Be it Jesus or Persephone, there is something about resurrection that appeals to us. Whether it is the finality of death or the profound feeling of loss that haunts us, we are obsessed with the call of immortality. And thus, whether it is eating superfoods or playing with alchemy, if something could prolong our lifespan, we are game to try it.
Did you know that there are people, or bodies present in the world today, that are legally dead but hope to walk the Earth again one day in the future? This hope is kindled thanks to cryonics.
Cryonics is the low temperature freezing of human remains soon after death, in the hopes that technology and medicine will have evolved to such an extent that resurrection will be possible in the future. Since its inception in 1967, over 500 people have opted for this technique, with the majority in the United States, and a smattering of people in China and Russia.
A dive into the world of cryogenics might not lead you into the realms of pathbreaking science, but rather the stubbornness and childlike audacity of human hope. It is no surprise that people from the creative field or well-known risk takers such as PayPal founders Luke Nosek and Peter Thiel, as well as multifaceted Hollywood artist Seth MacFarlane have opted to be cryopreserved after death. This, despite the fact that most organizations that cryogenically preserved corpses to revive them in the future died an early death themselves (the irony makes one chuckle), and their client’s bodies had to be disposed of.
Humans are perhaps the only species who have the good fortune (or misfortune) of being aware of our ourselves as sentient beings, our lives and thus, its inevitable end. Given that for us the world begins once we open our eyes, we have trouble comprehending our inevitable non-existence. We have been promised a lot about the future – like flying cars, world peace, a better, more evolved society, humongous technological advancements like the world have never seen before. Humans are plagued by FOMO (Fear of missing out). If we can’t sit with the idea of missing a friend’s birthday party, wouldn’t the thought of missing the 22nd century rub us the wrong way?
Dead on Arrival?
According to an article in ‘The New York Times’, during the pandemic, a heightened awareness of mortality seemingly led to more interest in signing up for cryopreservation procedures that can cost upwards of $200,000. What is concerning is our ever-persistent need to interfere with laws of nature and the circle of life. When every plant, animal, even a microorganism can gracefully accept when life has come to an end, does our intelligence leave us in denial of this basic truth?
There is also the question of the future we so fervently long for. The truth is, we have very little idea about what the world will look like after one hundred years. Could an individual from the 1800s have been able to survive coming back to life in 2022? How bewildered would they be by our cellphones, social media, superfast computers, digital money, cryptocurrency, limitless information? And beyond that, would they withstand the culture shock, our inexplicable linguistics, our hyper connected yet fragmented society? You know it would be nearly impossible. How do we expect to do better in an unseen future, when our present confounds us so?
Ultimately, cryonics falls in the category of things that seem like an affront to logic or beliefs, but could have us changing our tune due to innate human curiosity. For instance, if the prospect of life after death cost not 200,000 dollars but just 50 bucks, a lot more people would be willing to try it. It doesn’t matter if it works, you’re literally starting from dead here.
We could argue about the logical, scientific and ethical loopholes in cryonics from now till judgment day, but the truth is, if we don’t decide when another human dies, we perhaps don’t have a say in when a person chooses to be reborn.