Saturday, September 8, 2012

When will cryonics be cool? Author Marsha Cornelius Speaks Out.

Author Marsha Cornelius originally appeared on Book Talk on June 3, 2012, discussing her latest book The Ups And Downs of Being Dead. Read that post by clicking here.

Today she chats about Cryonics!

So, Larry King, the talk show host, has signed up to have his body frozen when he dies. He thinks he’s going to come back in the future. What a weirdo. Right?
But why? Why are people so quick to discount revolutionary ideas like cryonics?

Oliver Wendell Holmes was vilified by fellow physicians when he dared to suggest they wash their hands as they went from patient to patient. Henry Ford was mocked when he introduced his horseless carriage. Steve Wozniak worked for Hewlett Packard, but when he showed them the prototype for a desktop computer, they turned him down—five times!

Is it any wonder, then, that the few brave souls who are gambling with immortality are considered nutjobs?

The premise is simple enough. The data stored in the brain – all knowledge, memories, and opinions – could possibly be retrieved in the future, if the brain is properly preserved. When a ‘believer in cryonics’ - a cryonicist - dies, his or her brain will be preserved with a special anti-freeze that will prevent damage to the cells of the brain. Then theoretically, when technology figures out how to bring them back, they will live again.

Poppycock, you say?

Let’s face it, the ‘Doubting Thomas’ has been around since Jesus. There were an estimated 7 million people living in Spain in 1492. But only 90 men were willing to sail with Columbus. Most people thought the world was flat!
When John Glenn climbed on board Friendship 7, I imagine a lot of people watching the broadcast on TV were thinking, “He’s crazy. You’d never catch me in that thing.”

Why aren’t cryonicists considered visionaries? No less pioneers than the brave souls who rode west in covered wagons?

Maybe it’s just too soon. Technology hasn’t caught up with the dream yet. So what will it take to convince people that cryonics will work?

Scientists are experimenting with methods of regenerating damaged cells and tissue, and even stimulating the body to regenerate and replace tissue and organs itself.

Now I’m really on board with this idea. Imagine sending a message to the cells in my skin. ‘Tighten up!’ And maybe someday, instead of implanting bags of gel, a technician could merely send a message that would encourage more growth in the breasts, and less in the hips. Dare I dream that someday, tiny nano-robots could be sent to my belly to snatch up fat cells and carry them to my kidneys for disposal?

A company in California is cryo-preserving organs like hearts. Someday we will have organ banks with a full line of lungs and livers. There won’t be any more racing a cooler with a viable kidney into surgery before the organ deteriorates. And if a patient needs a new pancreas, a surgeon will be able to locate a good match at the organ bank, and then prep the patient for a couple weeks ahead of time to lessen the chance of rejection.

We’ve been freezing embryos and eggs since the 1970s. Cadaver skin that has been cryopreserved is now used for burn victims. Adult stem cells in bone marrow are treating patients with leukemia.

So instead of thinking that people who have themselves frozen are freaks, maybe we should be thinking: I believed in cryonics before cryonics was cool.

M. R. Cornelius is the author of The Ups and Downs of Being Dead, the story of a 57 year-old man who chooses cryonics over death. A more detailed synopsis, and the book, are available on Amazon. 

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