Happy 200th Birthday!
If These Billionaires Have Their Way, We’ll Live Forever
I hate to remind you, but — you are dying. So is everyone you love. Every cell in your body is slowly decaying, and science doesn’t yet fully understand why. But even the supposed laws of the universe don’t stand a chance against human ingenuity. Several billionaires are investing billions of dollars into aging research and incredible technology that aims to grant humans with immortal life. Can it be done? Common sense says no — but then again, a hundred years ago, no one would have believed that one day we’d be planting flags on the Moon. Here’s a quick rundown of a few projects in the works that (might) make human mortality a thing of the past.
Dmitry Itskov’s vision for humanity reads like a fantastical sci-fi novel. By 2020, the Russian media oligarch promises that his project, The 2045 Initiative, will have produced technology that will allow humans to upload their consciousness to an android avatar, thus creating a new, superior species of cyberkinetic humans — “neo-humanity,” as he calls it — capable of infinite intelligence and immortal life. Itskov has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the project, recruited top minds in computer science and philosophy and gained widespread, passionate support, and even received a blessing from the Dalai Lama.
“Death has never made any sense to me,” said Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle and fifth-richest man in the world, to his biographer. Ellison sees death as “just another kind of corporate opponent he can outfox.” To defeat death, Ellison created The Lawrence Ellison Foundation, which has pumped over $300 million into aging research and the mysterious workings of the human brain.
Peter Thiel, the enigmatic co-founder of PayPal, is disappointed with today’s technological innovations. For him, they don’t live up to the hype. Through a venture capital fund called Founder’s Fund and through the Thiel Foundation, Thiel has invested heavily in only the most ambitious tech startups — one of which is Alcor, a groundbreaking cryogenics company whose ambition is to literally freeze living human bodies, halting nearly all organ functions and cell processes, for years at a time. (So, the same thing depicted in so many sci-fi films; cosmonauts climb into a pod, go comatose for several years while they travel to a nearby planet, and wake up when they arrive.)
Google’s biotech research division, Calico, aims to better understand the science of aging. Under Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s leadership, the company has partnered with pharmaceutical giant AbbeVie and is rumored to be developing a drug that mimics naturally occurring human genes responsible for long life. Not much is known about Calico’s research endeavors — like many of Google’s subsidiary research divisions, Calico’s ongoings have been kept mostly under wraps — but it’s known that the company has built a seriously impressive roster of talented individuals in the biology, genetics, pharmaceutical and neuroscience fields.