The secular case against immortality

In 2003 George Hart published an article called “The Immortal’s Dilemma: Decontructing Eternal Life” , making a secular case against immortality.  Hart mainly uses logical arguments and provides a fair amount of room to address a number of possible objections to his position. In a nutshell, Hart considers two variants of immortality, one without the option of termination and another with this option. The former is argued to be undesirable (a position that most life extensionists would agree with) and the latter is impossible because of the (logical) inevitability of a deathwish among immortals:

“Personal immortality poses this dilemma: without the termination option, we will face infinite periods of time when we will wish we could terminate our immortality; with the termination option, we will eventually and inevitably face a period when we will exercise the termination option and thus put the lie to our supposed immortality.”

In his 2004 article “Deconstructing Deathism: Answering a Recent Critique and Other Objections to Immortality,” mathematician, cryonics activist, and author of “Forever for All,” Mike Perry, reviews a number of arguments against immortality and those of George Hart in particular. Perry does not find Hart’s position on the inevitability of an executed deathwish persuasive. Perry also takes issue with Hart’s position on personhood and the memory and information requirements of immortals.

One aspect that seems to be prevalent in philosophical arguments against immortality is the alternate use of personhood and boredom objections. When it is argued that immortality does not necessarily have to be boring, critics of immortality answer that an unending life with infinite experiences necessitates demands on  memory information storage that will undermine the requirement that immortality is only meaningful if it is experienced by the same person. Alternatively, when an unchanging personality is assumed, it is argued that boredom will inevitability occur. But the choice between loss of personhood or boredom may not be necessary if personhood is not defined in such a “dogmatic” fashion but allows for both psychological continuity and meaningful identification with the past. As Perry notes:

trying as we are to anticipate the possible future before it happens, and how we will deal with our problem of memory superabundance when many new options should have opened up. In that hopefully happy time a “science of personal continuation” should have taken shape to properly deal with the matter. Nay-sayers like Hart try to discount any such prospects once and for all, based on today’s perspectives with their inevitable limitations.”

Toward the end of the article, Hart’s personal position on immortality becomes more pronounced and his reasoning less careful. Hart speculates that it may be “that only a finite life can be meaningful because only a finite life can be a story that has a beginning, middle and end. Death is what frames our life, and only a framed life can have meaning.” But why life can only be meaningful when it is perceived as a story with an ending instead of a never ending story remains obscure. Toward the end of the article , the author becomes even more blunt when he states that “life is meaningful when it is lived; that is enough. To ask for more is almost greedy.” But this argument is proving too much and would undermine any case to prolong life by scientific means, including conventional medicine. Hart is too fine of a writer to mean this. So how long is too long?

Although arguments against immortality should be evaluated on their philosophical merits, it is often not hard to detect the person behind the argument. As discussed before, this issue is particularly present among writers who stress the issue of boredom and stagnation in relation to immortality, employing a one-dimensional and unimaginative view of life and experience in order to make the case.

When discussing the (logical) inevitability of a deathwish among immortals, Perry further notes that “the rather morbid dwelling on a putative, recurring death-wish suggests that Hart may not be so happy with his own life,” as evidenced by statements such as:

“In theory you can imagine without contradiction what it would be like to be alive for a trillion or even a trillion trillion years from now. This thought experiment creates its own horror, one that is mind-numbing and nauseating.”

Perhaps secular “pro-death” philosophers believe that the case against religion is strengthened by debunking one  of the reasons people believe in the supernatural (the promise of immortality). But this would be throwing away the baby with the bathwater. If scientific means will become available to extend the maximum human life span, there is no a-priori reason why secular thinkers should not rejoice in that development, just as we are now embracing advances in medicine to heal and prolong life.

Although speculation about how immortality may affect human psychology can be intriguing, our limited  knowledge about the universe and lack of empirical observations of actual immortals make this a highly speculative affair, leaving much room for injecting personal feelings and wishful thinking. These feeling can be negative, as evidenced by the life extension cynics, or meliorist in nature, as expressed in the writings of Mike Perry:

“Clearly there are many possibilities, but I conjecture that personality types capable of and desiring very long survival will not be so varied or inscrutable as to baffle our understanding today. Instead they should basically be profoundly benevolent, desirous of benefiting others as well as themselves, and respectful of sentient creatures in general. They will acknowledge that enlightened self-interest requires a stance with a strong element of what we would call altruism. They will be intensely moral, but also joyful in the exercise and contemplation of their profound moral virtues—for an element of joy will be essential in finding life worth living, even as it is today. These joyful, good-hearted beings, then, will be the types to endure, and will refine their good natures as time progresses, so as to increasingly approximate some of our ideas of angelic or godlike personalities, as endless wonders unfold to their growing understanding. “

Few philosophers against immortality argue that today’s lifespan is too long. Which again raises the question, how long is too long? Ultimately, such an answer can only be answered empirically by the individuals who will live a much longer lifespan than those living today.

Mike Perry – Deconstructing Deathism: Answering a Recent Critique and Other Objections to Immortality

Death is nothing to us

The idea that death gives meaning to life is widespread but does not reflect careful reasoning, and is often a  desperate rationalization of human mortality. As a consequence, life extensionists have not been at great pains to defeat “pro-death” arguments. A (secular) philosophical position that is harder to refute is that we should not fear death because we cannot experience it. This is the classical argument of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.):

Accustom yourself to believe that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply awareness, and death is the privation of all awareness; therefore a right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life an unlimited time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terror; for those who thoroughly apprehend that there are no terrors for them in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the person who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer.

Many philosophers have felt uncomfortable with such reasoning and have gone  out of their way to refute it. This should not be surprising since humans are “hardwired” for survival. An outlook on death that seems strongly at odds with our evolved survival instinct is bound to be challenged. Epicurus’ position on death has further been challenged as nihilistic. For example, if death is not bad because it cannot be experienced by the person himself, on what moral grounds should we refrain from killing a person, provided the method is instantaneous and the individual in question is not known by others who can mourn his death?

In the collection “The Metaphysics of Death,” many contributors feel pressed, sometimes venturing into fairly obscure arguments, to refute the Epicurean position. But as Stephen Rosenbaum points out in his contribution “Epicurus and Annihilation,” the position of Epicurus on death is often misunderstood.  Epicurus did not argue that we should not fear the process of dying or the prospect of dying.

One can prefer life over death without committing to the view that death is bad for a person. Although our survival instinct usually prevents us from looking at it in such a way, in real life we have an ongoing “choice” between life or death. Although death cannot be experienced as being bad, we generally have good reason to prefer life over death, provided life is experienced as positive or has the potential to become positive. Although life extensionists would prefer to have stronger arguments against the Epicurean view on death, a preference for good experience over no experience can do the work just fine.

Liberty and oblivion

In 1991 the Libertarian Alliance published an article called “Immortality: Liberty’s Final frontier” (PDF) by David Nicholas. In this article the author argues that “the continuing fact of death renders all talk of liberty ultimately futile.” The author further argues that our concern for the future will diminish as we approach death. But instead of facing the enemy, we devise all kinds of defensive strategies.

Life extensionists often speak disparagingly of such coping mechanisms. But as argued on this blog before, one can hardly blame people for trying to live in peace with the inevitable. Raging at the prospect of death, if no rational means can be imagined to overcome or delay it during our lifetime is foolish and unproductive. But as Herbert Marcuse said, there is a difference between accepting death and elevating it to something that gives meaning to life.

Historically, the delay between the technical ability to place a person in low subzero temperatures to avoid decomposition and its actual implementation was not excessive at all. Perhaps the biggest technical obstacle to broader acceptance of cryonics is that most people still believe that the inability of the human body to sustain itself as an integrated organism must necessarily mean the end of the person as well.

In her  dissertation “An Examination of the Bio-Philosophical Literature on the Definition and Criteria of Death: When is Dead Dead and Why Some Donation After Cardiac Death Donors are Not” Leslie Whetstine dissects traditional definitions of death and proposes an “ontological” definition of death that recognizes what is important in humans: personhood and consciousness. Such a definition of death should make us think twice before giving up on a person when technologies are available that offer the prospect of being cured and restored to good health in the future.

Overcoming death is an ambitious (perhaps too ambitious) objective to sway the general public, not in the least because it contains a strong element of wishful thinking. But spreading the “meme” that most people who currently are destined for the worms or the flames still possess the neurophysical basis of their personality at “death” might have a better chance.

But we should be careful not to present the fight against death as a fight for liberty.  Death is not a man-made imposition and should not be brought under the rubric of human freedom. It can become an issue of liberty when political mechanisms are used to prevent people to take advantage of the means that offer them a chance to postpone death and prolong life. If we present the case for life extension and experimental medical procedures such as cryonics in a thoughtful manner, such scenarios may be minimized.

Immortality and boredom

If immortality means a zero chance of death, it is doubtful whether mankind (or any lifeform) will ever achieve this. Nevertheless, advocates for extending the maximum human life span often face arguments that address the negative features of being immortal. It is important to be aware that arguments against immortality do not necessarily apply to radical life extension. In absence of contemporary technologies to extend the maximum human life span, it is premature to make a case for immortality. But since some arguments that are raised against immortality are raised against living a lot longer as well, it can be beneficial to address them. One such argument is that immortality would lead to boredom.

This is the argument that Bernard Williams makes in his article “The Makropulos Case: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality” (reprinted in the collection “The Metaphysics of Death”). Elina Makropulos is a 342 old character in Karel Čapek’s play “The Makropulos Case,” whose unending life has become boring and cold.  Although Williams discusses a number of interesting issues about death, the article does not contain a logical argument to believe that an unending life will necessarily lead to boredom.

The argument that immortality leads to boredom can take two forms; empirical and logical. In the first case we would observe immortal people and conclude they will become (increasingly) bored. Clearly, this approach is not possible. A milder form of this approach would be to observe very old people and to extrapolate from this to immortality. But this does not seem to be very promising. Many old people are still very curious and involved with the world, even when struggling with aging-induced  medical complications. Perhaps there is a tipping point after which old people will get bored. Perhaps not.

The other argument that immortality leads to boredom is logical in nature and is derived from the properties of being immortal as such. This does not seem to be very promising either. The assumption in such arguments is that an immortal person will exhaust all there is to live for. There are at least two problems with such a line of reasoning. The first problem is whether such a state of affairs (a fixed person with finite possibilities and experiences) logically follows from immortality. Why not assume there will be infinite possibilities and experiences (even if the person stays “the same”) instead? The other problem is that such a line of reasoning reflects an impoverished view of life, emphasizing just quantity and progress. In this view, life is a one-dimensional journey in which all things are tried and left behind. Such an outlook on human  existence does not leave room for the possibility that some experiences get richer the more we experience them. It neither leaves room for the possibility that we attach intrinsic value to things, aside from their relationship with the past or the future.

Williams anticipates such arguments when he writes:

“if one is totally and perpetually absorbed in…an activity, and loses oneself in it…we come back to the problem of satisfying the conditions it should be me who lives forever, and that the eternal life should be in prospect of some interest.”

Such an argument is not persuasive because being perpetually absorbed in something is not equivalent to that person not existing. But it is not even evident why immortality would require a person to be perpetually absorbed in something or face boredom. As Max More points out, “There is no guarantee of being engaged with life, but ennui has to do with laziness rather than the availability of too much time.”

The argument that immortality will lead to boredom is not empirical, and to the extent that a logical argument is made, it is inconclusive. Perhaps arguments of this kind do not so much reflect logic but temperament, just like ontological arguments in favor of pessimism and optimism tell us more about the philosopher in question than about the nature of the universe.

Bernard Williams does believe that as long as the desire to live exists, he does not want to die. He does not know when life will reach a point after which he would be better off not living. That is all that we need right now because no one is offering scientific means to become immortal. And even if such means would become available, one is not obliged to use them or remain immortal. Perhaps one reason why immortality has such a bad reputation in fiction is that it is often portrayed as a state of being with no way out or as a curse.

See also: Max More – Meaningfulness and mortality (Cryonics #125, vol.12, no.2, February 1991)

Edvard Munch's Death in the Sick Chamber

Edvard Munch’s painting “Death in the Sick Chamber” (1895) portrays death as expressed through the survivors. A striking aspect of this work is that all the people in the room do not console one another and are physically and emotionally isolated.

In “Modern Art and Death”, Carla Gottlieb writes:

….the faces are contorted, not in mourning for a beloved lost member, but in fear of the unknown which has just swallowed the deceased, fear for themselves who are eventually to meet the same fate. In this agony, each person is alone; each survivor turns away not only from the dead but also from the other participants in the scene. Faced with death, the family bonds fall apart, revealing their superficial character. Thus Munch experienced death as dissolving family ties…

The accompanying black and white lithograph evokes an even bleaker atmosphere, as can be seen in the sunken eyes and grim mouth of the woman facing the viewer.

Munch shows the destabilizing and alienating effects of death. Although the people in the room seem to be at a loss how to proceed in life, there is closure. In cryonics such closure is not available. Cryonics also destabilizes the fabric between people because some may survive and others may not. The idea of cryonics can also produce guilt about loved ones who died and never got the chance. These factors, and not just technical feasibility alone, may explain why cryonics is so unpopular.

Carl Jung on the soul and death

In the future, Carl C.G. Jung may not be so much remembered for his contributions to science as for his beautiful writing, imagination, and wide range of interests. In his meditation on death, “The Soul and Death” (“Seele und Tod”), Jung treats death as the inevitable descent after an ascent up a hill. Jung’s stoic reconciliation with death is understandable, even rational, in a time when the scientific conquest of death was not a practical possibility. Now that the practical means are available to participate in a time when rejuvenation may be possible, we need  imaginative thinkers, writers and poets to give expression to a conception of life that is not an inevitable road to degeneration and oblivion.

Fragment of Carl C.G. Jung – The Soul and Death (in: The Meaning of Death, Herman Feifel, editor)

I have often been asked what I believe about death, that unproblematical ending of individual existence. Death is known to us simply as the end. It is the period, often placed before the close of the sentence and followed only by memories of aftereffects in others. For the person concerned, however, the sand has run out of the glass; the rolling stone has come to rest. When death confronts us, life always seems like a downward flow or like a clock that has been wound up and whose eventual “running down” is taken for granted. We are never more convinced of this “running down” than when a human life comes to its end before our eyes, and the question of the meaning and worth of life never becomes more urgent or more agonizing than when we see the final breath leave a body which a moment before was living. How different does the meaning of life seem to us when we see a young person striving for distant goals and shaping the future, and compare this with an incurable invalid, or with an old man who is sinking reluctantly and without strength to resist into the grave! Youth — we should like to think — has purpose, future, meaning, and value, whereas the coming to an end is only a meaningless cessation. If a young man is afraid of the world, of life and the future, then everyone finds it regrettable, senseless, neurotic; he is considered a cowardly shirker. But when an aging person secretly shudders and is even mortally afraid at the thought that his reasonable expectation of life now amounts to only so many years, then we are painfully reminded of certain feelings within our own breast; we look away and turn the conversation to some other topic. The optimism with which we judge the young man fails us here. Naturally we have on hand for every eventuality one or two suitable banalities about life which we occasionally hand out to the other fellow, such as “everyone must die sometime,” “one doesn’t live forever,” etc. But when one is alone and it is night and so dark and still that one hears nothing and sees nothing but the thoughts which add and subtract the years, and the long row of disagreeable facts which remorselessly indicate how far the hand of the clock has moved forward, and the slow, irresistible approach of the wall of darkness which will eventually engulf everything you love, possess, wish, strive, and hope for — then all our profundities about life slink off to some undiscoverable hiding place, and fear envelops the sleepless one like a smothering blanket.

Suspended animation is not cryonics

On the Immortality Institute cryonics forum, Alcor Board member and researcher Brian Wowk has posted some insightful comments on the difference between suspended animation and cryonics. Although  impressive technical advances in cryonics to date, such as vitrification, have failed to translate into increased membership growth for cryonics organizations, many cryonics observers believe that demonstration of reversible vitrification of a small mammal will be a turning point in cryonics.

But as Brian points out, the key idea of cryonics is that patients should continue to be cared for, even if contemporary technologies cannot reverse cryopreservation. As has been reiterated on this blog before, even when suspended animation is perfected, there still will be a need for cryonics to care for patients that cannot be treated by contemporary medical technologies. Dismissing cryonics until there is proof of successful suspended animation ignores the fundamental, and humane, premise of cryonics to use  low temperature  biostasis  so that critically ill people may benefit from medical technologies that have not yet arrived.

Suspended animation is not cryonics. The paradigm shift of cryonics is something different. It is a paradigm shift that could happen before suspended animation is perfected, or perhaps not even after suspended animation is perfected. The key idea of cryonics– the paradigm shift of cryonics –is the idea that patients should continue to be cared for even if they are beyond recovery by contemporary means. It’s the idea that almost everything that medicine calls “death” in a particular era is destined to become a treatable pathology in a later era. That is an idea that transcends suspended animation, and that is so far from normal social mores that it may never be accepted by the mainstream whether there is suspended animation or not. It is a paradigm shift that requires overturning the idea of closure, which is a deeply uncomfortable proposition for most people regardless of demonstrated technology.

When people say that they hope they never need cryonics, I’m not sure in what sense they mean this. Do they mean that in the same sense that we all hope we never have to go to a hospital, even though the probability of eventually being hospitalized for some reason converges to near certainty? Or do they actually believe that they may never need cryonics? Such a belief is equivalent to the belief that one will never suffer a medical crisis that is untreatable by available medicine. I suppose an alternative possibility is the belief that one’s first and last major medical crisis will be vaporization. That doesn’t seem very likely. We live in a time when for the foreseeable future, Singularity or not, virtually everybody is going to need some form of cryonics at some time.

Brian Wowk quotes cryonics advocate Thomas Donaldson:

If you’re involved in cryonics, you’ve got to make your peace with the unknown, because it will always be there. You’ve simply got to make your peace with it.

The history of scientific immortalism

Now online is Mike Perry’s article “Historical Steps Toward the Scientific Conquest of Death.” This article was previously published in 2003 in Physical Immortality, a short-lived publication by the Society for Venturism.

The article is adapted from Chapter 2 of Mike Perry’s book, Forever For All: Moral Philosophy, Cryonics, and the Scientific Prospects for Immortality.

This book considers the problems of death and the hereafter and how these ages-old problems ought to be addressed in light of our continuing progress. A materialistic viewpoint of reality is assumed, denying the likelihood of supernatural or other superhuman assistance. Death, however, is not seen as inevitable or even irreversible; it is maintained that the problem can and should be addressed scientifically in all of its aspects. The book thus follows recent, immortalist thinking that places hopes in future advances in our understanding and technology. A functionalist, reductionist argument is developed for the possibility of resurrecting the dead through the eventual creation of replicas and related constructs. Meanwhile, it is urged, medical advances leading to the conquest of biological death should be pursued, along with cryonics: freezing the newly deceased for possible, eventual reanimation. A common ground thus is sought between two hitherto largely independent strands of scientific immortalism, the one based on hopes in a remote but hyperadvanced future, the other on the nearer-term prospects of presently advancing technology. The resulting philosophy, encompassing both past and future, is directed toward the long-term interests of each sentient being, and it thereby acquires a moral dimension. The immortalization of humans and other life-forms is seen as a great moral project and labor of love that will unite us in a common cause and provide a meaningful destiny.

Herbert Marcuse on the ideology of death

Although critical philosophers like Herbert Marcuse (1898 – 1979) are not known for their contributions to economics or analytic philosophy, Marcuse’s essay “The Ideology of Death” (1952) should appeal to those who think that death is not a necessary part of existence, let alone something to celebrate. In this essay, the author discusses the phenomenon that prominent Western philosophers (Plato, Hegel, Heidegger) have not just accepted death as a biological fact that may be overcome, but have elevated its status to something that gives meaning to life. Unfortunately, this line of thinking persists today.  Although Herbert Marcuse lived through the 60’s and 70’s, he did not seem to have an interest in investigating scientific means to prolong life and overcome death.

In the history of Western thought, the interpretation of death has run the whole gamut from the notion of a mere natural fact, pertaining to man as organic matter, to the idea of death as the telos of life, the distinguishing feature of human existence. From these two opposite poles, two contrasting ethics may be derived; On the one hand, the attitude toward death is stoic or skeptic acceptance of the inevitable, or even the repression of the thought of death by life; on the other hand the idealistic glorification of death is that which gives “meaning” to life, or is the precondition for the “true” life of man…

It is remarkable to what extent the notion of death as not only biological but ontological necessity has permeated Western philosophy–remarkable because the overcoming and mastery of mere natural necessity has otherwise been regarded as the distinction of human existence and endeavor…

A brute biological fact, permeated with pain, horror, and despair, is transformed into an existential privilege. From the beginning to the end, philosophy has exhibited this strange masochism–and sadism, for the exaltation of one’s own death involved the exaltation of the death of others…

How can one protest against death, fight for its delay and conquest, when Christ died willingly on the cross so that mankind might be redeemed from sin? The death of the son of God bestows final sanction on the death of the son of man…

The fight against disease is not identical with the fight against death. There seems to be a point at which the former ceases to continue into the latter. Some deep-rooted mental barrier seems to arrest the will before the technical barrier is reached. Man seems to bow before the inevitable without really being convinced that it is inevitable.

Published in The Meaning of Death, Herman Feifel, Editor (1959)

Cryonics as an elective medical procedure

The two most popular technical arguments against human cryopreservation are that cryonics causes irreversible freezing damage and that the delay between pronouncement of legal death and the start of cryonics procedures causes irreversible injury to the brain. Such arguments can be countered by pointing out that freezing damage and prolonged periods of warm ischemia do not necessarily produce information-theoretic death. The argument that cryonics procedures themselves produce additional forms of injury which cannot be treated with contemporary technologies misses the point that cryonics involves stabilization of critically ill patients so that they can be treated with future technologies. In the case of freezing damage, this argument has also lost most of its value because today’s cryonics organizations employ vitrification agents to stabilize a patient at cryogenic temperatures without ice formation.

The criticism that delays between pronouncement of legal death and start of cryonics procedures will cause irreversible injury to the brain is also unfair because it treats the current social and legal obstacles to perform better stabilization of cryonics patients as an intrinsic element of cryonics itself. But cryonics does not necessarily involve cryopreservation of persons who have been pronounced legally dead. The current Wikipedia entry on cryonics defines cryonics as follows:

Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of humans and other animals that can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine until resuscitation may be possible in the future.

As can be deduced from this definition, cryonics constitutes a form of medical time travel that uses cryogenic temperatures to allow a terminally ill patient to reach a time when more advanced treatments may be available. As such, it would be premature to declare a cryonics patient “dead.” In most cases, pronouncing a person dead only reflects our current inability to treat the patient and our psychological need for definitive answers to questions of life and death. The limitation that cryonics procedures can only be started after pronouncement of legal death reflects the unfortunate fact that the current medical establishment does not recognize cryonics as a credible form of advanced critical care.

As a result, cryonics is currently practiced as a form of emergency medicine in which conventional resuscitation technologies such as chest compressions and ventilations are used to avoid the kinds of injury that follow after cardiac arrest. Although there will always be a place for cryonics as a form of emergency medicine to treat cases of trauma and  sudden circulatory arrest, most patients who currently present for human cryopreservation would benefit from more hospital cooperation in choosing cryonics as an elective medical procedure.

Although current cryonics organizations such as Alcor try to make the best of a bad situation by employing standby teams that allow rapid intervention after cardiac arrest to reduce brain injury, much improved quality of care of cryonics patients would be possible if cryonics procedures would start at a point where medical professionals (with informed consent of the patient and/or family) would determine that further treatment of the patient with contemporary technologies would be futile, or even counter-productive.

When this determination is made, conventional life support for the patient would be terminated and deep hypothermia would be induced using cardiopulmonary bypass. At deep hypothermic temperatures, the patient’s blood would be substituted with an organ preservation solution to reduce blood complications associated with lower temperatures. When the patient’s core temperature approaches the freezing point of water, the organ preservation solution would be replaced by a vitrification agent to allow an ice-free descent to cryogenic temperatures for long term care. After lowering the patient’s temperature below the glass transition point (Tg), the patient is maintained at intermediate temperatures to reduce the risk of thermal stress and fracturing that would occur at lower cryogenic temperatures.

If such hospital based human cryopreservation will be available, most of the injury that is currently incurred by cryonics patients can be eliminated. No longer do cryonics patients have to suffer harmful periods of shock, cerebral ischemia, and circulatory arrest before intervention is possible. Cryonics as emergency medicine will be confined to cases that constitute unexpected life-threatening events.

As this brief, but simplified, description of hospital based (or assisted) cryonics makes clear, ischemic brain injury is something that can be eliminated from cryonics procedures if the current restriction to limit cryonics procedures to clinically dead people were lifted. Such a change will not only improve the quality of cryonics procedures, it will also make cryonics available to cardiac arrest and stroke victims who can be resuscitated with contemporary technologies but will suffer delayed brain injury (often leading to higher-brain death) if they are allowed to resume life at normothermic temperatures.

Contemporary cryonics procedures do not need to cause “irreversible” brain injury or  massive freezing damage. There is good reason to believe that in ideal cases existing cryonics procedures can be successfully reversed up to the point of cryoprotective perfusion. The major limiting factor in cryonics is not “brain death” or freezing  but cryoprotectant toxicity. But even in this area cryonics associated research  companies are setting the standard for conventional cryobiology, as demonstrated by Alcor’s implementation of the vitrification agent M22 to cryopreserve its patients.