Is cryonics a bad idea

Cryonics - Trying to Outsmart Death. A work by supervisor submission date. Kevin Kohler Markus Bundi G4E. Old Aarau Cantonal School

Transcript

1 Cryonics - The attempt to outsmart death Fig.1 Frozen Man (Wordpress) A work by supervisor Submission date Kevin Kohler Markus Bundi G4E Alte Kantonsschule Aarau

2 Table of Contents Page Glossary Foreword Motivation Acknowledgment Problem Theoretical Basics Death and Immortality History of Cryonics Cryonic Practice Method Results and Discussion Answering the first question Answering the second question Answering the third question Difficulties Summary Conclusion List of sources List of figures and tables..28

3 Appendix ... I I. Interview with Marcus Beyer. I II. Declaration of anti-plagiarism .... VI

4 Glossary Agnostic Amorphous: Biological death: Biostasis: Gerontology: Clinical death: Kryonaut: Cryonics: Cryopatient: Cryostasis: Neuropreservation: Perfusion: Procrastination: Resuscitation: Suspension: ignorant, have no opinion about God and the soul Greek for without shape, denotes one chemical / physical state of a substance in which the atoms do not form an ordered pattern. State in which, according to the current state of knowledge, it is impossible to reactivate the vital functions of a whole body. Stands for the potentially reversible conservation of organisms. Technical term for age research State in which both the heartbeat and breathing have failed. Another name for a cryopatient Derived from the Greek name for cold, kryos, and denotes the potentially reversible preservation of humans at low temperatures. Cryonics institutes call their clients that, because they see their service only as a continuation of the medical measures for their customers. Describes the biostasis at low temperatures. Keeping the brain or the head in cryostasis Stands here for the supply of the organs through the arteries with cell protection solutions and / or antifreeze. Blocking of completion, suspensive behavior Synonym for resuscitation Cryonics use the term to describe the state of frozen people, as they may not be dead from their point of view, but their life is only temporarily paused / suspended. 1

5 Telomeres: Telomerase: Thanatosociology: Tissue Engineering: Transhumanism: Transcendence: Vitrification: Cell death: Protective caps on the chromosome ends, which shorten with every cell division. If they become too small, programmed cell death or at least a halt to growth occurs. An enzyme found in the nucleus that restores telomeres. Is concerned with social action around the dying and with the social meaning of death. Generic term for the artificial production of biological tissue through the targeted cultivation of cells in order to replace or regenerate diseased tissue in a patient. Futuristic social movement that postulates strong technological progress. Transhumanists advocate changing people through technology, and cryonics is their philosophy. Something that transcends mind and consciousness is often used as a synonym for the hereafter or even God. Comes from the Latin term for glass vitrum and describes the change from the liquid to the solid amorphous state through rapid cooling. Irreversibly terminates all life processes in the cell. 2

6 1. Foreword Most of us now living have a chance for personal, physical immortality [1: 11]. This quote comes from the cryonics pioneer Robert Ettinger and may already sound astonishing to many, but it is even more astonishing when he made this statement, namely in 1964! However, this Robert Ettinger died on July 23, 2011 at the age of 92. Does that mean his statement was wrong? No, because on paper Robert Ettinger is dead, but in his own opinion he is only in suspension. How does it work? Ettinger's body was cooled immediately after his death, filled with a protective liquid and is now the 106th cryopatient in a cooling tank in the Cryonics Institute, which Ettinger himself founded [2]. Ettinger justifies his belief in the possible immortality of humans through cryopreservation in his book The Prospect Of Immortality: The fact: At very low temperatures it is possible, right now, to preserve dead people with essentially no deterioration, indefinitely []. The assumption: If civilization endures, medical science should eventually be able to repair almost any damage to the human body, including freezing damage and senile debility or other cause of death [] [1: 11]. Ettinger therefore assumes that medical advances will make it possible for people in the future to overcome natural death. Until that happens, the body can be preserved with the help of cryonics, so that one day it can be thawed again and reanimated [1]. In this work I will neither try to refute nor to prove Ettinger's assumption, because it is based on the future and we cannot predict it with certainty. However, I will try to estimate how realistic it is that his hopes of immortality will come true and weigh up whether this scenario would be even desirable. 3

7 1.1 Motivation One of the most famous arguments in the history of philosophy comes from a letter from Epicurus to his pupil Menoikeus: The most terrible evil, death, does not concern us at all because it is not when we are and we are no longer when it is is [16: 320]. It is difficult to contradict this statement, nevertheless every human being at one point in his life is concerned with death and the question of how it should go on after it. This topic has been gnawing at me for a long time and the very idea of ​​death shudders me, because it is simply impossible for a person: How do I imagine absolutely nothing? When I heard about cryonics for the first time through a documentary, my interest was aroused immediately, finally someone offered another option than the fatalistic thesis that in the end we all have to die anyway. For me in any case, trying to outsmart death using cryonics would be worthwhile if the chances of success were one in a million or even worse, since there are simply no better alternatives at the moment. I can therefore well imagine having myself freeze (cryopreserved) one day. 1.2 Acknowledgments At this point I would like to thank everyone who has supported and motivated me in my work. First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Marcus Beyer for his willing information. Then I would like to thank my supervisor Markus Bundi for the help with the research and the sacrificed nerve cells. Last but not least, I would like to thank my friends and family for supporting and motivating me. 4th

8 2. Problem definition The subject of cryonics can be viewed from different perspectives: scientifically, in the humanities and economically. The questions of this thesis shed light on aspects of the humanities, nevertheless a certain scientific understanding of the processes of cryopreservation is essential in order to be able to make credible statements about the future of cryonics. The declared aim of this work is to answer the following three questions: What is the meaning of life and death in western society and especially among cryonics? Why is cryonics not yet established in society at large, and what reasons speak in favor of it, and what reasons against the fact that cryonics could one day be socially and scientifically accepted? What kind of ethical, psychological and social consequences would the successful resuscitation of cryopatients have? 5

9 3. Theoretical foundations 3.1 Death and immortality The dream of one's own immortality is as old as humanity itself, and even in ancient times many believed in a form of existence after physical death. An example of this are the ancient Egyptians, who expected a physical resurrection after death and therefore embalmed or embalmed their dead. even mummified to preserve their bodies for rebirth. Another is ancient Greece, as early as the second millennium BC the belief in the immortality of the soul was widespread. In order to be remembered as a person for posterity, one had to acquire fame. The separation of soul and body through death, as proclaimed by the philosopher Plato in his dialogues Phaedo and Phaedros, met resistance early on [12]. According to the teaching of Aristotle, the soul is the form-giving principle of the body and cannot be detached from it. Last but not least, it is also the Christian belief of the resurrection, which is based on the unity of body and soul and contradicts the Platonic teaching [13]. As different as the ways to achieve immortality may be, and as different as the ideas of timeless existence are presented, the prospect of this can be found across practically all religions and cultures. Seen in this light, the cryonic visions of immortality are nothing new in and of themselves. The novelty is that no transcendent powers, but doctors and researchers are the bearers of hope for their fulfillment [3]. For science today, death is far more than a grim reaper who leads souls to heaven or hell, and of course there is also a biological sense in death. According to Darwin, all organisms are exposed to selection pressure and have to adapt their gene pool to changed conditions through reproduction, but since the habitat is limited, the parents have to make room for their offspring. Nature also proves that physical immortality is possible, at least in theory. It has been found that jellyfish of the species Turritopsis nutricula can return to the stage of childhood an unlimited number of times and thus avoid death [10]. We humans have all been virtually immortal for a short time, namely as an embryo. The embryonic stem cells have telomerase and can therefore divide indefinitely. However, this status does not last long because they soon develop into different cell types and lose this ability [11]. 6th

10 Cryonists hope that one day, thanks to advanced knowledge in areas such as stem cell research, we will be able to control and overcome death. Until this is possible, cryonics should at least remove it. Dying is a process and therefore it is also very difficult to determine a point in time when death will occur, so many clinically dead people can already be brought back to life today. For its followers, cryonics is merely a further medical measure against death by preserving the body in a biologically dead state in order to prevent cell death [1]. The reasons for this view of the cryonics and the moral aspects of dealing with death in this way are explained in subsections 5.1 and 5.3. 3.2 History of cryonics The idea of ​​freezing a deceased person with the prospect of resuscitation in the future appeared as early as 1887 in the novel The Frozen Pirate by William Clark Russell and was a widespread motif in 20th century science fiction [3] . So it was that Robert Ettinger came across a story in the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories as a child about a frozen person whose brain was thawed again millions of years later. This story never let him go [4]. Many years later, after studying physics and mathematics, Ettinger wrote his book The Prospect Of Immortality in 1962, which is mostly seen as the spark of cryonics, although, to be fair, it must be mentioned that the now less well-known Evan Cooper was practically his book at the same time Immortality: Physically, Scientifically, Now, which was also a pioneering achievement. As a result of these two writings, various cryonics societies were founded in the 1960s and the topic was discussed in the media, mainly in America [3] [7]. In April 1966 the time had come and the first person was frozen, but at the request of the family, he was thawed and burned again after a few months [7]. A year later, the doctor Dr. James Bedford, the first person to be frozen to this day and thus an icon for many cryonists [5]. Much less than Bedford, cryonists like to talk about Robert Nelson, one of those who suspended Bedford. The Californian businessman and founder of the Cryonics Society Of California is responsible for the fact that cryonics suffered a severe setback early on. A few years after the first cryopreservation of a person, to whom Nelson even dedicated a book of his own with We Froze The First Man, he was faced with a pile of broken glass. Nine cryopatients from his Cryonics Society Of California thawed and decayed, but the organization failed to inform relatives and continued to receive maintenance payments from them. As a result, Nelson and an assistant became 7

11 sued and had to pay nearly a million dollars in damages [7]. This incident caused enormous damage to the image of cryonics. To date, over 200 people have followed Bedford's example and are in the cooling tanks of one of the four organizations worldwide that store cryopatients. The overwhelming majority of these are in either the Alcor Life Extension Foundation or the Cryonics Institute, both of which are in the United States and which together house over 90% of frozen bodies. In addition to the two large organizations founded in the 1970s, and the now negligibly small TransTime Inc., with the KrioRus there has also been a cryonic institute outside the USA in Russia since 2005, which, however, unlike Alcor and the Cryonics Institute, is not a non -Profit- Organization is [6]. In The Prospect Of Immortality, Ettinger compared the expected breakthrough of cryonics with the French Revolution and hoped that the golden Freezer era would begin in 1964 [1]. The fact that only a little more than 200 people have been cryopreserved in the more than 40 years since a person was first suspended certainly does not correspond to the original vision of the future of the cryonists. While cryobiology and cryogenics are now considered exact sciences, cryonics is still fighting for recognition and is often dismissed as a pseudoscience. Why this is the case and whether this could possibly change is discussed under point 5.2. 3.3 Cryonic Practice Cryonists see the brain as the seat of human identity, so it is their ultimate goal to stop the natural decay of brain cells immediately after death. In the ideal case of a slowly occurring death, a patient is therefore accompanied by a stand-by team, which intervenes immediately as soon as an independent doctor has declared the cryonist dead [3]. The basic principle of cryopreservation is simple, at lower temperatures there is less metabolism, in concrete terms this means: A reduction in body temperature by one degree reduces the human metabolism by 10 percent [4]. In order to stop the metabolism and thus also the cell disintegration after death, in cryonics a body is currently stored at the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196 Celsius). With liquid helium it would be possible to cool the body down to -269 Celsius, but on the one hand it is more expensive and more difficult to handle than liquid nitrogen and on the other hand 8

12 one would unnecessarily expose the body to the risk of further freezing damage, although at the temperature of liquid nitrogen there are already no more molecular activities [1]. The actual trend even leads to the use of less low temperatures (close to the respective glass transition temperature), because the tissue is then less stressed by thermal stresses when it is cooled down [32]. The main problem encountered in the cooling process is the formation of ice crystals. This only leads to microscopic injuries, but in such a large number that the injuries caused by it are considered irreversible according to the current state of the art. In order to minimize such tissue damage, the cryopatients' chest is opened before they are stored in the cooling tank, a cardiac bypass is inserted and the connection to the lungs is cut off in order to establish the most effective possible blood circulation from the heart to the brain. Then an antifreeze is pumped into the veins. The composition of this liquid has been refined over the years. While at Bedford dimethyl sulfoxide was still used, later switched to glycerol-based agents. However, the greatest progress to date in the fight against crystal formation has only taken place in the new millennium with the introduction of vitrification. The patient is now first perfused with a vitrification solution, which at the Cryonics Institute currently consists of ethylene glycol, dimethyl sulfoxide, a carrier solution and water [8]. After gradually increasing the concentration of the solution to around 70 percent, the cryopatient is cooled to minus 120 degrees as quickly as possible.The solution thickens and after waiting several hours until the temperature is the same everywhere in the brain, the second phase of cooling takes place. Depending on the solution and its concentration, a glass-like solidification of the tissue occurs at around -130 degrees Celsius. The direct transition to an amorphous state can prevent ice crystals from forming inside cells, at least in the brain [4]. However, perfusion with antifreeze leads directly to a new problem: The solutions are all highly toxic! There is currently no technology to remove this poison when thawing. The neutralization of the toxic cryoprotectants is being researched and the American cryobiologist Gregory Fahy even succeeded in vitrifying rabbit kidneys and then successfully transplanting them so that the rabbit lived on with a normal life expectancy [15]. However, so far there is no evidence for the neutralization of ethylene glycol and dimethyl sulfoxide, which are used by cryonists as a vitrification solution [14]. The cryonists are fully aware of the toxicity of the agents, but they concentrate primarily on minimizing the damage caused by freezing or vitrifying. They leave the problems associated with thawing to the scientists of the future. Because they assume that it is more likely to avoid defrosting damage in the future than repairing damage caused by not using antifreeze [1]. 9

13 In addition to the classic full-body variant, Alcor also offers the option of neuropreservation. Here, after the perfusion, the head is cut off between the fifth and sixth vertebrae, the rest of the body is disposed of [5]. Behind this is the hope that the old, sick body can be replaced in the future thanks to processes such as tissue engineering. This option is significantly cheaper for cryopatients: The storage of the head costs dollars without surcharges and membership fees, while that of the whole body costs more than twice as much with dollars [9]. The Cryonics Institute charges significantly less dollars for whole body storage than Alcor, part of the difference is explained by the fact that the Cryonics Institute includes fewer services, but a comparable offer is only half as expensive at just under dollars [6 ]. Fig. 2: The ex-CEO of Alcor Joseph A. Waynick in front of three cooling tanks (New York Times) 10

14 4. Method 4.1 Research and analysis The main source for answering the questions is the analysis of literature, which therefore had to be selected very carefully. For the research, I first needed primary literature from the cryonists in order to understand cryopreservation and the idea behind it at all. Author Title Year Robert Ettinger The Prospect Of Immortality 1962 Robert Ettinger Man Into Superman 1972 FM-2030 Are You A Transhuman? 1989 Michael Perry Forever For All 2000 Since I am not attending a philosophy class, it was also important to create a certain foundation on the subject of death. The philosophical journals made accessible by Mr. Bundi helped me with this: Author Title Year Thomas Nagel Death 1996 Helke Panknin-Schappert Meister Eckehardt and Overcoming Death 2010 Jens Soentgen How to check and refute the most famous argument of modern philosophy 2010 Well it was important to read even more critical works towards cryonics and that is why I also took on media texts and secondary literature: Author Title Year Gundolf Freyermuth Frozen into Eternity 1997 Francis Fukuyama Transhumanism 2004 Michael Täuber Eiskalt is the hope 2009 Oliver Krüger Cryonic immortality hopes within transhumanism

15 Finally, the websites of the two large cryonics service providers were also an important instrument for research, because both organizations publish a lot of information about their current technologies and statistics on their websites. 4.2 Interview The cryonics are a relatively heterogeneous movement. In order to get a really representative image of the cryonics through the interview, and not an isolated individual opinion, it is therefore important that the respondent belongs to an organization and takes a central position there. The German Society for Applied Biostasis (DGAB) is probably the most important association of cryonics in the German-speaking area, which is committed to education and basic research on the topic. Your CEO, Marcus Beyer, therefore seems to be the perfect contact person for an interview. Mr. Beyer knows the 3 questions of my work, and the interview is structured in such a way that these are examined more or less one after the other from the perspective of the cryonists themselves: Fig. 3: Marcus Beyer (Stormlight) Introduction and question 1 I. What made you do this to be cryopreserved one day? II. III. IV. How do you imagine life after death? Which religion do you belong to and do you believe in the existence of a god? Do you believe in a human soul? If so, aren't you afraid that during suspension this could separate from your body forever? V. Is there a contradiction between the Christian faith and cryonics? 12th

16 Overarching question 2 I. Why is cryonics not yet established in society at large and do you believe that it will one day be? II. III. IV. What advances have been made in cryonic techniques in recent years / decades? Does cryonics only serve the rich or can, at least in the future, also poorer parts of the world's population afford to freeze? Cryonic institutes for human retention currently only exist in the United States and Russia. Why is there no such institute in Europe, and will that change in the foreseeable future? Overriding question 3 I. Does cryonics theoretically make humans immortal, or are there certain limits to them? II. III. Suppose you are reanimated after 100 years in suspension: How can you find your way in this completely changed world, without your old friends, but with a completely different culture and possibly even language? The number of people on our earth is limited due to natural resources. Are you not taking the place of a younger generation if you do not die, and are you not even preventing further human evolution? 13th

17 5. Results and discussion 5.1 Answering the first question What is the meaning of life and death in western society, and especially among cryonics? Two strategies can be identified in 20th century occidental thinking about the relationship to one's own mortality: The first is the attempt to survive as long as possible. The central concern is to delay dying and to increase the lifespan. The second strategy is mortality denial. For once, this does not refer to the cryonics, but rather to immortality as a lifestyle. Personal life should be remembered through created works and thus be immortal [22]. Often there is also the language of so-called amortals such as Madonna, who shape their life as if there were no old age and who want to embody agelessness in front of the mirror [21]. The cryonics form a hybrid form of the two strategies: They are basically assigned to the first group, but often go so far that they also want to overcome their own mortality. The change in dealing with death: The rituals surrounding death, such as the laying out and the wake, were a social, public event in the West for a long time. This has changed massively in the course of the 20th century. In thanato sociology one speaks of an institutionalization or medicalization of dying. Today death is increasingly excluded from society, it has been moved from the family to the death rooms of the hospitals and old people's homes, and while it used to be accompanied by a pastor, today a doctor is usually on the deathbed. However, this break with old traditions in dealing with the topic in no way leads to a taboo on death; on the contrary, the public discussion on topics such as euthanasia has only really flared up in the last 30 years [20] [22]. In this respect, the cryonics can be seen as an extreme form of the new scientific relationship with death. 14th

18 The different evaluations of life and death: Cryonics is often seen as the result of an exaggerated fear of death. The only quantitative survey of the attitudes of cryonics so far seems to confirm this: The study has shown that cryonics are predominantly white, male and around 30 years old. They have no religious affiliation and have an above-average income, above-average education and above-average fear of death. We too immediately associate something bad with the word death. Neither a positive nor a negative valence can actually be ascribed to the state of death. To understand this, a look back helps: How do we assess our prenatal non-existence? At that time we were just as nothing as we will be after our lives, and yet we usually only view posthumous non-existence as bad. The real evil is not the state of death, but the loss of life, the sum of which we consider positive [18]. Many believe that the marginal utility of life diminishes over time and at a certain point inevitably falls into the negative. As a result, most people accept death after a certain age [31]. The philosopher Bernard Williams even goes so far that the fundamental existence of death is to be regarded as good, since immortality would lead more to boredom than to anything else, and death, if it does not occur too soon, is a redemption [17 ]. For most cryonics, existence of any kind tends to be seen as positive. The loss of life is therefore a bad thing for them, but a temporary suspension is not a problem, provided that the conscious life is not shortened by it. Therefore, the advent of cryonics should be viewed more as a result of the extremely positive assessment of life and less as a fear of the state of death. This statement is also confirmed by the statement by Marcus Beyer: Another reason is that I like to live. I would like to experience the next moment, even if, for once, it should take place with a delay. 15th

19 5.2 Answering the second question Why has cryonics not yet been established in society at large, and what reasons speak in favor of, and what reasons, against the fact that cryonics could one day be socially and scientifically accepted? The analysis and the interview reveal four main reasons for the lack of acceptance of cryonics in society up to now: Just a few years after the start of the cryonic idea, the movement again lost many of its members because no immediate scientific progress was visible and the relatives of the cryopatients With the financing system at the time, which was not yet based on prepayment, had to bear a heavy burden. The damage to the image, which resulted from the fall of the nine thawed corpses (see 3.2), made things even more difficult. As a result, various cryonics societies disbanded, and there were cryonauts who were thawed again at the request of the family [3]. Cryonics has the reputation of being a kind of religion, not least because there are an above-average number of atheists among the cryonics. Ettinger tried to reconcile cryonics with Christianity [19], but met with little approval from the church. It is therefore very difficult for cryonics to address religious people, although Mr. Beyer also emphasizes that he sees no contradiction between religion and cryonics: cryonics sees itself as a rescue measure, similar to transport by ambulance. The only difference is that in cryonics, patients are not transported through space, but rather through time. In this respect I don't see any contradiction between religion and cryonics. Cryonics breaks with the very robust tradition of giving up people whom contemporary medicine can no longer help, says Beyer. Last but not least, he is addressing the culturally anchored need to finally say goodbye to a deceased person. However, cryonics does not include a final ritual such as a funeral, because this would be a contradiction to its actual idea. To make matters worse, especially with neuropreservation, the desire for the dead person's physical integrity cannot be fulfilled [3]. According to Beyer, these deviations from social norms lead to a certain pressure to bury a person according to religious tradition. 16

20 Marcus Beyer suspects in the interview: [] that cryonics can only be fully established when the reversibility of the process has been proven beyond doubt. This is obviously the main reason why cryonics is not accepted as an exact science today, because in natural science only what can be proven is valid, and hope for the future is not proof. The following points in favor of a breakthrough in cryonics: Interest in cryonics has increased significantly in recent years; this can also be proven by the figures published by the major cryonics institutes. The number of suspended members and members of both organizations has risen continuously since the 1990s [25] [26]. There is currently nothing to suggest that this trend could reverse; on the contrary, the decline in religiosity in the West and the increasing medicalization of death could encourage further growth in cryonics. In addition, cryonics, through the announcement of famous people such as US talk show presenter Larry King [27] to be cryopreserved guarantees a certain amount of attention in the near future. And finally, thanks to the Russian KrioRus, more and more non-Americans will be cryopreserved in the future. Development of the total number of members of Alcor and the Cryonics Institute Number of members Tab. 1 Total number of members of Alcor and the CI since 1990 (ALCOR / CRYONICS 0 INSTITUTE, 2011, own presentation) Years Fig. 4: Development of membership numbers (Alcor / Cryonics Institute; Own illustration) 17