Larry King: I want to be frozen

post by Kevin · 2011-12-05T02:11:11.400Z · score: 9 (12 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 17 comments

I know celebrities cryocrastinate just as much as anyone else, but King seems like the kind of guy to go through with it.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/02/showbiz/larry-king-i-want-to-be-frozen/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

17 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by gwern · 2011-12-05T02:26:58.893Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Well, feel free to register your optimism on PredictionBook, that's what it is there for: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/4737

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-12-05T02:22:50.821Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Good for Larry King! I hope he makes arrangements soon, and that it will bring good publicity to cryonics.

comment by Arran_Stirton · 2011-12-05T03:56:10.001Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(I'm glad someone’s posted something about cryonics; not having enough karma points I can't make a post myself unfortunately. I apologise for the slight digression)

It seems that paying to be cryonic preserved is a rather bad investment given the current capabilities of preservation technology. The extent of damage brain and the lack of any evidence to show that it can indeed be repaired and rebooted (even if only in theory) rules it out as a valid method of self-preservation (as explained by these people -> http://hdl.handle.net/1800/6115).

However donating money to research aimed at improving cryopreservation techniques and developing the science to also revive patients is worthwhile. It's a simple matter of optimization. On the one hand you can have a large number of people pay a large amount of money toward the imperfect preservation of what amounts to an approximation of their brain structure as opposed to a large number of people contributing a large amount of money toward developing an adequate method for preserving/reviving a much more exact approximation of their brain. Moreover the added contributions will reduce the time it takes for technology to reach this level, increasing massively the number of people who will have access to a decent method of self-preservation prior to their death.

Though there is some point to only a few people going for cryonic preservation. Doubtlessly their brains will prove invaluable to generations in the distant future in understanding the psychology of our times and provide them with information about our times that you wouldn't find in newspaper archives. However (ideally)these people would be persons of notable intellect, experience or creativity. (Chances are that brain preserved with current methods will able to be scanned and emulated far before it can be repaired/restarted. Hence it is less likely that they'll be revived by our descendants.)

All in all I figure Larry King should be investing in cryonic preservation research, not in being cryonically preserved (yet).

comment by MatthewBaker · 2011-12-05T04:40:55.640Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How do you know that in the future we wont be able to use advanced computer modeling to predict many parts of a brains and bodies function based on what we have frozen and correct it with advanced nanotechnology?

comment by Arran_Stirton · 2011-12-05T04:56:32.877Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't. However I do argue that we're far more likely to emulate a brain or end up discarding cryopreserved brains (it's already happened once, a company went bust and the bodies in their care thawed) before we get to the point where we have the technological and theoretical capabilities to do as you suggested.

I suspect that if we have that capability all humans (that could afford it) would also become immortal.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-12-06T15:12:02.259Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How do you know that in the future we wont be able to use advanced computer modeling to predict many parts of a brains and bodies function based on what we have frozen and correct it with advanced nanotechnology?

That does seem to rather violate the principle of information decay. It is not possible to derive exact information from a decayed state, for the same reason that you cannot determine which exact formula has a derivative of "3".

comment by i77 · 2011-12-07T18:07:38.087Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It is not possible to derive exact information from a decayed state

That's true in the most general situation, when there is no prior information available. But a brain is not a random chunk of matter, it's a highly particular one, with certain patterns and regularities. So it's not implausible that a superintelligence could restore even a moderately damaged brain.

For a real example, think of image restoration of natural scenes. A photograph is not a random matrix of pixels, it belongs to a very small subset of all possible images, and that knowledge allows seemingly "impossible" tasks of focusing, enhacement and all that.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-12-07T18:17:12.544Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So it's not implausible that a superintelligence could restore even a moderately damaged brain.

Intelligence is not magic. Information that no longer exists cannot be reinvented with fidelity.

For a real example, think of image restoration of natural scenes. A photograph is not a random matrix of pixels, it belongs to a very small subset of all possible images, and that knowledge allows seemingly "impossible" tasks of focusing, enhacement and all that.

And yet still-shots are limited to their original resolution; anything further is artistic rendering and not a valid reconstruction of the original. It is possible to "enhance" the resolution of a still-shot of a video feed of a person's face. It is not possible to "enhance" the resolution of a single still-shot of a person's face.

Memories are tricky things. We do not, now, know exactly how high the fidelity needs to be to sustain a person's "actual" psyche. If information-theoretically significant portions are missing, no amount of genius can resolve that.

For the same reason you cannot extrapolate from the number 3 to the function f(x) whose derivative of x is "3".

comment by MatthewBaker · 2011-12-08T01:54:37.635Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can integrate it with initial conditions though and just like we can use our prefrontal cortex to predict the probable initial conditions of events(albeit inaccurately occasionally), a powerful computer may be able to predict our complex mental pathways based on known past events with high fidelity. I'm not saying that you wont need the initial conditions to integrate the function, I just think AGI would have less trouble with it than you assume. I think you have a good point about the principle though and I will take informative decay into my perceived utility of cryonics in the future.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-12-08T02:39:34.521Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

a powerful computer may be able to predict our complex mental pathways based on known past events with high fidelity

"known past events" -- unless those past events are full-brain scans of the past, then all you're going to get is a reduction of the scope of the configuration space and not the exact function.

"A powerful computer" != "magic". No matter how smart you are, fifteen tons of mass moving at five thousand miles per second will still contain the same amount of kinetic energy. No amount of cleverness can extract information that has been decayed.

This is information-theoretically proven.

I just think AGI would have less trouble with it than you assume.

The question at hand is, can a personality be reconstructed from partial data by a sufficiently clever process? We have analogues to this question. Compress and decompress the same mp3 file a hundred times or so. Then see if you can find an algorithm that can restore the lost fidelity.

According to information-theoretic physics, information once lost cannot be retrieved. It's simply gone. New information can be derived (at the cost of destroying more information than it creates; this is entropy) -- but that will always be approximations. This then leads to a second, corollary question which you seem to be asserting is "where the magic happens": can a sufficiently-clever process extrapolate from historical records a personality which is of sufficient fidelity to qualify as that same person?

I've had this conversation before, and I ended it then as I will end my contribution now: how could that result be shown to be the proper one? I do not want someone who is "like me" to be uploaded. I want me to be uploaded. That means an information-theoretically-complete scan of me. Not approximations. Yes, this is not a black-and-white picture. Measurements are always approximations. The point is, without those measurements in a complete state, there isn't a way to determine what those measurements "ought to be".

comment by Arran_Stirton · 2011-12-19T11:10:58.621Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just thought I'd say: excellently well put.

comment by khafra · 2011-12-05T18:02:38.424Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

However donating money to research aimed at improving cryopreservation techniques and developing the science to also revive patients is worthwhile.

If you sign up with Alcor, your money goes both to cryopreserve your self with the current best technology, and to develop better technologies--although I'm not aware of any significant advances since vitrification replaced freezing.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-12-06T15:10:29.434Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

although I'm not aware of any significant advances since vitrification replaced freezing.

Just a couple of months ago I asked Max More about that very topic. He didn't have much that was very informative to say. I also asked that question back during the time when Regina Pancake was their responst-team coordinator, to a similar response. I know Hugh, Mike, et al, are "working on it" -- but I haven't heard much convincing there. Their current attitude seems to be that the toxicity problems of the vitrification agents are a non-issue in the face of potential destructive-scanning uploading solutions.

I, for one, am not sufficiently convinced that their preservation strategy ensures that as an option, to the degree necessary to actually preserve my me-ness as I today know it. So I haven't signed up.

comment by lsparrish · 2011-12-06T04:42:29.963Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with your point that a person who does not trust presently available cryonics should still invest in research. However, it does not necessarily follow that the optimal expenditure of a given dollar from any source is on research. A person may have a high enough estimate of the probability of it working adequately for it to be more worthwhile to purchase an existing cryopreservation than donate to research.

Or they may think research has hit a point of diminishing returns which cannot progress further until mature nanotech is available. Alternately, cryonics could be rendered very inexpensive (by economies of scale, e.g.) such that more value is gained by each additional cryopreservation than by equivalent donations to research. A philanthropist such as Larry King might, after all, consider offering money to cover the freezing of millions of low-income individuals in high population countries. The simple act of doing it millions of times under a variety of conditions could cause drastic increases in quality.

Furthermore, note that research itself can be supported by sale of the results rather than donation alone -- e.g. from what I understand cryonics is a large part of the market for the M-22 cryoprotectant, something which represents a large portion of the cost of an Alcor cryopreservation. If it is simply easier to get people to spend money on cryopreservations than research, it could be a more effective source of revenue. If there is competition amongst cryonics companies (or strong internal pressure) to provide the best possible service, a thriving market for cryonics could be the quickest route to developing an adequate product.

Another thing to take into account is that each additional cryopreservation means putting more money into a trust fund to keep things going, and to eventually fund reanimation research. Since reanimation research will tend to involve brain repairs, this effectively represents a delayed, interest-compounded donation towards brain trauma reversal science -- perhaps scanning will be what works, but we can expect other areas such as direct repair strategies to be investigated. So there is a certain amount of additional value that has nothing to do with cryonics itself. (Economists may be able to comment on the value of long-term trusts, which I understand to be stabilizing for the economy as it concentrates money in low-risk ventures.)

The only examples of cryonics companies having to let their patients thaw that I am aware of involved the flawed pay-as-you-go business model, which is no longer employed by cryonics companies. Instead of collecting monthly payments from relatives as the practice was, advance payment of a certain minimum is required, which is placed in a trust fund to earn interest over time and thus cover the patient's expenses indefinitely. No cryonics company using this business model has yet failed catastrophically.

comment by Arran_Stirton · 2011-12-19T09:58:16.925Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for taking the time to give me such a well thought out response. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply in turn. I'd be interested in hearing your further response.

Actually my point was not a person who does not trust presently available cryonics should still invest in research, but that cryonic preservation itself is not trustworthy at the current time and therefore investing in research is a better alternative. Though if someone does have a high enough estimation of the likelihood of it working adequately I'd love to find out why so I can update my own estimation.

You're right though, they may think the research has reached a point of diminishing returns untill the advent of mature nanotechnology but that begs the question why not invest in nanotechnology instead?

Or even better invest in research into the preservation of individual organs? Given the high need for organ transplants, the ability to put them "on ice" would provide invaluable in the saving of lives. Moreover in the increased number of transplants would lead to an increase in income for hospitals and pharmaceutical companies selling anti-rejection drugs. Given that the most likely scenario is that we'll be able to successfully preserve and revive kidneys before we can do the same for (as an example) lungs that money would end up being re-invested in organ preservation research.

This would have a higher expected return as a thriving market in organ-transplant surgery and immunosuppressant’s is much more likely than developing a thriving market in whole body cryopreservation. There are already more people added to the national waiting list for organ donations each month (about 4,100) , four times that of Alcor's membership over four decades (ref: http://www.alcor.org/AboutAlcor/membershipstats.html).

And while the money of those buying cryopreservation may be going into a trust fund, the money will only be useful for regenerative research in the long term. Meanwhile the average cost of immunosuppressant’s is about $1000 per month (ref: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2592494/) for the lifetime of the patient, that along with the larger market results in a far greater spending power for research.

If Larry King were to pay for the freezing of millions of low-income individuals in high population countries I'm not sure it could be considered a philanthropic act. Cryonic preservation is for all intents and purposes still experimental, in many ways equivalent to a drug trial and as such should be governed by the same guidelines. Namely the Nuremberg code (http://ohsr.od.nih.gov/guidelines/nuremberg.html), and the freezing of low-income individuals is highly likely to violate the first clause of that code. As such individuals are highly likely to have little or no education and as a result won't have enough information/training to make an informed decision, and the amount of education required would bump up the cost per individual considerably.

While I don't agree with religious beliefs about burial (or cremation for that matter) it's a common belief held that burial must be done is a specific way in order to gain entry to heaven (holy ground, intact body etc.) It would be unfair to portray as a sure fire way of preserving their life when if it were to fail, their burial wishes wouldn't be met.

I can't help but agree with you on the matter of cryonics companies having a far more stable business model than the previous pay-as-you-go sort. However it seems to me at least this arrangement is far from indefinite, the longer you wait the more likely something like WW3 is to break out. In fact the longer the wait the less likely cryogenics companies are to honour their contract (200 years from now, not many people will care that much about popsicles from the early 21st century. In 300 years even less people will, the longer it takes the easier it will be to justify the disposal of cryogenically preserved individuals, more so if during that time no major advancements are made.)

comment by DanielLC · 2011-12-05T04:14:02.036Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you talking about the what to do to get cryopreserved, or just to do good in general?

Your donations alone aren't going to advance cryopreservation by much. Advancing it by half a second would save a life, but it's not going to be your life.

comment by Arran_Stirton · 2011-12-05T04:29:40.822Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To do good in general, and possibly get cryopreserved depending on the outcome and time the research will take.

It's true, my donations alone wouldn't advance cryopreservation much. It's also true that the two pounds a month I pay to the NSPCC doesn't do much to prevent cruelty to children, but I'm not the only contributor. Providing enough people contribute to the cause cryopreservation would be advanced a good deal. It's like game theory, it's better for everyone to contribute to improving cryopreservation than cryopreserve themselves with current technology.

Your life wouldn't be saved anyway. As I was saying, even if you take the possibility of regenerating brains preserved with the current method as a given, it's unlikely it will happen before your brain is disposed of. Chances are we'll have the technological capability to emulate a brain before we have the capability to regenerate one.