There is also a cryonics FAQ on the Cryonics Institute website: CRYONICS: A Basic Introduction (click on the preceding words to access).
The Cryonics Institute website also has an FAQ dealing more
specifically with the subject of what a person should know in becoming a Cryonics Institute Member:
Becoming A Member: the FAQ (click on the preceding words to access).
Those interested in the most scientifically technical issues in cryonics should
browse the topics in the cryonics section of CI President Ben Best's website:
Cryonics Topics (click on the preceding words to access).
Good Books To Read about Cryonics
The Prospect of Immortality, The First Immortal, and Engines Of Creation, are good books for anyone new to cryonics to start with. All of these books can be downloaded free or viewed free on the web (click on the titles shown to access).
The Prospect of Immortality, by Robert C.W. Ettinger (Doubleday, 1964, and various subsequent editions in several languages).
This is the single most important book in the history of cryonics — in fact, the book that launched the entire cryonics movement. Robert Ettinger lays out all the arguments, all the insights, all the ideas that have guided and shaped cryonics from its very inception. The full text is available free on our web site -- just go to our table of contents.
Also free at our web site is Robert Ettinger's Man Into Superman (St. Martin's Press, 1972, and in various subsequent editions), which some have called the most important book they've ever read.
Just as Ettinger's first book founded cryonics, the second book arguably began the school of thought variously known as immortalism, venturism, or transhumanism — the notion that through science and technology man will eventually be able to re-shape not only the world outside himself, but re-create man himself into ever-improving higher forms with ever-greater physical and intellectual strengths and capacities.
Both these books are absolutely required reading not merely for anyone interested in cryonics but for anyone in the philosophical ideas and technological trends shaping the modern world, and creating the future to come.
Youniverse by R C W Ettinger.
From a review:
If you are interested in the meaning of self and identity, and the nature of reality as it is being slowly and painfully uncovered by modern science, you want to have Youniverse on your bookshelf. If you are looking for a practical philosophy to establish bridges between the fundamental nature of things and how you ought to live your day-to-day life, this book is for you.
... even altruistic behavior can, and should, be derived from these two principles. For example, I could go for a beer instead of writing this review, and this would lead to immediate feel-good. But I believe that the memes contained in the book should be fostered, so writing the review feels better. Probably Mother Theresa spent most of her time in a state of feel-good.
Robert Ettinger's book YOUNIVERSE: Toward a Self-Centered Philosophy of Immortalism and Cryonics is available from Amazon.com. For a review of YOUNIVERSE by CI President Ben Best, see: Comments on the book YOUNIVERSE by Robert Ettinger by Ben Best.
Engines of Creation, by K. Eric Drexler (Doubleday, 1986) is not purely about cryonics, but, after Robert Ettinger's Prospect Of Immortality, it is probably the most important text in the cryonics movement.
In it Drexler explains the foundations and possibilities of the new science of molecular nanotechnology — the planned manipulation of atoms and molecules, by machinery built on a molecular scale.
What's the relevance to cryonics? Before nanotechnology, cryonics had to rest on the hope that "someday" a workable technique would be found that could revive cryopreserved patients, but repair the damage done by freezing, illness, disease, aging.
Nanotechnology is that technique: this is the book — by a respected mainstream scientist — that said, flatly: yes, cryonics can certainly work, and here's how.
A popularly written rather than technical book, Engines Of Creation laid out for the first time plausible, scientifically valid techniques leading to cellular repair and cryonic revival.
Nanotechnology's implications for society are so extensive and extraordinary, and it's development is proving to be so rapid, that this book more than merits being read for its own sake, quite apart from the cryonics material.
Available in paperback, our link will take you to a complete, free, online text version, as well as the full text of Dr. Drexler's other volume, Unbounding The Future, and further links to Dr. Drexler's publications, biography, upcoming conferences, and to the main organization dedicated to the study and furtherance of nanotech, the Foresight Institute. The nanotechnology links on our Links page will take you to the best online resources available on the subject anywhere.
Nano!, by Ed Regis, is the beautifully clear non-technical story of how Dr. Drexler came to work out the new technology, and of its rapid development and acceptance by the scientific and corporate communities. Regis also wrote a book with more than a few of the chapters dedicated to cryonics, called (horribly) Great Mambo Chicken And The Transhuman Condition.
The First Immortal, by James Halperin (Del Rey Books/Ballantine, 1998 or download here [no charge].) is perhaps the best and easiest first introduction to cryonics today. A New York Times bestseller, it's widely considered the best cryonics novel ever written.
Don't be misled because it's fiction. The science inside it is fact: this is one of the best researched novels ever written. The author said of it, "I was trying to write the most realistic novel ever written on these subjects," and its depiction of cryonics and nanotechnology, its philosophical and technological and even legal presentations, are extremely faithful and accurate. And yes — in the course of researching cryonics, Mr Halperin became convinced of its plausibility and good sense, and became a cryonics member.
A newer science fiction book entitled 21st Century Kids is unusual in that it is a cryonics novel written specifically for children which portrays and optimistic (but not entirely problem-free) future for those who practice cryonics. Unlike many fiction writers who attempt to write on a cryonics theme, Shannon Vyff (the author) is very well informed about cryonics and is a signed-up cryonicist (as is James Halperin).
Other Books To Read about Cryonics
The Scientific Conquest of Death is a compilation of essays published in 2004 by the LongeCity (formerly the Immortality Institute). The essays deal with scientific, social and philosophical questions associated with aging and mortality — with an eye to defeating those two foes.
There are many other interesting books out about cryonics as well. Wesley du Charme's Becoming Immortal is a good introductory short volume, marred by the fact that it has one of the worst covers ever designed. (This book is well worth reading, but you will never take it out with you and read it in public.) Du Charme also has a long section on probability theory that seems rather like a simple version of Robert Ettinger's classic technical essay Cryonics: The Probability of Rescue, which is available free elsewhere on this web site.
Brian Wowk and Mike Darwin's Cryonics: Reaching For Tomorrow is published by a cryonics organization called Alcor. An updated version re-written by Jerry Lemler is currently being distributed by Alcor.
A book on a philosophical views held by many cryonicists is Mike Perry's Forever For All, a nearly 500-page meditation on topics ranging from cryonics to ethics to the Singularity to the Omega Point. Forever For All is not only available in print but can be downloaded as an ebook from upublish.com. It can also be found in Amazon.com (linked to the title in the previous sentence).
Arlene Sheskin's Cryonics is neither an attack nor defense of cryonics but a sociologist's study of death and bereavement as experienced by people in the cryonics movement. (Its conclusion: the fear of death is lessened, and the grief of bereavement greatly diminished). The book is of value most for its interviews and the picture it gives of people involved in cryonics during the early 70's, one of the earliest and most difficult times in its existence.
George Patrick Smith's Medical-Legal Aspects Of Cryonics, Jerome Tuccille's Here Comes Immortality, and George Stromeyer's Cryonics are dated, hard to obtain and rarely read.
Much reading related to cryonics is of course of a scientific and technical nature not easily mastered by non-specialists. Of them all, Eric Drexler's Nanosystems reigns supreme: it is the definitive text on nanotechnology, nearly 500 pages in length and covered in formulae and equations from start to end. Edited by Richard R. H. Coombs and D.W. Robinson, Nanotechnology In Medicine And The Biosciences (Gordon and Breach Publishers, 1996) is a highly technical text on on bioscientific and biomedical applications on nanotechnology. Technical references to cryobiology are available in journals referenced in the Declaration of A cryobiologist's link available on our Site Contents page.
Surprisingly readable, Robert Freitas's Nanomedicine promises to be as definitive a landmark in the field of medicine as Drexler's text was to molecular engineering. Several chapters are available through our links page. Of all shorter-than-book-length technical papers, the clearest, easiest and by far the most important is Ralph Merkle's The Molecular Repair Of The Brain. If you only read one technical essay about cryonics, it should be this one. The full essay is available through our links page,and links to Dr. Merkle's web site and cryonics pages are also available via our links page.
There are several science-fiction novels about cryonics — many of them poorly researched, and a little ridiculous. Most use the idea of cryonics as a technique for time travel, rather than meditating on cryonics' own social and humanitarian implications. But there are some excellent exceptions.
James Halperin considers Linda Nagata's Tech Heaven as his favorite cryonics novel, and a few consider it to be the best cryonics novel of all, although Frederick Pohl's The Age Of The Pussyfoot is intelligent and fun and well-thought out and has its fans.
Robert Heinlein's The Door Into Summer is another much-beloved candidate. Clifford D. Simak's Why Call Them Back From Heaven? takes rather a negative view of cryonics, but does work out some social implications rather well.
Thomas Berger's Vital Parts is perhaps the best written — but least trustworthy — novel of them all, a non-science fiction story set in the Sixties in which a failed browbeaten middle-aged protagonist almost but not quite tries manages to get himself suspended while yet alive. Quite awful, badly out of date, and completely undescripive of cryonics today, it nonetheless has some fascinating snapshots of cryonics as seen from (or rather as distorted by) the 70's.
Marvin Minsky, widely regarded as the father of Artificial Intelligence and a cryonics member and activist, co-wrote a science fiction novel called The Turing Option with science fiction great Harry Harrison, in which computer-aided reconstruction of the brain (an issue relevant to cryonics) is powerfully and plausibly described.
Sterling Blake (a pseudonym of SF great Gregory Benford) wrote a rather accurate and positive portrayal of a cryonics service organization in Chiller, and A.A. Attanasio's Solis also has a cryonics theme.
Danish mystery writer Anders Bodelson does rather a dour job of social prophecy in Freezing Down, a nd Harvard writing instructor and mystery writer John Minahan has a wonderful police novel out called The Great Grave Robbery in which 'Mae and Robert Erickson', wife and author of 'The Prospect Of Life Extension', figure prominently. There are some technical scientific inaccuracies, but on the whole a real treat, especially if you know a little about cryonics history.
The very best book on the theme of longevity itself is a play: Back To Methuselah, by George Bernard Shaw, in which an evolving humanity wills itself into living three hundred years, and then open-endedly, without inevitable death. Shaw's masterpiece, it is genuine literature, and argued by some to be the finest play in the English language.
Living Longer, Growing Younger, by Paul Segall with Carol Kahn (Times Books, 1989) describes progress in anti-aging and cryonics; Dr. Segall (now cryopreserved) did research in both fields and has been associated with both ACS and Trans Time. Now out of print, it was available in hard cover for $10. The Second Genesis, by Albert Rosenfeld (Prentice-Hall, 1969) discusses the biotechnology revolution and effects on human life. Prolongevity II, also by Albert Rosenfeld (Knopf, 1985) and Maximum Life Span, by Roy Walford (Norton, 1983) discuss progress in anti-aging research. Alvin Silverstein's Conquest of Death (MacMillan, 1979 out of print) details current progress toward immortality. Most cutting-edge of all is Ben Bova's Immortality. It covers the very latest developments, describes how we got there beautifully, and shows why "postmortal America" really does seem to be just around the corner.
Marvin Cetron and Owen Davies are marketing forecasters who became aware of the medical trends certain to extend human life in the near future. Their Cheating Death (St. Martin's Press, 1998) is an analysis of social trends likely to result when life spans are extended greatly and then indefinitely. Particularly good is the section on '76 Trends For a Postmortal America'.
Lastly, Australian novelist Damien Broderick's The Last Mortal Generation and The Spike make super reading, and his latest (and bestselling) novel, Transcension, has a cryonics protagonist. And CI member and Cryonics Europe chairperson Chrissie Loveday (aka Chrissie de Rivaz) is not only a published romance novelist, but has a short story called Coming Back with a cryonics them online. You can read more about and by Chrissie at www.chrissieloveday.com.
Skin Deep, by Jacqueline Jacques looks at what would have happened if six frozen brains were found in an abandoned cellar: the result of Nazi concentration camp experiments and they could have given British scientists in the present the chance to pioneer the first brain transplants. This is a novel that examines what would happen if people cryopreserved in the 1940s were reanimated in the early 21st century.
New material on cryonics is being written, and new advances in cryonics and nanotechnology and anti-aging are being made every day. We welcome any suggestions from readers about new reading material, or even material that might be of general interest. Some have already arrived: James Halperin suggests people read Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, which gives superstition (and religion) a traditionally good drubbing.
By contrast mathematical physicist Frank Tipler's The Physics Of Immortality not only rehabilitates God from a cosmological and computerological standpoints but even manages to put Christology on a hard-physics footing. Solzhenitsyn mentor Igor Shafarevich's The Socialist Phenomenon is a very disheartening examination of the death wish in politics and society. And novelist Stanislaw Lem's noble Return From The Stars, while not strictly speaking a cryonics novel, does perhaps a better job than any of realistically describing the experiences of someone thrust a hundred seventeen years into the future.
Films To See about Cryonics
Regarding films, there are a few well worth seeing. The Discovery Channel's Immortality On Ice, a one-hour documentary of the cryonics movement, is accurate and informative; and Woody Allen's Sleeper is as absurd as it is delightful.
One of the greatest achievements of Japanese animation, Neon Genesis Evangelion, is not a cryonics film per se, but does have references to cryostasis, and to technical capacities that can only be nanotechnological. Another classic anime, Cowboy Bebop, features Faye Valentine, a cryonics patient turned off-world bounty hunter in just about the right currently-projected time frame.
Mel Gibson rises from cryostasis to find amour in the near-future in Forever Young. And the popular science documentary film Synthetic Pleasures features wonderful but all-too-brief interviews with Robert and Mae Ettinger. (Not to mention a shot of cryonics pioneer "Miles The Beagle —Resurrected Dog", unquote)