Cryonics as a Safety Net

Natasha Vita-More
All rights reserved. 2002

Cryonics is the foremost safety-net available to us now in extending and preserving human life. Cryonics is the rapid cooling of a person's body in liquid nitrogen in order to preserve their DNA and tissue cells.  At a later date, when new medical cures have been developed and the technology of molecular engineering, such as nanotechnology, becomes available, the hope is to repair the cell damage and recusisitate the person. The damage to be repaired is both from the disease which caused the person's death and the cells damage caused from freezing.  

Making the choice of whether or not to pursue cryonics varies in regard to a person's values and also to his or her  understanding and acceptance of life extension and technology.  Although many people are able to conceptualize what living much longer might be like, they often  resist the many unknown factors that can and do sway them away from choosing cryonics.  One of the main reasons a person might be reluctant to pursue cryonics as an alternative to being buried or cremated is the issue of whether or not a cryonically "suspended" patient can be resuscitate and solutions to possible side-effects and damage to the brain, such as memory loss and cell freezing damage.

For the past decade, I have asked many people about their views on superlongevity and reversing the aging process.  From my experience, resistance stems from concerns about human boredom our current inability to solve problems of disease and dying.  In regards to cryonics, most resistance is due to our inability to confirm a successful  resuscitation or reanimation.

If we multi-track history and humanity's ability to problem solve, we can easily see our painstaking and precise methods in overcoming engineering puzzles, technological quandaries, business dilemmas, artistic obstacles, and medical uncertainties.  As humans, we have an innate curiosity and desire to fix things to problem solve.  It is this innate quality of the human spirit that allows many cryonicists to accept the unknown.  Rather than it being a matter of  trust, I prefer to see it in the sense of intelligence and reason.

When speaking with people who are new to cryonics, I pose question: If your loved one is terminally ill and it is almost certain that the cure for his or her  illness will be available in the ensuing months, would you want him or her hold on to life?  Unequivocally, the answer is "Yes!" 

I can't think of anyone I have known who has not been devastated by the death of someone very close and wished for an extension of life. Over and over, I have heard, "If only he had lived another few weeks." "If only she could have held on for another year."

Regardless of the rebuttals when suggesting cryonic suspension; regardless of the immediate rejection of the concept, I have yet to speak to someone who does not have some dream, some wish that yes, indeed, it would be extraordinary if in fact life could be suspended for a cure. When the experience is brought to a very personal level, the desire for life is primal. The means are secondary.

The technology for resuscitation or reanimation is not available at this time. Yet, I don't lose sleep over it. I know that I have a bracelet on my arm, my safety-net to the future. And, I have great confidence in the capabilities of engineers and scientists. Certainly, given time, research and finances, whether it is nanotechnology or not, a technology will be available.