Cryonics: Death Doesn’t Have to be Permanent

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The inevitable certainty of death is a universally-feared phenomenon that lingers over every living human. One day your heart will stop beating and your body will slowly decompose into a pile of dust. There is no afterlife. You are nothing more than a biological machine, and when your cogs stop turning; your consciousness, personality and memories all cease to exist. Once the unique pattern of neurons within your brain breaks down, YOU ARE GONE FOREVER.

Cryogenic_Facility.png
A cryonics chamber depicted in The Simpsons.

Our current knowledge does not permit us to cheat death, but is conceivable that at some time in the future we will become so advanced that we can keep death at bay indefinitely. It would be convenient if we could preserve our bodies and brains until such a time comes about, and this is what cryonics sets out to achieve.

The science behind cryonics is quite straightforward:

cryogenic infographic
source: dailymail.co.uk

The brain is obviously the main area of concern during cryogenic preservation; however even with the protective measures outlined above, we are still finding it difficult to retain brain function after freezing.

A new technique involves chemically fixating the brain before freezing. Researchers have managed to use this technique to successfully freeze and thaw rabbit brains while preserving neuronal connections and the overall brain structure. The catch is that they used a toxic chemical (glutaraldehyde), which caused the brain to lose its functionality. This lack of functionality is not an issue, as President of the Brain Preservation Foundation states:

“That was never the point. The point was to demonstrate that the structure of the delicate synaptic circuitry of the brain could be preserved over indefinite time spans.” Chemical fixation achieves this.

In the future, the negative effects of glutaraldehyde on the brain could be reversed. As long as your brain structure remains intact, YOU STILL EXIST and have a chance of being brought back to life. A careful scan of your brain could facilitate a mind upload, which would bring you back in digital form. However, we still don’t completely understand consciousness, so it is possible that the digital version of you may just be a second iteration of your original self. It would share your memories and personality, but from the perspective of your original self, you would still be dead.

Death doesn’t have to be permanent. Instead of leaving your inheritance to loved ones, you can use it to turn yourself into a human popsicle; in the hope that you’ll prolong your existence, should future technology permit it.

 

 

 

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