Aubrey de Grey Discussion, 2

I discussed epistemology and cryonics with Aubrey de Grey via email. Click here to find the rest of the discussion. Yellow quotes are from Aubrey de Grey, with permission. Bluegreen is me, red is other.
I don’t understand your logic here. I’m well aware of the issues you mention regarding the quality of Alcor’s and CI’s preservations, and I’ve never suggested that any current cryonics service is the same quality as regular medicine. Why do you think it would need to be that good to justify signing up?
I don't think it would have to equal regular medicine to be worthwhile. But the gap is big, and cryonics is expensive.

You said everyone should sign up for cryonics, for the same reason they have regular health insurance. This suggests that cryonics has traits seen with regular medicine, like being run pretty competently, providing value for cost, routinely providing good outcomes, and making your life better. Cryonics currently provides none of those.

To answer your question about what would justify signing up: First, I'd want cryonics organizations to be run in a competent and responsible way. Second, I'd want cryonics technology to improve enough to preserve brains well enough to optimistically expect the relevant information (about one's mind and ideas) to be preserved, and I would want cryonics organizations to provide quality persuasive intellectual explanations on this point. I think those two problems are deal breakers.

Regarding preservation, without staff errors, one big problem is fracturing – meaning breaks in the brain. Alcor's attitude seems to be that fracturing doesn't destroy information and nanotech can theoretically fix it because the breaks are smooth and the separated parts of the brain do not end up far apart. I'm not convinced; I think they'd need much better reasons to say this physical brain damage is OK and the relevant information still preserved. (I also think the idea of nanotech repairs is misguided. The focus should be on one day getting the information from the brain into a computer, not on fixing and reviving the original organic brain.) Fracturing is not the only serious technological problem.

If those two issues were fixed, I still would not recommend cryonics to "everyone", or most people, because it'd be a large financial burden for most people on Earth, in return for a long shot. Unless cryonics improved SPECTACULARLY, it wouldn't be worth signing up at a big cost to one's standard of living now. There's also the issue that the majority of people don't value life and don't want to live, in some pretty fundamental philosophical ways, as explained e.g. in Atlas Shrugged. Cryonics, like SENS, doesn't fit everyone's values and preferences.

It would also help if societal institutions handled cryonics better, e.g. if you could conveniently go a cryonics facility and kill yourself on site with staff present, rather than having them wait around for you to die (possibly suffering increasing brain damage from your disease in the meantime), wait for you to be pronounced legally dead, and perhaps deal with days of interference from regular medical personnel. Similarly, sometimes courts order people removed from cryo facilities. These things lower the chance of getting a good patient outcome, but I don't see fixing this as a strict requirement to sign up.

It would also be nice if I was a lot more convinced that Alcor and CI won't go out of business within the next 50 years, let alone 1000 years. Cryo preservation requires frequent maintenance and upkeep costs.
Two more points:

- A key feature that you don’t mention is that the poor preservations you list are cases where the individual did not do what I also strongly recommend, namely get themselves to the vicinity of their provider while their heart is still beating. Other cryonicists’ self-neglect isn’t a very good basis for one’s own decisions.
I don't think you read the cases closely. The Alcor case said he was in the Phoenix area, which is around 12 miles from Scottsdale, where Alcor is. It is the vicinity. Alcor refers to the "Scottsdale/Phoenix metropolitan area" on their website when explaining why they chose their location.

The reason for that bad outcome, and bad case report writing, was not due to location. For the CI case, it doesn't say what the reason for the bad outcome was, so we don't know if it had to do with location or not.

There are plenty of cases where people did everything right and got bad outcomes. There are even plenty of cases where cryo personnel irresponsibly caused bad outcomes. I include an example at the bottom of this email. There are, unfortunately, more examples available at the links I provided.
- As you say, current cryonics technology has a ways to go; but that’s another reason to sign up, since the more members Alcor and CI have, the more they can work to improve the technology.
Signing up for medical purposes, and for donation purposes, are different.

You said that, "... everyone should have a life insurance policy with Alcor or Cryonics Institute, for exactly the same reason that they should have any other kind of health insurance."

Signing up because you want to donate is not signing up for "exactly the same reason" as one has regular health insurance.

And I do not think everyone is in a financial position where they should donate money to cryonics research (or to anything).

For a younger American signing up for Alcor, the rough ballpark cost is 35 minutes of minimum wage work, 365 days a year. That's a big deal. That is a lot of one's life! Cost increases with age, so that's a minimum. (CI costs less than half that, which is still a lot of money for most people, and the quality drops along with the price.)

And I think if people have the means to make medical donations, SENS is a better option than cryonics. The SENS project you explain very well in Ending Aging, and elsewhere, makes a lot of sense and is a great idea, and you're working on it in a reasonable, competent, and effective way. Cryonics is an in-principle good idea, but unfortunately it doesn't go much further than that today. And I don't think throwing money at the issue will fix problems like some of the bad ideas of the people involved with Alcor and CI.

Example of what can happen with cryonics, not the patient's fault:
Curtis deanimated under as favorable a set of circumstances as any of us could have hoped-for.
A number of CI Directors have become concerned that I have been modifying the cryoprotectant carrier solutions without adequate testing ... In response to concerns by CI Directors (and my own concerns) I will not make more modifications to the carrier solutions, and I believe we should return to using the traditional VM−1 carrier for the time being
Ben Best, CI president (at that time), was experimenting on people who paid to be preserved. The result was failure to perfuse with cryoprotectants. And this is written by the guilty party. For an outside perspective, Mike Darwin comments:
Even in cases that CI perfuses, things go horribly wrong – often – and usually for to me bizarre and unfathomable (and careless) reasons. My dear friend and mentor Curtis Henderson was little more than straight frozen because CI President Ben Best had this idea that adding polyethylene glycol to the CPA solution would inhibit edema. Now the thing is, Ben had been told by his own researchers that PEG was incompatible with DMSO containing solutions, and resulted in gel formation. Nevertheless, he decided he would try this out on Curtis Henderson. He did NOT do any bench experiments, or do test mixes of solutions, let alone any animal studies to validate that this approach would in fact help reduce edema (it doesn’t). Instead, he prepared a batch of this untested mixture, and AFTER it gelled, he tried to perfuse Curtis with it. ... Needless to say, as soon as he tried to perfuse this goop, perfusion came to a screeching halt. [In other CI cases,] They have pumped air into patient’s circulatory systems…
Ben Best and Mike Darwin discuss the matter further here:

Continue reading the next part of the discussion.

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Aubrey de Grey Discussion, 1

I discussed epistemology and cryonics with Aubrey de Grey via email. Click here to find the rest of the discussion. Yellow quotes are from Aubrey de Grey, with permission. Bluegreen is me, red is other. I began the discussion like this:

You endorse Alcor and CI:
For the millionth time let me stress that referring to "getting older without getting sicker" as "becoming immortal" is not only inaccurate but actively counterproductive to this mission, because it entrenches the view of skeptics that the mission is quixotic. To answer the question you should have asked: obviously it depends on your age, but absolutely, everyone should have a life insurance policy with Alcor or Cryonics Institute, for exactly the same reason that they should have any other kind of health insurance.
Take a close look at Alcor and CI. While cryonics is a good idea in principle, Alcor and CI have lots of big problems (including that current cryonics technology isn't really good enough).

One big problem is not freezing people quickly. Max More, President and CEO of Alcor, writes:
You mention Mike Darwin, yet note that in Figure 11 of a recent analysis by him, he says that 48 percent of patients in Alcor's present population experienced "minimal ischemia." Of CI, Mike writes, "While this number is discouraging, it is spectacular when compared to the Cryonics Institute, where it is somewhere in the low single digits."
Alcor CEO brings up, favorably, a statistic meaning that Alcor does a bad job at least 52% of the time. Because, hey, CI does much worse, and the discussion topic is a comparison.

So I don't think you should tell people to sign up for CI and suggest it's the same quality as regular medicine.

You can find lots more information:

(Comments include discussion from people like former Alcor President Mike Darwin.)

See e.g. the most recent CI case:
CI patient #123 was a 71 year old male from England. Due to the uncontrollable circumstances of this case, the patient was straight frozen without being perfused with cryoprotective solutions and was sent to the Cryonics Institute for long-term storage in liquid nitrogen.
They failed. As they often do. No cryoprotectants! And they don't care to provide details. And they indicate they won't do anything different in the future, since they consider whatever happened "uncontrollable".

The latest Alcor case is very problematic too:

They argued with a Medical Examiner for a while, then managed to get ahold of the body and began cool down 2.5 days after death. The delay sounds very worrisome to me, but the case report doesn't address this problem at all. No medical details are provided about how cool down went. And there's no explanation about what temperature the body was at for the 2.5 day delay, the resulting damage, and whether this person could reasonably be expected to ever be revived.

I like SENS. I like life. I like the idea of cryonics. But I wouldn't pay a bunch of money for the bad patient outcomes which CI and Alcor routinely provide (according even to their own claims on their websites).

Continue reading the next part of the discussion.

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Discussion with Aubrey de Grey

I discussed epistemology with Aubrey de Grey via email. The discussion focused on cryonics initially, but the majority is about epistemology. Epistemology is the field of philosophy that covers knowledge and learning.

Aubrey de Grey is the driving force behind SENS – Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. What that means is organized and comprehensive medical research to deal with the problems caused by aging. If you donate money to any kind of charity, consider SENS.

If you're interested in SENS, read Aubrey de Grey's book Ending Aging. I read it and think it's a good book with good arguments (something I don't say lightly, as you can see by the critical scrutiny I've subjected Ann Coulter and others to.)

Click here to read the whole discussion. I made minor edits to remove a few irrelevant personal remarks and fix typos. Or click below for individual parts.

This discussion is now complete.

Like this? Want to read more philosophical discussions? Join the Fallible Ideas email list.

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Endorsements vs. Integrity

In a recent Center for Industrial Progress newsletter, Alex Epstein bragged about the prestigious people he'd gotten to sanction his upcoming book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

Alex writes that they "endorsed" the book. I think that's accurate. They're siding with him. You understand.

One endorsement reads:
"Alex Epstein has written an eloquent and powerful argument for using fossil fuels on moral grounds alone. A remarkable book.”

--Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist
Today I saw an article by Ridley about global warming. Note this is the same person from the book endorsement. His article takes roughly the same side as Epstein: it disagrees with the "settled science" of the "climate consensus" (scare quotes, not article quotes).

The article was OK, but at the end something stood out to me:
... concentrate on more pressing global problems like war, terror, disease, poverty, habitat loss and the 1.3 billion people with no electricity.
"[H]abitat loss" is not a pressing global problem in the same company as war, disease, etc...

This is not just my view. It's Epstein's view. Epstein disagrees with environmentalist views like this. He values people over animals. He's really strongly at odds with this kind of thinking.

Ridley endorsed Epstein's book, but actually disagrees in a huge way with Epstein's worldview.

What good are endorsements like that? Shouldn't Epstein reject endorsement by his philosophical opponents? Agreeing on a few particular conclusions about fossil fuels isn't enough. Epstein's book is fairly philosophical, and says he cares about about principles and philosophical reasoning (in line with his Objectivist philosophy). He shouldn't gloss over major philosophical differences to get dishonest but prestigious book promotion.

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Fountainhead Comments

Rereading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Some notes:
He remembered his last private conversation with her-in the cab on their way from Toohey’s meeting. He remembered the indifferent calm of her insults to him-the utter contempt of insults delivered without anger.
“Shut up, Alvah, before I slap your face,” said Wynand without raising his voice.
“Pipe down, Sweetie-pie,” said Toohey without resentment.
There's a theme here involving negative comments without negative emotions.
It was not sarcasm; he wished it were; sarcasm would have granted him a personal recognition-the desire to hurt him.
Negative comments due to negative emotions are easier to take. "Oh, you hate me, so you're being mean." But when it's impersonal, it's harder to dismiss the negative comments. If there's no motive besides the person thinks the negative comments are true, it's hard to ignore them without considering whether they're true or false (with objective reasons).

The position on sarcasm is notable too. I independently came to the same position. But few people are aware of this. Sarcasm is generally seen as more harmless than it is.
There’s an interesting question there. What is kinder-to believe the best of people and burden them with a nobility beyond their endurance-or to see them as they are, and accept it because it makes them comfortable? Kindness being more important than justice, of course.”
(This is a villain speaking, which is why the last sentence states a bad position.)

This issue is really important. You might expect people to like material such as The Beginning of Infinity. That book explains that problems can be solved, and people can make unbounded, unlimited progress. That's good, right? A better life is possible. The future can be awesome.

But people don't flock to ideas like these. It's not that they have counter-arguments. They can't refute it. They just don't actually like or want it. It burdens them with a nobility they don't want to deal with trying to live up to. It's easier if a bad life is all that's possible to man, so then they can live badly without feeling guilty.

With people like this, what could get through to them and help them become rational thinkers? What would get their interest so they'd (happily) try to live better?
“The worst thing about dishonest people is what they think of as honesty,” he said. “I know a woman who’s never held to one conviction for three days running, but when I told her she had no integrity, she got very tight-lipped and said her idea of integrity wasn’t mine; it seems she’d never stolen any money. Well, she’s one that’s in no danger from me whatever. I don’t hate her. I hate the impossible conception you love so passionately, Dominique.”
People lie. All the time. Especially to themselves.

And, what Rand's talking about: they lie to themselves about what lying is, so that they can believe they aren't liars!

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Success Isn't the Same Thing as Quality

"If you build it (so it's good), they will come" is a brag of popular and successful people. It's saying "people came to my thing because it was good, and didn't go to my rival's thing because it was bad". It's saying whatever the status quo is, that's how things should be. It's saying whatever is popular, it's popular because it's good.

Notice the passivity, you build it, they come automatically. You don't make them come, it just happens by itself. (And if it doesn't? Way more things are built than gain audiences. Well, then you didn't deserve success. Because the meaning here is you build it, you sit around passively to be judged, and then whoever has success deserves it and is good.)

Saying, "Don't worry about getting the word out, just make it really good and success will follow" is the same message. It's defending the status quo, and saying everyone's place in the world is where they deserve to be. It's the elite asserting the rationality of the world that made them the elite.

People also mix up making something people want and making something good. Lots of people have bad preferences. Pleasing people makes it easier to get attention/customers/fans/etc, but it's different than making something good. Again the issue is a claim about how great and rational the status quo is. There are lots of people who devote their lives to pleasing others, and want that to have been good.

The idea that quality ensures success is wrong. And it flatters successful people.

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Gaming Propaganda

Live comments for Die Noobs gaming "documentary" that i saw part of on Twitch.

Here's some info about it.

I don't have an ideal link, but I'm guessing it'll be easy to find on YouTube or Google in a few days.


lol twitch is showing propaganda video about how playing video games is no different than what kids always did playing football

some guy just got a clip saying “e-sports. take away the e. it’s sports.”

now ppl saying league is just a different type of “athleticism”

and it’s just as much a “team game” as team sports

now someone is saying watching competitive games is just like watching boxing and MMA

now they have a guy saying what he loves about e-sports is the HUMAN STORYLINES

and the EMOTION

it’s soooooo blatant social manipulation

to me it reads like super blatant begging for social legitimacy

but i think it’s got just enough barely any subtlety for ppl not to see it that way

now it’s saying gaming = family bonding

oh look dancing and music

and glorifying IRL fighting

and injuries, violence

and ppl trying to be cool and memey

lol “are they bad enough dudes to become progamers?”

see instead of saying “progamers are badass dudes” they imply it

now ppl are fooled

it’s an assertion disguised as a question about something else

i pasted this to HS players, wonder if anyone will say anything

now they’re at a gym

literal gym

presenting this as progaming training

“i want to dive headfirst into this thing and murder your whole facebook network”

now after the gym warmup they are playing CS

or some FPS, might not be CS actually, idk

oh i think they said it’s CoD

most of the shots of them “practicing”

are of the ppl not the screen

and them talking

and now they are practicing trash talk at a bar

walking in with a girl

some people might think the time we spent gaming was wasted. but it’s like Tom said, we didn’t waste anything. – pure unargued assertion

explaining he’s competitive “we wanna kill everybody”

“obviously we’re not gonna throw a fist at other bands, but we wanna destroy everybody”

i find it funny he had to qualify it like "obviously i don't mean what i keep saying"

it's like funnier cuz it WAS obvious. all the violence is metaphorical. we all know they aren't actually gonna go murdre someone. but he still was like scared and had to disown violence in the midst of all the glorifying of it

there’s contradictions there

it breaks the mood pretty badly. like a rockstar promoting "sex, drugs and rock and roll" and then in the middle he's like "but don't actually do drugs or have sex before you're married"

lol now they are saying rather literally that progamers don’t live in basements and their friends are jealous

it’s such propaganda

after more comparisons with sports, here are two live comments from other people on twitch:
Kookoomaloo: starcraft = golf
Idely: so starcraft is pianogolf?
lol wtf these ppl are interrupting their APM to chug beer while playing FFA starcraft?

"i was impressed, but i still wasn't impressed at the same time"

now they got a literal MMA fighter saying how he played Atari, Nintendo, and arcades

the MMA guy is asked about ever fighting himself a game version of himself, and answers he doesn't because he's superstitious

there was some sexism, insulting wrestling moves for being "pretty". the whole video adheres to social memes about guys should be strong/violent/macho (pretty is for girls). and the basic point is to repeatedly claim gamer guys are high status

now that's material about how gaming impresses someone's mother. they're really trying to go through whatever people care about and say gaming is good at that.

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Unconstrained by Reality
Sarah Silverman on NBC says her purse contents are "fun and pot and gum." Missing Noel Shepherd.
This is a common thing celebrities and other popular people do. This answer is not meant to be taken literally. Silverman is kind of joking, but also kind of serious – there is an actual meaning here. What purpose do these non-literal statements serve?

If you aren't speaking literally, you can speak in terms of 100% pure unfiltered social vibrations, unconstrained by reality (or drug laws).

By speaking non-literally, she can say exactly what will be most popular, without worrying about whether it's true.

She's communicating that she knows what's popular, and approves, and is willing to play the part of complying with social expectations to please others.

"Fun" is something pretty much everyone approves of. "Pot" is popular with her fanbase. And "gum" is a silly answer, meaning she's not too serious, not too worried about important things. It means she won't disapprove of others who spend their time chewing gum or otherwise having unimportant lives.

What's actually in her purse? No one cares.

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They had never seen his buildings; they did not know whether his buildings were good or worthless; they knew only that they had never heard of these buildings

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand:
When [Roark] went up to his office, the elevator operators looked at him in a queer, lazy, curious sort of way; when he spoke, they answered, not insolently, but in an indifferent drawl that seemed to say it would become insolent in a moment. They did not know what he was doing or why; they knew only that he was a man to whom no clients ever came. He attended, because Austen Heller asked him to attend, the few parties Heller gave occasionally; he was asked by guests: “Oh, you’re an architect? You’ll forgive me, I haven’t kept up with architecture—what have you built?” When he answered, he heard them say: “Oh, yes, indeed,” and he saw the conscious politeness of their manner tell him that he was an architect by presumption. They had never seen his buildings; they did not know whether his buildings were good or worthless; they knew only that they had never heard of these buildings.

It was a war in which he was invited to fight nothing, yet he was pushed forward to fight, he had to fight, he had no choice—and no adversary.
This is how most people treat my philosophy.

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Rule Breaking

people routinely break rules on purpose in games. for example basketball. people foul to stop the clock near the end.

in hockey you can get thrown out of the rest of the game for fighting. but people still fight on purpose sometimes.

if you have any way for people to break rules on purpose and get any advantage, they will.

why do they make rules with weak enough penalties that any good can come of rule breaking?

i think a big part of the issue is the fans want to see a good, competitive game. if you penalize a team a ton for breaking a rule, resulting in a very lopsided game and making the ending result no longer in doubt for the rest of the game, then the fans won't like that. it'll be boring to watch.

so there's this tension. on the one hand, they want to stop people from doing certain things. but on the other hand, no matter what anyone does, they don't really want to mess up the game. they want to play on and have it still be exciting, not have one team (or individual player) too handicapped to compete.

plus, the bigger the penalties are, the harder it gets to call a penalty. the more effect calling penalties has, the more referees will have to let small stuff slide. so then players figure out where the line is. and now you have players trying to get as close to the major penalty line as they can without crossing it, and if they slip up just slightly then they get a BIG penalty for doing something slightly on the wrong side of the line. tiny change in behavior, big change in consequences. that's a really bad system. and much worse given the human error factor – people are trying to play just up to the limit of what the ref won't call a penalty on, but have to account for the ref's judgments on each play being randomly wrong by a significant factor in either direction. so it's not just pure skill to go near the line without crossing, it's also luck. you have to figure out the normal range for ref judgements (like judges stuff between 20% more or less severe than it actually is) and then account for that, but then you can be screwed by a random outlier judgment. (i'm thinking the ref judgments are basically what you actually did, modified by a random factor that's on a bell curve).

oh and to make matters worse, most people don't draw a clear line between violating the spirit of the game (good sportsmanship) and the explicit written rules of the game. so there's fan pressure to judge things like intentions of actions, and whether coming near violating a rule repeatedly without actually violating it is bad sportsmanship that should be punished, and so on.

most people see all kinds of misbehavior as on a continuum and don't actually care all that much about the written rules. refs and court judges are supposed to be better than that and go by the actual rules, and do so with very variable success. (even the supreme court is pretty crap at it, especially the lefties)

this kinda stuff affects all types of games, including board games and video games. it varies though, e.g. if there's no fans watching to worry about.

some of it's also an issue for social news sites. for example, reddit tries to have rules to limit ways of getting upvotes. people who do everything they can to get upvotes just shy over breaking the rules will be most effective at getting upvotes.

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They simply did not care to find out whether he was good

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand:
The architects he saw differed from one another. Some looked at him across the desk, kindly and vaguely, and their manner seemed to say that it was touching, his ambition to be an architect, touching and laudable and strange and attractively sad as all the delusions of youth. Some smiled at him with thin, drawn lips and seemed to enjoy his presence in the room, because it made them conscious of their own accomplishment. Some spoke coldly, as if his ambition were a personal insult. Some were brusque, and the sharpness of their voices seemed to say that they needed good draftsmen, they always needed good draftsmen, but this qualification could not possibly apply to him, and would he please refrain from being rude enough to force them to express it more plainly.

It was not malice. It was not a judgment passed upon his merit. They did not think he was worthless. They simply did not care to find out whether he was good.
This is how most people treat my philosophy.

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Ambiguous Feminism

Look at this tweet:
if a dude sleeps with hella women YEAH BRO. if a girl shows her shoulder in public WHORE.

double standards. IT STOPS TODAY.
it stops which way? which standard should change in what way? what do you actually want me to do?

do you think women who sleep with hella people should be cheered? or that men who sleep with hella people should be booed?

or that women who show their shoulders in public shouldn't be booed, just change that? but booing women who sleep with hella men is fine?

or maybe men should be booed for showing skin in public?

why didn't it occur to the author to say what change he wanted? is it implied or obvious specifically what change he advocates? i don't think so. there are lots of competing popular ideas about how to change this stuff.

if this double standard ends, what single standard should replace it? people agree there shouldn't be a double standard, but disagree about what the right single standard is.

people who want change today, but don't care to say what to change to, are not reformers. they are idiots.

The tweet has 217 favorites, 81 retweets, but only 2 replies. lots of people think they liked it, none of them noticed that it's ambiguous. what did they like? what do they think it says?

they seem to want reform of some kind.

"make it better."
"how? what would be better?"
"i don't know, but we're fixing it TODAY!"

this is very immoral.

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