Neurobiologist and transhumanist Olga Levitskaya, 24, pictured in Moscow, is among those who believe that, through science, humans will reverse death. Photograph: Giuseppe Nucci The Guardian picture essay
Faith in -196C: pioneers of resurrection – a photo essay
The photographer Giuseppe Nucci meets the cosmists and pioneers of transhumanism who make up the first cryopreservation society in Eurasia. Its storage conserves more than 80 bodies from around the world with the aim of bringing them back to life in the futureby
In Moscow at the end of the 19th century a librarian of poor origins started reflecting on how future human beings, raising themselves from a condition of conflict and divisiveness, would eventually be able to defeat evil and death through a technological and cultural revolution. His name was Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov. In the long run, the philosopher’s beliefs permeated Russian culture, inspiring scientists, mystics and artists who shared a peculiar, spiritual-philosophic doctrine later known as cosmism.
Fedorov’s ideas have been spread by Russian cosmists, whose thoughts have merged into a wider international philosophic movement known as transhumanism.
Transhumanism is a cultural movement that encourages scientific and technological discoveries to enhance human physical and cognitive capacities. It believes that a future most people dismiss as science fiction is just around the corner. Transhumanists say that by 2045, humanity will experience “singularity”, a theory predicting human and artificial intelligence can be fused.
Russian transhumanists established KrioRus, the first cryopreservation society in Eurasia, in 2003. Today it conserves 81 human bodies, from Russia, the US, the Netherlands, Japan, Israel, Italy, Switzerland and Australia, as well as animals. It is based in Sergiev Posad, a residential neighbourhood more than two hours north of Moscow.
Signing a contract to be cryopreserved is an act of faith in scientific research, whose progress in the fields of life extension and medicine make some people believe that humanity is inexorably heading towards immortality. While awaiting technological their hoped for resurrection, the bodies of KrioRus’s clients float in storage units at a temperature of -196C.
With death many people’s greatest fear, cosmists and transhumanists can offer a seductive myth of immortality.