Laura Deming starts Cradle

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Laura Deming starts Cradle

Post by jordansparks »
Laura Deming is an entrepreneur who seems to get unwarranted press coverage and money from gullible people. Fine, she got into MIT at a young age -- good for her. But then she dropped out. That's not something to brag about, but instead demonstrates an inability to work hard and finish something she started. She has no degree, let alone an advanced degree like I and many many others have. This is just Elizabeth Holmes all over again. No legal fraud yet, but her claims are wildly implausible and she is spending $48M of somebody's money. Her claims are dangerous. Ask any real scientist (you know, the ones with the PhD after their name) and they will accurately explain that whole body suspended animation is at least 100 years away. Just like Holmes, she doesn't have any special knowledge that everyone else mysteriously lacks. I'm still going to label her claims as fraudulent, even if they fall a bit short of the current legal threshold. They are not simply ambitious, but have clearly crossed an ethical line.

She's probably thinking, "Gosh wouldn't it be great if we could just put someone in a capsule and cool them down until later? I'll bet nobody's ever thought of that. I'm no expert in cryobiology (or actually even in any biological science), but I could do better than the tens of thousands of experts who came before me. They obviously just didn't try hard enough. I mean, Austin Powers, Khan, and Han Solo all did it, so it's clearly feasible. Once I spend a few years perfecting suspended animation, then I'll move on to time travel, the other great plot device in any good movie."
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Re: Laura Deming starts Cradle

Post by luke_parrish »

Consensus science doesn't generally lend itself to specific predictions for a reason. It's more about establishing good models. Good models will be compatible with good predictions, of course, but they can't incorporate every detail necessary for a broad prediction. This gets worse with longer term predictions. It's really more about contingent assumptions than time length per se, but such contingent assumptions become more relevant with time.

Climate change is certainly consensus, but only to the extent the predictions are properly contingent. If you predict net global warming over the next 50 years, you'd best understand that human intervention to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gases would change the outcome of that prediction without violating the consensus. It would actually support the consensus, because the consensus is regarding the model. It's not claiming to predict human behavior in detail.

Similarly, a whole body cryopreservation protocol with all the complex issues being addressed is entirely within the consensus, even if you would most likely get the most qualified people predicting that it's 100 years out, if ever. This is just because they can't reasonably account for every possible strategy that might be taken to address the issues. That's not something that undermines the consensus, it's just a fundamental limitation of the consensus.

As to Cradle, some measure of trepidation about it becoming a Theranos-like boondoggle is absolutely reasonable. But independently of one's opinion on that, there should be a non-cryonics-centric space for research on this topic to be pursued, whether for profit or not. Brain preservation isn't that space, but it should exist.

Even if it turns out to be entirely futile, we need someone stubbornly doing the science -- in line with consensus, not in contradiction to it -- to show exactly how and why it remains futile. Without that, we have a higher degree of uncertainty about the prospect.

And the reason we realistically can't unify people around brain preservation is that it has the same underlying logic as cryonics, to a lesser degree. The only product it can sell of value to the patient is the option for future technology to reverse the current condition of the patient. This option is systematically undervalued, and there are strong psychological reasons for that.

Because of this unfortunate social consensus, it quite likely remains for many years in the political (and likely legal) subcategory of assisted suicide, despite being its opposite in important ways. That in turn means that it is likely to even be attacked as a way to fraudulently encourage assisted suicide, rather than embraced as an alternative. I hope to be wrong on this -- I just think it changes the picture from a market and humanitarian standpoint.

The investor outlook is that the chance of succeeding needs to be quite low indeed (and rigorously established as such) to bet against the utility of doing (good) research on suspended animation. Because if it were to be achieved, it would be more or less universally regarded as life-saving medicine, which in and of itself implies much greater market value. More customer, more sales, more revenue.

Cryonics literature often glosses over this, but it seems obvious to me that people would not have the same hangups about imagining future technology, if it were only improved cures for cancer and so on that they had to imagine. Even the idea of the soul departing upon death would simply be modified based on an argument from God's omniscience (it's "not their time yet") given such a compelling incentive. But not very many people will make such a concession until they see someone (or at least some animal) surviving the process in the sense of actual return to life. The emotional counterweight is too strong.

I don't mean to defend Cradle, only the broad idea of heroic, exhaustive research on this matter by interested parties. I don't think this should be controversial. It absolutely isn't like time travel or perpetual motion. Room temperature superconductivity is arguably a better category for comparison, something we should grant some basic research funding to on the off chance of a surprising success. I'm arguing for nuance here, not for crossing the line or disagreeing with the rigorously established consensus of science. There's obviously no hoax or scientific conspiracy involved in the pessimistic prediction, it's a reasonable opinion to have given the underlying consensus model.

My point is that the scientific consensus can lead to a "100 years if ever" prediction being the typical poll result or opinion statement without it being contradicted by "unless heroic efforts yield breakthroughs", because the actual consensus pertains strictly to the underlying biophysical model. It doesn't (and can't reasonably) weigh the potential actions of humans very strongly, nor the future results of new fields of research where there is still much to study. The process of converting the proven model to a prediction of the future, even a skeptical one, will necessarily rely on non-scientific assumptions that can be reasonable but not fundamentally proven or scientific.
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