The desire for immortality is as old as mankind itself and has occupied both philosophy and religion ever since. Many seek eternal life in the pursuit of great deeds and through eternal glory – while others look to have their bodies frozen after death to be resurrected when science is ready. In fact, in many cultures there have been attempts to preserve and prepare the dead for eternal life or an afterlife such as ancient Egypt. Thus, the basic idea of cryonics can also be considered as old as civilization itself.
A glimpse at history
More than 50 years ago, for the first time, a person had their body preserved in liquid nitrogen after death with the hopes of being resurrected one day. Though it may sound like science fiction, the idea of preserving one’s body after death is not new and it is quite impossible to exactly define when humankind first thought of preserving the bodies of their deceased relatives. For instance, the South American Chinchorro culture began artificially mummifying their deceased more than 7,000 years ago and the first confirmed indications of the idea that preservation of the dead body could enable or favor an afterlife are a bit more recent – for example in the case of the ancient Egyptians.
The idea of freezing dead bodies at minus 196 degrees Celsius in a tank of liquid nitrogen, on the other hand, is fairly new. The U.S. psychologist James Bedford, became the world’s first cryopreserved corpse after his death on January 12, 1967 and is considered a “pioneer” in this regard. Since then hundreds of bodies have been stored in containers of relevant institutes, primarily in the USA and Russia.
Currently, there are several thousand people called cryonicists who want to do the same and have already registered for post-mortem storage.
The business in cryonics
Cryos is the Greek word for cold and it is precisely on that cold which cryonicists are pinning their hopes: they want to preserve as many undamaged body cells as possible, until science might one day be able to thaw them out and bring them back to life. Prominent members of one of the biggest cryonics organizations include Facebook investor Peter Thiel and Google futurist Ray Kurzweil, who has a vision of wiring humans with nanobots and upgrading them to transhuman beings. Numerai founder Richard Craib, who holds a membership card at Alcor, is convinced that cryonics provides a five- to ten-percent chance of living much longer. Craib seems to think its a good monetary value since it is possible to pay for the conservation through life insurance.
In 2017, Craib caused a public stir by posting a controversial job ad that offered cryogenic freezing in its corporate health plan. The company has advertised a full-time position for a data scientist to develop its stock market app, which offers cryonics as a benefit in addition to an attractive annual salary from $130,000 to $160,000., Craib announced to his company that all employees will have the option of being cryogenically frozen and eventually resuscitated in the event of death. With this kind of life insurance, the shot for a chance of infinite life seems quite affordable.
What's in it for now?
Thoughts like those of Craib seem quite utilitarian: Anyone who invests $100,000 in their human capital could get a double and triple return on that investment if the thawing process is successful. Numerai felt as though this would offer them a competitive advantage in the long run because they could thaw out talented employees rather than replacing them. The hedge fund guru believes his company could pioneer the development and motivate other startups to adopt similar incentives.
However, there is still some patience required for the prospect of returning to life. The procedure is still considered very fragile from a medical point of view. But once we get to that point, the application could completely change our perspective of work, business and talent acquisition. If you can unite the greatest geniuses of the next 100 years of time under the umbrella of one organization, the potential for innovation could be infinite.