Mentioning cryonics to a dying person

post by DanielH · 2012-08-09T06:48:03.849Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 73 comments

My paternal grandmother is dying of cancer (not brain cancer). She is still relatively healthy, and is taking chemo, but there is little hope of remission (and even if that does happen, she'll probably die of heart failure fairly soon). Her current plan is to be cremated and have the ashes buried in a graveyard (in my opinion, the worst of both of the "standard" approaches, but that's not the point of this post).

I would prefer if she were cryopreserved, but am unsure how to even begin to broach the subject. I also have no idea how to convince her. She is not particularly religious, but is concerned with leaving as much money for my grandfather (and later my parents and me) as possible. I have previously discussed cryonics with my parents; my father brushed off the idea and my mom looked into it but dismissed the idea because the future isn't likely to want her (I find this argument ridiculous on several grounds). This means that I can't count on them to help talk to my grandmother. I may be able to talk to my grandfather first, but this would probably not be much of an asset: he is into several different conspiracy theories (the most recent ones center around the world secretly being controlled by the "elites" who use the U.S. President, U.K. Prime Minister, etc. as figurative puppets), but my grandmother doesn't seem to believe these and probably wouldn't listen much to his talk of cryonics either.

Any suggestions of how to broach the topic or convince her once the topic is broached would be appreciated. I am currently at my grandparents' house, but am leaving less than a day after posting this (most of which will be spent at the local nighttime, and thus asleep). I would prefer not to upset her, both for obvious reasons and because I may not be able to bring myself to bring it up on the day we depart if it will cause us to leave on a bad note.


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comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2012-08-09T08:09:22.912Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're able to directly discuss what her plans are for after death (cremation etc) then could you just talk about your own plans in the same context - don't explicitly suggest that she get it done, just discuss that it's what you want for yourself.

Replies from: Dolores1984
comment by Dolores1984 · 2012-08-09T09:20:11.575Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a good idea. Mentioning up front that you think it's a long shot makes you sound a lot less crazy. Definitely try to raise a discussion, instead of lecturing. It comes of less as 'Hi, let me induct you into our crazy cult.'

comment by Decius · 2012-08-09T14:40:01.066Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ask her about her reasons for her wishes for disposal of her remains, and then come to terms with the fact that her reasons are (probably) not the same as your reasons.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-08-09T22:59:15.319Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On more practical grounds... is the money to pay for the cryopreservation available? Cryonics isn't impossibly expensive, but it's not cheap.

Replies from: DanielH
comment by DanielH · 2012-08-17T19:18:43.968Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I understand it, the money is available.

comment by gwern · 2012-08-09T14:09:46.296Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

She's a woman, so whatever difficulty you are expecting, double or triple it. Women don't like cryonics.

She is not particularly religious, but is concerned with leaving as much money for my grandfather (and later my parents and me) as possible.

Yeah, I'd give up here. Signing up is hard, it's expensive, it's much too late, there's a sure-fire competing desire, and the target is female. The odds of success are, at a minimum, <5% (if you actually try, I'd be happy to record a prediction or bet on it). This will not end well for you. Don't try.

Replies from: faul_sname, pangel, Multiheaded, palladias
comment by faul_sname · 2012-08-09T18:00:45.083Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The odds of success are, at a minimum, <5%... Don't try.

One does not necessarily follow from the other. Don't expect too much (I would put the odds around 1% myself) but it might still be worth a few hours or days of your time.

Replies from: advancedatheist
comment by advancedatheist · 2012-08-09T18:56:29.250Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

These odds depend a great deal on the behavior of cryonicists in the here and now, instead of depending completely on the haphazard. Refer to:


Specifically Donaldson writes:

A new gambling house sets up in Reno. The owner undertakes to bet with everyone about whether or not he, the owner, will do his laundry tomorrow. Bets are made today and close at 6 PM. (Perhaps gambling houses already operate this way?) Do we, then, expect a rush of clients? The problem with this bet is that he, the owner, has some control over whether or not he does his laundry. Not only are the dice loaded, but he gets to pick, after all bets are laid, which loaded die to use. Computing probabilities only makes sense when the events bet upon are known to be random.

So the cryonicist, Donaldson argues, needs to think more like the owner of the casino in this example instead of like a passive gambler.

This odds-based thinking also tends to encourage passivity, a fault which I find in typical "skeptical" evaluations of the idea. The usual skeptic says something like, "Cryonics can't or won't work," period; whereas the skeptic who likes solving problems looks at the situation and thinks more along the lines of, "Hmm, cryonics can't or won't work - if you do it that way." Then he might try to think of ways to improve the statement of the problem so that it looks more solvable.

Replies from: pengvado, faul_sname
comment by pengvado · 2012-08-10T14:47:55.741Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I read gwern and faul_sname as talking about the odds of convincing a relative to sign up, not the odds of revival.

comment by faul_sname · 2012-08-09T23:17:27.319Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Then he might try to think of ways to improve the statement of the problem so that it looks more solvable.

Yes. Unfortunately, freezing is the only option as of right now, and it seems to require that a lot of things go right.

comment by pangel · 2012-08-09T14:32:59.166Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Women don't like cryonics.

What made you believe this? Is there a pattern to the declared reasons?

Replies from: handoflixue, advancedatheist, dbaupp
comment by handoflixue · 2012-08-09T18:38:13.306Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can look at cryonic signup rates by gender, and there's also the article that advancedatheist linked. I'll add that in my anecdotal experience, women seem more likely to dismiss the idea when I bring it up in casual conversation.

For myself, personally, I don't like cryonics because I think the research largely points to it being non-viable. Of the three other women I can remember speaking to recently, two others had the same objection, and the last one's issue is that they live in Australia so the difficulty of getting cryopreserved soon after death is ridiculously high (they view it as plausible-but-unlikely)

Replies from: faul_sname
comment by faul_sname · 2012-08-10T07:25:55.335Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I'm wondering if plastination might catch on better. Most people I talk to are on board with the "death is bad" philosophy, but cryonics is just too much of a long shot.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-12T02:36:19.097Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there a large contingent of people who want to sign up for cryonics but are worried about the strict temperature requirements and so forth? If not, plastination probably won't catch on much better than cryonics.

Replies from: DanielH, kilobug
comment by DanielH · 2012-08-17T19:31:28.971Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

With cryonics, if somebody messes up at any point (the cryonics company goes broke, the LN2 production company experiences unexpected problems and any local stores are running low, an employee mishandles your body, etc.) then you are unlikely to be revived. With plastination, there's a lot less that can go wrong; even if the future caretakers of your brain don't believe it will work, it is more effort to destroy your brain than to leave it be. They may decide to bury it in a graveyard, but that's less likely to prevent revival than thawing from cryonics.

In either case, the probability that revival will be technologically and socially possible given it's physically possible approaches 1 as time approaches infinity, and the probability that something bad and irreversible happens to you given that you aren't revived also approaches 1 as time approaches infinity. In either case, you're betting that the former happens before the latter. However, this seems a much better bet with plastination than cryonics because it's a lot harder for something bad to happen to you.

comment by kilobug · 2012-08-13T19:29:41.799Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It may catch a bit better because cryonics is very sci-fi sounding. There are a lot of sci-fi novels and movies using cryonics, and for many, those who believe in cryonics are just those who take sci-fi for reality. Plastination isn't used in sci-fi, it's something that most people just never heared about, so they don't have "it's just sci-fi" prior belief.

Also, cryonics are very expensive because of the high upkeep required to keep the temperature, so there is good hope that plastination could be made much cheaper, lowering the entrance barrier.

Replies from: gwern, Eudoxia
comment by gwern · 2012-08-13T20:50:44.147Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, cryonics are very expensive because of the high upkeep required to keep the temperature, so there is good hope that plastination could be made much cheaper, lowering the entrance barrier.

My understanding from reading Darwin and various other materials is that the ongoing maintenance cost of LN2 (one of the cheapest fluids around) storage is pretty low, and the major cost in cryopreservation are the original procedures.

comment by Eudoxia · 2012-08-13T22:09:30.617Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One public image advantage of plastination is that, if you're doing it on whole bodies, you could (Plausibly) put the plastinated patient on a standard bed (Maybe in a 2001-esque pod for extra effect (No, no need to mention Robert Nelson pulled the same stunt)) and make it look closer to real medicine. Though I'm not sure it's completely prudent to let a plastinated body out in the open collecting dust for show.

comment by advancedatheist · 2012-08-09T15:07:04.944Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess you missed the controversy this article generated a couple years back:

I've wondered if we do make a transition to a society where extreme healthy life extension becomes feasible and a part of mainstream medicine whether we'll see a pattern where women on average still choose to die more or less on schedule while men on average choose the longevity treatments. That could work out well for the straight alpha males and the alpha wannabes who value women for sex but not much else, because they would always have new crops of women coming to fruition for their sexual adventures while they forget the dying older ones; but the situation could distress the men who become emotionally involved with the women in their lives, value their companionship and don't want to see these women age and die.

I've noticed that the relatively few women who sign up for cryonics on their own initiative generally don't have, and apparently don't want, children, though I know of a couple of fertility-oriented mom types. One of these motherhood-averse women told me that well before she discovered cryonics and sought out male cryonicists as companions, she had a tubal ligation in her early 20's. (She had a scar in the right place.)

But for the most part the cryonics movement remains a male-dominated social space, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

Replies from: Sarokrae, pangel, Mitchell_Porter, Antisuji
comment by Sarokrae · 2012-08-19T11:06:37.118Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To add a data point, I found myself, to put it strongly, literally losing the will to live recently: I'm 20 and female and I'm kind of at the emotional maturity stage. I think my brain stopped saying "live! Stay alive!" and started saying "Make babies! Protect babies!", because I started finding the idea of cryopreserving myself as less attractive and more repulsive, with no change in opinion for preserving my OH, and an increase in how often I thought about doing the right thing for my future kids. To the extent that I now get orders of magnitude more panicked about anything happening to my reproductive system than dying after future children reach adulthood.

I'm not sure for what proportion of women the thought process goes "The future wouldn't want me (because I won't be able to make babies)", with the part in brackets powering the rationalisation-hamster.

Fortunately I learned to spot rationalisation from instinct a while back, but I'm still not sure what I can do, if anything, to correct for the shift.

Replies from: Mitchell_Porter, gwern, TGM
comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2012-08-19T11:18:20.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would you say you're basically shifting into a mindset where your future babies are more important than you are? Like the proverbial friendly AI which values its own existence, not because that's a terminal value, but because that's an instrumental value - it can't do good if it doesn't still exist.

Replies from: Sarokrae
comment by Sarokrae · 2012-08-19T11:35:44.453Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My hamster (human instinct) very definitely is. The rational me shouldn't be: I know I'm more than my reproductive organs! The problem is, on issues like this hamster is pretty loud, and it's not obvious on an intuitive level that "hamster terminal values" are actually "me-instrumental values" (since my life is not about placating hamster, but placating hamster helps me be happy and productive)!

I'm suspecting that most people don't have this kind of grasp on their hamster-minds though, and female hamsters are pretty destructive on these issues.

comment by gwern · 2012-08-19T20:30:57.468Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To the extent that I now get orders of magnitude more panicked about anything happening to my reproductive system than dying after future children reach adulthood...Fortunately I learned to spot rationalisation from instinct a while back, but I'm still not sure what I can do, if anything, to correct for the shift.

Are you aware that eggs can be frozen? Given how many women hit their 40s and discover they cannot bear children, the cost-benefit analysis might be interesting to do.

Replies from: Sarokrae
comment by Sarokrae · 2012-08-20T02:08:21.182Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the advice. Do you have an idea of the probabilities for a 30-yo? I'm highly unlikely to wait any longer due to said fertility concerns.

Replies from: OphilaDros, gwern
comment by OphilaDros · 2012-09-03T11:59:51.520Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There was this article from a couple of years ago:

"Whether you are aware of your incessantly ticking biological clock or not, the absolute last thing that any woman of steadily advancing childbearing age wants to hear when she flips on the morning news shows is: Women lose 90 percent of their eggs by age 30.

Using a mathematical model and data from 325 women, the researchers found that the average woman is born with around 300,000 eggs and steadily loses them as she ages, with just 12 percent of those eggs remaining at the age of 30, and only 3 percent left by 40.

Also, as another data point, it is possible that the recent change in your "will to parent" might reverse polarity again once you hit your late twenties and early thirties. I've been amazed at this change that has sort of crept up on me over the last few years - from wanting "at least three" in my early to mid twenties to finding the whole enterprise rather frightening (in terms of lifestyle changes and sacrifices needing to be made). It's possible I'm completely atypical since there are no shortage of stories of women in their thirties becoming even more desperate for children.

Replies from: Sarokrae
comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-05T09:58:04.659Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is losing eggs an issue if there isn't a quality decrease? I mean, I only need one at a time...

Thanks for the info though :)

comment by gwern · 2012-08-20T02:50:55.307Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For a 30-yo? No; I'm afraid I just understand the fertility curve looks something like an inverted U centered around the late teens. If I had to guess, I think the infertility rate is something like a quarter or fifth by the 40s so maybe half that or less for 30?

This is something you should really research yourself. On the plus side, if you keep notes and you write up your final cost-benefit calculation and actual decision, it'd make a good Article or Discussion post.

comment by TGM · 2012-08-24T20:51:49.770Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To add a data point, I found myself, to put it strongly, literally losing the will to live recently: I'm 20 and female and I'm kind of at the emotional maturity stage. I think my brain stopped saying "live! Stay alive!" and started saying "Make babies! Protect babies!", because I started finding the idea of cryopreserving myself as less attractive and more repulsive, with no change in opinion for preserving my OH, and an increase in how often I thought about doing the right thing for my future kids. To the extent that I now get orders of magnitude more panicked about anything happening to my reproductive system than dying after future children reach adulthood.

As the aforementioned OH, I'm wondering if "quizzical" counts as a normal reaction to reading this.

Replies from: Sarokrae
comment by Sarokrae · 2012-08-25T02:06:32.375Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have definitely told you about this.

Replies from: TGM
comment by TGM · 2012-08-25T08:51:10.021Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. (It was intended as humour, but apparently that wasn't clear)

comment by pangel · 2012-08-11T10:07:37.005Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for the link! Note that the .pdf version of the article (which is also referenced in dbaupp's link) has a record of the "hostile-wife" cases over a span of 8 years.

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2012-08-19T12:39:38.085Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

whether we'll see a pattern where women on average still choose to die more or less on schedule while men on average choose the longevity treatments

Mainstream society thinks it's normal for everyone to want to stay young for as long as possible. Women spend billions on preserving youth and beauty - no aversion to "extreme healthy life extension" there.

comment by Antisuji · 2012-08-10T16:01:50.755Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Somewhat off topic, but still interesting (to me):

... she had a tubal ligation in her early 20's. (She had a scar in the right place.)

Why do you mention the scar? Should we have a high prior that women in this situation would lie about having had a tubal ligation?

comment by dbaupp · 2012-08-09T14:55:01.047Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's an empirical belief, e.g. even Robyn Hanson's wife is resistant to cryonics.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-09T16:17:51.073Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The second sentence of your comment is missing a qualifier of some sort.

Replies from: Rubix
comment by Rubix · 2012-08-10T01:59:59.007Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Like "statistically." The language a person uses affects their view of what they're speaking about, and I suspect that not adding qualifiers when taking about things most members of a faction do causes one to notice/believe in atypical cases less.

Replies from: Multiheaded
comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-10T08:44:28.972Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes! Exactly what I'm talking about. Such concerns have been raised here before, y'know. But it's also that, well, a newcomer unfamilliar with LW thought patterns might take offense.

Replies from: Rubix, EStokes
comment by Rubix · 2012-08-10T17:08:15.702Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seeing as there was a thriving thread about eating human babies a few months ago, that wasn't really on my list of concerns.

Replies from: Multiheaded
comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-11T04:49:29.675Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Misogyny is Near, Babyeaters are Far.

comment by EStokes · 2012-08-12T01:50:37.857Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Heck, I've been here quite a while and it still rubbed me the wrong way.

Replies from: FiftyTwo
comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-08-12T17:25:57.994Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Likewise, it seems a large generalisation, and other facts about the person in question seem more relevant (e.g. age, educational background, financial situation.)

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2012-08-12T19:09:30.279Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

other facts about the person in question seem more relevant (e.g. age, educational background, financial situation.)

Really? Just knowing we are discussing a female instantly lets you chop the base rate down to something like a third or fourth or maybe less. That's pretty impressive to me, and I don't actually know that any of those factors are better predictors.

(Nor, I strongly suspect, do you, even though you want to think that it's a large generalization and not a useful one.)

Replies from: FiftyTwo
comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-08-12T20:48:07.843Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The most obvious other factor I was thinking of was age. My mental model of an average 20 year old of any gender is far more likely to be open to cryonics than a 50+ year old. I would think there would be massive cultural diffferences in feelings about death, religion, speculative technology, etc. that would massively shift their likely evaluation of cryonics. [But I confess I haven't looked into data on this.]

Age is also more useful as it gives you more categories than (standard) gender, subdividing by decade say gives you 5+ categories in the adult population not 2(ish).

I will acknowledge that the phrasing of your original comment "women don't like cryonics" caused it to stand out more to me than it otherwise would, so I began to critically consider it. But I still think my comments about other factors are valid.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2012-08-12T21:24:28.219Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A 20 year old is also much more likely to not worry about death, and be unable to spare a thousand bucks a year or so. As well, modern 20 year olds come from an era where cryonics is a joke they see on TV (Futurama), and not a real possibility like it was for people at the start in the '60s or '70s.

If your age inference is right, shouldn't we see a lot of young people in cryonics? But recall that one of Eliezer's cryonics was about a cryonics conference aimed at recruiting young people; not the sort of thing you do if you're reaching them very well... This also lines up nicely with my previous post about the increasing cost of cryonics due to ending grandfathering: it was previously supportable because cryonics was growing, but now...?

gives you more categories than (standard) gender, subdividing by decade say gives you 5+ categories in the adult population not 2(ish).

It also means your inferences are less reliable because your total n is being split over 5+ groups and not just 2.

comment by palladias · 2012-08-09T15:27:49.590Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm a little surprised that this didn't turn into a Pascal's Mugging calculation if we're balancing an unpleasant relationship right before death against not-death. Would people set a higher odds of success cutoff for starting a cryonics argument than they would for an extension of life treatment?

Is this because cryonics is more stigmatized while aggressive intervention to extend life is generally viewed by the mainstream as praiseworthy?

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2012-08-09T15:40:30.258Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would people set a higher odds of success cutoff for starting a cryonics argument than they would for an extension of life treatment?

I would. Advocating cryonics, a known minority belief, has the chance to blowback and make you look like an ambulance-chaser or worse. Even if the dying person would calculate that cryonics is +EV for them, that doesn't mean that it's a good idea for someone else to try to intervene and get them to sign up (unless that other person is perfectly altruistic and doesn't mind the possible negatives they might suffer).

Advocating some horribly painful low-value - yet medically approved - treatment or heroic measure, on the other hand, has no downsides for you.

comment by Merkle · 2012-08-09T17:31:10.798Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Check out Signing up your relatives.

Best of luck, and all my sympathy.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-08-09T16:35:23.540Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not clear on whether I should advocate this, but I wonder if you could spin not-cryo as a conspiracy (without outright lying):

"Have you heard of cryonics?"

"Heard of what?

"Yeah, didn't think so. They have a hell of a time getting past the typical story about death. Cryonics isn't even like crackpot theories, like the Rapture or what have you, that get a hearing simply for being ridiculous -"

"Okay, but what are you talking about?"

"There are organizations that will preserve legally dead bodies, frozen. The definition of death has slid forward over time - right now it's brain death, but for a long time we had to make do with heartbeat, for instance. It might keep on sliding to the point where being frozen isn't 'dead' anymore, and they'll know how to fix the preserved patients. Might not, too - everyone seriously advocating admits that, which is why there aren't frothing maniacs raving about it. But you can look at it as an experimental medical procedure no one thinks you need to hear about."

Replies from: handoflixue, DanielH
comment by handoflixue · 2012-08-09T18:24:17.781Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's the grandfather that's in to conspiracies, not her. And it was mentioned that the grandmother doesn't much listen to conspiracy theories, so this is probably a Very Bad Approach.

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2012-08-09T21:01:38.995Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Presumably she means to advocate it to the grandfather

comment by DanielH · 2012-08-17T19:55:51.919Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I considered this because of your article Light Arts, and rejected it because I disagree with that article in at least some cases, this being one of them. I could talk about it as I think about it -- a good idea that people, even scientists who should know better, reject because of unwillingness to think about death and unwillingness to believe it isn't final -- and let him draw his own opinions on why it isn't common knowledge (like I could prevent him anyway), but saying myself that it has a reasonable chance of being a conspiracy, or even implying it, is not something I could do.

comment by Epiphany · 2012-08-19T22:55:47.805Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

New icebreaker & rebuttals:

"If there was a technology that might save your life, would you consider it?"

This is going to get an almost definite yes.

If no: Ask her "So, you WANT to die?" - this is likely to snap her out of whatever fog she's in if she's still got a significant will to live. Ask that here. If she shows enough will to live, ask the first question again, you may be able to continue. If she actually wants to die, which is not inconceivable for a person in pain, obviously stop here, determine why, and talk it out.

"Is your life important enough that even if it's not 100% guaranteed to work, you would want to try it anyway?"

Another almost definitely yes question. At this point, you've actually gotten her to agree to getting it, based on the pure logic behind that choice, without the bias of knowing what the technology is. It will be hard for her to take it back later for that reason - people feel a strong need to behave in a way that's consistent from one moment to the next, and once they've admitted to agreeing with a logical line of reasoning like this one, they rarely find a way to take that back such that it qualifies as consistent behavior.

Now it's a matter of dealing with her objections. Objections are probably going to be cost, and what she could give to others instead of taking it for herself. I'll focus on the "giving to others" questions because keeping it is N/A, she's going to lose the money if she dies (she could invest it so it will hopefully grow while she's frozen...) anyway:

"Do you really think the people who love you would rather have your money, or would we rather have YOU?"

If she isn't convinced:

"Hey brothers / sisters / family, if you had a choice, what would you rather have? Her money, or her, herself?"

They will all say "her." Not saying "her" will out them as sociopaths. They are going to say "her". Period.

If they're not available:

"If your family had a choice, what would they rather have? You, or all your money?"

If she doesn't think they want her, call one of them and ask the question.

The person will say yes.

"If even one of them said yes, would they be worth it?"

If she's still wondering about the others:

"If the others would rather have the money than you, do they really love you enough to deserve YOUR money?"


"Everyone would rather have you, not your money. Knowing we'd rather have you, would you be willing to spend all your money on a chance of saving you?"

Of course the answer to this is "yes". Unless she's in HUGE incredible pain and has been that way for so long she can't even remember what it's like to enjoy life anymore. Once again, bigger problem, stop here, address that first.

"Ok guys, this isn't a guarantee, but there's a chance that it could work, that we'd be able to keep her here."

Now you can pick a figure twice as big as what it would cost to get her frozen, or pick the entirety of her savings, or whatever, and say "If it would cost (entirety of savings) for your family to have you, would you spend it?"

She will probably say "yes" at this point, if she's emotional, then likely to feel all touched and emotional about everyone wanting her and not her money. If no, bargain with her. "What if it only costs 75% of that... 50%..."

When she seems willing to spend:

"Good news, it's only going to cost you (x amount, prepare it in advance, if unsure, over promise and under deliver)!"

Now she will surely ask what it is. Be sure you have the sign-up form ready! That she has the opportunity to sign immediately is of critical importance here. If she hesitates:

"I know because I've (seen this happen / talked to a doctor / have some other good reason) that people who are really sick tend to lose mental facilities at some point before they die because their body gets so tired (my grandma who died of cancer zonked out soon after I talked to her, you can reference me and honestly say "I've heard of this happening to cancer patients." No she did not have brain cancer.). This can happen suddenly (yes, it was sudden). If you don't sign this today, we could come back tomorrow and you might not have legal authority to sign things anymore... they need your consent for this and you're going to lose that any day now. If you sign now, you can cancel it later if you want but if you don't sign, and you die, you're gone forever. Signing now is the safest way, don't you think?"

Still hesitating:

"You have x days to cancel (look it up first). How many days do you have to sign?"


"Which number is bigger?"

(hand over the form again)

If they/she pesters you to say what it is before you've gotten them agreeing on a logical basis:

"There are a couple different options I've been doing a lot of research. We need to focus on whether she's going to choose to live because we don't have time to get sidetracked by all the research - we can do that part later. I just want to focus on saving her life right now, that makes sense, right?"

Note: Try looking up anti-angiogenesis if you legitimately want a second idea for extending life. It's not very relevant in her case, and I don't know if they've finished the formal research on it, but it's technically a possibility one might research.

If continuously pestered:

"A lot of people haven't even heard this stuff, there are new treatments, I can't just say what it is, that would take a lot of time." (launch straight into questions again)

"It's too complicated to explain right now, I'll explain it all once the first priority is taken care of." (launch straight into questions again)

"I can't explain that right now, the reason why will be apparent when I'm done, ok?" (A little ok on the end of a sentence can sometimes go a long way.)

"There are so many options, I just need to make sure that she wants to live, find out a few more things about while she wants, then I can pick the best option and I'll explain that one first, okay?"

For this reason, it'll be easier if nobody else there at the time but you and her, but that should be enough brush-offs to get you wading safely through a gauntlet if they are.

The above method uses a sales technique known as "question selling". It doesn't work if you don't stick primarily to questions. The idea behind it is this: You can't decide for them, or make them decide a certain way, but you can ask them to consider each piece of data, ask them to make all of the smaller decisions that lead up to the big decision, and then when they decide, they'll be making an informed decision. This works beautifully for logical choices.

The most difficult objection:

The amount of money it costs to get frozen could feed two starving African children for the rest of their lives. My permanent death, if the money was donated instead, would have a very good chance of saving two people's entire lives. Putting me in cryo would only be a chance of saving one person's life. Unless we had good reasons to believe that I would save two lives in the future, or have a significant chance to save millions of lives, or something that's comparably life-saving, I would choose to donate the money instead.

If that happens, whip out a donation form for whatever her/your favorite charities are (have it ready!), and get her to sign up for that donation right then, right there.

Making her put her money where her mouth is will do one of two things:

A. Make her immediately realize she's not serious about giving up this chance to survive, and get her back on the topic of saving her life.

B. Give you the opportunity to save two lives. That's twice the goal! This will make it much easier to let her go because some good came out of it.

I'm still not sure it's ethically correct to explain to you how I think you can encourage your mom to sign up for cryo. But I view this as an ethical call that is not mine to make. Whether you try this is your ethical call, whether she takes it is hers. For all I know she's some kind of Melinda Gates or something.

Good luck to you, and I hope that there is more good in the world because of her decision, whichever one it was.

Edit: Come to think of it, if you're in the position to do this, an option C would be to say "If you sign up for cryo, I will go out and save two people's lives." Be ready to support this with a plan though, they might just brush you off thinking you'd say anything to save them. It might seem tempting to plan to lie in this event. I'd like to propose a worse possibility: You lie, and then because you didn't prepare to prove to them that you're going to save two lives to keep them, the person chooses against cryo and dies.

Not saying DanielH is going to lie, he already turned down the "dark arts" but it's not like he's the only person reading this.

Replies from: Epiphany
comment by Epiphany · 2012-08-19T23:40:49.607Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Illegal frozen bodies rebuttal:

"Morgues have been keeping them frozen for years. They're not illegal." (I'm pretty sure this is true.)

If it's about having dead bodies on your property:

"Cemeteries are full of bodies. Cemeteries are totally legal, and have been legal for how many thousands of years? Even if we sprinkle you in the yard, then there's a dead body in the yard. You've got to go somewhere, right?"

If it's about resource distribution between living and dead people:

"Rich people spend how much on caviar and cars? That's not illegal."

"The cryogenics movement will argue that if they can't freeze the bodies, those people are gone forever. What happens if they find a cure for them? We'll look back on it, looking at how many people we lost. That will be looked on as a huge tragedy, like a massacre. That's what the families of these cryogenics customers will argue. Are they going to take the risk that their actions will be perceived as a huge tragedy or a massacre? No. Whatever their problem is, they'll look for other ways of solving it."

comment by Epiphany · 2012-08-16T02:10:38.389Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


"There is new information in the field of cryonics, do you mind if I make sure you know the important pieces of info?"

(That gets you space to talk about whatever technological advancements you want to talk about or whatever, get her thinking about it, and make sure she's informed.)

If refused: "From my point of view, this is something that could save your life. If it can save your life, then no matter how small the chance is, I'm ethically obligated to talk about it with you, right?" (Make sure to phrase it as a question.)

(Even if she refuses that, you'll feel at peace with your conscience because you did what you could. Whatever she says, it will most likely help you let her go.)

If brushed off: "I know this sounds far out but this discussion is technically a matter of life and death, am I right?"

Wait for the answer.
If "yes", proceed.
If not, back to "Maybe I forgot to mention this particular piece of cryonics information..." Loop until "yes".


"What if I get cryo, and other people you know get cryo. If you woke up and we're all there, and we all want you there, would you want to be there, too?"

Arguments against:

We really have to think about what keeping people alive longer is going to do to the environment. We might freeze all these people, then the environment degrades further to the point where resources are very scarce, and then find that we're competing with bodies in cryo chambers for our resources... Living people who are poor, disadvantaged and sick may suffer or even die if they are made to compete with rich, advantaged folk for medical or other resources.

I have no idea what the most ethical choice is here. You will decide for yourself in any case. So I presented you with both sides.

Replies from: DanielH
comment by DanielH · 2012-08-17T20:31:17.441Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This can help when a discussion is started, but it cannot really help start the discussion. It is useful, though, and I'll remember it. Thanks.

Replies from: Epiphany
comment by Epiphany · 2012-08-19T22:57:31.822Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay. I think you'll agree this is a much better attempt.

comment by shminux · 2012-08-09T20:59:55.840Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Heavy use of dark arts, not logic or rationality is your best, if flimsy, hope.

You might be able to sell it as a really expensive burial of his wife to the conspiracist grandpa, and to both of them together as a glimmer of hope of them reuniting in the after(cryo)life. You might be able to use what Alicorn suggested on your grandfather, if you spin it right. Think about other arguments they (not you) might find convincing enough to spend a few hundred thousand dollars on. Is either of them big into lottery or gambling? What other biases that can be exploited are they prone to? Might guilt-tripping her by describing how you and your mom would miss her (with no hope of ever seeing her again) much more than the money. Compare voluntary death to suicide. As the saying goes, if you are not cheating you're not trying hard enough.

As for your mom, "the future isn't likely to want her" is likely not her true rejection. See if you can dig deeper.

Or you can let her go as she wishes, and hope that some of the resulting inheritance will allow you to start your own cryo insurance.

Replies from: brilee, DanielH
comment by brilee · 2012-08-09T22:59:39.918Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I imagine the author has written this with a healthy dose of self-irony. I applaud him for being so forthright about what we should all do as advocates of cryonics.

comment by DanielH · 2012-08-17T20:28:50.073Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If this post had the irony suggested by brilee, I wasn't able to pick it up and am responding as though it is serious.

As I said in response to Alicorn, I refuse to use dark arts. Not only would I not be good at it, it violates my morality in many ways. You'd have better luck convincing EY to use the dark arts for Singularity talks, simply because that's a bigger issue. If he's not willing to use dark arts when it's the entire world or more at stake, it's his Something To Protect and he needs to Shut Up and Do The Impossible, then I have no excuse using them simply to save just one person.

As for my mom, I believe that is her true rejection. She readily admits that the technology is feasible, but doesn't see why somebody would revive her and things it somewhat plausible that it will be illegal to keep frozen bodies around between now and then.

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2012-08-17T21:07:40.743Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I refuse to use dark arts

It's your choice, of course. I didn't realize that you feel more negative about a bit of harmless manipulation than about your relatives being gone forever.

comment by AaronAgassi · 2012-12-26T11:59:55.151Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have found that though the dying and the imminently bereaved won't go for it, they are nevertheless profoundly appreciative of the thought.

comment by brilee · 2012-08-09T12:52:58.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Am I the only one who finds this about as distasteful as the rabbi who goes around a hospital ward trying to solicit deathbed conversions?

If a cryonics decision is to be made, it should be made when the person is not under duress.

Replies from: Dorikka, NancyLebovitz, Luke_A_Somers, DanielH, None, JoshuaZ
comment by Dorikka · 2012-08-09T13:29:17.061Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If a cryonics decision is to be made, it should be made when the person is not under duress.

From the above, I am not sure that this is one of the available options.

Replies from: AaronAgassi
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-10T16:06:48.284Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Jews don't solicit conversions. Conversion is possible, but it requires an extensive course of study which isn't feasible on a deathbed.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2012-08-09T19:41:50.661Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If the rabbis go around turning it from a deathbed into just a bed, I'm all for it.

Replies from: Kindly
comment by Kindly · 2012-08-09T22:16:30.898Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Presumably the rabbis think their job is at the very least equally important.

Replies from: Luke_A_Somers
comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2012-08-10T14:11:25.892Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm aware of that. To get my approval, they'll have to do be accomplishing something I approve of.

Replies from: Kindly
comment by Kindly · 2012-08-10T14:40:40.887Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's two things you could potentially approve of. The rabbis have a set of beliefs, and an algorithm they use to decide how to act on these beliefs.

I am pretty sure you disapprove of the beliefs. But what about the rabbi algorithm is different from the cryonics advocate algorithm? As far as I can tell, they are identical, and I'm sure you're not suggesting they switch to the "Do what Luke_A_Somers approves of, rather than what I think is right" algorithm.

Furthermore, I think the objection that the cryonics advocate is being distasteful is an objection to the algorithm, not to the beliefs.

Replies from: Luke_A_Somers
comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2012-08-13T13:57:10.070Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can approve of actions without getting into questions about motivations. Especially in murky waters like religion.

comment by DanielH · 2012-08-17T20:10:19.306Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As others have said, that option is no longer available. I don't find it as bad as you do though, for three reasons:

  • She's a relative, not a stranger, so this kind of discussion would have happened anyway if I'd cleared my cryonics cache before six months ago

  • She has reasons to accept it that she accepts; the problem with a lot of religious conversions is that the only reason I should believe in the religion is because it says to and anecdotal evidence; for cryonics, the reason to believe in it is the standardly-accepted science and evident technological progress, both things most people at least claim to accept, but without any anecdotal evidence that it works.

  • I am disgusted by people who think that something is that important but don't do anything about it. My standard example is vegetarians who believe that animals are conscious sentient beings whose death is as tragic as a human's, but don't attempt to persuade others not to eat meat. Of course, if they did persuade others, everybody else would be annoyed, but if they're committing murder and you can get them to stop, you should. Similarly, if somebody is dying and you can potentially stop them, you should.

Edit: formatting

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-10T19:05:16.830Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, it would have been better for DanielH to tell his grandmother about cryonics before she was ill than it would be now. But that option is no longer available, so what matters now is whether there's some way of telling her now that's better than not telling her at all.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-08-09T22:26:18.634Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would be extremely unlikely for a Rabbi to do that for specific theological reasons that I'm not going to get into at the moment. (Essentially even most Orthodox Jews are functionally close to universalists in regards to the afterlife and don't think that non-Jews need to convert to go to heaven.)

There's also a clear distinction when one is talking to a relative like the OP mentions as opposed to being a stranger talking to essentially random people. As a society we consider that to be much less of a problem.

But besides all that, I don't really have a problem with the Rabbi or Priest who does that. If they sincerely think that the stakes are just that high then they should do whatever they can to get people to convert. Someone who stands by while someone dies and they maybe had an opportunity to do something that they think will save them seems morally reprehensible. The problem with the person trying to get deathbed conversions is more because a) pragmatically it will likely have more of a negative reaction to surrounding individuals and thus hurt one's cause more than it helps b) the religions are simply wrong, and thus taking up the last few precious minutes someone has in this world.