Academics at Oxford University pay to be cryogenically preserved so they can be 'brought back to life in the future'

Some staff are having their heads frozen while others are having whole bodies undergo the procedure

Heather Saul
Wednesday 12 June 2013 16:51 BST

The belief that death is the only certainty in life is a concept senior academic staffs at an Oxford University Institute are hoping to dismantle, by paying to be cryogenically preserved and brought back to life in the future.

Nick Bostrom, professor of philosophy at the Future of Humanity Institute [FHI] and his co researcher Anders Sandberg have agreed to pay an American company to detach and deep freeze their heads in the advent of their deaths.

Colleague Stuart Armstrong is instead opting to have his whole body frozen. Preserving the full body is technically more difficult to achieve and can cost up to £130,000.

Bostrom, Armstrong, Sandberg are lead researchers at the FHI, a part of the prestigious Oxford Martin School where academics complete research into problems affecting the globe, such as a climate change.

However, there is currently no academic research currently being undertaken into human cryogenic preservation at the college. Instead, the group have set up life insurance policies costing up to £45 a month in premiums that will provide the funds needed to preserve them upon their death.

When they are considered terminally ill, a cryopreservation team will wait nearby for a doctor to pronounce them dead. A machine will then be used to keep blood pumping whilst the body is cooled and the blood stream is infused with preservatives and anti-freeze to protect the tissue.

If only the head is being frozen it will be detached from the body, before nitrogen gas is used to reduce the temperature to -124C. The patient is finally cooled to -196C, before being placed in a vat of liquid nitrogen for storage at a cryogenic preservation facility, where the patients would be stored until technology advances far enough to revive them.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Sandberg said that life with just a head would be limited, but that he hoped by that point the process could involve downloading his personality and memories onto a computer.

Bostrom and Sandberg have chosen the Alcor Life Extension Foundation based in Scottsdale, Arizona as the location for their frozen bodies to be kept. The company already has 974 members and 117 patients in cryopreservation, along with 33 pets. 77 of these patients are ‘neuropatients’, which means they have only preserved their heads.

Armstrong, whose wife Miriam is heavily pregnant, has chosen the Cryonics Institute and even plans to take out a policy for his unborn child. “It costs me £25 a month in premiums to cover the cost of getting cryo-preserved, and that seems a good bet,” he said. “It’s a lot cheaper than joining a gym, which is most people’s way of trying to prolong life.

“If you picture the world in, say, 200 years, when reanimation is possible, it will probably be a wonderful place. I want to sign up the baby so she has the same chance.”

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