Q: I enjoy activities that are fun but maybe dangerous sometimes, like mount climbing, scuba diving, and wilderness exploration. I understand that these activities could cause me to die in a place where I may not be retrieved in time for a good cryopreservation, or at all. Would signing up for cryonics mean that I must change the way I live?
A: Having cryo arrangements actually does NOT require you to avoid risks. You can live exactly as you did before. You may decide to change some aspects of how you live. You may instead decide to live the same way but with a backup plan in place (cryopreservation should all else fail).
If you are thinking of physically risky activities (riskier than driving a car), it’s true that a fatal accident could damage you in a way that could never be fully repaired in the future. If you fall from a motorcycle or a mountain, you may suffer loss of brain structure (not simply loss of function). If you have a fatal accident (or heart attack or stroke) while hiking in remote wilderness beyond anyone’s easy reach, it may not be possible to cryopreserve you well or at all. In fact, anyone who suffers legal death by misadventure will be a Coroner’s case. But does it make sense to pass on cryonics because you want to take some risks? You don’t say you won’t wear a seat belt because you sometimes go mountain climbing, right?
Even for the less adventurous, this kind of disastrous outcome is always possible in today’s circumstances. There are car crashes, suicides, homicides, airplane crashes (occasionally), and falls from roofs. But put the risk in perspective. The fact is that you’re more likely to die of a disease. Cryonics is far more likely to provide a promising path forward in those cases.
You might decide to take fewer physical risks over time because you are not as physically resilient or because you now think you have more to lose. So do others with whom you interact.) It’s possible that the act of making cryopreservation arrangements encourages you to think about your life in more long-term ways. That may or may not lead you to pull back on stimulating but risky activities. Any change will be a choice you will make based on what you understand at the time.
So, we can’t know whether or not you decide to do fewer things that you find fun now. But we can say that signing up for cryonics won’t stop you from enjoying the wilder parts of your life. For you, those activities may be a large part of why you want to live longer.
Looking for a cryonics-laden brain workout? Check out the Q2 2020 issue of Cryonics. The single weightiest piece in this issue is “Mathematics and Modeling in Cryonics: Some Historical Highlights” by R. Michael Perry and Aschwin de Wolf. If you find yourself arguing with a critic who says cryonics is based on wishful thinking and not analysis, shove this article at them. As the authors show, mathematics and modeling have been used in cryonics since the very early days. Even back in the early 1970s, Art Quaife used mathematical analysis to model early perfusion systems and then followed up with a 1985 paper examining heat flow in the cryopreservation of humans.
I remember reading a fascinating article by biochemist Hugh Hixon, a long-time Alcor staff member, back in 1988 titled “How Cold is Cold Enough?”. The authors explain that Hixon chose the fastest known biological reaction, catalase and then compared reaction rates as the temperature is lowered from body temperature (37°C) on down. Chemical reactions that happen in one second at body temperature would take about 25 million years at the temperature of liquid nitrogen. Hixon addressed the question of how cold you need to go to not have to worry any further. In reality, below about -135°C, biochemical reactions would slow down far more than his methods suggested because “translational molecular motion is inhibited so safe storage of almost indefinite length should be possible”.
I also found engaging other pieces analyzing the effects of time and chemistry on the quality of cryopreservation. Several people have pondered the question of what cooling rate would be needed to escape ischemic injury. Authors Perry and de Wolf have both delved into the question, and Steve Harris developed a possible indicator in his E-HIT (equivalent homeothermic ischemic time) measure. We use a version of that measure in Alcor’s operating room to tell us when to cease cardiopulmonary support and begin surgery. This measure substitutes cooling rate for a fixed temperature.
There’s plenty more fascinating work examined here. (Really. You don’t have to be a mathematician to be fascinated, I promise.) For instance, cryobiologists Gregory Fahy, Brian Wowk and others at 21st Century Medicine (21CM) uncovered a method of predicting the toxicity of cryoprotective solutions to a fair accuracy based on their molecular constituents, and Perry used his mathematical mind to predict future cryonics caseloads.
If that doesn’t satisfy you, you will find more computational work related to cryonics in scholar profile and Q&A with Roman Bauer, followed by his article “Computational Neuroscience and Cryonics: Strangers that are Just Friends Waiting to Happen”. For a change of pace, I especially enjoyed David Brand-Erichsen’s critical review of the 1988 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Neutral Zone”. David echoes my own reactions to an episode that somehow both shows cryonics working while mindlessly repeating the “we need death” rationalization.
Alcor member A-3360 is an 87-year old male, with whole body cryopreservation arrangements. He was pronounced legally deceased in June 2020 in California.
This was a third-party sign-up case with cryopreservation arrangements made at the last moment by his family who contacted Alcor shortly after legal death. Alcor’s Deployment Committee dispatched one of its strategic partners, International Cryomedicine Experts (ICE) to send one of their paramedics. Once the legal paperwork had been signed early the next morning, the ICE operative was able to retrieve the patient and manage initial cooldown and transport to Alcor on dry ice. Cryogenic cooldown was completed, and the patient was transferred to long-term storage. A debriefing was held less than two weeks later.
Member A-1404, a 59-year old female Alcor member with neuro cryopreservation arrangements was pronounced legally deceased in Texas in June 2020.
Alcor contacted Suspended Animation (SA) to deploy for standby. SA was on the plane with equipment loaded in less than five hours but faced unavoidable layovers and mechanical issues with the planes. In case the delays were too much, Alcor’s Readiness Coordinator promptly got on a flight with a full Field Neuro Cryoprotection Kit, carried all of it into the hospital and got set up. Fortunately, SA arrived within four hours before care was withdrawn from the patient.
SA performed a stabilization and field blood substitution. The patient was flown on ice to Alcor where a neuro separation and neuro cryoprotective procedure was performed. Alcor’s gravity-driven Field Neuro Cryoprotection system was used in place of the standard pump and mixing reservoirs to minimize the generation of aerosols at a time when COVID-19 was spreading. A debriefing was held less than two weeks later.