Here's a very interesting post from CryoNet about the relative "failure" of cryonics and how it might be remedied. Many of the arguments also apply to transhumanism in general.
Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 15:04:47 -0700
From: Jeff Davis <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: selling cryonics
WARNING: the following may not be suitable for all audiences. Proceed at your own risk.
On April 28th, Saul Kent offered his essay on the failure of cryonics, in which he wrote:
"Another myth that has permeated cryonics from the beginning is that there has never been a really good effort to promote cryonics by a professional promoter/publicist/sales person, and that if we had the right promoter and enough money to do the job right, there would be rapid, accelerating growth in the movement. I contend that this is the exact opposite of the truth."
I disagree. No myth; truth.
Consider. Someone is offering for sale perfect health, perpetual youth, and an opportunity to experience all that the future has in store, in a society at least as good as the one we've got now, and probably much, much better. He hires a salesman and sends him out. The salesman comes back, shakes his head and say, "No one's buying." Which of the following possible conclusions seems most likely?
(1) The product is unsellable.
(2) The salesman's approach is inadequate.
(3) The salesman's approach is monumentally inadequate.
When asked about his approach, the salesman says, "I tell them, ' We wait till you die, then we flush out your blood, pump you full of anti-freeze, freeze your corpse, inflicting some damage in the process--but no matter--then we keep you frozen until we learn how to fix you, then we restore you to life, youthful and healthy, and send you on your way. So give me a hundred grand and I'll sign you up.'"
We begin to see the problem. Now let me state the obvious. The character of the product in question is unprecedented, as is the marketing challenge. A systematic analysis conducted according to proven methodologies of market research (a fascinating project, possibly breaking new ground in the field of marketing) would be really helpful. Without it we have cocktail party conversation. (Though real breakthroughs have been known to appear on cocktail napkins.)
Saul goes on:
"... there is a long history of competent promoters, entrepreneurs and sales people committing themselves to the growth of cryonics,..."
Again, I disagree, and Saul's own phrasing seems to support me, characterizing them, largely, as a passel of hucksters.
"... the slickest, most persuasive promoter I've ever met.",
"... two fast-talking promoters",
one of whom Saul quotes as saying:
" I've taken care of it all. The first person will be frozen in a few months on international TV with the Pope and other celebrities in attendance. After that, Juno (the cryonics company) expects to be freezing thousands of people a year, with the company going public right after we freeze a Nobel-prize winning scientist." The Pope. You betcha. He'll get the word out. He has a long history as acompetent promoter. And then a nobel-prize-winning scientist--yahoo! You can't GET a better endorsement than that. We're talking world-class credibility here. Noble-prize-winning smart, and cooperative enough to die right on schedule. Now that's planning! Dang! I'm impressed. How surprised and saddened everyone must have been, when, as Saul observes, "... none of this happened." And the remaining cast of sales professionals: the oil speculator, the real estate speculator, the crack insurance salesman, the almost-governor of Texas...look, I love ya Saul, baby, but this is no professional sales effort, it's a flippin' circus.
A professional marketing plan begins with research to identify specific market segments, and a sales strategy tailored to each segment, some psychological analysis, some pilot strategies, some test marketing, some focus groups, some follow-up evaluation, some fine tuning, and then perhaps, a gradually expanding effort. Absent evidence of such a plan, I'd say it's time to return to the original question, "How do you sell cryonics?"
But before I do that, I think I'll take a moment to cut the pioneers some slack, and show some respect.
In life, timing plays a big role. For at least 40,000 years before Dr. Ettinger published "The Prospect", humans had come to know death as a certainty, so it seems reasonable that it should take them a while to get over it.
In the early 60s, to an unsophisticated America, cryonics could only have been seen as the most outlandish of science fiction. There was no genetic engineering, no computers, no organ transplants, no cloning, no space travel, no hint of nanotechnology, no idea of a technology for cellular repair or for the need of such a technology. Cryonics was a dream, an alien meme. Newly minted it would be, by definition, ahead of its time: unbelievable, unacceptable, unsellable. In short, cryonics would have to wait for the world to catch up.
Meanwhile there was work to do. To "sell" cryonics would take the formation of a core group of advocates, and their promotional efforts over many years, in the face of substantial ridicule, to lay the groundwork for a wider acceptance. It would take time and science to bring the world to a level of technological sophistication where the techniques of cryonic suspension could be seen as achievable. It would take a population so accustomed to the ever-accelerating pace of technological progress, that the death meme, ancient and entrenched, might become vulnerable to the meme of technological possibility. Can that be the state at which we have arrived today? I suggest that it is--if not now, when?--and that the perception of cryonics marketing as a failure is at least partly about timing. Visionaries are always early and impatient.
On May 1st Saul wrote:
"... I think most people are aware (to one degree or another) of the following perceptions, which strongly influence them in deciding not to sign up for cryonics:
I think that these perceptions contribute collectively to the opinion that cryonics won't work, and that this opinion is the number one reason people don't sign up."
Again, I disagree, but beyond that, if you look closely at the above, you might just find, hidden in plain sight, the main reason for the cryonics marketing failure.
The above is a "rational" argument. Putative factual elements, mobilized and presented in logical fashion to compel acceptance of a conclusion. Facts. Discovery of facts. Ordering of facts. Assessments based on facts. Decisions based on facts. This is rationalism. Most cryonicists think of themselves as rationalists, and as a consequence, individually and even more so collectively, they misread human nature. Human beings are creatures of passion, profoundly so; and consequently, profoundly irrational. The cryonicists' failure to grasp this fundamental truth lies at the heart of their marketing failure. They have addressed the sales problem as a problem of persuasion by rational exposition, when, in fact, it is a wholly emotional event. Rationality is only the thinnest, most insubstantial veneer, overlaid on a billion years of instinct and passion.
Salesmen know. You sell the sizzle not the steak.
So what then is the reason people don't sign up, beyond a concept too new, and unenlightened salesmanship? Let's look at the psychological basis for rejecting an idea, and see what it implies about the wide range of reasons given for rejecting cryonics.
Group social structure evolved because it has survival advantages. Advantages against predators and advantages against competing groups of the same or similar species. When humans developed the capacity for cognition and abstraction, the herd became the tribe, and the patterns of perceived reality became a belief structure. A belief structure held in common is the membership card to the group, with all that that implies for individual identity and survival. Consequently, any idea which conflicts with an individual's belief structure, threatens survival, and is rejected reflexively. Thus when a Fredric Pohl, who clearly possesses the intellectual qualifications to embrace cryonics, says vaguely, "It doesn't seem right", you're seeing an example of that reflex in action. And in considering all the anecdotes of cryonics rejection, I am drawn to the conclusion that most all of them originate in that reflex. (Could it be that all human contentiousness over ideas is a manifestation of this primitive reflex?)
So what does this have to do with the reality of cryonics sales? Well, the empiricist tries stuff till he finds something that works. The theorist seeks underlying principles from which he hopes to fashion a more deliberate approach. (What's this called? Let's see...ah, yes. Science.) Consider the rejection reflex as the underlying principle.
So the question becomes, how to penetrate with a "foreign" idea, a belief structure protected by a strong, pre-rational, rejection reflex? A nerdy formulation, but hey, that's science!
So here are some general approaches.
Plant the idea before the defenses are built, ie. when they're young and impressionable. As the twig is bent so grows the meme. (Forgive me, I just couldn't resist.) Disguise the idea and sneak it in (fable or folk tale or TV series). Escort the idea in with a trusted emissary: mom, Doc Smith, cultural icon, Walter Cronkhite. Hitch the idea to a powerful force: love, sex, money, freedom, fear. Seek and exploit a moment of enhanced vulnerability, ie., when the defenses are breached by circumstance.(More on this later.) Attack the defenses with deliberate violence: Enlightenment and life, or ignorance and death? Your choice. Find a back door/unguarded entry.(More later.) Lay seige and wear them down. Peaceably persist, persuade, assist, insinuate, assimilate, and convert. (Current cryonics strategy?) Innovate.
Here are some tactics.
Seduce, don't persuade.
The harder you try: the more needy you look, the more it seems that you're trying to sell a bill of goods, the more they resist. Less is more. Tease them. Tempt them with the juiciest rewards cryonics has to offer--health, youth, sex, money, power, immortality-- and then turn and walk away. The less you try the more they will chase after you and the harder they will work to persuade themselves.
Pull them with temptation, and push them with insecurity, fear of rejection, or fear of loss. "It's not for you", "Not for the stupid", "If you crave a hole in the ground, go for it", "You say God wants you in Heaven? Please, please, don't let me keep you or God waiting!" "We have FIVE BILLION candidates, we don't NEED you." "If you need convincing, do it yourself; we don't have the time." This approach is orders of magnitude more powerful than any tedious list of facts.
People want what they can't have. They opened a club in New York. It was called Studio 54. They put a staff member at the door to screen patrons so that only the "right" people would be allowed in. In no time at all the line stretched around the block and the rest is history.
Cryonics is not for everyone. Establish entry requirements. Make the candidates pass an exam. (Yes, it's a trick, but you have to help them get past their own defenses.) Cryonics is not for everyone. Exclude murderers, rapists, child-molesters, armaments manufacturers, politicians, tobacco company execs. Cryonics is not for everyone. Only the: elite, fortunate, hip, worthy, just, wise. etc. get into cryonics. Only the "right" people will be smart enough to recognize that "Once-in-a-Lifetime" opportunity, and gutsy enough to go for it. Head down in a dewar of liquid nitrogen, everybody is special.
Greed. "Greed is good." GG
God forgive me (just a phrase), but I do love this one. Greed is just so,...reliable. Can anyone dispute this one? An individual spends a lifetime fighting to build something only to lose it to decrepitude and death? Not! Now, you CAN take it with you. Need I say more?
Fear, Anger, Stubbornness, Outrage.
The dark side of the force. We don't like to talk about them, but there they are. And like greed, they are reliable. And jam-packed with emotional energy waiting to be tapped.
Now here's one we like to talk about. But since it is key to three markets which, in my view, are immediately exploitable, and whose exploitation can bring about the immediate breakout of cryonics, I'll simply employ it as a segue to the discussion of those opportunities.
Eventually, cryonics will grow into a broad spectrum of career, lifestyle, and investment opportunites. But for now, in its formative stage, simple public awareness, acceptance, and some prospect for a growing revenue stream to support research would be a realistic goal. While the identification of and focus on high demand markets would seem to be the logical approach, I do not see it being applied. Instead, there is an unfocused dissemination of the idea to everyone, and no one. (Am I wrong? Then set me straight.)
The first market is, at the risk of seeming foolish:
Pet owners. Now don't check out on me too quickly. I realize that most
people, even pet owners themselves, view the extremes of devotion of
(other) pet owners toward their pets as silly and embarrassing (it's
embarrassing because they know that secretly they feel the same way). Pet cemeteries is a bit much, right? Wake up and smell the opportunity! Pet suspensions would be a revenue stream; an opportunity for fully-funded research, development, and clinical experience in legal pre-mortem suspensions; and an unparalleled opportunity for leveraging human sign-ups--"Benji will want you to be there when he wakes up." The power of the bond between human and pet is as powerful as the pet cemetery is incredible. I absolutely love exploiting human foibles. It's so,...human.
Scoff if you must, but then don't bitch and moan about the moribund state of cryonics and the threat this poses to your eventual successful suspension. Pride goeth before the fall.
Also worth noting in this context is the "Missyplicity Project". Scratch the surface and I think you will find a carefully orchestrated and professionally executed plan to cash in on pet cloning, complete with web-based publicity. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned here.
Human beings idealize the lives of those they love, projecting onto them their own hopes and dreams. Perhaps it's just a fluke of evolution, but not necessarily a tragic one, that it is easier to love another than to love oneself. Enter the life insurance salesman, and it is no wonder that people will pay for the comfort of believing that their projected hopes and dreams are secure. I thank George Smith for bringing this to my attention. We will often more readily pay to save others than we will pay to save ourselves. Which brings me to my second market, which I call
The Society for the Preservation of Cultural Treasures.
What is a Frank Sinatra worth? A George Burns? A Barbra Streisand? A Pablo Casals? A Lauren Bacall? An Oprah Winfrey? A Michael Jordan? An Albert Einstein? These people, and others like them are (or were) loved by MILLIONS. Millions who would readily pay to "save" them.
Don't misunderstand. Some of these people are dead. Most could afford their own suspensions. Most would, presumably, in light of the current perception of cryonics, reject the idea of suspension, with one of the usual explanations. That's not the point.
Ordinary people will break down their own defenses and readily embrace cryonics if it is linked to something so personally heroic and emotionally compelling as saving those they love and idolize. From there it is a small step to embracing cryonics for themselves.
Moreover, these cultural icons--stars if you will--are the energy source at the center of the the human cultural experience. Thrusting cryonics into that fire--a step that seems at some point inevitable--will emblazon it incandescent in the public imagination. Which is precisely where it should be.
So the SPCT solicits funds/donations from fans for the preservation of their idols, for research, or for later use by the donor as a prepayment for their own suspension. In the process the "It'll never work" meme is transformed into the "I am committed to making it work" meme.
There are those who will express concern over the firestorm of controversy that this must inevitably provoke. But cryonics will not grow without a helluva a fight. So if not now, when?
Which brings me to the last of the immediately exploitable markets. It is at once the largest, most obvious, most accessible, most challenging, most dangerous, and most controversial.
One of the original applications of cryonics was for the treatment of currently untreatable medical conditions. Get to the future and get cured. The reality of disease and death from which this idea originated is still with us. At the following internet address
you can find the statistics for 564,000 people who will(?) succomb to cancer in 1998.
Where is the outreach program to inform these candidates of the cryonics option?
When we talk about missed opportunities to promote cryonics, this one regularly suggests itself to me. Beyond the missed opportunity, however, is what has often struck me something of an ethical lapse on the part of the cryonics community. Every day, in oncology clinics around the world, people are being given a death sentence. The doctor describes two options: we can make you comfortable, or we can experiment on you. Most people are aware of a third option--the Kevorkian option--but few know of the cryonics option. In light of the staggering numbers, the terror and tragedy, the pain and suffering and expense, if cryonics had no more to offer than bouyant hopefulness it would be a blessing on that basis alone! But it has SO MUCH MORE to offer!
Success is a near certainty. We cannot be cowed or diverted from our ethical duty by dissapproval, small mindedness, or lack of vision. We should be pursuing cancer victims like a cheap lawyer on his way to a hundred-car pile-up.
I personally favor pre-mortem suspensions at any time as a matter of choice. The idea that the govt. should control this matter is unacceptable. It stems directly from the fact that the world is dominated by irrationality and governed largely by default. Find a jusrisdiction that allows pre-mortem suspensions and conduct them there; or invent such a jurisdiction; or ... do what you have to do.
At great personal risk Dr.Kevorkian has demonstrated the courage to act on his convictions. He has weathered the legal assault of the state, and been exonerated by both the people at large, and by the juries in whose hands he had the courage to place his fate. In so doing he has set legal precedent and shown the way for others to follow. As Dr. Kevorkian fights for the rights of persons to choose death, can we cryonicists do less in the struggle for the rights of persons to choose life?
The easy answer is yes. In fact, that is what we have done so far, and cryonics has not prospered with the choice. People, creatures of passion that they are, honor justice and courage, which is why Dr. Kevorkian has prevailed. The success of cryonics awaits only a similar committment of courage, and a willingness to undertake the fight of your life. But hey, isn't that what cryonics is all about? Which is why the hard answer is "If not us, who?"
Best, Jeff Davis
"Everything's hard till you know how to do it." Ray Charles ----------------------------------------------------------------------