Can cryonically-frozen people *really* expect to be revived?

post by InquilineKea · 2011-07-08T23:27:05.843Z · score: 0 (14 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 9 comments
NOTE: I have no clue why some of the spaces are "screwy" - the formatting is totally fine when I was typing this post out.
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I think it's a pretty MAJOR assumption that wealth can *really* transfer over numerous generations.
Say this: say 1 million people a year are cryonically frozen. okay. and they pay with their own money.
Then (assuming revival technologies don't come 100 years from now), then that's 100 million people. Sure, they paid with their own money, but we must remember that the value of wealth/money is psychological. Economics depends on contract enforcement (where there is a significant penalty if you don't comply), which is a subset of the set of incentives, which are all about motivating people to do shit.
And the thing is - it's quite possible that a disaster could hit, forcing people to move all the cryonically frozen bodies somewhere else (are most of the bodies stored in Phoenix,AZ - given that it's where Alcor is? I don't trust that place over the long run, given that it's experiencing unsustainable growth that's draining the Colorado River out, that the region is experiencing a massive growth in energy usage [especially from ACs that just dissipates the heat out and make the city even hotter],  and  that the effects of climate change are expected to be more severe in Arizona than they are in most other places [1], especially given that the  Hadley Cell  might expand northward). Solar power could save it, but I'm not sure if it will scale there in several decades
And if that happens (or if any relocation is needed), then resources+motivation is limited and no one wants to do it. Especially because that there  are few negative consequences if the bodies are left to rot - simply because after a few generations, most cryonically frozen people may be almost completely forgotten - except for the ones who were as famous and respectable as Einstein/Jefferson/etc. Surprisingly,  this  could  be a rational argument for having children, since having children and grandchildren might  increase  the chances that someone  might  actually care about trying to revive you once we have the technology for cryonic revival.
Obviously, it could be an incentive for others to unfreeze the body if the person who came back alive was SO grateful that he was willing to repay the favor with something major (say, indentured servitude).  Except - that there's no way to predict that at all. they're in a totally foreign environment. what personalities they had back then - may not necessarily stay constant in an environment so radically different. Surprisingly  though, this could be an argument for lifelogging, since an unrelated person might actually be willing to spend the effort to actually to unfreeze the body of a more interesting person
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With that all being said - I still think it's a perfectly rational decision to be cryonically frozen. After all, the breakthrough could come within 100 years. And other things can happen too. 
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[1]  Note how the Southwest (and especially the Rocky Mountains that supply water to the region) will be completely baked. Arizona depends A LOT on water supplies from the Colorado River. But the glaciers in the Colorado Rockies are melting quite fast - and the mountain west is already warming much faster than average under global warming
Also, runoff matters as well: notice how it's VERY red in Arizona. See below (IPCC 2007)

9 comments

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comment by handoflixue · 2011-07-09T08:45:09.691Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd suggest pulling up the Alcor website and digging through it. There's a lot of facts and research there that address most of this. The short answers: preserving bodies is dirt cheap, the thermodynamics mean that external temperatures are a trivial factor, and there's a fairly well done trust fund to support everything (IIRC, the investment required was based on a 2% annual return, and then they doubled it just to be on the safe side. Bankruptcy happened once, at the very dawn of the industry, and every current cryonics agency is very careful to avoid that happening again.)

comment by DanielLC · 2011-07-09T00:31:32.784Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Especially because that there are few negative consequences if the bodies are left to rot"

From what I understand, a trust fund is used to pay to keep them cryopreserved. If you leave them to rot, you don't get paid anymore. I'd consider a company suddenly going bankrupt a pretty big negative consequence.

comment by Hyena · 2011-07-10T02:45:50.753Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd like to add that cryonics companies far from the time when people can be revived are probably run and founded by true believers who will have an immense emotional stake in it. They will almost certainly select successors with this quality and so there's an extra layer of insurance from pride.

comment by InquilineKea · 2011-07-09T00:38:27.461Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hm interesting - how would the trustfund exactly work?

Yeah - I'd be scared of bankruptcy too.

Now that I think about it though, here's a possibly motivational factor: If the company fails to keep some bodies frozen, then confidence in it will drastically drop (especially for issues like this) and new patients will really stop paying for it. The influx of new patients is one factor that might help pay for it.

The economics might be scalable if only hundreds or thousands of bodies are frozen. Which will probably end up being the case. But significantly more than that - then you have a lot of workers to maintain the bodies - workers who aren't producing anything else of tangible value to anyone who's currently alive.

I'm not an economics major, so I don't know everything about it. I'm just trying to learn the field through some study and trial-and-error. That being said, I do question the modern-day assumptions of economics just as Robin Hanson questions them. I detailed my thoughts here: http://www.quora.com/What-are-the-most-understudied-areas-of-Economics/answer/Alex-K-Chen . The major thing is that something like this has never been done before, so I think we might know a lot less than we think with respect to the sustainability of this.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2011-07-09T02:18:46.629Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If the company fails to keep some bodies frozen, then confidence in it will drastically drop (especially for issues like this) and new patients will really stop paying for it. The influx of new patients is one factor that might help pay for it.

If the maintenance of existing frozen patients depends on an increasing influx of new patients, then what you have there is a pyramid scheme. If, on the other hand, you can expect to benefit from economics of scale, then the number of new patients needed over time to keep the business alive may stabilize, in which case it's not a pyramid.

Something else to consider: Once the revival technology works, you're not going to revive all the frozen people at once. You're only going to revive those whose underlying medical problem can be fixed. And the frozen heads pretty much have to wait for upload tech.

Once you start reviving, you now have a small population of extremely grateful people. But, by the above assumption, you're going to have fewer people getting frozen because more underlying medical problems can just be fixed without freezing and waiting.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-07-09T03:05:27.656Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Something else to consider: Once the revival technology works, you're not going to revive all the frozen people at once. You're only going to revive those whose underlying medical problem can be fixed. And the frozen heads pretty much have to wait for upload tech.

It is true that if successful cryonics will function on a roughly first-in, last out arrangement (since the preservation technology improves over time). And yes, you aren't going to be able to revive everyone at once. However, the head only preservation does not need to wait for uploads. If we have the tech level to revive people one may be able to construct robot or cloned bodies to attach the head to. Moreover, since heads are smaller than full bodies one can more carefully reduce the temperature and make sure that the cryopreservants have infused everywhere. In theory, this should in some respects make there be less brain damage to head only preservation. If so, neuros may be revived early.

comment by DanielLC · 2011-07-09T06:33:12.871Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If the maintenance of existing frozen patients depends on an increasing influx of new patients

It's not that they need an increasing number of patients to keep going. It's just that without new patients, business will stagnate. They'd do anything to keep growing.

Also, once they know they can revive people, it will be clear that these things failing will mean people dying. At this point, people will do anything to keep them from failing.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-07-09T18:24:56.679Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The title, about really expecting something, indicates you're seeking certainty / belief. Cryonics is a paradigmatic example of a case where actions are not based on beliefs, but on expected value. See my earlier post.

comment by Aryn · 2011-07-24T05:40:34.308Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, the most apparent alternative to cryonic preservation is death. I'd say it's a good investment, if the worst thing that happens is that you die the way it would be expected without cryonics.