Oregon Cryonics, a New US Cryonics Provider

Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of the recently deceased, with the aim of preserving the fine structure of the brain, and thus the data of the mind, for a future in which advanced technology will allow for a return to active life. The odds of success are unknown, but certainly infinitely greater than the zero odds offered by all of the present alternatives. Billions will die from old age before the earliest possible date on which the first complete set of robust rejuvenation therapies will become widespread. Are we really to write them off? I would like to think that we can do better than that - and hence the one viable chance offered by cryonics.

The non-profit cryonics industry, as opposed to the hobbyist endeavors that immediately preceded it, has existed for more than 40 years. Yet it has struggled to grow; over that time, only a few hundred people at most have been preserved. Only in recent years has the subject been treated with greater respect by the media and public, and bridges built with the cryobiology research community, who have long treated cryonics as an assault upon the integrity of their field. Now that reversible vitrification of organs is clearly plausible, and numerous groups are working towards that goal to improve the logistics of organ donation, transplantation, and tissue engineering, it is no longer possible to abitrarily declare that preserving the brain through the same methods is somehow fringe and outlandish.

Still, there are very few cryonics providers in the world, and only one outside the US, although this tiny, still largely non-profit industry also includes a surrounding halo of service and research companies such as Suspended Animation and 21st Century Medicine. These are as much involved in working towards the use of cryonics technologies in other areas of medicine as they are in improving the methodologies used to preserve patients at the end of life. The actual cryonics providers are simply listed: the long-standing US duopoly of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation and Cryonics Institute, and comparatively recent addition of KrioRus in Russia.

Given this, it is encouraging to see that a new group is launching another small US cryonics provider capable of long-term cryopreservation: Oregon Cryonics based in Salem. Their intent is clearly to compete on price with the established US non-profits, as their materials focus on preservation of the brain alone at a comparatively low price point. Assuming they have the technical resources to back up their efforts, and it is always important to carry out due diligence when paying for these sorts of services, then this strikes me as a positive evolution in the industry. More well-founded efforts, and a greater diversity of focus in those efforts, is very welcome. It is a little early for any meaningful public discussion in the cryonics community on the recent press for Oregon Cryonics, and the evolving contents of their web site, but it should be interesting to see what is thought of this approach.

As is usually the case, note that the local press coverage is terrible on the science and specific details. In particular, it is important to note that people are not frozen when cryopreserved, they are vitrified. There is a very big difference between these two things. After 40 years of practice, the operations and methodologies involved in carrying out a cryopreservation have become quite refined. It is also interesting to note that the Oregon Cryonics founder is another individual in the industry who favors the end goal of scanning and emulation of the mind in software rather than restoration of the original tissue, which will always seem to me to be a matter of engineering self-defeat at the final hurdle. A copy is not the self, and survival means survival of the specific package of matter that expresses the self, which means the brain must be restored.

Oregon Cryonics: 'The ultimate lottery ticket'

A Salem non-profit, Oregon Cryonics, is one of only four facilities around the world. The Salem location is run by Dr. Jordan Sparks. Cryonics is considered controversial, but Sparks says the hope is there. He envisions a future human or digital self in the next hundred years. "We can see a clear pathway from here to how somebody might be revived. If we don't do preservation, there's zero chance for survival," says Sparks. "We have electron micro-graphs showing good structured preservation and scientists around the world are currently mapping out neuroconnectors." He knows people are skeptical. "For some it's radical but so were the Wright brothers hanging out in the garage trying to invent flight. So until it happens, until people see it demonstrated, then it probably will remain controversial."

Frozen in time: Oregon firm preservex brains in hopes that science catches up

Until recently, there were only two cryonics facilities in the country freezing people or their brains, the Cryonics Institute in Detroit and Alcor Life Extension in Scottsdale, Ariz. Oregon Cryonics has signed up 10 clients to have either their bodies or their brains preserved and frozen after they die. Its operating model also has promised no small bit of controversy. The industry appears to be gradually gaining adherents, especially among young men who embrace technology. Sparks is a successful dentist and entrepreneur who says his startup is filling an industry niche -- lower-cost cryo for people willing to have just their brains preserved. He's banking on technology -- the idea that brain scanning will someday become sophisticated enough to map an entire brain and all its neural circuits. Then the brains that have been cryopreserved can be thawed, mapped and digitally downloaded. The people who once lived with those brains might live again, as software.

Phaedra and Aschwin de Wolf have opened a Northeast Portland lab called Advanced Neural Biosciences. There, among other things, they research the best methods for delivering cryoprotectant chemicals prior to freezing. Before moving to Portland, de Wolf worked for a Florida firm called Suspended Animation that provides services to cryonics companies. De Wolf also has signed up for full-body cryopreservation. He guesses that in 75 years technology will have reached a point where he can be brought back, with techniques to repair molecular damage that took place while he was frozen.

Fledgling Oregon Cryonics in Salem would seem to be a natural choice for the eventual preservation of Phaedra and de Wolf, since every minute counts in preserving the body after death if cellular decay is to be minimized. But both say they currently are committed to being preserved at Alcor in Arizona, and leaving open the possibility of switching over to Oregon Cryonics at some point. Both say they are concerned with the less than state-of-the-art preservation methods Oregon Cryonics has been willing to employ. In addition, de Wolf points out that in the past, cryo labs have shut down their operations and abandoned clients who were in cryo storage. The lesson there, de Wolf says, is that cryonics labs need to be well-established and accept only clients who can fully fund their treatment and preservation up front. "Some people say something is better than nothing, but I think that's not a good principle for cryonics," de Wolf says.

De Wolf's is not an uncommon position to take. Young companies are inherently risky, and in the case of cryonics the risk isn't just that you have to switch to use another product, but that you may indeed wind up in the grave and oblivion if the company goes out of business and can't negotiate a rescue with the rest of the industry. This is a challenge, but it is a challenge that every new entry in the field of medical services has to deal with. The way forward is to offer robust, reliable products and services, and to make use of independent certification agencies who can verify the claims made by the company and so offer customers peace of mind and assurance.

Comments

I'm guessing this is like powered flight, and a demonstration will make the skeptical public believe. I have to say that I am still in the skeptical camp too. Until that first 'vitrified' monkey is revived and healthy no one will pay much attention. The nervous system of a human seems like it could have a lot more that goes wrong than the nervous system of a microscopic worm.

Posted by: Jim at February 18th, 2016 3:17 AM

There were already two facilities in U.S. And still nothing in Australia or Europe (not counting Moscow).

Posted by: Martin at February 18th, 2016 4:27 AM

"A copy is not the self, and survival means survival of the specific package of matter that expresses the self, which means the brain must be restored."

This used to be also my opinion, but after reading the book "A Taxonomy And Metaphysics of Mind Uploading", which I can greatly recommend, the matter is not that clear to me anymore.

Note that the "upload" doesn't need to be a "scan the brain, then emulate it in silicon" process. It might as well be a "replace the neurons one-by-one with neuron-like nanobots while the person is conscious" - more people are comfortable with this scenario.

Posted by: Nicolai at February 19th, 2016 3:13 PM

@Nicolai: Those are very different scenarios. The former means (almost)certain death and the latter might well result in continuity of self, but the technology required for it is so advanced IMO it probably wouldn't be available until long after verifiable cryonic reanimation has occurred, or even after a total cure for aging is developed. It's very long term.

Posted by: KC at February 20th, 2016 11:00 PM

Doesn't Oregon allow euthanasia? If so Oregon Cryonics seems like a very good idea and something that may make cryonics finally take off.

Posted by: Barbara T. at February 21st, 2016 12:33 PM

There may soon be a second full-scale facility in Australia. Give it a year or two and we hope to be open for business, but when you are creating something that should last for several centuries it pays to lay down the groundwork slowly and carefully.

Posted by: Marta Sandberg at February 22nd, 2016 1:05 AM

"The former means (almost)certain death and the latter might well result in continuity of self"

@KC
This is also my intuition, but as the author of the book I mentioned demonstrates (in theory of course), the intuition might be misleading.

Posted by: Nicolai at February 22nd, 2016 2:09 AM

Barbara, Oregon has a Death with Dignity Act in place. On OC's homepage, click About OC, Facility, and then Patient Room. Once you are done reviewing the page, you will notice another link for End-of-Life.

Posted by: OrCryo at March 11th, 2016 3:18 PM

Des Dr. McCoy actually survive going through the transporter? Definition of self and survival becomes an axiological question. But the position of modern science, called the formal stance, derived from the Socratic theory of being as a manifestation of form, is that things and phenomena are defined by their structure, elementary particles that comp[rise material substance, being interchangeable. Physical information is indeed thus often likened unto software, similarly abstract. The only question then remains of adequate fidelity in data preservation, recovery and duplication. When does simulation become real?

Posted by: Aaron Agassi at February 2nd, 2018 7:46 AM

"Both say they are concerned with the less than state-of-the-art preservation methods Oregon Cryonics has been willing to employ." - Phaedra and de Wolf

-

In what way are the methods that Oregon Cryonics utilizes less than state of the art in comparison to Alcor?

I'm very interested in the answer!

Posted by: CryoQuest at November 5th, 2018 1:08 AM

I'm a C.I. member.
I recently read " Oregon Cryonics on the Move' by Jim Yount.
I liked it and would like to follow up your cryonics activities.
Keep up the good work.
I live in Vancouver, B.C.
Cheers,
Charles

Posted by: charles grodzicki at February 22nd, 2019 4:22 PM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.