Cryogenic Head Freezing

September 11th, 2009 by Potato

There was something of a movement afoot in the previous decade towards people having their heads (or for the very wealthy, their whole bodies) cryogenically frozen after their deaths. Partly in the hopes that someday, in the distant future, science (or advanced voodoo) may find ways to conquer death, and cure whatever it was that killed (or for those frozen just before their deaths, would have killed) them.

The concept always seemed just a little half-baked: after all, what use would the immortal demigods of the future have with the head of a frozen neanderthal such as yourself? Odds were good that if you were thawed, it would be purely at their whim, and you would have to spend the rest of eternity doing parlour tricks for them and their dinner guests, or spend mere hours running in terror through the last remaining forest preserves on an otherwise entirely urbanized planet as you serve as human prey in their safaris. Or perhaps they’d launch you deep into space, for future generations of explorers to defrost and gain valuable insight into what life was like in the barbaric 20th century.

Some of these real-world tangled issues of waking up a thousand years in the future were highlighted in the near-documentary series Futurama, which largely contributed to the downturn in the fad.

However, what if you still want to have your head frozen for posterity? Well, then it’s important to consider a number of issues, many of them scientific, such as what temperature will the service keep your head at, and how soon after death can it be frozen? Will there be an antifreeze/cryoprotectant solution of some sort to prevent crystallization, and what wards and charms will be placed on the cryotank to prevent zombiism (both rising as a zombie yourself, and also to prevent your bodiless brain from becoming zombie junk food)?

Just as important as how your head will be cared for is a consideration of how long it will be cared for. What is the financial health of your cryopreservation provider? Do they have a long-term plan? Is your one-time payment enough to provide an income stream that will see to your care in perpetuity, or is it set up like a Ponzi scheme, relying on money from new clients to keep the old ones frozen?

This last point has implications beyond just cryogenic head freezing: for anything that you will depend on for years into the future, especially something you pay for up front, what is the robustness of the organization behind it? Whether it’s a car that you might need warranty work on (though there is an implicit government guarantee behind most troubled automakers), or something without an explicit warranty, like a life insurance company or house, will what you’re buying stand up to the test of time?

The recession and financial crisis has served as a sort of shaking-out process for some of these companies. In the cryonic freezing space, I went back to an old article on it, and of 3 companies mentioned, 2 of them still have active websites (the 3rd hasn’t been updated since 2007, and even then many of the features have been “coming soon” since 2003, so they may have been a marginal player wiped out by the recession). According to the Wikipedia page on Cryonics, a number of smaller players have failed over the years, showing that it’s tough to find good help, especially after you’re dead.


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