Science Questions

Will it ever be possible to revive a cryopreserved human?

Sun, 18th Sep 2011

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Phil Dance, via Facebook asked:

Will it ever be possible to revive a cryopreserved human?


Barry -   If you're asking a personal opinion, no.  I think freezing whole human bodies at the moment is a matter of personal choice and faith.  There's no scientific evidence that we will be able to cryo-preserve a whole human body or a whole human person in a way that would allow them to come back sensibly and live their life out in the future.

Kat -   So bad news for Walt Disney in his freezer then!  Lorna, have you got any ideas on that one?

Lorna -   Yeah.  I think I'm in agreement with Barry but perhaps the romantic in me would like to believe that in time, anything is possible with science.


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Most "Would it ever be possible..." questions, including this one, are a matter of anybody's guess. A few can be answered with an unequivocal negative, for example energy saving ideas that violate the laws of thermodynamics.

In this case I think the much more intriguing question is "Why would the population of a possibly very crowded future world want to revive cryopreserved humans? If they did, what rights would they accord to the anachronisms, and what facilities would they provide for them to live out their lives in this future world? Even educating them for the catch-up would be an expensive drain on somebody's budget!

These are social/political questions rather than scientific ones, but as far as I am concerned they put a large dampener on the whole idea. I think it rather arrogant of the present generations to think that people of the future will really want them! damocles, Wed, 21st Sep 2011

I think people would love the idea of a living library or living mobile museum - people preserved from the past who can be brought back to life and recount their experiences... Mind you, in this modern age where nothing is ever deleted any more, that's probably of more dubious merit... chris, Mon, 26th Sep 2011

So you would probably come back as the serf of a wealthy collector, and your main purpose in the new life would be to entertain guests at exclusive dinner parties? damocles, Mon, 26th Sep 2011

Have you ever wanted an "Off Switch" for a grandparent?

If we could bring back people from the past, we would likely be selective for certain scientists, or other individuals that have made major contributions to the advancement of society, rather than just a few random billionaires.  BTW: who is paying for the technology required to revive these individuals?

My guess is that in the future we will develop some kind of stasis or induced hibernation.  However, the process for inducing the stasis will be very specific.  While I'm not familiar with the current processes, my guess is that the cellular damage is very extensive, and would make recovery at least problematic. CliffordK, Tue, 4th Oct 2011

  Euthanasia - fun for nearly all the family

  I could set up a trust before lunch (more difficult in UK - but easy if money off shore) that would allow a a reasonably rich person to make it very worth while for future generations to pay attention to the founder's wishes.  And long term investments like that can be very profitable if you keep scumbag lawyers from stealing the capital - a rich man who had his head frozen 30 years ago and put 10mill in XON via a watertight trust would now be able to offer via his representatives well over a billion to any company; just think how much that will keep growing - and the dividends alone will pay for any management and endow a few chairs at great research universities.

  My worry with the procedure would be that the reboot would not work and the best outcome would be a comatose patient.  So even with your correct concerns about cellular damage - I am not sure that even with intact cells we have the technology or knowledge to restart from cold.
imatfaal, Wed, 5th Oct 2011

An interesting idea, Imatfaal, but it does rather depend on the future continuance of something like our present monetary system, and future respect for our present laws. Perhaps I am overly pessimistic, but I see both of those things as rather unlikely right now -- assuming we are looking at 200 years or so into the future. damocles, Wed, 5th Oct 2011

I hate to admit it, but I still remember the first lecture in the "trusts" section of my law degree which explained how much of our trust law in the common law system (that's you guys as well) was based upon the law set up during the crusades.  The reason I specified off-shore was English law forbids never-ending trusts - but to set up a trust that really only kicks in a hundred years after the founder cops it is not that difficult if you are prepared to leverage multiple jurisdictions (oops getting a bit dodgy). 

If you posit the collapse of the international legal system, a reversal of current political balance, and the failure of the westphalian nation state; yeah - all bets are off.  But, it will be a frosty day in hell when the rich and their lawyers have their money and trusts prised from their cold grasping hands (a tad too bitter ?) imatfaal, Wed, 5th Oct 2011

Good point, so one would have to create an endowment for unfreezing research, and perhaps neural transfer research, and some kind of a bonus for successfully unfreezing the original donor.

Then hope that the monitary system more or less remains the same throughout posterity, and that some government doesn't decide to seize one's trust assets.

I fear that many of those investing in the technology are just investing in the freezing and preservation, and assuming that someone else will foot the bill to develop the unfreezing technology. CliffordK, Wed, 5th Oct 2011

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