X-Message-Number: 9443
From: Ettinger <>
Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 19:13:35 EDT
Subject: Platt's Math



 Although the allocation of time is highly questionable, I am still troubled
by the possible effect on newcomers of Charles Platt's pessimistic estimates
of patients' chances (#9425). Let me therefore spend a little time debunking
his calculations (or lack of calculations).

He says that, even under ideal circumstances, the chance of rescue is only one
in ten thousand, mainly because of practical risks unrelated to the scientific
probability of reversibility of damage. To support this he mentions six of
those practical risks. These are:

(1) Federal law prohibiting cryonics; (2) Backlash by extremist groups; (3)
Crippling FDA interference; (4) Financial disaster; (5) Future people won't
spend money to revive us; (6) Future people will treat patients as lab rats.
(He also mentions scientific questions, omitted here, and another point that
is redundant with (4).)

Suppose all six risks are independent (which they are not). Suppose each risk
separately has a 0.22 probability of being avoided. Then the probability of
avoiding all of those risks--that is, the probability that none of them will
produce disaster--is 0.00011, or roughly his one in 10,000 chance of avoiding
disaster. To put it slightly differently, if each risk separately has a 0.78
probability of occurring, and if they are independent, and if there are no
other risks, then his estimate would be roughly right. (The joint probability
of several independent events is just the product of their individual

Note carefully: His guess implies a HIGH (average 78%) probability for each of
the named risks. It also ignores the feedbacks, especially the efforts by
ourselves and others to defend against the risks as they come over the

In any case, Charles, where are your numbers? By what history or precedent do
you estimate a 78% chance of a federal law prohibiting cryonics, for example?
What % of abortion clinic patients and personnel have been killed by
extremists? Bad as the FDA has sometimes been, its recent history is in the
other direction. How many organizations as conservative as Cryonics Institute
have gone broke in the last century--78%, or is it more like 1%? What uncaring
future people are you talking about--it isn't somebody else's money being
spent on revival etc.; it is ours, by our own organizations. As for your "lab
rat" scenario, I doubt that even Kafka would put a 78% probability on it.

In short, Charles, your "argument" is little more than an articulation of
night sweats. Everybody has night sweats sometimes, but evidence is something
different. You have not shown us any calculation--let alone a credible
calculation of probability. 

Newcomers: For more on probability, please see the CI web site.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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