arses and their fortunes while poor people struggle for survival is pretty perverse.
posted by howfar at 6:00 PM on March 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


There is actually one great source on this topic on the internet. Author is Mike Darwin. He has a website, Chronosphere, which looks like it was last posted to in 2012. His last Less Wrong post was in April of 2015. This is not about cryonics directly, but is one of the best articles on the topic of dietary effects on longevity I have ever seen: link is to Part 1 only but there are three excellent parts.
posted by bukvich at 6:02 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


> There's a clever bit of social engineering at work in the cryonic organizations I'm currently aware of: the people who are in charge of the companies are, themselves, signed up for cryopreservation, and so have a certain incentive to try to work towards having a system in place so that people who die and are cryopreserved have a good social support structure in place if-and-when resurrection is possible.

That seems like circular logic. Their proof to other participants that their system will perpetuate is by being fellow beneficiaries of it. But it still relies purely on the trust of binding to contract by non-beneficiaries of the system.
posted by ardgedee at 6:17 PM on March 24, 2016


> But it still relies

And don't forget, it's entirely possible for the American government to pass a law that makes it infeasible for cryonics organizations to continue to operate there; for example, for some years, the Cryonics Institute had to register itself as a "cemetery". There are no guarantees at that level - this is freely admitted. But we're working on every trick we can think of to improve our odds. And requiring that the Board of Directors be elected from signed-up members at least makes it more likely that said Board's interests will align with the membership as a whole.

(At least, that's how CI operates. Alcor seems to be taking a somewhat less democratic approach, which I'm somewhat leery of and am probably not the best person to describe in an unbiased way.)
posted by DataPacRat at 6:22 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


DataPacRat: "I'm on an email list of fellow cryonicists, one of whom mentioned that detail in a conversation on that article."

Ah, I see Max More himself said this in his reply to the Pein piece (group membership required). Specifically he writes (original emphasis):

A CRITICAL CORRECTION CONCERNING THE KIM SUOZZI REPORT: First of all, naturally, the writer makes things sound much worse than they really are. The way he "translates" a line from the case report makes it sounds like Kim's head fell to the floor when, in reality, it slipped an inch or two in the neuro ring. Easily corrected.

Certainly possible, though again without a sense of what the holding ring looks like it's hard to know for sure. "Fell out" sounds pretty bad, and they're now at pains to make the Suozzi situation look as good as possible: see, for example, this convenient corrigendum claiming her preservation went much better than originally reported.
posted by crazy with stars at 6:22 PM on March 24, 2016


You might want to search through the article for the partial-word 'vitrif', as part of the words 'vitrify' and 'vitrification'.

Yeah, the rabbit kidney went down to -135C, which is quite different from the -196C they're proposing to store people at, and certainly the kidney wasn't kept at that temperature for decades or centuries.

Further, this is brand-new tech, and Alcor even admits that vitrification causes its own damage. So what's their solution?

The emerging science of nanotechnology will eventually lead to devices capable of extensive tissue repair and regeneration, including repair of individual cells one molecule at a time. This future nanomedicine could theoretically recover any preserved person in which the basic brain structures encoding memory and personality remain intact.


A fantasy about nanobots repairing "damage" as if brains had hitpoints. If the structure of the brain and related systems is where the person comes from (which I think few cryonics proponents would dispute- otherwise they'd be inventing a way to tempt the soul back into the body) and the bots have to repair damage based on what can only be best guesses (absent some kind of also nonexistent tech which would scan the structure of the living brain to give the nanobots a template to restore to, which needs to exist before it makes sense to get vitrified), who actually opens their eyes? 'Cause it's at best going to be an approximation of the person who died, and given what we know about the wild changes in personality that even seemingly mild damage to the brain can produce, if may be a poor approximation, indeed.

So congratulations! For all the money and effort, somebody whose mind vaguely resembles yours can exist once our technology hits roughly the level of Iain M. Banks novels.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:24 PM on March 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


> So congratulations! For all the money and effort, somebody whose mind vaguely resembles yours can exist once our technology hits roughly the level of Iain M. Banks novels.

Well, if the choice is between me being dead while someone with at least some approximation of my goals, personality, memories, and skills is walking around, and me just being plain dead, the former sounds niftier to me than the latter. :)
posted by DataPacRat at 6:28 PM on March 24, 2016


The possibility of being revived but being brain damaged mildly or nearly a vegetable is too frightening for me. However, I'm not feeling "old" enough yet to consider a brain freeze other than Ben and Jerry's.
posted by Muncle at 6:30 PM on March 24, 2016


According to Alcor, they have less than 150 "patients", and about ten times that number of members (i.e. presumed future corpsicles). So it's an extremely fringe thing, comparable to old ladies leaving their fortunes to their cats.

If this actually caught on-- say, if it was routine among the 1%-- then I think it would be morally nebulous, as it would be using present productive capacity for what is basically an expensive burial plot. Interest on funds does not come out of the quantum foam for free; it comes out of a productive economy.

Or to put it more bluntly, the $200,000 someone gives to Alcor is money that could have gone to their children. The article tries to make a big deal of cryonics not being for rich people, but you have to be pretty well off before throwing $200,000 away is just a harmless eccentricity.

The most alarming bit about that Baffler article is not the possibility of the brain dropping on the floor (hey, shit happens), but that the report that "the actual success of perfusion in this case appears negligible"... that is, that the freezing failed. Oops! Dudes, it would be a whole lot cheaper to just burn the corpses, and just posit that Future Tech Awesomeness will be able to resuscitate the ashes.
posted by zompist at 6:36 PM on March 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


otherwise they'd be inventing a way to tempt the soul back into the body

well, it is supposed to have a natural tendency to fall back in, for example in Plato, or in the Tibetan Book of The Dead.....basically, just shine some colored lights and you're done
posted by thelonius at 6:41 PM on March 24, 2016


Actually zomp there's already a specialist in that field.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:41 PM on March 24, 2016


Just because a cost/benefit analysis fits into a two-by-two grid, and involves a low probability of a high payout, doesn't make it a Pascal's Wager.


Many atheists have traded transhumanism for the traditional afterlife beliefs associated with religion, making it a pretty apt comparison.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:43 PM on March 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


> you have to be pretty well off before throwing $200,000 away is just a harmless eccentricity.

I'm with CI rather than Alcor, but I signed up for cryo at the same time as I stopped paying for basic cable TV, and my budget balanced.

> the freezing failed

That was the initial report, based on preliminary data. Further scans, as can be seen at http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/CorrigendumA2643.html [link], indicate the procedure didn't go quite as badly as initially feared.

> Dudes, it would be a whole lot cheaper to just burn the corpses, and just posit that Future Tech Awesomeness will be able to resuscitate the ashes.

Cheaper, maybe, but I'm not going to bet that it's very plausible. (Book recommendation: "Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction" by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner. Completely unrelated to cryo, all about how to make better estimates.)
posted by DataPacRat at 6:45 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Reviving cryo-patients will be a boon for future historians.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:53 PM on March 24, 2016


I think the scientific reach aspect of this has been well covered, but one thing I haven't seen as much discussion of is the financial side. You aren't just betting on a scientific breakthrough, you're betting on the Alcor Patient Trust, or more specifically, on its management's ability to successfully invest the money in such a way that they actually have enough income to support maintenance. As large of a sum $200,000 represents, it's not going to provide a huge income stream over a long term, especially with their necessarily conservative approach. Their description of the situation is ambiguous but it reads to me like the trust's portfolio can't currently cover expenses and that they're being paid out of income in the form of premiums or membership fees or whatever you want to call them. It's really hard to see how $200k is enough to cover expenses over potentially centuries while also ultimately being enough to cover whatever operation or therapies are required during revival. Even without the ongoing upkeep requirement, it's tough to come up with examples of similar financial entities lasting centuries and I think those you could would have much broader intrinsic appeal. I think the long term survival of the trust would be a significant achievement in its own right, not to even get into the actual cryonics stuff.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:53 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


On one hand you have people carrying organ donor cards and on the other you have those with bracelets that say, "freeze me, store me, maintain me and destroy any further productive value my body may have held".

But on the other, other hand, I'm pro anything that's separating wealthy schmucks from their cash.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:57 PM on March 24, 2016


Well, if the choice is between me being dead while someone with at least some approximation of my goals, personality, memories, and skills is walking around, and me just being plain dead, the former sounds niftier to me than the latter.

But...why? I mean...I suspect I'm probably a bit too pleased with myself, taking all things into consideration, but even I don't think enough of myself to think that investing in a future vague approximation of me whom I will never meet or have anything to do with is worthwhile. At least kids are fun to hang out with and sometimes love you and stuff.
posted by howfar at 7:01 PM on March 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


A cheaper approach may be to just pass out in a snowdrift.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:01 PM on March 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Since this article is from Wait but Why which appears to circulate in the same orbits as the lesswrong folks, we must seriously (heh) consider the possibility that it will be Roko's Basilisk that figures out how to revive cryonically preserved people... for the sole purpose of tormenting them. Furthermore, what if it's only the cryo-people that the Basilisk can touch? In that case, your best bet is to not get cryonically preserved.
posted by mhum at 7:05 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


> Roko

Eh, that was never actually a serious worry, it was just an example of poor info-hazard hygiene if it /were/ something to worry about, which got latched onto by some people who wanted an excuse to disparage some other people.

> But...why?

There's a bunch of partial answers, none of which are a full explanation in and of themselves. I'm tempted to say "I also like comics, and don't have to justify that preference", but that seems overly unhelpful. To try to compress a large inferential distance with a small number of words, I've found sufficient evidence for the 'pattern theory of identity' to be reasonably confident that it's better than most currently-available competitors, and thus am more willing than most people to call any sufficiently similar person to be another version of myself. (Relatedly, I'm currently trying to draft up ideas for a scifi story based on all the interesting tricks that could be done if it turns out to be possible to create a human-like mind by simulating a brain's neurons in a computer, and figure out solutions for the worse complications if such a technology is indeed possible. Whether such ideas can or will ever become relevant to reality is currently an open question, but I'm doing my best to hash out the details.)
posted by DataPacRat at 7:16 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


feloniousmonk: "I think the long term survival of the trust would be a significant achievement in its own right, not to even get into the actual cryonics stuff."

Interesting thought. As far as I can tell, the world's oldest surviving financial institution is the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena in Italy, operating since 1472. But as you say the longevity of these institutions requires community support -- for example, this bank would have failed during the 2007-8 financial crisis without a bailout from the Italian government. If Alcor had been in a similar situation, presumably the government would have let them fail.

Similarly, the oldest company in the world -- Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd., in Japan, founded 578 CE -- went bankrupt in 2006 and was absorbed into Takamatsu. The mid-2000s was apparently rough on very old financial institutions.

So when is the magical revival of the preserved bodies supposed to happen? Are we thinking a timescale of decades, centuries, millennia, longer? Decades, maybe even a century or two, are possible; I think millennia is very unlikely. The most likely outcome, I think, is that people lose interest in cryonics over the next few decades, the rich donors now floating the operation die off, ultimately the trust fails, and the remaining assets are (unfortunately literally) liquidated.
posted by crazy with stars at 7:21 PM on March 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


> So when is the magical revival of the preserved bodies supposed to happen?

One of the more common guesses is sometime in the 2040s, which, depending on certain technological trends, and depending on certain details about how the brain works, may allow for computers capable of running high-fidelity simulations of a human brain, along with methods of destructively scanning a brain at sufficient resolution. Other guesses aim for the same timeframe by estimating that some sort of intelligence explosion will happen around then, possibly created by self-modifying and self-improving brain-emulations or other AIs. If neither of those scenarios occur, then the guesses tend to assume a gradually increasing level of medical technology, which, at some point, often guesstimated to be within the next century or so, finds ways to handle all the various problems in bringing a vitrified body back to life. And there are wildcard possibilities that range all possible - and some impossible - dates.

I recall seeing graphs about the odds of revival by any given date, given various assumptions about how likely it is for a cryo organization to cease functioning per year compared to how rapidly technology advances, and it's not always a simple curve.
posted by DataPacRat at 7:44 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


The desperate dream of immortality is a constant one for humans, and this is just the latest version.

Scientific issues: There is no demonstrable proof that a brain can even survive and retain a semblance of consciousness in the absence of a body. The head transplant envisioned above could give us some data (if either part survives, without significant brain damage), but goddamn I wouldn't want to experience that graft vs. host reaction. Connectome theory might give us the tools to treat neurologic injury and damage, but it's deeply questionable whether it actually would map consciousness, which is currently not understood. The brain is more than a series of circuit diagrams; it's billions of complex cells with constantly changing chemistry, electrical activity, neurotransmitters, hormones. It's in constant communication with that giant bag of resources and chemicals we call a body. It's got a blood system, cerebrospinal fluid. Claims that we can simulate ourselves digitally or whatever in the next 30 years, or 300, are pretty much fantasy.

Legal/financial issues: Solvency of the companies doing this work, particularly in the coming years of climate shock and major disruption. We really think that $200,000k per stiff is going to keep this company going? Massive energy price shifts, water price and availability shifts, and resource crunches are going to be coming, and are going to be unpredictable. Shit, a bunch of these companies have already gone under, according to TFA.
Back in the 70s, there were more cryonics companies, and some of them went bankrupt, which meant their frozen people stopped being frozen, which was a not ideal outcome. Alcor’s trust is a backup fund to make sure their “patients” won’t be affected by something like a company financial crisis.
Sure.

So, they do make it for the next say 50 years, and then go under, or accidentally unfreeze a bunch of clients, or some exec in charge just plain decides to reinvest in another business plan...who's going to advocate for the stiffs? Dead people have very few rights. Even if you could prove that they violated a dead guy's contract, who's going to sue? The heirs? They might have better use for those funds than racking up legal bills because granddad's head got thawed.

I'd rather see the resources wasted on this pipe dream applied to problems facing us now that have real solutions, like world hunger, climate change, children dying of preventable diseases. Take that $200k and put it towards something that can do some real good in the world.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:08 PM on March 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


What's going to be left of your brain by the time you die? In a traumatic death you will have damage to brain tissues. Terminal illnesses tend to be pretty hard on the brain in their last stages. Death from natural causes at an advanced age also tends to be a brain ruining process.
posted by humanfont at 8:12 PM on March 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


> Scientific issues:

> Legal/financial issues:

I agree. In fact, my current personal estimate is that if I dropped dead today, there's a 96% chance that my having signed my cryonics agreement would *not* end up with me ever being revived.

The only difference is that I'm willing to bet my money for that 4% chance.


> I'd rather see the resources wasted on this pipe dream applied to problems

Does that mean that you donate all your money to such problems, including not going out to restaurant meals, buying clothes other than used ones, viewing movies, or otherwise wasting money that could be better applied to problems facing us now that have real solutions? Actually, that brings up the question, how are you paying for your internet?


Or, in case you haven't read the article itself:

Argument: “If you have enough money [for cryonics], then you have enough money to help somebody in need today.” — Bioethicist Kenneth Goodman

Actual cryonicist response: “If you have enough money for health insurance (which costs a lot more than cryonics), then you have enough money to help somebody else in need today. In fact, if you have enough money for any discretionary expenditure (travel, sports, movies, beer), then you have enough money to help somebody in need today. Of all the ways people choose to spend substantial sums of money over a lifetime, singling out the health care choice of cryonics as selfish is completely arbitrary.”
posted by DataPacRat at 8:15 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Of all the ways people choose to spend substantial sums of money over a lifetime, singling out the health care choice of cryonics as selfish is completely arbitrary.

Fair enough, although that presumes that cryonics is actually a health care choice. My health insurance expenditures have demonstrably lengthened my lifespan from a brief 28 or 29 years to 36 and counting, so I would argue that I have made wiser expenditures in terms of quality and quantity of life than cryonics would provide, even if I have paid more over my lifetime for it.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:35 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


To expland on why we would revive those cryonicly preserved, the article offers the idea that the point of death is a moving target, and that society will stop seeing those "frozen" as dead and instead as injured patients on the verge of death.

But if the vitrified are not legally dead, then the life insurance policy doesn't pay out. Not a problem for the wealthy who just pay the whole amount up front, but it is for those of more modest means who are relying on the life insurance policy to fund their preservation.

For that matter, even in the current state of affairs where the vitrified person is legally dead, would the life insurance company want their money back when they're revived? It seems like a very similar situation may have already been addressed in law: if a person goes missing, and is declared legally dead after being missing for however many years, and a life insurance policy is paid on them, and then they later turn up alive, does the beneficiary keep the money? It's not implausible that this situation might have already arisen; does anyone know if it has, and what the result was?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:45 PM on March 24, 2016


I'm just a tad upset that I can't do this now, and time travel to the future in my current, mostly healthy state. The thing comforting me is the "last in - first out" bit, that the longer I wait, the better their tech will be and the more easily I could be revived.

Yeah, I dig this. I hear the skeptics, I hear the evidence against it, and I recognize the likelihood of it being a long-shot. But as little as I often feel like living now, I 1000% want to take even the tiniest chance that I could go to the future.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 9:35 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


If you have enough money for health insurance (which costs a lot more than cryonics), then you have enough money to help somebody else in need today

Having health insurance, for the most part, is helping someone else in need today!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:48 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Well, I wish Tim and the other meat popsicles well in their endeavor, but I can't help but think of the following things:

(a) That is a shit ton of money.
(b) How confident are you that Alcor, etc. won't fail? For hundreds of years?
(c) How confident are you that the technology will get good enough to unfreeze you?
(d) How confident are you that someone in the future will WANT to unfreeze you, because you really can't count on your relatives/descendants to still exist or care after awhile?
(e) Seriously, you people who froze your brains/heads alone think someone's gonna clone you a new body?
(f) You're leaving your body to the hands of complete strangers who may or may not want to revive you hundreds or thousands of years in the future, and if they do, for all we know might just want to do that for the sake of scary scientific experimentation or the aforementioned indentured servitude? Plus how the hell are you going to afford to live? Because god knows your 2016 life skills probably won't support your broke ass in 2051 or the year 4000 or whatever to get a J-O-B and you won't have any relatives to support you.
(g) Hell, the only reason TO revive you is for scary scientific experimentation!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:54 PM on March 24, 2016


> (a) That is a shit ton of money.

Life insurance. Like I said above, my annual income is below that of someone getting American minimum wage full-time, and I can afford cryo just fine.

> (b)
through
> (e)

Like I said above, I'm 96% confident that today's cryonics /won't/ work.

> (f)

Oh, gee whiz, I might wake up as the equivalent of a poor college student. I hadn't realized that the education system had gotten so bad that it's literally worse than being dead, and that the Overton Window had permanently stopped shifting towards the concepts of 'negative income tax' and 'universal basic income'.

> (g)

There's absolutely no reason for the directors of the cryo organization, who are signed up for their own preservation and revival, to ever want to revive anyone besides scary scientific experimentation, such as a certain amount of compassion engendered by having a functional set of mirror neurons in their brains which give them pain when they imagine someone being frozen without being revived, or the entirely selfish motivation of wanting to ensure the maximum odds of their own resurrection by making the revival process as definitive a result of preservation as possible.


... I'm probably above my recommended daily allotment of sarcasm, so I'm going to call it a night.
posted by DataPacRat at 11:07 PM on March 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Roko's basilisk will never not be funny though and I salute everyone who keeps making basilisk jokes in any thread remotely related
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:21 PM on March 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Eh....in the end it boils down to, "Do I trust a bunch of strangers in the future to take care of me?" And I sure as heck don't trust most people who do know me to take care of me now, much less future strangers!
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:02 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


.The same way that people who buy burial plots pay for the graveyard to be maintained in perpetuity

I expect this analogy is more accurate than you want, given how many cemeteries have gone bankrupt or been abandoned.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:57 AM on March 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Corpsicles. (h/t Philip K. Dick)

Corpsicle was coined by Fred Pohl in in 1966 story The Age of the Pussyfoot.
posted by The Tensor at 1:26 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Like I said above, I'm 96% confident that today's cryonics /won't/ work.

So you think there's a 4% chance it works? That seems ludicrously high given all the different ways cryonics could fail. All you have to do is fail five 50/50 chances and you're below 4%.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 2:18 AM on March 25, 2016


From the cited correction page at Alcor: "Approximately half the brain volume outside the tumor and fluid-filled ventricles appears to have achieved a cryoprotectant concentration near or above that required for vitrification".

Half the brain might be OK? That's not reassuring. Damage to brains is a pretty bad thing.

As humanfont points out, normal old age is rough on the brain. I've watched a lot of elderly relatives slipping. As things are, it's hard to watch but of course we want them to last as long as possible and be as happy as is possible. But honestly, if they were going to be revived in 2516, having them back as they were the week they died, or the year they died, would be kind of horrible. And that's before even considering death itself, or the freezing process.
posted by zompist at 2:52 AM on March 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Actually going through with cryonic freezing seems remarkably unkind to the people who actually survive you. Not only are you blowing through whatever inheritance you are leaving your loved ones, you're paying a fly-by-night company to mutilate your corpse, fill your veins with antifreeze, and put either your body or your head on ice, in the vain hope that science will one day* be magical enough to fix both whatever disease killed you and the damage done by the cryonic process itself. A 4% chance would be extraordinarily generous.

What are you saying to your relatives? That they should not mourn you, because your head popsicle may one day be revived? Do you want them to consider you still "alive"? Do people go visit the 10' tall thermoses containing their loved ones' corpses (or just the heads) and leave wreaths? It's just a cruel thing for a person to do.

* Also that the cryonic company won't stop monitoring your thermos until this day, either due to bankruptcy or cost-cutting measures.
posted by graymouser at 4:18 AM on March 25, 2016


The idea of cryonics doesn't seem crazy on the face of it, but I think it really all comes down to this chart, which I get the impression the author just made up.

It seems plausible that the optimistic scientists put the chance of successful resuscitation at 70%, but I would bet an actual polling of moderate and conservative scientists would put the numbers in the next two rows at somewhere <5% and somewhere <1% respectively (maybe <1% for both groups). And the moderates and conservatives on this technology far outweigh the optimists.

That makes it a lot harder to justify buying a life insurance policy that pays out to Alcor rather than one that, say, pays out to your children.

If his chart were an accurate assessment of the scientific community's confidence level, I would probably be thinking about paying for cryonics policies for my kids, if not myself. But I'm pretty sure it isn't.
posted by 256 at 6:08 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I imagine these old Egyptian Pharaohs getting mummified in the hopes that they can be brought back to life and then fast forward a few millenia to the present and we are all like smash, smash, unravel, museum and not even trying to bring them back at all.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:41 AM on March 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


I suppose negative interest rates would wreck havoc with existing cryonics and burial arrangements then, DataPacRat.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:48 AM on March 25, 2016


It's a pipe dream, because humans will be extinct before we develop the tech to do this.
posted by agregoli at 7:21 AM on March 25, 2016


Just on the face of it, I don't see any reason to believe in any of it.

The notion that people in the future will be able & willing to restore popsicle corpses to life doesn't seem any more likely than that they will be able to wave a magic wand and make your reappear alive.

If people were selling magic amulets and saying "if you wear one when you die, that will allow future wizards to restore you to life!" that would make about as much sense as this to me.
posted by edheil at 8:02 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


But almost entirely because of the way that the rich have brutalised those societies as a means of extending the period of their dominance over them. The idea that what the future needs is more rich people who want to sit on their arses and their fortunes while poor people struggle for survival is pretty perverse.

Unless they thought The Dark Crystal was a guide to a happy and successful old age.

depending on certain technological trends, and depending on certain details about how the brain works

That's a lot of depends. I'm planning on enjoying my declining years using regular Depends.
posted by sneebler at 8:10 AM on March 25, 2016


I guess what gets me is that its not just wildly conjectural technology (maybe someday we will be able to do this) but conjectural philosophy (anthropology?) as well: someday people will want to do this, and will care enough to devote significant resources to it.

I mean if it's just 300 people from the late 90s- early 00s, maybe...but if it's thousands, or hundreds of thousands or more? Reviving one person is cool, but reviving an entire cache of people sounds like a pretty big burden, unless you are not just imagining a technologically advanced society, but a post-scarcity society that still happens to be totally aligned with the values and assumptions you held at the point of choosing to be frozen.

The person choosing to be vitrified today is not promising any kind of value or ROI to the future other than the mere fact that they were preserved. The anthropological curiosity will not accrue to EVERYONE who has been preserved, so it's clearly not just a question of "being able" to revive anybody but also having a whole set of drives and values that make reviving EVERYONE a priority for future cultures.

Beyond that I'm curious about the point at which Alcor would be willing to relinquish bodies. Are they just expecting a knock on the door from some scientists, like "OK, we're ready!"

And what would be the legal/financial status of a potential revivee with Alcor, after revival? What happens to the life insurance policy then? Would Alcor potentially be incentivized to keep you frozen vs. turning you over to the resurrectionists?
posted by anazgnos at 10:41 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the rabbit kidney went down to -135C, which is quite different from the -196C they're proposing to store people at, and certainly the kidney wasn't kept at that temperature for decades or centuries.
I'm certainly not going to advocate cryonics. But, if cells really can survive minutes at -135C, extrapolating to centuries at -196C seems orders of magnitude more reasonable than anything else cryonics advocates have claimed.

What damage is it that you envision happening in the later case that wouldn't have already happened in the former?
posted by eotvos at 11:02 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Let's say that in 2045, Alcor/Pepsi, a Nike corporation, unveils to the world a revived man from 1994 whose fatal brain tumor has been removed via nanorobotics.

How long would it take for cryonics to change from "stupid waste of money" to "human right"?

I'm guessing about a week.
posted by Hatashran at 12:21 PM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Did you know that we have actual existing medical treatments that save people's actual existing lives from tumors and so on today, and they are not considered a human right? Why do you think your scenario would be any different?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:32 PM on March 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


Actually, I think in that scenario cryonics would immediately become very expensive, in more of a “cash up front” way.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:44 PM on March 25, 2016


I'm certainly not going to advocate cryonics. But, if cells really can survive minutes at -135C, extrapolating to centuries at -196C seems orders of magnitude more reasonable than anything else cryonics advocates have claimed.

Why does "minutes at one temperature, therefore centuries at another" seem like a reasonable extrapolation to you?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:01 PM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Why does "minutes at one temperature, therefore centuries at another" seem like a reasonable extrapolation to you?
Because both temperatures are below the point where most biochemistry stops happening and all the liquids become solid, and both timescales are long enough for cells to die under normal circumstances. At least as a naive person who knows very little about biology, I'd expect almost all the risky bits to happen in the first and last few minutes as the fluids in cells freeze and thaw. Once everything's a solid and molecules have almost entirely stopped moving around and interacting with eachother, it's not obvious that waiting longer would change anything. (And getting colder seems like it could only help.) But, I'm happy to be convinced I'm wrong.
posted by eotvos at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's still a long way to reviving humans, but we do have evidence that memories can survive vitrification.

Persistence of Long-Term Memory in Vitrified and Revived Caenorhabditis elegans:
Can memory be retained after cryopreservation? Our research has attempted to answer this long-standing question by using the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, a well-known model organism for biological research that has generated revolutionary findings but has not been tested for memory retention after cryopreservation. Our study's goal was to test C. elegans' memory recall after vitrification and reviving. Using a method of sensory imprinting in the young C. elegans, we establish that learning acquired through olfactory cues shapes the animal's behavior and the learning is retained at the adult stage after vitrification. Our research method included olfactory imprinting with the chemical benzaldehyde (C6H5CHO) for phase-sense olfactory imprinting at the L1 stage, the fast-cooling SafeSpeed method for vitrification at the L2 stage, reviving, and a chemotaxis assay for testing memory retention of learning at the adult stage. Our results in testing memory retention after cryopreservation show that the mechanisms that regulate the odorant imprinting (a form of long-term memory) in C. elegans have not been modified by the process of vitrification or by slow freezing.
posted by Rangi at 1:52 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Let's say that in 2045, Alcor/Pepsi, a Nike corporation, unveils to the world a revived man from 1994 whose fatal brain tumor has been removed via nanorobotics.

How long would it take for cryonics to change from "stupid waste of money" to "human right"?

I'm guessing about a week.


Yeah, it always seems to be assumed is that once this revival technology exists, it will necessarily be a) universally available and b) universally deployed in all possible applicable scenarios. I can't really think of any situation where that happens now with technology.

iPhones can address a lot of human needs and problems, but the mere fact that they exist and are useful does not entail their accessibility to all of humanity. Beyond the limiting factor of a person's individual ability to pay for a phone and a data contract, an iPhone is not a discrete unit of "technology". In order to function, you also need a mature, developed local wireless infrastructure, you need an infrastructure for the development of apps for a given audience (tailored to language, culture), you need the parallel networking infrastructure that allows those apps to function, etc. So there are a lot of interrellated technologies that go into the experience of an "iPhone", and access to those technologies are, at best, heavily mediated. Medical technology is similarly not just a discrete piece of equipment or a technique, but the whole infrastructure that allows (or doesn't allow) it to be delivered, one which is again heavily contested and mediated.

And if the number of preserved bodies scales upward and upward, how likely is it that *YOU* are chosen to be revived? Why does future society need to revive *YOU* specifically, if you're one of thousands or more? Why, when a living person's access to technology (including lifesaving technology) is so heavily mediated by external factors, do we assume that a dead person's access is not only universal, but obligatory?

Again the patient is in the position of assuming that, beyond just evolving the hypothetical technologies, future society will also evolve a basically alien set of values about the deployment and application of this technology.
posted by anazgnos at 2:19 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thinking about it more, paying for the revival procedure itself seems even more dubious. $200k wouldn't cover a bone marrow transplant. Based on some pricing provided by the National Foundation for Transplants, a complex operation can clearly be in the neighborhood of a million dollars. Is revival from this state likely to be simpler or cheaper than these procedures? I doubt that. It seems like we're basically in a position with expenses where the only viable way to operate is in a sort of ponzi scheme style, using new member's dues to pay for ongoing expenses for people who have already paid.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:57 PM on March 25, 2016


I'm just gonna cross my fingers that two things happen in the future:

1. Scientists figure out some way to measure the near exact position* of molecules far into the past, enabling them to create an exact scan of your brain at any point in your life time

2. Scientists figure out some way to build a human body from the ground up and then implant the brain patterns scanned in 1.

It's pretty unlikely, but I put the odds of this happening at slightly above anyone frozen by first gen cryonics being revived. And unlike those corpsicles, I don't have to pay a single cent for this far fetched idea.

* yeah yeah I know Heisenberg and all that but I assume approximations are good enough to measure neuron and wiring states
posted by ymgve at 4:00 PM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Look, if you've actually spend five whole minutes honestly estimating the chances of cryonics working, and your figure is so low that you'd rather let relatives and organ donatees benefit from your death than gamble on being revived, then great! That's already more thought than most people have put into something that sounds like a wacky sci-fi concept.

But making comparisons to magic wands, or claiming that "scientists figur[ing] out some way to measure the near exact position of molecules far into the past" is more likely than reviving a cryonics patient, shows either that (a) you're truly bad at estimating probabilities, or more likely (b) you dismiss concepts based on how weird they sound and not how plausible they really are.
The flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years—provided, of course, we can meanwhile eliminate such little drawbacks and embarrassments as the existing relation between weight and strength in inorganic materials. No doubt the problem has attractions for those it interests, but to the ordinary man it would seem as if effort might be employed more profitably.
— 'Flying Machines Which Do Not Fly,' published in the New York Times, 9 October 1903. Full PDF online. The exact date is unfortunate for the Times, as on 9 October 1903 one Orville Wright wrote in his diary: "We started assembly today."
posted by Rangi at 9:16 PM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've mentioned here before that I expect human level AI will take ages to develop. There is no shortage of human takes that it's profitable to automate, but humans are inexpensive enough that it'll never be profitable to examine and automating all the myriad mental processes that make us human, so human level AI must proceed with the poorer funding allotted to academic research. And these days Google hires off all the talented AI researchers form ore applied things.

I'm mostly just shooting down the "25 years till strong AI" crowd with that argument though. AI sounds perfectly reasonable 100-200 years out, so..

We might manage to simulate a human brain in a computer well enough to justify downloading these corpsesicles long before we could actually reanimating them, both treating their original cause of death and all the freezing damage.

Alcor is vaguely like a pyramid scheme in that it'll require a continuous influx to support itself. I'd wager they go bankrupt eventually, like maybe some else develops a better freezing scheme. At that point, all these corpsesicles could be sold into other purposes, including AI research.

I therefore suspect anyone who actually "makes it back" will find themselves in a virtual world operated by university researchers trying to understand the human mind. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 1:42 PM on March 26, 2016



But making comparisons to magic wands, or claiming that "scientists figur[ing] out some way to measure the near exact position of molecules far into the past" is more likely than reviving a cryonics patient, shows either that (a) you're truly bad at estimating probabilities, or more likely (b) you dismiss concepts based on how weird they sound and not how plausible they really are.
The flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years—provided, of course, we can meanwhile eliminate such little drawbacks and embarrassments as the existing relation between weight and strength in inorganic materials. No doubt the problem has attractions for those it interests, but to the ordinary man it would seem as if effort might be employed more profitably.
— 'Flying Machines Which Do Not Fly,' published in the New York Times, 9 October 1903. Full PDF online. The exact date is unfortunate for the Times, as on 9 October 1903 one Orville Wright wrote in his diary: "We started assembly today."


I guess what I would say is, there are a number of aspects of this proposal that are plausible. We can vitrify cells and thaw them successfully; we do it regularly for IVF. It's possible that the C. elegans experiments described above indicates that neurologic links established through olfactory stimulation may survive the freezing process for short periods of time (30 minutes in the experiment linked).

But we fundamentally don't understand consciousness. We don't know what gives rise to it, how a brain would function in the absence of its host (IF it even could be kept alive), or how it would tolerate 30 minutes of vitrification, let alone years, decades, or centuries. We sure as hell have no evidence that any of the AIs we produce are anything more than very high-functioning programs; they show no evidence of consciousness. If you wanted to compare it to aircraft, it would be like saying we'll build a fully functioning airplane in 50 years, when currently we have no understanding of gravity or physics. To torture this metaphor even further, we don't even have birds to learn aerodynamics from.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:11 PM on March 26, 2016


In addition to what Existential Dread says above, and zompist further above, who we are changes. As we get older the brain degenerates. It's possible to adapt to the degeneration and continue to function if you keep your brain stimulated, but this process involves reusing and adapting parts of the brain. Literally wiping the memories or skills out.
In addition, giving an old brain a new body to pilot about is likely to drive them insane.
All of this cryogenics stuff seems to be antithetical to current understanding of how the brain works, which seems somewhat ironic.
posted by asok at 4:49 AM on March 28, 2016


I don't believe in this cryogenic stuff, but all the "think of the children(s inheritance)!" nonsense in this thread is NAGL. Your parents don't OWE you their savings, people. It's theirs, not yours. They earned it, not you. If people who are of sound mind want to spend their money on nonsense that is 100% their right and the kiddies just can suck it up.
posted by Anhedonic Donkey at 11:22 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


NAGL.

definitely a much better look is freezing my head in a dumbass bid to desperately avoid doing the thing every organism on earth does
posted by Greg Nog at 3:39 PM on March 29, 2016


The "you might end up in a computer! you'd never know the difference!" thing freaks me out in an existential Arthur-Dent-y way:
"I thought you said you could just read his brain electronically," protested Ford.
"Oh yes," said Frankie, "but we'd have to get it out first. It's got to be prepared."
"Treated," said Benji.
"Diced."
"Thank you," shouted Arthur, tipping up his chair and backing away from the table in horror.
"It could always be replaced," said Benji reasonably, "if you think it's important."
"Yes, an electronic brain," said Frankie, "a simple one would suffice."
"A simple one!" wailed Arthur.
"Yeah," said Zaphod with a sudden evil grin, "you'd just have to program it to say What? and I don't understand and Where's the tea? — who'd know the difference?"
"What?" cried Arthur, backing away still further.
"See what I mean?" said Zaphod and howled with pain because of something that Trillian did at that moment.
"I'd notice the difference," said Arthur.
"No you wouldn't," said Frankie mouse, "you'd be programmed not to."
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:07 PM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd expect you'd know the difference. It's more that you'd lack Arthur's choice to run away.

Also, the university lab isn't such a bad ending because they'd probably regard you as a human subject. An undesirable ending would be if Alcor gets bought by a defense contractor who regards the AIs it programs using dead human brains to be merely property.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:21 AM on March 30, 2016


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