Re: Cryonics sources

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Mon Jun 19 2000 - 09:29:47 MDT

Greg Burch wrote
>3. Freezing with good cryoprotectants can preserve at least some of the
>informational content of a dead or dying brain. ...
>5. Not cryopreserving your brain will result in a near-complete loss of its
>information content in a relatively short period of time. ...
>Once one works through these fairly straightforward points, the choice for
>cryonics seems clear-cut. To me, it's the rational version of Pascal's Wager.

Robert Bradbury comments:
>IMO, you can throw away the rest of the arguments and simply stick with #5.
>Even a 0.000001 % chance of survival is better than the 10^-??? chance
>allowed by dependence on "faith" or "belief". The cost is minimal relative
>to the potential benefit.

Your attitudes only make sense it you postulate a life of infinite value given
cryonics success. If you don't estimate a life of infinite duration, or if
your values assign diminishing returns to long life, such as via discounting
the future, then the probability of success matters.

Let me illustrate with a calculation. A typical value of life-year is
twice a yearly income. For a yearly income of $50K, this is $100K/yr, which
at a 2.5% discount rate gives you a value of life forever of $4M, and $2M
for living thirty years more. These are the sorts of ballpark numbers
health economists use to make sense of observed choices between money and
risk of death in cars, jobs, etc.

If cryonics suspension costs $100K, the forever, using the above numbers
it wouldn't make sense unless there was a 2.5% chance of it making you
life forever, or a 5% chance of making you live thirty years.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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