Cryonics is the practice of preserving life by pausing the dying process using subfreezing temperatures, with the speculative hope that resurrection may be possible in the future.
“At the point where the current legal and medical system gives up on a patient, they aren’t really dead.” said Eliezer Yudkowsky.
What is Death?
The definitions of death change over time as medical understanding and technology improve. Someone who would’ve been declared dead decades ago may still have a chance today. Death used to be when a person’s heart stopped, then when their heart couldn’t be restarted, and is now being extended further.
The most accurate definition of death is that death only permanent when the structures encoding memory and personality (necessary for consciousness) have become so disrupted that it becomes theoretically impossible to recover the person. This is called “information-theoretic death”. Any other definition of death is arbitrary, and subject to revision.
What i have to say is that death is a process. It is not like a switch which turns or and off. When someone is dying, the transition from alive to dead is not instantaneous. It takes time to die. Doctors can use this time to try and save the person, and are often successful. When it is impossible or inappropriate to reverse the dying process… this is when cryonics becomes relevant.
Cryonics is currently the best-known method for pausing the dying process in a way that allows for potentially restoring good health with medical technology in the future. Cryonics is an ambulance to the future.
“The concept of cryonics is optimistic…many leading experts on nanotechnology anticipate that it will make it possible to reanimate cryonics patients.” said Nick Bostrom.
Cryonics sounds like science fiction, but it’s based on modern science. Cryonics is an experiment in the most literal sense of the word. The question you have to ask yourself is this: would you rather be in the experimental group, or the control group? The cryonics group has a chance, but the control group has none.
Life can be stopped and restarted if its basic structures can be preserved. Human embryos are routinely preserved for years at very low temperatures. Adult humans have survived being cooled for up to an hour at temperatures that stop the heart, brain, and all other organs from functioning.
Vitrification can preserve biological structure very well – much better than freezing. Vitrification is the transformation of a substance into a glassy solid. High concentrations of cryoprotectants permit biological tissue to be cooled to very low temperatures with little to no ice formation. It is now possible to physically vitrify organs as large as the human brain, achieving excellent structural preservation without freezing.
Methods for repairing biological structure at the molecular level can now be foreseen. Nanotechnology will lead to the capability of extensive tissue repair and regeneration, including repairing individual cells one molecule at a time. This future nanomedicine could theoretically recover any cryopreserved person where the structures encoding memory and personality remain inferable.
“I hope you’ll do it [cryonics] the same way I’d hope you’d take a shot with an experimental drug if you were sick and it were the one chance you had. Because it’s worth a try.”, said Tim Urban.
What It’s Ideal Procedure?
1-7 Days Before
The quality of a cryopreservation depends on how soon the procedure can begin. Preferably, a cryonics standby team is waiting near a dying person up to a week in advance, so they may begin almost immediately after cardiac arrest.
The cryopreservation process should begin as soon as a dying person experiences cardiac arrest and can be declared legally dead. While the patient is legally dead at this point, they are still early in the dying process, with cells and organs still viable.
Blood circulation and breathing are artificially restored temporarily, to protect the brain, and so protective medications can be administered intravenously. The patient is then cooled in an ice water bath, and their blood is replaced with an organ preservation solution.
The cooled patient is carefully transported to Alcor’s operating room in Arizona. Many Alcor members choose to retire and/or enter hospice near Alcor for shorter transport time and better procedural outcome.
Cryoprotectants are perfused into the bloodstream to reduce and even prevent freezing. Uncontrolled freezing would cause damage to the blood vessels, brain, and other organs. Perfusion prepares the patient for cryopreservation.
The patient is cooled down to -196° C, which cryopreserves the patient in a solid state. The patient is now protected from deterioration for theoretically thousands of years, and the dying process has been effectively stopped.
The patient is stored in a vacuum-insulated metal dewar at subfreezing temperatures using liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is topped up regularly, and the dewars require no electricity. The patient will remain in long-term care until revival becomes possible.
No cryonics organization can currently revive a cryopreserved patient, but we at Alcor have confidence revival may be possible. Nanotechnology and other future medical technologies are expected to have very broad capabilities.
Provided by Alcor