The Cryonics Institute

'Your Family's Last Best Chance for Life." The Cryonics Institute is where people go who want bargain basement prices for immortality. Its Web presence is extensive, with pictures and bios of its 'de-animated" members and in-depth descriptions of the actual freezing process (though the pictures aren't as graphic as I'd like). Endlessly thought provoking, in that amusing, 'Are these guys serious?!?" sort of way.

The short answer is yes, de-animatedly serious. Enormous FAQs answer every question you never had about living forever; and no one can say these guys don't have a sense of humor. They deal exclusively in full-body freezing (no severed heads at CI), they're quite optimistic about future nanotechnology and to the best of their knowledge, Walt Disney was cremated (a damn shame, according to the Cryo-folk). These guys have heard all the conceivable arguments against immersing your dead flesh in liquid nitrogen for several centuries and they seem to have an answer for every question.

The most obvious one is what defines 'dead." CI argues that since we don't currently define dead people as those whose hearts have stopped or as fatally diseased sufferers of the bubonic plague (both of which were historically accurate descriptions), there is no reason why future generations won't be able to re-animate people who have been dead for days or months and not only cure their ills, but fix all those pesky side effects from the decades-long immersion in liquid nitrogen. And all for the low, low price of $28,000. However, they recommend you do as much research as possible before coughing up the dough for your semi-final repose. They even recommend a novel, The First Immortal, by James Halperin. (And for the dangers inherent in stealing jewelry, may I recommend The Lord of the Rings?)

You may be wondering, 'Why bother if there's no guarantee that it will work?" You've got to love CI's answer, indicative of its peculiar brand of logic: 'Driving to McDonald's isn't a sure thing — you could get hit by a car. Or even a meteorite. But do you let that stop you? It's the same with cryonics: a look at the facts will lead you to see that there is a real and reasonably (sic) likelihood that you'll make it safely. After all, what's your alternative? Certain death." Indeed.

—Diana Peterfreund

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