The emergence of local cryonics

portlandReal estate is all about location, location, location. Location matters in cryonics as well.

The objective of standby and stabilization in cryonics is to limit injury to the brain after pronouncement of legal death. Unfortunately, many cryonics patients have not been stabilized promptly after pronouncement of legal death because the cryonics organization did a poor job of tracking the health condition of its members, was not made aware of the pending death of a member, or the case was one of rapid decline or sudden death. In other cases, the cryonics organization was aware of the critical condition of the patient but was faced with the challenge of providing services in a geographical area where few other cryonics advocates live. This creates a non-trivial challenge because premature deployment of a standby team can expose the cryonics organization to a prolonged standby in which resources are “wasted” but delayed deployment can arrive too late for the patient to receive meaningful stabilization procedures. Even in cases where a cryonics standby team is able to intervene promptly after cardiac arrest, the distance between the location of stabilization procedures and the cryonics facility in combination with the legal and logistical challenges of transporting a patient across state lines produces harmful periods of cold ischemia.

Some members who have recognized these challenges have decided to relocate to the state, or even the city, of their cryonics organization. As a general rule, these decisions are made when the member in question has retired or recognizes a high probability that the cryonics organization’s services are needed in the near future. As a consequence, the Phoenix/Scottsdale area has a larger proportion of (retired) people with cryonics arrangements than could be expected based on location alone.  So far this phenomenon has not really caught on with  Cryonics Institute (CI) members, although the desire of relocating to Michigan is a recurrent topic in discussions among CI members. In a sense, the issue is even more important for CI members because the organization itself does not offer standby and stabilization services. Unless a person has made arrangements with another organization for such services, CI members should expect non-trivial periods of warm and cold ischemia, producing brain injury and perfusion impairment during cryoprotectant perfusion (if perfusion is possible at all) as a consequence.

A useful medical analogy for this situation is to picture the fate of a critically ill person in a state with limited medical emergency services, who, after a 911 call, needs to be flown thousands of miles across state lines to a medical facility without the possibility of treatment during transport. It should not be surprising, then, that some people who have recognized this problem advocate that cryonics organizations should be local in nature. Not only in the sense of building a strong local community and emergency response system, but also by strictly confining itself to members in that area. A technical criterion to determine the area of coverage for such a cryonics organization is that the service area of the cryonics organization should not exceed the distance that, in principle, permits stabilization of a patient without loss of neurological viability of the brain by contemporary criteria.

The vision of a cryonics organization that confines itself to a specifically defined geographical area (a state or a few neighboring states) raises many practical questions but the most important question concerns its financial feasibility. Can a cryonics organization that confines itself to one state support itself and its operations? On the one hand, one is inclined to answer this question in the negative because the absolute number of people interested in cryonics is so small that even cryonics organizations that accept members from all parts of the world remain dependent on (large) donations and bequests to sustain their operations. On the other hand, a cryonics organization that operates in a strong local community of life extensionists can draw upon the enthusiasm of its members, the resources available to them, and focused regional outreach efforts.

Location is also important to cryonics because it can make or break the prospects of a viable cryonics organization. One major problem facing cryonics today is that the locations of the two major cryonics organizations (Alcor and the Cryonics Institute) offer little appeal to (young) people who could make a contribution to the science and practice of cryonics. This is not just conjecture. Alcor has great problems in attracting talent to Arizona (as evidenced by the ongoing saga of finding a suitable CEO). People who turned down offers to become more involved with Alcor (or those who left) have mentioned location as the most important reason. The situation is even worse because a number of people who are involved with Alcor in Arizona are known to dislike the location and have indicated their desire to move on in the future. Suffice it to say that such a situation limits the prospects of recruiting skilled people with long-term commitments to the organization.

The first thing that should be done is to recognize the problem and take it seriously. After this happens, efforts can be made to stimulate areas of vibrant cryonics activity with the objective of drawing more people to them. One development that is striking is that locations with a strong “cosmopolitan” identity such as New York and the Bay Area have no or little serious cryonics activity going on any longer. This is particularly painful in light of the fact that these areas have been historical hotbeds of cryonics activity. Good and dependable cryonics capabilities cannot be created overnight but there are no obstacles for creating  local organizations with a strong emphasis on education and local response capabilities.

Another important reason for creating strong local cryonics and life extension communities is  to reduce the vulnerability to political and legal events that threaten the operation of a cryonics organization. The importance of diversifying risk, and the limited ability for cryonics organizations in the US to deliver good stabilization services in Europe, is one of the major reasons why European cryonicists should be encouraged to create their own cryonics facility, complemented by basic standby and stabilization capabilities in other countries.

In the United States the author has been involved in stimulating vibrant cryonics activity in Portland, Oregon which so far has culminated in the rejuvenation of local cryonics meetings, a viable research program, and the formation of a non-profit organization to educate the general public about the benefits of cryonics. Other plans that are currently being pursued by other people in the region include the fabrication and acquisition of stabilization equipment and even preparations for the formation of a viable cryonics organization. It is hoped  that these developments will motivate more people to move to Oregon or stimulate people in other parts of the country to engage in similar activities.