Library > Neuropreservation
At the end of most of the excursions here in Alcor, I end up at the Patient Care Bay with an astonished visitor looking at the 9 foot-tall Bigfoot dewars. They really are an inspiring sight, both a place of non-final rest for some of the most intelligent people on the planet and a bold symbol of what could be the most optimistic idea in the history of mankind. Many of these visitors come to Alcor with little knowledge of cryonics, or even extension of life, aging investment, nanotechnology or any of the other wonders we envision. When we reach the great climax of the tour, their minds are spinning. Then they ask, “Wait a minute, I thought there were twenty-nine patients, but you said there are only eleven in these big cylinders, where are the others?”
Then I point to the two large concrete vaults on the opposite wall. “Well, you see, 18 of our patients chose to freeze their heads only, this is called neurosuspension.”
The most common reaction is a stunned pause with eyes that grow to the size of saucers. For them, the whole building has become surreal, like Salvador Dalí’s watches, sculpted in ice. Some people laugh with surprise or nervousness. A small number seems dizzy or disgusted. And from time to time, if I’ve done my job well and configured the visitor with descriptions of the repairs that will be possible in the future, the visitor will say, “Oh, that makes sense, you can just grow a new body to the brain. . ”
The reactions of our readers are probably very similar. Some of you may be reading a number of Cryonics for the first time; You may be reading in detail about cryonics itself for the first time. But even for people who have been involved in cryonics for many years, the subject of “how much you should freeze” can be disconcerting. Without a doubt, it took me a couple of years before I could easily get rid of my instinctive reactions and appreciate the idea that the brain is the most important part (and perhaps the only necessary part) to preserve.
The most basic step in understanding the neurosuspension is one in which we can all agree: our memories, personalities and most of the other critical parts of our identities are in our brain. People can receive heart and lung transplants and remain the “same person”. Even someone paralyzed from the neck down thinks he has the same identity. On the other hand, another person who has lost memory can resemble the same person, and we can even use the same name for it; but clearly his identity is missing.
The main keys are our own unique experiences, which create in us memories different from those of others. Each individual in a set of identical twins has the same genetic makeup and a similar birth environment; but from birth, they are separate beings who experience life and acquire memories from their own unique perspectives.
There is no such thing as a “brain transplant”; A brain transferred to a new body would be a “body transplant”. We are our brains.
This same understanding means that freezing the body of a patient whose brain was removed and destroyed, or destroyed inside the skull by an illness or injury, would not save that person’s identity. With only the physical information available in the rest of the body, we could possibly use DNA and chemical information to create a clone (an identical twin) with, in effect, total amnesia; But we could not reproduce the original memories and identity. We could recreate many of those memories of that person’s writings and memories of experiences that could be shared with family and friends; but that would be more a new creation than a “recreation”.
So, are we planning to reactivate neurosuspension patients as “heads on a plate”, with tubes and wires sticking out? Of course not. Patients with neurosuspension will be revived with a full body, young and healthy, as well as patients throughout the body. Actually, he used to say that no one would want to be “just a head”; but the variety of human existence is such that almost certainly someone will think that a disembodied existence sounds deeply satisfying. Not me thanks.
“Young and healthy” – think about that. Many of Alcor’s entire body patients were 65 years old or older when they were placed in cryonic suspension. They had cancer, heart disease and considerable problems because of basic aging. It does not make sense to revive people and cure their cancer, but not cure their aging. I do not want to be almost immortal and painfully aged more than I want to be a head on a plate. Therefore, if cryonics works, aging will reverse.
Sounds difficult? Perhaps, but not harder than the basic concept of cryonics is repaired. If you can develop a technology to repair the injuries that are added to patients through our imperfect freezing processes, you will most likely have to work with at least some repairs in a cellular way. Aging is not magic; It implies a mismatch of molecules, like everything else that can go wrong with us. If we can repair cancer and heart disease in the cells of these frozen patients, we can surely learn to make all of their cells healthy again. And healthy is equal to young, for all practical purposes.
It may turn out that the growth of new bodies for patients throughout the body is even simpler than repairing them cell by cell. Look what our bodies can already do. We can all grow skin over a cut. Our bodies can recover from the massive trauma of cardiac bypass surgery. Young children can often regrow a fingertip in the door of a car. The possible repairs in the future will be more extensive, because the field of medicine is putting a great emphasis on achieving them. For example, within 25 years, injuries to the spine may not be paralyzing or fatal. The researchers are making steady progress in regrowth of the connections in the crushed or cut spinal cord.
Our understanding of how cells operate and grow is expanding rapidly. Someday we will learn why the child can grow the tip of his finger again and use that knowledge to regrow the missing limbs. At that time, we will not need organ transplants from deceased donors, we will simply have new copies of our own hearts or livers grown for us, with the genetic faults eliminated. Eventually, doctors can develop such fine control that they can detect damage early and renew the injured organs from the inside out without replacing them.
We all grew one body once. The molecular machinery and DNA instructions of a small cell combined the available chemicals (supplied at first by the mother’s uterus and then by the grocery store) and finally gathered them into great people. These instructions are not lost when we become adults; the DNA is still there. Considering this daily miracle, growing a new and improved copy of your body so that your brain (that is, you) occupies seems almost easy.
So, if the final result will be the same, what are the advantages and disadvantages of the neurosuspension versus total body suspension?
Let’s start with the easy: the cost. Alcor requires a donation of minimum suspension funds of $ 120,000 for the suspension of the entire body and only $ 50,000 for the neurosuspension. (Each option has a $ 10,000 surcharge for members outside of the United States). That is a big difference for most people. Even if you are financing your suspension with life insurance, the premiums are obviously higher for the larger policy.
Why the difference in cost? The initial expenses of both types of suspensions are similar. Even in a neurosuspension, we need the whole circulatory system so that we can perfuse the patient’s brain with chemicals to protect the cells from cooling and freeze damage. The head and body do not separate until after the glycerol infusion is complete. We save some spending on a neurosuspension by holding the circulation to the lower part of the body, so we require less total solution. The real difference is in storage costs. All patients are stored in liquid nitrogen at – 320 F. No matter how well insulated, the liquid nitrogen evaporates and constantly returns to the air. We have to add more nitrogen to the dewars every week. Alcor has to pay a local provider for this liquid. One of our steel Bigfoot dewars boils around 12-15 liters of nitrogen per day, whether it contains a full-body patient or the maximum of four. Each dewar neurosuspension (inside a concrete vault) has nine patients and loses nitrogen to half the units of the whole body. This means that the cost of nitrogen per neuropatient is only about one ninth of the cost per full-body patient. Each dewar neurosuspension (inside a concrete vault) has nine patients and loses nitrogen to half the units of the whole body. This means that the cost of nitrogen per neuropatient is only about one ninth of the cost per full-body patient. Each dewar neurosuspension (inside a concrete vault) has nine patients and loses nitrogen to half the units of the whole body. This means that the cost of nitrogen per neuropatient is only about one ninth of the cost per full-body patient.
There are many other factors in storage costs that are more evenly divided between neuro and whole body patients, so the total difference is not 1/9; but it is still big. To guarantee sufficient capital in the Patient Care Fund so that the profits can cover the expenses, we invested $ 70,000 (at least) of the financing of the suspension for whole body patients. We only have to invest around $ 17,000 to achieve the same result for the neuropatients.
Neuropatients are also easier to transport in an emergency. The Bigfoot units are approximately nine feet tall, weigh almost 2 1/2 tons and need several people to move. However, we can quickly move the neuropatients to small individual dewars that can be placed in the back of a truck or van and be easily handled by two people. You may not think of it as an advantage at first, since caring for patients is a fairly passive activity. However, we were pleased that Dora Kent was a neuropath in 1988, when the coroner in Riverside wanted to perform an autopsy on her already frozen head. I was outside the building when the coroner’s officers arrived. (Later,
There may be at least one repair advantage to have a full body to work with. Certainly, a patient of the whole body carries more total information throughout the future, although it is still difficult to say how significant the additional information is. For some people, the pattern of development of nerve growth in the body can be very important for their identity, for example, for a dancer or musician. On the other hand, enough of that information can be coded in brain development so that the same result can be achieved in both directions. We do not know yet; so we can not say for sure if he’s risking anything by leaving his body behind.
However, the neurosuspension can convey a significant biological advantage. If the cryonic suspension equipment can only concentrate in the brain, and not worry about the best suspension methods for the liver, muscles and intestines, more sophisticated techniques can eventually be developed that result in a higher level of brain preservation. Certainly, a tight focus on the brain today results in shorter infusion times; and once the freezing process begins, the smaller pack of the head can cool more quickly to temperatures where biological and chemical activity is stopped.
An important consideration for the cryonists is which method will result in the least suspension time. Patients in suspension can no longer make their own decisions. Your vulnerability means that the time in suspension is the time at risk. But I do not see anything credible, which convinces me that one method will result in resuscitation before the other. In fact, my personal opinion is that the technology to repair a body cell by cell and the technology to grow a new body will happen almost at the same time and will involve almost the same processes. In addition, in both cases, the most important limiting factor will be the same and, by far, the most difficult task: the brain must be restored to its proper function and consciousness.
Finally, there are the possible social disadvantages of having only the head frozen. No, I do not mean to tell the people of the future that you were once a neuropatient, you’ll have fewer appointments. “I was always the head of my time” will continue to be a good way to start a conversation. Problems can occur with your less imaginative friends and family today. Let’s face it: no matter how logical it makes the neurosuspension sound and the advantages it can have, we’ve all seen too many films about the French Revolution and other types of sharp activities that made it clear that a boss without a body had no future at all . The concept of cryonics is hard enough to explain and sell to most people on its own, even without explaining how to replace lost bodies.
So you have to decide what is important to you. If you can pay a full-body suspension and feel it is a truly better option, and you simply can not deal with the alternative, or can not tell people about the alternative, then your choice is easy. However, if you can not pay $ 120,000 in cash or life insurance, then you must start working on that old logic circuit in your brain. Start talking to your family and friends about chronicity and cell repair immediately so they get used to the basic concept. Then, when you throw frozen heads on them later, they may not see it as such a strange idea.
In any case, the idea of neurosuspension can not be totally avoided. You see, a long time ago in Alcor we decided that no matter which method was really the best, the burial was infinitely worse than either. Therefore, we have this important clause in our cryon suspension agreement: “Emergency conversion to neurosuspension”. Basically, this says that if the economy collapses completely or the legal climate turns against the cryonics or if some other calamity occurs, so that we can only save or allow us to support the neuropatients, then they will all become neuropatients. All members of the Alcor suspension must agree to this in their Suspension Agreements. We are convinced to keep whole body patients in suspension throughout the body and we will do everything possible to fulfill that obligation. But if the choice is between burial / cremation or changing everyone just to the head, there is no doubt in our mind of what we will do. We have not spent all these years protecting our patients only to surrender when things get tough.
So, how do you choose what type of suspension you want now and how do you keep your future options open? You should compare your definition of “ideal” with what you can afford. One of the biggest unknowns in the future is how much the true cost of cryonics will be as it becomes more popular. Some things will be more expensive, others probably less. But the strength and continuation of your cryonics organization will be one of the most critical factors, and possibly the real key, as to whether you remain suspended or not. Doing as little as possible as a member is not a survival feature.
I recommend you consider the solution I have chosen myself. At least for the next ten years, in these early days of cryonics, if you can afford $ 120,000 in insurance or other funds, then plan for that amount but choose neurosuspension. If it happens that you need to be suspended in the next decade, instead of spending money on keeping all of that extra money, let those extra funds go to research, marketing, legal funds, and otherwise making sure your organization can thrive. If you’re still kicking up your heels in ten years, and Alcor is so rich and powerful that your measly extra will not make a bit of difference, then you can reconsider. If it will not harm your organization, you could switch your choice to whole body and take the extra information along. If you want whole body suspension today, I recommend funding it at a level of $ 200,000, for the same reasons. For insurance, the difference in premiums will not be that much; and it could make all the difference in the world to your cryonics group – which could mean all the time in the world to you.
The two questions that everyone wants answered, but do not really want to do:
1. So, umm, how, uhh, you know … take off your head?
Actually, we think it’s like removing the body. And you already know the answer. Because evolution and genetic technology failed to create zippers on the neck, flap caps or screw heads, we have to use a scalpel and a surgical saw, just as a surgeon would do to amputate a leg. There is no way to avoid it.
2. How do you feel when you do that?
Perhaps the most important thing all medical and emergency workers should learn is that you often have to do unpleasant procedures to save someone’s life. A surgeon does not enjoy removing the leg of a child who has been destroyed in an accident; but the surgeon knows that his level of technology is not good enough to save his leg, just to save his life. Not doing anything would certainly condemn the child to death. So the surgeon does what he has to do and knows that it is the only option he has.
Emotionally, it is not much harder to perform a neurosuspension than a suspension of the whole body. We do not know if cryonics will work in general or if it will work for the particular acquaintance, friend or relative we are trying to save today. But just like the emergency workers and the surgeon, we know that not acting at all means a sure failure. We do the best we can for our patients, even if the rescue work requires us to perform emotionally difficult tasks, such as removing their bodies. We do this because we care about them and want to see them alive and healthy again someday. And we do it because we want that same attitude to be present if our own turn of suspension comes.
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