The chance to live forever is science fiction in most conversations, but a lab in Scottsdale, Arizona believes it can freeze your body after death and maybe bring you back years in the future.
ALCOR Life Extension practices the science of cryonics. Big metal containers at ALCOR hold bodies of people who are legally dead, but considered lives on hold by ALCOR cryopreservation.
“What we're offering is a chance, and only a chance, to come back and have an indefinite life span. [It] could be hundreds of years, could be thousands of years,” said Max More, president and CEO of ALCOR.
ALCOR’s CEO is a barrel chested man with wavy red and grey hair. He speaks with an English accent and talks about death as an arbitrary status of the human body.
“People who were dead in 1950 because we didn't know what else to do, we routinely bring back to life today through CPR and defibrillation. So were they really dead? Well, not really by today’s standards,” said More.
More is betting that future tech can defeat death by reversing the thing that killed you in the first place, even old age. If that’s true, the trick is preserving the body until that far off time.
“By the time we finish our procedure they won't be alive, because there won't be any metabolism, there won’t be any function, but neither are they dead,” More explains about the preservation process.
ALCOR receives bodies shortly after death and begins the process of lowering the body temperature. All bodily fluids are replaced with cryo-protectant that More describes as biological antifreeze. The cryo-protectant means bodies aren’t actually frozen, which can cause cellular damage. Instead, ALCOR super cools the bodies to -320 degrees Fahrenheit.
ALCOR has 152 bodies “living” in groups of four in stainless steel vats filled with liquid nitrogen. Their most famous client is Ted Williams, the Boston baseball slugger who had his head preserved.
But most clients are average people.
Cryopreservation has plenty of critics.
Famed theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku is on record doubting the viability of cryopreserved bodies. He also claims that groups like ALCOR could be misleading the public with their claims of forever life.
But More points out that cryopreservation technology is already in use. Fertility doctors routinely “freeze” eggs and sperm to be thawed and used in the future. More is realistic about the possibility that technology to reanimate humans is decades away, if it’s possible at all.
“My best guess is anywhere between 75 and 100 years, but that's very vague and very uncertain.”