Cryonicists believe that modern innovation will one day resurrect them from the dead. However, just how realistic is this hopeful second life after a deep freeze?
It’s said that a signifying trait which makes us human is our awareness of our own mortality. Knowing that we will one day die has got us wondering about the possibility of being able to wake back up After death. Stories of resurrection and immortality are commonplace in countless religions and myths. However, in recent years, many of these stories have relied on the idea of cryonic preservation: freezing a body and then giving life to it in the future. If it worked in so many sci-Fis, why can’t it work for us?
As of now, Cryonics hypothesis of freezing the physical body in order to be brought back to life at a later time is not possible! However, with that being said, routine modern life-saving interventions like cardiac defibrillation and CPR are prime examples of how science can quickly change drastically. For most of human history, it was widely agreed that there’s no way to resuscitate someone whose heart has stopped.
Based on the premise that someday, science will keep finding solutions to biological damages that are irreparable by today’s standards, the aim of cryonics is to keep bodies in a stable, preserved state until the necessary medical technological discovery arrives. Even to its staunchest supporter, cryonics isn’t a guarantee; Kowalski, Dennis Kowalski, the president of the Cryonics Institute, a non-profit based in Michigan, describes it as “an ambulance ride to a future hospital that may or may not exist.” But he views the field as a sort of Pascal’s wager in that we are guaranteed to die, so if there is even the smallest chance of prolonging life through cryonics, there’s nothing to lose and potentially a whole ’nother lifetime to gain.
While the second half of waking the frozen is not yet possible, The science of cryonics has evolved a great deal in the last half century. The combination of nanomedicine, immortality research, mind-uploading, AI discoveries, and other technological advances, cryonics doesn’t seem as impossible as it used to.
Beyond the arguments of what is actually possible or not, there lingers another question: even if Cryonics could bring you back, would you even want to? After all, you’d wake up to a strange world, with nothing and no one from your previous life, left to start all over again.
Anders Sandberg, a philosopher at the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, compares the possibility of this rebirth to being “a temporal refugee — you can’t survive in the present, your only chance is to kind of exile in a foreign land.” But for Sandberg, an advocate of cryonics, who is never without his medallion inscribed with his cryonic instructions, “Life is worth living. I really enjoy being alive. As long as that is true, I want to try to hang around. But it’s of course a gamble.”
“Regardless of whether it works, we’re actually propelling science, sorting out what doesn’t work. Also, if it takes care of business, wow, we just found a solution for death, briefly,” says Kowalski, who has pursued cryonic protection alongside his better half and children.
People Who Have Been Cryonically Preserved
Walt Disney is rumored to have been frozen cryogenically after his death from lung cancer in 1966 until the day that “re-animation” was possible. However, Walt’s daughter has spoken out on various occasions to show ”proof” that Disney was cremated. Some claim his daughters testimony to be fishy and remain firm in their belief that he is frozen in some secret location.
Ted Williams is without a doubt the most renowned cryogenically frozen person we know about to date. However, the happenings surrounding his frozen preservation are fairly controversial. Ted’s son, John-Henry Williams, was adamant that his father wanted to be frozen in order to be brought back in the future. He also claimed Ted wanted his entire family to follow suit so that they could be reunited when medicine and technology finally made it possible. The debatable thing is that contrary to what his son said, Ted’s will said that he wanted to be cremated. His daughter, from his first wife, took John-Henry to court over the matter. John-Henry was able to produce some, at best, sketchy evidence of what was shown to be a “family pact” signed on a cocktail napkin. Why would anyone write their last wishes on a cocktail napkin and have any expectation of it holding up in court? Anyway, after much debate over proper authenticity, the napkin-pact was allowed and Ted was frozen.
John-Henry Williams. This list would not be complete without Ted’s son. John-Henry did indeed stay true to his word. John-Henry sadly died of leukemia on March 6, 2004, when joined his dad in their freezing preservation at Alcor in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Dick Clair Jones was in the television entertainment industry: he was a producer, actor and writer who had a part in The Facts of Life, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and Mama’s Family. He was also intrigued by cryonics enough to be a member of the Cryonics Society of California. In 1988, he died of AIDS-related complications and was immediately put on ice, literally!
Dr. James Bedford, a psych professor at the University of California, was the first person documented to ever be cryonically preserved. The decision to be the first person preserved by freezing was entirely his own, in fact, he even left money for a steel capsule and liquid nitrogen in his will. When he died on January 12, 1967, his family abided by his wishes. It was a monumental day in the cryonics community; they were making history! This event was so impactful that they still refer to January 12 as “Bedford Day.” Time magazine even did a piece on the event which they titled, “Never Say Die.” Many years later in 1991, Bedford had to be switched to a different tank where upon inspection his body appears to have held up thus far.