PEER COMMENTARY ON
This is a great paper that makes interesting reading as a probe of the effect
of various demographic factors on attitudes about the future and technological
advance in general. One thing it does bear out is my experience that most
people significantly overestimate the cost of cryonic suspension: I often hear
people guess that it must cost half a million dollars or some such figure,
when $50k, financed easily by life insurance (especially if you're young and
healthy), is the right number for a neurosuspension.
But the paper doesn't show that most people overestimate cost.
The distribution of cost estimates is normal in log space, with
the mean log being pretty close to the right answer. Some people
overestimate while others underestimate, but the median estimate
is about right.
Do people who overestimate the cost become less interested in cryonics
as a result? I don't think Scott looked at that.
The raw data is included with the paper, in case someone else wants to
look into such questions.
Robin Hanson, email@example.com
Scott Badger replies:1/1/99
It's probably easiest for me to respond to this. I did some supplemental
calculations on new year's eve after returning from a party.
The correlation between the responses to Question # 7:
(How much do you believe it costs to have your body cryonically preserved?)
and Question # 44:
(I believe that Cryonics is an exciting idea and intend on looking into it
is: -.0030 N=507 p = .946
The overall correlation between the two sets of responses are therefore
So I decided to form two groups, (1) those who estimated costs to be less
than $500,000, and (2) those who estimated costs to be $500,000 or more.
There were 422 participants in Group 1 and 85 in Group 2. A simple ANOVA
sought differences between the groups in terms of their responses to Q44.
The result was an F ration of 1.6 and an F prob. of .205. Again, nothing
really there to distinguish between the groups suggesting that cost is not a
This conclusion appears counter-intuitive, but appears nonetheless. It may
be that I overstated the importance of costs in my summary. I was simply a
bit taken aback by how high many of the estimates were. Then again, there
were a number of very low estimates so, as Robin stated, the median fell
into a fairly realistic range.
Hi. I have four suggestions for further surveys and some questions
regarding the data.
First, I would suggest that an occupational category of "student"
would be helpful in subdividing the occupational category of
"other". Further subdivisions in this regard (such as between students
in the engineering, computer, health care, and research fields and
students in other fields) could also be helpful. (I am admittedly
biased on this question due to being a student myself, as well as a
scientist (graduate student).) I suspect that the reason for income
group 2 being the most different from income group 5 would be that
group 1 was primarily made up of students; some information on this
point could perhaps be gathered by looking at age vs income (perhaps
simply group 1 versus group 5) and by looking at correlations of the
"other" occupational category with low age and/or income. "Research
scientist" is also not the most clear of categories - does it include
the social sciences, for instance?
Second, some information regarding the country of origin of the person
responding would be helpful - perhaps a subdivision into:
would work best.
- A. USA
- B. Canada
- C. Mexico and South America
- D. Western Europe
- E. Eastern Europe and Russia
- F. Middle East
- G. Far East
- H. Australia and New Zealand
Third, information on the person's domain ending (e.g.,
.com, .edu, or (more informatively) .us, .ca, etcetera) would assist
in confirming the accuracy of responses to various questions (e.g.,
someone originating from a .edu domain can be assumed to be reasonably
honest about being a student).
Fourth, attitudes on some behaviors (e.g., Kinsey's data on human
sexuality) have been found to be more correlated with the
socioeconomic status (both income and education) of the subject's
parents than with the subject's present status; questions on this
would therefore be helpful.
Regarding the survey data, could a (rather obvious, albeit complicated
by the noted range of the data) correlation be found between someone's
estimate of the cost of cryonics and their attitudes regarding
cryonics costing too much? An additional control variable on this
would be the person's income level.
No listing is made of the "other" religion response, although it was
apparently available. What were the results with it?
Were responses on question 8 of something other than the accurate
response (namely, most cryonics being paid for via insurance policies)
associated with a higher rate of regarding cryonics as costing too
P.S. One interesting additional place to send out notices for a second
survey would be via Phil Agre's RRE mailing list; send to
Allen Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an impressive first start for a survey on cryonics attitudes and
is much more useful than I expected it to be. First, it is the largest
detailed survey of non-cryonicists I know of and thus sets a baseline.
(There have been less formal newspaper surveys.) But Badger also gives us
the first test questions, and all subsequent surveyors should learn from
the responses to this one.
As Badger notes, this survey's sample population does not appear to be
representative of American society at large. But it's a starting point
and the information is important.
*Questions Q5, Q6, and Q7*
These responses are very interesting and shows that cryonicists are not
effectively getting some of their message out. It is probably not very
important to know that most people overestimate the popularity of
cryonics, except to note that growing popularity alone would not open up
new "Market areas" for cryonics. It is extremely important to see how
much some of the responders overestimate the expense, especially in
relationship to later questions. As Badger notes in his conclusions,
cryonicists need to emphasize the affordability of cryonics (especially
through life insurance).
*Table 7. Age*
It seems very odd that people in the age group 25-34 would be less
interested in cryonics than both the younger and older groups. I can
think of several possible considerations which might be explored on future
First, is this result a product of the people being that specific age or
is more a product of what has happened in the lives of that particular
cohort? If we examined them again in ten years, would their responses
remain more negative than those in other age groups or would they become
more like the current 35-44 year olds?
I can think of several reasons why the under-25 set might be more
enthusiastic and unworried about the cost (as the author later states).
-- Many of these people may be high school or college students who know
their financial life will be better when they are older.
-- Many may be students who haven't faced the "realities" of life yet and
uncritically think anything is possible.
-- The 25-34 people may have had a dose of cold water (families, work,
etc.) and are just less likely to believe anything right now. They may
have seen more relatives die or have recently accepted a religion in a
more serious way.
MORE QUESTIONS TO ASK IN A FUTURE SURVEY:
We would find out a lot more about what people know about cryonics by
simply asking where they got most of their information about it. We
wouldn't want to ask that until the END of the survey, because we don't
want to tip them off to sources before we get our initial answers. I
might word the question thus:
"Where have you gotten your information about cryonics?"
- Non-fiction book which included some information about cryonics.
- Non-fiction book which was primarily about cryonics.
- Article in magazine, newspaper, or internet which included some...
- Article..... which was primarily about cryonics.
- Television program which included...
- Television program primarily about...
- Radio program which included...
- Radio program primarily about...
- Internet site which included...
- Internet site primarily about...
- Printed information from or tour of a cryonics organization.
- Extensive examination of a cryonics organization's web site.
- Fictional account of cryonics in a book, film, or television show.
- Personal conversation with a cryonicist.
- Conversations with friends who seemed to know something about cryonics.
Steve Bridge, Chairman
Alcor Life Extension Foundation