Cryonics − Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

by Ben Best

For an overview of the essential questions of cryonics in essay form, see my piece Cryonics: The Issues.


I. Definitions

I-A. What is cryonics ?

Cryonics is the practice of cryopreserving a legally dead person or animal for possible revival if and when future science can cure all disease, can rejuvenate to a condition of perpetual youth and can reverse all damage due to the cryopreservation process. The word cryonics is a neologism invented by Karl Werner in 1965 in connection with the creation of the Cryonics Society of New York. Cryo is a Greek root meaning "cold".

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I-B. What is cryogenics ?

Cryogenics is a branch of physics or engineering that studies the production of very low temperatures (below −100ºC, −148ºF). The use of the word "cryogenics" when meaning "cryonics" is typically indicative of a person who has not seriously investigated cryonics.

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I-C. What is a cryoprotectant ?

A cryoprotectant is an antifreeze substance that prevents or reduces ice-crystal formation. The use of cryoprotectants in cryonics reduces freezing damage − or may even eliminate ice crystals entirely (vitrification). Ethylene glycol cryoprotectant is the antifreeze used in automobiles. Propylene glycol is the cryoprotectant used in ice cream to reduce ice crystals and give a smooth texture. Glycerol has been the mainstay cryoprotectant in cryonics for many years, but glycerol is being replaced by cryoprotectant mixtures which can vitrify.

For more information on cryoprotectants, see A Summary of the First 21CM Seminars.

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I-D. What is cryopreservation ?

Cryopreservation is the use of antifreeze (cryoprotectant) solutions and of cooling to very low temperature on humans, animals, organs or tissues for long-term storage − typically liquid nitrogen temperature (-196°C). If freezing can be avoided − as with vitrification − cryopreservation is not freezing.

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I-E. What is a suspension ?

Suspension is a jargon-term used by some cryonicists to mean cryopreservation. A cryonics patient is not buoyant enough to be "suspended" in liquid nitrogen. Cryopreservation may someday be perfected and become suspended animation, but the term is currently inappropriate. Many cryonicists prefer the word cryopreservation because this term is not cryonics-jargon and its meaning is clearer to the uninitiated.

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I-F. What are deanimation and reanimation ?

Because cryonicists do not believe that cryopreserved animals or humans are dead, they often refer to a person declared legally dead and who is cryopreserved (or destined to be cryopreserved) as being in a state of deanimation. Conversely, the process of bringing a person or animal out of cryopreservation into a state of animate living is called reanimation. These terms are cryonics-jargon, used among many cryonicists. "Revival" could be used rather than "reanimation".

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I-G. What is a standby ?

A standby describes the circumstance of a team of cryonics-emergency support people standing by the bedside of a patient waiting for the heart to stop − and for legal pronouncement of death. Once a qualified medical professional has pronounced death the standby team can begin cardiopulmonary support (heart compression and ventilation) and cooldown to preserve the living tissues and organs of the cryonics patient.

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I-H. What is CPS ?

CPS stands for Cardio-Pulmonary Support. As with CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation), chest-compression maintains circulation and ventilation provides oxygen to the pulmonary system. But the objective is to Support tissue function, not to Resuscitate the person.

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I-I. What is a cryonics patient ?

Although a cryopreserved person is legally dead, such people are not necessarily irreversibly dead. Someone whose heart has stopped is clinically dead, but a defibrillator may restart the heart. Similarly, if organs and tissues are well-preserved by CPS and cooling, future science may restore them to a viable state. For this reason, cryonicists call a cryopreserved person a patient rather than a "corpse".

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I-J. What is a neuro ?

A neuro (sometimes called "neurosuspension") is a cryonics patient for whom only the head − rather than the whole body − has been cryopreserved. If future technology can repair freezing damage and regenerate or re-create organs and tissues, it should not be difficult to create skin, bones, and all the organs and tissues needed for a new body − provided the brain has been preserved. Because the skull provides a handy protective casing for the brain − and because removal of the brain could be damaging − it is easier to preserve the whole head rather than just the brain. The brain is easier to vitrify than other organs, especially when attention and effort is concentrated on vitrifying the brain. A head can be stored more economically than a whole body.

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I-K. What is vitrification ?

Vitrification is cryopreservation which is done with cryoprotectant (antifreeze) mixtures and procedures which are so effective that freezing can be eliminated entirely − there is effectively no ice-crystal formation. In vitrification, tissues of the cryonics patient harden like glass rather than crystallize. It is currently not possible to vitrify most organs, but the brain can be vitrified.

For further discussion of vitrification technology, see my essays Vitrification in Cryonics, Physical Parameters of Cooling in Cryonics and Lessons for Cryonics from Metallurgy and Ceramics.

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I-L. What is nanotechnology ?

Nanotechnology is technology on the scale of nanometers, ie, billionths (nano) of a meter − one millionth of a millimeter. This is the size scale of atoms. Nanotechnology is the technology of manipulation of atoms to create molecules by design. K. Eric Drexler's book ENGINES OF CREATION foresees the application of nanotechnology to repair freezing damage in cryonics patients. Even if vitrification technology leads to suspended animation, nanotechnology may still be necessary to repair damage due to disease and aging.

For more information on nanotechnology, see Ralph Merkle's Nanotechnology website.

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II. Why Life Extension?

II-A. Is physical immortality possible ?

Cryonicists differ in their opinions about whether physical immortality is possible and how it could be achieved. Some believe that cryonics is a step toward physical immortality in the human (or animal) body. Some believe that immortality will only be possible by uploading to a computer and making "back-ups" of the "self". Others believe that death by murder, accident or suicide is ultimately inevitable for every person even if some people live tens of thousands or even millions of years.

For further discussion of the issue of immortality, see my essay Some Problems with Immortalism

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II-B. Why would anyone want to live forever − or thousands of years ?

Why would anyone want to die? Anyone who really enjoys life should want it to continue − so long as bodies do not age or become diseased. Cryonicists believe that future technology should be able to eliminate aging and disease. Many cryonicists are eager to see what the future will bring − space travel, reengineered bodies, increased intelligence, etc. Those who are satisfied with having a "natural" lifespan or less are to that extent suicidal. For further discussion of this subject, see my essay Why Life Extension?

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II-C. Wouldn't it be boring to live thousands of years or more ?

People who are bored today might easily get bored tomorrow. But for someone who has an interest in anything, increased wealth and technology is certain to limitlessly expand the options for pursuing that interest. For further discussion of this subject, see my essay Why Life Extension?

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II-D. Won't cryonics overpopulate the Earth ?

All life extending medicine increases population in a linear fashion − in contrast to reproduction which can lead to exponential growth. People who are wealthier, better educated and who live longer lives have less urgency to reproduce − perhaps a reason why reproductive rates are declining almost everywhere on earth today where there is economic growth. It was once believed that industrialized nations would suffer from an "iron law of wages" in which every increase in production would lead to an increase in reproduction that would thwart any betterment of human life. In industrial nations production has outstripped reproduction. With growing wealth and technology all nations will eventually be industrialized. With enough growth in technology, the limitless volume and energy of space will be open to human settlement. With abundant inexpensive clean energy, past pollution can be eliminated, and plenty of food and water can be produced.

From a practical point of view only a tiny fraction of humanity (much less than one-in-a-million) has shown serious interest in cryonics, so this can hardly impact world population. Again, for further discussion of these subjects, see my essay Why Life Extension?

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II-E. Why would future society want to reanimate cryopreserved persons ?

Future society is not expected to necessarily be interested or responsible for reanimating cryopreserved persons. Contractual relations with cryonics organizations as well as personal relationships may provide motivation for reanimation. Just as a person may go to a hospital and be operated upon today by an unknown surgeon, cryonics professionals of the future will be motivated by contractual obligations as well as a desire to save lives. A future society that has the technology to re-animate would probably be vastly wealthy compared to present society — like comparing the wealth of pre-historic cave dwellers to modern society. In such a world, deciding who to reanimate would not be like a lifeboat situation involving allocation of scarce resources, it might be as economically burdensome as someone today deciding to have a goldfish. This is not to say that human life would be disvalued to the level of a goldfish, quite the opposite. Human life would probably be regarded as much more precious than it is today — again by analogy to pre-history when life was "crude, brutish and short".

Most people are involved in cryonics organizations because they want the same treatment for themselves and their loved-ones as they are giving to others. In general, cryonics is a LIFO (Last-In, First-Out) process. The last persons cryopreserved will experience the best technology − probably reversible suspended animation − if they are not killed by violence or highly destructive disease. These will be the first persons to be restored to youthful life. These people will likely have living friends and/or relatives who eagerly want to see them reanimated. If cryopreserved people are reanimated, they will probably be acquainted with older people in storage whom they will want to see again. A chain of reanimation of friends and family reaching into the past will result in people being awakened to see people who already know them. This would be especially true for those who encourage friends and/or relatives to be cryopreserved and/or who become friends with other cryonicists. Some cryonicists have even formalized this process, as for example in LifePact where cryonicists agree to assist each other in reanimation should one cryonicist be reanimated before others.

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II-F. How would we adapt to future society ?

Hundreds of years ago a handicapped person would have had a much greater difficulty adapting than is the case today, thanks to handicapped-friendly facilities. Wealth and technology improves the resources available for the most physically and mentally challenged of persons. Computers and imaging technologies can provide increasingly powerful teaching tools enabling more and more people to be trained to become productive members of society. Benjamin Franklin yearned to be somehow preserved so that he could see the exciting developments of the future. It is hard to imagine that if Benjamin Franklin were brought into the modern world that he would have difficulty learning to use a personal computer. As technology advances, learning how to use it becomes easier, not harder. Many people have migrated from virtual stone-age conditions to modern industrialized countries and have thrived. Cryonicists could be like a third-world immigrant community in the world of the future.

Thirty-thousand years ago most humans died violent deaths (often at the hands of other humans). Many cryonicists believe that the future is likely to be even kinder, gentler, more fun and more humane than the world of today. With progress people have become less violent, more informal, more direct in expressing their feelings and more accepting of individual, ethnic and racial differences − a trend that should continue. Future wealth and technology should provide the means to become increasingly sensitive to psychological needs and difficulties as well as increasingly able to deal with these problems (including "future shock" and alienation). There should be opportunities to seek sex, love and friendships to a depth beyond what we can imagine today − ennobling everyone. Being reanimated into the welcoming arms of friends and relatives might be more like a homecoming than a trip to a strange and alien world.

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II-G. What if the future is horrible, dystopian or totalitarian ?

An advantage to being alive is that it gives you the opportunity to work to make things better − and the longer you are alive and healthy, the more you are likely to succeed. If the world does become a dystopian, primitivist nightmare cryonicists probably won't be reanimated at all. Either the future will be more advanced in every way or it will degenerate to a condition in which reanimating or preserving cryonicists is not feasible. You won't know what opportunities the future may hold if you decide ahead of time that it will be a bad place and don't go there.

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II-H. How could I live in the future without the people I love ?

Many cryonicists have cryopreserved their loved-ones and pets. Close relatives who have mixed feelings about future life on earth can often be encouraged by the fact that you intend to be cryopreserved and want to be in the future with them. For many people, making cryonics arrangements has led to new friends among the cryonics community − friends they can expect to see in the future if cryonics is successful. Some cryonicists have had a long life of meeting new people whom they could like and love, and expect to do the same in the future.

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II-I. How could I live in the future without marketable skills ?

People with minimal skills (and even handicaps) are more employable today than they ever have been. With the progress of society and technology, computer-training and social schemes should eventually lead to full employment for those wishing to be employed. This will not be so difficult to do in a world that is vastly wealthier than the world of today. Once farming was the major occupation. Then manufacturing. Means of earning money in the future may be more intimately related to who you are, as more and more impersonal tasks become increasingly automated to produce great quantities of wealth. So your work should be vastly easier and your income vastly greater.

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II-J. Is cryonics trying to "cheat death" ?

Death is the termination of life, not a creature with a scythe who has a just claim to the lives he takes. (Death hates to be anthropomorphized.) Such thinking is part of the same superstition that claims that vastly extended lifespans are unnatural. Death by diabetes, malaria, smallpox and freezing without clothing or shelter are natural. Civilization is based on the use of intelligence to survive and improve the conditions of life.

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II-K. Is cryonics promoting false hope ?

There is full disclosure that cryonics may or may not succeed. The fact that cryonics is dependent upon unknown future science and that the success of cryonics cannot be guaranteed is not equivalent to the claim that cryonics is guaranteed to fail. The fact that cryonics patients cannot be revived with current technology is not proof that they cannot be revived with future technology. To deny that cryonics patients can ever be revived is to promote unsubstantiated despair.

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II-L. Doesn't death give meaning to life ?

To many life extensionists death robs life of meaning. By destroying a lifetime of accumulated experience and wisdom death can make life seem futile. Some deathists argue that without death life is unstructured and that nothing would be accomplished because of procrastination. Aging and death can put life on a strict schedule of education, career, family, retirement and the grave. Life extensionists prefer freedom to structure by gunpoint. More life means more potential for accomplishment as well as less pressure — more time to enjoy and explore.

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II-M. Doesn't death give closure ?

When a person is terminally ill and in suffering, death can bring closure to that circumstance. It would be unfortunate to want to deprive anyone the possibility of future happy, healthy life out of a need to know there is no hope.

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II-N. If lifespans are greatly increased, will people stop taking risks ?

It is reasonable to think that the possibility of a very long life — and the experience of living for many years — will make people more cautious. But that won't diminish exploration or adventure. People will find safe ways to explore and push their limits. More caution should reduce warlike and criminal behavior, while giving people a greater sense of responsibility for the society they live in and a greater sense of responsibility for the environment.

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III. Financial Questions

III-A. How much does it cost to be cryonically preserved ?

It costs no less than US$28,000 and rarely more than US$300,000, depending on the cryonics organization, the type of cryopreservation (neuro/whole body and the procedures used), whether a standby team is used, the country of residence of the patient, and the amount of notice given to the cryonics organization. (Cases not arranged well in advance of legal death may be subject to surcharge.)

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III-B. Why does cryonics cost so much ?

The cost of cryonics has two main components: long-term storage costs and the cost of preparing the patient for long-term storage.

Concerning long-term storage − it is necessary to maintain a patient in liquid nitrogen indefinitely. Liquid nitrogen boil-off can amount less than one hundred dollers per patient per year (see Cryostats for Cryogenic Storage). A certain amount of money must also be used for maintenance, labor, physical container and physical space. It is anticipated that these storage costs would be paid for by income from a principal amount of money set aside for that purpose. If that happens, the amount of principal should not decline, but should be large enough to grow.

Concerning preparation costs − the procedures for cryopreservation can be elaborate or simple (see V-C). Some money may be allocated for a team of people to stand by waiting for pronouncement of death so they can quickly begin cooldown and cardiopulmonary support.

The cost of cryonics would decline considerably if hundreds of thousands of people chose to be cryopreserved because economies of scale could be practiced. With just over 200 people in cryonic storage worldwide there are few economies of scale, at present.

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III-C. Does cryonics only benefit the rich ?

Most people who make cryonics arrangements are not rich. Most rich people do not make cryonics arrangements. The vast majority of those who make cryonics arrangements are middle-class people who place a greater than average importance on the possibility of a vastly extended lifespan and allocate their assets accordingly. Class warfare and hatred of the rich should not be used as an excuse to stop the the progress of medical technology out of fear that it will disproportionately benefit the rich. The same can be said of cryonics technology. The more these technologies progress, the more these technologies will be available to be of benefit to people of all socio-economics levels. Cell phones were initially only available to the rich, yet are now owned by some of the poorest people in the world.

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III-D. Is it possible to be cryonically preserved without being rich ?

Despite the high cost, it is not necessary to be rich to pay for cryonics. Most cryonicists fund their cryonics arrangements with life insurance policies − which are not expensive when purchased when you are young and healthy. Insurance premiums are often less than the cost of cable television. Of course, life insurance is not inexpensive or necessarily available when you are elderly or terminally ill − which is why it makes sense to plan for cryonics well in advance. It is also helpful to form a local cryonics emergency response group of volunteers who can provide mutual aid. (For more on this subject, see Emergency Preparedness for a Local Cryonics Group.)

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III-E. Will insurance companies have to be repaid after reanimation ?

No, insurance is paid once legal death is confirmed. Insurance companies calculate premiums required to make a profit based on expected time until legal death. Cryonic reanimation will not cause them to lose money − and cryonic reanimation is not anticipated in insurance contracts. Insofar as most cryonicists are life-extensionists who care about their health and well-being, they probably live longer than actuaries predict, resulting in greater profit for the life insurance companies.

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III-F. Does a cryonics organization have an insurable interest in the insured ?

Some insurance representatives have questioned that a cryonics organization has an insurable interest in the life of a cryonicist who has made the organization the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. Historically, the concept of insurable interest arose in the early days of life insurance when people bought life insurance policies on the lives of unrelated persons as a form of gambling. People owning such policies had incentives to hasten the death of the insured. Presently, it is believed that people have unlimited insurable interest in their own lives. When a person buys an insurance policy on their own life they are presumed to have self-interest in mind when naming a beneficiary. For many insurance companies, a cryonics organization need not prove insurable interest when the insured has purchased the policy and named the cryonics organization as beneficiary. But all insurance companies do not agree on this point.

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III-G. Are people in the cryonics business making lots of money ?

No, most staff are volunteers or are poorly/modestly paid. Directors on the Boards of cryonics organizations receive no pay at all. Most people working for cryonics organizations do so because they want to be cryopreserved themselves. Cryonicists are building their own lifeboats. Although large amounts of money are received when a person is cryopreserved, some of the money must be used for cryopreservation expenses and most of the money must be held in trust for the cryonics patient so that income from principal can pay for long-term storage.

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III-H. What happens to poor people who want to be cryopreserved ?

Many people who say they are too poor to afford cryonics manage to afford nice homes or cars, vacations or expensive hobbies. What those people really mean is that cryonics is a marginal expense and they would rather buy the other things than spend money on life insurance. For young or middle-aged people in good health the cost of life insurance is no more expensive than a cigarette habit. A few people have been cryopreserved by charity, but because most cryonicists are not rich − and because we are building our own lifeboats − it is unreasonable to expect that we have enough money to provide cryonics as a charity for very many people. One fund-raising campaign did succeed for a paraplegic man living on welfare who is widely respected for his passionate interest in cryonics. It is heart-wrenching to see people not cryopreserved because of financial limitations − and all who care about this issue are invited to donate money or find ways to raise money to assist with this problem.

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III-I. Why can't cryopreservation funding be paid by installment ?

The greatest disaster in the history of cryonics — the thawing of the Cryonics Society of California patients in the 1970s — happened because of bad financial policies. In some cases cryonics patients were accepted with no funding out of compassion and excessive optimism about the future of cryonics. In other cases cryonics patients were accepted on the basis of unkept promises by relatives to make payments by installment. In order to survive cryonics organizations have learned to be "hard nosed" to ensure that funding is in place for perpetual care. There is a sad case of a man who only had $15,000 when his mother died and who paid more than $28,000 in small regular payments to a funeral director who has maintained his mother on dry ice. It is an unfortunate situation, but there were too many payment defaults in the early days of cryonics for cryonics organizations to take on the risk.

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III-J. Will assets held by cryonics organizations be eroded by inflation ?

The assets held for patient care by cryonics organizations are primarily invested in equities and bonds, investments that historically yield higher returns than inflation. With the exception of short-term treasury bills, investments must yield more than inflation or investors will keep their money. Companies, including those that issue equities, set their prices to make a profit in real (after-inflation) terms, otherwise they would be out of business. If assets held by cryonics organizations yield returns greater than the annual costs of patient care, those assets would be expected to grow even in the face of inflation. Cryonics organizations attempt to set prices so as to have more than enough assets to maintain patients in perpetuity.

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III-K. How much will reanimation cost ?

No one can predict future costs. Nonetheless, there is a pattern of new technologies being expensive initially and then becoming progressively less expensive. It cost about three billion dollars to sequence the first human genome, but by 2018 sequencing a human genome is projected to cost as little as $1,000. Reanimation would not be expected to occur until reanimation costs had dropped well below the level of the principal fund set aside to pay for cryonic storage. However, eager friends and relatives may contribute money toward an earlier reanimation.

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III-L. Can wealth be preserved for use after reanimation ?

The Reanimation Foundation is a Lichtenstein organization that has allowed people with more than $100,000 to set that money aside to be invested until reanimation. States like South Dakota or Alaska that have no state income tax and no laws against perpetual trusts are good places to create a perpetual cryonics trust − to preserve wealth for use after reanimation. However, no one knows what the value of this money will be in a future of vast wealth and technology. In most cases cryonicists would be much better advised to spend their money on improving the quality of their own cryopreservation. This includes spending more money on creating sounder financial arrangements, sounder legal arrangements, better response time if they have a medical emergency, readily available equipment and assistance, etc. Even money spent for the general good of cryonics − such as money spent on cryonics research and money spent on strengthening cryonics organizations may be of considerable personal benefit given the current small size of the organizations and the limited budgets behind cryonics research.

The cryonics Asset Preservation Group has been working on creating trusts for cryonicists. For a report on one of the most informative of the Group's meetings, see Fourth Asset Preservation Group meeting. For documents that have been produced by the cryonics Asset Preservation Group, see Revival Asset Documents.

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III-M. Is cryonics a racket that exploits desperate people ?

Like conventional medicine, cryonics is not designed to exploit desperate people, even though people can be desperate for the service. Members of cryonics organizations are typically people who have given thought to the trends of science and the potential to use those trends to achieve the vastly extended lifespan they desire for themselves and their loved-ones. But cryonics organizations are often approached by people who are traumatized by the impending or recent death of a loved-one − an event that has caught those people completely unprepared. In their grief such people are often willing to mortgage their assets − borrow far beyond their means.

Cryonics organizations do not seek desperate, last-minute cases − not only because such cases are emotionally troubling, but because such cases are financially, legally and politically hazardous. When a desperate person instigating a last-minute cryonic preservation overcomes grief, they (or a family member) can easily initiate a lawsuit that costs the organization vastly more than the cryopreservation would yield, regardless of the merits of the case − including the cost in bad publicity. Bureaucrats in British Columbia have used the possibility of exploitation to justify their anti-cryonics law. Moreover, it is very often difficult or impossible to deliver good cryonics service to last-minute cases. Nonetheless, it is not easy to refuse a person the chance that a loved-one may one day be reanimated − making for some very difficult decisions. Cryonicists must struggle with public perceptions of what they are doing, with personal beliefs concerning the capacity of future technology to repair severely damaged tissues and with the wisdom as well as the emotional disposition of persons who might be eager to purchase false hope concerning a recently deceased loved-one.

Cryonicists are people who are sincerely attempting to extend the lives of themselves and their loved-ones, not insincere hucksters motivated by money. Cryonicists generally spend a great deal of their time, money and effort attempting to make cryonics successful. The people who are the most convinced that cryonics is nothing other than a money-making racket are generally those who can understand nothing but the profit motive. Those who see no value in life extension or the potential for life extension offered by cryonics can only make sense of these matters by thinking that money must be the motive. Such people are not good candidates for any life extension strategy.

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IV. Religion and Philosophy

IV-A. Is there a conflict between religion and cryonics ?

Cryonics is not prohibited in the scripture of any long-established religion. There is no commandment "Thou shalt not freeze". Persons who decide that cryonics is against religion generally do so without any authoritative grounds. Many people of many faiths have made cryonics arrangements without any sense of irreverence. Cryonicists believe that cryonics is a medical procedure − a radical form of "first-aid" − and is no more an affront to religion than a heart transplant. A conflict with religious burial or cremation custom only exists if the cryonics patient is regarded as being "dead". Cryonics is experimental medicine, not "raising the dead". If particular religious leaders disagree, however, a conflict will be created for those who revere those leaders.

If a person requires a heart operation at age 50, the person would be put under anaesthesia during the surgery. Similarly, a person's heart could stop, but be revived by CPR. The person would regain consciousness after the operation or CPR and may live to age 80 or age 90. Being placed in liquid nitrogen can be compared to being put under anaesthesia (or having a temporary cardiac arrest), with the molecular surgery being performed at the time of reanimation. The reanimation combined with rejuvenation might give a person the chance to live hundreds or thousands of years. Inevitably a person would be killed by murder or accident. Cryonicists would argue that the only difference between cryonics and the heart surgery or CPR is the number of years involved and the estimations that the procedures will work. There is no conflict between religion and medicine − even for medical procedures that can extend life for hundreds or thousands of years.

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IV-B. Where does the soul go when a person is cryopreserved ?

Where does the soul go when you sleep at night or become unconscious? If a cryonics patient is not "dead" there is no reason for the soul to go anywhere. The Catholic Church opposes the destruction of human embryos, suggesting that cryopreserved entities do have an attached soul (for Catholics, at least). Where does the soul go during the anaesthesia of a heart operation?

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IV-C. Is cryonics trying to "play God" ?

Heart transplantation and antibiotics were once considered ways of "playing God", but these are now just seen to be medical tools. Cryonics is an even more extreme example of pushing the limits science to save human life, but there is no reason that believe that it encroaches on religion. Cryonics is not adequate to prevent death from all of the possible causes of death.

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IV-D. Doesn't God intend for humans to die ?

Perhaps, but it would be presumptuous to say when. Chapter 5 of Genesis describes six Biblical figures who lived over 900 years including Adam (930 years) and Methuselah (969 years). Genesis also says that Noah lived 950 years. Genesis Chapter 11 lists four more people who lived over 400 years. What is many thousands of years in the face of eternity? If medicine can allow us to live thousands of years in a condition of youth and health, why should that be an affront to God? Those who presume to speak for God in arguing against heart transplantation, blood transfusion, in vitro fertilization, use of antibiotics, stem cell research, etc. are more vulnerable to the accusation of "Playing God" than biomedical scientists who implement these procedures for the betterment of humankind. Most religions regard suicide as a sin. "Thou shalt not kill" applies to self as well as others. Not taking advantage of medicines or cryonics (or prohibiting their development) could be equivalent to suicide (or murder). If raising the dead is a sin, then Jesus was a sinner, because he raised Lazarus from the dead (Chapter 11 in the Gospel of John). Actually, Jesus not only raised the dead, he commanded his followers to raise the dead (Matthew 10:8). (Although cryonicists do not regard cryonics patients as being "dead".)

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IV-E. If personal identity resides in a material brain, couldn't the brain (and identity) be duplicated ?

Some models of cryonics envisage using the cryopreserved person as a template for the atom-by-atom construction of a new person. If this could be done once, it could be done many times. But personal identity implies uniqueness − hence the "Duplicates Paradox". There is no easy answer to this question. For further discussion of this subject, see my essay The Duplicates Paradox.

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IV-F. Wouldn't it be simpler to upload the mind to a computer ?

No. The mind is not a simple device. It will be much simpler to to repair freezing damage with molecular machines than to upload a mind to a computer, which will take decades longer to achieve − even assuming it can be done without loss of personal identity (which would be a problem to verify). In fact, many people who want ultimately to be uploaded have chosen cryonics in hope of being revived in an age when uploading is feasible.

For more discussion of this subject, see my essays Artificial Intelligence and the Preservation of Mind and Neurophysiology and Mental Function.

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IV-G. Is it immoral to practice cryonics when people are starving ?

Is it immoral to live while others die? Is it immoral to enjoy life while others suffer? Is it immoral to find a cure for AIDS or cancer while people are starving? To say "yes" is to promote a kill-or-be-killed lifeboat mentality − as if we are on a lifeboat with limited provisions and can only survive by killing the others. A few people are willing to live like monks and devote all their additional resources to charity, but this is rare. It is ironic that a heroic form of medicine like cryonics can be criticized by people who don't hesitate to spend a large fraction of their income on a home, a family, pets, entertainment, hobbies and vacations. It is good to help others, but it is also good to help oneself, one's loved-ones and one's friends. Aging is a terrible disease that destroys precious human wisdom − it is a disease that should be cured. Saving lives (or attempting to save lives) through cryonics or other medical procedures is not immoral. The elimination of aging and all other diseases − and the use of cryonics as first aid − should go hand-in-hand with improvement of the human condition at every level. For further discussion of this subject, see Why Life Extension?

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IV-H. Is cryonics selfish or egotistical ?

Cryonics is no more selfish or egotistical than refraining from smoking, eating a healthy diet or exercising for the purpose of being healthier and living longer. It is not egotistical to try to save your own life or the life of a loved-one by the application of conventional medicine or of experimental medical procedures. People should not be ashamed of loving life and wanting more life.

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IV-I. Isn't it better to leave money to relatives when the success of cryonics is so uncertain ?

Would you spend $5,000 for an operation that had a 90% chance of saving your life? Spend $20,000 for an operation that had a 50% chance? Spend $50,000 for an operation that had a 10% chance? If relatives insist on cremation rather than cryopreservation, is it because they discount the chance of the success of cryonics or because they prefer the money to the chance of success? Love can be a two-way street: it may be an act of love to give one's life to improve the material circumstance of others, but it is also an act of love to forego material benefit for the possible survival of a loved-one — especially if there is hope that all can be reunited some time in the future.

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V. Cryopreservation

V-A. Doesn't freezing destroy tissue by bursting and lacerating cells ?

Although ice occupies 9% more volume than water, water moves osmotically out of cells during the freezing process because stronger nucleators (particles around which water can crystallize into ice) are located outside of cells than inside cells. Freezing in the extracellular space causes more osmotic movement of water out of cells, causing them to shrink rather than burst. The ice doesn't even form spears, freezing damage is caused by mechanical crushing and the increasingly high ion concentrations in the remaining liquid phase. Cryonicists use cryoprotectants (anti-freeze) to reduce freezing. Vitrification virtually eliminates ice formation entirely. Even in patients for whom freezing has occurred, damage doesn't mean destruction if future nanotechnology can repair that damage.

For further discussion of vitrification technology, see my essays Vitrification in Cryonics, Physical Parameters of Cooling in Cryonics and Lessons for Cryonics from Metallurgy and Ceramics.

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V-B. Has a cryopreserved human or other mammal been revived ?

Only as embryos. Current science cannot reanimate cryopreserved humans − or other adult mammals − but future science may be able to, by the use of molecular repair technology (including nanotechnology). Although direct evidence does not exist that such technology will ever exist, there is indirect evidence such as increasing understanding molecular biology and increasing control over molecules and atoms in computer chip fabrication. There is no direct evidence that human beings may someday be able to travel to Mars, but there is much indirect evidence that travel to Mars is possible.

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V-C. What procedures are used to cryopreserve humans ?

Once the heart has stopped and death has been pronounced it is important to cool the patient quickly, give cardio-pulmonary support (CPS), inject medicines to prevent clotting and reduce ischemia, wash-out the blood, perfuse with anti-freeze compounds and cool to cryogenic (below −130°C) temperature. For more details on procedures, see Cryonics Protocol − A Summary.

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V-D. Have any cryopreserved species been restored to life ?

Bull sperm have been successfully cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen and used for fertilization since the early 1950s. Since 1982 countless human embryos have been stored in liquid nitrogen and subsequently developed into normal children. Additionally, nematode worms, helminths and a number of insects have been successfully cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen and then revived. For more details on cryopreservation of these organisms, see Small Animals Surviving Cryogenic Temperatures.

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V-E. Would decades of radiation destroy cryonics patients ?

Radiation creates free radicals (molecules with unpaired electrons) that damage normal biological molecules. Molecular mobility is negligible at cryogenic temperatures, so when free radicals are created they cannot move enough to cause much damage. Lead shielding is not needed for cryonics patients.

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V-F. Is it better to cryopreserve the whole body or just the head ?

If future technology can repair freezing damage and other cryopreservation damage — along with disease damage and aging damage — future medicine should also be able to grow new, improved bodies. Heads can be stored at much less expense than whole bodies, so there is an economic incentive to store only the heads. Also, heads can be cooled and perfused more quickly than whole bodies, and are therefore vitrify more readily − resulting in better cryopreservation.

But many people believe that their bodies contain information they would not want to lose. In subtle ways that future science may be able to decipher, life experience may cause the mind to leave impresssions in the body the way a footprint leaves impressions in the sand − impressions otherwise lost if reconstruction of identity in the brain is less than perfect. A ghoulish impression created by neuropreservation would make any cryopreservation unacceptable to relatives and associates whose support or respect is deemed important. If the technology toward suspended animation progresses more rapidly than nanotechnology, then keeping the whole body may allow for speedier reanimation.

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V-G. Will cryonics patients thaw-out in a power failure ?

Not likely. Cryonics patients are typically stored in liquid nitrogen "thermos bottles" (dewars or cryostats), not electric coolers. It takes weeks for liquid nitrogen to boil-off and extra liquid nitrogen is kept in reserve. Of course, a power failure of months or years duration would pose severe problems, but there would also be as much time to find solutions. No cryonics patient has ever thawed-out as a result of power failure − and one patient has been in storage since 1967.

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V-H. Why are cryonics patients stored upside-down ?

As an extra measure of protection the heads of whole body patients are placed in the lowest-most position so that in the worst case of liquid nitrogen boil-off the head would be the last part of the body to thaw.

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V-I. Would cessation of brain electrical activity mean loss of identity ?

Although brain electrical activity ceases when metabolism stops at low temperature, this should not cause loss of brain structure or functional capabilities. People on barbiturates or in low-temperature surgery have shown no electrical activity in their brains, but have not lost their personalities or memories. Although immediate (short-term) memories can be lost, there is ample reason to believe that identity and long-term memory is encoded in synapses and in the connections between neurons − which would be cryopreserved. (For more on this and related subjects, see my essays Neurophysiology and Mental Function and An Overview of Neural Networks.)

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V-J. Don't brain cells die after a few minutes without oxygen ?

No. The initial damage due to ischemia (loss of blood circulation causing deprivation of nutrient and oxygen) and reperfusion (restoration of circulation) is to blood vessels − and most of the damage is due to reperfusion, not ischemia. At low temperatures the brain can undergo much longer ischemic periods before experiencing damage − even to blood vessels. At room temperature brain cells can go many hours before dying − although they may be set onto a currently irreversible path of self-destruction (apoptosis) which will take many hours or a few days to complete. By lowering temperature the self-destructive process is greatly slowed, and may be eliminated when cryonicists can restore circulation after legal death. The apoptosis process that is irreversible by current technology could well be reversible by future molecular medicine. (For more information on this subject, see Minimizing Ischemic Damage to Cryonics Patients .)

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V-K. Why is it easier to vitrify heads than whole bodies ?

Vitrification requires rapid cooling to be successful. A whole body has larger thermal mass than a head and therefore is more difficult to cool rapidly enough for good vitrification.

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V-L. Doesn't vitrified tissue crack at liquid nitrogen temperature ?

Currently, cooling of vitrified tissue much below cryoprotectant glass transition temperature (about −130ºC) has resulted in cracking due to thermal stress (liquid nitrogen temperature is −196ºC). Cooling slowly enough could theoretically eliminate cracking, but such slow rates are probably too costly (months or years). It may be possible to find a way to eliminate this cracking, but cryonics research has been more focused on finding ways to economically store a patient at close to −130ºC. Cracks are fewer and probably more easily repaired than ice crystal damage so even with liquid nitrogen temperature storage vitrification is a superior protocol. A broken vase in many pieces is more easily repaired. (For more information on this subject, see my essay on temperature storage temperature and revival.)

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V-M. Does liquid oxygen dissolved in liquid nitrogen pose a hazard to cryonics patients?

The boiling point of liquid oxygen is −183ºC, which is higher than the −196ºC boiling point of liquid nitrogen. This means that liquid oxygen can co-exist with liquid nitrogen, and often does (although liquid nitrogen is produced as a waste-product of liquid oxygen production, and it would be foolish for the producers to be losing liquid oxygen in the liquid nitrogen they sell). There is little threat to cryonics patients from liquid oxygen in liquid nitrogen. The liquid oxygen does not stratify or concentrate, but distributes itself evenly throughout the liquid nitrogen. Moreover, there is no way for liquid oxygen to penetrate into patients. So even given the worst-case scenario of liquid oxygen causing oxidation reactions, those reactions would only be on the most superficial areas of skin.

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V-N. Is any work being done to perfect suspended animation through cryopreservation ?

Although vitrification eliminates ice crystals, cryopreservation still entails biochemical and other unknown forms of damage that stands in the way of rewarming with full viability. 21st Century Medicine (21CM) is working to reversibly cryopreserve kidneys. 21CM has suceeded in cryopreserving rabbit kidney to −135ºC and transplanting those kidneys back into rabbits with complete functionality that was able to sustain the rabbit indefinitely as the sole functioning kidney [ORGANOGENESIS; Fahy,GM; 5(3):167-175 (2009)]. Brains are easier to vitrify than kidneys, and a rabbit brain has been vitrified with no ice formation [ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES; 1019:559 (2004)]. Although a whole mammal has not yet been cryopreserved to cryogenic temperatures and revived, the progress of science is moving in that direction.

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V-O. How might future science be able to revive cryopreserved humans or animals ?

A future nanotechnology of molecular-sized machines might be able to repair freezing damage or other damage associated with cryopreservation − as well as damage due to disease and aging. Such repair capabilities are described in detail in the book ENGINES OF CREATION by K. Eric Drexler. With vitrification the repair requirements are much less. With suspended animation nanomedicine will only be required to reverse the damage of aging and disease.

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V-P. How many people are currently being cryonically preserved ?

As of 2010 there were over 200 people in cryonics storage — all in the United States or Russia. Most are approximately evenly split between Alcor and the Cryonics Institute, but over ten are in Russia and two are with Trans Time. (See Comparisons.)

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V-Q. Can cryonics patients be organ donors ?

For the most part good candidates for organ donation are not good candidates for cryonics and most cryonics patients are not good candidates for organ donation. A good candidate for organ donation is one that is "brain dead" due to a trauma to the brain, such as might occur in an automobile accident. Preferred organ donors are young and organs are not accepted at all from elderly persons. Average age of death in most Western countries is older than is acceptable for organ donation. People dying of cancer, communicable disease or autoimmune disease cannot be accepted as organ donors. Almost all cryonics patients would be rejected as organ donors due to cause or age of legal death.

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V-R. What is the chance that cryonics will work ?

The chance that cryonics will work depends greatly upon the conditions under which a person is cryopreserved. A few have benefitted from immediate cooldown and cardiopulmonary support immediately upon pronouncement of death − followed by a good perfusion that vitrifies the brain. Others are discovered days after deanimation due to a cardiac arrest and are frozen without the benefit of any cryoprotectant perfusion. On average, cryopreservations in a given year are technically superior to those in the previous year, due to improved methods. The better the preservation, the better the chances. Probability estimates of future technology cannot be anything other than guesswork, although molecular repair technology does appear to be inevitable. The ability of a cryonics organization to withstand legal, political, financial and socioeconomic challenges must also factored-in to chances of success.

Estimating the chance that cryonics will work is like passively calculating the chance of being killed in an automobile accident rather than creating safer cars, buying safer cars and driving more safely. The chance that cryonics will work for a given individual will similarly depend upon how much preparation that individual has made to ensure cryopreservation under optimal circumstances. Rather than passively attempting to calculate probability, a person is better advised to realize that preparation to prevent potential problems will greatly affect the probability of success for that person and his/her loved-ones.

The chance that cryonics will work also depends greatly upon how much money and effort is put into the technologies and organizational enhancements that can make cryonics work. Giving money to cryonics organizations to make them stronger and spending money on cryonics research benefits all cryonicists, not just those who spend the money. Many would rather set aside every last penny not being spent on cryopreservation as a trust to be used for future reanimation. If everyone does this, the quality of cryopreservation and the strength of the organizations that cryopreserve will be greatly inferior to what they would be otherwise. Total devotion of all assets to future use upon reanimation, rather than to research and organizational strength reduces the chance that anyone will be reaminated to enjoy the assets.

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V-S. Why cryopreserve dead people?

Until the advent of CardioPulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) in the 1950s it was believed that people were permanently dead after their heart stopped. Body cells do not die immediately when the heart stops. Even for neurons, the loss of structure is a gradual process over many hours. What seems to be irreversible by today' technology may be reversible and reparable in the future. Nevertheless, for an increasing proportion of cryonics cases a standby team will be waiting by the bedside of a terminal cryonics patient to begin cooling and cardiopulmonary support within a minute of the time when the heart stops.

(For more information on this subject, see the "Reversible Death" section of Scientific Justification of Cryonics Practice.)

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V-T. Will revived cryonics patients be the same person ?

Because all memories, feelings, and sense of personhood is the result of the brain and its operations, then an accurate restoration of the brain should result in an accurate restoration of memories, feelings, and sense of personhood.

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V-U. Will cryonics patients be imperfectly revived ?

Cryonicists are generally going to wait until there is reasonable certainty about accurate restoration of the brain because they don't want to be experimenting with their survival or the survival of cryonics patients in their care. Extensive experimentation would be done on animals and by other means we cannot now conceive before revival attempts would be made by people showing due caution and patience.

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V-V. When are cryonics patients likely to be reanimated ?

It is possible that true reversible cryopreservation ("Suspended Animation") may be perfected within 30 years. If so, the reanimation of those preserved under this superior cryopreservation technology could occur at will. Cryonics is a LIFO operation − the Last-In are the First-Out. Cryonics patients preserved under poor conditions and with primitive cryoprotectant (glycerol rather than vitrification cryoprotectant) will be the last to be reanimated, if they are reanimated. Some cryonicists believe reanimations will be recurring within 50 to 100 years for those currently being cryopreserved. Within that time frame virtually all current diseases should be curable and elderly people can probably be rejuvenated to a youthful condition. Repair of freezing damage and cryoprotectant toxicity would expected to also be feasible. Of course, no one has a crystal ball − but these seem like good guesses to most well-informed cryonicists.

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V-W. Where can I read detailed descriptions of cryonics cases ?

Mike Darwin wrote the most detailed case descriptions. One such description, written in 1994 can be found in the Cryonet Archives:     Part I, Part II, and Part III.

The Alcor website library has a section devoted to Alcor Case Reports. The Alcor website also has a Complete List of Alcor Cryopreservations. There is a Cryonics Institute Case Reports section on the Cryonics Institute website. To read a much less professional case, performed almost entirely by Canadian amateurs, see The First Cryonics Case in Toronto, Canada.

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VI. Aging and Old Age

VI-A. Why would a person who is old and sick with diseases of old age want to be cryopreserved ?

Aging and the diseases of old age are all diseases which cryonicists believe that future medicine should be able to cure. Aging is damage to organs, tissues, cells and macromolecules. Cryonicists believe that future medicine should be able to stop, reverse and rejuvenate all aging processes. Future medicine is expected to be able to keep everyone perpetually young and healthy. If so, only severe accident, suicide or murder will be causes of death. Cryonics could be first aid to preserve people until the capabilities of future medicine have arrived.

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VI-B. What is aging and why should it be regarded as a curable disease ?

Aging is a syndrome of changes to organs, to cells and to biological molecules that is deleterious, progressive and irreversible. Aging is caused by sugars which cross-link proteins, by free radicals and by toxins. Telomere (chromosome end) shortening causes aging primarily in the immune system. Molecular damage to proteins, DNA and other macromolecules can be fixed − by replacing or repairing the affected molecules. Telomeres which protect chromosomes can be repaired and hormone replacement would be possible when cancer is cured.

For an overview of the subject of life extension and anti-aging medicine, see the Wikpedia entry on Life extension. For more technical information about what science has been learning about the mechanisms of aging, see my essay Mechanisms of Aging.

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VI-C. Is there any hope for a person who has died of Alzheimer's Disease ?

An Alzheimer's Disease victim has lost many neurons, but everyone loses neurons throughout their lives, and this usually does not result in a noticeable loss of identity. Many of the neurons of an Alzheimer's Disease victim are not destroyed, but are incapacitated by protein aggregation. It is possible that future molecular repair technology can restore many of these neurons to their original functional capacity − just as molecular repair may reverse the damage due to freezing and disease. It may also be possible to deduce original brain/neuron structure from the debris − or even from memoirs. If such technology comes into being, it will probably be some time after reanimation of patients who have only suffered freezing damage.

(For more on Alzheimer's Disease, see my essay Alzheimer's Disease: Molecular Mechanisms.)

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VI-D. Doesn't death eliminate the out-dated thinking of the elderly ?

Older people are often perceived as being set in their ways and unable to adapt to the modern world. They are often respected for their past accomplishments and are seen as misusing their veneration to block the adoption of new ideas, thereby hampering progress. However, much of this problem can be attributed to the effects of aging upon the brain. The majority of those over age 90 have some form of dementia. Subclinical, if not clinical, senility undoubtedly affects the great majority of the elderly to some extent. If the effects of aging on the human brain were eliminated, much of this problem would go away. And society would not be deprived of the precious wisdom that is lost with each death.

There is truth to the assertion that many people attach their ego to certain beliefs and will not change those beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary — even in the absence of brain aging. This personality trait, however, is far from universal. But even if this trait is characteristic of the majority, that does not necessarily mean that death is good for society. How can death be good for society if all of the members of society eventually die? Who is benefitting if everyone must die? The progress of society has also been accompanied by an increase in pollution. The pollution problem must be addressed if progress is to continue. Similarly, society can find ways to progress with stubborn egos, while benefitting from the knowledge and experience that flows from the continued existence of those egos. In the worst case, what's the rush for society to progress as rapidly as possible at the cost of human life?

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VII. Cryonics Organizations

VII-A. What cryonics organizations offer full cryopreservation services ?

In 2010 there are only five organizations offering full cryonics services − including sign-up, cryopreparation and cryostorage. Four of these organizations are in the United States, and one is in Russia. (Long term storage of people or pets in dry ice or freezers is not considered cryonics.)

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VII-B. How do these organizations differ ?

Trans Time has only a couple of patients and is not actively promoting its services. The American Cryonics Society (ACS) does not have storage facilities and primarily contracts with other cryonics organizations for services − storage is with the Cryonics Institute. ACS offers whole-body service for about US$150,000. Trans Time is organized as a for-profit company, but ACS is charitable: 501(c)3.

Alcor and the Cryonics Institute (CI) are fully-equipped with their own cryopreservation facilities. About two-thirds of Alcor patients are neuros, whereas CI offers no neuro service − only whole body − mainly because neuro is regarded as unacceptable to the general public. Alcor charges US$80,000 for neuro and US$200,000 for whole-body. The Cryonics Institute charges US$28,000 (Lifetime − US$1,250 membership) or US$35,000 (Yearly − US$120 per year membership) for whole-body service. CI uses funeral directors rather than its own teams to deliver cryopreservation service, and allocates less principal for long-term storage. Much of the reason Alcor charges more than CI is because standby services are included in the Alcor price, whereas CI Members wishing these services must pay extra by contracting with Suspended Animation, Inc. for standby.

For a more detailed comparison of the cryonics organizations, see Comparing Policies and Procedures.

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VII-C. Did the Cryonics Institute merge with the American Cryonics Society ?

No. The American Cryonics Society has no storage facilities of its own, so all ACS patients are stored at the Cryonics Institute. In 2002 an agreement was signed between the two organizations which gave ACS the privilege of obtaining up to 100 CI Memberships for CI Members in exchange for a $20,000 payment and a note secured by a "Bigfoot" dewar. An ACS Member is not automatically a CI Member, ACS must approve such Memberships. All of the nearly 20 ACS patients stored at CI have been granted CI Membership by ACS, but few other ACS Members have been granted CI Membership.

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VII-D. Where did the name Alcor come from ?

The name came from Fred and Linda Chamberlain who co-founded Alcor in 1972. Alcor is a star in the handle of the Big Dipper which is paired with the larger, brighter star system known as Mizar. In ancient times the ability to distinguish Alcor from Mizar was a sign of great visual acuity. The Chamberlains wanted to convey the idea that persons who chose to use cryonics for life-extension are those who are very perceptive. The name was also chosen as being a close acronym for ALlopathic CryOgenic Rescue. Fred and Linda settled on "cryogenics" in the acronym specifically to avoid the use of "cryonics", due to perceived negative PR concerning "cryonics" at that time − later deciding that "cryonics " would have been better. (Allopathy is the opposite of Homeopathy − instead of trying to combat an illness with a substance producing similar symptoms one uses a substance antagonistic to the symptoms.)

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VII-E. What provisions are made against takeovers by non-cryonicists ?

No cryonics organization is owned by shareholders. The Cryonics Institute Board is elected by popular vote of Cryonics Institute Members who have made arrangements for their own cryopreservation. Effectively, this means the Cryonics Institute is owned by the Members who are dedicated to cryonics. The Alcor Board of Directors is self-selected — new Board Members can only be chosen by existing Board Members. The Alcor Board of dedicated cryonicists (all of whom are Alcor Members with arrangements to be cryopreserved) will only select dedicated cryonicists to replace themselves. The Alcor Board has control of Alcor assets. Alcor, the American Cryonics Society (ACS) and the Cryonics Institute are all non-profit corporations, but Alcor and ACS are charitable: 501(c)3.

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VII-F. What other cryonics organizations offer cryonics services ?

Suspended Animation, Inc. of Florida offers cryopreservation standby, cool-down, blood-washout, perfusion and transport, but does not offer storage. Suspended Animation is a for-profit corporation which is primarily devoted to research and only secondarily to providing cryopreservation standby and transport. Suspended Animation has contracts with ACS and the Cryonics Institute for Members of these organizations who want Third Party standby and transport from professional cryonicists. (For more details on the CI contracts see CI contracts.)

The Reanimation Foundation has offered a distinct financial service − holding money in a Lichtenstein Trust for people who want to have extra money available upon reanimation, but is apparently no longer accepting new Members.

A few local groups keep equipment and offer emergency cryonics services on a volunteer or paid basis. Examples include the Toronto Local Group, Cryonics Europe and the Life Extension Society. (For more on this subject, see my essay Emergency Preparedness for a Local Cryonics Group.)

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VII-G. What other cryonics organizations exist ?

Most other cryonics organizations are educational or regional − such as the Cryonics Society of Canada, the Japanese Cryonics Association, etc. For a comprehensive list of cryonics organizations (with links) see the DMOZ Open Directory Project .

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VII-H. How can I prepare for a career working for a cryonics organization ?

This depends upon what you want to do for cryonics. If you want to do accounting for a cryonics organization, then study accounting. If you want to do research to help advance the science, then study chemistry and physiology to empower you to improve perfusion methods and reduce cryoprotectant toxicity. Training to be a perfusionist would provided you with skills greatly in demand by cryonics organizations. A medical degree would be the excellent, because cryonics organizations can greatly benefit from help by physicians (especially specialists in emergency medicine). And if you lose interest in cryonics, you still have your medical degree. Cryonics organizations are small, so they do not have a large staff, but if you are well-trained and enthusiastic your chances of getting a position are not bad.

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VII-I. What guarantee is there that cryonics organizations can survive hundreds of years ?

You can visit the organizations, get to know the staff and directors, study their publications, read their financial statements, etc., and make your best estimate as to the probability of long-term survival. There is no absolute guarantee that you will survive a walk across the street, but if it seems safe to cross you make the attempt. There are no absolute guarantees about anything in life. The Catholic Church has survived nearly two thousand years, and there are many companies that have survived for many centuries. See List of oldest companies.

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VIII. Legal and Political Issues

VIII-A. How can a legally dead person have a valid contract for cryopreservation ?

Although legally dead people do not have contractual rights, living people can make valid contracts for the disposition of their human remains in most legal jurisdictions. The wishes a person stipulates for disposition of their remains are usually honored by courts. The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act provides a vehicle for a cryonics organization to "own" the body of the cryonics patient when the organization has been named as the recipient of the whole-body anatomical donation.

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VIII-B. What legal documents are required besides a contract ?

Cryonics organizations require quite a bit of "paperwork" for each cryonics patient − notarized or witnessed − to make clear the wishes of the person to be cryopreserved. Next-of-kin forms are often signed to ensure that next-of-kin do not try to oppose the process. There may also be local help agreements, authorization of anatomical donation, membership application form and a number of other forms. Cryonics organizations want this paperwork completed well before the time of death, and will often refuse a "last minute" case of someone trying to cryopreserve a loved-one who has recently deceased. Unlike funeral arrangements, cryonics arrangements should be planned well in advance − and the paperwork completed well in advance of legal death.

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VIII-C. Under what laws do cryonics organizations operate ?

Alcor and the American Cryonics Society operate under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA), which allows them to accept and "own" human bodies − just as an organization that does organ transplantation can accept and "own" human organs. At least three court cases in California gave Alcor the right to provide cryonics services in that state, along with access to UAGA which gives rapid hospital access to a patient's remains. These court battles were initiated by Alcor Member Dick Clair who was dying of AIDS, yet being denied the right to choose cryonics rather than burial or cremation. Because the American Cryonics Society is also based in California, it benefitted from Alcor's legal victories in the courts. The Cryonics Institute (CI) is licensed as a cemetery by the State of Michigan, and has been an organ donor recipient for ACS.

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VIII-D. Is cryonics illegal anywhere ?

The Canadian Province of British Columbia (BC) is the only state or province in North America with an anti-cryonics law. Section 14 of Bill 3 (2004) of the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act of BC forbids the marketing of cryonics, but BC citizens are not prohibited from making arrangements with cryonics organizations outside of BC. And BC funeral directors are not prohibited from shipping cryonics patients to cryonics organizations outside of BC according to a clarification notice on the website of the British Columbia Business Practices & Consumer Protection Authority. (For more information about British Columbia's anti-cryonics law, see my article British Columbia's Anti-Cryonics Law.)

In France an April 1968 decree by Jean-Marcel Jeanneney, the Minister of Health, prohibited the practice of cryonics.

Cryonics was declared illegal in the city of Nederland, Colorado, but the remains of the grandfather of Norwegian cryonicist Trygve Bauge is still stored there on dry ice − actually celebrated in an annual winter festival (see Frozen Dead Guy Days.)

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VIII-E. Can autopsy be avoided ?

Some states (including California, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island) have laws restricting autopsy − especially on religious grounds. The impetus for this legislation has come largely from Orthodox Jews, whose religion prohibits mutilation after death. Some cryonicists have joined The Society for Venturism (a cryonics "religion") to avoid autopsy. Most signed-up cryonicists wear bracelets and/or necklaces (a few individuals have tatoos) that say "Do Not Autopsy", in addition to providing emergency procedures and cryonics organization contact information.

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VIII-F. Is euthanasia an option for cryonicists ?

Mathematician Thomas Donaldson fought in the California courts for the right to be cryopreserved before brain cancer destroyed his personal identity. Unfortunately, Thomas lost the case, but fortunately his cancer went into remission. Thus far cryonics always requires a "natural death" and pronouncement of death before cryonics procedures can begin.

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VIII-G. What is the legal status of Alcor in Arizona ?

In the wake of the Ted Williams affair Arizona representative Bob Stump introduced a bill into the Arizona House of Representatives (HB 2637) which attempted to regulate Alcor under the Funeral and Embalmer's Board (an organization hostile to Alcor and which would require that only licensed embalmers rather than physicians perform cryonics procedures). HB 2637 also attempted to strip Alcor of its use of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA), which gives Alcor legal possession of cryonics patients and facilitates the ability to access and transport patients in a manner for optimal treatment. HB 2637 was withdrawn.

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VIII-H. What is the legal status of the Cryonics Institute in Michigan ?

Also in response to the Ted Williams affair, the Cryonics Institute was briefly placed under a "Cease and Desist" Order by Bureau of Commerical Services Director Andrew Metcalf after the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED story appeared. The Cryonics Institute was ultimately licensed in Michigan as a Cemetery and allowed to continue largely as it had done, with the exception of requiring perfusion to be done at a mortician's facility rather than in the Institute's facility. A Trust Fund was established by the Cryonics Institute to meet the requirements of the State of Michigan to hold some of the funds of the cryonics patients in a trust for perpetual care.

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VIII-I. What is the legal status of cryonics patients ?

Cryonics patients are legally dead, and thus legally regarded as inanimate objects that can be possessed by others, but have no legal rights. Efforts to create special legal rights for cryonics patients (like cryopreserved embryos) for wealth preservation have been made by the cryonics Asset Preservation Group. For details on progress in this area, read the section on "Personal Revival Trusts" in Fourth Asset Preservation Group meeting.

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VIII-J. Are cryonics organizations fraudulently selling an unproven technology ?

It would be fraudulent to guarantee the ability to reanimate cryopreserved humans, but no cryonics organization does this. Cryonics organizations are clear that reanimation is not possible today and that there is no guarantee that future technology will be able to reanimate cryonics patients. Those seeking cryopreservation must sign contracts which acknowledge these facts. Cryonics organizations only promise to preserve brain (and body) by the best means possible under the circumstances and to make best efforts at long-term storage of cryonics patients in the face of social, political and economic risks. Reanimation technology is unproven, but there are good scientific plausibility arguments for believing that such technology will be available in the future. If there were not good scientific plausibility arguments for thermonuclear fusion, tissue regeneration from stem cells or the possibility of human habitation on Mars there would be no justification for spending vast amounts of money on these projects. Cryonics offers a chance, not a guarantee, so there is no fraud.

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VIII-K. Can people donate their bodies to cryonics research ?

Cryonics organizations accept patients on the basis that they are people who are expected to be restored as fully restored animate entities in the future. The use of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act by cryonics organizations treats cryonics patients as whole body donors. Because cryonics is unproven, it can be regarded as an experiment. But it is not the intent of any cryonics organization to attempt re-animation until considerable prior research has verified that reanimation will successfully revive the memory and identity of the person who was cryopreserved. From a financial point of view, it would be very costly to cryopreserve people today for an experiment to be performed many decades in the future. From an ethical point of view, people should not be treated as experimental subjects in matters of life-and-death. To date, no cryonics organization has used a donated body strictly for experimental purposes (ie, not ultimately placed in liquid nitrogen with the hope of future reanimation).

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IX. Cultural Matters

IX-A. How did the cryonics movement begin ?

In 1962 Ev Cooper privately published a book entitled IMMORTALITY: PHYSICALLY, SCIENTIFICALLY, NOW, which outlined the cryonics idea. In the same year a college physics teacher named Robert Ettinger privately published the book THE PROSPECT OF IMMORTALITY. Two years later Cooper established the Life Extension Society and actively sought to make cryonics a practical reality. That same year (1964) Isaac Asimov certified to Doubleday that Ettinger's book had scientific merit and Frederick Pohl recommended that Doubleday accept the book for public publication. It was Ettinger's book which was the main treatise of cryonics for many years thereafter. Cooper became cynical about cryonics toward the late 1960s and was later lost at sea in his sailboat. But Robert Ettinger co-founded the Cryonics Institute in 1976 and remained President of the organization until 2003.

For more on the history of cryonics, see my essay A History of Cryonics.

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IX-B. Is cryonics a cult ?

Cults are typically built around the hypnotic grasp of a charismatic leader. Although there are some stellar intellects in cryonics, the respect they command is usually based solely on achievement. Cryonics is based upon a paradigm shift from conventional wisdom. It attracts individuals who are argumentative, independent thinkers − people not afraid to question authority or convention. Those who conform to mainstream thinking are more appropriately described as cultists than are cryonicists.

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IX-C. Is cryonics a science ?

There are no scientific journals devoted to cryonics and only a few articles have appeared on the subject, [MEDICAL HYPOTHESIS; Merkle,RC; 39:6-16 (1992)] and [ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES; Lemler,J; 1019:559-563 (2004)]. (A more detailed version of the former can be found of Ralph Merkle's website.) The full text of the most up-to-date review is available on the web: "Scientific Justification for Cryonics Protocol" —  [REJUVENATION RESEARCH; Best,BP; 11(2):493-503 (2008)].

Cryonics is a technology that is based on both existing scientific knowledge and anticipations of future scientific knowledge. Although anticipated future science cannot be called science, it can nonetheless be a reasonable projection from present capabilities − like the idea of a permanent base for human habitation on the moon.

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IX-D. What do scientists commonly say about cryonics ?

Many scientists will claim that cryonics is a pseudo-science without having investigated the subject, and without even understanding the basic cryobiological principles that would apply. Some scientists claim that because ice has a 9% greater volume than water, that ice forms within cells and expands to burst cells. Any cryobiologist familiar with tissue freezing would know that ice does not form within cells during the cooling process — ice forms outside of cells and water is osmotically drawn outside of cells as ice continues to form in the extracelluar space. The initial reason for this process, is that water will supercool without nucleators, and there are few nucleators inside cells, and many more nucleators to initiate crystal growth outside of cells.

Scientists who publicly and negatively comment about cryonics far too often have not investigated cryonics enough to know that cryonics organizations can avoid ice formation in the brain through the use of vitrification. That cryonics organizations make every attempt to vitrify the brains of cryonics patients would become quickly obvious to anyone who took a little time to investigate the subject before dismissing it.

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IX-E. What do cryobiologists think of cryonics ?

Like most scientists, most cryobiologists have not investigated cryonics enough to know that it is possible to vitrify a human brain, and that cryonics organizations attempt to do so with cryonics patients. Some cryobiologists have been very hostile to cryonics − often for reasons unrelated to science (such as disgust at the idea of vastly extending human lifespan). Other cryobiologists have regarded cryonics the way astronomers have regarded astrology. Since 1982 the Society of Cryobiology has had a section (Section 2.04, Denial of Membership and Discipline of Members) in their Bylaws forbidding membership by anyone who believes-in, advocates or practices cryonics. The scientific world was shaken by the discovery of cloning − after years of denying that cloning is possible. As the scientific basis for cryonics has progressed, more cryobiologists have acknowledged that cryonics might be scientifically feasible, although many remain negative.

The complete text of Section 2.04 is as follows:

Upon a two-thirds vote of the Governors in office, the Board of Governors may refuse membership to applicants, or suspend or expel members (including both individual and institutional members), whose conduct is deemed detrimental to the Society, including applicants or members engaged in or who promote any practice or application which the Board of Governors deems incompatible with the ethical and scientific standards of the Society or as misrepresenting the science of cryobiology, including any practice or application of freezing deceased persons in the anticipation of their reanimation. Every member whose suspension or expulsion is under consideration shall be given written notice thereof at least fourteen (14) days before the vote on such suspension or expulsion, which notice shall state the grounds for the proposed action of the Board of Governors, and such member may petition the Board of Governors in writing before the vote.

For a detailed description of the early history of the conflict between cryonicists and cryobiologists, see COLD WAR: The Conflict between Cryonicists and Cryobiologists.

IX-F. Have any scientists publicly expressed belief-in or support-for cryonics ?

Yes. See Scientists' Open Letter on Cryonics in which over 60 eminent scientists affirm that "cryonics is a legitimate science-based endeavor". Note that cryonics is science-based, but cannot correctly be called current science. Cryonics is a protoscience based on expectations of the vitrification and repair capabilities of future science. Although the projection is less, possible human habitation of Mars is similarly a science-based concept based on projections of the capabilities of current science.

Scientists need to be seen as being authoritative, and are thus extremely reluctant to be seen as holding unpopular viewpoints. Scientists are generally specialists, who prefer to keep their public views within their specialty. On matters outside of their specialty they defer to others who are widely regarded as experts. There are few experts on the subject of cryonics, and a typical scientist would not know how to identify these experts insofar as cryonics is not large enough to be a specialty in the academic community.

For an excellent analysis of the psychology of scientists with regard to cryonics, see: Is It Safe for a Biologist to Support Cryonics Publicly?

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IX-G. How many people have made advance cryonics arrangements ?

Approximately fifteen hundred, most of those people having made arrangements with Alcor. The American Cryonics Society does not reveal the number of members it has with cryopreservation arrangements.

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IX-H. Why are there so few cryonicists and cryonics patients ?

Many people think that cryonics conflicts with religion. Many people think cryonics would lead to overpopulation (but never say that conventional medicine would lead to overpopulation). Many people think that cryonics cannot be feasible until a mouse has been reversibly cryopreserved. Many people think cryonics must be a scam because it is so expensive. Many people are unhappy with life or feel satisfied that life is long enough and do not want to live longer than "normal". Many people believe that a greatly extended life would be boring. Many people do not understand that cryonics presupposes rejuvenation, and imagine an extended life of elderly diseases. Many people think that society progresses by death of the elderly. Many people believe that the world of the future will be much worse than the world of the present. Many people would not want to be reanimated into the future without the company of specific friends or loved-ones — or of anyone whom they already know.

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IX-I. Who was the first person to be cryopreserved for future revival ?

Dr. James Bedford, a 73-year-old California psychology Professor, was cryopreserved on January 12, 1967 and is still being held in cryostorage (at Alcor). If there is a holiday in the subculture of cryonics it is "Bedford Day" − January 12th.

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IX-J. Is Frozen Dead Guy Days a cryonics festival ?

Frozen Dead Guy Days is a yearly festival in Nederland, Colorado that spoofs the storage of a former resident's grandfather on dry ice. Almost none of the participants take cryonics seriously except, perhaps, the man who maintains the grandfather on dry ice. Cryonicists do not consider long-term storage on dry ice to be cryonics.

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IX-K. Was Walt Disney cryopreserved ?

Most probably he was not. Walt Disney was known for his love of technology and futurology. Enquiries may have been made by Disney to the Cryonics Society of California for the "Tomorrowland" series. Disney died after an unsuccessful operation to remove cancerous lung tissue − without having been informed his condition was terminal. Disney's family refused to comment on the circumstances of Disney's death, which included not denying rumors that Walt had been cryopreserved. There is an urn in Forest Lawn Cemetery which has Walt Disney's name on it − and most probably contains his ashes. For a detailed analysis of the frozen Disney legend, read Suspended Animation.

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IX-L. Was Timothy Leary cryopreserved ?

Timothy Leary made arrangements to be cryonically preserved, but as the time of his death approached, he changed his mind. For details on the Timothy Leary case, read The Strange Case of Timothy Leary.

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IX-M. Was Ted Williams cryopreserved ?

The baseball star is cryopreserved at Alcor, but the organization officially refused to comment until forced to do so by the courts. Two of Ted Williams' three children − a son and daughter − swore an affidavit that Ted wanted to be cryopreserved, whereas the other (estranged) daughter denies this and has fought vigorously to have her father cremated. An embittered man who temporarily worked for Alcor turned inside-information over to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, which published an "exposé" about the Ted Williams case in the August 18, 2003 issue of the magazine.

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IX-N. Are the allegations of Larry Johnson true ?

Larry Johnson is a former Alcor employee who made a number of allegations against cryonics in general and Alcor Foundation in particular in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, and subsequently in a book entitled FROZEN. His allegations contain some embarrassing disclosures, along with a substantial amount of misunderstanding and misrepresentation, in the view of most cryonicists. See the following links for responses by cryonicists':

Comments on an Anti-Cryonics Book

Response to Larry Johnson Allegations

New York Lawsuit Against Larry Johnson Expands to Include Defamation

Larry Johnson Found in Contempt of Court

Larry Johnson Held in Contempt of Court

Response to Claims of Animal Torture

A Violation of Non-Disclosure Agreement

Lawsuits against Larry Johnson End; Johnson issues statement

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IX-O. Why do people cryopreserve their pets ?

The two most common reasons for cryopreserving a pet are based on the fact that people love their pets. The first reason is that the owner of the pet plans to be cryopreserved and hopes to be reunited with their beloved pet in the future. The second reason is that the owner believes that life is wonderful and wants to give a greatly extended life to their pet. In some cases people motivated by the second reason do not make arrangements to be cryopreserved themselves.

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IX-P. Did Paris Hilton make cryonics arrangements for her dogs ?

Paris Hilton's love for her dogs led a UK tabloid journalist to concoct a rumor that Hilton wanted to be frozen with them at the Cryonics Institute. Hilton denied the rumor on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

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IX-Q. Are there movies about cryonics ?

FOREVER YOUNG (1992), SLEEPER (1973), and COCOON (1985) can be said to have cryonics themes, but the most explicitly cryonics movie is probably VANILLA SKY (2001)..

An extensive list of cryonics-related films (incorrectly described as "cryogenics"-related — see I-B above) can be found at: Cryogenics Movies.

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IX-R. What is the gender ratio in cryonics ?

Two-thirds to three-fifths of signed-up cryonicists are male. But at the Cryonics Institute, the majority of cryonics patients are female, because of the number of sons who cryopreserve their mothers. Cryopreservation of parents is much less frequent at Alcor. Although there are female cryonics activists, the problem of a cryonics activist husband and an anti-cryonics wife has been the subject of frequent concern. See The Hostile Wife Phenomenon in Cryonics.

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IX-S. What is the Teens & Twenties Cryonics Event ?

The Teens & Twenties Cryonics Event is a gathering of young cryonicists in the teen and twenty age groups. To attend the event it is necessary to have contracts and funding in place for cryopreservation with a cryonics organization. The intention of the event is to encourage young cryonicists to get to know each other. Social interaction is the main goal of the event, rather than education. The intention is to foster networking among those who are likely to be cryonics leaders in future generations of cryonicists.

The Teens & Twenties Cryonics Event was first held in January, 2010, the second is scheduled for May, 2011, and is expected to continue to be held on an annual basis. The event is sponsored by the Life Extension Foundation (LEF) which pays all costs (airfare, hotel, and food) for young cryonicists living in the United States, and much of the travel expense of those living outside the United States. The annual event is expected to always be in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area, near the offices of LEF. For more information about the Teens & Twenties Cryonics Event see: Facebook Young Cryonicists.

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X. More Information

X-A. Are there good books on cryonics ?

The 1964 book THE PROSPECT OF IMMORTALITY by Robert Ettinger is still a good source of information about the cryonics idea − especially from the point of view of social and cultural issues.

The 1986 book ENGINES OF CREATION by K. Eric Drexler has probably had more influence on the growth of cryonics than any other book. Drexler's book makes a case for the idea that future Nanotechnology will result in molecular-scale machines which will be able to repair tissue damage associated with aging − eliminating aging − and repair freezing damage associated with cryonics.

The 1998 book THE FIRST IMMORTAL, by James Halperin, contains much explanation of cryonics principles and application, despite being a novel.

The 2004 book SCIENTIFIC CONQUEST OF DEATH published by The Immortality Institute is a collection of essays dealing with cryonics and other forms of life extension.

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X-B. Where can I get more information about cryonics on the web ?

There is a Wikipedia entry on Cryonics and a Wikipedia entry on Life Extension that both have information about cryonics. (Wikipedia is a web-based encyclopedia.) My essay A History of Cryonics provides a concise summary of the historical context of cryonics. Charles Platt wrote A Short History of Cryonics, although it is a decade old and half of the history is about CryoCare. For over two decades (ending in mid-March 2011) CryoNet was the most widely-used internet medium for communication by cryonicists. The archive is still a very rich source of information about cryonics, but it requires a great deal of digging and sifting. The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine has a good review of cryonics directed specifically toward physicians entitled Why Cryonics?

All of the cryonics organizations have websites with considerable information on the subject of cryonics. There is much material in the Alcor Library and on the Cryonics Institute site contents page.

Immortality Institute Cryonics Forum provides a 24-hour forum for cryonics discussion. Another such forum is Cold Filter. (The Cryonics Institute forum is a Members-only Yahoo Group.) New CryoNet is a Yahoo Group intended to act as a replacement for CryoNet. Subscribing to Google Alerts using the "cryonics" search term is a good way to be alerted of the latest news and blog items dealing with cryonics. A comprehensive collection of links to cryonics-related web pages is the cryonics section of the DMOZ Open Directory Project .

In some large cities it is possible to meet other cryonicists in person at meetings in public restaurants or cafes arranged on the web through Cryonics Meetup.

Anti-cryonics websites include the cryonics entry of RationalWiki, the so-called Cryonics Factsheet, and the cryonics thread of the Cult Education Forum. Richie Arnold's "Cryonics Factsheet" is especially focused on character assassination and personal attack, rather than intellectual, scientific, or "academic" criticism (which he finds boring, and disdains). Mike Darwin's Cryonics Manifesto was written in response to these disparaging websites.

The single most comprehensive web source offering detailed technical-scientific information about cryonics is the cryonics section of my own website: Cryonics Topics by Ben Best. There is plenty of non-technical information about cryonics there as well, including debates with skeptics about cryonics. My website also contains a life extension/cryonics survey along with results and comments from over two thousand people who have taken the survey (which gives insight into pro-cryonics and anti-cryonics sentiment). Two other websites which have a great deal of cryonics technical information are Institute for Evidence-Based Cryonics (Aschwin de Wolf's blog) and Chronopause (Mike Darwin's blog).

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X-C. How can I get more information about the cryonics organizations ?

All of the cryonics organizations offering cryopreservation services have literature packs, and many sell books. Additionally, they have magazines and electronic news services. Alcor and the Cryonics Institute have FAQs of their own. Alcor publishes a monthly new report of its activities, which is available free online: Alcor News. The Cryonics Institute has a Members-only forum which is a vehicle for distributing news. The official publication of Alcor is CRYONICS magazine and the official publication of the Cryonics Institute is LONG LIFE magazine − which the American Cryonics Society also uses for news. Go to their websites (VII-B) for details on subscription.

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