Perusing the Alcor Website

The Alcor Life Extension Foundation is one of the few cryonics service providers in the world. For an explanation of cryonics and its importance to the healthy life extension community, you might want to see my Longevity Meme page on the topic:

Cryonics is the only option for life extension open to many older and seriously ill people: those who cannot wait for the promised therapies of the next few decades. It is the science of placing humans and animals into a low-temperature, biologically unchanging state immediately after clinical death, with the expectation that advances in medical technology may eventually enable full restoration to life and health. A small industry of cryonics providers exists to freeze your body on death, in the hopes that future scientists (most likely using nanotechnology and nanomedicine) will be able to revive and repair you.

With the increasing level of public and government interest in cryonics over the past few years, the cryonics community has found it necessary to put far greater emphasis on debunking persistent myths, rumors and other nonsense. Alcor have taken it upon themselves to do this via their website, which has been growing and improving with time:

Myths and misconceptions about cryonics have become widespread, largely because of sensationalized news stories. Although the process is still speculative, there are powerful rational and scientific justifications for it. We invite you to explore this site and reach your own conclusions.

Some good starting points are:

I think that the first of those pages provides an excellent quick summary of the case for cryonics:

Cryonics is justified by three facts that are not well known:

1) Life can be stopped and restarted if its basic structure is preserved.

Human embryos are routinely preserved for years at temperatures that completely stop the chemistry of life. Adult humans have survived cooling to temperatures that stop the heart, brain, and all other organs from functioning for up to an hour. These and many other lessons of biology teach us that life is a particular structure of matter. Life can be stopped and restarted if cell structure and chemistry are preserved sufficiently well.

2) Vitrification (not freezing) can preserve biological structure very well.

Adding high concentrations of chemicals called cryoprotectants to cells permits tissue to be cooled to very low temperatures with little or no ice formation. The state of no ice formation at temperatures below -120°C is called vitrification. It is now theoretically possible to vitrify organs as large as the human brain, achieving excellent structural preservation without freezing.

3) Methods for repairing structure at the molecular level can now be foreseen.

The emerging science of nanotechnology will eventually lead to devices capable of extensive tissue repair and regeneration, including repair of individual cells one molecule at a time. This future nanomedicine could theoretically recover any preserved person in which the basic brain structures encoding memory and personality remain intact.

So...

  • If survival of structure means survival of the person;
  • If cold can preserve essential structure with sufficient fidelity;
  • If foreseeable technology can repair injuries of the preservation process;

Then cryonics should work, even though it cannot be demonstrated to work today. That is the scientific justification for cryonics. It is a justification that grows stronger with every new advance in preservation technology.

As a final note, cryonic suspension is affordable. It costs no more than most major medical procedures, and can be paid for using a life insurance policy - a low monthly payment for most people. I view cryonics itself as an insurance policy; insurance against accident, age or other misfortune that would prevent a person from using the anti-aging science of tomorrow.

Comments

Sounds good, however at 28 I would wait another 20-30 years before taking a plunge (a currently I am optimistic about anti-ageing treatments).

Posted by: Alex Kofman at July 27th, 2004 3:20 AM

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