Cryonics is a practice of storing a recently deceased human at low temperatures in the hopes that they will be able to live again when future technology enables them to be healed and revived. Freezing people and then reviving them decades or centuries in the future is scientifically feasible.
Cryonics in Science Fiction
Cryonics has its roots in science fiction, as do many scientific innovations. In 1931, a science-fiction pulp magazine, the Jameson Satellite, published some amazing stories. It tells the story of a professor who, inspired by an obsession with preserving his body after his death, shot himself into the Deep Freeze of outer space. Forty million years later, he was resurrected by an alien race that achieved immortality by transplanting their brains into mechanical bodies.
In 1962, the story planted a seed in the minds of a young Robert Ettinger. Obsessed with the low-temperature preservation of the human body, he published his own book, The Prospect of Immortality.
Famous science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov put his support behind the book, which led to an international publication in Ettinger’s Fame. In its wake, organizations and companies began to take shape, and the cryonic movement was born. Alcor has been a leading cryonics organization in the Arizona Desert for years.
Alcor was founded in the year 1972. Today, it has more than a thousand members. When you entered Alcor’s facility, it began to resemble a science fiction film set, complete with operating rooms, a surgical set of vast amounts of liquid nitrogen.
The cryonics community refers to these frozen bodies as patients since they don’t think they’re really dead. They’re in suspended animation, waiting to be resurrected.
Most people want to live tomorrow and tomorrow, they want to live until the day after tomorrow, and this will continue forever.
Dr. Max More, CEO of Alcor, says;
“My fundamental reason for wanting to do cryonics if all else fails is that I like living. And I see no reason to accept an arbitrary limit to that. Cryonics is an extension of emergency medicine, the way I see it. It’s people who stopped breathing. Their hearts stop beating. When you’ve done the best you can, there’s nothing more you can do with today’s medical technology give them to us. We’re going to protect their cells as well as we can and drop them to a very, very low temperature. they can wait then for decades or even centuries, if necessary until the technology has reached a level where it can repair the damage done to them by the aging process by the disease itself and by the cryonics process.”
The guiding principle of the method of preservation is vitrification—a technique designed to keep our bodies from freezing and crystallizing ourselves. Surgeons perform a traditional surgical technique called thoracotomy, where they open the chest, enter the heart, and use the body’s plumbing to the arteries, the veins, not only to drain the blood from the vascular system but to remove all the body’s fluids in a medical-grade antifreeze.
Our bodies are maybe 60 to 70% of the water. If it went below the freezing temperature, it would freeze and crystallize, and kills the cell. Finally, the patient is immersed in a liquid nitrogen tank at-380 degrees Fahrenheit, where they are awaiting their theoretical resurrection.
The company minimizes the damage and keeps improving that process. But they don’t know a whole lot about the revival ended.
There’s a long-standing question. What is it going to take to revive these human popsicles? No one seems to know exactly, but the possibilities are exciting to think about.
The most likely scenarios include advanced bioengineering and nanotechnology. Undoubtedly, we can envision the nanoscopic repair devices that go into the cells. These devices do not violate any of the laws of physics. Present technology can’t build them right now because they’re tiny devices. These are treatments with nanorobots and synthetic enzymes that can fix and regenerate tissues. Literally coding and reprinting new DNA to help construct healthy cells.
Reanimating a cryopreserved body requires not just the repair of vitrified tissue but also the Reviving a cryopreserved body needs not only the reconstruction of vitrified tissue but also the healing of any disease or disorder that may have led to the death of the patient: malignant tumors, diseased arteries, dementia. Cryonicists are counting on cures for these kinds of diseases before they try to revive their patients.
How long is it going to be?
Everyone wants to know when the patients are going to come back. It may be about 30 years, unlikely to be 150 years. Now, there’s no answer because different patients will be coming back at different times. Patients who have maintained earlier innovations and procedures would have received less treatment of consistency. There’s going to be more damage to their cells. It’s going to take more repair.
The finances of living in one of Alcor’s stainless steel capsules must also be considered. Despite the optimism of Dr. Max More, the mystery of patient rebirth will remain for quite some time.
How much does it cost if I want to do this?
If you want to preserve the brain, it’s a minimum of $80,000. For everything, for the whole body, it’s $200,000 minimum. People have a public or private option.
Alcor may also provide its members with cryopreservation for their pets. It offers them the chance to be reunited with their furry friends. And if it works, that’s a great future.
What would the future look like without certain death or terminal illness? Have these patients ever woken up, or are they doomed to stay vitrified indefinitely?
Alcor is really upfront, says; we can’t reinvigorate it yet. But we’ll actually be able to do that in a hundred years. Do you think this is wishful thinking? Today, the thought of reanimating our bodies in a century or two or five is wishful thinking. We don’t even know how to reinvigorate the brain.
We know roughly where the memories are stored and how they’re stored. But we still don’t know the basis of our consciousness. After it’s gone, we’re going to overcome the technology of getting it back. At the moment, that’s wishful thinking.
According to many scientists, reviving probabilities are so slim. We’re better off focusing on something like cure heart disease or cancer or something like that. Extend the quality of life into that 90-100 that has a better hope.
What’s going to happen when you freeze an organ?
80% of human cells are mainly water. If you bring water below freezing temperatures, zero degrees ice forms, and that’s dangerous. But to avoid ice formation, add a lot of other things to the cells that prevent water molecules from finding each other to form ice.
It is possible to retain a few cells of human tissue at a time. However, it isn’t easy to maintain the whole biological human structure of the whole human body.
What about if it doesn’t work?
Many things don’t work with the idea of freezing the whole head.
- First; you can freeze big things slowly and warm them slowly. Ice is bound to form during warming.
- Second; the cooling effect damages the cells, but the heating mechanism also induces tension and fractures as the tissue undergoes a dynamic shift.
- Third; the human body has more than 100 cell types, each with a different structure and function from one organ or tissue to another. A one-size-fits-all solution ensures that a cryoprotectant would be useful across a wide variety of cell types.
This is actually not thought to be possible because the chemicals could protect one form of cell and destroy everything else. It can also work to preserve the cells of a kidney, but if you want to preserve the body or head, cryopreservation becomes exponentially difficult.
Cryonics is beginning to gain attention, but it is still faced with a lot of questions. Will resuscitation and, eventually, an infinite life span be achieved? What happens if these businesses go bankrupt before the proposed technology becomes available?
Not to mention the conventional view of culture on life and death. Regardless small group of forward-thinking individuals still believe they can overcome mortality.
As a belief system, cryonics helps people deal with their loss and mortality—one based on science rather than delusions of heaven or hell. The scientific questions I have about vitrification and memory are significant, but what about the fear of death?