“To date, about 500 people have been put in cryogenic stasis after legal death,” writes a Bloomberg Opinion technology columnist, “with the majority of them in the U.S.
“But a few thousand more, including Emil Kendziorra, are on waiting lists, wearing bracelets or necklaces with instructions for emergency responders. ”
Kendziorra, 36, runs Berlin-based Tomorrow Biostasis GmbH, one of the first cryonics businesses in Europe to join a market dominated by American firms organizations like The Alcor Life Extension Foundation and The Cryonics Institute. The former cancer doctor has several hundred people on his firm’s waiting list. They skew to their late 30s, male and tend to work in technology. Patients can choose to have their entire body preserved and held upside down in a four-person dewars, a thermos-like aluminum vat filled with liquid nitrogen, or just preserve their brain, which is cheaper.
Kendziorra says cryopreservation overall has become less expensive over the past few decades on an inflation-adjusted basis, a claim that he bases on historic prices published by his peers, who he says are making a collective effort to bring down costs. That could be critical to shifting cryonics from a fringe pursuit to something a little more mainstream, especially since it is no longer just for billionaires like PayPal Inc. co-founder Peter Thiel (who has reportedly signed up with Alcor). Kendziorra, for instance, has made cryonics just another monthly subscription by capitalizing on insurance, he told me during a Twitter Spaces discussion on cryonics last month. His customers pay a 25-euro ($26.54) monthly fee to Tomorrow Biostasis, and they also make the company the beneficiary of a minimum 100,000-euro life insurance payout upon their legal death. Kendziorra says that covers the full cost of cryonics including the biggest outlay: maintenance over the next century or so.
All told, most of his customers are paying about 50 euros a month for both the company’s subscription fee and the life insurance policy for the option of a long sleep at death. Of course, most companies don’t survive for more than a century, so Tomorrow Biostasis also partners with a non-profit group in Switzerland to carry out the storage of customers on its behalf…. The domain itself is largely funded by wealthy individuals including CEOs of tech companies, angel investors and scientists, Kendziorra says, adding that for them to invest in his own firm, their primary motivation shouldn’t be “monetary” but rather to help further the field.
The mechanics all sound sensible, but that still leaves the question of whether cryonics will work, medically speaking. Doctors and scientists have used words like quackery, pseudoscience and outright fraud to describe the field. Clive Cohen, a neuroscientist from Kings College London, has called it a “hopeless aspiration that reveals an appalling ignorance of biology.” The Association of Cryobiology has compared it to turning a hamburger back into a cow.
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