Cryonics: Is subzero storage your ticket to a second life?
Cryonics: Is subzero storage your ticket to a second life?
17:15

Cryonics: Is subzero storage your ticket to a second life?

Science
[SOUND] Our goal is to have reversible suspended animation just like in the movies. Can you just put me in stasis and wake me up in the future when everything's okay again. I hope that I won't have a biological body But I'll have a body made out of nanobots. So tell me is cryonics a pipe dream Dream. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] [MUSIC] .Lets face it, we are all going to die. And it'll probably happen sooner than we like. But what if there was a way to escape the apocalypse? In fact, what if we could cheat death altogether? Freeze ourselves in time and wake up in the future when all of our problems have disappeared. The idea of putting humans into cryo sleep is everywhere in science fiction, Han Solo trapped in carbonite, Captain America frozen in ice. But what about the real world can waste stave off death through the power of cryonics? I've come to Scottsdale Arizona to find out Welcome to the Alcor life extension Foundation. The self proclaimed world leader in cryonics. For just under a quarter of a million dollars. Alcor is selling a second chance at life. The Alcoa team looks after nearly 200 people who are waiting to take that second chance. One small catch every person preserved here, Has been pronounced clinically dead, but to Alcor that's just a technicality. Our best estimates are that within 50 to 100 years, we will have the medical technologies needed to restore our patients to health. And function. The team at Alcor refers to its customers as patients. And just like patients in a hospital Alcor hopes that in the future, they'll be restored to full health. When they arrive each body or patient depending on how you look at it goes through a technical process to increase their chances of survival on the other side They're treated with chemicals and drugs carefully cooled, loaded into a giant steel vat of liquid nitrogen and stored at minus 196 degrees Celsius. All in the hope that one day they will live again. Alcor's offices are simple enough, but in the middle of this building is possibly the strangest and most unsettling thing I've ever seen, a field of stainless steel tanks holding the bodies and heads of 170 dead people. Frozen in stasis how many people and each one of these, each one of these has approximately nine patients, for whole body patients around the outside and then there's a stack in the middle which holds five neuro patients. Yes, neuro patients, people who elected just to preserve their heads. Not only is it less expensive, it also saves on space. That would be the neural can that the patient is in and it of course has identification On it. Each of these vessels is known as a Dewar, a custom designed insulated tank that is filled with liquid nitrogen and computer controlled to preserve the bodies inside them massive even considering how many bodies and heads they contain But these doors have been designed to protect Alcoa his patients would decades. Why are they so tall? I can't help but think that I'm not that tall. There's a lot of insulation both around, underneath and on top. These lids do come off The insulation on the lid comes down almost to here. Wow. And people often ask us what happens if the electricity goes out? It doesn't matter for our patients, we do have backup generators to keep our computers running and that sort of thing. But these patients are in liquid nitrogen, it just sits there at minus 196 Celcius. We don't have to cool it. The patients are not damaged in any way by a power outage. It's hard to imagine who would want to sign up for cryonics. I think it would just be sci fi mad Dooms days or ultra rich billionaires. But the photos of patients that line alkalis walls point to a pretty normal looking clientele. More than 1200 people have signed up for Alcor services of the 170 patients, roughly three quarters of men, but otherwise it's a fairly evenly spread, retirees mums and dads, even a very young girl. She had brain cancer and her parents had her cryo preserved They want her to come over and do a Buddhist ceremony. So we put her picture on the capsule for them to have that ceremony. My husband is in this door right here. And so I come in every now and then say, hi Fred. [LAUGH] How you doing? [MUSIC] Okay, let's get this out of the way. The science behind cryonics is completely unproven. It's highly experimental, experts say there's no way to perfectly preserve the human brain or reverse the biological finality of death. But for Alcor being declared clinically and legally dead isn't the end. Legal death only really mean Means that your heart and your lungs have stopped functioning without intervention. Doesn't mean your cells are dead, doesn't mean even your organs are dead. Up until maybe 30 or 40 years ago, most people in medicine thought that death was an event. on off switch. You're either alive or you're dead It's now pretty well understood that it's a process. It takes hours after your heart and lungs stop functioning for you to really be totally dead. Alco says if you intervene early enough and preserve the body as quickly as possible after death, there's no reason you couldn't be brought back in the future when science has improved So, what exactly do you do to a dead body if you hope to bring it back to life one day? Well, turns out it's not as simple as dropping it in a tank of liquid nitrogen. [MUSIC] When a patient arrives, they are brought into Alcoa facility for stabilization. This room kinda feels like a cross between a hospital and more. The initial process varies depending on how long the patient has been dead and whether they were placed on ice before arriving. But here, the goal is to start cooling the body as quickly as possible. And for that they go into a sort of post death, life support. The patient is placed in the ice bath and then covered with additional crushed ice. The patient is intubated to restore the lung function and oxygenation to the blood. There's a mechanical Thumper which is placed on the patient's chest. So that the blood starts circulating again. And that's important to circulate our protective medications. But the real action happens in the operating room where the body goes for crier protection. There are surgeons pump blood out of the patient's veins and replace it with cryo protectant ventually. You're just trying to call them down and you're putting effectively like an antifreeze into their land Exactly as a medical grade antifreeze so that their cells do not crystallize when they go past the ice point. So our bodies are made up of about 50 to 60% water. When that water starts to freeze, it forms ice crystals which damage the body's organs and veins. But by replacing that water with cryo protectant Alcoa says it can slowly lower the body's temperature and it will vitrified kind of turning into a glass like state rather than freezing. And did not state, you can keep a cryopreserved body in liquid Nitrogen, for decades. It takes about 6 to 12 hours to cool the body, and fill it with prior protected ready for long term storage. But the good news, it's much quicker if you're just doing it to a head. [MUSIC] And how long would all of this process take? Well it doesn't take as long with the whole body because obviously you don't have as much of a mass. So the procedure can frequently be only half as long. Okay, so why would you only preserve your head? Well, the most important thing for Alcor is to keep the brain intact. That's the core of our memories, our personality, everything that makes us who we are. The idea is that by the time technology is advanced enough to bring a brain back to life, we could upload it or even grow a new body from scratch. [MUSIC] Once close to 99% of the water in the body or head has been replaced, the patient is gradually cooled to minus 196 degrees Celsius. From there they go into the long term care room and that's where they stay. [NOISE] All right, I'm about ready to start it. [MUSIC] Walking through a room full of fog surrounded by dead bodies and severed heads It felt like I was walking through a graveyard. I found it really hard to believe these people would be coming back to live and walk among us. And I'm not alone. In fact, one neuroscientist says the evidence points to a pretty grim outcome for the people who get cryopreserved Kenneth Hayworth has a PhD in neuroscience and he's a former member of Alcoa. He founded the brain preservation prize to challenge the cryonics community to prove that they could preserve a brain without damaging it. And according to Hayworth, no one has come close. So, I've seen examples of animal brains that were preserved under ideal laboratory conditions by a technique that is very similar to what they say they use in products companies. They didn't show ice crystals, but they showed a tremendous amount of shrinkage. There was probably a lot of damage, and to those structures That encode memory. But if cryonics was your one hope for waking up in the future, then there might be some good news. Hayworth says he has seen evidence of a way to preserve brains so that the neural connections stay intact. It's a technique called aldehyde stabilized cryopreservation. It almost instantly glues together all the proteins in the brain. Now you're as dead as a rock at that point, you're ain't coming back. But the advantage of that is it glues all of them in position, it doesn't destroy information. And that means that in the future, you could potentially scan, upload and even simulate that brain. But there's a catch. Ideally you need to do it while a person is living. What's the downside. Well, the downside is that it kills you. But then again, everything kills you. I'm not sure that this is the solution for me. I needed a second opinion. So I decided to make one final stop. The Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University in New York. I needed to know is death really the end? Could we actually preserve and restore a human brain without any damage? Ken Miller is a professor of theoretical neuroscience at Columbia University. And when it comes to the promise of cryonics, he's not convinced So tell me, is cryonics a pipe dream? In my opinion? Yes. According to Miller, we're a long way from understanding how the human brain works. So working out a way to perfectly preserve it and revive it in the future. That's a long way off. The most basic answer to how the brain works is we don't we don't know. We know how a lot of pieces work. We know how neurons work, or at least a lot about how neurons work. In my opinion, it's at least thousands of years before we would know and really understand how the brain works. It's just the complexity. It just levels and levels and levels and levels. It's beyond really the imagination. Okay, but even if we could find a way of perfectly preserving our brains and uploading them in the future, I still had one question, since I found a way to cryogenically go to sleep and then be woken up in the future. Would I still be clear? I think so. But it's a funny question because of course, if it was all information that you Got up into a computer that was somehow running and making something feel like Claire. Well, we could have a million of them on a million different machines. And each of them would feel like Claire. But immediately just like twins start having divergent experiences and becoming different people. And so all these different Claire's would immediately start having different experiences and becoming different Claire's But while Ken Miller says with thousands of years away from understanding the human brain back in Arizona, Alcore CEO Max Moore has a different view. I do believe that what makes you who you are, can be brought back in the future so long as you've got cryopreserved under reasonably good conditions. I think everything important is hard coded up here. So long as we were saying the structure, over time, we hopefully will reach a point where we can actually restore the function. So right now all we can do is preserve the structure, we cannot reverse the process today, but, I think it's not doesn't violate laws of physics as a matter of time, and better technology. Cryonics isn't cheap. At $220,000 for a full body or 80,000, for a neuro preservation, it's a high price to pay for hope. Moore also says there are no guarantees with cryonics Core doesn't exactly let you choose which day you want to be woken up. Still, I guess your chance of waking up from here is probably better than if you go to the crematorium. You know, I think what we're doing is we're killing people who could potentially be preserved. We're just throwing them in the ground that can be eaten by worms and bacteria or we're burning them up. And to me, that's kind of crazy when we could give them a chance if they want it. Do you see this then is kind of the ultimate insurance policy. It really is actually real life insurance. You think about life insurance is actually death insurance pays out on death. This really is life insurance is a backup plan in case you don't live long enough to we figured out the biology of aging. But well, critics say people like the team at Alcor are trying to play God. More simply wants to push the bounds of what's possible. If people say, well, it's unethical to try and live longer makes me scratch my head. So compared to what what is the right lifespan to go to the Bronze Age, and people died in their 20s and 30s to go back a little earlier like a century ago when people died in their 40s is 70 right is 80 right? There is no no privileged answer to that. So I think it's ethical to give people the opportunity to live as long as they choose to live in good health. They can decide when the time is up before coming to alcohol. I thought people who believed in cryonics were kind of mad. I'm still not convinced on the science. And I think we're a long way of bringing a dead person back to life. But after being here I realized, maybe they're just adventurous. Our members are people who are not afraid of that. They can look at it as a grand adventure. It takes some getting used to the future but I'm looking forward to it. I hope that I won't have a biological body, but I'll have a body made out of nanobots. So it's sometimes referred to as a nanobot swarm or a nano cloud. And it will be much more durable. I can be as beautiful as I want to be. I won't be old anymore. You're already beautiful. [LAUGH] Thank you. [LAUGH] Listening to Linda Chamberlain. It's clear that she really cares about her patients. And she's passionate about cryonics. Her and the rest of the team at [UNKNOWN] cryonics might be a long shot, but it's still a chance. At this stage, putting myself on ice and sleeping through the apocalypse just isn't an option, which means there's only one more way I can think of to escape the end of the world. And it's going to take a giant leap to get there. [MUSIC] [MUSIC]

Up Next

Surviving a nuclear apocalypse in a luxury doomsday bunker
yt-hta-ep2-v7

Up Next

Surviving a nuclear apocalypse in a luxury doomsday bunker

COVID-19: How tech can keep us one step ahead of the pandemic
yt-hta-pandemic-v2

COVID-19: How tech can keep us one step ahead of the pandemic

Escape to Mars: How you'll get there and where you'll live
yt-hta-ep6-v1

Escape to Mars: How you'll get there and where you'll live

Inside the James Bond-style tsunami escape pod that could save your life
yt-hta-ep4-v2

Inside the James Bond-style tsunami escape pod that could save your life

How toxic waste and robotic farms could save us from global drought
yt-hta-ep3-v2

How toxic waste and robotic farms could save us from global drought

Hacking the Apocalypse trailer
hta-sizzle-60-sec-version.png

Hacking the Apocalypse trailer

Tech Shows

The Apple Core
apple-core-w

The Apple Core

Alphabet City
alphabet-city-w

Alphabet City

CNET Top 5
cnet-top-5-w

CNET Top 5

The Daily Charge
dc-site-1color-logo.png

The Daily Charge

What the Future
what-the-future-w

What the Future

Tech Today
tech-today-w

Tech Today

Latest News All latest news

Scuba Diving With the Apple Watch Ultra
scuba-thumb-3

Scuba Diving With the Apple Watch Ultra

Neuralink Explained: Elon Musk Plans to Tap Our Minds With Brain Implants
221128-yt-neuralink-curtainraiser-v2

Neuralink Explained: Elon Musk Plans to Tap Our Minds With Brain Implants

Best Gaming Laptops of 2022: Gifts for Gamers at Any Budget
screenshot-2022-11-24-at-11-39-06.png

Best Gaming Laptops of 2022: Gifts for Gamers at Any Budget

Seen the New 2023 Prius? Here's Why It's Turning Heads
2023-prius-reveal-b-roll-toyota-mp4-00-00-39-19-still001

Seen the New 2023 Prius? Here's Why It's Turning Heads

Check Out the Three Best TVs for Every Budget
besttvs22-00pic

Check Out the Three Best TVs for Every Budget

Richard Dorton May Be the Most Prolific Video Game Actor You've Never Seen
thumb-for-site

Richard Dorton May Be the Most Prolific Video Game Actor You've Never Seen

Most Popular All most popular

Meet a Mind-Bending Hybrid: The Sono Sion Solar-Grid EV
sono-sion-00-09-01-10-still220

Meet a Mind-Bending Hybrid: The Sono Sion Solar-Grid EV

Comparing Apple Watch Ultra to the Series 8
vscnetthumb-applewatches

Comparing Apple Watch Ultra to the Series 8

5G Comes to Microsoft's Surface Pro 9
screenshot-2022-10-28-at-11-58-40.png

5G Comes to Microsoft's Surface Pro 9

Apple Watch Series 8: What the New Temperature Sensor Can and Can't Do
221026-site-apple-watch-8-in-depth-body-temperature-hands-on-2

Apple Watch Series 8: What the New Temperature Sensor Can and Can't Do

Why I Switched to iPhone
abrar-1

Why I Switched to iPhone

I Swam With a Deep-Sea Robot Designed to Outlast Humans
oceanonekthumb

I Swam With a Deep-Sea Robot Designed to Outlast Humans

Latest Products All latest products

First Look at Archer's Midnight Air Taxi
midnight

First Look at Archer's Midnight Air Taxi

Holoride Hands-On: VR in the Car Is Like a Disney Ride
holoride-00-00-03-12-still003

Holoride Hands-On: VR in the Car Is Like a Disney Ride

Hands-on With All of Microsoft's New Surface Devices
surfacepro9-event-00-00-04-05-still004

Hands-on With All of Microsoft's New Surface Devices

Microsoft Introduces Surface Studio 2 Plus
surfacestudio

Microsoft Introduces Surface Studio 2 Plus

I Used Meta Quest Pro: Here's What It's Like
questpro-00-03-30-13-still004

I Used Meta Quest Pro: Here's What It's Like

Fitbit Sense 2 First Look: New Software Makes a Difference
fitbit-aroll-00-00-46-14-still001

Fitbit Sense 2 First Look: New Software Makes a Difference

Latest How To All how to videos

MacOS Ventura Continuity Camera Turns Your iPhone Into a Webcam
1203246975312353-pnmdl8bwygpxcjffhlcf-height640.png

MacOS Ventura Continuity Camera Turns Your iPhone Into a Webcam

How to Clean Your Keyboard's Sticky Keys
3keyboards

How to Clean Your Keyboard's Sticky Keys

How to Play Games from PlayStation Plus on PC
psstill

How to Play Games from PlayStation Plus on PC

How to Delete or Disable Your Instagram Account
phoneonorange

How to Delete or Disable Your Instagram Account

Fix Your iPhone Screen With Apple's Self-Service Repair Kit
dsc00641

Fix Your iPhone Screen With Apple's Self-Service Repair Kit

How to Buy a Budget Laptop in 2022
budgetlaptops-00-08-35-15-still001

How to Buy a Budget Laptop in 2022