Cryonics is the only present option offering a chance at a much longer life in the future that is open to older and seriously ill people, the many individuals who do not have the time to wait for the arrival of rejuvenation therapies. Cryonics is a part of the broad field of low-temperature storage of biological materials, in this case the practice of placing humans and animals into that storage immediately following clinical death, thereby halting all biological processes and preserving tissues, especially the brain tissues that incorporate the fine structures presently thought to store the data of the mind. This is not mere freezing, which damages cells, but rather a process of vitrification that employs cryopreservant chemicals to prevent ice crystal formation and preserve the small-scale structure of tissues. This is known as cryosuspension within the industry.

Cryosuspension is undertaken with the expectation that advances in medical technology may eventually enable restoration of preserved individuals to life and health. For so long as the structure of tissue is preserved intact, it is possible that advanced technologies can one day work with it. Thus a small industry of cryonics providers offers cryosuspension services and a small number of patients take advantage of this in the hopes that future clinicians will have access to technologies for revival and repair, most likely based on applications of molecular nanotechnology.

Facing Up to an Unpleasant Reality

Death is not a topic that anyone likes to think about, and that is just as true of advocates for longevity science as anyone else. We have to recognize, however, that the future of greatly extended healthy lives, produced by technologies such as SENS therapies, regenerative medicine, and medical nanotechnology, will not arrive soon enough to benefit everyone. Many people are too old to wait for decades, or suffer from other conditions that will kill them before cures can be developed. This is an unpleasant reality and we must face up to it.

A billion people will die between now and the earliest possible plausible date for the first package of rough and ready but working rejuvenation therapies, at least twenty years in the future. That date will only be hit if fundraising and other matters proceed very well over the next few years. Another few decades will pass after that point in order for the technologies of rejuvenation to work their way out to global availability at low cost, and the toll of deaths caused by aging will continue in less fortunate regions while this happens. Do we just write these people off and forge ahead regardless? Of course not. Instead, we can turn to the science and business of cryonics: an industry presently small, but which in a better world would be large enough to help everyone.

The practice of cryonics is an ongoing medical experiment with an unknown chance of success, though the odds improve as progress continues towards reversible vitrification of organs, and evidence for maintenance of memory through vitrification and thawing is obtained from experiments in lower animals. Responsible cryonicists understand that cryonic suspension is an educated gamble. The chances are certainly better than zero, however, and as one wag noted, "the control group in this experiment isn't doing so well." By this, he was referring to the vast number of people who are cremated, buried, or otherwise interred. The chance of any plausible future science restoring them to life is zero.

Still the Only Viable Backup Plan

Front and center, the primary plan for longevity for people in middle age and younger today is to help push through enough of the right medical research focused on rejuvenation. Our bodies are aging, accumulating damage, but methods of repairing that damage are slowly edging their way towards clinical application. Once in the clinic they will slowly become better. At some point the improvement in repair methodologies will add healthy life expectancy for older people faster than a year with every passing chronological year. Everyone with access to the latest stable medical technology at that point will have beaten the curve: they will no longer suffer and die due to aging. The question for each of us is where that point occurs in the life span, or indeed whether it occurs at all - and that is where activism and funding comes in. We can't make ourselves younger (yet), but you can help to speed up the development process.

That is the primary plan, and for every primary plan there must be a backup plan. Never bet on just one horse. The backup plan for evading the end that comes with death by aging is cryonics: low-temperature preservation of the fine structure of the brain on clinical death. Cryonics organizations will maintain the data of your mind in its physical form for the decades it will take for restoration to active life to become a viable possibility. That will, at minimum, require near complete control over cellular biochemistry and regeneration, as well as a mature molecular nanotechnology industry capable of repairing broken cell structures, removing cryoprotectant from tissues, and similar tasks. None of these goals are impossible or unforeseen, it is just that the necessary technologies don't exist today. Preserved individuals have all the time in the world to wait, of course.

A backup plan is never as good as the primary plan. That is why it is the backup plan. In order to be cryopreserved you have to undergo a very unpleasant set of experiences; you have to age and you have to die, and do so naturally with little help, since our backwards legal systems don't allow for assisted euthanasia in a constructive way that can mesh with cryonics protocols and organizational procedures. Further, in comparison to remaining alive and healthy thanks to the development of working rejuvenation treatments, cryonics will for a long time to come be a leap into the dark with an unknown chance at ultimate success. It is still infinitely better than any of the other possible choices open to the billions who will die too soon to benefit from near future rejuvenation therapies.

Where to Learn More

The cryonics community is friendly and supportive and has been around for decades. The community and the industry it supports have been ever-so-slowly growing since the early 1970s. To find out more about cryonics and its history of development, you might want to peruse the following pages:

In addition, an excellent article on the philosophy and practice of cryonics can be found here at Fight Aging!:

A Future that Includes Post-Mortem Critical Care

If you die tomorrow, then cryonics is the only chance you have at a longer life in the future. But there will always be a role for what we might term post-mortem critical care of the sort provided by the present cryonics industry. This is a shorthand for the collection of technologies and services assembled to preserve the fine structure of the brain (and thus the mind it contains) following death, and keep that tissue preserved until such time as the patient can be restored to life. At present cryonics is the only available post-mortem critical care option, and we have a fair few years to wait before medical technologies to advance to the point at which restoration is safe and feasible. Hence the chance of eventual restoration for any one preserved individual is unknown but greater than zero.

In a future in which the technology to restore a preserved person exists, cryonics and other preservation technologies such as plastination will occupy a more dynamic position in the medical toolkit, and patients might expect to wait in a preserved state only for transport to the nearest major population center. Even after aging and disease is completely conquered by means of advanced biotechnology, there will be an ongoing toll of death due to accidents. Death isn't going away completely, no matter how well we do in the field of medicine in the foreseeable future: medicine can't wave away falling rocks. But first things first. There is a way to go yet before that better world arrives.

How to Sign Up For Cryosuspension

You can sign up for cryosuspension fairly easily both inside and outside the US through one of the established cryonics providers or supporting organizations. You can learn more at the websites for the companies. Alcor is the largest of the providers, has the most comprehensive online information. If you have questions, just ask. Company staff will be happy to help.

More recently other providers and initiatives to start new providers have started to emerge outside the US, the most advanced of which is KrioRus in Russia. Cryosuspension is expensive, on a par with major surgery, but can be paid for in a cost-effective manner through life insurance. You purchase a policy that pays out to the provider on your death and they take it from there: if you set this up well in advance, the monthly cost of a life insurance policy is low. This is far and away the most common payment method and the majority of people suspended or signed up are of modest means.

Last updated: September 18th 2016.


I think that it is very unlikely that all neurons remain intact if you wait until you die until you perform cryogenics, does people who are terminally ill do it before they die of the disease? If you have 1-3 months OR possibility to do cryogenics it seems like it would be better to start it a month early to increase the chance of success.

Posted by: Stenemo at June 26th, 2011 9:32 PM

A big question when it comes to Cryonics, and why I am skeptical of the whole thing, is: why would they ever wake you up? Imagine in a 100 years some major leap in medical technology would allow many cryonically suspended corpses to be revived. Lets say by that time there are tens of thousands of such people. So as the cryonics provider, even if you could afford to repair and wake up all these people, why would you? Not like they're going to sue you if you don't. Also, what do you do with them all once you wake them up? You've suddenly got tens of thousands of living, although perhaps frail and quite weak, people with no jobs, no social security numbers, nothing. Where do you find a hotel big enough to put them all in, and how do you pay to feed them all? The whole cryogenic thing is just not scaleable, and I think it's highly unlikely anyone would ever wake me up even if the science would allow me to be woken up and repaired.

Posted by: Phil at December 22nd, 2011 12:08 PM

@Phil: You have to bear in mind that any society capable of reviving these patients will have undergone many profound changes outside the immediate scope of biomedical technology. These changes will be such that they tend to alleviate conditions of scarcity, for instance. Molecular nanotechnology and nanorobotics would allow not only reconfiguring the cells of cryogenic patients but reconfiguring and reorganizing all manner of matter into useful form, while powered by abundant energy from the sun or from nuclear fusion.

Cost and productivity become meaningless concepts when nothing is scarce, and people (or sapient beings of any kind) in such a state are left to pursue their own passions and interests. You can hardly deny that there are people today who would put forth a nominal effort for the sake of reviving these patients if possible, and why would we think the future should lack this de minimis form of beneficence?

Posted by: Jose at January 3rd, 2012 6:42 PM

Would like to hear more developments of this technology...

Posted by: breedcrosskind at April 10th, 2012 6:38 PM

Ok in regards to phil's comment. When you pay with the life insurance you can pay a little more to be put into a interest bearing account. So that if and when you wake you will have money. Also to Stenemo's comment you can't do it a month early that would be "murder" as for the neurons yes there is a chance you might loose some but with nano technology the technology we are expecting for the future will repair and increase neurons and there is a chance you might loose some memory and also there is a chance you will gain it back because records of your memory is not in just one spot its actually through out the brain. There are cases and one case I remember is where a person due to cancer had part of his brain removed , for months even a few years he lost a lot of his memory at first he did not know who he was. But in time he started to regain his memories. I rather put a chance in coming back then having no chance when you no clue on whats on the other side.

Posted by: Joseph Downsbrough at August 25th, 2012 9:24 PM

A patient being cryopreseved does not carry out any of the life processes and therefore is not living during the preservation period. In addition, cryonics is reliant upon progress in medicine to alleviate the problems of the patient. Therefore, cryonics alone does not extend life. Considering the high cost of cryonics at the moment, over $20000, it is solely a method of preservation for a fraction of the current population to be restored in the future. It is strange that scientists would want to research an area that would only be available to a select rich minority who can actually afford it. Not to mention the practical problems of where people would actually be stored. Attention should be focused n other anti-ageing therapies such as calorie restriction and stem cell therapy.

Posted by: sensiblethinker at September 26th, 2015 12:51 PM

I struggle to believe nanotechnolgy is the answer and that memory will survive intact. I feel there is more chance of achieving brain transplants into clones before nanotechnology is this advanced. The sucess of cryonics seems to focus on repairing fracturing damage rather than preventing it. Does anyone have any info/opinion on the possible influence advancements in human suspended animation (EPR-CAT) may have on cryonics in the future? Current "legal death" laws would have to be revised, and so they should be, allowing cryopreservation before actual death. How would the aging process differ, if at all, I wonder?

Posted by: Sally at May 26th, 2017 12:39 PM

For more information about cryonics, see:

Tandy, Charles, An Open Letter to Physicians in Death-with-Dignity States (The Case of a Terminally Ill Cryonicist) (December 25, 2016). Death And Anti-Death, Volume 14: Four Decades After Michael Polanyi, Three Centuries After G. W. Leibniz [Editor: Charles Tandy, Ph.D.] [Pages 305-312] [Publisher: Ria University Press] [Copyright 2016] [Distributor: Ingram] [Hardback ISBN: 978-1-934297-25-4] [Softback ISBN: 978-1-934297-26-1].

Available at SSRN:

Posted by: Charles Tandy at January 6th, 2018 11:51 AM
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