Unlike what you might think, getting frozen in Russia doesn't always result from Siberia’s infamous climate. Instead, it can be about getting someone to drain your body of blood and submerge it in liquid nitrogen for storage — but only after you die, of course.
Cryonics have been going in and out of the spotlight for the last several decades, fuelled by tragic stories of those too young to die investing their last hopes in the procedure, as well as humanity’s ever-present desire to make sci-fi a reality and to live forever, or at least to believe that we will. Currently all the companies providing the service are based in the US – except one that is based in Russia. And even though the majority of people on various cryonics forums are a bit hesitant to trust a Russian company with their afterlife chances, there is definitely something poetic and symbolic about retiring to a below-zero slumber in a country known for its low temperatures.
Read on for your ultimate briefing on freezing your body in one of the world’s coldest countries.
It's cheaper than in the US
Conveniently, the price list of the Russian company, called KrioRus, is in US dollars – with the shaky exchange rates for the rouble you can’t really blame them. Freezing your whole body will set you back $36,000 (compared to $200,000 at America’s leading cryo-company Alcor). It’s recommended that all preparations are done in advance, otherwise it could cost more as the company will have to take care of emergency paperwork, body preparation and transportation. The surrounding costs of transportation and other arrangements will also be more affordable in Russia compared to the US.
You can also just freeze your brain
It's called neurocryopreservation, and at $12,000 it’s cheaper than freezing your entire body. Some scientists have expressed opinions that freezing the brain is the only way to go since the chances that they will be reviving and repairing your old body are too slim. But “some people find preserving just the brain a bit too unusual,” as KrioRus’ website gently puts it as a reason for offering the potentially useless whole-body freeze. But what will happen when the brain is revived? Well, it's all up to future science, but theoretically they say that, depending on the progress, the company might be able to ‘grow’ you a body, or 3D print it, or grow an artificial one. You’ll basically be a robot, but considering you'll be waking up all these years after your death, this might not even be the most surprising thing. Or, maybe we’ll come up with San Junipero-inspired technology?
There are no guarantees that your personality will be preserved
Basically, you run the chance of waking up a different person — if you wake up at all, that is. Most of the theoretical basis for reviving cryopreserved humans is currently based around educated guesses as to what the technologies of the future will offer. What if you woke up as a crazed megalomaniac? In any case, you probably won’t even know how to use the fancy new iPhone 150.
You can get the VIP treatment — obviously
There are several VIP packages offered by KrioRus, with prices starting at $150,000. At the base level, you get a Fitbit-style wristband that will alert the standby team when you die, so that they can get to you as fast as possible. For more money there is also the standby regime, where, in the case of an unsudden death (as a result of a deteriorating illness, for example), a team can sit by your deathbed together with your family, waiting to freeze you as soon as you pass. There is also an enticing offer for those who pay over $400,000 for the VIP treatment – the same wristband but made of gold.
Most foreigners still choose to freeze themselves in the US
KrioRus’ list of “cryo-patients” mostly consists of Russians – although there are also people from Ukraine, Italy, Japan and Australia. As the forums have confirmed, Russian companies don't boast the best reputation technology-wise, so trust levels are quite low. But the lower cost shouldn’t make you overly suspicious – the difference comes from, among other things, the fact that KrioRus uses communal preservation freezer containers as opposed to Alcor’s individual ones. A bit like the USSR’s communal apartments – do you really need a luxe suite after you’re dead and frozen?
You can also freeze your pet after it dies — people already do it
The question here, of course, is why. Will you still be alive when they revive them? Or do you plan to freeze yourself too and then get them to revive you both to replicate your life exactly, in a new Jetsons-inspired century? And how do you even know this is what Mittens would want? In all honesty this might be more of a sentimental, if understandable, move.
How scientific is the procedure?
It's not total sci-fi fantasy as it does have a scientific basis, although a controversial one. The majority of physicians and scientists are sceptical about the procedure, and say that the underlying scientific theory is speculative. Among the vocal critics is the Russian Academy of Science’s Commission on Pseudoscience and Research Fraud, as well as many other top scientists. Marketing cryonics is already banned in the Canadian state of British Columbia, and UK scientists have called for similar measures. But respectable scientific names appear on the other side of the debate as well, and, as the marketing texts on the KrioRus website state, even if cryonics turns out not to work and they can’t revive you in the future – well, you’re dead anyway, and you don't lose much (except lots of money).
Make arrangements for waking up in the future
What will you do once you are thawed and reanimated in a facility several hours away from Moscow? If you're one of the first people to be revived, of course, you’ll probably spend the rest of your new life giving interviews and undergoing tests. But what if you’re reanimated when the process is already a conveyor belt system, and you being revived is an ordinary event? Maybe getting an open-date ticket into Moscow in advance is a good idea, or a hazmat suit in case you wake up in the nuclear wastelands or Tver.
Do the admin in advance for a smooth journey into the future
Apart from signing all the documents and paying up, the company recommends that you make sure that your relatives know and agree with your choice, or at least tolerate it enough not to sabotage the operation. The legal territory for human cryopreservation is uncharted at best, as it falls between medical and funeral services, so a clear statement in the will is encouraged.
There are unexpected services offered too
The company can also freeze a sample of your DNA in case human cloning becomes legal and you don't fancy being trapped in a robot body any more. They can also scan and store all your legal papers and documents, diaries, computer logs and home videos. So the “erase my browsing history after I die” joke might get outdated pretty soon.