Transhumanism Evolved

-
-
-
-
-

Cryonics

Liquid cool


A simple but profound truth: cryogenically or otherwise preserving the deceased is the moral, civilized, aesthetic and rational thing to do, regardless of the final outcome. To bury or burn people (or pets) that could potentially be repaired and revived at some future date is just as barbaric as refusing to apply CPR to someone who has just suffered cardiac arrest.


I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.

-- John 11:25

Non omnis moriar.
(Not all of me will die)

-- Horace


Cryonic suspension is an experimental procedure whereby patients who no longer can be kept alive with today's medical abilities are preserved at low temperature for treatment in the future. A "typical" cryonics procedure goes, or rather should go, as follows: after de-animation (clinical death, usually pronounced after cessation of heartbeat and breathing), the patient is released into the custody of the (local) cryonics emergency team and/or a specially trained & equipped (local) mortician, and cooled either with ice-filled bags or in a portable ice bath (PIB) with a spray cooling device ("squid"), which further accelerates the temperature descend, to approx. 5-10*C. During cooldown, the patient's head always has top priority, for obvious reasons. If the patient hasn't been dead for more than an hour or so, and if his body is still largely intact, he is simultaneously re-oxigenated (optional) and treated with various medications, including anticoagulants like heparin, which helps to delay and reduce ischemic brain damage and the formation of blood clots. The better the condition of the circulatory system, the easier it will be to perfuse the patient with cryoprotectants later on -- more on that below. The medications are circulated by external chest compressions, as with CPR, by means of a compressed air-driven heart-lung resuscitator (known as a thumper) or a similar device. Unless someone on the emergency team has the necessary skills, proper IV administration of the medications will require the cooperation of a physician, nurse, or paramedic.

After the initial cooling and stabilization have been taken care of, the patient is moved to a suitable location (a mortuary or cryonics rescue vehicle, for example) where his blood is replaced by an organ-preserving solution, a procedure known as washout. The patient is then packed in ice and shipped to the main cryonic storage facility where cryoprotectants, chemicals (such as glycerol) which reduce the formation of ice crystals during the freezing process, are carefully pumped into the body, a process called "perfusion" (in some cases, perfusion can also be done at a local mortuary or in a mobile unit). When the perfusion is completed, the body is put in in a silicone oil bath or an insulated box with dry ice vapors, and cooled with dry ice to approx. -79*C. If the patient has opted for a "neurosuspension", his head is removed first. The cooldown procedure takes approximately 2-7 days (depending on the method used) for whole body patients and 1 day for neurosuspension patients.

Fiberglass cryostat, as used by CI When the desired temperature has been reached, the patient is removed from the silicone bath or dry ice box, put in a special holding tank, and gradually cooled with liquid nitrogen vapors to -196*C, the temperature of liquid nitrogen (LN2). Prior to the final temperature descent, the patient has been put in a sleeping bag and attached to a specialized tray -- this to minimize temperature fluctuations and to make handling safer & easier in case he needs to be moved to a different storage vessel. At such low temperatures, all chemical and biological activity (and therefore decay) is slowed down to a point where it effectively becomes negligible, at least for the next 10,000 years or so. After approx. 5-7 days of vapor cooling, the frozen body (or head) is finally placed in an insulated storage tank (either a stainless-steel "dewar", which is essentially a giant Thermos bottle, or a fiberglass "cryostat"), and is completely submerged, head-down, in liquid nitrogen. The inverted position is a simple but effective safety precaution; this way, if something goes wrong and all the LN2 is allowed to evaporate, the head thaws last. Here the cryonaut will be stored until he can be fully repaired, rejuvenated, enhanced, and successfully revived.

[Note:click here (TransTime), here (Alcor) or here (Cryonics Institute) for more detailed descriptions of suspension protocols].

Though cryonics is still in its infancy, and thus far from perfect, there's good reason to believe that future (approx. 20-80 years) advances in fields like nanotech, neuroscience, genetics, and computing will be able to repair much, if not all, of the damage caused by accident, disease, aging, and the freezing process itself. See The Molecular Repair of the Brain by Ralph C. Merkle for an example of how this (theoretically) could be done.

Vitrification

Thanks to the pioneering cryoprotectant research at 21st Century Medicine, it is now possible to vitrify, rather than just "freeze", human brains. Whole bodies may follow within just a few years. Vitrification -- conversion to a glass-like solid state -- is a process that causes much less tissue damage than current suspension techniques, which means that cryo-patients will be revived sooner, and that there will be far less risk of damage to the patient's mental structure (i.e. less risk of memory loss and/or personality changes). Alcor is currently the only cryonics organization offering neurovitrification.

Costs

Contrary to popular belief, cryonics is not just for the rich -- in fact, most people signed up for suspension could best be described as "middle class". Though the procedure in itself is rather expensive (approx. US $30,000 up to somewhere in the $120,000 - 150,000 range, depending on your cryonics organization, geographical location, manner of death, and suspension protocol), it can be funded by means of life insurance. Contact one of the cryonics organizations and/or local groups for more information.

Procrastinate? Who, me? Tip#1: even if you don't want to sign up for suspension in the near future, it is wise to arrange a suitable life insurance policy anyway. The (insurance) rates are directly related to your age, health & "social status", and you may not be able to afford it by the time you decide to sign up. Procrastination killed the cat, so to speak.

Needless to say, it is always better to have a cryo contract in place as soon as possible. We live in a dangerous, primitive world where death can come for anyone at any time and even if you have enough funding there are often serious delays when last-minute cases are handled, and cryonics organizations may charge you extra. If they accept the case at all, that is; due to the considerable risk of legal and financial complications (like relatives fighting the organization over the insurance money, or simply losing interest and refusing to pay) any cryonics organization will think twice before accepting a last-minute, non-member case. Their primary concern is, and should be, the well-being of their regular members and the frozen patients, after all.

Tip#2: if you really can't fund a proper suspension (or if you're a bloody miser), you can still "sign up" for plastination, which just might be a "viable" cryonics alternative. Hey, nothing to lose, it's potentially available for FREE, or at least at a fraction of the cost of even the cheapest cryonics procedure. Various other low-budget options are also available for determined and enterprising individuals, click the above link for more info.

-Why is cryonics so expensive?
-Why is freezing in liquid nitrogen better than other kinds of preservation, such as drying or embalming?
-What about overpopulation?
-How many people are frozen right now?
-Is anyone getting rich from cryonics? What are the salaries at these organizations like?
-What are the pros and cons of neurosuspension (only freezing the head)?
-What obligations do the suspension organizations have to the people they have suspended? Will they pay for revival and rehabilitation?
-Was Walt Disney really frozen?

These and many other questions are answered in the cryonics FAQ [Note: it's a bit dated, but still fairly useful for getting a general impression of the cryonics movement. A more current FAQ, courstesy of Cryonics Institute, can be found here].

(Introductory) Links

Danse Macabre

Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.

-- Psalms 49:14

When there's no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.

-- Zombie: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

By making cryonics arrangements you:

1) Do the rational thing; it's the only chance you have should you die before powerful life extension technologies like mind uploading become available.
2) Help to support the cryonics movement, which means better infrastructure, freezing techniques and other useful things which will benefit you in case of (premature) death. As the movement is still very small, every new member really counts. A wait-and-see attitude doesn't help anyone.
3) Buy a certain peace of mind (without having to compromise your rationality as with religion).
4) Do the civilized thing. Burial, cremation and other such incredibly primitive, barbaric practices should have no place in 21st century! Think about it: we have put people on the moon, split the atom and are now on the brink of creating superhuman intelligence, yet we still stuff our dead into the ground together with some dying flowers just like the Neanderthals did millennia ago. What is wrong with this picture? Obviously, choosing cryonic suspension is a sign of Enlightenment and good taste, if nothing else.

It works It doesn't work
Sign up Live Die, lose life insurance
Do nothing Die Die

Cryonics according to Ralph C. Merkle, the short version.

[Back to Index]


Service Providers

For those interested in a cryo contract, here's a complete list of currently active cryonics organizations (for local, non-USA contacts, click here).

  • Alcor Life Extension Foundation - The world's largest and best known cryonics organization. They offer neuro (head only) and whole body suspensions, use the most advanced suspension techniques (vitrification) and have their own (semi-)professional rescue teams. The suspension minimums are currently $50,000 for neurosuspension and $120,000 for whole body suspension. An additional $25,000 surcharge is applied for international applicants ($15,000 for residents of the United Kingdom).
    Alcor Life Extension Foundation
    7895 E. Acoma Dr.
    Suite 110
    Scottsdale AZ 85260, USA
    Voice: +1 480 905-1906 or 877 462-5267 (toll-free, USA only)
    FAX: +1 480 922-9027
    WWW: http://www.alcor.org/
    Email: info@alcor.org

  • Cryonics Institute (CI) - Founded by Robert Ettinger, whose book The Prospect of Immortality effectively started the cryonics movement back in the 1960s. CI's whole-body (no neuros) cryopreservation services cost $28,000 + a joining fee of $1,250 and transportation costs ($7,000 - 10,000 from Europe / UK, for example). There are no membership fees. There's also another option, where there's no joining fee but yearly dues of $120. The minimal suspension funding for option #2 is $35,000.
    Cryonics Institute (CI)
    24355 Sorrentino Court
    Clinton Township, MI 48035, USA
    Phone/Fax: +1 810 791-5961
    WWW: http://www.cryonics.org/
    Email: cryonics@cryonics.org or ettinger@aol.com



    Note: the following organizations, though listed for good measure, are currently / no longer accepting new members.

  • American Cryonics Society (ACS) Has now apparently (fully) merged with Cryonics Institute.
  • CryoCare - Membership organization, had subcontracts with other organizations for preparation and storage. Otherwise comparable to Alcor (though much smaller), from which it had spawned.
  • Trans Time, Inc. - A commercial cryonics service provider.

Back to Index



Mailing List

If you're interested in discussing cryonics from a European perspective, or want to be kept up to date regarding changes to this page & new cryonics-related developments in general, you can join the cryonics-euro mailing list (see below). Low traffic, but occasionally quite informative!

Click here to subscribe
Click to subscribe to cryonics-euro mailing list



Some Recommended Reading

  • The Prospect of Immortality, by Robert C.W. Ettinger. Often called the "Bible" of the cryonics movement. This is indeed the book that started it all back in the 60s. The online version has been recently updated, and is (still) without a doubt one of the best introductions to cryonics.
  • Man Into Superman, also by Robert C.W. Ettinger. This is more or less the sequel to The Prospect of Immortality, and explores the possibilities of our transhuman future. An eloquent, razor-sharp attack on the many absurdities of our deathist society. Full text online.
  • Forever For All: Moral Philosophy, Cryonics, and the Scientific Prospects for Immortality, by R. Michael Perry. A nearly 500-page meditation on cryonics and various Transhumanist topics, including the technological Singularity and the Omega Point. Available in printed and ebook (.PDF) format. 25 pages of the latter can be downloaded for free.
  • Cryonics: Reaching for Tomorrow A comprehensive introduction to cryonics, courtesy of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Full text online. [Currently unavailable]
  • Engines of Creation -- The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, by K. Eric Drexler. This book is to nanotechnology what The Prospect of Immortality is to cryonics. It explains the basics of the coming nanotech revolution, and has a chapter that specifically deals with the implications for cryonic(ist)s; nanotech is one of the key technologies needed to successfully revive the frozen. Full text online.
  • Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities, by Robert A. Freitas Jr. "The first book to comprehensively address the technical issues involved in the medical applications of molecular nanotechnology and medical nanodevice design." Full text online.
  • Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies? (Second Edition), by Kenneth V. Iserson, M.D. "Provides the answers to the questions about corpses you were afraid to ask: How does a body really turn to dust? What happens during autopsies, dissection, embalming, cremation, and cryogenic preservation? And what about cannibalism, body snatching, and the secret rites of various cultures? A textbook, a resource, and entertaining reading!"

  • Wie der Mensch den Tod besiegt - Technische Verfahren zur Unsterblichkeit (How Man Conquers Death - Technical Means to Immortality), by Klaus Reinhard. Full text online, in German only.



© Copyright 2003 transtopia



Designer Children | Prometheism | Euvolution | Transhumanism