X-Message-Number: 23306
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2004 09:49:05 -0500 (EST)
From: Charles Platt <>
Subject: perception of risk
References: <>

Robert Ettinger writes:

"Almost anyone will exert himself to dodge a taxi or a tiger,
but if the danger is not clear and present, then, for most
people most of the time, it just isn't a major concern."

This of course is true, but is less true than it used to be.
In postwar USA, protecting human life from longterm risk has
become an increasing concern. Seat belts, childproof bottle
caps, disclosure of packaged food ingredients, crash barriers
on divided highways, workplace safety standards, the
placement of defibrillation equipment, and numerous other
regulatory precautions (created to satisfy public demand)
have reduced our longterm risk of death. Almost all accident
rates have declined. Also we have seen radical changes in
risk-averse or mortality-averse behavior among everyday
people. For example, consumption of hard liquor has
diminished. Consumption of bottled water and fatfree milk has
increased. (I am not speaking anecdotally; I have numbers
from Statistical Abstract of the United States.) Overall life
expectancy has steadily increased as a result of precautions
against accidental death, public health programs, and many
other factors.

I would argue that in prewar USA, cryonics would have been
virtually unsalable. Today it is still attracting a tiny
percentage of the population, but the number has increased
even though the procedure is totally unproven, requires a
radical change in our assumptions about life and death, costs
a lot of money, and has been traditionally implemented by

The problem is not that people are risk-averse. The problem
is that there is no proof-of-practice. Cryonics organisations
are in the position of trying to sell air-travel tickets
BEFORE the Wright Brothers ever got off the ground, and Mr.
Ettinger is like Leonard Da Vinci trying to interest
investors in a sketch of a flying machine and complaining
that most people just don't see the advantage in air travel.

Instead of blaming the public at large for being too dumb to
sign up, it might be more productive to respect the judgment
of potential customers and ask ourselves what can be done to
make cryonics more acceptable to them.

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