Why isn’t cryonics more popular?

In discussing prizes, Alex wonders why cryonics isn’t more popular?

Who better to ask than Robin Hanson? Read his very short paper on the topic.

Individuals may pay for medicine mostly to convince groups of their loyalty, and groups may pay to convince individuals similarly. This can explain many puzzles, including the low health value of medicine, and the lack of interest in private info about quality of medicine. Together with a few simple auxiliary assumptions, it can also explain many other health puzzles.

This theory also suggests why people might be particularly uninterested in cryonics. At present cryonics is something individuals buy for themselves, which if it works will transport them to an alien social world where they can do little to aid their current social allies. That alien world seems unattractive and downright scary to most current allies, and spending all that money on going there reduces one’s ability to aid current allies. Buying cryonics can then naturally be interpreted as symbolizing betrayal and abandonment. And with medicine mostly being a symbolic purchase, people aren’t in the habit of looking any deeper than that.

This suggests that cryonics is mainly going to be popular among people who think of the distant future not as a scary alien place, but as their home and social world, and especially among tight-knit groups of people who expect to move there together. It suggests that perceptions of social fragmentation (such as when many split off from Alcor) are especially damaging, and that evidence of the effectiveness of cryonics technology is only marginally important.

Have you noticed that women in particular are hostile to the idea of their men surviving them and coming back for another life?

Alas, I am a cryonics pessimist and I have yet to sign up for the extant services. (It is an interesting exercise to sit down and calculate how much resurrection would be worth to you, your implicit probability expectation, and your value for the modest yearly fee; many people have to fudge the numbers to justify their absolute dismissal of the idea.) But I also am pretty sure that most people, including prospective donors, reject the idea for the wrong reasons.


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