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The Temporary Corpse

March 10, 2010

Brit Trogen

Science in Seconds blog Brit Trogen

Well, it's happened. You're dead. Your heart has stopped beating; your lungs have stopped breathing; and I'm sorry to say it, but you've probably soiled yourself.  But not to worry! If you're anything like the thousands of ex-people to take advantage of programs like the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, your foray into the Great Unknown may only be a temporary one.

The process is simple. After being pronounced legally dead, your corpse is frozen in liquid nitrogen. Then, when the technology is sufficiently advanced, your body will be flooded with nanorobots that will (hopefully) be able to repair all of the diseased tissue that caused your death, plus whatever extra damage was caused by the freeze-thaw cycle itself.  

Of the two, it's actually the thawing that causes the most harm.  Done properly, your body can be almost uniformly flash-frozen, but thawing tends to be a bit more patchy, leaving sharp ice crystals inside of your cells that will quickly pierce the fragile membranes.  So all of this needs to occur at the cellular level, and before the thawing process has advanced too far, or your "death" will become a permanent one.

It's not cheap—at $150,000 per body, and $80,000 per head, cryopreservation will make you one of the costliest corpses around. But what price would you pay for a second shot at life? (No word yet on whether there's an option to opt only for the head. They'll have robot bodies in the future, right?)

It's worth noting, however, that even Alcor admits the nanorobot technology is at least 100 years away from reality. And many doctors argue that no matter how long we wait, there will never be a technology capable of regenerating the brain functioning that will inevitably be lost during the initial freezing.

But still... given the choice, would you do it?

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