X-Message-Number: 19891
Date: Sat, 24 Aug 2002 08:17:10 -0700
From: "Ralph C. Merkle" <>
Subject: Re: Probabilties 

My own estimates of the probability of success of cryonics have 
consistently been above 50%.

Particularly with the new vitrification methods that Alcor is using, it 
should be clear that information loss caused by the suspension technology 
is an unlikely cause of information theoretic death (see 
http://www.merkle.com/cryo/techFeas.html#CRITERIA for a discussion of 
information theoretic death).

Iatrogenic death (caused by the behavior of doctors) appears to be the 
dominant risk factor at the present time. Refusal to initiate suspension in 
a timely fashion is the primary problem. Various estimates of the risk can 
be made, based on the amount of delay and the expected information loss 
mechanisms (discussed at 
http://www.merkle.com/cryo/techFeas.html#ISCHEMIA). I think that, despite 
the delays, information theoretic death is not a high probability event 
even at present (see http://www.merkle.com/cryo/cryptoCryo.html for a 
discussion of one reason for believing that a higher probability of success 
than might generally be accepted is actually justified).

The next most likely failure mechanism is premature rewarming.  This might 
be secondary to earthquake, fire, riots, organizational failure, etc. 
Alcor's site was chosen to minimize these and other failure mechanisms, and 
experience to date suggests these failure mechanisms can be minimized.

Finally, there is the risk that technologies that are feasible in principle 
are never developed and applied in practice. This risk seems negligible. 
Development of nanotechnology and its medical applications in a period of 
decades seems overwhelmingly likely. Mechanisms that might prevent such 
development seem limited to civilization-destroying catastrophes -- which 
at present appear to have a low probability.  The risk that such 
technologies (which would be inexpensive) would be available but not 
applied correlates almost exactly with the risk of premature rewarming, 
dealt with above. Why bother keeping someone in liquid nitrogen if you can 
revive them at some reasonable cost?

Given the increasing acceptance of physician assisted suicide, it seems 
likely that physician assisted cryonic suspensions will become legal at 
some point in the future. If it's legal to commit suicide, it should surely 
be legal to try and save your own life. Such a development should 
significantly reduce iatrogenic deaths.

    Ralph C. Merkle

>Message #19872
>Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 11:35:32 -0400
>From: Jeffrey Soreff <>
>Subject: Re: Probabilties
>I also think that the overall probability estimate _does_ matter.
>We all allocate our resources amongst various goals and subgoals,
>and our best guesses about the odds of success for various courses
>of action affect what allocations look sensible.  In my own position,
>cryonics looks sensible to me if the odds of success are better than
>about 1% (from, roughly speaking, comparing a year's vacation with
>the net present value of an indefinitely long future, discounted at
>1%/year).  My estimates of the odds of being revived tend to come
>out in the 2%-10% range (with huge error bars, of course).  If I
>thought the odds were ~>50% I'd be much more actively trying to
>persuade friends and family members.  If I thought the odds were
>well below a chance in a thousand I wouldn't have signed up.

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