Casting an Eye Upon Alcor's Board

If you're the type who likes to inspect the mechanisms behind the sausage, you should take a look at an article on Alcor's board over at Depressed Metabolism:

In January 2008, Alcor’s self perpetuating Board came under renewed scrutiny after long-time Alcor member and cryonics activist David Pizer tried to raise interest for changing the current system to a member elected Board.

Scrutiny of the board is a fine tradition for stakeholders in for-profit and non-profit initiatives, as is stakeholder activism to produce desired change. The concern voiced in the article is that born of the perceived need for change at Alcor - to better produce growth, increased professionalism, and so forth - and the concern that a self-perpetuating board has little incentive to make the changes that the writer would like to see happen.

Member-voted boards have their own issues, of course, not least that a member (as opposed to stakeholder) has no meaningful ownership right connected to their vote - but the pendulum swings as it chooses.

This is all, I think, I fairly good illustration of the transitionary period from volunteerism to professionalism one sees in any growing industry. The cryonics industry has been going through this phase for a long time, and remaining very small in size, for reasons that are much debated. Is it the fault of the business model, incredulous public perception, heavy regulation, a comparatively undiversified technology base, or the laundry list of other potential factors? Can be solved by changing the way people pay, by changes in regulatory structures, or by increased investment in research and building spin-off technology businesses? And so forth. These are all questions that have been debated at length over the years.

What I think is most telling with regard to where the cryonics industry is at present is that you don't see a lot of discussion focused on change through competition. The traditional solution to undesirable characteristics within an industry is for entrepreneurs to set forth and compete, as "undesirable" usually means "customers will pay for something less undesirable." If you want change, then help to found a new company and do things the "right" way. Ongoing for-profit experiments in any number of different "right" ways are how progress is achieved and benefit brought to customers in the long term.

There needs to be more of that in the cryonics industry if the goal is directed change. The best way to make a board change their stripes is to look like you're going to eat their lunch out from under them; by doing that, you will also have gone a long way towards proving that your "right" way is in fact the right way for progress.

Comments

A "cryonics industry" doesn't exist because the market has consistently rejected cryonics throughout its history as a waste of resources. Instead cryonics organizations have had to hang on precariously through a privately financed command-and-control economy. I don't see this changing any time soon, despite the recurring but unsuccessful efforts to create a for-profit cryonics business.

Posted by: Mark Plus at July 23rd, 2008 12:44 PM

"A cryonics industry doesn't exist" and "the market has consistently rejected cryonics" are equivalent statements; one is not the cause of the other. You are trying to say something like "The sky is blue because the sky is blue".

Reason suggested places to look for the cause, as to why a cryonics industry doesn't exist, and why the market has consistently rejected cryonics (same thing).

Posted by: Jolie Thibodeaux at July 23rd, 2008 6:11 PM

Jolie Thibodeaux:

I did not write a tautology. A cryonics industry didn't exist in the 1960's because nobody had tried to create one yet, and the early cryonicists had no a priori reason to expect that the effort to run for-profit cryonics companies would fail given their state of ignorance and inexperience at the time. That we still don't have a cryonics industry after 40 years of efforts shows that the market has rejected the idea as a waste of resources, something that the cryonics pioneers didn't know before they started out decades ago. The market has decided that allocating $100 million into the Miley Cyrus industry, for example, makes a lot more sense than trying to save human lives through cryotransport.

Posted by: Mark Plus at July 24th, 2008 9:30 AM

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