- Dennis Kowalski is head of the Cryonics Institute, which preserves people after they die in the hope they'll be revived in the future.
- The remains are stored in liquid nitrogen tanks that reach -320 degrees Fahrenheit. The service costs $28,000.
- Kowalski told Insider he decided from an early age that cryonics made sense, even if coming back isn't a guarantee.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Dennis James Kowalski, a 54-year-old resident of Milwaukee and the president of the Cryonics Institute. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I first learned about cryonics on TV when I was a young kid in the 1970s. Cryonics is the practice of suspending a person in very cold temperatures after they are legally dead in the hopes that they can be revived one day in the future. The TV segment really sunk into me, and after reading some books and doing research, I thought, "why not be frozen instead of buried or cremated?"
It's impossible to know for sure if it will work
The way I see it, 100 years ago, when someone's heart stopped, that was it. The technology wasn't advanced enough to bring them back. But over the years, we learned that you could manually make someone's heart work through CPR or cardiac defibrillation. Something that was once impossible has become routine today.
My gut instinct says that 100 years from now, we may have the technology to revive someone. But nobody knows the future, and it's impossible to know for sure. You've got nothing to lose by preserving your body after death but potentially everything to gain.
My family signed up to be preserved, too.
More than 10 years ago, I was elected as president of the Cryonics Institute. Since then, it's what I've dedicated my time to. It's my life raft for my family and me, so why wouldn't I want it to be as sharp as possible?
My wife and three children aren't as involved in the Cryonics Institute, but they're signed up just like any other customer. I've had the conversation with them about it, and they get it. They agree that the chance of waking up, even if slim, is worth it. They're pretty optimistic about the future as well.
My mother says she's old school. She said the concept of being preserved is too "out there" for her, and she made me promise that I would honor her wish to be buried next to my father. I understand honoring a person's final wishes. I'd want her to honor my wishes, too.
I'd like to see the future one day.
My choice to have my body preserved is not rooted in fear of death; it's a love of life that I embrace. Then you throw in the aspect of getting a chance to see how cool things might be in the future, and my curiosity gets me. I'd like to see the future. It brings back the little kid in me. I wanted to believe in Santa Claus, I wanted to believe in all of those things, but then I realized they were all fables.
Real science is even more magical if you give it a chance. I'm a dreamer, but I'm also a realist. I understand it may not work, but it's worth a try, isn't it?
See inside a facility that freezes people after they die here.