Not interested in being frozen, thanks

A post by James Davis Nicoll at tor.com: Five Stories Featuring Cryonics and Suspended Animation

Purveyors of cryonic preservation have a problem: As long as customers are content with storing bodies at temperatures cold enough to liquify nitrogen (or colder), all is well. However, as soon as someone starts muttering about the end goal of waking frozen clients, the issue arises that nobody knows how to do that. In fact, freezing itself can damage human cells beyond repair. Humans being less robust than tardigrades, the humans have a deplorable tendency to remain quite dead despite the intense desires of the company that froze them. People are so inconsiderate.

However, even if cryonics were not just an expensive way of storing corpses, it still might be problematic for any number of reasons.

And then the stories, with comments.

I assumed Cryoburn would be here, and so it is. It’s far from my favorite Vorkosigan book … hmm, maybe I should put those in personal order someday … but it’s surely the best-known cryonics story at this point.

The other one I recognize here is “Time Heals,” by Paul Anderson, but the cover is actually showing an image for a story I quite liked, “Call Me Joe,” which also must be included in the collection. “Time Heals” sounds like a real downer, but I wouldn’t mind re-reading “Call Me Joe.” I like the idea of the powerful, sensual cat-centaur body, I guess.

Anyway! At the moment, not remotely tempted to have myself frozen. I wonder how big a thing that is these days? The NYT, which is the first article that pops up, says about 500 people have had themselves frozen so far. Not exactly a fast-growing industry. How much does it cost? About $200,000 for the full body, evidently, and there’s all this about trusts and organizations that keep track of your preserved body so it doesn’t get abandoned or whatever. I can readily imagine the sort of system LMB drew in Cryoburn. Get cryonics to catch on and you’re talking big money both for the process and for the storage.

Having yourself frozen does seem to me to be psychologically similar to the Egyptian mummification, which was also about avoiding death and getting yourself set to live forever, in a way.

I can see different ways stories might go using this element, but personally, if I ever used cryonics in a story, it would undoubtedly just be a plot device to get my characters into an interesting place; eg, coldsleep on a slow colony ship or something like that, so it wouldn’t be a story about cryonics as such.

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3 thoughts on “Not interested in being frozen, thanks”

  1. There was a recent news article in Science*, about cryogenically preserved organs. Most importantly, they are not frozen; they are vitrified, so ice crystals don’t tear cells apart. “Antifreeze” and iron nanoparticles are pumped into the main artery, and the organ is then flashed to -150C. A bit later they are reheated via inductive heating of the iron particles, to ensure uniform, gentle heating.
    4 out of 5 rat kidneys were successfully transplanted back.
    They’re first planned human use is storing ovaries during chemo, which otherwise is likely to poison them. An 80% success rate means 90% chance of recovering at least one: the same downside of chemo, but with much higher favorable odds.

    * Science and Nature have such wonderfully arrogant titles, pleasantly reminiscent of the 19th
    century.

  2. People have seriously already had themselves frozen? That seems like an astonishing faith in the future of science, not to mention the future of humanity! Do they wait until they’re dead, though, or are they still alive (so is it actually another form of assisted suicide? Which I suppose I would understand, since if you’ve made the decision to end your life before whatever debilitating disease takes you, you might as well play the odds and hope someone finds a cureā€”and figures out how to thaw you.)

    I put my faith in different things, but even if I thought this life was it, I think I’d rather my descendants had the $200,000!

  3. Kim, that’s a good point; I’d just as soon pass that money to relatives too. But I think everyone waits till they’re actually all the way dead.

    Pete, that’s amazing. And a really neat idea for what to use this technology for besides storing dead bodies.

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