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Cryonics as a Charity

November 10th, 2012
giving, cryonics

Imagine you accept the main idea of cryonics, that if we freeze brains future technology is likely to be able to extract the encoded information and revive the person digitally. [1] While this currently costs about $120K/person, if we did it routinely to everyone it could probably get down below $1000/person. Which is interesting: the current cost of averting a death is around $1700, but someone who doesn't die of malaria is still going to die of old age, so you can't really say their death was "averted". While someone who is revived after being frozen wouldn't live eternally, they might get to experience thousands of years of subjective life. In terms of life-years, getting cryonics to be really cheap and paying for people to get it sounds like it beats GiveWell's top charities.

Aside from not agreeing that cryonics is likely to work, however, I don't think the value is actually all that high. A future world which would revive large numbers of people we freeze today would be massively different from the current world economically, but would still have constraints. There would be some number of digital people that could run simultaneously on whatever people-emulating hardware they have. Preserving additional 21st century minds would give future people the option to run revived people instead of new people, but I don't think it affects the overall number emulated.

[1] I don't think this is likely.

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