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Date: Mon, 15 Oct 90 11:07:05 PDT
From: fermat! (Richard Schroeppel)
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Subject: Submission to the Cryonics List

            Cheap Freeze - A New Approach to Cryonics

Abstract:  The main bar to widespread adoption of cryonics is the cost.
           This proposal addresses that problem.

Cryonic suspension today costs about $120K, with head-only around half
that.  A person planning suspension must give up the equivalent of a
house or a college education in order to purchase the suspension.  If
revival and immortality were moderately likely, the cost would be
worth it.  But with the odds looking so unfavorable, the decision to
deprive one's heirs of the bulk of one's estate is a heavy one.  The
heirs don't like it either, and the quasi-religious character of Alcor
provides a tempting legal target.  The surrounding legalisms make
things worse.

I propose to sidestep these problems with a new approach, one that
doesn't cost a nominal egg.  If the cost of freezing were comparable
to the cost of a conventional burial, we'd see a lot more people
opting for the freezer.  I propose that we develop a "you-store"
approach, and skip the fancy freezing protocol in favor of much
cheaper fast freezing.  We develop a standard design for the can:
Double or triple wall, a monitoring system that watches temperature
and liquid nitrogen levels, a few sizes.  The freezing protocol skips
the blood removal step and all the intravenous stuff.  We place the
victim in an open wooden box, use dry-ice & alcohol externally as the
initial coolant, and finish with liquid nitrogen.  The equipment can
be carried in a pickup truck, and the materials required are available
off the shelf in major cities.  We drop most of the death watch, maybe
pre-positioning some dry ice and the truck.  The goal is still to cool
the victim promptly, but we think on a scale of tens of minutes to
start cooling rather than instantly.  If cooling is delayed for an
hour, it's not a tragedy.  A physician is still needed to pronounce
death; if the victim dies in a nursing home or hospital, this
shouldn't be too much of a problem.

The can will cost a couple of thousand dollars; the suspension another
thousand.  We offer to buy back the can for the first three months, so
people feel they can change their minds.  It's cheap enough that
almost anyone faced with a dying parent or the surprise death of a
spouse or child can make the decision to freeze instantly.  They can
pick up the phone, call Cheap Freeze, and charge the suspension on
MasterCard.  The truck zips over to the victim's house or hospital
room and starts the cooling; we come back in a day or so with the can,
and arrange payment or credit.  The victim's body remains in the
possession of the relatives, who are responsible for topping up the
LN2 every couple of months.  We tell him where to buy LN2, or we make
deliveries occasionally.  This costs a maybe a hundred dollars a year.
The relatives join the growing contingent of support for nanotech and
revival research.  The grandchildren finance the victim's revival when
the science is developed and the costs become reasonable.

Today, a significant fraction of the public accepts the idea of
freezing, but almost nobody gets frozen.  The ALCOR approach is too
expensive.  It requires an unusual amount of foresight to face one's
own death squarely and pre-arrange for freezing.  My proposal costs
(up front) less than the present net worth of the average American,
probably less than the credit limit of the average credit card.  The
present value of the LN2 is fairly high, but the expense rate is
perfectly tolerable, less than the cost of eating out once a month.
The big cost is storage, but most people can find room for the can in
the garage or spare room.  (Small apartments will be a problem.)  Lots
more people will be melted, but lots more will also be frozen.
Freezing might even become the usual treatment-of-last-resort.
Insurance coverage for funeral expenses is an accepted (even somewhat
old fashioned) concept, and freezing is close enough to be accepted as
an alternative.  When there are enough people frozen, we can build
central storage.


1.  There will be lots of meltees, due to both accidents and to
    relatives' change of heart.
    Answer: Very true, but certainly less than half; and almost nobody
    is being frozen at today's prices anyway.

2.  There will be occasional injury accidents with LN2.
    Answer: True, but this is a tolerable cost for the greater goal.

3.  Alcor freezes better.
    Answer: True, but maybe it doesn't matter.  (Of course, it's no
    use to you if you can't afford it.)  A person suspended by Alcor
    may have a shot at being revived prior to the development of true
    nanotechnology, and might not require massive cellular
    reconstruction or cloning a fresh body.  In particular, the Alcor
    freezing protocols are close to what the organ preservation people
    use now; there's hope that improvements in thawing technology will
    permit revival in favorable cases.  My approach is still feasible,
    though: assuming the mind is stored in the synapses, the bits are
    still recoverable until decay sets in, maybe even for a week or so
    after death.

4.  There is no provision for reanimation costs.
    Answer: A relative who thinks it's worth the trouble is a fairly
    good insurance policy.

5.  Having the body around will keep a widow from remarrying, and
    prevent people from accepting the loss of their relative,
    prolonging their grief.
    Answer: Usually the widow can dump the can with the kids.  And
    grief can be a lot less intense if the loss needn't be
    acknowledged as final.

6.  Some people won't have relatives to store them and pick up the LN2 tab.
    Answer: True, but most people will.

7.  There may get to be a lot of cans hanging around in people's
    Answer: We can store them at modest cost; the pro rata cost of a
    storage bin is maybe $10/month.

8.  More seriously, the potential "societal overhang" could be a
    problem if the dependency ratio exceeds 1.
    Answer: We can only wish that this problem should arise.  This
    problem is generic to all successful cryonics approaches.  (It's
    unlikely to be a problem for Alcor.)  The crude death rate in the
    US is about .9% per year.  With a level population, and 100%
    freezing, it would take 110 years to reach dependency ratio 1.  An
    increasing population will take longer, since the earlier deaths
    are amortized over more living people.  We can see medical
    developments on the horizon that will make a big dent in the
    current death rate.  And 110 years isn't a bad guess for when
    nanotechnology will be ready to start reviving people.  Finally,
    the costs of maintaining frozen space can be brought way down if
    there are enough cans to justify an insulated cold building.

An advantage of my approach is that the relatives don't view the
cryonics company as a religion that seduced their loved one and stole
the family fortune.  Also they don't have to trust me to store the
bod.  It's cheap enough to be a snap decision, and cheap enough to do
for your parents, maybe even your brother-in-law (the jerk - he's
better off dead).  The pamphlet explaining things can be ten pages,
given away free.  No legalese, maybe even no lawyers.  We can start
immediately, and be on-line in six months.  The immediate tasks are

 1) designing, building, and testing a few cans;
 2) lining up a supply of dry-ice and LN2;
 3) some trial runs with test animals, including some microscope work;
 4) legal work to write a no-liability sales contract for the can;
 5) checking out the local law regarding disposal of bodies, and
    hospital procedures for releasing the deceased;
 6) some advertising so people know the phone number for the answering
 7) a few talk show appearances, to announce that cut-rate service is

If Alcor will help, most of this can be short-circuited.  They might
help, because the approach is complementary to Alcor, not competition.
(Does Hyundai compete with Mercedes?)  Getting more people frozen will
help the public opinion climate, then the legal climate, and
eventually get the necessary revival research funded.  My approach
requires even more research, but it will be a useful backup for
Alcor's customers.

There is potential opposition from the funeral industry, since we are
competing for the same dollars.  They can still sell grief services,
and will no doubt get into the can biz.  (I'm not thrilled by this,
but it would be a big improvement over the current situation.)

Science questions:  For how long after death is the information in
memory retrievable?  What cellular and molecular events destroy the

Rich Schroeppel, 
October 1990

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