Re: Cryonics Thoughts
Sat, 5 Dec 1998 07:53:46 EST

In a message dated 98-12-01 13:15:06 EST, (Terry Donaghe) wrote:

> I know that most (all?) transhumanists and Extropians believe that
> Cryonics is a "good thing" and are either already signed up for it or
> will as soon as they gather the moola.

An initial note: Compared to many other things you can spend your money on, getting cryonics arrangements funded can be very affordable, especially if you lock in your life insurance premiums when you're young. Furthermore, there are scaling effects for cryonics: The more people that do it, the more affordable and realistic the whole enterprise becomes. Creating such a structure through the voluntary choice of participants seems to me to be a VERY extropian activity.

> I haven't been convinced yet that it's a "good thing." I understand
> the basic arguments for it, and yes, I want to live a long, long time
> just like the next transhuman. However, I have concerns and doubts...
> 1) How long can I be legally dead and still retain my brain state
> (identity)? I live in North Carolina and I doubt there's
any Cryonics
> centers nearby. If I'm gonna be suspended then dammit, I better be
> there when I'm thawed out, not some brain damaged version of me.

I'm no technical expert, so I only have personal, subjective opinions and value judgments to offer. My ultimate opinion on this question is based on observations of my own changing identity over time, both in the short run and the long run. I find that my "brain state" varies so much even over the short period of a few days -- yet with a continuing sense of identity -- that I would want to be "revived" even if the entity thus created shared only a small fraction of its identity with "me" (now). When I consider how different I am from the "me" I was even a few years ago -- much less the "me" of my childhood -- my opinion on the subject becomes even stronger.

> 2) I'm almost 30 now. I fully expect to live at least to 2040 and
> hopefully 2050. What are the chances we won't have developed mature
> nanotechnology by then?

If by "mature nanotechnology" you mean things like "utility fog", I think the chances are far less than 50%. (I do think the chances are MUCH better that we'll have very potent "early nanotech" by then, though. I think we're likely to see the earliest "nanotech" -- diamondoid thread and ribbon -- in c. 5 years, for what it's worth.)

More important than "mature nanotech" per se will be the many incremental developments in molecular biology which, by 2010 even will have added a decade to your life span, IMHO. However, such a realization shouldn't undermine commitment to cryonics now. First, you can't be sure you won't contract some kind of disease or develop some kind of condition for which a cure is just over your personal horizon and second, you may well be involved in some sort of accident for which cryonics will be a necessary safety net.

> 3) If I name a Cryonics organization as a beneficiary of life
> insurance in order to secure financing for freezing and I expire in
> such a way that I'm not salvageable (explosion, acid, eaten,
> spontaneous combustion, alien abduction, lost at sea, etc.) is there a
> clause to divert the money to my family?

>From a technical legal standpoint, you COULD have such a clause in your
insurance policy. As a practical matter, though, I think it is unlikely that you could get this into a policy you could actually buy. The problem would be crafting language for a contingent beneficiary clause that would define a certain enough condition to trigger the payment to the contingent beneficiaries. Language to the effect "in case my brain is so damaged that cryonic suspension is not practical, then pay my kids" keys off of a condition that would be determined by reference to 1) a changing state of the art and 2) potentially differing expert opinion about what would be a sufficiently damaged brain state. We're lucky enough that a few financially solid life insurers are willing to write cryonics insurance (most won't); inserting this added uncertainty into the claims process is something the very conservative life insurance industry simply won't tolerate.

Consider that the insurance benefit that will fund a neuro suspension -- $50,000 -- is really a VERY small amount of life insurance. If you have a real need for life insurance for economic dependants who will still be in that state at the time of your death, $50,000 is not very helpful. Furthermore, cryonics arrangements stand in lieu of traditional burial, so one gets at least some offsetting cost savings there. Thus for most people, the "misdirected benefit" issue in the case of an impossible suspension is a negligible economic issue.

Finally, consider the actual dollar present cost of cryonics arrangements. I made my arrangements when I was 39, and locked my premium in at just under $1,200 per year (and I have a sub-optimal underwriting profile). The annual dues for Alcor are $360 (if I recall correctly). The less than $1,500 per year I pay for my cryonics arrangements is one of the better values I buy, in my opinion. In a recent case of a friend who is 28 and healthy, I saw an annual premium of about $400 for a whole body suspension ($125,000 death benefit). That means that the total cost is under $800 per year. My guess is that the total neuro cost would be under $500 per year for a healthy person in their 20s.

> 4) Is life insurance even Transhuman? I'm betting I'll die before my
> family does. The whole point of being transhuman is that I DON'T
> I'd almost rather spend the money on staying
healthy - supplements, etc.

I don't want to die either, but I wear a seat belt in my car and see that it is equipped with airbags, being willing to pay the cost and take the time to use these safety devices. Investing in a cryonics contract is simply an action of the same kind: devoting current resources to a safety device; it is a species of risk-shifting, all of which involves some current costs.

	Greg Burch     <>----<>
	   Attorney  :::  Director, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
	           "Good ideas are not adopted automatically.  They must
	              be driven into practice with courageous impatience." 
	                      -- Admiral Hyman G. Rickover