David Ettinger: My name is David Ettinger and we are sitting here at the Cryonics Institute. Robert Rozeboom: When was this place constructed? David: The Cryonics Institute was established in 1976. We’ve been in our current building about 20 years. It was not constructed by CI. CI bought the building then. Robert: I was going to ask you how you got started in this, but I read that Robert Ettinger was your father, so can you just tell us a little bit about him? David: Yeah, my father Robert Ettinger is considered the founder of the cryonics movement and was also the founder of the Cryonics Institute. He wrote a book in 1964 called The Prospect of Immortality. That was the first widely publicized proposal that people be frozen at death in the hope of future revival. And when he did that I was about 13 so I grew up with the idea. Robert: And you prepare the bodies here? David: CI at its facilities perfuses and freezes and stores patients. Robert: And what does that involve? The perfusion? David: There are many steps in the process. The steps involve gradual cooling from of course body temperature down to liquid nitrogen which is about -196 Centigrade, very cold temperature, and additionally there are steps in the process that involve replacement of the blood with cryoprotective chemicals – chemicals that protect against the formation of ice crystals. Robert: So a patient has to be legally declared dead first, correct? David: The CI only freezes people after legal death. However death is not something like the equivalent of a light switch going off, people don’t go suddenly all alive and then suddenly all dead. In fact, many people have been revived after what used to be considered death - after heart attacks, after lots of catastrophic events. Death is essentially the point at which the doctor gives up. That’s what all the definitions come down to. The definition of death has changed over time, because the doctor gives up later and later as technology gets better. Now the point about cryonics is in the future the doctor is going to give up much later because there are going to be many more opportunities to treat what people die of. And that means someone who is legally dead today, if frozen immediately will hopefully reach a future in which they are revivable. Robert: Right now we can freeze embryos, blood and such things, but has anyone ever actually frozen a whole organism ____3:02. David: I mean there haven’t been any whole mammals frozen and brought back. There have been lower organisms that have been. Of course, part of the cryonics premise is that the freezing damage that occurs by today’s processes will themselves be reversible in the future. So that’s part of what we are counting on future technology to do, but there are many reasons to believe based on research that has occurred that that damage is limited. And so there’s good reason to hope and expect that that damage will be reversible in the future. Robert: So if someone was brought back, since they have already been declared dead, what sort of legal status will that have? David: That is the least of our worries. I am a lawyer, however I’ve spent zero time worrying about what happens when I am revived to my legal status - a future that is able to radically extend life. And that is able to revive people that are frozen is going to have a lot of capabilities. Robert: You think they will be beyond paperwork at that point? David: I think that they will be able to handle the fact that a few people have come back who were legally declared dead. Robert: So who does this sort of thing? Are there a particular group of people you find that ask for this more than others? David: CI has about a 1000 members and they come from all walks of life. I would say though that there are disproportionately people in the sciences, computer sciences among others – people who work with technology and understand its promise in the future. Robert: What is the cost to do this? David: Freezing through the Cryonics Institute is really surprisingly affordable, (it sounds like a pitch in a commercial) but it is true, CI’s price and it can vary some for people at a distance. The CI’s standard price is $28,000. What that $28,000 covers is the initial freezing and indefinite storage. The way the CI can do that is that part of that money goes for the initial cost of the freezing, and much of it is retained and the interest on that money is what’s used to pay for indefinite storage. CI has developed its own storage capsules that are exceedingly safe, very durable, and very economical. The ongoing cost of freezing is that these capsules contain liquid nitrogen and they are essentially like very large thermos bottles and very slowly, the liquid nitrogen boils off, as it has to. So the ongoing cost is replacing the liquid nitrogen, but our units have been improved over time, they are so efficient that that cost is a very small amount per person per year. As a result, our expenses are low in that regard. I should say that when my father founded CI in 1976, the price CI charged was $28,000. Today, the price CI charges is $28,000. You will have to go a long way to find products that can point to that level of zero inflation over a period of almost 40 years. Robert: Yeah, very few. I was talking to Andy earlier about how the Cryonics Institute or the cryonics community is a small community, and we talked a little bit about Alcor and how their price was much much greater than here. What is the reason for that do you think? David: I don’t really want to talk about other organizations. I prefer to be positive about ours. I think in CI’s case we are a nonprofit volunteer organization. We have a very small paid staff. Most of the people who do work for the organization do it on a voluntary free basis. We don’t pay the board, we don’t pay the officers. I am CI’s lawyer and to the extent other people in my firm do work, I need to charge for them, but to the extent I do work, I don’t charge for it. CI exists because its members really want what CI is offering. Nobody is doing it for the money. We are doing it for selfish reasons to be sure, but those selfish reasons are: We want to live longer. We want our families to. And we want to get a chance to come back. So we are able to do this all in a very economical way. Robert: How many people do you have stored here at the facility? David: I don’t have the exact count in my head, I must confess, but upwards of a 110 or 115 people are stored at CI. Robert: And there is a service that will bring them to you? David: There is a company that some of our members have contracted with to provide standby services. I think most of our patients come directly to CI. Of course, for patients living in the Detroit area where CI, that’s pretty straightforward. For patients living elsewhere we help them find funeral directors who will work with them, sometimes to begin the process. The perfusion process is not all that different than what a funeral director does in embalming except it is of course, very different chemicals that are used, for a very different purpose. So funeral directors can play a significant role at the beginning of the process. Robert: I also read that you don’t offer a ‘neuro’ option? David: Yes, CI does not freeze just heads. We freeze the whole bodies – we limit ourselves to that. Robert: What do you see the future of cryonics being? David: Well, my father came up with the idea in the ‘40s; he assumed that it was so obvious that everybody would be doing it soon. When they didn’t, he wrote his book. That created a certain stir but didn’t lead to lots of cryonics organizations. So he founded CI and after that it took CI about 20 years to really begin getting patients to a significant degree, and that’s been accelerating a lot. You know, 110 patients versus millions of deceased people every year is not exactly the majority, but CI has been growing and its growth has been accelerating. I think that it is due to the fact that people are recognizing more and more that changes in science and in medicine are not merely continuing but they are accelerating and they are going to become radical and dramatic. To me, it is very clear, beyond doubt, that there is going to come a time when people are not dying of old age; when lives are indefinitely extended. And it might even be relatively soon. The problem is for a lot of us now living it may not be quite soon enough – it would be really embarrassing if you were part of the last generation to die, and you didn’t try to do something about it. And the best chance we have is cryonics. It is not certain. But it is certain that if you don’t do this, if you don’t get frozen, that you are not going to have that opportunity. Robert: You think advances in cloning, and the fact that we can digitally 3-D print tissues and stuff now, do you think that it is piquing the interest in cryonics? David: Well, I think a lot of things are but maybe most importantly, people are beginning to recognize for the first time that aging itself is simply a defect of the process. And that there will be opportunities to retard aging and maybe reverse aging and cure aging. And there have been some successes recently experimental with a variety of organisms, so people are getting the idea that this most fundamental of things, aging and death, the most horrible of things, that have always been inevitable throughout all of mankind’s history may not be so inevitable any more. And once you start realizing that, you begin to ask more fundamental questions, about what your alternatives are and what your options are. And I think people are doing it. I think there are two reasons why cryonics has not grown more rapidly. One is, I think a lot of people are in denial upon the subject. And the simple reason is because death has always been so horrible and so inevitable people don’t like to think about it and deal with it. And cryonics is new enough that there are not regular institutions to deal with it - you can’t find an ad on television to tell you who to call, your doctor may not know who to call. And so you’ve got to take certain steps on your own. Since it is not easy to do, and since it is confronting something that people don’t like to confront, I think a lot just avoid the subject. Secondly, I believe there are a lot of people who in principle know about cryonics and think it is a good idea but never quite get around to acting in time. CI gets lots and lots of calls from people who say, “My mother died two weeks ago.” “My father died a month ago,” “What can you do?” And it is too late. Because they don’t reach out and make arrangements in advance. I have obviously known a lot about cryonics for a long time, but my father who died about a year ago, and is frozen and is here, died at 92, but we were very concerned; first of all, we were trying to keep him going, and take care of the problems that caused him ultimately to die; but secondly, we wanted to be sure that we were ready so that he could be frozen as soon as possible after legal death, and to make his chances as good as possible. And we spent a lot of time planning and working with hospice and being ready, and in his case, he was pronounced dead, and the cooling process began within a minute. That’s because we spent a lot of time making preparations. Not everybody can be that lucky. People don’t always die in a predictable way.If you can consider that luck under the circumstances, he was lucky compared to what might have been. But the point is, be prepared.