January 12th of every year is observed as James Bedford day. James Bedford was the first man whose body was cryopreserved after his legal death.
And here I was thinking that Applied Cryogenics, the place where Fry gets himself frozen in Futurama was just good fiction.
We’ve all heard the rumour that Walt Disney’s body has been cryogenically frozen and buried deep beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, awaiting the day and age when human ingenuity is able to successfully reanimate his body with his memories intact. But what most of us didn’t know is that there are companies that already provide these services – with some riders.
Given the public fascination with whole-body preservation after death, it’s perplexing as to why there aren’t a ton of articles on this service yet. For something of this magnitude, there should’ve been at least 20 BuzzFeed articles and 100 WikiHow articles, at least, on topics ranging from “What type of Cryopreservation is best for you?”, “Why you should enrol for cryopreservation yesterday” and “Go to sleep now and wake up in the future”, with maybe a coupon code included (CRYO10) that will get you a 10% discount on checkout.
So I went to do some digging.
Firstly, what is Cryonics
From Alcor’s website:
Cryonics is an effort to save lives by using temperatures so cold that a person beyond help by today’s medicine can be preserved for decades or centuries until a future medical technology can restore that person to full health.
Cryonics sounds like science fiction, but is based on modern science. It’s 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?
They have pretty good justifications too.
They argue that we routinely freeze and preserve human embryos at temperatures that stop the chemistry of life. There have been cases where adult humans have had their vital organs frozen for up to an hour and still survived. They go on to make the claim that life is a particular structure of matter and can be stopped and restarted as long as this structure is preserved.
It’s not freezing, it’s vitrification
When water becomes solid it is said to be “vitrified” and that is what they’re doing here. Freezing your organs is a no-go as the organs simply don’t function as before when thawed. By adding cryoprotectants, tissues are cooled to very low temperature with no ice formation. Consequently, there is no damage to the cells as there is no ice formed in the first place.
Next, they are hoping that nanotechnology will sufficiently advance to such a stage that nanomedicine will be able to repair tissue damage, rebuild any deformed cell structure and recover basic brain structure encoding memory and personality. Because what is a person without their memories and personality?
For an experimental, really out-there service, you’d be forgiven for thinking the cost is highly prohibitive.
But here’s the shocker. While still somewhat prohibitve, Alcor’s website lists the price for Whole-body cryopreservation at $200,000. This is the minimum required funding. Part of it, about $115,000, goes to the Patients Care Trust, a fund set up to make sure your service is not cancelled because you couldn’t pay the refrigerator bills.
On the other hand, if you decide to go the Neurocryopreservation route- where only your brain is transferred into the future with hopes that medical science can build you a new body – it will only set you back by $80,000.
At the outset, everything seems to be planned well. All possible worst case scenarios are taken into consideration and Alcor seems to have an action plan for them all. And there are numerous clients who have signed up for their services as well. A client also did and AMA on Reddit.
Both Alcor and the Cryonics Institute have extensive resources on their website explaining what it is they do and what are the risks associated with it. I went though some of it and think I’ll pass. I just don’t have the budget right now.
The Bigfoot What Now?
You must be thinking that the people who opt for this will have their body stored in some kind of big thermos-like container. And you will be right. Alcor patients are stored in a big thermos-like container called The Bigfoot Dewar. Basically a more advanced Dewar flask. The coolant used is liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen will easily boil off. To prevent this, they are stored upside down. In case liquid nitrogen boils off, this will give you 6 months time till your head is exposed as well.
What about all the other one million things that can go wrong along the way? As all things in life, you simply cannot plan for everything. But at least this way there is a chance, a very small chance, that you will wake up in a 2120.
Given the current rate of global warming this might not be a good idea.
Should you go the Cryonics way?
Well, why not? What’s there to lose? If you’re well off and can afford to spend the money, you should. Even if it’s not successful, you will at least serve as a guinea pig. And maybe, your sacrifice might mean that Cryonics will go mainstream and make the process more pocket friendly for the rest of us.
Imagine a world with flying cars and virtual sex slaves. If that’s not your cup of tea, how about a vacation to the moon or an actual AR video game? Just 10 years ago, I was showing off my Motorola flip phone with its sleek design and sexy form factor. Now, I have a VR-capable PC with more than respectable specs and I use it to torture myself playing Resident Evil. The future isn’t far away where I can immerse myself in a simulation without a headset and still see zombies around me. I’m scared and excited by this future.
At least it worked out for Fry. I recommend it. Use the coupon code SUCKER69 at checkout.
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