A lot of those discussions have been lost to time, but here's a note from Hal that I posted to Politech in 1999 where he warned against building surveillance backdoors in Internet standards:
"If the IETF sets the precedent of acceding to the wishes of countries like the US and Europe, it may find itself forced to similarly honor the desires of less open societies."
And here's Hal responding to one of my Wired articles by pointing out the absurdity of the MPAA's claims against Napster:
"Looking at it over the history of Napster the amount would have to run
well into the quadrillions. Surely this would be the largest legal
claim in history! I wonder if the record companies can present this
figure with a straight face."
I'll miss Hal. At least there's a very slim, but non-zero, chance he'll log back on again.
Maybe it impresses me because he seemed so hopeful to be able to choose life in his post back then when he was diagnosed: "I may even still be able to write code, and my dream is to contribute to open source software projects even from within an immobile body. That will be a life very much worth living." http://lesswrong.com/lw/1ab/dying_outside/
I guess one can argue it is a good thing about cryonics, less mourning, more hope. Anyway, I'd like to write down a regular epitaph:
Hal Finney (May 4, 1956 – August 28, 2014), second PGP developer after Zimmerman, first Bitcoin recipient, cypherpunk who wrote code.
To him, all that was worth announcing here is the cryopreservation.
Who's to say he's wrong?
If he had the means to do it, and it gave him something while he was still alive, than I would say it was worth it to him.
On one hand, you can die, and that will probably be it for you.
On the other hand, you can become cryogenically preserved. In that case, there are two outcomes I can see. One, you're never revived (which is functionally equivalent to death). The other, you awake (in what feels like an instant) in a world where you can continue living. That certainly makes it seem tempting for me.
Not more so than in some other religions with their own versions of an afterlife. It all depends on your faith.
I would argue that that's not the case. See my other comment here, contrasting cryonics with reincarnation: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8239950
> There was an interesting story where these people were revived in the future but were basically welfare cases...
Some religions have two versions of the afterlife: there's heaven, and then there's hell...
It's sort of like saying "Dieting is an eating disorder"- Yes, they share some superficial similarities (and some people may have both) but in any substantive way they are totally different things.
If you don't like the word religion, we can call it "a belief in the afterlife", although the same trend applies to other behaviors that have commonly been considered religious, so the correlation is far stronger than just a belief in the afterlife (there are also notions about "purity" that are now explained by pseudo/shoddy science).
I'd say that quite a lot of opposition to those ideas is religion-based. I.e. if you can't believe that a cryopreserved person can be revived in principle, then you must either disagree with modern infomation theory or believe in vitalism.
So, if the goal was maximizing the chance of revival you would study decay rates do some cost benifit analysis and keep trying to improve your approach. But, that's not what's happening. It's preform ritual X and wait for magic to happen.
As to the singularity, the basic assumption is super intelegence allows for super technology. However, the basic laws of physics still apply. I don't care how smart your computer is it's not going to accuratly predict the weather 6 months from now. If the universe says no them traveling faster than light stays impossible etc.
Religions are based on similar premises (given what humans knew about life at the time of their founding), and your argument is, in fact, known as Pascal's Wager.
Those arguing against faith will claim that the money spent is very certain and a very unreasonable bet. Others, like me, see some immediate, earthly benefits in religion, be it cryonics, singularity or another religion, and consider the money well spent.
> if you can't believe that a cryopreserved person can be revived in principle...
Thing is, you can't deny god's existence in principle, nor even disprove Christianity, and since Christianity seems to be in opposition to cryonics (hmm, actually, it might not be) then you're in serious trouble whether you agree with modern information theory or not (physics, and maybe even mathematics, might not hold in christian hell).
Personally, I think human beings, as a product of our evolution, are so ill adapted even to our semi-primitive civilization and its own repressive discontents, that I cannot possibly see us living our immortal coils.
BTW, are cryonics and singularity part of the same mythology? I mean, is there perhaps a book painting a clear (or, better yet - vague) picture of how this all would work out?
As far as I can tell, those are two completely separated, though not unrelated concepts. Cryopreservation is about a hope that we'll get advanced enough technology, whether or not singularity occurs before or after. Singularity is about progress of technology accelerating to the point we absolutely, positively can't keep up with it, so we can't predict how anything will look after singularity.
Don't really work? There is no evidence that you can be brought back from cryopreservation, but assuming that it might one day be possible doesn't require throwing out all the known physical laws of the universe so it's hardly a religion.
Cryopreservation is not based on faith, it's based on a little bit of optimism. It's not a religion.
Edit: qualified on the amount of optimism required
The cryopreserved person simply wasn't truly dead yet in such a scenario. An afterlife can still commence after whatever cosmic rules that indicate true death are satisfied.
Certainly everyone will die, no matter what. There is no materialist vision of immortality that can work in a universe with a finite life span.
Unless of course, we'll figure out the answer to the Last Question ;).
( http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html )
The issue is not the possibility of some sort of revival if everything works perfectly so much as the approach and mindset of people involved. After all mummification may in some cases have sufficiently preserved flesh to allow for cloning, but that's not a meaningful resurrection for the person or animal who died. Similarly, unless the tissues are sufficiently preserved so memory's can be recovered it's a pointless exercise and even at the temperatures involved decay still occurs.
Which IMO is what crosses into religion territory. The actual estimates of the probability of success and the lack of basic research into the actual degradation that occurs over time.
PS: At no point did I suggest religion was a bad thing or any of this was impossible etc. It's the mindset where the parallels are clear.
So is religion, when you get down to it. But the optimism comes from belief in an unknowable deity rather than in future science.
If you need that leap of faith spelled out, then these are the steps that must be true in order for cryonic preservation to be real and desirable (i.e. "worth it"): the scientific feat you describe needs to be really possible and not just in principle; humans are able to achieve this technology; the preservation process used today must be correct; technology must progress long enough for humans to achieve this technology; future society must be motivated to resurrect our dead; the kind of life offered in the future is one the preserved would desire; the resurrected would be able to adapt to future society; the resurrected would have the means to live a meaningful life in future society.
Note that there's no religion here anywhere, everything is casual and derived through logic from the current state of reality.
Cryopreservation is taking a fully <del>scientific</del><ins>materialistic</ins>, supernatural-free bet that gives you 0.1% (or 0.01%, or whatever) chance of not dying, when your only other choice is to die with 100% certainity. So unless you believe that you'll piss off God if you dump his promise and freeze yourself, you're better off cryopreserving than not. There is no leap of faith here, it's a result of plain utility calculations, if you agree that being being alive has nonzero utility while being dead has zero.
Those descriptors are not synonyms. There are many, many ways to be unscientific without any pretension of the supernatural. I think the word you wanted was to say "fully materialistic, supernatural-free bet".
The definition of science given by Francis Bacon and carried through to the modern era is that that a hypothesis is not accepted as valid until it has been tested experimentally, and a hypothesis must be tested after it has been formed (to avoid the sharpshooter fallacy). Modern versions allow you to use math, but that's as far as it goes. In this case, cryonics is obviously not scientific, because its effectiveness has not been demonstrated with the scientific method -- and that is what science is!
Yes. That's exactly what I wanted to say. Thanks! English is my second language, I sometimes lack vocabulary.
> ... chance of not dying, when your only other choice is to die with 100% certainty
You see, those aren't the only choices. I won't debate the chances of success, but assuming they are as high as you believe, there's a chance you're trading your certain death for an eternal life in a jar in some future hellish lab.
> Note that there's no religion here anywhere
There's religion here everywhere. I see people spending money for a chance at an afterlife they have absolutely no proof of. I see vast exaggeration of some anecdotal observations (miracles?) as "knowledge" of life. I see people finding comfort in an unknown future predicated on the powers of some super-human entity (at least super-human compared to the present) and on the optimistic belief in the benevolence of that entity. In short I see religious texts and religious arguments, hence: religion.
There is a casual, down-to-Earth, no-supernatural-powers-required, fully constrained to known laws of physics and mechanisms of biology chain of reasoning that this could work. There's a huge qualitative difference between this and believing in God.
Sure, we can argue whether or not it's worth spending money on right now; if you start including things like "burden on your relatives" or "probability of undesirable future" or "probability that current preservation techniques destroy too much information" in your calculations you might end up deciding it's not worth the cost yet, but it doesn't change that the idea is sound in principle.
> I see vast exaggeration of some anecdotal observations (miracles?) as "knowledge" of life.
Are you calling modern molecular biology, chemistry and information theory a bunch of "anecdotal observations"? Sure, whatever. But even if, it's still the best thing we have to reason from.
> I see people finding comfort in an unknown future predicated on the powers of some super-human entity (at least super-human compared to the present) and on the optimistic belief in the benevolence of that entity.
You're bundling two different concepts together (which might be excusable, because people who believe in cryonics also often believe in superhuman AIs). Still, cryonics does not depend on any super-human entity or its values, it only depends on whether or not we crack nanotech (or some other technology we don't know yet).
> In short I see religious texts and religious arguments, hence: religion.
Where you see religion, I see reasonable assumptions based on current scientific knowledge, extrapolated by applying cold, hard rationality.
Don't confuse God with religion. A lack of deities does not make this not a religion (see nontheistic religions). Also, why are you discounting what you call "supernatural" beliefs? Even physics is based on some assumptions (laws of symmetry) and ends at the big bang. If you look at the past 50 years of medicine and biology -- especially human biology -- you'll find many wrong conclusions (see Ioannidis's "why most published medical research is false"). You're exaggerating our scientific capabilities while discounting the limits to our understanding. In fact, you're turning science and technology into your religion. Don't overestimate human capacity and don't underestimate our stupidity (but don't do the opposite either).
BTW, I'm not even sure cryonics falls under the category of nontheistic religions, as "humans" with the power to resurrect the dead (and by extension eliminate natural death) are no different from a deity. Your religion is justified by what we know, as were others. The only qualitative mistake here, I think, is yours: as people who know (some) and love science, we know that it has limits. We have limits to observation, and, most pertinently, we have limits of tractability and understanding of complex systems. I don't think scientists assume we'll one day know something, and they certainly don't assume we'll have a specific far-fetched technology.
> Still, cryonics does not depend on any super-human entity or its values
I wasn't talking about AI, I was talking about future "humans" (is that what they would be in a world without death?) with technology we do not possess, hence super-compared-to-us-humans.
It's not a lot of money actually, it's just life insurance, a portion of which is allocated to Alcor in case cyropreservation is possible after death. Maybe $20 a month or something depending on your age when you got the policy, plus an annual fee that is mostly deductible as a charitable donation. I consider this fee donating to science, since Alcor actually does good science and publishes research papers. So $20 and a dream and maybe you get to try again.
It's not a risk free investment by any means, but it doesn't require heaps of denial involving topics of science like evolution, intolerance of others, or any dogma. If you want to think cryopreservation is like a religion by all means do, but you're not convincing me.
My point is merely that freezing one's own body despite a lack of any evidence that present methods would allow revival of a human in the future requires optimism that is not incomparable with religion.
Although this is not part of the interesting religio-philosophical discussion we're all having here (which, BTW, finally fulfills my own dream of visiting 17th century Europe), that is simply not true. We are not sure it can be done, and we are even less sure it can be done with current preservation technology. There are few things in biology we are sure of, so many things that we only partly understand, and human neurobiology is very high on the list of things we understand least of. Also, your usage of the word "sure" sounds to me like saying, "well, we're sure God exists, we just don't know if He's Christian, Muslim or Jewish". After all, even if that were true, our actions must depend heavily on that second part of the sentence.
Finally, even if the god of cryonics is real, and even if he's Alcory, the preserved don't know if they're buying a ticket to heaven or to hell (see Cold Lazarus).
Cryonics as practiced by people requesting to be frozen is a religion, but I'm not dismissing it, because I don't dismiss religion. Unlike Richard Dawkins, I don't see humanity thriving without religion, and I think the debate is theoretical, because I don't think humans can exist without creating religion.
> Should we just throw in the towel and stop researching it?
Of course not! We didn't stop studying the stars, and we ended up learning a lot from doing so -- but that doesn't make astrology not a religion. There's science and there's religion. Studying cryogenics is science; freezing yourself in the hope of being resurrected is religion. BTW, while we learned a lot from studying the stars while abandoning the religion surrounding them, we're still not much closer to reaching them than we were 200 years ago.
> Do you claim that everyone betting on new technologies are religious?
No. I might buy stocks in a company making a more efficient microwave oven (shit, I'm betting on my own actual startup). But when the matter at hand is our existential dread, and people change their behavior based on what is currently classified as bona-fide science fiction, become emotionally involved, and preach the great rewards to be bestowed on the faithful -- imagining, all the while a bright future while completely disregarding other possibilities -- then, yeah, you're looking at a religion.
This is what people are doing by having their bodies frozen after death; they are buying stake in some technology in hopes they will receive a return someday.
Along the lines: http://lesswrong.com/lw/ml/but_theres_still_a_chance_right/
That's not what's being debated. We're debating reviving with a yet unknown technique a human mind frozen with a particular one.
> the probability of any known religion being correct is not remotely on the same scale...
I'm an atheist, but that's totally unknown and presently unknowable. And don't provide as an example a very particular religion that rejects evolution (I don't know about muslims and other religions less known in the west, but most religious Jews and many Catholics don't reject evolution).
I know I'm repeating myself in every comment I make in this thread, but to reiterate. We know one possible technique that will work. We know that it exists, it is possible and that it can do the job in principle. We just don't know how to use it, because we didn't build that particular piece of technology.
There may be other ways we don't know about yet, but if there are none, then there's always the nanotech.
Please show us how we "know" (given that we know with certainty so few things in biology).
> then there's always the nanotech.
... and God's angels. You're forgetting them. The "nanotech" you're referring to is, at this point, no more (in fact, it is precisely) science-fiction. Even as recently as 40 years ago, people were certain we'd all have flying cars by now. We can conjecture but not know that we'll be able to achieve some future technologies, even if we see some prototype of them. The fact life exists does not mean we'll be able to engineer it, and certainly not "control" it. There are some things that are simply intractable. We can't even forecast the weather for more than several days, so from the fact life exists you deduce that we'll be able to replicate it with "nanotech"? Maybe we will, and maybe we won't. It might be cool if we do -- and it might be horrifying and lead to our destruction -- but you're constantly confusing science with science fiction. And remember: all science fiction -- as well as most religions in the time they're founded -- are premised on what we currently know.
No. I asssert that life is nanotech. We've seen those things down to atomic level and we know from observation that every living thing is entirely made from machines pushing around molecules. The required technology is there, we don't even have to develop our own, we just need to get better at controlling the 'natural' one. There's some good progress in reprogramming bacteria and viruses to do our bidding, and there are no clear obstacles why we shouldn't be able to develop this further.
By the way, the primary obstacle to controlling the weather is not the molecular-level interactions, it's the power requirements. Given enough energy generation, we could control weather using today's technology, just as we can do indoors with air conditioning and various experiments like "hey, let's make a cloud indoors and make it rain". Hell, your friendly neighbourhood nuclear power plant produces clouds and rain as a part of its daily operations. We just don't have enough raw power to do it on planetary scale (and we'd probably screw ourselves over big time if we had), as this article  kindly explains.
 - http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/C5c.html
.. and the intractability of the weather
Maybe a real god could, but we can't. Unless you have tractor beams, anti-gravity force fields and other sci-fi tech, either you'd have to have these "weather machines" placed in a fairly tight grid, or intractability would rule (outside a small area of influence). The problem isn't just energy, but directing it.
So people were off by a few decades on timescales and on social/political uptake. Big deal.
Life exists, it's physical. Our control of physical processes has consistently improved. There isn't any issue in revival that has shown to be totally intractable, in a way that violates any key physical assumptions we have.
And freezing yourself, as I've mentioned in numerous other comments on this thread, is a choice based on assumptions other than technological -- for example that the future would be hospitable to people born and raised in our lifetime. I'm just thinking of how miserable Mark Twain would be in this age of Facebook, and how much misery Hemingway would experience in our era of reality television.
Perhaps in theory. In practice I don't see this happening without turning into a religion. Even from the rational perspective, you don't really have enough knowledge to make a reasonably informed bet. From a rational perspective it's just buying a lottery ticket. But that's not the psychology of what's happening here. To me, your question sounds like: "so you don't agree that people would choose who they sleep with based on cold utilitarian estimates?" Well, maybe that's theoretically possible, and maybe some people can do that, but that doesn't happen in the general case, because human psychology is also very real.
I do not for one second believe that people can think about death and about options of spending resources to win an afterlife in a purely rational, utilitarian way. If you're saying that's how you think then either you're suffering from a mental disorder (I'm saying it in good humor) or you're not being honest with yourself. I don't think that cold calculation can trump fantasies of eternal life in a bright future. I think that there's no way such fantasies do not cloud your judgement, just as a pretty girl would make you do dumb stuff. That's just how we're wired. Once hope and emotion play a role in guiding your decision to act today based on the belief in a (positive) afterlife, you stop being a scientist and turn into a believer. But that's OK. Most of us, including scientists, are often religious (even if we don't ascribe to the omniscient-omnipotent-deity religious model). But we should realize that's what we're doing, and know when we've moved from the very earthly, Sisyphean, frustrating, limited, no-promises science to religion, where anything's possible.
(Actually, who says we should?)
There are people STILL TODAY who make a decent living as Mark Twain impersonators - imagine how well the original one could do if he went BACK on the live public speaking circuit! Mark Twain would also do great on Twitter or as a comedy TV writer. I expect that either Hemingway or Twain would be astounded at modern conveniences (starting with dentistry and showers) and would find no trouble amusing themselves in the new world. And here's the secret thing about reality television: if it DOES make you miserable you don't have to watch it!
(though come to think of it, Hemingway would be an interesting pick as a writer or script consultant for a long-form episodic TV show set in a suitable historical period. The same era that brought us reality TV ALSO brought us stuff like Breaking Bad and Downton Abbey.)
I'm just trying to say that the state of mind and emotional investment is similar. I'm a bit surprised by some of the response, to be honest.
And a great person - I never knew anyone who had anything but good things to say about Hal. It was a privilege to know Hal.
Also, in Finney's case the condition he suffered allowed for more self-willed timing in these matters than is usually the case. It isn't a pleasant thing to have to do to yourself by any means, but that is what it comes to when it is government employees who are the people who decide on every aspect of your life, not you. One recommendation from people in the cryonics industry in the past has been that when you are on the final downward spiral to stop eating and drinking so as to time the end yourself and thus ensure much better odds of a good preservation, organized and timely. Very rational, as the time from death to vitrification is so very critical, but again something forced upon people by uncaring bureaucrats and laws that prevent self-determination in end of life decisions.
I think anyone who spends 200K on this today should expect to pay 200K again in a decade or two (if they make it that far) since at that point the "state of the art" will almost certainly be with a different company, and I doubt the failed company will give refunds.
Jurisdictions where euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal include the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Estonia, Albania, the US states of Washington, Oregon and Montana, and, starting in 2015, the Canadian Province of Quebec.
I am planning to sign up for cryonics ASAP (as soon as I can afford it), and I would really prefer that stand-by and active shutdown were readily available options, but I'm afraid I would have to do all the research and preparation by myself, if I want it to become a reality.
OTOH, the existence of a company Suspended Animation http://www.suspendedinc.com/ gives me hope. How could a company carve out a market for itself, selling additional services for cryonics, which by itself counts less than 300 patients preserved over its 47 year history - I don't know.
Of course, in the POV of someone who believes in cryopreservation as a way to save lives, preventing it is almost tantamount to murder--probably falling somewhere above negligent homicide, since you'd actively be preventing someone from saving their own life.
I say that as someone who thinks the cryo-folks are deeply delusional about their technology.
I'm a firm believer in the preservation bit, I don't think it will scale and I totally do not believe in the resurrection bit. It's a bit like performing a magical trick where you smash somebody's watch in act one and you still haven't figured out how to do part two.
To use your analogy: You're getting on an airplane and the security guy says "no watches". You're now faced with the assured loss of an heirloom item. So you break it, and the guy lets you board. You figure eventually you may be able to reassemble it in some form. Like the Iranians did to the "destroyed" documents in the US Embassy there.
Murder is so final, while this is more akind to shutting down a computer that you hope to be able to start up again. Hence active shutdown being a more appropriate idea.
The flaw in the analogy is that there's fairly widespread experience in restarting computers after shutdown, as well as a wealth of knowledge about how fix the computer if it doesn't come back up. None of that holds for cryonics and human death.
> it's clear that restoring a cryopreserved person is possible in principle.
What we can do today, is preserving the brain structure. What we can't do today is to restore the brain and body after prolonged preservation, and to fix whatever illnesses caused the patient to undergo this procedure in the first place.
Both of those problems seem to be tractable with nanotech, which we know is real and works (we usually call it "life", but life is nothing but a nanotech that's not ours and we can't controll well enough yet). So at this point I'd say cryopreservation is a bet against continued technological progress (which is not bad, because not taking it means certainly dying), not an act of faith.
One can argue against economics of such, and the cost a cryopreserved person imposes on the living, but comparing it to faith in God and resurrection is IMO wrong.
- that death does not alter the structure irrepairably
- that the structure and information contained therein will not degrade over time
- that the freezing process itself won't damage the information
- that the information will be recoverable
- that we will be able to make sense of such information
- that the information after successful restoration can be transplanted into some other medium
- that this other medium will be able to 'execute' using that information
- that the electrical component of brain activity once lost can be restored
- and that all of the above will result in a restoration of consciousness
- and that this consciousness will somehow be given the status of person (that's more of a social issue)
All of these together to me are equivalent to or maybe even greater than believing in God.
As far as we can tell, if we freeze it quick enough, it won't. No magic required. (death doesn't mean something magical is happening to matter, it only means molecular machines stop working the way they should)
Possible. Manageable with technology. Testable. No magic required.
Possible. Subject to fixing by improved technology. Testable. No magic required.
Possible by definition of solving previous two points. Subject to advanced enough technology, which cryopreserved people are hedging against. No magic required.
Not required. Technology advanced enough to revive a cryopreserved patient will likely be able to fix the original medium. Technology already exists (in form of nanotechnology - viruses, bacteria, proteins, enzymes), but we don't know how to use it yet, as we didn't build it. No magic required.
See above. Also, if you really insist on another medium, then it depends on whether or not brains run on magic. If they are not, then the problem is addressable with technology (develop a good enough medium).
Evidence suggests that this component is mostly irrelevant. Even if, it's solvable with technology (tough luck to those already preserved though). No magic required.
Unless you believe consciousness is magic, it's possible by definition of solving #2/#3.
That's a social issue, but again, if consciousness is not a magical process, we can hope the society will mature enough to be able to accept revived people as persons.
> All of these together to me are equivalent to or maybe even greater than believing in God.
Now this IMO does not follow. There're no supernatural phenomena required to address any assumptions you stated, so isn't this by definition requiring qualitatively less faith than religion?
Christ, are you for real? Was landing on the moon 'magic' up until the moment we did it? Why are people like you even on this website?
Going to the moon was the application of a whole pile of existing technology and marginally expanding some of that technology in the process.
As for why 'people like me are even on this website', that's a good question, maybe I should not be here.
- an example of nanotechnology exists and works, it's called "life"
- this particular technology is in principle able to do the tasks required to revive a properly cryopreserved person, even though it does not do this now
- it is real for humans to learn in time how to make this technology do that
- current preservation techniques store enough information to revive a human using sufficiently advanced nanotechnology
(2) unknown, unknowable
(3) unknown, unknowable
(4) unknown, knowable but only in a very far future (if at all).
So, in short nanotechnology is just like every other technology, it has laws and limits and does not automatically allow us to do everything we would like it to be able to do.
For an analogy: we know that the ribosome + DNA complex creates proteins. But we are still bound in terms of expression by what cells as a concept are capable of.
So even if we can imagine life created at will and even if we can imagine all kinds of amazing creatures there is absolutely no way of knowing whether or not we will ever have the technology to direct things in such a way that these desires and imaginations will come true. Compared to the suggestion that we can resurrect a dead person creating a fire breathing dragon out of Condor and Komodo Varan DNA with some basic chemistry thrown in for pyrotechnics is childs play.
It is at its heart the difference between science and science fiction.
That's why we will most likely not have a space elevator (we know of no material strong enough for the filament) and that's why there will never be a ringworld.
Now for those things we have very clear physical limits that we have identified and we know that these limits will be for all practical purposes unsurmountable.
In the case of cryopreservation 'all bets are off', the gap between where our current understanding is located and the required advances means that we are essentially postulating that people in the advanced future will become gods.
That's a leap too far in my understanding of how human progress has worked to date.
I guess the main point of difference is our estimate of how likely is that those yet unexplored constraints will let us reverse cryopreserving. I seem to have more hope for that than you do, but I admit, at this point it's probably a bit of a guesswork.
Thanks for the exchange, off to bed here (4:39 am...).
You're welcome, and thank you as well. Also going to bed (03:49 AM here, and I was supposed to be coding up my thesis... I guess it's time to turn on the noprocrast again).
Nononononononono. Stop that. jacquesm is continuing his long and proud tradition of mostly well thought and insightful comments. He just doesn't agree with you or me on that topic and, like you and me, has some strong opinions. We're trying to have a somewhat productive conversation here.
Well, it's not really called anything much at the moment as no one does it but certainly not all killing is called murder. You kill enemies with bombs, that's heroic service, civilians with bombs it's collateral damage, kill patients trying to save them medically then it's an unfortunate result, kill deliberately in a manner banned by your government then it's murder. For me suspending someone to save them would be closest to heroic service.
So not really, no. And you should really know better than replying with such trollbait, that's not contributing to the discussion in the slightest. This is the announcement of the death (?) of someone, not the place to argue ethics (or religion, because we all know that's what coming up next).
The title clearly reads that he's being cryopreserved. If it was about his death I would expect something that would announce that rather than his so-called preservation.
This is the trans-humanist movement claiming this moment as theirs rather than an announcement of a good persons death.
It's simply an Alcor advertorial, not a eulogy.
Supposedly he's not really dead, so either we can react to the article and he'll read this in the future and laugh at me or we should mourn him because he really is dead. Make up your minds.
And people can be sad that the probability of seeing him alive in close timeframes suddenly dropped from nearly 1 to somewhere closer to zero.
Just as in the case of someone who falls into a coma from which they'll probably never wake up, both mourning and hope are reasonable responses. I don't think it's fair to slam this announcement for choosing to put more emphasis on hope.
Mourning is a reasonable response. Advertising is not and this article does not contain a whole lot of mourning (I can't detect any, correct me if I'm wrong) but it certainly does contain a ton of advertising. Essentially it is not about the person at all except for the first 10 words or so.
I think if technology advances sufficiently that it is "easy" and "cheap" enough, people will resurrect cryo-preserved patients just because it suits them to do so.
If I had a button I could push that would bring someone who died in 1800 back to life, I would push it.
I believe I'm not the only person who feels this way, either.
People spend ages carefully preserving forks and other trinkets from the 1700s. Surely an entire person would be worth equal care, and a group of people more so.
Trinkets from a bygone era don't require medical care, housing, and feeding. Note, too, that historical preservation goes only so far - there's plenty of places where old buildings are torn down to make way for new ones. I have trouble seeing where frozen corpses are markedly more attractive to refurbish.
Trying another way, let's say the technology is created to bring Finney back, but it would only keep him alive for 4 hours, and after that there would be no chance of him ever returning. Would it be violating his beliefs for future-folk to bring him back for those 4 hours just because they want to hear what he has to say?
Otherwise, I think the proper response is "keep working on this technology until we've gotten that 4 hour window up to something useful."
Funny enough, he worked on Bitcoin, which may pave ways to Autonomous Corporations. In some time perhaps you could set a an autonomous corporation managing some funds in low-risk while delegating the surplus to payments conditioned on a "proof of conservation" of the body.
(Unless your point was that Larry Johnson isn't a believer, in which case touche. But he parted with Alcor a long, long time ago.)
The first method (contracts) is dependent upon people. The second method (money) is dependent upon your currency remaining relevant as well as finding some way of managing the fund. People and money are both fallible, but I included them for completeness. I personally think that the last two reasons are much more likely if we're talking about hundreds (or thousands) of years. At those intervals though, a more relevant question might be, "who would store and maintain the bodies?"
There is no electricity involved.
It's a big leap of faith to think we'll ever be able to revive frozen dead people. Early applications of cryonics didn't take the tissue destruction of freezing into account. What other problems are being completely missed in the process?
And that's to say nothing of the problems related to reviving a dead person and fixing the causes of their death in a timely manner. Even granting a relatively uninterrupted progress of technology, it's a big assumption that such things are possible.
Literally everyone knows about ice formation. Robert Ettinger wrote about it in his cryonics book before it ever happened. Cryoprotectants have been used since the first real (ie non-cosmetic) cryopreservations.
>reviving a dead person and fixing the causes of their death
Cancer (for example) is nothing compared to reviving a vitrified human. Absolutely nothing. By the time you have the biological machinery to repair the kind of damage that thermal stress fractures, residual ice and cryoprotectant toxicity causes, cancer will be a curiosity in the bookshelves of history.
If the person died due to some kind of brain aneurysm, then sure, you probably can't fix that, but then again you're talking about a situation where there's really no structure to preserve in the first place.
Note that the vitrification process didn't exist before the 90s, and so it's a bit of a stretch to think that it's been handled adequately. And even then, there's the fracturing problem, which despite Alcor's handwaving, is a serious problem.
> By the time you have the biological machinery to repair the kind of damage that thermal stress fractures, residual ice and cryoprotectant toxicity causes, cancer will be a curiosity in the bookshelves of history.
It's a very big assumption that we'll ever have the machinery to repair the damage caused by the freezing process. But apart from that, there's real and rapid decay of tissue in the brain when a person dies. Loss of even a small percentage of brain tissue has seriously traumatic effects on otherwise healthy people who haven't been frozen.
It's probably not gonna work.
In order for people to continue buying cryogenic services, the company would have to be able to demonstrate that it's actually doing what it claims to do (keep the bodies frozen and stable). As soon as that stops, nobody would ever trust them with any business, ever. And as soon as revival is possible, it becomes the cheapest option, versus incurring the ongoing costs of preservation.
...unless defeating death leads to a huge overpopulation problem and severe restrictions on producing new children. Then there will likely be a lot of popular opposition to reviving them.
A revived frozen person first will need to have the condition that killed them dealt with. Then they will need training to be able to function at a basic level in society . If we haven't got to a guaranteed basic income system or some other system that gets rid of the need for people to have jobs or live off welfare, there will probably be very few jobs that the revived person can be trained for.
Other than exceptional circumstances, such as reviving someone who would have knowledge of historical interest, it is hard to see how reviving a frozen person would be better for the future people than letting someone have a child.
I think Larry Niven's stories have it right--a given frozen person is far more likely to be broken up for transplant material than be revived whole in most potential future societies.
 I'm assuming it will take us a fairly long time to get to the defeated death stage, and so it will be a very different world that the person is revived into.
I'd love to hear your story!
If you haven't read his post "Bitcoin and me", now is a good time. https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=155054.0
The article --
HN discussion with some insightful commentary -- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7477801
He will be missed.
Either way I just set my topcolor to 000000. Seems it doesn't take hex triplets.
Regardless of the fluid medium, a bigger problem is absence of oxygen is going to start the process of autolysis after cell death. Neurons are particularly vulnerable, which how people can become brain dead within 5-10 minutes under normal circumstances.
The even bigger problem is cellular damage from the freezing process. Proponents of this sort of thing would say the "cryoprotectant" chemicals vitrify, so the massive small scale trauma from ice crystal formation is prevented. I'm not sure anything has ever been reanimated after this process, nor do I foresee a technology capable of allowing it.
Finally, and maybe the biggest problem, it is hard to see technological cure for advanced ALS. It is a structure problem with demyelination causing the symptoms. Even if you could correct the underlying source of myelin cell death/inflammation, it's very difficult to imagine a restoration process that results in viable life.
Anyway, probably more than you wanted to hear. This is just kind of sad, and reminds me this is a young forum on the whole that probably isn't too in tune with their own mortality (this is not directed at anyone, so I'd prefer nobody respond personally to it). He is dead, he lived well, there will be nobody else quite like him.
edit: fyi, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_substitute (though again, this differs because the cryopreserving fluid is selected because of its properties when freezing)
Some people are working on organ preservation by vitrification and restoration. Not there yet, but promising work. There is no reason to think that this is impossible:
As to technologies capable of restoring the cryopreserved, there are any number of works that propose very detailed descriptions of how it can be done with molecular nanotechnology.
The ALS article was very far removed from an in vivo therapy and the premise was hypothetical. Looking at a collection of the links on the reanimation link, it might as well be molecular nanotechnology. None of them were anything more than science fiction.
As to the other response (zanny) ... that's your prerogative to believe those, but I believe they are impossible or outside of the intellectual capability of humankind (leaning towards the former). In my opinion it's as feasible as though you'd suggested FTL travel with wormholes.
Regardless, I wouldn't cryopreserve myself even if I could. I've made efforts to live a good life and accept my mortality.
I don't think anyone getting cryopreserved today expects to be woken up for at least a century. And a hundred years ago the idea of commercial airline flight was still a pipe dream, and anything resembling computers of any scale was complete science fiction.
Edit: looks like it's available freely online: http://coins.ha.com/information/tfi.s
At one time if someone left "1" (e.g. heart stopped), that was pretty much it. Now we can often recover someone whose heart has been stopped for several minutes with little to no long term damage through medical intervention. A cryonic procedure pushes a person to a place on the scale where the probability distribution provided by current technology is a big fat zero. There is some hope that as technology advances that probability distribution will look favorable to the those frozen. We're pretty much just guessing about that last part though.
As much as I'd love to cheat death I can't get over the feeling that having myself frozen would be a selfish and arrogant act. I worry that the world will continue to struggle with limited resources and wonder how people will feel if the technology to revive cryopreserved people becomes available but it's a struggle to provide the unambiguously living with food, water and shelter. That said, I find it difficult to fault those who choose to try to escape mortality. I would be interested to hear how people justify it from a resource allocation perspective.
Perhaps we'll figure out how to do mind uploading and solve the problem that way? That's a whole other rabbit hole though, and there's plenty of potential for that to suck.
Comparing different religions' various flavors of afterlife is very interesting, but perhaps this isn't the right forum for it (though maybe it is; I don't know). One thing is certain, though: cryonics's promise of an afterlife is definitely the most materially expensive of all religions -- on average, that is (some Christians spent what probably amounts to more than the cost of cryopreservation to expunge their sins). It is also the most strictly transactional since Catholicism prior to the reformation. The burial practice itself, however, bears a lot of resemblance to ancient Egyptian religion, and probably some other religions of antiquity.
It's a scam, but a very clever one, just like religion. The only mitigating factor to me is that the participants here go in eyes wide open rather than that they are sucked in as defenceless children.
Unless you have other things you care deeply about spending your money on, there's pretty much only upside.
Being a scam doesn't require the buy in or belief of the scammer.
Plenty has been written on Alcor in particular, there is an entire book written by a former employee. The entire industry is dangerous, weird, and preys on the vulnerable.
Two prominent figures in the skeptic community, Michael Shermer and Susan Blackmore, have lent their names to the Foundation as advisers, so they apparently consider the idea scientifically defensible:
So I can't prove with 100% certainty that cryonics is a scam. But I'll take what evidence I have and I'm more than happy to stand by my words.
And then to ask for evidence is adding to the pile, the only admissible evidence here would be proof that it is indeed possible. And I don't see any such evidence, only very small bits and pieces which could possibly one day be expanded to a whole given unfathomable advances in technology.
The branches of science required to pull this off do not even exist yet.
Remember that old saw about advanced enough technology being indistinguishable from magic? That's the territory we're in here.
Technology is nuts-and-bolts stuff based on understanding, not modern variations on Pascal's wager.
Useful evidence for cryonics -> anything that can be used to market cryonics. Evidence against cryonics: nobody has ever returned from the dead. I realize that facing death is one of the hardest issues to come to terms with for the living but I'm a little but surprised how gullible the techies are when it comes to selling them a bill of goods like this.
I guess at some level everybody wants to live forever and companies like this handily tap in to that (as did every religion with a commercial aspect since millenia).
>not modern variations on Pascal's wager.
Pascal's wager is bad because it takes the current universe, then lets you pick from only 2 choices, and the god choice isn't free (as belief in something you know to be wrong is detrimental). If a superintelligence offered the wager with the condition that every other religion/afterlife was wrong, and the only two possibilities were god or no god, and that there was no cost (just have to say "I believe"), then Pascal's wager wouldn't be a joke.
I agree though that of course this is ripe for commercial exploitation. Just like an insurance fund that promised to try to get involved/fund every AI research initiative, in exchange for somehow giving you preferential treatment in case of a not-so-friendly singularity.
If the voting in this thread is any indication there are a lot of believers.
Those are two very different things. Rationality will not reassert itself (has it ever been asserted? :)) because human existence is probably not compatible with pervasive rationality (i.e. rationality in humans is limited to very narrow scopes, usually those that don't scare us or induce other strong emotions), but people will stop believing this and start believing something else, or -- many won't believe this to begin with because believing in cryonics contradicts their other beliefs. If cryonics were compatible with, say, Christianity, then the resurrected would be really pissed for being dragged out of heaven. In fact, this contradiction with other, far more ubiquitous religions and most of all -- the contradiction with people's income -- will keep cryonics a very exclusive religion (like Scientology, only for geeks rather than Hollywood actors), so we need not worry running out of room in that particular, cold, cold heaven.
My old friend Hara Ra (né Gregory Yob -- yes, the creator of Hunt the Wumpus) had it done when he died of cancer in 2005. He was well aware of my opinion about it. Anyway, I figure, it was his money, and if it gave him some comfort in dying (of cancer), maybe it wasn't that badly spent.
I must admit i had never heard of the man himself, although I do know of bitcoin. But I am humbled by how he is smiling in all of his pictures, despite his physical body slowly giving up on him; his wife constantly by his side, through thick and thin.
I get the impression that Hal would have been a genuinely nice man to know. His life and the way he has faced his challenges head on is (should be) an inspiration to all.
Even if current cryonics won't work, how about focusing on trying to find another, better way to fix death, instead of throwing the towel and sneering?
And is it just me or is it just a little bit funny to hear about an ALS patient getting frozen cryogenically right as the ice bucket challenge sweeps the globe... I dare say he's truly taken the ultimate ice bucket challenge!
"Hal Finney (May 4, 1956 – August 28, 2014) was a developer for PGP Corporation, and was the second developer hired after Phil Zimmerman. In his early career, he is credited as lead developer on several console games"
"In January 2009, Finney was the Bitcoin network's first recipient transaction."
On one hand, it seems like a different version of Pascal's wager - if you can afford it, the upside is potentially far more beneficial than the downside. On the other hand, well, it is crazy...
I can think of one reason for not doing it (personally): I don't necessary want to live in a society that can perform my revival. Not to say that there's anything wrong with that society, they would just be so far away from me that I can't fathom how that would be like.
I looked into this in some detail a while ago, and I recall Alcor indicated that many of its members opt for life insurance (with Alcor as a beneficiary) to cover the cost of cryopreservation. That's something like $75K to cryopreserve your head, and $150K for whole-body cryospreservation.
I suspect the mean age of HN readers skews toward late 20s or early 30s, meaning that they'd likely pay something like <$100 every year for $150K of life insurance. Also many of us have some form of life insurance paid for by our employers.
I updated my will last year with the help of a SF bay area attorney who told me she's done cryopreservation wills/trusts for a bunch of high-profile tech execs (she did not, of course, name names). Email me if you want her info.
There are other types tied to investment vehicles that go by names like universal and variable life insurance. Those can have certain tax advantages and can let you build that "cash value" you mentioned.
Interestingly, insurance actuaries here in Denmark has one of the highest incomes. 25% of those with the degree end up in top-1% income (vs 11% of those with a law degree). More (in Danish): http://www.business.dk/karriere/her-er-vejen-til-den-hoejest...
Basically it is the best possible play with the cards dealt to you if you are going to die before the advent of rejuvenation therapies and would still like to live longer into the golden future of amazing wealth and technology that lies just ahead of us. The odds are infinitely better than those offered by any other end of life choice (i.e. they are above zero).
Everyone you know and love will have been long dead, and any society with both the means and will to revive you may have undesirable objectives in mind, e.g. a life of slavery or military conscription. From a global perspective, what are the potential impacts on the species of an eternal elite, obsessed with life extension, creating an ever-growing class of ancient capital holders?
Assuming both constant human nature and the lack of an self-reinforcing intelligence cascade (i.e. no singularity event), survival is not an obviously rational choice.
Each individual for themselves, obviously.
> Everyone you know and love will have been long dead
This obviously contradicts the original assumption that you might actually get revived. Because if you can, so can others.
> may have undesirable objectives in mind, e.g. a life of slavery or military conscription
I find it hard to believe that it will ever be cheaper to revive dead frozen humans than simply let living humans breed new humans for free. And plenty of people now living aren't even cost-competitive against the machines of 2014 or 2024, nevermind the machines of a society capable of reviving the dead. Both as a slave and as a soldier, you're likely to be horribly inadequate.
Honestly the bigger question is why the future people would bother to wake you up at all. Maybe history buffs would be happy to talk to you. Maybe the world gets so rich that a few weird enthusiasts can afford to do it on their own.
But the bottom line is that if the future turns out to be awful, you can always choose to die again. Plenty of people would be willing to have a look around first.
Even if there is no economic or scientific reason to revive a frozen, preserved person, there could still be sentimental reasons. If my grandfather were frozen and reviveable, and not dead and buried, I would want to revive him. If it were remotely within my financial means, I would save for decades, mortgage or sell everything I own, take on any debt I could trick people into lending me, if it technologically possible to bring a parent back to life.
It is not difficult to imagine a chain of un-freezing in some distant future. Children unfreeze parents; parents unfreeze grandparents; grandparents unfreeze great-grandparents. As long as there is some tenuous connection between the preserved and the living, at some price point a living old friend or third cousin will want to revive the preserved. Add in the odd charity for the few friendless frozen and it is not hard to imagine any frozen person eventually being revived, technology permitting.
Of course you feel this way. Everyone does. And that's the problem. Imagine most of the world's productive output being redirected to the massive project of unfreezing generations of cryogenically preserved ancestors.
This is one of the cheerier possibilities. Most of the reasons that occur to me that an advanced society, lacking an intelligence cascade, would want to conjure a large number of functioning highly-educated consciousnesses are decidedly darker.
This possibility, and a thousand other unforeseen individual and societal implications of cryogenics, deserve debate.
But I think you can approximate well enough that by the time the technology arises to resurrect the cryopreserved, it won't require the entire effort of humanity to revive their frozen forbearers, because most of humanity won't be putting out any effort to begin with. We are already 20 years away from half the working population being rendered obsolete by automation. If it is something machines cannot do, it just lets us utilize untapped human labor in the future. If it is something machines can do, we will rapidly deploy the necessary infrastructure to enable the automation of revival, and it won't be a problem of anyone "affording" revival, the machines will just revive all the people they can.
There is only one: intelligence. I can see such a society going to great lengths to obtain that resource. The incentives to revive an individual for unfortunate purposes in such a society would be very large.
Consider that by the time they can perfect the nanotechnology to repair the brain damage dealt by the freezing process, they will easily be able to genetically engineer a near maximally capable brain. Why not just genetically engineer humans that have high cognitive potential than try to reintegrate those so long dead they cannot function in this futuristic society?
It won't cost them much to revive people, but I don't expect the preserved to be sought after for their intellect.
>Each individual for themselves, obviously.
Agreed. Merely pointing out the choice does not have a clear answer.
>This obviously contradicts the original assumption that you might actually get revived. Because if you can, so can others.
Only those with spare wealth and foresight, which comprises a vanishingly small part of the current population. Most people's loved ones are unlikely to be part of that small population.
>But the bottom line is that if the future turns out to be awful, you can always choose to die again.
Any society that has mastered the technology necessary to revive you can certainly master the technology necessary to physically or chemically restrain you.
>Honestly the bigger question is why the future people would bother to wake you up at all.
That is the question. And I fear, upon waking, one may not like the answer...
It's a reversible choice though.
>marketed to wealthy tech folks
Cryonics has historically been a middle class thing.
In other words, you could save all the data in the brain but without knowing what the CPU was doing when it shut down (which is electrical state) that may not do you any good.
That's a brain that was still almost the same brain as the one in which the electrical activity as we currently detect it was lost.
>expecting a spontaneous reboot
Nobody actually expects this. You can't just thaw someone and reperfuse them. Extensive repair work has to be done at the nanoscale.
In any case, the evidence shows electrical activity doesn't really matter when you're only concerned about long-term identity. Electrochemical impulses don't encode memory or personality. If they did, it would be pretty clear in people who recover from extreme hypothermia, as they would have retrograde amnesia.
As /u/dublinben mentioned, I'd give my entire wealth to have the opportunity to live in the future.
The problem is that you aren't just depending on future improvements in revival technology, you're depending on the current state of today's preservation technology (at the point you die).
And today's preservation technology doesn't have a lot of evidence suggesting that it can work to successfully preserve a kidney, much less a brain.
>In the summer of 2005, where he was a keynote speaker at the annual Society for Cryobiology meeting, Fahy announced that Twenty-First Century Medicine had successfully cryopreserved a rabbit kidney at -130°C by vitrification and transplanted it into a rabbit after rewarming, with subsequent long-term life support by the vitrified-rewarmed kidney as the sole kidney. This research breakthrough was later published in the peer-reviewed journal Organogenesis.
When the other option is straight ol' Death, I'm not losing much by playing the long game on science coming through at sophisticated cellular repair mechanisms/protocols. I'm definitely ahead of people getting buried or cremated.
Maybe everybody speaks something else other than English and even communicating is a pain (even with good translation resources)
You'll know nobody. All the things that you know by "home" are gone.
It'll probably be cool for the first weeks, then an absolute drag.
By the time the technology comes around the revive the cryopreserved, the rest of technological advancement will change the dynamic of human interaction so much we cannot estimate what the world will be like, but we can assume that with technology advanced enough to repair the damage from the freezing process, you would probably be entering a world of almost any possibility.
Basically, I think it's more feasible than most people judge it to be. The technology has already been demonstrated in smaller structures such as rabbit kidneys. While it's not likely to work, the expected value is positive.
Of course, the analogy isn't perfect since brain activity does not cease during a nap, but consciousness does.
HOV is using extremely high concentrations of solutes to reduce the freezing point (a colligative property). That is the only way to vitrify something big like the brain. At least, until some super material is invented that lets us pull out lots of heat really fast. The trouble is that it is toxic to cells to be exposed for very long. With rabbit kidneys and small slices of brain tissue, the exposure time at warm temperatures can be very brief. So with current cryonics we can only make a morphological argument for information theoretic preservation.
With better materials that enable faster cooling, prevent the toxicity mechanisms of the cryoprotectant, and/or block ice formation non-colligatively (certain polymers do this), it is theoretically possible that we could get to a point where the cells are still viable. In that event, it would be like placing the brain in an "off state". You wouldn't be able to resume it again without a body to implant it in, but that's more likely to be on the 200-year radar than nanorepair, so the chances would be improved quite a bit. Also, I suspect more people would sign up for a process that does not involve "killing" their brain cells.
Betting your final moments on specific advances of technology is also not an easy decision. Plus, you may wake up in a world you don't like.
OTOH, the other option is not to wake up at all.