The Rich Will Outlive Us All

Tech billionaires’ attempts to beat death will not democratize longevity

Jessica Powell
OneZero
Published in
6 min readJan 3, 2019

--

Photo by Adrien King on Unsplash

YYou might have read about all the tech billionaires who are backing ambitious longevity research. Among them are Larry Ellison, who has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in anti-aging research; Alphabet’s Larry Page, who has put $1 billion behind Calico, a mysterious life-extension company. And then there’s PayPal founder and all-purpose dark overlord, Peter Thiel, who is slurping the blood from the necks of — well, wait, no, it’s not quite clear just what Peter Thiel is doing. But he has expressed interest in parabiosis, which involves getting blood transfusions from young people.

The tech industry’s interest in immortality isn’t surprising: Conquering death would be the ultimate holy grail in disruption — and a fabulous new market opportunity. Though in this case the interest probably isn’t just intellectual and capitalistic. Accessing eternity (or something near it) would be the most extreme act of self-exaltation: everlasting proof of one’s genius and superiority.

That’s why most of the ink devoted to the quest for eternal life has understandably focused on the science and the personalities behind it—the supercharged funding that has come from people who have built their fortunes making software and who seem to believe aging is a code that can be cracked.

But less has been written about the consequences that could arise if these billionaires — let’s call them the Centennials — were to actually succeed in pushing themselves, and their wealthy friends, into the three-digit club.

Conquering death would be the ultimate holy grail in disruption — and a fabulous new market opportunity.

For context, current estimates place the average lifespan for someone born in 2050 in the high-eighties or early nineties — a nice little uptick due to incremental progress in research and the targeting of specific diseases. But those targeting ambitious lifespan projects say we can go much further, with some scientists arguing there is an absolute upper limit for the human body and others saying there’s no reason we can’t make it to 1,000. (Eventually we’ll just call the…

--

--

Jessica Powell
OneZero

Technophile, technophobe. Music software start-up founder. Former Google VP. Author, The Big Disruption. Fan of shochu, chocolate, and the absurd.