The popular scientific press here looks at the work of 21st Century Medicine on cryopreservation. Specifically, the topic is the present efforts to provide conclusive proof that low-temperature vitrification of tissue, the process employed at Alcor and other cryonics providers, maintains the fine structures of the brain considered to encode the data of the mind, such as memory. For the many who will die prior to the advent of rejuvenation biotechnologies, this is the only shot at a longer life in the future, and it is to our shame as a society that so few choose this option over oblivion and the grave.
It is interesting to note that many of the people in this field, and their supporters, see the end goal as scanning and transcription of the data encoded in a stored brain into an emulated mind running in software. This is as opposed to restoration and repair of the original tissue via advanced forms of molecular nanotechnology and tissue engineering. The assumption of an emulated copy is very much in evidence in this article. I think this to be a profoundly mistaken strategic goal, as a copy of you is not you.
The soul is the pattern of information that represents you - your thoughts, memories and personality - your self. There is no scientific evidence that something like soul stuff exists beyond the brain's own hardwiring, so I was curious to visit the laboratories of 21st Century Medicine in Fontana, Calif., to see for myself an attempt to preserve a brain's connectome - the comprehensive diagram of all neural synaptic connections. This medical research company specializes in the cryopreservation of human organs and tissues using cryoprotectants (antifreeze). In 2009, for example, the facility's chief research scientist Gregory M. Fahy published a paper documenting how his team successfully transplanted a rewarmed rabbit kidney after it had been cryoprotected and frozen to −135 degrees Celsius through the process of vitrification, "in which the liquids in a living system are converted into the glassy state at low temperatures."
I witnessed the infusion of a rabbit brain through its carotid arteries with a fixative agent called glutaraldehyde, which binds proteins together into a solid gel. The brain was then removed and saturated in ethylene glycol, a cryoprotective agent eliminating ice formation and allowing safe storage at −130 degrees C as a glasslike, inert solid. At that temperature, chemical reactions are so attenuated that it could be stored for millennia. Think of a book in epoxy resin hardened into a solid block of plastic. "You're never going to open the book again, but if you can prove that the epoxy doesn't dissolve the ink the book is written with, you can demonstrate that all the words in the book must still be there ... and you might be able to carefully slice it apart, scan in all the pages, and print/bind a new book with the same words." The rabbit brain circuitry he examined through a 3-D scanning electron microscope "looks well preserved, undamaged, and it is easy to trace the synaptic connections between the neurons."