Minds aren't magic

Paul Crowley

Month: April, 2013

Some brief notes on how to sign up for cryonics in the UK

If you want to be signed up for cryonics but you haven’t quite taken the first step, you should send three emails now.

First, you’re going to need life insurance to pay for your cryopreservation and storage. For that I recommend my financial advisor, Chris Morgan of Compass Independent; I persuaded him to look into how to do insurance for cryonics and since then he’s looked after me very well.

Second, you’ll need a contract with a cryonics provider. I am signed up with the Cryonics Institute.

Third, you’ll need a standby and transport service; in the UK that means Cryonics UK.

So the very next thing you should do, right now, is send three quick emails saying “I want to sign up for cryopreservation and you’ve been recommended to me. What shall I do next?” to these email addresses:

It’s likely that more people have died while cryocrastinating than have actually been cryopreserved, so don’t delay. Fire off those three emails now; don’t worry about composing them just right, all you have to say is “OK I’m signing up, what do I do now?”.

Then comment to say you’ve done it, and if there’s any way I can help, let me know.

Don’t turn up the heat

“So you’re saying that there’s nothing wrong with raping and murdering people?”

I recently got a response something like this in a discussion about moral philosophy. It’s something that people say a lot when they first encounter the idea of moral anti-realism, and I hope to address it in a future post, but first I want to say this: there’s no need to use the most emotive example you can think of to make this argument. For most meta-ethical arguments, if it’s a valid argument when you use rape and murder as an example, it’ll be just as valid if you use pushing your way onto the train before the other passengers have got off, and vice versa. Using the more emotive example here serves only to turn up the heat, which can result in people thinking less clearly.

I thought of this recently in a discussion of the de Finetti way of looking at probability as a choice between gambles. Given a choice between two hypothetical gambles for money, a lot of people are tempted by the grand gesture of turning down both gambles, even if that means wishing a way a zero-risk chance at free money. So it can be good to reframe it as a chance to prevent some harm happening to other people – that way it seems more obvious that the good thing to do is to go for some chance of preventing the harm over allowing it to happen with certainty. And of course as is standard in these philosophical discussions, my first thought was to let the hypothetical stakes be something like “a thousand people die horribly”. But I remembered the admonition above, and we worked out another example – something just bad enough that you’d feel like a heel if you just let it happen with certainty when you could have taken a chance to prevent it, but not so bad that its awfulness could seriously distract from the topic at hand, which was probability theory.

And so we imagined a man in a Florida retirement home, whose fate was not going to be critical to the fate of the world in a way that could make our hypotheticals more confusing, who was at risk of a painful burn on his left little finger that would annoy him for a week. And that was enough – enough to seem more important that this man not get a burn than that we follow one ritual or other in choosing our actions, without the side order of “and you’re a TERRIBLE PERSON if you don’t take my position on this” that seems to come with piling up the stakes as high as your imagination can go before posing your hypothetical.

Heat is sometimes necessary. If a weaker example doesn’t work, a stronger one can sometimes make the difference. But please don’t start at the highest temperature you can reach – more heat doesn’t usually mean more light.