Cryonics

Cryopreserving people for them to be revived in the future

Introduction

Summary of the problem

Death is a major violation of preferences and is, as of now, unavoidable.

Summary of the solution

Cryonics is a technique of cooling legally-dead people to liquid nitrogen temperature where physical decay essentially stops, in the hope that future scientific procedures will someday revive them and restore them to youth and good health via medicine, cybernetics, nanotechnology, mind uploading or in some other way. The core idea is that personality and long term memories are stored in neural patterns, which are not detroyed immediately

EA potential

Cryonics didn’t receive much attention from the EA community, so no detailed evaluation is available. However, here’s some general considerations.

Pros:

  • Cryonics research is underfunded compared with other anti-aging research.
  • People usually sign up for cryonics out of self interest, so it can be funded out of their self-spending budget.
  • Cryonics can be an alternative to end-of-life care, providing the patient and relatives with an ethically accepted alternative that means less pain and lower costs.
  • Making cryonics more or less widely accepted will both lower the costs and increase the probability of success (larger cryonics organization will be more robust).

Cons:

  • Per patient price is rather high, ranging from $35,000 to $220,000 depending on the organization, type of preservation (head only or entire body) circumstances of death etc.
  • As with other technologies expected to emerge in the future, it’s extremely difficult to estimate the probability of cryonics working out.
  • Cryonics have some negative associations among the general public.

Conclusion

It’s not likely that directly paying for other people’s cryopreservation is an effective way to do charity. However advocating for people (both inside and outside EA community) to pay for their own preservation from their personal funds not designated for charity, or generally promoting cryonics into the public vision, may be cost-effective. No estimates about cost-effectiveness of funding cryo research.

Organizations

Alcor
Cryonics Institute

Links

Discussion on EA forum
Essay contest on Lesswrong.com