Interesting information and frequently asked questions.
What is cryonics?
For a patient who is facing death because they are beyond the capabilities of today’s medicine, cryonics offers the possibility of continued life in the future. Through medical biostasis at very low temperatures, the patient is conserved until such a time in the future when it may be possible to restore them to life and health.
Death is a state, not a process
Often, one thinks that death is something fixed and definite. When looking back in the past, it becomes cleat that the definition of death has changed continuously. Formerly, people whose heart stopped were considered irrevocably dead. With the invention of the defibrillator, it is possible to restart their heart and bring them back to life. To be more precise, these patients were never really dead, but rather in a critical state from which they could be brought back to full health. As demonstrated by open heart surgery or cases such as that of Anna Bågenholm, who survived after several hours without heartbeat, even longer periods without cardiopulmonary activity or vital signs do not have to mean death.
How does it work?
Nowadays, many serious illnesses can be cured which had been fatal as recently as one century ago (e.g., tuberculosis, smallpox or kidney failure). One can expect that medicine will proceed just as fast during the centuries to come. The cryonicist waits in cryonics suspension until the illness he suffered from can be cured. In this way, cryonics can be seen as an ambulance service through time.
Are the body tissues not destroyed by the cold?
At temperatures below 0 °C, water freezes into ice crystals. Ice crystals can destroy individual cells and tear tissues apart. Therefore, in cryonics the body is not frozen but vitrified. Vitrification is the transition to a glassy state where all movement ceases, and no ice crystals form. To achive this, the bodily fluids of the patient are replaced by cryoprotectants which protect the cells and prevent the formation of ice crystals. In this way, cells and tissues retain their original structures.
What are the odds that cryonics actually works?
This question cannot be answered currently, as the prospects of cryonics depend on the future development of our society and advancements of medicine and technologies. On the other hand, the chances for survival without cryonics are certain: If one is buried or incinerated, the chance is zero.
Why do some people let preserve their brains only, but not the rest of their bodies?
Some people assume the brain to host the entire personality, memories and consciousness, and that the rest can be replaced or cloned.
But this is all merely theoretically possible and highly speculative, isn’t it?
Cryonics is already being carried out today. As of 2017, there are roughly 270 humans in cryostasis, about 135 each at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona and at the Cryonics Institute in Michigan (U.S.). The first cryonically preserved person was Prof. Dr. James Bedford in 1967. He rests at Alcor now.
What happens in the event of power failure during storage?
Wouldn’t a body in liquid nitrogen decay over the course of centuries?
At liquid nitrogen temperature (-196 °C), chemical and biological processes are almost entirely suspended. Even after many centuries, only miniscule and insignificant chnages occur.
If all this is that promising, why does almost no one opt for it?
Abandoning a human, if there is nothing the contemporary medicine can do for him or her anymore, has a long tradition. The vast majority of people have difficulties to break with this tradition.
How would I deal with the potentially radical changes in a distant future?
You would probably first run through appropriate reintegration and rehabilitation courses, where you can acquaint yourself step by step with these changes.