Cryonics is the applied science of freezing biological entities for preservation.
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Alien Crossfire is one of my favorite games of all time. Two ideas resonated with me (and continue to do so):
If cryonics were perfected, would it amount to The Longevity Vaccine and Clinical Immortality?
How close are we to achieving those? What challenges lie ahead in attempting to do so? What impact will these inventions have on human society?
Several fringe companies began promoting the idea of preserving and freezing human bodies back in the 1970's apparently. Most of these went defunct so that, as far as I know, only a couple still remain. Now, Alcor is probably the most senior self-described human cryonics company.
The general history of cryonics in the United States is described below:
Most cryonics companies have failed - one actually suffered power loss and lost all its frozen bodies!
So, quite rightly, people have been suspicious of cryonics and the promise of clinical immortality!
I don't trust any of the current cryonics companies despite my belief that the overall technology has matured enough to be useful.
There are at least four components to cryonics to make it work in practical fashion:
Note: I strongly oppose the idea of brain removals (in fact, there's a long history of fearing so-called Brain-In-Vat (BIV) scenarios in American philosophy).
Interestingly, the first two components (out of the four above) have been achieved. The third, has been demonstrated in limited circumstances and recent trials (see below).
This kind of technology isn't a fancy new device or clever toy. It deals with one of the most (if not the most) fundamental concerns we face as living things. Period. Mortality, death, health, medicine, inheritance, families, etc. - the building-blocks of religions, societies, dynasties, political systems, etc. are all intertwined with the concept of cryonics.
As such, we should exercise a high level of caution in assessing claims and companies involving or involved with cryonics.
Some of the early (and recent) cryonics firms have been outright fraudulent:
Do not fall for "mind-uploading" claims - I think it's metaphysically impossible to "upload" yourself.
Others claim that the science is false, dubious, or (in most cases) not mature enough:
Despite that, many people understand the promise of cryonics if and when it becomes a mature science (and commercially safe, viable):
Personally, I told my parents to put cryonic preservation into their advanced medical directives and will. They laughed, but I'm serious, I want to have them around in 50-100 years.
I've been occasionally following some of these developments and was surprised to find, under closer inspection, that several major breakthroughs have been achieved in the last 3 years (and some earlier than that).
First, several scientifically-valid techniques have been successfully performed. For example, Dr. Boris Rubinsky (famous for organ replacement), University of California Berkeley, was successfully able to:
Similar breakthroughs have been achieved elsewhere:
These breakthroughs have never been tested on a live human. So, the verdict's still out about that.
Despite the early problems with cryonics, things have substantially improved in terms of the development of verifiable medical and scientific procedures, experiments, and techniques.
Major breakthroughs have also been achieved in the adjacent fields of human-cloning and organ replacement:
Even if dethawing, unfreezing, or the restoration of full biological functioning weren't achieved, perhaps the use of organ replacement through human-cloning would help to provide some workaround.
Suppose that my heart suffered limited deterioration during the dethawing process. Could I have a STEM cell made from a cell culture (of say a cell from my hair or skin) and then used to make a new heart (copy)?
Would that mitigate the damage I suffered from being "reawakened"?
Given that freezing and preservation seem to be perfected, is it wise to opt for cryonic preservation rather than death, cremation, or burial?
Even if the last component (of the four described above) is not possible now, doesn't the presence of perfect preservation outweigh concerns about the lack of the other components?
I've personally added cryonic preservation as a criteria of my advanced medical directive and will.
Should we recommend cryonic preservation for cases of terminal illness (so that someone could be reawakened in the future when a cure were available)? What about COVID-19?
Should cryonic preservation be used to replace current capital crime convictions and punishments?
Imagine a society in which cryonic preservation were widespread in use. What would that be like?
I personally have disdain for the concept of inheritance and would rather use resources to keep all my family together.