X-Message-Number: 11993
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1999 12:10:00 -0700
From: Robin Hanson <>
Subject: Why Cryonics Isn't Popular (Maybe)

On Tue, 22 Jun 1999 Saul Kent wrote:
>        In Cryonet msg. #11983, Robin Hanson 
>suggests that cryonics isn't "popular" among "people 
>who think of the distant future...as a scarry, alien 
>place..." He also suggests that "evidence of the 
>effectiveness of cryonics technology is only 
>marginally important."
>        I don't agree.  If we had evidence of the
>effectiveness of cryonics technology, we would have 
>a basis for assuming that cryonics patients could be
>restored to life in the relatively near future, which 
>might be less "alien" and "scarry" to people.

Even if we had completely effective cryonics today,
it could still be a century before we know how to 
cure most of the conditions which now cause cryonics 
patients to "die."  That seems long enough to be alien. 

>        Moreover, there are many people who look
>forward to the "distant future", with only a small fraction
>of these people signed up for cryonics.  In fact, only a 
>very small fraction of the people who are favorable to 
>cryonics are signed up.  

I agree that the incredibly tiny number of people signed
up are a challenge for any single-factor explanation.  I 
offer my theory as just one important factor.

>        I believe the primary reasons people
>favorable to cryonics don't sign up are:
>        1)  The prevailing scientific opinion 
>that cryonics patients are preserved so badly 
>that it won't be possible to restore them to life.
>        2) The scientific evidence showing 
>that cryonics patients *are* preserved badly.
>        3) The paucity of evidence that it 
>will someday become possible to restore 
>the identity of today's cryonics patients.

The vast majority of medical procedures now are not backed
up by scientific evidence of their health effectiveness 
(much less cost-effectiveness).  In fact, a great many
procedures continue in the face of scientific evidence
of their ineffectiveness.  (Alternative medicine, of which
cryonics is clearly an example, is typically criticized by 
established medicine for its lack of scientific support, 
but the rhetorical slight-of-hand is that established 
medicine does not live up to this standard either.)

Scientific evidence is neither necessary nor sufficient
for adoption of a medical or health practice.  Understanding
what does determine adoption of practices is therefore 
central to estimating when/if cryonics will be adopted. 
My theory is an attempt to better explain adoption behavior.

>        As many of you know, I am doing my
>best to improve cryonics technology.  

Btw, I am personally very grateful to you for doing this.

Robin Hanson  
RWJF Health Policy Scholar             FAX: 510-643-8614 
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884    
after 8/99: Assist. Prof. Economics, George Mason Univ. 

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