Cryonics on Castle [Spoilers]

post by wedrifid · 2011-10-04T09:46:55.391Z · score: 25 (28 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 23 comments

Contents

  Amulets of Immortality
  Other things to watch out for:
None
23 comments

Check out the latest episode of Castle (Headcase) to see Cryonics covered in mainstream fiction in a not entirely terrible manner. The details are not exactly accurate but probably not more inaccurate than similar fictionalised coverage of most other industries. In fact there is one obvious implementation difference that the company in Castle uses which is how things clearly ought to be:

Amulets of Immortality

It is not uncommon for cryonics enthusiasts to make 'immortality' jokes about their ALCOR necklaces but the equivalent on the show make the obvious practical next step. The patients have heart rate monitors with GPS signalers that signal the cryonics company as soon as the patient flatlines. This is just obviously the way things should be and it is regrettable that the market is not yet broad enough for 'obvious' to have been translated into common practice.

Other things to watch out for:


Overall a positive portrayal of cryonics or at least one I am happy with. It doesn't convey cryonics as normal but even so it is a step less weird than I would usually expect. I'd call it good publicity.

23 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-04T21:18:46.479Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The patients have heart rate monitors with GPS signalers that signal the cryonics company as soon as the patient flatlines.

Oh wow, this is massively obvious in retrospect. Does anyone know if anything like this actually exists?

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2012-03-31T15:48:32.621Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No. Ben Best has been trying to build a device like this for years (link from downthread); people very often say to him that it should be easy, but he never sees a finished prototype.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-04T22:30:51.300Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You know, in telemetry units in hospitals, most of the time a flatline means a lead came off, or something is unplugged. Lots of false positives could be an issue.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-04T21:29:39.400Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure this is actually helpful. If the cryonics team isn't anywhere nearby having this information may very well translate close to "well, we're not getting that one." It would help but probably only in marginal cases. Still, could be potentially quite useful. There have been cases where a team has been on standby due to someone's ill health or is getting ready to go on standby and the person dies slightly earlier than expected. My impression is that in those cases they've generally still managed to preserve the patients fairly quickly. But we don't know how quick it needs to be. This could be the sort of thing where even small amounts of time could matter.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-05T05:53:50.912Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure this is actually helpful. If the cryonics team isn't anywhere nearby having this information may very well translate close to "well, we're not getting that one."

Good thing there are telephones, ambulances and the possibility for neighbors or nearby friends to be emergency contacts. Add an enormously loud physical alarm to the device and anyone dying in their sleep who isn't living alone can have immediate attention of their housemates or family.

I'd expect such a system to occasionally save lives even apart from cryonic considerations and there would be a whole bunch of people who get chilled more rapidly.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-04T22:02:50.035Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Currently? No.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-10-06T08:42:00.139Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Mike Darwin posted a detailed review of this episode, generally approving the way writers brought up many cryonics-relevant issues:

Whew! Every significant medico-legal issue in the public history of cryonics to date, all rolled into one ~ 45-minute long TV episode! That’s quite a feat! But a much more impressive one was that writer and the creator of “Castle” got all the important things right.

comment by gwern · 2011-10-06T13:54:15.915Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Mike Darwin reviews the episode: http://chronopause.com/index.php/2011/10/06/cryonics-%e2%80%9ccastle%e2%80%9d/

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-05T02:06:31.455Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Now that I've watched the episode, I'm not sure I would call it "good publicity." It's not negative publicity, to be sure, but everything related to the fictional cryonics company gave off the strong scent of weirdness. The CEO was portrayed as cold and creepy, and the facility itself was like something out of a horror movie (poorly lit, spooky music, etc.). There were a few cringe-worthy moments, most notably the part where there's some slapstick humor/puns based on a chase scene in which one character is (rot13'd for spoliers) pneelvat n pelbcerfreirq urnq nebhaq va n fznyy pbagnvare naq ehaavat njnl sebz gur cbyvpr jvgu vg, phyzvangvat va uvz snyyvat unysjnl bss n sver rfpncr naq qebccvat gur pbagnvare va n qhzcfgre.

Though I thought the "Brain destroying disease vs cryonicist standoff" was a clever plot point, I worry that this could create some very bad anchoring/framing effects particularly given that (rot13'd again) gung jnf npghnyyl gur zheqrere'f zbgvir (Abg bayl gung, ohg gur zheqrere (gur ivpgvz'f jvsr) vf qrcvpgrq nf fbzrjung penml sbe guvf ernfba - fur xvyyf urefrys ng gur raq hfvat n plnavqr cvyy uvqqra va ure evat fb gung fur pna "erhavgr" jvgu ure uhfonaq).

Overall, though, it wasn't terrible and it seemed to take the idea of cryonics somewhat seriously.

comment by Synaptic · 2011-10-04T22:39:59.332Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The patients have heart rate monitors with GPS signalers that signal the cryonics company as soon as the patient flatlines. This is just obviously the way things should be and it is regrettable that the market is not yet broad enough for 'obvious' to have been translated into common practice.

See http://www.benbest.com/cryonics/alarms.html:

"For over fifteen years I have been hearing that the kinds of systems cryonicists would want for vital signs alarm systems will be commercially available within a year or two. In that sense, December 2010 is not that much different from 1995, except that the claims are getting louder and more convincing. I should be getting excited, except that over a decade of feeling like the village idiot chasing a wallet on a string has made me very cynical....

Cryonicist Nick Pavlica seemed to be making some progress with his bed alarm, but after extensive testing by me, I still must say that it gives false alarms or does not alarm when it should. At the moment, the best I can say for the product is that it appears to provide a good panic-button system for dialing to a pre-programmed list of phone numbers."

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-07T01:54:12.195Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My conclusion was that if someone had shot Beckett in order to protect the corpsicle I would have been indifferent

Really? If I assume that you're operating solely to maximize number of years lived (which I think you are) doesn't this imply that you think that the corpsicle has a higher probability of living forever than Beckett does? Even if you assume Beckett won't get cryonics (hopefully it will become more mainstream by the time she dies though) she will likely live another 40-50 years. And I could be wrong (I really have little evidence on it, except the opinions of those people on this site) but I thought that most people considered p(singularity in the next 40 to 50 years) to be vastly higher than p(cryonics works and nothing goes wrong)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-07T05:32:31.266Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Really? If I assume that you're operating solely to maximize number of years lived (which I think you are) doesn't this imply that you think that the corpsicle has a higher probability of living forever than Beckett does?

Yes it would but no I'm not. I never optimize for maximising the number of lives lived. Especially not in the sense that assumes I must care about everyone equally.

In this case what I was describing is my predicted emotional affect in the counterfactual fictional circumstances in which Beckett dies while attempting headslaughter. I find that much like I don't identify with and care about the suffering of those people who Beckett destroys the lives of via imprisonment or execution I would not identify with and care about the death of Beckett while she was perpetrating a significant ethical transgression. Perhaps more importantly I consider it ethically permissable to defend yourself, your loved ones, the helpless and the innocent from violation, including with deadly force. Where most instances of deadly force perpetrated upon another would provoke empathy for the victim it makes a big difference if the victim was the one instigating the conflict.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-07T02:01:14.057Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I thought that most people considered p(singularity in the next 40 to 50 years) to be vastly higher than p(cryonics works and nothing goes wrong)

I'm not sure that's a universal feeling. I would certainly would put it the other way around.

But there's another issue that is going on here. Many human moral systems allow one to kill others to save a life. Under many moral frameworks if a person of age x is trying to kill someone of age y > x, it is still ok to kill x. Many different justifications for this are given, but it seems to me that the basis might be best thought of in terms of decision theory as a strong precommitment to stop murderers even if it means killing them. If in such a framework one views a cryonicly preserved individual as morally akin to a living person then this makes sense. Moreover, even if one does agree with the calculation that you suggested, similar lines of emotional pulls (and tribal loyalty to people who engage in or support cryonics) could easily move ones attitude towards indifferent.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-07T02:29:32.257Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that's a universal feeling. I would certainly would put it the other way around.

What are your exact (or, I suppose, approximated) probabilities? Maybe I don't have a good sense of this.

Many human moral systems allow one to kill others to save a life.

Well yes. This brings up a whole host of issues though. The best analogy to the point I'd like to make would be abortion. Similar to fetuses, human moral systems do not view corpsicles as "lives". Which is why those moral systems you mentioned wouldn't approve of murdering someone to save a corpsicle, just as it would be widely considered "wrong" to shoot an abortion doctor. Whether or not it actually is wrong is not my point, but only that you can't adopt the "many human moral systems allow this" argument without paying any attention to the fact that human moral systems wouldn't see it as a life anyway.

In the same vein, I don't think your decision theory argument pans out either, because following the rule "kill people who are trying to murder corpsicles" doesn't equate to "kill people who are murdering other people" in the view of, for all intents and purposes, everyone, and ergo doesn't have the intended deterrent effect. In fact, the effect it would have would be to get you jailed, a newspaper story about the "crazy transhumanist who shot someone to save a corpsicle", and, well, the corpsicle will just be killed anyway once you're imprisoned.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-07T02:36:23.388Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What are your exact (or, I suppose, approximated) probabilities

I'd estimate around a 5% chance for cryonics to work in some form, and a 1% chance of a Singularity-type event, broadly construed, in the next 40 years.

The best analogy to the point I'd like to make would be abortion. Similar to fetuses, human moral systems do not view corpsicles as "lives".

Huh? Many moral systems do see fetuses as lives. That's part of why abortion is so controversial. Moreover, what matters is not whether those systems normally see cryonics patients as alive, but that they have a general rule about saving lives. So if one takes one of those systems and then expands the set of people considered having moral weight to include the cryopatients, then the result follows. One should't be surprised if here where a lot of people take cryonics seriously, they will have modified pre-existing moral systems to give weight to those already cryonicly preserved.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-07T02:41:42.651Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Huh? Many moral systems do see fetuses as lives.

I don't think many moral systems truly see them as lives on the same level that adult humans are. And some don't see them as lives at all.

One should't be surprised if here where a lot of people take cryonics seriously, they will have modified pre-existing moral systems to give weight to those already cryonicly preserved.

Well, of course. I'm not saying one should be. But you're offering "many moral systems" like the populous at large is any real expert on morality. You're appealing to the authority of the populous, which is an authority that many of us think is, well... pretty dumb.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-07T02:43:49.311Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, if I've been unclear. I'm not saying they are correct in general. Nor am I even defending wedrifid's views. You seemed to ask where those views came from and I was trying to answer. Explaining from where a set of ethical/moral values arises is not the same as saying that they are correct.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-07T02:53:27.001Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well it seems like an insult to wedrifid to offer an explanation for his actions that you think is wrong.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-07T02:58:27.025Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know if his attitude is wrong or not. I really haven't given the question enough thought to answer it either way. Moreover, it shouldn't be an insult to explain how a given ethical attitude can develop whether or not one thinks the view is correct. I'm not sure why you think that would be an insult. Is it because there's a common approach of dismissing the views of those they disagree with by giving psychological explanations for why someone would want to think that? Or is there something more subtle that I'm missing here?

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-07T03:02:12.787Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well perhaps not an insult. But it seems like what you are saying is "This is why I think he might think that but I think he's wrong." If you already think he believes something for a reason you believe is wrong, you don't have a very high opinion of his rationality.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-10-07T09:06:28.959Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you already think he believes something for a reason you believe is wrong, you don't have a very high opinion of his rationality.

If your goal is to improve, it's more important to notice and correct errors than deceive people about their absence. I believe it's insulting, not respectful, to attribute to a rationalist the attitude that they would prefer the knowledge of a flaw withheld.

(You might want to take a precaution of asking first if Crocker's rules apply, and communicate the bug report privately.)

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-07T14:04:52.265Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm very confused. I wasn't talking about a bug report. Unless you mean bug in rationality.

Furthermore, I never attributed that attitude to JoshuaZ. JoshuaZ had no evidence that the flaw he proposed is wedrifid's thinking. He's just selecting one potential reason out of the whole set of potential reasons.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-07T03:09:16.685Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I see. So to say "I'm not defending claim X" sounds more like "I disagree with X" than "I feel confused about X". I don't know how universal that is.

If you already think he believes something for a reason you believe is wrong, you're not putting much faith in his rationality.

Really? You seem to be radically overestimating human rationality in general. We all likely believe things for reasons that are too weak to justify our levels of belief, or believe things due to cultural upbringing and other reasons which have zero actual evidentiary weight. Part of the task of becoming more rational is identifying those issues and dealing with them, especially the higher priority things that impact a lot of other beliefs. Everyone here, including myself, likely believes things for bad reasons. In that context, discussing where beliefs come from seems natural.

I think that wedrifid is one of the more careful, rational and thought provoking people here. That doesn't mean that he's a perfect rationalist.