Plastinate Everyone

You might recall the recently voiced suggestion that it's something of an accident of history that the cryonics movement is the cryonics movement versus the plastination movement. Plastination is plausibly just as good a way of preserving the fine structure of the brain into a future where a patient can be restored to life as low-temperature storage.

Twenty years ago, Charles B. Olson published an article called "A Possible Cure for Death" in the journal Medical Hypotheses. In it, he favorably compares methods of chemical preservation to cryogenic preservation. Unfortunately, this article provoked no wide discussion or attempts at implementation. As the author notes on his website, other than requests for reprints, "nothing more came of it." And yet the arguments in it are still sound and just as persuasive today as they were then.

Not so long ago on the Cryonet list, a fellow asked: "How can we help those who cannot afford cryonics?" This is a valid question, given that the high level purpose of cryonics is to offer some alternative to oblivion for those who die before the advent of working rejuvenation medicine. While cryonics is very affordable if you plan ahead and take out a low-cost life insurance plan, there will always be those who get caught short through no fault of their own.

Here, plastination steps forward as a possible alternative that would cost little more than what is already spent on the disposal of remains. Plastinate the brain for the cost of an embalming, and cremate the rest. You're now set for a good number of decades in any very low-cost storage facility.

The way we do it is chemical preservation with the option to convert to cryopreservation. ... A hospital pathologist can remove the brain and submerge it in fixative. It would be shipped after 1 week in fixative. Permanent storage could be in fixative for the truly indigent. But a better option for those who could afford it would be to convert to cryopreservation. The cost might start at about $20,000, but could get down to about $12,000 after the first few due to economies of scale. The brain would remain in fixative until the full cryopreservation cost was paid for, and only then go into a dewar.

The economic advantages are considerable due to cutting out the need for a standby team to prepare a patient for cryopreservation - though as noted in the past, open questions remain as to how important it is to act quickly and whether and to what degree different types of preservation strategy affect the preservation of brain structures important to the mind's data.

But all of the above discussed options are better than no plan at all, a path that leads to oblivion and the grave. This is just another of the many ways in which the world we live in is a madhouse of waste, death, and destruction compared to other plausible worlds - such as the one in which people generally chose to have their brains plastinated and stored at death for the past few decades, allowing hundreds of millions of the deceased a shot at living again in the future. But in this world, they are all dead and gone, lost forever.


"But in this world, they are all dead and gone, lost forever."

Maybe not forever. I have hope that in a post singularity world quantum retrieval will be possible. It's as long a shot as any... but its a shot none the less. In the meantime, yes, preservation is our best bet.

Posted by: ben at April 18th, 2009 8:00 AM

As a Buddhist plastination is just ideal for me. I would like my body to be disected to show all its details in exhibition to enlighten people thereby earning merits. The disadvantage is its cost. It definitely many times the cost of the normal disposal.

Posted by: Tan Huan at January 15th, 2010 1:09 AM

And how about revival? As far as I know Alcor's fees include that too...

Posted by: Beart at June 15th, 2010 4:05 PM

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