21 June 2022

Southern Cryonics aims for life after death in the Riverina

| Chris Roe
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man in freezer

Peter Tsolakides is preparing to open Australia’s first cryonics facility. Photo: Chris Roe/Supplied.

Peter Tsolakides is looking forward to a long life. He’s also gambling that death is not the end.

When the time comes, Peter and his fellow investors at Southern Cryonics will put their bodies on ice in the hope that a future scientific breakthrough might bring them back.

“Let’s not call it eternal life. Let’s call it, hope of living as long as you want to live,” he clarified when asked if this was a quest for immortality.

Peter is the founder of Australia’s first cryonic suspension operation that will soon “go live” in the Riverina town of Holbrook.

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The first stage of the operation will allow for up to 40 “patients”, with room to expand in the future.

“We think we’re about a month or two away from opening,” Peter said of the COVID-delayed operation.

“The facility’s there, it’s got liquid nitrogen supply capability, the only thing that we need to do is a final step in the training and add a bit of equipment.”

In terms of zoning and health regulations, Peter said the best option was to classify the facility as a cemetery.

“The local council determines where there’s a cemetery and the NSW Health Authority has all the procedures you have to go through to bury or to inter them,” he said.

“We made a big application, we met all the procedures, it took a few years, they were all very helpful.”

shed

Southern Cryonics stage one facility in Holbrook will house up to 40 patients. Photo: Supplied.

Peter was quick to point out that Southern Cryonics is a not-for-profit organisation funded by 34 founding members who have contributed between $50,000 and $70,000 for a spot in the freezer.

Once established, new members will be able to buy in for $150,000 to be “suspended”.

“I know I’m paying some money to do it but I know that what I’m doing is better than the alternative,” he laughed.

After retiring from a long career in the oil industry, Peter renewed his interest in the speculative science of full-body cryo-preservation.

“When I was younger, I read a book – Robert Ettinger’s ‘The Prospect of Immortality’ – I have a sciencey type background, and the approach sounded very logical.”

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Ettinger was an American academic who founded the cryonics movement in the 1960s with the vision of humanity transcending history and achieving a state of “immortality and transhumanity”.

On a practical level, Peter said the Southern Cryonics team was well aware of the challenges involved in achieving a physical life after death and he felt that we were still a couple of centuries away.

“Here’s what cryonics needs: medical and scientific advances, research into curing of aging, brain preservation techniques, hypothermic medicine, cloning, synthetic limbs, nanotechnology, low-temperature storage of organs, powerful computer increases and mind uploading artificial intelligence.” The list continues, but Peter said that’s not their concern.

“All we have to do is keep the patient in a good condition and everything that we need for cryonics to work is actually getting independently worked on.”

diagram

How cryonics works. Photo: Southern Cryonics.

For Southern Cryonics members, the process of suspension begins the moment a patient is declared legally dead.

“Dying is not an immediate step. Legal death is one point but you’re still in a process so we slow it down from that time.”

Peter explained that it’s all about bringing the temperature down, adding “stabilisation chemicals” and a kind of “biological grade antifreeze” and ultimately freezing the body to the minus-200 degrees temperature of liquid nitrogen.

“They are then placed in one of these cryostats – they are like large vacuum flasks – and they’re placed in those head down and they can stay in there for hundreds of years,” he said.

In terms of how the project has been received in the local Riverina community, Peter said people had been supportive.

“Australians are very open to new things, so this sort of thing was greeted very enthusiastically. They don’t necessarily want to be suspended, but they like the idea of something new going on,” he said.

In terms of his own chances of resurrection, Peter is happy to play the odds.

“I don’t know what the chances are, but we feel they are significantly above zero.

“If you go the other route and you’re in a grave somewhere, your chances are definitely zero!”

You can learn more about Southern Cryonics on their website.

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