Competition and Cooperation in Cryonics

When I told Jordan Sparks that his new cryonics organization, Oregon Cryonics, would be featured in Cryonics magazine he was quite surprised. To me it is obvious. I think that cryonics is still in such a fragile state that new organizations can have a positive effect on other existing organizations. I also believe that the existence of multiple cryonics organizations with different services and pricing will bring cryonics within the reach of more people and can create a safer environment for already existing organizations.

Of course, not every new cryonics organization should be enthusiastically welcomed by existing cryonics organizations. A cryonics organization which does not disclose any information about its protocols or cases should be treated with great caution. An organization that accepts patients on a “pay as you go” basis is at much greater risk of having to thaw their patients and cause a bad reputation to the field as a whole. A cryonics organization that seeks to gain members through the dissemination of unrealistic promises or denigrating statements about other organizations would not be helpful either.

One reason why I think existing cryonics organizations should not feel threatened by the existence of other organizations is because I do not think that a membership gain by one organization is necessarily at the expense of the other organizations. At this point the two major existing cryonics organizations (Alcor and the Cryonics Institute) approach cryonics from a different philosophy and have different price structures. It is also conceivable that in the future there will be a new cryonics organization that pursues an explicit for-profit model.

The existence of multiple cryonics organizations also spurs innovation and quicker adoption of new technologies. After all, most cryonics organizations would like to be perceived as “state of the art” and the introduction of a new technology at one organization often causes the other organization to adopt it (sooner) as well. The most prominent example of this is the transition from conventional cryoprotection to vitrification. No sane cryonics organization today would decide to offer freezing with a poor cryoprotectant as the preferred protocol. In the future we may see a wider embrace of brain-only cryopreservation, or even the addition of chemical preservation as a low-cost option. The existence of multiple cryonics organizations also leads to greater national and international press coverage.

In an ideal world, a cryonics organization should be close enough to do prompt stabilization and cryoprotection without the need for air transport or prolonged ground transport. If cooperation among organizations is excellent we may even see that organizations make available (for a fee) their space to stabilize and cryoprotect a patient of another organization to minimize long periods of cold ischemia. Such an arrangement could be advantageous for all organizations involved.

I admit being also rather relieved. Other than KrioRus, there has not been a new all-service cryonics provider since the mid-1990s, and none at all in the Western Hemisphere. Running a cryonics organization is not trivial so it is extremely encouraging to see there are still people who want to to do it. Let us wish Oregon Cryonics good luck and hope that cryonics in general grows faster as a result.

Originally published as a column in Cryonics magazine, May, 2015