August 31 to September 4, 2011 I attended fifth biannual SENS Conference (SENS5, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

People who attend SENS conferences are the demographic that is the most receptive to cryonics of any identifiable group I have yet found. They are mostly scientists interested in intervening in the aging process. Quite a number of attendees are already cryonicists, including Aubrey de Grey, the originator of SENS and the organizer of the conference. But cryonicists are nonetheless a distinct minority. In previous years I brought a few Cryonics Institute brochures, which were soon taken. This year I brought enough brochures for as many of the 240 attendees as might want one (there were many left over).  I also brought a few copies of my “Scientific Justification of Cryonics Practice” (the published write-up of my SENS3 cryonics presentation) which I gave to a few attendees who seemed most receptive.

In addition to my oral presentation on cryonics I also had a poster. Scientific conferences usually have poster sessions where scientists present research, reviews, or ideas in the form of a poster. Poster presenters stand by their posters at scheduled times to discuss their work on a one-to-one basis with individuals rather than to an audience. My poster dealt with challenging the concept of biological age and denying the possibility of a biomarker of aging that could determine biological age. I contended that biological age and biomarkers of aging assume a singular underlying aging process, which I denied on the grounds that aging is multiple forms of damage. I sought to make maximum use of the one-to-one interaction by preparing Socratic questions to stimulate thinking and discussion with the attendees. The process also gave me another means of meeting and speaking to those attending. One interesting person I met was a Torontonian who is currently studying for his PhD at University of Glasgow. His work involves developing gene vectors that can precisely target and modify genes on chromosomes. I consider gene therapy to be an essential tool for the ultimate implementation of SENS, and a deficiency of SENS that there is so little attention paid to this technology. I don’t see how SENS can be implemented by any means other than genetic re-programming. LysoSENS, for example, would require new genes to create new, more effective enzymes for the lysosomes. MitoSENS would require all mitochondrial proteins be made in the nucleus and imported into the mitochondria.

Partly in this connection, was my aggressive lobbying of Aubrey de Grey to have Argentinian biogerontologist and Cryonics Institute member Rodolfo Goya as an invited speaker at SENS5. I began lobbying in January when Dr. de Grey was at ConFusion 2011. Aubrey was initially reluctant based on the first batch of Dr. Goya’s papers that I sent, but a later batch in which Dr. Goya was principle investigator proved to be effective. In Dr. Goya’s presentation at SENS5 he described his use of viral vectors attached to magnetic nanoparticles to deliver IGF-1 genes to senescent female rats to rejuvenate dopamine-producing cells in the hypothalamus. He injects the particles into the venticles, so the technique is somewhat invasive. Another speaker, Matthew Wood, described exosome nanoparticles which can cross the blood-brain barrier so I am hopeful that Dr. Goya can adopt this technique. Dr. Goya ended his presentation with a short pitch for cryonics (showing CI’s cryostats), which even I found embarrassingly awkward. I introduced Dr. Goya to a number of other cryonicists attending SENS5, including Igor Artyuhov, who is the scientific advisor for KrioRus, and Alcor Member Maria Entraigues, who is the SENS volunteer co-ordinator, and a native of Argentina (now living in Los Angeles).

Russian biogerontologist Alexey Moskalev reported on decreasing the number of single-strand DNA breaks and increasing the maximum lifespan in fruit flies by overexpressing the stress response/DNA repair gene GADD45 in the nervous system. That such a presentation would be included in SENS5 was of special interest to me insofar as I have contended that (and debated with Aubrey de Grey concerning) nuclear DNA damage possibly being a significant cause of aging damage that is missing from SENS:

Alexey later told me that he had read my paper in REJUVENATION RESEARCH, and I’d like to think that I helped inspire his work.

Alexey announced that there will be a genetics of aging conference in Moscow in April 2012. I entertained the thought of going, partly because of my desire to see KrioRus, but I would rather go later when KrioRus is established in its new building, and has a research program in full swing.

Alexey’s research was partly funded by the Science for Life Foundation (the organization of the wealthy life-extensionist Russian Mikhail Batin). Maria Konovalenko (who was featured in LONG LIFE magazine) reported on her work at the Science for Life Foundation to build an open web-based database of age-related changes (molecular and phenotypic). Maria has her own blog.

I am not going to attempt to describe the other very excellent SENS5 presentations other than to say that great progress has been made in starting research programs on each of the SENS strategies, and by 2012 research on all the strategies is expected to be in progress.

Alcor President Max More was an invited speaker, which means that he had a half-hour time-slot immediately preceding my 15-minute time-slot near the end of the program. Max gave an overview of cryonics, whereas I concentrated on technical and scientific issues associated with vascular and neuronal injury from ischemia and reperfusion. During the question period I was asked if we are interacting with hospital staff to limit pre-mortem ischemia in cryonics patients. I said that the current legal environment limits such interactions, but that pre-mortem anti-oxidant protocol has been recommended and used.

I arranged to send more information to a few people in the audience, including a man who was interested in hydrogen sulfide to limit ischemic injury in cryonics, and an Italian neuroscientist who is interested in neurophysiology studies of vitrified brain tissue as well as contact information for Italian cryonicists.

At the final banquet I sat with CI Member Dr. Gunther Kletetschka, who is now living in the Czech Republic and is pursuing a number of imaginative cryonics-related research projects. One of these involves carbon nanotubes to deliver non-toxic metals to cells to use magnetocaloric cooling. Such a technique could cool tissues uniformly rather than externally, thereby eliminate the thermal stress that causes cracking when vitrified cryonics patients are cooled at cryogenic temperatures.

The last day was spent punting on the Cam River, with dinner in the evening. This provided an opportunity for more networking and information exchange, although most of this was in connection with biogerontology.

There was much biogerontology to be learned at SENS5. What I learned at SENS5 can potentially extend my life and that of others. To postpone cryopreservation by life extension is to benefit from technical advances, to extend the time in which I can contribute to technical advancement, and to enjoy more present life. In the best case, rejuvenation will become a reality in my lifetime and I won’t need to be cryopreserved at all. I work for this possibility as well as for improved cryopreservation. Moreover, in doing research for my cryonics presentation at SENS5 — and in giving the presentation — I learned many things that can help me make more informed choices in directing the research that Aschwin and Chana de Wolf do for the Cryonics Institute.

A video of my presentation may eventually be placed on the SENS5 YouTube site.

The recent issue of Cryonics magazine features a comprehensive update on intermediate temperature storage (ITS). This article contains an important observation:

Acoustic events consistent with fracturing were found to be universal during cooling through the cryogenic temperature range.  They occurred whether patients were frozen or vitrified.  If cryoprotection is good, they typically begin below the glass transition temperature (‑123°C for M22 vitrification solution).  If cryoprotective perfusion does not go well, then fracturing events begin at temperatures as warm as -90°C.  Higher fracturing temperatures are believed to occur when tissue freezes instead of vitrifies because freezing increases the glass transition temperature of solution between ice crystals.  The temperature at which fractures begin is therefore believed to be a surrogate measure of goodness of cryoprotection, with lower temperatures being better.

This is an important observation because one of the arguments that has been made against intermediate temperature storage is that Alcor routinely records fracturing events above the nominal glass transition temperature (Tg) of the vitrification solution. But if we recognize that such events can be (partly) attributed to ice formation due to ischemia-induced perfusion impairment it should be obvious that the recording of fracturing events above Tg as such cannot be an argument against ITS. After all, we also do not argue against the use of vitrification solutions because ice formation will still occur in ischemic patients that are perfused with vitrification solutions. Because cryonics patients almost invariably suffer some degree of ischemia prior to cryoprotective perfusion and cryopreservation, our knowledge about fracturing events in “ideal” human cases remains incomplete.

But even if ITS would only be successful in reducing fracturing events, instead of completely eliminating them, this should not be an argument against ITS. To argue that a technology should not be used because it does not completely eliminate a problem would constitute a sharp departure from the philosophy that has informed Alcor since its formation. In many areas, the evolution of Alcor’s technologies has been one of incremental evidence-based progress towards better procedures and storage conditions, not one of radical change.

The worst argument against ITS is that mature repair technologies will be able to repair clean fractures. It is a poor argument because one could similarly argue that advanced cell repair technologies will also be able to reverse the biochemical effects of short periods of ischemia and moderate degrees of ice formation. What distinguishes Alcor from other cryonics organizations is that it aims to secure viability of the brain as far into its procedures as it practically can. In ideal cases, this currently means meeting the challenge of further reducing cryoprotectant toxicity during cryoprotectant perfusion and reducing/ eliminating fracturing.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to offering ITS to the general Alcor membership is cost. An obvious solution would be to offer ITS in addition to conventional liquid nitrogen storage. An alternative would be to gradually phase out conventional liquid nitrogen storage by no longer offering it to new neuro members and to raise cryopreservation minimums accordingly. The (preliminary) cost estimates in the article indicate that this would bring the cost of ITS for neuros closer to that of conventional liquid nitrogen whole body cryopreservation. The article does not provide specific information on the “greater capital costs” of whole body ITS systems but the reported lower liquid nitrogen consumption per patient for whole body systems suggests that it might be possible to offer whole body ITS without putting it beyond the reach of most (new) members with adequate funding.

Reportedly, when James Watson and Steven Pinker had their genome sequenced, they declined to know their risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Clearly this is not an option for life extensionists and cryonicists, who are better off knowing whether they have a copy or, worse, two copies of the ApoE4 gene.

Patri Friedman, son of the libertarian economist David Friedman (who in turn is the son of the Nobel laureate Milton Friedman), recently learned that he has two copies of the ApoE4 gene when 23andMe updated their reports. Caucasian and Japanese carriers of two E4 alleles have between 10 and 30 times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 75 years of age, as compared to those not carrying any E4 alleles. Patri is a life extensionist, practitioner of the paleo diet, and recently made cryonics arrangements with his whole family at Alcor – and is thus far more prone to a pro-active course of action.

When he realized that there was no good central resource for people with copies of the ApoE4 gene he started a new blog called ApoE4 – The Ancestral Allele, which aims to share practical information and research for health-conscious E4 carriers. The first posts discuss some of the benefits of having the E4 gene (better episodic memory) and what kind of diet is recommended for E4 carriers. He also encourages guest posts and other co-bloggers to help run the website.

13. January 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: Cryonics · Tags: , , ,

The Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence blog features a short interview with new Alcor CEO Max More:

Q: Where do you see cryonics in the future?

We’ll look back on this 50 to 100 years from now — we’ll shake our heads and say, “What were people thinking? They took these people who were very nearly viable, just barely dysfunctional, and they put them in an oven or buried them under the ground, when there were people who could have put them into cryopreservation. I think we’ll look at this just as we look today at slavery, beating women, and human sacrifice, and we’ll say, “this was insane — a huge tragedy.”

More here.

On this page a calculation is attempted to determine how many neurons need to survive for cryonics to work. The flaw in this approach should be obvious when the author writes :

According to The Stroke Association, a stroke is a brain injury with effects which may include difficulty thinking, learning, concentrating, remembering, making decisions, reasoning and planning. Rehabilitation consists of relearning skills, not having your brain recover naturally.

So a reasonable position is that the cryonic chilling process should cause less damage to the brain than a stroke

The debilitating effects of a stroke are the result of the (delayed) neuronal death that follows an ischemic insult to the brain. In cryonics, biochemical or freezing damage to cells does not necessarily produce irreversible cell death because damaged cells are stabilized by cold temperatures. As such, morphological preservation of brain cells can co-exist with loss of viability. Therefore, securing viability of brain cells is a sufficient but not a necessary condition for resuscitation of cryonics patients.  Future cell repair technologies are assumed to infer the original viable state of the cells from their morphological properties.

This does not mean that conventional stroke research does not have any relevance for evaluating the technical feasibility of cryonics. Extensive delays between the pronouncement of legal death and the start of cryonics procedures could alter the structural properties of cells to such a degree that meaningful resuscitation is even problematic with advanced nanomedical cell repair technologies. This is one of the reasons why Alcor complements the cryopreservation process with stabilization procedures to secure viability of the brain after pronouncement of legal death.

15. June 2010 · Comments Off · Categories: Cryonics · Tags: , ,

Alcor Life Extension Foundation is on Facebook. If you would like to connect with Alcor members and supporters then visit the official Facebook page:

Become a fan and encourage interested friends, family members, and colleagues to support Alcor too.

On May 16, 2010 the only non-US cryonics provider KrioRus announced the cryopreservation of its 12th patient. The patient was pronounced legally dead on May 5 in Kiev and cryoprotectant perfusion was completed on May 7 after initial cooldown and ground transport to Moscow. A more extensive report is available here.

It is encouraging to see more cryonics activity outside of the United States. The statistics of Alcor, Cryonics Institute and KrioRus indicate that there are currently more than 200 cryonics patients in the world and that more than 1,300 people have made cryonics arrangements.

The 2009-1 issue of Cryonics has a two page feature on KrioRus.


This past weekend (Friday, January 8, 2010 to Sunday, January 10, 2010) I attended a meeting for cryonicists in their teens & twenties near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The event was funded by Bill Faloon and the Life Extension Foundation. Cairn Idun, creator & coordinator of the Asset Preservation Group, created & coordinated this event as well. Although the Asset Preservation Group was created to devise means of protecting the assets of cryonicists during cryostasis, the group has expanded its concerns to many related issues, including nurturing future generations of cryonics activists to replace the current generation of aging cryonics activists.

The qualification for receiving a scholarship to attend the Teens & Twenties event was applying and being validated as having funding & contracts in place for cryopreservation with any cryonics organization, and being in the 12-30 age range. There were cryonicists from CI, Alcor, ACS, and KrioRus (the latter represented by Danila Medvedev). Some cryonicists were from Canada, Poland, Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Altogether there were 33 cryonicists receiving scholarships, two spouses of those cryonicists who paid their own way plus 13 speakers and Members of the Asset Preservation Group (which includes me) —  for a total of 48 people attending at various times. Among the young cryonicists I believe there were only three teenagers: the two young sons of Bill Faloon, and 19-year-old CI/ACS Member Shannon Blevins,Jr.

By way of introduction, Bill Faloon described his experience of being a 19-year-old cryonicist attending the South Florida cryonics group in the 1970s. Wealthy cryonicists had sponsored him to attend a cryonics training and a life extension meeting in California. He believed that that sponsorship had paid big dividends for cryonics & life extension that he hoped would be comparable to the results of the LEF investment in this teens & twenties group for young cryonicists.

Everyone was then to give brief (under one minute) self-introductions. I won’t give many details, but there was a common theme of growing up with ideas & aspirations that were greatly different from those of friend & relatives. One young man is reputedly the only cryonicist in the state of Alabama. One young woman signed-up at the age of 16 and convinced her father to do so as well. She expressed a sentiment that many resonated with: “even individualists need a sense of community & belonging”. Before the meeting I had been concerned that many of those who had been signed-up for cryonics as young children by their parents would probably not be serious cryonicists. I was impressed by the extent of commitment to cryonics I saw among many of those who had been signed-up virtually from birth.

Although it is stereotypic that cryonicists are single, male computer nerds, 34% of these young cryonicists were female, and quite a few of them were involved with the entertainment industry. During the longer self-introductions Cairn noted five interest areas. The topics were: social networking, promoting cryonics through entertainment, cryonics-related science research, defending & promoting cryonics on the internet, and legal issues associated with cryonics. Cairn had the attendees separate into the five interest areas for discussion, and then we heard presentations from representatives of each group.

The next “getting to know you” exercise involved the participants classifying themselves by personality type as represented by the four colors green, blue, gold, and red:

Green — Conceptual, Curious, Wise, Versatile (intellectual, head rules heart)

Blue — Warm, Communicative, Compassionate, Feeling (seeks harmonious relationships)

Gold — Responsible, Dependable, Helpful, Sensible (dutiful, family-oriented, organization-oriented)

Red — Adventuresome, Skillful, Competitive, Spontaneous (seeks variety and physical involvement)

The participants were given colored sheets that described each personality color in detail as a means of assessing how much of each color composed their personality. Participants were to put various numbers of each color of dots on their name badges corresponding to how much each color is represented in their personality.

I later searched the internet for the basis of this classification system. I found some close matches, but nothing seemed exact:

Because most individuals are a mixture of all colors, we formed groups with others matching our dominant personality color. The largest group by far were the greens, followed by reds. There were only three blues and four golds. I felt that I had so much of all the colors that it was hard for me to choose. I finally decided that I had slightly more green and slightly less gold than the other colors. I joined the green group. Eliezer Yudkowsky regarded himself as so green that he covered his name badge with green dots. Cairn commented that greens generally predominate among cryonicists, and that she was glad to see so many of the other colors because all personality types are required for good teamwork.

On Saturday a presentation by futurist John Lobell was followed by more detailed self-introductions. I tried to tell the story of my life in five minutes. After the detailed self-introductions Catherine Baldwin gave a presentation about Suspended Animation,Inc. and Bill Faloon discussed future projects that young cryonicists should consider to further the advancement of cryonics. Bill was very concerned that there had been no dynamic spokesperson to defend Alcor against the Larry Johnson media blitz in October. Steve Valentine gave a presentation on the Timeship Project, a very expensive storage & research facility planned to store thousands of cryonics patients and transplantable organs at intermediate cryogenic temperatures (about minus 140 degrees Celsius). Although I have thought that the money lavished on this project could be better-spent in other ways, Bill Faloon is enthusiastic that Timeship will convince the world of the seriousness of human cryopreservation in a way that industrial park warehouses cannot.

Sunday morning there was a tour of Suspended Animation, Inc. followed by lunch at the SA facility. The tours were conducted in groups of ten, while the others socialized and watched digitized 40-year-old films (“Ice Men Cometh”) of Curtis Henderson & Saul Kent demonstrating human cryopreservation procedures & equipment during the early pioneering years of cryonics. After lunch there was a final “getting to know you” exercise where most of the participants moved from chair to chair having brief one-to-one conversations with most of the other participants. There were quite a number of people I had not had the chance to speak with earlier, and I found this exercise to be very helpful.

The rest of the afternoon was intended to be available for informal socializing at SA, but with people catching flights and the general restlessness it quickly became fragmented.

Overall I am very enthusiastic with how the weekend went. I made many valuable connections, as did most (if not all) of the others, I believe. It also lifted my spirits, which I also believe was a common experience. Bill Faloon wants to make this an annual event.

In the week after the Teens & Twenties event, I created a Facebook group “Young cryonicists”, and sent invitations to all of the attendee.

Early in the weekend I had asked Cairn to see who among the group did not want to be photographed. To my surprise, only one person did not. I took care not to include her in any of the pictures I took of the event. The following are a few of my photos:

Dinner at the Teens & Twenties event

Line-up for Steve Valentine to autograph Timeship posters

Danila Medvedev wears video/audio glasses that record his life
[Danila calls this Plan C for reconstruction of his personality if Plan A (life extension) and Plan B (cryonics) fail] (The glasses can record 10-12 hours of video with sound before the tape needs replacing. The batteries must be recharged at least every 5 hours.)

Participants watch pioneering cryonics films while others get tours of the Suspended Animation, Inc. facility

Young cryonicists Facebook page

A photo of some Teens & Twenties with Bill Faloon posted on Facebook by Bonnie Magee

A Facebook video of the Curtis Henderson “Ice Men Cometh” films

William Faloon is a Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer (Florida license number: F042784)

Human beings are largely unaware about the gruesome nature of “death”

Humans also shy away from the mutilation that occurs during hospital surgery.

Hollywood films portray cryonics in a glamorous high-tech manner that makes it appear that one’s body can easily be placed into a capsule and frozen for future revival.

Reality is that cryopreservation involves complex surgery whereby tubes are inserted into major arteries and veins in order to deliver special anti-freeze solutions into the brain. The purpose is to reduce or eliminate freezing damage and other types of damage to brain cells. The process involves introducing stabilizing drugs and a special solution in the field and a major procedure in an operating room.

There’s nothing pretty about human cryopreservation, but as you’ll read, the alternatives are truly ghastly—and every alternative involves the head eventually separating from the body.

We deceive ourselves

When I worked as a licensed embalmer, I was quite talented at taking horrific human remains and making them look good temporarily. In order to do this, a tremendous amount of mutilation was done to each corpse.

First step is to wire or sew their mouths shut. Incisions are made in the neck, groin and other areas to access arteries to insert tubes that were used to force formaldehyde in. Veins are accessed (raised) to push blood out.

While formaldehyde delivered through blood vessels preserves tissues of the body, it does little to keep cavities (such as the stomach, bowels, lungs and cranium) from putrefying. To keep the body from decomposing before burial, we used a device that resembles a thick hollow sword to repeatedly penetrate the body cavities to vacuum out as much of the liquid contents as possible. We would then reverse the process by pouring formaldehyde directly into the thoracic and abdominal cavities and sometimes the brain. Sometimes the same sword (trocar) used to evacuate the bowels was shoved up the nose through the sinuses to suck out cerebral-spinal fluid in the cranium.

When I learned how to do this in mortuary school, I thought how undignified the entire process is. Without embalming, however, the outcome is even worse.


It’s frightening how quickly a living, breathing, thinking person can be transformed into a rotting, stinking corpse. A few days at room temperature and the stench can become so bad that it can never be removed from the house, car or clothing.

When picking up a decomposed body, it was not unusual for its arms to literally be ripped off when trying to move the remains into a rubber pouch. Skin slips right off the body after a few days making the removal of a “decomposed subject” a challenge.

A decomposed corpse is often severely bloated with intestinal and “tissue” gas, discolored beyond recognition, and carries the most horrific of odors. The challenge is to dump enough preservative powders and liquids into the rubber-pouch encased corpse and then place the pouched corpse into a sealed casket and hope that no foul aroma leaks out.

Those who don’t like the thought of being “embalmed” sometimes mandate in their will that no embalming is to take place. They are thus condemned to grisly decomposition in the ground or tomb.

Cremation is no escape

The process of preparing corpses to look like living individuals laying in a coffin is less common than in the 1960s, when virtually every corpse was embalmed for a “viewing”.

More people nowadays opt for direct cremation, where the body is refrigerated temporarily and then placed into a furnace. The flames ignite the body fat which can sometimes be seen exiting the corpse in little rivers. In order to incinerate the brain midway through the cremation process, a small door is opened into the furnace where a steel poker is rammed into the skull to “pop out” the brain tissues.

After all the soft tissues have been burned away, the skeletal remains are taken out and ground into smaller pieces which become the “cremains” or ashes.

During the cremation process, needless to say, the head becomes separated from the body as the flames burn through the spinal cord and other connective tissues.

Considering this was a functioning human being only a day or two before, there certainly is no dignity with this process. As with embalming and decomposing, cremation is quite “gruesome”.

Autopsy—the ultimate mutilation

The meticulous dissection of a corpse known as an “autopsy” is the most intentional and egregious form of mutilation that one can imagine.

Your odds of having this horrific process done to you are higher than you may think, as most counties autopsy anyone who dies under suspicious circumstances.

As you read this, just imagine someone taking a scalpel and carving a huge “Y” stretching from the top of both your shoulders and then meeting at the bottom of your breastbone. The incision continues to the bottom half of the “Y” down to your pubic area. A steel saw is then used to cut open your breastbone, your ribs are separated. Every one of your organs are cut out and sliced in many different pieces for “examination”.

The next step is to make an incision using a scalpel across the back of your head. Another saw is then taken to cut open your skull so that your brain can be removed, sliced and “examined”.

My first reaction to an autopsy was that is was so grotesque that it should be banned. From a practical standpoint, however, autopsies allow doctors to learn from their mistakes by seeing what actually was going on while their patient was dying, though this practice has declined dramatically over the past 40 years.

Autopsies nowadays are mostly performed by county Medical Examiners to determine the cause of death when there is no attending physician, or where a death occurs under suspicious circumstances.

Autopsies provide a lot of good data that benefits the living, but at the cost of horrendous mutilation to what was once a human being.

As an embalmer, putting together the pieces of an “autopsied case” took about four times longer than a regular case.

What happens after burial?

As I said earlier, I was darn good at taking corpses that were severely disfigured by degenerative disease and temporarily making them look good for a few days in the funeral home.

My work experience includes disinterring bodies that had been embalmed and buried years in the past. These cases arose when a family member wanted the buried body moved to a new city or cremated.

In rare cases, a corpse that had been in the ground for ten years or more was still “viewable” with a little cosmetic help. When this occurred, I would call the family and say, “if you want to see Dad again, he is in pretty good shape”.

In most cases, however, the remains here horrifically deteriorated. One case I will never forget reminded me of the original Frankenstein movies. The cemetery people opened the grave and I was supposed to meet the removal service company at 4:00 PM during the time of the year when the sun set early. The removal company was late and the cemetery people insisted that I get the body out of the ground before closing.

The top of the concrete burial vault was removed, exposing a deteriorating coffin. I went down into the grave, straddling myself by putting one foot on each side of the burial vault top for leverage. I ripped open the top of the coffin and saw one of the scariest looking corpses ever. The tissue literally had deteriorated in a way that resembled a thin layer of hot wax covering the skull. It truly looked frightening even to me.

My paid help was running late so I had to pull this deteriorated cadaver out of the ground by myself. I grabbed one arm and one leg, hoping to pull it out of the rotting coffin. The arm ripped off and the body fell back in. I tried other angles, but body parts kept separating from the torso. As body parts piled up around the grave, the removal service finally arrived and we lifted the entire body out of the buried coffin. Staring at this disfigured corpse in the eye, with body parts coming off left and right, as darkness was setting in was downright eerie.

Sometimes when doing a disinterment, there is virtually no body. One time we opened a fairly well preserved coffin to see only perfectly clean dentures, eye glasses and musty clothing. The reason for this was that flies had gotten into the corpse’s nostrils before burial and laid eggs. When the maggots hatched, they ate the entire body and possibly the bones. There were piles of dead maggots in the coffin, indicating they thrived quite well until they consumed their food supply, i.e. the corpse.

Needless to say, the head of virtually every buried remains will at some point separate from the body. Once the soft tissues disappear through deterioration, the bones simply fall apart.

So when you look at well kept cemeteries with meticulously cut fresh grass, remember the customers interred below are not doing so well.

Surgical procedures

Cable TV has science channels that show real operations occurring in the hospital setting.

Doctors narrate how challenging it is to do these surgeries without killing the patient. I view these programs with amazement from the standpoint that patients undergoing invasive surgery often look like they may be on death’s door, but then a week later they are shown playing basketball with their grandchild.

One procedure I recall was a patient being operated on to remove the parathyroid glands in the neck. A disease called primary hyperparathyroidism causes the excess secretion of parathyroid hormone that damages the body. The cure is meticulous surgery to identify and remove all of the parathyroid glands. If one is missed, the patient may have to undergo another grueling surgery. One woman had the bottom of her neck cut and the neck skin pulled over her face for what appeared to be hours of meticulous dissection of her neck tissues to remove all the parathyroid glands. To me, the women looked virtually dead, but she made a rapid recovery as seen on TV.

Cryo-preservation—Less gruesome and not abusive

One may remember movies of a perfectly sculpted Sylvester Stallone (and other actors) elegantly traveling through time in a frozen state and being revived in perfect condition.

Real world human cryo-preservation involves a complex surgical procedure followed by a long term of suspension in a stainless steel storage unit at a temperature where virtually no molecular motion exists.  Nothing alluring about it, and when viewed out of context, may appear “gruesome”.

Most people are in denial about what will happen to their bodies when they die. They over react when they hear of someone’s head being surgically and chemically treated to protect brain cell injury during cryo-preservation. Overlooked is that any other form of disposition results in far more ghastly results for the victim of death.

Words like “gruesome” and “ghastly” are being used to describe the cryo-preservation of baseball legend Ted Williams. As stated in the beginning of this essay, what happens to a human body after death is undeniably horrific. Cryonics is merely less gruesome than anything else that is done to a corpse.

I hope this essay helps put cryo-preservation in perspective with more mutilating and appalling forms of disposition that deceased humans are exposed to every day. It should serve to educate the media that ALCOR patients are not being mutilated or “abused” by the complex protocols that are used to provide them with the best scientific opportunity of future revival, whatever the probability may be.

hoffman formalThis is the fourth in a series of interviews with individuals in the life extension and cryonics movement. Rudi Hoffman is an Alcor and CI member and the most prominent seller of cryonics life insurance policies.  His website with information about how to fund cryonics can be found here.

Did you find out about cryonics before or after you became an insurance agent? How has each field impacted the other in your life?

In 1978 and 1979…Gee, that seems like a long time ago…I was teaching 5th grade math and science. Since I was making the, even then, paltry sum of $6,200 a year teaching, a friend of mine recruited me into the insurance and investment field.

I was recruited by a very controversial, but consumer oriented, company called “A.L. Williams Corporation” to sell term life insurance and mutual funds. The first several years in the business, I managed to decrease my already low income, while increasing my personal overhead dramatically.

A very uncomfortable combination. Perhaps some of your readers can relate, either currently or in their early careers. If you are frustrated, if you are broke, if you are worried…believe me, I have been there. It is supposed to be character building, and maybe it was, but mostly it was simply terrifying.

I recall an exciting day when one of the people who I was renting a room to called me at the office to inform me that our water had been shut off due to late payment. At the time I was also three months late on my house payment, had fixed costs thousands of dollars higher than my income, and was in truly desperate and uncomfortable financial straights. But, due to both a crusader’s zeal about the concept that A.L. Williams was championing financially for the consumer, and an abysmal lack of the good sense to quit and “get a good job,” in a matter of a few more years I eventually proceeded to do something called “making a living.”

So, I have been selling life insurance and securities investments since 1979. At some point, starting somewhere after the 25 year point of ridiculous dues paying, I have been approaching what some may call successful at it.

I have been selling cryonics life insurance, starting with my own cryonics policy, since 1994, when I signed up with Alcor.

Do you think that having cryonics arrangements yourself helps you write more policies?

Yes, I do.

It is a proverb in the sales business that “sales is a TRANSFER OF FEELING.” I was personally signed up and ideologically on board with cryonics well before I sold anyone else a cryonics policy. Being a signed cryonicist is a serious decision for me, and I think that cryonics is SUCH a rational and reasonable gamble that nearly everyone should at least consider this option.

What is the most common/pervasive myth or fallacy about cryonics you hear from people contacting you for insurance?

The general feeling of the uninformed populace is that “Cryonics is only for rich guys.” It is my passion, as well as my profession, to dispel this pernicious and potentially deadly lie. Cryonics is AFFORDABLE for most people who are in good health living in a developed country. This is because of the magical leverage of life insurance, in which a few dollars a day can create a fund of literally hundreds of thousands of dollars exactly when these funds are needed.

I recall that you have been turned down by at least one insurance company because they did not like the cryonics industry. Some people fear that progress in the science of human cryopreservation will make insurance companies less inclined to write policies. Do you agree?

I have been running my more traditional financial planning practice for about thirty years. During the last fifteen years we have incorporated the cryonics life insurance, and increasingly cryonics estate planning, as part of the financial planning practice.


In this time, I have learned some astounding facts. Here is one. “Insurance company executives, and their legal staffs, can be stunningly stupid, remarkably retrograde, and frustratingly fickle.” In short, some are TRULY idiots. Here’s why I know this.

As an independent broker and Certified Financial Planner (R), I have access to literally hundreds of life insurance companies to write for my friends and clients. One would think, logically, that insurance companies would be THRILLED to have a market composed of cryonicists. We are, demonstrably and documentably, one of the most highly educated, prosperous, and long lived niche markets anyplace. We tend to be nonsmokers, health enthusiasts, seat belt wearers, and not take life threatening risks. We are proactive in our own self-care and health maintenance. We take vitamins and anti-aging nutrients, practice reduced calorie diets, and see our doctors prophylactically and often.

But, because the cryonics organizations require that they be the OWNERS as well as the partial beneficiaries of the cryonics funding policies, insurance companies by a huge majority do NOT want our business!

If you find this counter-intuitive, surprising, and virtually unbelievable, I would not blame you.

But, because cryonics is still far from mainstream, and because the insurance companies confuse the cryonics OWNED policies with a category of policies they do not like called “Stranger Owned Life Insurance” (STOLI) policies, most carriers will not provide a letter of approval for this type of business.

And, I don’t just want to “slide a policy in under the radar” of the legal or compliance department at an insurance company. I insist that the insurance company UNDERSTAND and acknowledge in writing that these are cryonics policies. I believe in business candor and transparency, and I have sometimes worked for years to get a letter of approval for our cryonics business.

Moreover, I have personally been FIRED, literally received a termination letter, from at least three major companies because I had sent them virtually exclusively cryonics related policies.


To be fair, like other generalizations, there are exceptions to the trend. There are companies and organizations who are very supportive and professional in helping us fund cryonics. I am privileged to work with some outstandingly talented colleagues and collaborators who do indeed, “Get it.”

With reference to the second part of the question, as cryonics becomes more mainstream, and even further proof of concept emerges in the scientific world, we will have carriers enthusiastic about this wonderful block of business. It is my intention to have full departments within major insurance carriers who will help us fund suspension and cryonics estate planning.

What is the minimum amount of life insurance that you recommend for cryonics (in 2009)?

The short answer would be $250,000.

If you are a full body vitrification client at Alcor, you need $150,000 currently. If you are at CI, and you have the funding for Suspended Animation and air ambulance services, you need a minimum of about $110,000. Here are the three LOGICAL and RATIONAL reasons to have a generous amount of OVERFUNDING over the above figures:

REASON NUMBER ONE: The traditional reason people own life insurance:

You probably have loved ones you care about, and possibly provide income for. This would include spouses, partners, children, pets, friends, and even causes you are passionate about. If you have NO ONE, and NO ORGANIZATION, you care about and want to see thrive financially, you are probably screwing up your life pretty badly and need to make some changes.

There is a difference between being an Ayn Rand Objectivist who understands ideologically the “Virtue of Selfishness,” and being a selfish jerk who is too dumb, lazy, or shortsighted to have some life insurance to help take care of those you care about. Especially if one of those people you care about is yourself…or, more precisely, your FUTURE self.

Life insurance, especially modern permanent policies, are “LONG TERM SMART” leverage of resources. If you make $30,000 a year, it would take a lump sum of $300,000 to replace your income, even assuming a generous 10% after tax return on investment.

I am far from wealthy. But I own 2 million, three hundred thousand dollars of life insurance on my life. I pay for this personally, like any other consumer. It costs me a substantial part of my annual income. But, I have a wife I truly love and want to care for, and organizations doing great work I want to support, and several cryonics trusts I want to fund with life insurance proceeds.

You, dear reader, surely care about SOMETHING outside of your skin. This is because we hope you are RATIONALLY SELF INTERESTED. Life insurance is your love made visible. It is a document of long term love and commitment to those you care about.

REASON NUMBER TWO: Due to inflation and technological progress, the price points in cryonics almost certainly will rise over time:

Although cryonics organizations have historically grandfathered earlier client rates, this is not contractually guaranteed going forward.

And the preliminary research on the next technological enhancement in cryonics, Intermediate Temperature Storage (ITS), looks to be a major improvement in saving your precious self. But, like other major improvements in medicine, this will come at a price. Due to increased engineering challenges and much higher liquid nitrogen boiloff rates, the price will almost certainly be higher even for current members. NOT to charge an increase for even existing clients would be irresponsible.

It makes sense to lock your current good health and younger age rates in now. You may not be able to get more coverage in the future at ANY price, and it will certainly be at a higher price.

REASON NUMBER THREE: You can specify a portion of your life insurance policy go to one or more CRYONICS TRUSTS:

Cryonics trusts exist. They may not be perfected or tested. Like cryonics itself, they are our BEST EFFORTS at finding a way to solve a huge and previously intractable problem. But, they can be funded with LIFE INSURANCE, a much smarter way of leveraging your money, as well as providing tax and creditor advantages. This is the exact kind of thing wealthy and smart people have done for literally centuries with their money. The distinction is that we are using these marvelous tools to help fund cryonics, and preserving and creating future wealth for ourselves and those we care about.

You are currently writing a book. What can you tell us about it?

I have been working on this book since 2002. I hope to have it published in 2010. I also hope to make it available as a download on the web at minimal or no cost to my cryonics prospects and clients. The book is called, “THE AFFORDABLE IMMORTAL: THE EMERGING SCIENCE OF CRYONICS AND YOU.”

It is designed as an easy to read resource for folks potentially interested in cryonics. It explains, in a straightforward way, the fascinating world of life insurance, and how to use life insurance for cryonics.

It deals with some of the ideology of cryonics. And, an estate planning lawyer I work with who is an expert on cryonics trusts has a section on cryonics legacy planning that is the clearest explanation I have ever seen on this topic.

What is your take on the current state of wealth preservation for cryonics members?


The idea of “taking it with you” is not out of the bounds of reality anymore.

Cryonics itself is a “best efforts” intervention designed to enable whatever makes up “you” to take a time travel ride to the future. Cryonics trusts exist to enable your funds to grow at a rate somewhat higher than taxes and inflation, and compound and grow. These funds are earmarked to both enable the cryonics resuscitation process, and enable you to have funds to provide you with enhanced options in the astounding future that you may be revived in.

Of great concern, of course, are the details of cryonic estate planning. Including the question, “How do I find a trustee to manage and grow the money, who understands the concept of cryonics and my wishes, and who won’t run off with the money?”

There are structures in place to have oversight in depth for trustee arrangements. Currently, a small group of cryonicists are in process of developing a cryonics oriented trust company employing younger cryonicists as trustees for the accounts.

The bad news is that legitimate cryonics estate planning is not cheap. The better news is that some groundwork has been laid out by pioneers of this idea to make it more affordable than it used to be. And the actual funding of the cryonics trust can come from the leverage of life insurance. You can have a separate life insurance policy to fund the cryonics trust, or name the trust as a partial beneficiary of your cryonics policy. Setting up the cryonics trust has in the past involved tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Current trust prices range from 10,000 down to a few thousand for setup. And maybe a thousand a year for maintenance. The Hoffman Prototype Cryonics Trust has been made available at no cost to my clients, to be used by their attorneys as a template.

Part of the reason for the current emphasis on developing legitimate and solid cryonics trusts is this: Wealthier and older cryonicists CARE about being able to execute such trusts. And we NEED wealthier cryonicists who are willing to DONATE money to research optimal cryonics protocols.

There are literally MILLIONS of MILLIONAIRES, in the United States alone. Plus millions more throughout the world. Cryonics as a field is DESPERATE for the money these folks have in their pockets. The individuals are DESPERATE to find a legitimate way they can both make a positive difference in the world and have a chance for themselves and their loved ones to continue living.

We MUST find a way to help MERGE these highly motivated entities to develop the synergy that will fund the RESEARCH that will save your life.

You are a member of both major cryonics organizations (Alcor and CI). Why?

They are both excellent organizations. Alcor is my primary cryonics vendor. If there is a problem in the future with Alcor, or logistics or technological issues deem it optimal, I also wanted to be a member and have my funding set up for the Cryonics Institute.

I have friends and clients with both organizations. I also want to say what a remarkable job Ben Best and Andy Zawacki are doing at the Cryonics Institute to further the cause of genuine science and evidence based cryonics.

What do you consider the biggest challenges in today’s cryonics?

There are perhaps millions of forward thinking people who would sign up today if there existed clear documentation of a small animal returning from cryonic temperatures with all it’s systems and memories intact.

Yet, as large as the “no clear evidence for effective cryonics” problem is, there exists one that is even larger, in my opinion.

What could be a bigger detriment to the science and adoption of cryonics than “Hey, we can’t even prove this works?”

I’ll get to this below, in a later question.

Do you think that members should be more involved in Alcor’s formal decision making?

Not just “Yes,” but “Heck, yes!”

Especially at the pioneering stage this “long term startup” operations exists in, cryonics NEEDS genuine MEMBERS. A member is involved, engaged, pro-active, takes initiative to help the organization, volunteers time and money to further the organizations goals, and just, in general, PARTICIPATES in the organization.

For a whole series of reasons, some of which may be fixable, and some which may be intrinsic to growth and geography, many current cryonics members behave more like buyers of a commodity.They pay their life insurance, member dues, and think that this magically will be sufficient to give them a chance of indefinite lifespan. You people need to grow up out there. We are STILL in the pioneering phase of this movement. The appropriate metaphor is that we are in the same cryonics lifeboat…but it has numerous leaks.

We need members who ENGAGE in their own cryonics advocacy. Members who enable local networks of like minded people. Members who set up pre-planning with local doctors, funeral directors, and emergency medical personnel. Members who call their cryonics organization and say, “What can I do to HELP this movement, and what can I do to help secure a better suspension for myself and my loved ones?”

The readers of this website are the exceptions to the rule. Your readers, I suspect, are active proponents of this concept with their colleagues, out of the closet cryonicists who have the courage to be candid with their wish to not die in a mere few decades.

Alcor keeps growing but it has a lot of member cancellations as well. What can be done to prevent this?

Growth has been steady, but modest, for decades in cryonics. I would not be the first to describe cryonics as a “thirty year startup company.” Alcor recently passed the 900 member mark, and should go over 1000 in 2010.


For whatever reason, only a low percentage of the cryonicists I am aware of REALLY feel like, “Hooray! We are part of a GRAND and MIND-BOGGLING experiment in indefinite life extension! We must pull together, develop networks and friendships, do INCONVENIENT and sometimes somewhat COSTLY events in which we get together. We must read the cryonics bulletin boards, help our organization recruit the BEST management talent for roles at Alcor and CI, and simply do what we can to make cryonics an EVIDENCE BASED SCIENCE”

Instead, we have the classic “Free rider” problem. Most cryonicists, and most everyone else as well, are extremely busy, wrapped up in their own trip, dealing with careers, family concerns, larger social concerns.

We are happy to see that Bill Faloon and Saul Kent are committing a reported ten million dollars a year to aging and cryonics research. But we can’t ALL be free riders on their largess. It is challenging to get free-thinking, anti-authoritarian, atheist oriented cryoncists to agree on a goal we can all get behind. There is currently NO thought leader who has defined a program that cryonicists can agree to support.

We need the equivalent of a Kennedy saying, “Before this decade is out, we commit to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”

The cold war was the motivation behind the golden era of space development. (Of course, Kennedy could coerce millions and spend billions of coerced contributions…so the analogy is not perfect.)


There is some behind-the-scenes work which can’t be announced yet that will excite even the most jaded and cynical of cryonicists. Leadership will be exercised, and progress will be shown, and a vision will be laid out that will generate a HUGE buzz in both the cryonics world and larger outside world.

Do you agree that Alcor should be able to sustain itself from membership dues without relying on outside donations?

Conceptually, yes. But raising dues to accomplish this is problematic for many at this juncture. The Alcor board has basically decided to do this, and I understand the rationale, but the timing is unfortunate.

How successful have you been in relating to others on the topic of cryonics? Do you think there are better or worse strategies for piquing interest in cryonics among the general public?

I am an unabashed cryonics advocate. I talk about it with most of my friends, family, and colleagues. Here is the hard teaching. It does not matter. Unless someone is READY for this idea, you probably are NOT going to get them interested. It does not matter how credible, enthusiastic, compelling, or intellectually rigorous you are.

Again, there are exceptions to this rule. Mostly they are these: An individual convinces his less enthusiastic spouse/partner to sign up. Parents pay for coverage on their children. And, a member pays the full cost of a life insurance AND dues AND startup fees for a friend or colleague, and handles most of the paperwork hassle for them.

I continually think about ways to promote this meme. The reality, learned after fifteen years of hurt feelings, potentially damaged relationships, and lots of intellectual hand-wringing and conversations with myself about how I can be more compelling, is that MOST people just are NOT interested.

Deal with it.

There will be some that are…and they will probably self-select the way you did.

I am hoping the current tabloid style “whistle blower” book by the almost certainly fraudulent huckster Larry Johnson will have a long term positive effect on cryonics awareness.

And, if I can get off my butt and get my book published and or promulgated somehow, this may help.

How long have you been married to Dawn and did she initially share your enthusiasm for cryonics?

I am happily married to Dawn, the love of my life, for 25 years last April. While she did not share my enthusiasm and initially declined to sign up, we WERE smart enough to buy an extra life insurance policy on her, initially naming me as beneficiary. When, in a wonderfully romantic event five years later on Valentine’s Day, she DID elect to surprise me with a sign-up, she just changed the beneficiary of her policy.

There is a lesson…perhaps several of them…for those perceptive enough to get it, in this true story.

Your writings are often critical of religion. Were you raised in a religious family? If so, what events had the most bearing on your development as an atheist?

OKAY! Here we go!

NOW we come to the real reason that cryonics is not a more popular idea and medical produce. Now we come to the “elephant in the room” that few dare even notice, let alone have the guts and political incorrectness to criticize.

Here’s the thing. If you REALLY believe you are going to heaven when you die, or even have some other vague and fuzzy brained notion of the reality of an afterlife, the odds are low that you are a very good cryonics prospect. This statement is based on PERSONALLY talking about these very ideas with literally HUNDREDS of cryonicists.

“Oh,” the accomodationists squeal, “Science and Religion don’t REALLY conflict. Cryonics and traditional religion are not remotely antithetical to each other. These two arenas deal with different areas of human experience, these are “non-overlapping magisteria”.

Well. There is no other word for the above paragraph but “BULLSHIT.” Sorry if this isn’t academic or erudite enough for you. Stephen Jay Gould was a smart man. But he was not smart enough to sign up for cryonics before he died of cancer…and he was not smart enough to see the OBVIOUS conflicts in epistemology and world view that exist between the religious mindset and the scientific worldview.

Of course, we’d expect most of us to be in something like the agnostic category, leaning toward the atheist end of that category.

What is more puzzling to many of us in the skeptical, rationalist, agnostic, atheist, bright, humanist, secular community is that the folks fitting these categories are STILL mostly not interested in cryonics!


Like many of your readers, I spend a huge amount of time thinking and reading in the areas of psychology, cognitive science, philosophy, religion, history, science, epistemology, and self improvement.

Some of the most influential thinkers in my worldview will be familiar to many of your readers. The “four horsemen of the rationalist atheist non-apocolypse” are the best selling authors Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet, and Christopher Hitchins.

While all these guys are compelling, perhaps the most paradigm shifting read for me was Sam Harris’s “The End Of Faith.”

In this brilliant work, Harris documents not only the pernicious and evil effects of faith, (defined as believing without adequate evidence), but that the very IDEA of faith as a VIRTUE is intrinsically and deeply flawed.

Like many cryonicists and free thinkers, I was raised in a (rather wonderful) Christian family. My grandfather was the president of a Christian college (Anderson University, where I graduated from in 1975). I personally taught at Warner Christian Academy during 1977 and 1978.

While I did not believe the extremely unlikely and clearly cultural theology of these institutions, for many years I felt that the sense of community, and the genuinely positive effects of being a part of a community of folks trying hard to do “good,” superseded the negatives of believing in superstitions and nonsense.

I no longer feel this way.

As Sam Harris documents in his classic short book, “Letter to a Christian Nation,” the effects of believing in things that defy reason are, for lack of a better word, EVIL.

It is just plain WRONG to believe things without good reason to do so!

You have not only been a vocal advocate of cryonics but of limited government as well. As an insurance agent, what do you make of the ongoing attempt to transform health insurance companies into highly regulated providers of entitlements?

Wow…sounds like a political question I will graciously defer till I can get your readers around a table with some beers and coffee and we can rant about this! I will mention that cryonicists are disproportionatly of a libertarian mindset…again, not a surprising fact.

hoffman costumesEveryone who knows you is familiar with your holiday-themed greeting cards (where you and your dogs are completely decked out in holiday-specific costumes and surrounded by festive holiday decor) — do you actually own all the costumes and scenery, or is it rented just for the photos?

We love holidays, and enjoy decorating our yard, selves, and dogs. Over many years of scrounging, we have managed to find some way cool bits of yard decor. As I write these words, we have some 35 yard “blowups” with a Halloween theme…and a huge blow up Shrek on the roof!

Along with dancing, biking, reading, and traveling, these activities help make a full and fun life. Most of the time…

Now we all just need to figure out how to have more life…and more fun.

Anyone who has put up with this deeply personal and hopefully somewhat interesting article in order to read to this point deserves my most sincere gratitude. Next time, let’s talk about you…