Re: Cryonics/Nanotech Skepticism (Was: Schindler's List)

Scott Badger (
Thu, 13 Aug 1998 18:01:54 -0500

On Thursday, August 13, 1998 1:30 PM, Robin Hanson <> wrote:

>Hara Ra writes:
>>>The latest Cryonics mag has a provocative article by Saul Kent arguing
>>>that the main reason for low interest in cryonics is almost universal
>>>disbelief that it will work.
>>For more info you should look at Cryonet's archives about 6-8 weeks
>>ago. IMHO, Saul & company (Mike Darwin, et al) have been emotionally
>>committed to the biological approach and don't really understand the
>>implications of Nanotechnology and what 150 years of technical development
>>really means.

>Your claim and Saul's are compatible. Together they imply almost
>universal disbelief that nanotech will do what its proponents claim.

You lost me here. I followed that particular Cryonet thread and got the impression that Saul's major point was that the cryonics "industry" has made such little progress that it is no wonder that consumers are not persuaded to sign-up. There's no proven product since no one's been revived yet. Achieving this end is clearly the focus of 21CM and he would naturally frame the problem in this manner. Saul seemed tentative about implying that those suspended with the current technology would have *no* chance at being revived by future technologies. Rather, he believes that improved suspension technology will greatly improve our chances and will have the added benefit of promoting consumer acceptance (hope that's an accurate paraphrase, Saul).

>I am fascinated this sort of disagreement phenomena. Why are
>proponents so confident in the face of strong skepticism, and why are
>skeptics so confident in the face of strong minority disagreement?
>How does each side explain the other side's behavior, and how does
>each side think the other side explains it?
>Robin Hanson

As a member of the minority, I can't say I have a very convincing argument because I'm not a nanotechnologist. But it seems to me that (1) a lot of people are pretty excited about the potential of nanotech for a variety of applications so the field should continue to rapidly develop, (2) the argument for cellular repair at the molecular level is a coherent one, and (3) hundreds of bodies lying in various forms of biostasis 50 to 100 years from now would, I imagine, represent an exciting challenge that many nanoscientists will find irresistable. I may be mistaken, but I recall that you have used the figure of around 5% as your estimate for the probability that cryonics will work. As a proponent, *you* don't seem that confident. That's a little disheartening to hear from a cryonicist. Within what time frame does your estimate apply? 100 years? 200 years? 500 years? Or do you see some other future event (e.g. SI) making the arument moot?

Best regards,

Scott Badger