Silicon Valley’s Latest Lifehack: Death
Tech elites are embracing stoic mantras while they chase immortality. Can Silicon Valley have it both ways?
Peter Thiel, the billionaire technology investor and sometime Donald Trump adviser, has a cute line about death. “Basically, I’m against it,” he likes to say when the topic comes up. It comes up quite a bit, actually, because Thiel has spent millions of dollars of his personal fortune, and even more of his partners’ money, funding anti-aging research. In addition to backing numerous biotech startups working to extend human lifespans through his venture capital firm and his personal foundation, and taking human growth hormone to rejuvenate his own cells, Thiel has told me he is “very, very interested” in parabiosis, an anti-aging treatment that involves transfusions of younger people’s plasma. He employs a full-time medical consultant whose job is to research new health discoveries and report back.
Of course, who isn’t against death? Certainly not Thiel’s good friend and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, who told me he’s hoping to cheat the reaper by uploading his consciousness into a supercomputer so that he’ll have an archived version to boot up once his body expires.
Not Sam Altman, the influential head of Y Combinator, who made a $10,000 refundable down payment to a company promising to euthanize him just before his natural death and flash-embalm his brain. (Altman tells me he paid the money primarily to support scientific advancement; by the time he has to worry seriously about aging, he expects humans and machines will have merged, rendering biology as we know it irrelevant.)
Google’s Ray Kurzweil is also fighting the fight. He takes 70 to 80 supplements every day to postpone his senescence for the 27 years he predicts it will take for computers to achieve runaway superintelligence and grant us eternal life (or, OK, snuff us out altogether).
So are Kurzweil’s bosses, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who spun off a company, Calico, devoted to life-extending biology research; and Mark Zuckerberg, who launched a $3 billion initiative to cure all diseases this century; and Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who has bankrolled hundreds of…