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Cryonics

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There are a number of companies today that charge for cryopreserving a body (or just a head) immediately after death. To minimize damage from freezing, the dead bodies are injected with cryopreservatives. A vital question is whether this process protects the critical neural structures in the brain. If not, then the process is by anyone's criteria a waste of time, since "information-theoretic death" will have occurred.
The average life expectancy in developed countries is at best 80 years. Advances in technology may inhibit or even reverse aging, to open up the possibility of living extraordinarily long times. However, would this actually be a good thing for society, or even for the long-living individual?
Cryonic researchers speculate that scientific advances, particularly in nanotechnology, will make it possible to reanimate a cryonically suspended human being.
Information-theoretic death is defined as the moment when the neural structures in your brain are destroyed. At that point, it becomes theoretically impossible to bring a person back to life. Some philosophers and scientists regard this as a more real interpretation of death than legal death.
Cryonics is the preservation of an animal by cooling with the hope that future medical advances can revive that animal. Modern cryonics make use of cryopreservatives to minimize cellular damage caused by freezing, particularly to the brain. Advocates of the procedure typically believe that so long as the critical structure of the brain is preserved, a person could one day be brought back to life.
Robin Hanson
A thousand year lifespan would be fantastic, relative to our lifespan. I want it! But it is _nothing_ like immortality... Yes, keep trying to live if you love life, and rage, rage against the dying of the light. Do better; live longer. But why confuse everyone by talking as if you expect to achieve the literally _infinite_ success of “immortality”? It is fine to say “let’s extend lives as much as we can.” But must you really talk as if nothing less than _infinite_ success will do?
Steve Jobs
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.
H. P. Lovecraft
Holding with Haeckel that all life is a chemical and physical process, and that the so-called "soul" is a myth, my friend believed that artificial reanimation of the dead can depend only on the condition of the tissues; and that unless actual decomposition has set in, a corpse fully equipped with organs may with suitable measures be set going again in the peculiar fashion known as life. | "Herbert West: Reanimator" narrator.
Earendil
Reviving cryonics patients doesn't have to be a big political issue. We don't have to have huge debates about it on national television- it could probably be done by a few hundred people in their spare time, for curiosity if no other reason.
Jennifer Diane Reitz
One thing is NOT going to change in a thousand years, and that is the selfishness and self-interest of people. I don't care how brilliant you were in your own age, in a future time you are just one more mouth that no longer has relevancy anymore. They are NOT going to resurrect you.
Maxim Persidsky
...even before freezing there will be irreversible damage to the brain and other vital body organs resulting shortly after death. This damage will be further amplified during the inevitable slow processes of perfusion with cryoprotective agents and cooling. Very soon after death there will be a breakdown of lysosomes in the different cells and tissues of the body, resulting in the release of their harmful enzymes which will digest all the cellular structures and macromolecules...
Ben Best
It is commonly and erroneously believed that more than six minutes of no heartbeat results in immediate destruction of brain capacity. Some scientists who criticize cryonics are concerned about postmortem degradation of brain structure. ... This analysis of peer-reviewed literature will attempt to answer that question.
Alcor Life Extension Foundation
For 25 years cryonicists and cryobiologists have been doing battle in the public eye. Some might scoff and call it hyperbole to dignify the verbal exchanges and skirmishes between cryonicists and cryobiologists as "war." But war it is; for as in any war the cost has been the loss of lives, reputations, and fortunes. And as in war, the driving forces are envy, hatred, and a deeply-held belief that each side threatens the others' survival. ...
Cryogenic Society of America
We wish to clarify that cryogenics, which deals with extremely low temperatures, has no connection with cryonics, the belief that a person’s body or body parts can be frozen at death, stored in a cryogenic vessel, and later brought back to life. We do NOT endorse this belief, and indeed find it untenable.

New Comments

0 Points       Nashhinton       20 Apr 2013     Is living forever or having a greatly extended lifespan desirable? Agree
Yes, it is desirable.

0 Points       MTC       23 Feb 2013     Is cryonics worthwhile? Agree
The advocates of cryonics seem to have better arguments on their side than the detractors, and no alternative method so far exists for surviving legal death, therefore cryonics is worthwhile.

0 Points       MTC       23 Feb 2013     Is information-theoretic death the most real interpretation of death? Agree
Of course. You are not dead until it becomes completely impossible to revive you, independent of currently available technology.

0 Points       MTC       23 Feb 2013     Is living forever or having a greatly extended lifespan desirable? Agree
The human lifespan as it currently is, is way too short, and that’s all that you really need to know to answer this question.

1 Point       Keller Scholl       27 May 2011     Is cryonics worthwhile? Agree
Math works like this. Given an ever expanding life expectancy, and an upcoming singularity, immortality (or something that includes living for millions of years), even at a very low probability, is worth it compared to the relatively small cost you pay. You will probably never return, but the chance times the benefit outweighs the cost, making cryonics a wonderful thing even if we don't have it working yet. Science is always going forwards, and what is on the edges today will be boring in fifty years.

0 Points       TZX       16 Feb 2011     Is living forever or having a greatly extended lifespan desirable? Agree
I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice. Well, not really. As long as anyhow possible or until I absolutely don't want anymore is the sweet spot.

0 Points       TZX       16 Feb 2011     Is information-theoretic death the most real interpretation of death? Agree
If we want the concept of death to be useful at all, it seems obvious that the only, and only the, irrecoverable death is the correct death.

0 Points       blacktrance       10 Feb 2011     Is living forever or having a greatly extended lifespan desirable? Agree
"Who wants to live to 100? The guy who's 99." - Dwight D. Eisenhower.

0 Points       blacktrance       10 Feb 2011     Is information-theoretic death the most real interpretation of death? Agree
As there is nothing beyond the material world, the mind is nothing but physical matter. If the physical matter is reconstructed, then the mind will have returned.

1 Point       terrified       08 Feb 2011     Is living forever or having a greatly extended lifespan desirable? Neutral
We live in hell if are not going to die.We may already live forever and not know it.Maybe our soul (if there is such thing) was in somebody else's body before we were born and we just can not remember a thing about it.This is hell.We would also live in hell if we did not die.Just imagine.How you feel right now,this never ending.Never.being in this planet and living forever.Imagine that nothing would change.That we would not die.That would lead us to paranoia someday,and we would start to do things without thinking.We would stop thinking one day.We would start to act with no reason.Just do senseless things (ex.biting a branch etc.).We would not care.And then we would start to act like animals again.And then what?We would still have to live.But what would we have left to do?And if we had something left to do,then what?We would still have to live.Forever.And do you know what forever means?It means that this would not stop.Never.Never.Just live.Live.Live.Live.Live.And continue to live.Live.Live.Li--aaaaaaaah can't think of it anymore it is driving me crazy......But we would still have to live.Forever.LIVE.LIVE.LIVE.FOREVER.FOREVER.FOREVER.LIVE...

0 Points       Benja       02 Aug 2010     Is living forever or having a greatly extended lifespan desirable? General Comment
"One person with whom I was arguing about this acknowledged that eliminating disease would be a good thing, but insisted that physical and mental aging should be preserved"

Perhaps you could ask them what their most loved activities are, and then point out to them old people who are less able to enjoy those activities because of their decrepit body and/or mind. Then point out that the whole reason we want to cure a disease is that we don't like being decrepit, meaning that for all intents and purposes aging is a disease.

I think part of the resistance to the idea of halting aging is based on people not wanting to be upset about what they believe to be inevitable. By arguing that aging is actually desirable, people can convince themselves not to be so upset about their body falling apart. I see their reasoning as a riff on retrospective rationalization (I'm not sure what cognitive bias that is), but it's arguably to some extent a psychologically healthy bias. Most of us have considered the process of getting old, and have integrated that somewhat somber consideration into our world view. But really, we don't want to walk around with long faces, so many of us stubbornly refuse to have a negative attitude towards it. In fact, we want a positive attitude towards aging, and that really requires believing in a narrative about how getting old is natural, healthy, and desirable. In a splendid act of double-think and compartmentalization, we somehow overlook the contradiction that becoming old means becoming decrepit, and that becoming decrepit is now somehow healthy and desirable. And of course we conveniently allow ourselves to slip back into the comforting fallacy that "if it's natural then it's good".

0 Points       Benja       01 Aug 2010     Is information-theoretic death the most real interpretation of death? Agree
Atoms are fungible. If you swap one atom in your head for another atom, you've actually changed nothing. Ditto when you swap every atom in your head. Reconstructing your brain atom-for-atom would reconstruct you. But that's (ironically?) an overkill. Reconstructing neural structures will suffice.

Some people claim a reconstructed you is not really you, because there's a break in the continuity of consciousness. However, if continuity was important, you wouldn't want to fall asleep, let alone go under a general anesthetic, where your brain is so dead during the multi-hour surgery that when you wake up it feels like only five minutes has passed.

Cute video on identity.

New Editorial Comments

0 Points       Benja       17 Mar 2010     Does cryonic preservation with today's best technology cause irreversible brain damage? Editorial Comment
I edited his answer appropriately. Thanks.


Cryonics Question Index

Is living forever or having a greatly extended lifespan desirable?
Is information-theoretic death the most real interpretation of death?
Is cryonics worthwhile?
Is cryonic restoration technically feasible in the future?
Assuming it was technically possible, would a cryonically suspended person actually get reanimated?
Is deterioration of the brain after death slow enough for cryonics to be worthwhile?
Does cryonic preservation with today's best technology cause irreversible brain damage?