Have you ever dreamed of being cryopreserved ? As we’re sill far from having the technology to do that, or even knowing if it will be possible in the future, some people fight for cryonics to be recognized has a true hope for the sick of today to be healed in the future. Curious, I decided to ask a few questions to Christine Gaspar, president of the Cryonics Society of Canada.
Christine Gaspar lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and work as a nurse, who specializes in emergency medicine. But she is also the president of the Cryonics Society of Canada, a non-profit group dedicated to teaching Canadians about cryonics, and lobbying for a more favourable legislative environment. As she says on her website, her interest include « the healing arts, cryonics, transhumanism, life extension, camping, cuisine, learning about physics and philosophy, and science fiction ».
How did you come to be president of the Cryonics Society of Canada ? Has your Society performed any cryopreservation yet ?
I was asked to be president a number of years ago due to my interest in speaking with the public, and my background in health care. I am a registered nurse.
We haven’t performed any cryopreservations because there is not a facility in Canada for cryonics… yet. We did assist in a cryopreservation for the Cryonics Institute in Toronto in 2002. You can read more about it at his website.
Why do you believe in Cryonics ? Did something happened to you or somebody you cared about ?
I believe in cryonics because I believe in the ability of science to solve problems. I think that cryonics is a very logical solution to an age old problem. Yes it is not the best solution… finding ways of curing disease or repairing damage to bodies are better, but I think that cryonics is a better choice than simply putting oneself in the ground. It takes the greatest amount of arrogance to say « this thing can never be done or will never be possible ». Even though statistically, the chances of someone who is cryonically preserved being revived aren’t terrific, the alternative (burial or cremation) virtually guarantees that the person stays dead. Looking at it that way, I would think that taking my chances is better than giving up. Hopefully, with perserverance and work, cryonics technology will improve, like all technologies, and the chances of successful reanimation will improve as well.
I didn’t become interested in cryonics because of some horrible thing that happened to me or a loved one. I came to this clearly and rationally as a way to hopefully stay on this earth as long as possible. As a nurse, I have seen a lot of death in the course of my career. It is not pretty, or romantic, or heroic. It is ugly and painful and final.
Are you planning on being cryopreserved yourself ? Do you advocate cryonics among your friends or families ?
Yes I am planning to be cryopreserved. Of course. I do advocate it for my family. As for my friends, well I don’t push the idea on others. If they seem interested or so inclined then I do talk to them about it and let them take the lead on their level of interest.
When do you plan on being awaken after being put to sleep and with wich technology (medecine, mind uploading in computers… ) ?
I would not be put to sleep. Let’s be clear. I would be pronounced dead, then cooled to the temperature of liquid nitrogen. That is not sleep. When would I like to be reanimated? When they can repair me and restore me to health. I would like to keep my body if possible. I have lived in it for 38 years and have grown fond of it. I am not entirely convinced that consciousness can be maintained with uploading. I would have to learn more before opting for that. Of course if that is the only alternative I would take it. However, my preference is to be restored in my body to the greatest extent possible.
Theoretically, are you in favour or life interruption for a better preservation of the body ?
Theoretically, if I had a brain tumour, or other disease where my mind was at risk for destruction and there was no hope for a cure, then yes.
I would have to give it careful consideration though.
We know there has been a few problems surronding this issue but with the prospect of resurrection, what has « death » become ? What do you think about the present definition of «legal time of death» ?
From my perspective, the present definition of « legal death pronouncement » simply is a statement from a physician that he or she no longer has the knowledge or tools to resuscitate someone, so he or she gives up, and allows that person to die. If you go into cardiac arrest in a remote location, without the benefit of drugs or technology, then you will die much more easily than if the same thing happens in a hospital bed. There are many cases of witnessed cardiac arrest in a hospital environment where the person is successfully revived, where if they were far from medical aid then they would certainly perish.
With overpopulation and growing poverty in the world, don’t you think it’s unfair and dangerous to defend cryonics ? In 2050, we will be 9 billions on earth !
My personal survival is not going to overpopulate the earth. If I have 9 children that I cannot feed, then I will add to the burden of the earth. The cold truth is that poverty is not dictated by the extension of life, but is dictated by government, the distribution of wealth and resources, and having more children than you can feed. We can feed everyone on this earth right now in a sustainable way, but it is not done due to political or economic reasons. It has very little to do with the wish to extend one’s life. In fact, the life expectancy in developed countries is much higher than in developing countries.
This is because of greed on many levels, poor infrastructure and the hoarding of resources by a few. The fact that we live longer in Canada than in Ethiopia, for example is not a testament to life extension, but is a testament to jobs, health care, clean water and food. I do not think that cryonics will cause the world to go hungry. In fact if people can live longer, in better health, they may choose to have fewer children, educate themselves and get better forms of employment. The unrecognized geniuses that may come out of this may even think of new innovative ways to help the world, rather than allow it to be destroyed.
Is there a politic project behind cryonics in the world ?
I have no idea.
Are you religious ?
I was raised to be Roman Catholic. I consider myself agnostic, in that even though I do not discard the way I was raised, I remain skeptical on many levels. I tend to side with the cold truth that after death, there is nothing.
Do you think cryonics has religious implications, for example on our conception of what a human his (body, soul, brain…) ?
I think that religion exists to provide us with comfort in an otherwise indifferent universe. It also serves to provide us with an explanation to things we do not understand. I don’t specifically think that cryonics has religious implications any more than say stem cell research, tissue engineering, or organ transplantation. Cryonics to me is simply the act of placing someone in « suspended animation », to prevent the destruction of the brain, and body, while waiting for science to advance to a degree that it can repair that which is not repairable today. Its similar, by analogy, to an ambulance… to the future.
Earlier I mentioned that if you go into cardiac arrest, say in a remote area, or suffer a life threatening injury, far from medical aid, you are more likely to die from that injury than if you are close to medical aid. You would then hopefully call an ambulance to transport you to a place where knowledge and technology are such that you can be repaired (such as a trauma centre). Cryonics is, loosely put, a time travelling ambulance, that simply transports you from a place where you cannot be fixed to a place (and time) where you can. I think that our concepts of the body, soul and brain will evolve with the development of all science, not just cryonics. Imagine if you could travel 100 years into the past. You were to appear near a river where you witness a crowd at the edge of a river. You approach them to see what they are looking at, and you see a person drowning in the river. Someone pulls them out, but they have stopped breathing. By all accounts of the knowledge of the time, that person would have been dead. Since you happen to know CPR, you rush to that person’s aid, using techniques that seem very simple and commonplace today. You are able to successfully revive this person. What would the people watching think of you? Would you be some kind of miracle worker or perhaps be a witch?
This is what I meant by religion slowly being replaced by rational knowledge and thought. Such notions would be silly today, but only because CPR is something we are familiar with.
Do you believe or hope in immortality ?
Of course I hope for immortality. Do I think that it is realistic? Not really.
Are you in contact with other cryonics societies or transhumanist associations ?
Yes I know people from the Cryonics Institute, Alcor, and some cryonicists from around the world.
What are the key spokesmen for cryonics around the world ? Are there any book you would recommend on this subject ?
Some older books which many cryonicists like are « The Prospect of Immortality » which was written by Ettinger, who started cryonics in the first place… « The Engines Of Creation » is another popular one on nanotechnology. There are countless sci fi books that employ cryonics, but the two that come to mind that are specifically about cryonics are « The First Immortal » and « Tomorrow and Tomorrow ». I am sure that there are many other good books, but these are what I could think of just now.
Cover image : XcogTV.