Cryonics: Can I Take Door No. 3?

by Chris_Roberts1 min read5th Sep 2012113 comments


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If you don't believe in an afterlife, then it seems you currently have two choices: cryonics or permanent death.  Now, I don't believe that cryonics is pseudoscience, but it's still pretty poor odds (Robin Hanson uses an estimate of 5% here).  Unfortunately, the alternative offers a chance of zero.  I see five main concerns with current cryonic technology:

  1. There is no proven revival technology, thus no estimate of costs
  2. Potential damage done during vitrification which must be overcome
  3. Because it cannot be legally done before death, potential decay between legal death and vitrification
  4. Requires active maintenance at very low temperature
  5. No guarantee that future societies will be willing to revive

So I wonder if we can do better.

I recall reading of juvenile forms of amphibians in desert environments that could survive for decades of drought in a dormant form, reviving when water returned.  One specimen had sat on a shelf in a research office for over a century (in Arizona, if I recall correctly) and was successfully revived.  Note: no particular efforts were made to maintain this specimen: the dry local climate was sufficient.  It was suggested at the time that this could make an alternative method of preserving organs.  Now the advantages of this approach (which I refer to flippantly as "dryonics") is:

  1. Proven, inexpensive revival technology
  2. Apparently the process does not cause damage itself
  3. Proven revival technique may overcome legal obstacles of applying before legal death
  4. Requires passive maintenance at low humidity (deserts would be ideal)
  5. Presumably lower cost makes future revival more likely (still no guarantee, but that is a post in itself)

There is one big disadvantage of this approach, of course: no one knows how to do it (it's not entirely clear how the juvenile amphibians do it) or even if it would be possible in larger, more complex organisms.  And, so far as I know, no one is working on it.  But it would seem to offer a much better prospect than our current options, so I would suggest it worth investigating.

I am not a biologist, and I'm not sure where one would start developing such a technology.  I frankly admit that I am sharing this in the hope that someone who does have an idea will run with it.  If anyone knows of any work on these lines, or has an idea how to proceed, please send a comment or email.  Or even if you have another alternative.  Because right now, I don't consider our prospects good.

[Note: I am going on memory in this post; I really wish I could provide references, but there does not seem much activity along these lines that I can find.  I'm not even sure what to call it: mummification?  Probably too scary.  Dehydration?  Anyway feel free to add suggestions or link references.]

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