Non-technical objections to cryonics

OK, that’s enough on the technical side for now — here’s a space to talk about non-technical objections.

I think the strongest argument here is the relatively high danger of global catastrophe: that by some means or other, as a result of the very technological advancement that inspires cryonics, there will be some sort of global catastrophe that makes it impossible for cryonics firms to collect money from investments and/or buy liquid nitrogen with it. A climate change related catastrophe is one candidate, but there are all sorts of other existential risks to consider.

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(already: 3) Comment post


21.02.2010 21:58 David Gerard

You don’t even have to go that far — even assuming present civilisation to be stable enough for the foreseeable future, one cryonics facility already went bust and the bodies thawed, and the two existing ones are small and financially shaky.

21.02.2010 22:26 Paul Crowley

Sure, I don’t mean to imply that’s the only non-technical objection by any means — your provider going bust is another, as is legislation outlawing storage, whether you’d want the future, whether the future would want you, and many others: see the Alcor FAQs for more such.

22.02.2010 0:03 Luke Parrish

Cost is a big nontechnical issue.

A technical solution is to use bigger freezers as there gets to be more use for them. More total LN2 / freezing energy, but less of it per unit volume and thus per patient. If you cube the volume, you square the surface area, so 1000 times the volume means only 100 times the heat transfer.

Of course from a social stability perspective putting all your eggs in one basket may seem the opposite of what you’d want to do. The exception would be if this actually motivates people into doing more to create social stability.

23.02.2010 16:56 David Gerard

<a href=””>Further on the organisations</a>. Apparently, Alcor considers a body that’s been preserved only by dry ice for a month is in suitable condition to fight for. And its accompanying $50k annuity. Surely there must be more to this story …

4.03.2010 4:43 Luke Parrish

Alcor gave up on the annuity. The court upheld the woman’s wishes to be cryopreserved. Unfortunately the daughter managed to get her mom’s brain ice-sickled for a month and got away with the money.

23.02.2010 16:56 David Gerard

Oh good Lord, yet another blog syntax fail. Here’s the URL:

23.02.2010 17:01 David Gerard

Alcor confirms the body’s on dry ice right now: So why bother with LN2?

23.02.2010 17:07 Paul Crowley

Is it through some perverse desire to minimize the usefulness of the discussion that you’re posting this to the one thread about non-technical issues?

I’ll answer your question if you solemnly swear that from here on, you’ll stop flinging all the shit you can get your hands on, pick one objection to cryonics that you consider most worthy of discussion, and make an actual blog post about it.

23.02.2010 17:12 David Gerard

This is the non-technical objections thread, so the organisations behind it were relevant, I thought. If this doesn’t raise even the slightest “what on earth?” in your mind, you’re not susceptible to new information.

If you are really this determined to give them your money, I’ll bow out henceforth.

23.02.2010 17:15 Paul Crowley

It doesn’t raise a “what on Earth” because I already know the answer! I’m just holding back in the hope that I can persuade you, as I’ve asked you many times, to try for a bit of depth instead of just assuming that everything you hear that sounds bad is and flinging it all as fast as possible.

Will you pick an objection and actually develop it in depth?

23.02.2010 17:19 David Gerard

My main technical objection remains that there’s no evidence whatsoever that what they do is any good whatsoever, and much evidence that it isn’t.

My organisational qualm is that they’re small and shaky, as they admit. This story, and Alcor confirming the dodgy point in its press release, raises a “What the fuck?” signal.

But it’s your money, you go have fun with it.

23.02.2010 17:35 Paul Crowley

Since you say you’re bowing out, I’ll answer your question. See How cold is cold enough?. For the example reaction they use, a month at dry ice temperatures is like an hour at body temperature: bad news that will certainly make her future reanimation harder and less likely, but not yet hopeless.

You’ll note that LN2 is actually massive overkill compared to the temperatures they need: the perfect cryonics procedure would maintain the body above the glass transition temperature. However, that would be much, much harder and less reliable, especially when you consider that variation in temperature will cause destructive thermal expansion and contraction.

I have enjoyed discussing this with a lot of people, but I can’t say you’ve been one of them; your derisive tone, your preference for breadth over depth, and your total lack of embarrassment at continually presenting me with one fake gold chain after another has made it very unrewarding. I’m glad that other critics (including Liam, as you point out) have done so much better.

23.02.2010 17:22 David Gerard

I will also add that Liam’s description of the discussion so far is how it feels to me too:

You’ve had lots of the smartest people you can find telling you the same things, over and over. You’re too wedded to the idea to listen. Is it possible they have a point?

14.04.2010 18:09 Roko

How about the objection that cryonics is weird and icky? You wouldn’t want to be weird, would you!?

(Just thought I’d get that one out there, as I feel that sometimes people whose real objection doesn’t sound spiffy enough will verbilze “objections” that didn’t causally influence their decision to object)

29.07.2010 16:48 RichieKGB

It is pretty weird and icky I completely agree with that. As for non-technical reasons how about the social contract? When you pass on the majority of people leave their estate to their families. Leaving aside all the inevitable arguments about feeling shafted on grans will lets just look at the concept. This passing on of material possessions helps with the pain of losing someone. Sometimes if your relatives were successfull it can change their whole situation by providing a much needed windfall and or a home. Also (depending on their beliefs of course) I worry about the chidren that are effected by cryonics. If they are told Granny isn’t really dead but is frozen for storage and one day she might come back better than ever — well that kinda sucks. The children don’t really understand the concept of death and may well develop weird belief systems as a result. It’s not fair to impose what i think is a almost religous belief in cryonics onto children. Thirdly using life-insurance to cover your cryonics may seem pretty unselfish way to go. But is it really, what if you die young and use up your 100K on a gamble instead of using it to provide your partner and or children? I suppose you could take out 2 seperate life insurance schemes but come on — lets be serious who is going to do that. Hell people always get shafted on insurance in any case — i say your better off using that monthly payment to get a nice pizza and enjoy your life. :)

30.07.2010 0:19 Luke Parrish

Rather presumptuous to trade gran for her money. Kids need to be taught to save and plan for the future, and take intelligent risks. They don’t need to be told that life is full of absolutes. It’s natural to grieve when someone goes into cryo, given that we don’t know they will make it out again. Kids who know about the uncertainty of death (and life, come to that) aren’t going to be weirder than the ones that don’t. Yeah pizza is nice, but you can make your own at home cheaper. A little thrift isn’t a bad thing. And something that gets you thinking about the longer term earlier in life is a good thing.

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