By Valeria Grekova
May 29th, 2018

Blockchain & Cryonics: Decentralized Immortality

Blockchain & Cryonics: Decentralized Immortality

By Valeria Grekova
May 29th, 2018

“People need to be frozen so that they do not die,” says transhumanist Valeria Udalova, CEO of the Russian cryo company KrioRus.

People have strived for immortality since the beginning of time and today, with the help of new biotechnologies, some of them choose be frozen hoping that in the future they will be revived. The technology of body conservation is called cryonics. It is a typical transhumanist dream to get cryopreserved and then, in a couple of centuries, resurrected to start a new life in that future society. How is this future world supposed to be functioning, and is there a place for blockchains there? Let’s find out.

KrioRus is now on the third stage of ICO – cryonics and blockchains may have some common ground. More than 3 million of CRYO tokens have already been sold, and KrioRus is planning to build a brand new cryocenter and to study various new techniques of freezing and reviving using these collected funds.

But let’s not go into details of this particular project and look at the industry as a whole at first. What exactly is cryonics?

Cryonics aim to provide people with a long life or immortality by freezing them and preserving their bodies (or their brains). It is adjacent to cyborgization, life extensions, biohacking and the cyberpunk movement. Depending on the background of the transhumanist, these ideas may mutate into more or less radical forms, ranging from cultivation of artificial organs to uploading the brain into the Internet or deep freezing people for long space voyages like in the movie “Passengers”. More information about the actual freezing, labs and all the science behind it you can find in this guide by Healthy Way.

Several famous members of the crypto community have previously been frozen. Among them was cryptopioneer Hal Finney who was one of the first programmers to work on the Bitcoin source code and received the first transaction of 10 coins from Satoshi Nakamoto. He struggled with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and died from it. Right after his death, in 2014, he was cryopreserved by the American company Alcor.

Cryo and Crypto Society

It’s no secret that both the blockchain enthusiasts and transhumanists are futurists – both groups speculate about the future of society and dream of a better world. In fact, transhumanists almost invented a cryptocurrency once. But we will talk about that in a minute.

Transhumanists who believe in cryonics and immortality and the blockchain enthusiasts do look in the same direction. Both movements, obviously, consider technological developments and economic freedoms to be crucial for society. Ideology, which combines transhumanism and technological digital economy is called extropianism. According to extropians, only the development of science and technology will make it possible to prolong life significantly. Extropianism is a theory that combines transhumanist ideas with a practical approach.

“Human life can become eternal, like a binary code on a blockchain.”
– KrioRus

Extropianism intersects a lot with the ideas of the cypherpunks who believed that encryption technologies should not be regulated by the state. A new form of digital money, “cryp”, was ostensibly discussed by the extropians in 1992. It was meant to be an electronic payment that guarantees the transaction and allows users to remain anonymous. It was not a cryptocurrency yet, but it was close. The extropians and blockchain enthusiasts are inherently united by this libertarian and even anarchist ideological basis, aspiration for freedom and privacy.

Uploading Yourself to Blockchain

Virtual reality can someday become our new home – or the home for our computer copies. The main obstacle that prevents us from uploading our brains to the Internet is the insufficient capacity of computers.

When a personality is loaded into a computer (this might be useful to revive of cryopatients), a distributed and secure storage of data, as well as confirmation of their identity will be absolutely necessary.

“Life extension technologies are very much connected with IT and blockchain. I will give an example: there is a concept that it is possible to develop equipment that will not destructively scan the brain and make its 3D model. Roughly speaking, the brain can be digitized. The Blue Brain project launched by IBM and the Swiss Federal Technical Institute of Lausanne is already researching this. It turns out that people can be digitized, uploaded to a computer and preserved – for example, on a blockchain.”
Valeria Udalova

Perhaps, someday our entire civilization can be fully digitized and will function on blockchains, similar to Netflix series “Altered Carbon”.

Storing DNA on a Blockchain: Security and Immortality

The deciphering of the DNA is considered to be one of the most important recent events in science. And today it is possible to combine DNA with blockchain. As blockchain data can not be destroyed or altered, a DNA can be stored there forever.

But why store DNA in the first place? The answer is simple – to be able to recreate (clone or revive) this person in the future. This can facilitate the resurrection of cryopatients immensely as the DNA can provide the information needed to recreate someone’s body and mind. DNA storage ideas inspire digital immortality advocates to create blockchain technologies that allow to preserve identity and personal information in a secure way. Perhaps in a few centuries there will be technologies that will restore your body and mind based on genetic data safely kept in a blockchain database. What a time to be alive!

Blockchains can provide greater security of medical data. DNA databases already exist and are used, in general, to study diseases. In the meantime, medical data is constantly stolen: according to IBM Security research only in the United States, the cost of medical data theft damage is almost $6.2 billion per year.

Ildar Fazulyanov, CEO of WELL (blockchain marketplace for telemedicine services), said to Russian media Forklog:

“The leakage of DNA or medical history of a patient has more serious consequences than it may seem. For example, according to DNA, one can judge about the pedigree, illnesses or even predict how many years a person will live. This is the largest data warehouse, and it is still very vulnerable. The use of the blockchain allows to solve the problem of protecting this information from unauthorized access or use.”

So, the use of blockchain in genetics has two sides – realistic and romantic. lt can help protect the security of DNA data now, in this day and age. Such opportunities already exist (the company Encrypgen offers “blockchain security for protecting, sharing and re-marketing genomic data”). At the same time, blockchains can preserve this information for a long time, so that the transhumanist dream of a digital genetic resurrection could possibly come true.

KrioRus and ICO

In addition to common semi-utopian plans and aspirations, cryonics and blockchain have a practical common ground: high-tech projects often seek funds through ICO. A fairly successful ICO is carried out by the already mentioned Russian company KrioRus, and their project is called CryoGen. The project is carried out jointly with the NeuroDAO Foundation, which promotes research and applied projects of neurobiotechnics.

“Cryonics is very much underinvested. Millions of dollars are required for technical equipment and regional development of Russian cryonics. But this does not mean that we can not work without it. The Singapore fund NeuroDao suggested that we make a fashionable ICO for cryonics, we decided to try it. This is an outlet for a more progressive and risky audience than traditional venture capitalists. Our project CryoGen is focused on international expansion. “
Danila Medvedev, the founder of the Russian transhumanist movement, chairman of the board of directors of KrioRus

As of March 2018 ICO has moved to the second stage and has already sold more than 3 million tokens. KrioRus plans to build a cryocenter in Switzerland (now their center is located near 15th-century monastery town of Sergiyev Posad on the outskirts of Moscow). They also plan to conduct research on reversible organ freezing and space anabiosis.

For biotech projects, raising funds is an extremely relevant issue, since they are complex and costly enterprises. Alcor had previously publicly stated that it was lacking funds and even suggested to cancel certain memberships, increase duties, reduce quality of cryopreservations for underfunded members and so on. Meanwhile, grants can be inflexible and permit spending money on one narrow scientific field. In comparison to that, ICO seems to be a better solution for cryo companies to raise money for functioning, research and new projects.

Does cryonics work at all?

Perhaps the main similarity between cryonics and ICO is its scam tendencies? Well, this claim is not entirely false.

There is still no consensus in the scientific community whether freezing people or their brains really can ensure future revival. The issue of defrosting remains controversial. William Jarvis, the president of the US National Council on Fighting Health Fraud, said: “Cryonics may be an appropriate object for scientific research, but advertising unproven methods and trading it is quackery.” Some scientists consider cryonics to be charlatanism, and one can not blame them for the claims. Despite many experiments on animals, no one has been successfully defrozen and completely resurrected. Even Kriorus officially recognizes that it is not clear who will be responsible for the revival of the patient in the distant future.

Why, if this is such a controversial field, do people invest money in it? Why are scientists still actively studying anabiosis? According to mortician and videoblogger Caitlin Doughty, the main reason for the popularity of cryonics is “death denial,” not the reliability of this procedure. Kriorus states this in a more subtle way: “If cryonics does not work, you would in any case be dead; if it works, it can save your life.”

Anders Sandberg, of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute gives the freezing, thawing and reanimation process “maybe a 5% chance” of working.

“The funny thing about cryonics is that they’re selling immortality, but very few people buy it,” he adds. Is this because people don’t actually want to live forever, or because people think it’s nonsense? I think it’s partially the nonsense part”.

Not to be confused:

Transhumanism is associated with the concepts of immortalism and cryonics. However, they have to be distinguished. Transhumanism is the desire to overcome the limits of human capabilities and solve the problems of humanity, and death is only one of these problems that immortalism specifically deals with. Cryonics is one of the tools of transhumanists and immortalists, along with prosthetics, organ cultivation etc.