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Hal Finney being cryopreserved now (extropy.org)
300 points by mlinksva on Aug 28, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 269 comments

This is sad news, but less sad than a funeral and cremation would have been. I met Hal in the 1990s via the cypherpunks list, where a young Julian Assange was also hanging out. Hal went on to work for PGP Corp. in its glory days, and was involved in the early stages of Bitcoin as well. He is (not was!) the consummate cypherpunk and extropian.

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:

http://seclists.org/politech/1999/Oct/24 "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:

http://extropians.weidai.com/extropians.1Q01/3833.html "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.

It's fascinating, and personally a bit disturbing, to read about his death as an announcement of cryopreservation ("being cryopreserved now") instead of the sad news it is anyway ("died today"). Also the discussion here revolves around he coming back, not he leaving.

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.

It sounds from the language used ("he did not want his vital functions supported any further but should be allowed to cease functioning and promptly be cryopreserved") that he didn't regard this moment as death at all - merely pausing his life until a) ALS is curable and b) we have the technology to reawaken cryopreserved people.

To him, all that was worth announcing here is the cryopreservation.

Who's to say he's wrong?

Personally, I think cryonics is a pipe dream right now. But I completely respect and empathize with the wishes of Hal Finney to put hope into a future life, possibly without the burden of ALS that he was forced to deal with for a significant portion of his life.

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.

You're probably right, but I just thought about it from the point of view of someone dying from a (currently) incurable illness.

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.

another possibility is you wake up, disembodied, in a jar and live an eternal life of torment.

I hope if civilisation has got to the point of reviving the long dead that they'd have better uses for the revived than tormenting them.

For the downvoters: I think pron is referring tongue-and-cheek to Futurama, not a literal torture. :)

It seems strange to me to place him into "cold storage" after he was completely ravaged by ALS and had died. Wouldn't there be more hope for a recovery if he had been placed into a frozen state before his physical form had died? No doubt a dicey area of law but surely a treatment for ALS will be reached for those still living before we discover a treatment of ALS for those who are already terminal.

The hardest part of that equation still remains revival from the cryo-preserved state, not treating the ALS.

> I guess one can argue it is a good thing about cryonics, less mourning, more hope.

Not more so than in some other religions with their own versions of an afterlife. It all depends on your faith.

Cryonics is the opposite of religious faith in an afterlife, actually. It only makes sense with strict physicalism. If your self is neural state (structural and chemical but not electrical), and the state is preserved, then your life is on pause. That's almost a truism.

Well Cryonics is one of the few where the afterlife is back here with the rest of us. There was an interesting story where these people were revived in the future but were basically welfare cases without any of the modern implants and conveniences and no money or credit to get them they were unemployable. Then there is Woody Allen's "Sleeper" :-)

There's also a fun Star Trek TNG about the crew finding a spaceship with three cryogenically preserved people from the 1990s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Neutral_Zone_(Star_Trek:_Th...

you might be thinking of the Transmetropolitan issue "Another Cold Morning"


Not that exact source but the same theme. Kind of sobering. A friend of mine is an Alcor member and totally ready to be frozen if he can't upload his mind into the Internet first.

> Well Cryonics is one of the few where the afterlife is back here with the rest of us.

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...

I find it really annoying when people compare cryopreservation to religious belief in an afterlife.

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.

I think they're superficially different, and continuing the eating disorder analogy, consider this anecdote. in the middle ages, monks and nuns used to torment themselves in many ways. While men used various inventive self-corporal-punishment techniques, women mostly employed one: starvation. It was their fight against their earthly body, which they tried to minimize as possible. So was that an eating disorder? Absolutely! It's just that today, instead of reducing your earthly body to become more spiritual, women (mostly) have other excuses for the same practice, namely modern standards of beauty. When a sociologist or anthropologist encounters something like that, the assumption is that a deep underlying human psychological need uses contemporary ideas and beliefs to find justification. When it was "known" that superhuman deities rule the world, the afterlife was their domain; now, when science rules, ideas from science fiction explain those (currently?) superhuman abilities and the after-life they bring. So the same deep cause is expressed using contemporary ideas.

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 find it interesting that cryonics and the singularity are both 'modern' religions with that are vary similar in tone to many past religions. They both seems reasonable on the surface, but don't really work if you dig down into the details. Much like all that new age QM BS uses a few of the right words without much substance.

I think it's exactly the other way around. Cryonics/singularity is only similar to religion on the surface, but if you dig down into the details, you realize that there's no element of faith, only reasonable extrapolation of technological trends and a hedge against progress.

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.

We already use cryopreservation for sperm and revive them so on the surface it seems reasonable. The issue is it's not black magic we know freezing does not prevent decay it just greatly slows it down. Which presents a fundamental flaw as the dificulty in reviving someone keeps increasing over time.

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.

> you realize that there's no element of faith, only reasonable extrapolation of technological trends and a hedge against progress.

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[1].

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?

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager

> BTW, are cryonics and singularity part of the same mythology?

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.

> but don't really work if you dig down into the details.

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

There's a false dichotomy here. It is possible for religions to be true, and for an afterlife to exist at the same time that the possibility of revival after cryopreservation exists.

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.

> 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 )

Cryopreservation works for sperm which have been revived after 21 years, which IMO is positive evidence.

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.

> Cryopreservation is not based on faith, it's based on optimism.

So is religion, when you get down to it. But the optimism comes from belief in an unknowable deity rather than in future science.

There's a difference between a "belief in an unknowable deity" and extrapolating current scientifical problems and believing in technologies that are known to work. Molecular nanotech, which seems to be the holy grail for restoring cryopreserved patients, is something that is known to work (it's called "life"), and the only missing link is that we don't have much control over it yet. Unless you assume life is magic and information theory doesn't work with brains, there's a solid case for cryopreservation.

Your logic is unsound. There is a huge difference between seeing that something is possible in principle and "a solid case", one that merits spending vast sums of money on. That difference is known in religious studies as "a leap of faith".

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.

Sure, those are all valid concerns, but all of them are within the realm of possibility. We don't know if we'll achieve the technology, but we know we can in principle. We don't know if future people will care about reviving us, or that we'd even want to live in that future, but it is possible.

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.

>fully scientific, supernatural-free bet

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!

> I think the word you wanted was to say "fully materialistic, supernatural-free bet".

Yes. That's exactly what I wanted to say. Thanks! English is my second language, I sometimes lack vocabulary.

I completely reject your premise of certainty, but won't repeat what I've said here (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8240354) except to reiterate the following:

> ... 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.

> I see people spending money for a chance at an afterlife they have absolutely no proof of.

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.

> There's a huge qualitative difference between this and believing in God.

Don't confuse God with religion. A lack of deities does not make this not a religion (see nontheistic religions[1]). 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.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nontheistic_religions

> one that merits spending vast sums of money on.

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.

I don't think cryopreservation is like a religion; I've proven that's the case (albeit a religion without a personal deity, but there are others like that, I think). You're simply claiming that cryonics is a true religion, which might well be the case. In any event, I don't see spending money on alleviating the fear of death as wasteful by any means. That's how we spend most of our money anyway.

I accept that there is evidence that cryonics may become viable for human subjects in the future.

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.

It's a bet against future technology. How it differs from religion is that a/ we know that required technology is possible, b/ we are pretty confident that current cryopreservation methods are good enough for the required technology to be able to reverse the process, and c/ we make a bet that humanity will reach the point a/. Note that we are sure it can be done, we only don't know if it will be.

> Note that we are sure it can be done

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[1]).

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_Lazarus

Why are you so adamant to dismiss cryogenics and call it a religion? Should we just throw in the towel and stop researching it? Do you claim that everyone betting on new technologies are religious?

> Why are you so adamant to dismiss cryogenics and call it a religion?

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.

>No. I might buy stocks in a company making a more efficient microwave oven (shit, I'm betting on my own actual startup).

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.

It's not incomparable in a mathematical sense, but the probability of any known religion being correct is not remotely on the same scale of reviving a suspended human mind.

Along the lines: http://lesswrong.com/lw/ml/but_theres_still_a_chance_right/

> reviving a suspended human mind

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).

> That's not what's being debated. We're debating reviving with a yet unknown technique a human mind frozen with a particular one.

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.

> We know one possible technique that will work.

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.

> so from the fact life exists you deduce that we'll be able to replicate it with "nanotech"?

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.

Can you please try to control the weather first? Because we know from observation that that's just molecules pushing each other around, and it's a lot less complicated then life, so it should be easier to control, right? (only -- intractability)

No, it's actually more complicated. Biological machinery doesn't push molecules at random. Sure it's a lot to work out, but we've been doing it for the last 100 years with a lot of success. Google up some things we can make bacteria do nowdays.

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 [0] kindly explains.

[0] - http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/C5c.html

> the primary obstacle to controlling the weather is ... the power requirements

.. and the intractability of the weather

There's no intractability here, with enough power you could just push the air around any way you like. Weather is transforming energy in a very, very complex set of feedback loops, but you could override it completely with even more energy. You can throw paper balls at a cat to try and get it to move somewhere, or you can just grab it and put it where you want it to be (and then catch it again, because it will most definitely try to escape).

> with enough power you could just push the air around any way you like

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.

Also, the inefficiency of ex: wind turbines would add a lot of energy which would be counter productive. You might be able to control the weather by blocking out the sun and then selectively lighting some areas over others. But that's not really controlling weather so much as setting the temperature on an AC.

You don't need tractor beams, you just need blowdryers the size of Texas. Hence, it's a power problem.

Like this? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrafugia_Transition

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.

Let me make myself clear: I am not debating the possibility that revival could one day turn from the science-fiction it is now into a real technology. I am pointing out the leaps of faith people take to translate that reasonable scientific conjecture into actual life (or death) choices. Thinking about whether there is a god or isn't -- and trying to learn the truth -- makes you a philosopher; it is changing your behavior based on the assumption god exists and other presumptions about Her that makes you religious.

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.

Do you agree then that all those non-technological assumptions can be included in one's utility calculations and that people can give different estimates to how friendly the future would look like? Or do you believe the probability of a bad future is so big, that betting on benevolent world is a leap or faith?

> Do you agree then that all those non-technological assumptions can be included in one's utility calculations...

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?)

I find your last sentence puzzling.

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.)

Exactly. The reason we don't have flying cars is not lack of technology, it is the economics. For the very same reason we don't have Moon bases yet. We could do this if we wanted, but there's not enough demand right now for it to happen.

I just want to clarify here, I'm not religious at all.

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.

I'll grant you that. "The state of mind and emotional investment" is indeed similar, and it is a rationality risk, because people may (and do) transplant religious memes to reasoning about this. Same with the Singularity, or even if you dive a bit into game theory and economics you might realize that the possible solutions to coordination problems start to look eerily similar to what Jehovah's Witnesses teach about how God wants humanity to work (honestly, I've been loosing some sleep over this myself). It's a danger, but it doesn't make cryonics religion.

Interesting -- yes; surprising -- not at all. After all, religions (whether true or not (there's only one true religion but I'm not going to tell you what it is)) serve the same deep human psychological needs. What I find curious about most versions of an afterlife is this: they all describe life without death, and some (including singularity) describe a pure spiritual (non-corporal) existence. Each of these things on its own -- let alone together -- makes that existence in the afterlife distinctly non human. Whatever we're reborn as, it's no longer human, but somehow it's not only us, but us as we'd want to exist. Note how religions that believe in reincarnation are different in that respect: they promise a constant re-birth but always in (at least hopefully) human form.

In 2009, he described his experience with ALS in a poignant post titled "Dying Outside": http://lesswrong.com/lw/1ab/dying_outside/ . I'm very sad to see him go.

Hal was one year ahead of me, and the next dorm room over at Caltech. Hal was scary smart - but you had to get to know him for a while before you'd find that out. He was completely unpretentious, just a regular guy.

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.

Hal Finney was one of the best people on the cypherpunks list -- wrote frequently, great developer, involved in some of the most interesting products of the past 30 years. He was also remarkably friendly and civil, even more amazing in a place like the cypherpunks list. A really great person, and will be missed. (but hopefully only for a few decades until the reverse-cryopreservation thing is worked out...)

Interesting that someone would choose to be cryopreserved somewhere where there's no legal assisted suicide. Wouldn't your chances of being successfully revived improve if you got cryopreserved while still alive?

The cost of this would have been much greater, and present organizations are not really set up to transport people already cryopreserved, so doing it ad hoc would be especially expensive. Transport when it does happen tends to be a packaged in dry ice type of deal, with final procedures happening on site on arrival, potentially a day or two later in the case of long distances. Alcor recommends that those who can predict their end of life date with any accuracy move to be close to their HQ. A good cryopreservation, all other factors being equal, is all about time to fully vitrified for important tissues. Regulation makes that enormously difficult on one hand, but transport is also a real logistics hurdle.

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.

Active shutdown is certainly preferable, but to the best of my knowledge is only legal in Switzerland.

I wonder how long until a cryopreservation startup sets up an office on a cruise ship or some other place so they can offer active shutdown to their customers.

A ship is subject to the laws and regulations of the country in which it is registered, even when it is not operating in that country's waters.

I wonder how long until a cryopreservation startup goes bankrupt and all its customers are 'killed'. Being famous provides some insurance against this I suppose.

There's been failed cryopreservation businesses before, I think, with exactly this problem.

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.

More than just Switzerland. From the Wikipedia euthanasia page:

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.


It is amazing that no cryonics company seems to have investigated this possibility seriously. Well, the cryonics itself seems to be really under-developed, as well.

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.

That's not called 'active shutdown', that's called murder. Unless you're very ill then it is called euthanasia. Why invent new words when we have perfectly serviceable ones?

If we're going to quibble about terminology, I'd point out that "assisted suicide" would come a lot closer than "murder" to describe that situation.

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.

If you kill someone after they paid you a lot of money to preserve your corpse the courts might not agree with the assisted suicide bit if your body was still functional. They'd more than likely call it murder too.

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.

At one point, a court might have ruled that your usage of a cigarette lighter to be witchcraft summoning fire demons.

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.

Words have meaning. When we hit the edge of technology those meanings tends to be obscure or wrong and so we need a new word.

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.

> 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.

Until someone is revived we can consider it final.

Well, the whole idea of cryopreservation is that it's a hedge against the progress of technology. One can't be sure we'll ever get to the required level of development (in my belief, we will inevitably, if we won't destroy our civilization beforehand), but it's still better than Just Dying, and - as opposed to religious afterlife vision - it's clear that restoring a cryopreserved person is possible in principle.

In my view it is exactly equivalent to just dying until it has been proven otherwise.

> it's clear that restoring a cryopreserved person is possible in principle.

Is it?

To quote from Wikipedia, "A central premise of cryonics is that long-term memory, personality, and identity are stored in durable cell structures and patterns within the brain that do not require continuous brain activity to survive.[13] This premise is generally accepted in medicine; it is known that under certain conditions the brain can stop functioning and still later recover with retention of long-term memory."


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.

There are so many assumptions here it might as well be religion:

- 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.

Let's go line by line.

- that death does not alter the structure irrepairably

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)

- that the structure and information contained therein will not degrade over time

Possible. Manageable with technology. Testable. No magic required.

- that the freezing process itself won't damage the information

Possible. Subject to fixing by improved technology. Testable. No magic required.

- that the information will be recoverable

Possible by definition of solving previous two points. Subject to advanced enough technology, which cryopreserved people are hedging against. No magic required.

- that we will be able to make sense of such information

See above.

- that the information after successful restoration can be transplanted into some other medium

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.

- that this other medium will be able to 'execute' using that information

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).

- that the electrical component of brain activity once lost can be restored

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.

- and that all of the above will result in a restoration of consciousness

Unless you believe consciousness is magic, it's possible by definition of solving #2/#3.

- and that this consciousness will somehow be given the status of person (that's more of a social issue)

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?

'manageable with technology we do not have' -> magic.

> 'manageable with technology we do not have' -> magic.

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?

You are mistakenly reading 'technology we do not have' as 'things we have not done with technology we do have'.

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.

I think there's some basic assumption that we disagree on but haven't identified explicitly yet. In order to try and do that, I want to ask you: do you disagree with any of the following statements, and if yes, could you tell where and why?

- 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

(1) obviously, agree.

(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.

So if I understand you correctly - you're saying that we don't know today the constraints of that particular problem, so we can't make a good guess for the feasibility of (2) and (3). Therefore current culture around cryonics is vastly overstating the chance of success, to the point that it starts looking to you like a scam.

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.

You got it perfectly. At some point bets about what is possible in the future become meaningless and this is way past the ability of science to extrapolate what will one day be scientifically possible or declared to be impossible.

Thanks for the exchange, off to bed here (4:39 am...).

> 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).

> Why are people like you even on this website?

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.

Not if by "do not have" we mean "we know it exists and can work, but we haven't figured out how to control it yet". It's a bit similar to saying "we have this computer that we know can do this, but we haven't cracked the root password yet".

That is certainly one option. It is also the most pessimistic version, which is why a pro tech forum like HN is not likely to take it as the majority view.

Actually that would be called homicide. And why use other words? Because words are loaded with connotation that may not apply to the circumstance.

>That's not called 'active shutdown', that's called murder

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.

Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human, and generally this premeditated state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide (such as manslaughter).

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).

This is not the announcement of the death of someone.

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.

I get sad when people close to me go on long trips, even though I'm counting on seeing them in a few years. Even if the trip is a great thing for them. I can be happy about their trip, while being that I'm going to be deprived of their company.

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.

A reasonable definition of death is "loss of consciousness and vital functions in a way that is impossible to reverse". By that definition, Hal Finney might be dead now but nobody really knows for sure, because the reversibility of current cryopreservation techniques is unknown.

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.

I think it's perfectly fair to call someone whose head has just been cut off and frozen dead. If not there are going to be an awful lot of killers who froze their victims heads exonerated and those that pulled the plugs on the freezers will be in the docket. It's the world on its head.

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.

Why are you so intent on conflating legal definitions with the truth?

I'm curious--in these cryopreservation arrangements, what is done to incentivize future people to resurrect you? Anyone know?

There is a post on the front page right now http://www.gentweb.co.uk/wirerecorder.htm about re-constructing some old wire recordings just to listen to the past. Imagine the opportunity to bring the person themselves back, instead of just audio.

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.

You would only do it while it remained novel, though. When two or three people are cryopreserved, novelty is enough, but what about when thousands or millions are?

Then you do it out of a sense of duty to the past.

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.

If duty were enough, we wouldn't have wars or poverty, 'out of duty to our fellow human beings'. Why are people who are already dead more deserving of such 'duty'?

Um. You also stop poverty and wars. That is also your duty.

Um, so obviously duty doesn't stop poverty or wars.

> 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.

Trinkets also don't have agency. What if someone wouldn't want to be brought back to life?

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?

Depends - is there some magical event that means this is the only shot? Like, he's on a collision course with a sun and is going to impact in 4 hours, but we can remotely activate for those hours?

Otherwise, I think the proper response is "keep working on this technology until we've gotten that 4 hour window up to something useful."

The core assumption is that minds have an intrinsic value. Future civilizations who don't share that belief are unlikely to engage in resurrection. But as far as cost is concerned, there is no reason to think it'll be in any way costly, especially if it's in the form of whole-brain emulation.

Well, you make a contract and pay money to the company that cryopreserves you. They could screw you over after you die, but that would be bad for their reputation and they could be sued.

Well their reputation will only come into play once the first sucessful resucitations are shown (or shown possible), which is far into the future. This risk-reward disconnect is dangerous.

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.

Yeah - more specifically, it's a nonprofit whose mission statement includes the mission to eventually restore to health all its patients. So, if you believe that nonprofits are generally going to at least try to achieve the thing they were created for, it would be surprising if they didn't try.


Not to mention that people working at Alcor are also members and believers in cryonics. They wouldn't screw you over because they wouldn't want anyone screwing them over when it's their time.

Not sure cryo-preservation employees are all "believers."


The other side of the story:


(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.)

If there were no government or Friendly AGI doing it for everyone, I imagine it would chain backward through time: those still alive who are friends and family of the cryo-preserved would resurrect them. Then, those people would know older cryo-preserved people, and would resurrect them. (Unless, I suppose, the cost were exorbitant and the cryo-resurrected didn't have the means. But this is a future, post-death, probably post-singularity world; it'd probably be a society of abundance.)

A legally binding contract might do it. Or, there might be some fund that accrues interest over time to pay for the procedure. If neither of those options exist, then I suppose the first people to be revived would be in the name of science ("Let's do it just to prove that we can.") Then, I suppose anyone who's revived after that would be useful from a anthropological/historical perspective. Imagine having firsthand sources from different time periods.

A contract is only as good as your ability to enforce it. Who will be enforcing it on your behalf?

Of course. One possible source could be a family lawyer or descendants. I could imagine this being a viable method within 100 years, but beyond that, it might not be so reliable.

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?"

Well there is the old joke about the COBOL programmer who was cryogenically frozen: http://www.complang.tuwien.ac.at/alex/cobol.html

By the time we have the technology to revive cryopatients, that question will likely be "why not?".

Maybe reviving will be easy, but IMO the real hangup is power costs. Keeping someone in cryo has regular upkeep costs. That complicates matters a lot.

Liquid Nitrogen is one of the cheapest fluids on the planet. Dewars are refilled every week. If the supply of LN was cut, the LN on each dewar would take months to evaporate -- And the patients are stored upside-down, so the head is the last thing to reach thermal equilibrium.

There is no electricity involved.

A friend of mine who works for Alcor once converted somebody from full body to head only. They used a chain saw.

IIRC, that was in 1983, when three TransTime patients were transferred to Alcor thanks to donations. There's a very interesting article written about it: http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/postmortemexamination.html

They are poised to have tens of thousands of people on ice. The first few generations are recouping the R&D and opportunity costs, future customers can recoup the ongoing power demands of the facility and any expansion necessary to accommodate newer clients.

I think you pay for those upfront. Similar to how todays Nobel prize money is still payed from money grown from Nobel's assets at the time of his death.

This requires a growing economy.

> By the time we have the technology to revive cryopatients, that question will likely be "why not?".

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.

>Early applications of cryonics didn't take the tissue destruction of freezing into account. What other problems are being completely missed in the process?

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.

> 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.

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.

I'm an Alcor member. For me, it's a no-brainer. It might have a low probability of success. (Depends on your assumptions.) Regardless, it's a higher chance than if I were buried or cremated. Since epsilon > zero, I signed up.

Self-interest. In order to preserve the continued success of the Alcor company.

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.

Once we've defeated death, reviving people who were preserved is the next logical step after saving everyone currently alive. Saving everyone who was not cryopreserved might not be possible, but will also be worth a shot.

> Once we've defeated death, reviving people who were preserved is the next logical step after saving everyone currently alive

...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 [1]. 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.

[1] 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.

Once we've defeated death, the incentive will be to reduce the population sharply and strictly control reproduction. Adding new people from amongst the dead will be the last thing on anyone's minds.

Hey Hal, when you Google all of this and stumble across this old page I hope you find this note and get in touch for a drink.

I'd love to hear your story!

Google? Is Alcor selling cryopreservation of companies now?

I guess I meant it as a verb :)


If you haven't read his post "Bitcoin and me", now is a good time. https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=155054.0

Here's an interesting discussion results about near-term studies on inducing hypothermia was a way to save gun shot victims from brain death:

The article -- http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129623.000-gunshot-v...

HN discussion with some insightful commentary -- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7477801

I knew Hal back in the early days of remailing (94-96) where he ran several remailers and I had one nestled within the hidden confines of Indiana University (the gondolin remailer).

He will be missed.

Black bar anyone? I think he is very worthy of one.

Either way I just set my topcolor to 000000. Seems it doesn't take hex triplets.

Maybe an ice blue.

The thing I don't understand is how circulating cryoprotectant chemicals through the brain doesn't destroy the tissue. How could anything other than blood safely circulate through the brain?

As long as pressure, osmotic balance, pH, etc are in balance then it's not going to cause cellular trauma per se.

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)

Remyelination cell therapies for ALS are very much a viable work in progress today. They will exist within the next decade.


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.


Upon a quick read, none those are not particularly cause for optimism. By far the most important one is the organ vitrification (for the impact it could have on viable transplants) and it wasn't very promising at all.

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.

What you do need to consider is that, most likely, by the time anyone can conceivably revive those cryopreserved, the technology of the era is likely to be capable of genetic engineering and cloning to the degree where they might feasibly be able to just generate a new body for a patient to transplant the brain to. Or just do a detailed imaging of the brain, and transplant the memories. Or replace any parts of the brain damaged by the freezing procedure in the same way.

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.

Thanks Hal Finney. You've done some good in the world. Hope to see you alive again.

Ancillary to the sad news, for a fictional treatment of cryopreservation (circa 1993) -- one that I couldn't help think about as I read that email/release -- Gregory Benford's novel, Chiller, works through many of the thought-provoking implications. http://www.gregorybenford.com/product/chiller/

Halperin's The First Immortal is damned near a written infomercial for Alcor, but is still a pretty interesting book in its own right in terms of exploring various cryonics scenarios.

Edit: looks like it's available freely online: http://coins.ha.com/information/tfi.s

Bujold's Cryoburn may also be of interest: http://www.baenebooks.com/chapters/1439133948/1439133948.htm...

Attanasio's Solis also covers this topic without optimism; the protagonist's brain is used in a mining machine IIRC.

I'm surprised nobody has made the point that "death" is not a binary thing - it is a progression. If we consider a scale where "1" is alive (breathing, heart beating, higher brain functions working, etc) and "0" is when your brain has been unambiguously destroyed, we have a probability distribution of whether a person can be returned to "1".

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.

It's good you're raising this point. There's the concept of information-theoretic death [0] that is the "0" extreme you mentioned.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information-theoretic_death

Wikipedia's article on clinical death[0] seems to go into a lot of the boundaries involved and is worth a read. I have read about information-theoretic death before but forgotten the term. I first heard about Alcor quite along time ago (10-15 years), and have considered signing up, but haven't so far.

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[1].

0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_death 1. http://www.tomscott.com/life/

I didn't know Hal Finney, but condolences to his family.

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 just a commoditization. Religion will charge what they think they buyer will be able to afford, cryopreservation companies charge what they think it should cost to get the problem pushed beyond their own lifetimes.

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.

In terms of how it is marketed cryonics may be scammy by drastically overselling the chances of success, but I'd expect many people who sign up for it see it for what it is: an extremely long bet with money they don't have any further use for anyway.

Unless you have other things you care deeply about spending your money on, there's pretty much only upside.

Calling it a "scam" implies that, not only is cryonics hopeless, but that the cryonicists agree it is hopeless and are just lying to people for money. Do you have any evidence of that at all?

Cult leader, ponzi schemer or other conman believing his or her own bullshit does't make a difference. Victims are lead to believe something with no basis in science, reason, logic or reality for the purpose of personal or financial gain.

Being a scam doesn't require the buy in or belief of the scammer.

Plenty has been written on Alcor[0] in particular[1], there is an entire book[2] written by a former employee. The entire industry is dangerous, weird[3], and preys on the vulnerable.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcor_Life_Extension_Foundatio...

[1] http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/alcor-employee-makes-harsh-a...

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Frozen-Journey-World-Cryonics-Deceptio...

[3] http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/354/m...

Some neuroscientists and cryobiologists think that cryonics deserves a second look as a way to try to turn death from a permanent off-state into a temporary and reversible off-state by approaching the problem as a challenge in applied neuroscience. They have set up the Brain Preservation Foundation to raise money for incentive prizes to encourage scientists to push hard on the envelope of current and reachable brain preservation techniques:



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:


I can't prove there never was an elephant in this room either or that God does not exist.

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.

GP asked for evidence, not for proof. Your refutation is a generic argument you could use on anything. I can only assume you understand this, (judging from your generally high-quality comments on this site). So I'm curious as to your reasoning for such a poor response. Is it just that you disagree there's useful evidence for cryonics and don't want to write more in-depth comments?

How much more in-depth can it get, I think I've written enough in this thread already and it seems to me as though the belief in the might of science outstrips the ability to reason. Science gave us guns and computers, therefore it will give us resurrection.

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).

No, contradicting evidence would be quite admissible. For instance, showing that some major part of the structure of the brain decays immediately into noise would kill the idea of revival. As I understand, there's a bit of uncertainty, but generally, so far, it seems like it is in theory possible.

>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.

I think religion (and I include cryonics in that category for the purpose of this discussion) is far from being a scam as it most certainly provides immediate benefits that cannot be dismissed. I'm sure it makes people happy to pay a high price for effectively convincing themselves that their death is merely temporary, thus hopefully alleviating what may be a very burdensome dread. That money would otherwise be spent on alcohol, drugs or therapy, and may not be as effective.

A common element in scams is that they make promises they can't deliver on and relieve people of their funds.

But what if what you really need is not the promise to be delivered (which will be long in the future in any case) but it to be fully convincing. That is, you're paying for a convincing promise -- not for its fulfillment (then again, some would say that all scams work like that)

Yes, I understand what you're driving at. But wishes, horses, beggars. This is a scam, pure and simple in the long term with decreasing chances of probability either one of the following things will happen: people will stop believing this and rationality will reassert itself, people will continue to believe until we run out of resources to preserve all the vitrified corpses (it's essentially a graveyard without the benefit of decomposition and filling up billions of dewar flasks with liquid nitrogen is not the most rewarding job) and then it will be time for some tough decisions on how to clean up the mess, the last person on the planet will attempt to cryopreserve themselves in the faint hope that maybe one day in the distant future and hopefully before the sun runs out to power the fully automated planetwide cryogenics facility aliens will discover planet earth and will revive us all or miraculously someone will figure out how to restore all the preserved people in some substrate or give them new bodies (never mind the details here) and will successfully deal with all the social upheaval that will cause (luxury problems).

If the voting in this thread is any indication there are a lot of believers.

> people will stop believing this and rationality will reassert itself

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.

At least - unlike Scientology - it only messes with their brains after they die.

I think it's nuts, but I don't know if you can call it a scam when apparently sophisticated people are demanding it.

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.

Sad, and in a way beautiful (I hope that's not an inappropriate word to use), at the same time. This man lived his life to the full, and faced the end of his life (as he has known it), with the courage of an adventurer.

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.

Seeing people going all "cryonics is another religion" saddens me in a way. It's a tragedy that we've learned to accept mortality to the point that as a species we're not only unwilling to try and fix it, we're calling those few who try nutcases.

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?

Any time cryogenics comes up I'm reminded of this story from This American Life:


In this post[1] Hal Finney writes about ALS and his involvement with bitcoin. Recommended read: [1]: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=155054.0

Funny how the mind plays tricks I read that as cryptopreservation.

Maybe he has been uploaded into the Bitcoin blockchain to be preserved by virtue of the tens of thousands of independent copies maintained all over the world. On a more serious note, I expect to see tributes to Hal embedded in the blockchain.

I'm sad for him that we haven't progressed far enough to treat him. I'm glad he has a shot in the future.

Oh, now I understand mummies.

Hal Finney (May 4, 1956 – August 28, 2014 [probably])

Hal Finney's ALS Ice Bucket challenge

So rare to hear about this kind of thing so "present tense"

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!

I didn't know who he was:


"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 the topic of cryopreservation, to borrow a question from Scott Aaronson [1]: have you signed up for cryopreservation? And regardless of your answer, how do you defend yourself against the charge of irrationality?

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.

[1]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=455

>if you can afford it, the upside is potentially far more beneficial than the downside

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.

How does the math work for paying let's say 60 years times <$100 and cashing out $150k at the end?

I know other folks active on HN actually work in the insurance industry, and hopefully they'll jump in. But there are different types of life insurance. For most HN readers term life insurance (pay $100 a year for 10 years for $150K in death benefits, and then the policy ends) makes the most sense. There's no "cash out" at the end...

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.

I assume that your rates go up as you age and get more likely to die. In your 20's it's only covering improbably illnesses and events like car accidents. But nobody's going to extend those same rates to you once you're 85 and already had two heart attacks.

What if some improbable event happened like a major Earthquake or war or something that unexpectedly kills a lot of young people. Would the insurance company be able to pay out?

Who insures the insurers? The reinsurers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinsurance

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...

Why crazy? There's good supporting evidence for sufficient preservation of fine neural structure via vitrification. The oldest existing cryopreservation organizations have lasted 40 years since their formation as professional groups. There is no known obstacle in the laws of physics to developing molecular nanotechnology capable of restoring a cryopreserved individual: it's just a technology challenge in organization at the nanoscale, related to well-funded and widespread current work in cell science and nanotechnology.

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).

Who's to say that the choice to survive in the distant future is desirable?

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.

> Who's to say that the choice to survive in the distant future is desirable?

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.

I would personally expect "everyone you know and love" to be the reason any of us schmucks have a hope of being revived.

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.

> 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.

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.

We are already on the cusp of rapid automation of our current economy. Traditional models of how labor is distributed or utilized will, and have been, going out the window for quite some time.

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.

The next step in your calculation is to ask, "What are the constraints on production in a society that has ultra-high automation but no artificial intelligence?"

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.

How are the purposes unfortunate? I see the connection between the cryopreserved often being smart folk, so that in the future at some point it might be adventageous to revive them for their intellect, but...

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.

It'd be fantastic if an industrialized nation devoted 5 or 10% of its GDP to revival. We've been suffering dearly from a lack of aggregate demand for nigh on a decade now. A massive medical bubble would hardly be worse than a housing bubble for backfilling demand.

>> Who's to say that the choice to survive in the distant future is desirable?

>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...

>survival is not an obviously rational choice.

It's a reversible choice though.

Yeah, future may very well be worse than death, but I personally estimate the expected utility of a future life to be more than zero.

On that note, this (http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_Lazarus) is worth watching if you can get hold of it. It appears to be on 4od for uk viewers.

Well... Unless something prohibits the subject from self-terminating, it still beats death.

Would you mind sharing some of that evidence? I certainly understand the desire to be cryopreserved, but given the lack of proof of concept (I'd love to be contradicted here!) and how little we know about the brain, it seems like a desperate Hail Mary marketed to wealthy tech folks as sound science.

Electron micrography of cryopreserved tissue shows pretty good preservation[0][1], and since every aspect of the mind is dependent on physical properties of the brain, the possibility of revival exists as long as structure and context are preserved in the brain.

>marketed to wealthy tech folks

Cryonics has historically been a middle class thing.

[0] http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/micrographs.html

[1] http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/braincryopreservation1.htm...

Electron microscopy of a ram chip shows no difference at all between one that contains a bunch of data and one that is empty.

Fortunately, brains don't work like RAM chips and there is apparently evidence that important data is saved in molecular structure, not in electric charges.


Unfortunately though, data is not all there is, and a good part of what our brains do is electrical in nature.

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.


Thankfully the fact that people have come back just fine from minutes of total EEG silence (Often involving hypothermia) shows that the immediate state of the brain does not matter nearly as much as its structure.

That's not quite the same as freezing your brain for an indeterminate amount of time (decades? centuries? millennia? forever?) and expecting a spontaneous reboot after transferring and read-out + a whole bunch of other unknowns.

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.

>(decades? centuries? millennia? forever?)

All equivalent.

>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.

I would argue that cryopreservation is the belief in the increasing rate of scientific progress (which can measured and proven), and that it is far more rational than the tens of millions of people who attend church every Saturday or Sunday in search of salvation for their soul.

As /u/dublinben mentioned, I'd give my entire wealth to have the opportunity to live in the future.

It's not clear you understand why people go to church and what it's benefits are.

> I would argue that cryopreservation is the belief in the increasing rate of scientific progress (which can measured and proven)

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.

Since you specifically mentioned kidneys:

>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.[0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Fahy

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15094092

The abstract makes no mention of -130°C, but digging into the actual paper (can be read here: www.21cm.com/pdfs/cryopreservation_advances.pdf), it does mention: "Fig. 13. Confinement of ice formation to the pelvis of a rabbit kidney that was perfused with M22 at 22°C for 25min, bisected, and allowed to passively cool in air in a CryoStar freezer at about 130°C... The vast majority of the kidney appears to have vitrified and is indistinguishable from the appearance of the kidney prior to cooling." (Emphasis mine)

That's exciting, thank you for the correction. (Happen to know whether they've done any larger organs?)

> 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).

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.

On the other hand, you'll be living in the future, and probably unemployable since things will have evolved so much.

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.

A huge portion of the workforce will be unemployable in our lifetimes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pq-S557XQU

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.

Yes, this video is great, I saw it too

I think it'd be less of a drag than being nonexistent.

Maybe, but you won't mind not existing. You may mind it now, surely, but not at that time.

Of course, I want to mind :P

Yeah but if it is that bad the you could just kill yourself. The potential upside seems to outweigh the finality of death.

I signed up about five years ago. I outlined my reasons in a blog post[1].

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.

1. http://geoff.greer.fm/2010/07/09/insert-frozen-food-joke-her...

On the other hand, I think most inquisitive folks and Sci-Fi nerds would pay anything to travel into the future (beyond a single lifetime).

Sci-Fi nerds who have read Niven's "known space" stories, particular those in the Gil the ARM timeframe, might not be so interested in the corpsicle method of travel into the future.

If conciseness is in fact just an internal feeling/feedback loop, the revived you will feel as though this was achieved, but is the benefit to your present mind-state somewhat lost?

Assuming consciousness is an internal state (nothing mystical or metaphysical), isn't this the same thing as a long nap? Ie, is the fact that the you after a nap feels like a continuation of yourself of no benefit to the you before a nap?

Of course, the analogy isn't perfect since brain activity does not cease during a nap, but consciousness does.

People have come back from minutes of electrocerebral silence with intact memories and personalities.

You can say that for any attempt to make plans for the future.

If you extrapolate this notion, which is something I have done and find an interesting theory, then consciousness is really a moment's event, like a processor's tick. Every tick you sense things, retrieve things from memory, and serialize a bunch more things into memory (including the working memory of say, a conscious movement you're doing right now.) The next moment another "you" comes along and lives that moment. To me it's the only point at which I can draw this line of "when is it no longer you?", as in being cloned with an exact brain snapshot, or sleeping at night, etc. You are only ever you for that single moment, so what difference is there between the revived you and the you a second from now? It's also a convenient belief in that I feel free to do teleportation when that becomes available (pulverize your body here, recreate your snapshot there.)

Sure, but you can say the same about going to bed at night with the intent of waking up in the morning.

It's interesting that the comments by cell biologist Len Ornstein in that thread completely omit any mention of high osmolality vitrification, which is what is practiced in cryonics. I get the impression he is not aware of Fahy's approach at all. It probably is not used in his specialty.

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.

I should also mention that the wood frog is really more a counterexample of vitrification. It forms ice (which they are adapted to tolerate, unlike us), but the interior or the cells remains a slightly more concentrated liquid. It is nowhere near the concentrations used in cryonics, which are high enough to prevent freezing entirely (50-80%). A wood frog cannot survive any temperature below around -5 C.

Considering death is inevitable, cryopreservation just before you cease to function is, quite possibly, the best rational choice you can make. Of course, it's a bit selfish, as the resources you commit to it are substantial and your offspring could benefit from them.

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.

You may wake up a stunted and brain-damaged version of yourself that is aware enough to know what it is missing.

Then get fixed. If someone can restore a vitrified brain into a functioning state, they can probably restore it to full function.

Exactly my thoughts.

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