If you ask that question to most people, they would not have a clue. Cryonics is not very popular yet, but interest in cryonics has increased since the process was pioneered in 1967 by James H. Bedford. To be specific, cryonics is the controversial practice of freezing the remains of people whom doctors and the rest of the world consider dead, in the hopes of reviving them when medical technology can cure what ails them. The procedure itself features a very long and sometimes complicated process.
First, when the person is considered clinically dead, a team of specialists goes in and hooks the person up to a heart and lung resuscitator. Then, they begin to cool down the body with ice. Because the body is cooling at the rate of several degrees Celsius per second, there is little or none damage done to the cells. Third, they take the blood out of the body and replace it with an antifreeze substance. Next, the person is injected with drugs to slow down the metabolism of the brain and protect the cells from intense freezing. Then, the body is wrapped in a very well insulated sleeping bag and finally an aluminum outer covering.
Lastly, the body is placed in a dewar, which is a big steel container filled with liquid nitrogen at the temperature of 196 degrees Celsius below zero, where the body remains. There are many things that show the increase of cryonics. First, as of 1995, commercial cryonicists have signed up about 1,000 customers; another sixty have already been frozen. Many people who have signed up are afraid dying, others want to see the future, and others want to see what will come about from all the improvements that have been made in medicine.
Another reason is that people are just interested in the whole concept of cryonics. Lastly, the cryonic suspension procedure is becoming more advanced and so more people are deciding on having the procedure performed on them when they die. There are also some problems. One is that the cryonics companies are dealing with legal trouble and could be dealing with bankruptcy. Another is that the prices are very high, with prices ranging from $28,000 to $125,000 for a whole body suspension and $45-50,000 for a head-only suspension (neurosuspension).
Because most of the cryonics companies are in California, damage to the storage tanks from an earthquake is a big concern. The idea of cryonics also raises some moral and religious questions. If cryonics works, people centuries from now might not want to resuscitate the frozen. The biggest problem with cryonics is that there has not been an actual reanimation, which means bringing someone back to life, and so no one knows if it will ever work. According to the experts, they predicted that the first person to be brought back to life after being frozen and thawed would be in 1992.
That has not yet happened. My personal prediction is that it will take a couple of decades. I say that because in order for someone to be brought back to life, a cure for whatever ailed them would have to be discovered. Also, a body, whether it be robotic or cloned, would have to be found for a frozen head and that might be hard. I say that it will happen in approximately 2026, if it happens at all. There are some benefits to cryonics. One spin-off effect would be genetic cloning.
Scientists are hoping to genetically clone a body for the frozen heads before they can be thawed. Secondly, cures must be found in order for people to be reanimated. That would not only benefit the people cryonically suspended, but anyone else with the disease. If cryonics works, the worlds greatest minds could forever be saved. Lastly, cryonics would essentially become a form of time travel. Someone could be in the twenty-first century one minute, and the twenty-fourth century the next. Even though there are some spin-offs, there are also some ripple effects.
One of the worst ripple effects could be premortem suspension. In premortem suspension, people are frozen before their actual death. Another could be fraudulent practices by cryonics companies in which they freeze someone, take the money, and do not attempt to reanimate the person. Another ripple effect could be overpopulation. If reanimation is successful, more people might opt for cryonics. When they are reanimated, the population could sharply increase and cause overpopulation. Lastly, there are many unknown side effects.
Because there has not been a successful reanimation, no one knows what effects the long term freezing might have on ones body and/or brain. Although interest in cryonic suspension has risen, there are still many skeptics. Even though prices are expensive, there are some people that still want the procedure done to them. While reanimation after cryonic suspension has not occurred, future technology could make it possible. Cryonic suspension could possibly help fuel medical breakthroughs but, it could also create ethical questions. No one knows what the future holds for those frozen in time.