Cryonics: Can I Take Door No. 3?

If you don’t be­lieve in an af­ter­life, then it seems you cur­rently have two choices: cry­on­ics or per­ma­nent death. Now, I don’t be­lieve that cry­on­ics is pseu­do­science, but it’s still pretty poor odds (Robin Han­son uses an es­ti­mate of 5% here). Un­for­tu­nately, the al­ter­na­tive offers a chance of zero. I see five main con­cerns with cur­rent cry­onic tech­nol­ogy:

  1. There is no proven re­vival tech­nol­ogy, thus no es­ti­mate of costs

  2. Po­ten­tial dam­age done dur­ing vit­rifi­ca­tion which must be overcome

  3. Be­cause it can­not be legally done be­fore death, po­ten­tial de­cay be­tween le­gal death and vitrification

  4. Re­quires ac­tive main­te­nance at very low temperature

  5. No guaran­tee that fu­ture so­cieties will be will­ing to revive

So I won­der if we can do bet­ter.

I re­call read­ing of ju­ve­nile forms of am­phibi­ans in desert en­vi­ron­ments that could sur­vive for decades of drought in a dor­mant form, re­viv­ing when wa­ter re­turned. One spec­i­men had sat on a shelf in a re­search office for over a cen­tury (in Ari­zona, if I re­call cor­rectly) and was suc­cess­fully re­vived. Note: no par­tic­u­lar efforts were made to main­tain this spec­i­men: the dry lo­cal cli­mate was suffi­cient. It was sug­gested at the time that this could make an al­ter­na­tive method of pre­serv­ing or­gans. Now the ad­van­tages of this ap­proach (which I re­fer to flip­pantly as “dry­on­ics”) is:

  1. Proven, in­ex­pen­sive re­vival technology

  2. Ap­par­ently the pro­cess does not cause dam­age itself

  3. Proven re­vival tech­nique may over­come le­gal ob­sta­cles of ap­ply­ing be­fore le­gal death

  4. Re­quires pas­sive main­te­nance at low hu­midity (deserts would be ideal)

  5. Pre­sum­ably lower cost makes fu­ture re­vival more likely (still no guaran­tee, but that is a post in it­self)

There is one big dis­ad­van­tage of this ap­proach, of course: no one knows how to do it (it’s not en­tirely clear how the ju­ve­nile am­phibi­ans do it) or even if it would be pos­si­ble in larger, more com­plex or­ganisms. And, so far as I know, no one is work­ing on it. But it would seem to offer a much bet­ter prospect than our cur­rent op­tions, so I would sug­gest it worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

I am not a biol­o­gist, and I’m not sure where one would start de­vel­op­ing such a tech­nol­ogy. I frankly ad­mit that I am shar­ing this in the hope that some­one who does have an idea will run with it. If any­one knows of any work on these lines, or has an idea how to pro­ceed, please send a com­ment or email. Or even if you have an­other al­ter­na­tive. Be­cause right now, I don’t con­sider our prospects good.

[Note: I am go­ing on mem­ory in this post; I re­ally wish I could provide refer­ences, but there does not seem much ac­tivity along these lines that I can find. I’m not even sure what to call it: mum­mifi­ca­tion? Prob­a­bly too scary. De­hy­dra­tion? Any­way feel free to add sug­ges­tions or link refer­ences.]