Cryonics is the low-temperature storage of the brain on clinical death, preserving the fine structure of the mind for a future of more advanced technologies. It is a vitally important industry for all that it is overlooked by most of the world and rejected as an alternative to the grave by nearly everyone who has actually heard of it and considered it. Even under the most optimistic plausible course of development for rejuvenation biotechnology, billions of people will die due to degenerative aging before it can be brought under medical control. Yet the technology exists today to preserve those people for a future in which they can be restored to active life through applications of advanced medical nanotechnology.
So there is dead and there is dead and gone. The grave means dead and gone - there is no future technology that can restore you once the pattern of your mind has vanished from the world. But if your brain and the structure encoding the data of your mind is preserved then you are only dead until such time as you can be safely restored. Perhaps that will never happen, but the odds are not zero, as is the case for the traditional options of burial, cremation, and so forth.
In a better world, cryonics would be a vast industry with efficiencies of scale, offering preservation at a far lower cost than it does today. Cryopreservation would be the default traditional option at the end of life, and most people would go into the future with some chance at living again. Alas, we do not live in that world. We live in the world in which people flock to certain oblivion, in which supporting scientific work on human rejuvenation is a hard sell, and in which cryonics after four decades of existence remains a very small niche industry.
Last month I had the privilege of visiting Max More at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Alcor is a non-profit organization founded in 1972 and located in Scottsdale, Arizona. It is the world leader in cryonics, cryonics research, and cryonics technology. [Cryonics is the science of using ultra-cold temperature to preserve human life with the intent of restoring good health when technology becomes available to do so.]
During our visit CEO Dr. More walked us through the Alcor facilities as well as the process starting after clinical death is proclaimed, through the cooling of the body and its vitrification, and ending in long term storage.
After our video tour of Alcor CEO Max More was kind enough to take another 25 minutes and answer some questions. During our conversation with Max we discuss: general affordability and prices for Alcor; long-distance membership and why minimizing cooling delays is critical for optimum body preservation; preserving pets; chemical brain preservation; the importance of preserving the neuron's micro-tubules; the potential for X-prize-type of a competition for minimizing tissue damage and improving preservation; the relationship between cryonics and transhumanism.
My favorite quote that I will take away from this interview with Max More is: "Cryonics is critical care medicine taken to the next step."