Cryonics in a nutshell

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The book I’m currently reading is “Preserving Minds, Saving Lives” edited by “Alcor Life Extension Foundation“:

Alcor book

In this article, I’m sharing with you my reading notes.
This is the eighth article about the book. The other articles about it can be read here.

 

Cryopreservation of whole body or head (neuropreservation)?

The cryopreservation volunteer must choose between preserving his whole body or his head only.
The layman in cryopreservation is no doubt surprised that such an option even exists; the process of cryonics is often imagined as the immersion of a whole body in an ice, and we have seen that the process is much more complex. If the neuropreservation of the head is an available option, it is because of certain advantages:

  • The cost
    Yes, that’s always a considerable edge: it will cost you $80,000 for a neuropreservation, and $200,000 for a full-body preservation. Preserving an entire body requires more storage space and more resources for maintaining a low temperature.
  • Better quality of cryopreservation
    It is easier and faster to cryopreserve a head than a whole body.
  • Easier portability
    In case of emergencies, such as a natural disaster or war, cryopreserved heads are easier to transport.
  • Bodies’ uselessness
    Future technologies will be so advanced that it will be easy for them to reconstitute an entire body; essential information useful for structuring the identity of a person is residing in the brain anyway.

Neuropreservation is not the default choice of all cryonicists; the subject is debated and here are the more conservative arguments in favor of whole body preservation:

  • The body contains information
    The body contains information that is not necessarily stored in the brain. Current technology may not be able to appreciate the fullness of the body’s role.
  • Identity also depends on the body
    The identity of an individual is conditioned by other organs located lower in the body. The microbiota, for example, can influence our brain and our moods (see article: Artificial Intelligence, Testosterone and Estrogen…).
  • Aesthetic reasons
    The prospect of cryopreservation is already difficult to accept … adding the decapitation induced by neuropreservation certainly does not make the process sexier! Cryonics already suffers from a lack of positive image!
  • Plan B
    The patient who opts for the preservation of the whole body will have invested a greater sum than the neuropatient. It can always be converted into a neuropatient if the cryopreservation company were to undergo financial imponderables. The neuropatient has no spare wheel.

Personally, if I opted for cryonics, financial considerations aside, I would not hesitate and choose the most conservative form: the cryopreservation of the whole body!

 

Conclusion and summary

The book Preserving Minds, Saving Lives edited by Alcor is a big block of 560 pages. Its reading was fluid, as it is divided into numerous chapters corresponding to articles published in the Cryonics magazine over the years. Never too technical, it is accessible to the layman in cryonics.

Since the launch of Future Is Great, this is the first book I decided to comment through these reading notes. I was not disappointed. We touched on the essence of life and death and saw how cryonics intended to push the boundaries. If you were unfamiliar with life extension technologies, you now learned about one. You are aware that somewhere on this planet, a minority of people is working daily to build an extraordinary gateway to the future. As I will often say on this site … “It’s science fiction … but for real”.

Here are the main cryonics’s concepts revealed by the reading of “Preserving Minds, Saving Lives”:

  • Bad press
    Cryonics does not have good press. It faces hostility from the scientific community that considers it unprovable, and a lack of public awareness. The incorrect semantics surrounding cryonics contributed giving it an incorrect and negative image.
  • Definition of death (semantics)
    The death of an individual is the irreversible cessation of its vital functions, and the destruction of information structuring its identity. Death is a relative concept, it varies according to epochs and technological advances: what is considered a death today probably will not be tomorrow.
  • 3 cycles of the cryopreservation process
    • Transport/Preparation: The cycle immediately following the “clinical death” as defined today. The patient’s cryopreservation viability depends on the speed with which this cycle is initiated.
    • Preservation: The cycle during which the patient is precipitated in a state of biostasis by low temperature and vitrification.
    • Reanimation: The Future cycle during which the patient will be reanimated by advanced technologies.
  • Resurrection/Reanimation (semantics)
    Cryonics does not resurrect the dead. It does not perform any miracles. It is a medical procedure that plunges the patient into a state of biostasis, in the hope that it can be reanimated by future technologies. Cryonics patients are not considered incurably de
  • Cryonics and religion
    Cryonics does not confer immortality … it only prolongs life. It does not clash with religious conceptions, and its success does not threaten the validity of any religion.
  • Cryopreservation induced damages
    The current preservation cycle does not freeze patients, it vitrifies them. Vitrification, coupled with antifreezes, prevents the formation of deleterious ice crystals that can damage living tissue. Vitrification is not without inconvenience, the two main ones being:

    • Toxicity of antifreezes
    • Fractures of the bodies
      If these two problems were to be solved, cryopreservation would reach a significant level of viability.
  • Nanotechnology
    Molecular scale devices are planned to repair at the cellular level the damages caused by the cryopreservation process.
  • Cost
    The cost of cryopreservation with Alcor is 80 k for the head, and 200 k for the whole body. The procedure is financed by life insurance. The funds once released upon the death of the patient are invested in a trust managed by Alcor. This trust invests these funds to generate the income necessary to ensure the patient’s preservation for decades if not centuries to come.

To the question of whether I intend to opt for cryopreservation myself … the answer is clearly yes, if I have sufficient funding. If cryonics has the slightest chance of success, I seize it! I consider having nothing to lose once “deanimated”; cryonics can be a huge bonus. I love life, and I dream of reaching a time when we will be liberated from the biological deteriorations that are slaughtering us one after the other! My last words before the cryopreservation would be… “I’ll be back in a few minutes”, because the flow of time isn’t perceptible in a state of biostatis.

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