Cryonics is a form of low-temperature preservation of tissue immediately following death, with the aim of preserving brain structure sufficiently well to allow future revival. Since the necessary technologies for revival can be envisaged in some detail, but remain far in the future, a large focus of the cryonics community is long-term risk and survival of cryopreservation organizations into at least the later decades of this century. A lot of ink has been spilled on this topic over the years, and this article covers some of the high points, such as politics, regulation, the necessity for growth in what is currently a small industry, and so forth:
Cryonics service providers offer their customers perpetual care. This care is meant to continue until medical technology has advanced to the point that their reanimation can be performed safely. While the most optimistic estimates are that reanimation may be possible in as little as fifty years, the time frame is normally considered to be hundreds of years. The poor quality of suspensions received by most persons, however, suggests that many will be reanimated only in the distant future, if at all. One of the greatest unknowns is whether these companies will be able to operate continuously over this period. An organizational failure of even a few months would terminate the experiment in medical time travel by causing irreparable damage to those in storage.
From an organizational standpoint, this offer of perpetual care is similar to that provided by the chantries established in England in the Middle Ages. Chantries were trusts established for the purpose of employing priests to sing a certain number of Masses during a stipulated period of time for the spiritual benefit of the deceased. The first perpetual Mass was established by royalty in the 1180s. Most institutions providing this service were suppressed in 1547 as part of the Reformation. Therefore, the 'perpetual' care lasted for less than four hundred years. This is also a reasonable estimate for the amount of time that a majority of those in cryonic suspension will require before any reanimation becomes possible. However, the chantries were established as part of the Roman Catholic Church or as institutions under its direction and control. During this period, the Roman Catholic Church was as powerful as a state and was considered by many to be the governing body of Europe. In contrast, cryonics organizations are very small businesses with extremely limited resources, subject to regulation by both State and Federal governments. The key question addressed here is whether and how such organizationally inferior institutions can achieve the longevity that the most powerful organization in Europe only barely achieved in earlier times.