Biotechnology

On This Day in History…

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James Bedford became the first person to be cryonically frozen:

Although there was at least one earlier aborted case, it is generally accepted that the first person frozen with intent of future resuscitation was Dr. James Bedford, a 73-year-old psychology professor frozen under crude conditions by CSC on January 12, 1967. The case made the cover of a limited print run of Life Magazine before the presses were stopped to report the death of three astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire instead.

Cryonics suffered a major setback in 1979 when it was discovered that nine bodies stored by CSC in a cemetery in Chatsworth, California, thawed due to depletion of funds. Some of the bodies had apparently thawed years earlier without notification. The head of CSC was sued, and negative publicity slowed cryonics growth for years afterward. Of seventeen documented cryonics cases between 1967 and 1973, only James Bedford remains cryopreserved today.

Bedford won't get many benefits for being an early guinea pig anytime soon:

It has often been written that cryonics revival will be a last-in-first-out (LIFO) process. In this view, preservation methods will get progressively better until eventually they are demonstrably reversible, after which medicine will begin to reach back and revive people cryopreserved by more primitive methods. Revival of people cryopreserved by the current combination of neurovitrification and deep-cooling (technically not "freezing", as cryoprotectant inhibits ice crystallization) may require centuries, if it is possible at all.

See you in 2507, Jim.

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  1. Hopefully his career chip is pre-loaded with something interesting.

  2. Biggest unsolved problem: Removing the freezer burned taste from the mouths of the revived.

  3. “See you in 2507, Jim.”

    Oh, that’s cold.

  4. NoStar:

    Apparently the hot liquid goo stage takes care of that. It’s the internal monologue problems that may prove to be unsurmountable and thus destroy the program.

    (the other problem: taking this in an Austin Powers direction or in the direction of Idiocracy. decisions. decisions.)

  5. you seem quite enamoured with idiocracy, vm. 3-4 mentions in as many days. it never showed up in theaters out here in the boonies, but i may have to rent it just to see what you liked so much.

    -cab

  6. Blush. I guess you’re right. The movie was just released on DVD, so I guess that’s why I’m finding parallels with current debate.

    /kicks pebble

  7. I don’t understand why the people who freeze themselves think the people of the future will have any obligation to unfreeze them again, or if their money will be worth anything 500 years down the road.

    Interesting reading on this topic, by the way, is “A World Out of Time” by Larry Niven. And also his Gil “the ARM” Hamilton series.

  8. We should have frozen Uncle Milton.

  9. Josh- I don’t understand why the people who freeze themselves think the people of the future will have any obligation to unfreeze them again,

    I have wondered this too. I supose it depends on whether the future people identify it with their own aspirations of imortality. It’s kind of like ancestor worship in that way.

  10. I don’t understand why the people who freeze themselves think the people of the future will have any obligation to unfreeze them again, or if their money will be worth anything 500 years down the road.

    There are several reasons why cryonics think they will be revived:

    1) Contractual obligations. Cryonics companies agree to make good faith efforts to revive you when the technology becomes available. If they fail to attempt revival, or botch the job, then their future revenue streams will be cut short.

    2) You would revive your Mom wouldn’t you? And presumably, she would revive her Mom. And so on, and so forth. Same goes for your best friends.

    3) Intellectual curiosity. How much do you think historians would pay to talk on a time phone to someone living a 100 years ago? With cryonics, they can.

    4) Compassion. 100 years from now, reviving someone who was frozen may cost no more than a couple hundred bucks (in today’s dollars). Many people spend far more feeding stray cats.

    As for money, most cryonicists believe that it’s better to be penniless and alive, than rich and dead. Even if their money is worth nothing by the time they’re revived, it would still be worth it. After all, most babies aren’t born rich either. And remember that any society rich enough to support revival, is also likely to be rich enough to help you re-integrate into society.

  11. Gahhh – Can you imagine just how bad popular music will be in 100 years, or how dumb the TV shows? Idiocracy, indeed. I think I’ll take my chances on Hell (which, after, has Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, among others).

  12. Niven’s take on corpsicles is quite enjoyable (as referenced above), as is Fred Pohl’s novella, Age of the Pussyfoot.

  13. Josh–

    I don’t understand why the people who freeze How themselves think the people of the future will have any obligation to unfreeze them again, or if their money will be worth anything 500 years down the road.

    IMO, it’s not about any “obligation” to unfreeze someone– it’s about the curiosity(and wealth) of the ‘revivers’…

    How much do we currently spend on anthropology, archeology, history, ancient literature, etc.?

    If our descendents are as much wealthier than us as we are compared to our ancestors, reviving ‘corpsicles’ will be a charitable donation comparable to a “National Geographic” membership.

    (BTW, if you want a different tale of ‘cryptopreservation’, I enjoyed Allen Steele’s “A King of Infinte Space”.)

  14. Ack!!!

    Preview is my friend…

    Steele’s book is “King of Infinite Space”.

  15. Regarding the Larry Niven story mentioned above, I am not revealing any major spoilers by noting that after you are revived, you generally have to work as a slave for 10 years in order to repay the State (the future totalitarian world government) for bringing you back. (Actually, it’s more complicated than that, but that’s the gist.)

  16. Stevo,

    You’re scum, and I’ll replace you with someone else’s memory RNA soon.

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