Cryonics: An Alternative to Burial or Cremation.
Freeze After Death!
In 2008, I became a Lifetime member of the Cryonics Institute and subsequently set up a cryo-preservation contract, a legally-binding agreement which means that my physical body will be maintained indefinitely in cryostasis (ie. stored in liquid nitrogen). There it will remain until such time as it can be successfully re-animated and fully restored to health using age-reversing nanomedicines and nanotechnologies. Any organic damage will therefore be repaired.
To many people, this sounds like science-fiction. Yet right now, at this very moment, research into cryonics, nanomedicine and age-reversal technologies using stem cells and DNA are pushing back the boundaries of what was once assumed impossible. Organisations such as Timeship, the SENS Foundation, Alcor, the Cryonics Institute and the Methuselah Foundation are at the forefront of this ground-breaking scientific research.
But I'm not going to write about science here. Instead, I'm going to write about some of the reactions and questions which I've received when I announced my plans for cryo-preservation to family and friends.
The views expressed here are entirely my own, and may not necessarily be shared by any other cryonicist or cryonics organisation. Cryonicists are as diverse as any other group of people, and so are their points of view!
What Does Cryopreservation Cost?
One of the most belligerent myths about cryo-preservation is that it is expensive. It truly is not!
Most cryonicists fund their plans via an ordinary life insurance policy. The cost of this will vary, largely depending on the age and pre-existing health of the policy holder, but usually the monthly cost is equivalent to that of one average take-away meal.
Difference cryo facilities charge different sums. Also, different insurance companies' charges can vary wildly, depending on age, health, location and the policies of each particular business. As with all business transactions, it pays to shop around and read the small print.
Many countries now have cryonics support groups, which can better answer individual, localised questions relating to costs.
The Crynonics Institute
Is Cryonics Legal?
My cryo-preservation contract is entirely legal and legally-binding.
When my physical body is declared dead by conventional medical standards, it will be kept chilled and transported to the Cryonics Institute in Michigan, USA. Both my Will and my medical records mention this intention, and request that an autopsy is not to be carried out. However, if this is over-ruled (or unrecognised until it's too late) then cryo-preservation will go ahead anyway. It is hoped that nanomedicines and related developing technologies will be able to repair any damage caused by an autopsy.
As the contract involves the transference of funds from one country to another, it is protected by a Trust fund. My two trustees are also members of the Cryonics Institute, and they also have cryo-preservation contracts in place. The Trust prevents the insurance money from being diverted to any other beneficiary (such as a relative who might try to contest it.)
However, cryonics is not legal in every country. In France, for example, cryonics is currently illegal.
What If Cryonics Doesn't Work?
All sciences progress, each new discovery standing on the shoulders of those which went before it. Hospitals now routinely utilise technologies and procedures which would have been dismissed as too fanciful even a few years ago.
For example, not so long ago if your heart stopped, you died. Now numerous people have 'died' and been revived.
Another example is the enormous improvements in the treatment of major diseases such as cancer. Not too long ago, the very word felt like an automatic death sentence. This is no longer the case, and further breakthroughs are occurring all the time.
It's not so much a case of if science can achieve something, but rather of when.
And should all scientific progress fail - which is highly unlikely anyway - then those of us who are suspended in cryostasis will be none the wiser.
On the other hand, if cryo-preservation does work and we cryonicists are successfully reanimated utilising nanomedicines and similar technologies, consider the amazing futures which we will have secured for ourselves!
Equipment for Preparing a Cryo-Patient
Brave New World!
Who knows how many decades will pass before a patient in cryostasis can be revived and healed? A person might find themselves penniless and adrift in an alien world which they can't relate to, where everything and everyone once familiar has long since gone - or so one worried relative suggested.
Personally, I'd much prefer to retrain and get a job than die.
On re-animating from cryostasis, a person is bound to find that technology has moved on - just as very few people in 2010 still use an abacus or eight-track cassette tapes. On the other hand, in 2010 we still enjoy music created hundreds of years ago, and treasure art and literature which was created thousands of years ago. Much more was created than has survived, and this pattern will continue as a natural process of stratification. That which proves its own worthiness over time has and will continue to survive.
Many cryonicists know each other personally and meet up for dinner and a chat, just like everyone else. When we're all re-animated, we will be able to do something similar once again and catch up on any news. We'd love you to join us!
A Crowded Future?
If no-one ever died, due to age-reversing nanomedicines and improved DNA-healing technologies, how would we all fit on an already over-populated planet? Several people asked me this question.
Look up. What do you see? An entire universe stretching out around you. It's so vast it can't be measured. If the universe had a size limit, there would have to be something beyond that boundary in order to define that boundary's existence - and therefore the universe is infinite.
Already there are plans to build a space station on the Moon. In time, not only will this project happen but many others like it. If a human mind can imagine an event, then that event is possible given time, perseverance and sufficient resources. The idea of space stations and outer-space industries is hardly new. We're just waiting for the next projects to get underway.
Not everyone will want to live forever. This is their choice. It is not one I understand, really, as that philosophy is alien to me - but each to their own.
It is my choice to do my utmost to give myself the opportunity to benefit from future sciences, hence my plans for cryo-preservation. I look forward to discovering a brave new world (or several, even.)
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© 2010 Adele Cosgrove-Bray
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