X-Message-Number: 19862
Date: Wed, 21 Aug 2002 13:35:47 -0700
From: <>
Subject: Re: Probabilties

Dear Cryonet:

To Ralph Merkle: the point of a Markov chain is that the things you put in it
are things you construct and define to be independent of the others. Survival
of a cryonics organization is dependent on survival of its society, to be
sure, but the reverse is not true. Thus, you must construct the chain as P1*P2
where P1 is defined to be your estimate of probability that society survives,
and P2 is your estimate that your particular cryonics organization survives
GIVEN that society does. Most of the smaller probabilities for off-chain
things like society disintegrating but Alcor surviving in some cave, can be
discounted. Likewise the idea that society won't develop nanotechnology, but
Alcor will, and so on. Since there's some finite chance that your cryonics
organization will not survive but that you'll stay frozen anyway (on somebody
else's charity) you'll have to do some fiddling there and perhaps lump that
into a single value. But you see the point.

To Thomas Donaldson: With all due respect, since the future is never exactly
like the past (even each hurricane is unique) the function of science is to
guess at the future inductively on the basis of things that are LIKE things in
the past. The point is, how "like" does something have to be, before it
becomes portentous? And predictive?

Take the sequence of events which preceeded the Apollo 11 landing. In 1900, in
a pre-flight era of train and cannon, men going to the moon didn't seem too
likely -and certainly it didn't look likely to happen within a lifetime. But
then came Tsiolkovsky, Goddard, the V2, Sputnik, Leyka the dog, Gagarin, JFK's
promise, the Surveyor soft landings, and the Apollo mission 8, 9, and 10
accomplishments. By that time, it was obvious to all but idiots that we'd do
it and do it soon, even though it still had never been done.  But the
probability didn't go from 0 to 1 suddenly with any of these events, starting
in 1903. That fact that it did in the minds of some individuals who lived
through that era (and at different times for different people), only means
they were being foolish. Had they been smarter, they'd have realized that the
odds were merely getting better with each of these milestones, but never
flipped from 0 to 1 with any of them. The same is true for human cloning. Is
there anybody today who assigns this odds of 0 or 1?  Not so long ago, there
were quite a few scientists who assigned it essentially zero, even though
frogs had been cloned from tadpoles. Now, some of the same people are trying
to pass legislation to stop human cloning <g>, so you know they suddenly think
it's going to happen for sure, any time now. Somewhere they flipped from black
to white-- but that's not a good way to think.

Finally, so long as we're on the subject of black and white thinking (pardon),
there's the Mormon Church debate. Mormons essentially offer a guarantee that
you'll get to Heaven if you learn the passwords and secret signs (very much as
in the Egyptian book of the dead), pay your tithing, and don't break any major
rules, without official and public repentance. It's understood that for 10% of
all your money, and your obedience and belief, that you'll make it to Heaven
and become a God. It's 100% guaranteed, and it's a fact that no dead Mormon
has ever asked for their money back.

In this situation, the Mormons CAN'T admit they were wrong about ANY
revelation they ever said they had. If they did this even once, that would put
the rest of what they say in doubt, even for members. Including that secret
route to Heaven stuff. Then Mormons would be playing the numbers game of
probabilities of human error, and that's not what people pay organized
religious groups to do for them. It's certainly not what Mormons pay THEIR
church to do who wants a church that only functions like a stock analyst?
Mormons are practical people, and they put up all that money because they put
their P value at 1.0.  The reason that there are millions of Mormons but only
hundreds of cryonicists (even though cryonics charges less) has more than a
little to do with the fact that cryonics only promises it will try to get you
to the state of being spam in a can, then do what it can. The Mormons, by
contrast, give you absolute assurance of immortality through revelation they
get from a Supreme Being, and they're never wrong about it. You've got their
word on it. And if you don't believe them, you can ask God Himself about it,
and get an answer. And if you don't, it's YOUR problem (and shame on you).

And yes, millions of people fall for this, because many people just cannot
live with uncertainty when it comes to death. Not for nothing did Voltare note
that the first Divine was no doubt the first crook who'd just met his first

S.B. Harris

P.S. The phrase "white and delightsome people" hasn't occurred in any Book of
Mormon printed in the last 20 years. It's been Orwellized out. But the LDS
church will not tell you that it was previously a translation error. They
CAN'T tell you that. 

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