Silicon Valley’s quest to live forever could benefit the rest of us – .

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Silicon Valley’s quest to live forever could benefit the rest of us – .


Jeff Bezos bursts champagne after stepping out of the New Shepard capsule after his space flight on July 20, 2021.
Blue Origin
Everything must die, according to poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, but that could be about to change.
A growing number of tech billionaires have decided to use their enormous wealth to try and help humans “cheat death.”

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Alphabet’s Larry Page, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, and Palantir’s Peter Thiel are just a few of the super-rich who have taken a keen interest in the burgeoning field of longevity, according to interviews, books and media reports.

While breakthroughs are far from guaranteed, they are hopeful that various drugs, therapies, and other life science technologies will allow humans to live well beyond 100 years and possibly 200, 300, or even. more.

But will their efforts benefit humanity as a whole or only an elite? It is a delicate question which divides opinions.

The filter down effect

“Technologies that are initially affordable only to the wealthy generally become more widely available over time,” Stefan Schubert, a researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science specializing in “effective altruism” told CNBC. Indeed, this holds true for everything from airplane travel to smartphones and medications.
Tech investor Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype, told CNBC that Silicon Valley’s quest to live forever will benefit humanity as a whole.

“I think unintentional death is clearly morally wrong, which makes the quest for longevity a morally noble thing to embark on,” Tallinn said. “Early adopters always tend to pay more and take greater risks than the ‘mass market’, so if therapies start on the expensive / risky side, that’s to be expected. “

Tallinn added that he thought it was “counterproductive” to demand that a new service be available to everyone before anyone was allowed to use it, but said he understood the ‘instinct.

Sean O hEigeartaigh, co-director of the Center for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, told CNBC that many advances in the science of longevity could have broad benefits, adding that they could reduce the onset or the severity of age-related illnesses, including dementia and the heart. health.

“Extending the maximum lifespan significantly in the short term seems unlikely to me; but it is more plausible to identify and stop the factors related to aging that increase the preponderance and severity of age-related conditions, ”said hÉigeartaigh.

Some fear that the Earth’s finite resources will be strained if people live longer and healthier lives.

However, as significant progress in extending life is made, Ó hÉigeartaigh expects population numbers to be more stable in more parts of the world.

“I expect a significant extension of lifespan in a century or more, and by then I expect a parallel change in society’s attitude towards euthanasia,” he said. he said, adding that he thought euthanasia would be more acceptable and more common in the years to come.

What about climate change?

While some think billionaires should be able to spend their money for what they see fit, not everyone thinks tech billionaires should use their money to fund life extension research.

Jon Crowcroft, professor of computer science at the University of Cambridge, told CNBC they had better inject more of their billions into climate change mitigation technologies rather than longevity research.

“It’s kinda pointless to live forever on a dying planet,” Crowcroft said.

But Tallinn told CNBC he found the tech billionaire’s efforts to support longevity research “commendable”.

“I think it’s generally unfair to pit good causes against one another in a world where most resources are wasted on things that are morally unimportant or even reprehensible,” Tallinn said.

The billionaire’s pursuit of immortality

Bezos, the second richest man in the world behind Elon Musk, has invested part of his $ 199 billion in a new “rejuvenation” startup called Altos Labs, according to an MIT Technology Review report earlier this month. this.

The anti-aging start-up, which is said to be researching biological reprogramming technology, is also said to be backed by Russian-Israeli venture capitalist Yuri Milner, who made his fortune as the first investor in Facebook.

Elsewhere, Oracle founder Ellison has donated more than $ 370 million to research on aging and age-related diseases, according to The New Yorker.

Meanwhile, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page helped start Calico, a secret company that tracks mice from birth to death in hopes of finding markers for diseases like diabetes and disease. Alzheimer’s, according to a report from The New Yorker. Calico is part of Alphabet, the holding company that also owns Google.

One of the biggest life extension advocates among tech billionaires is Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and Palantir and supported Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal Inc.

VCG | Getty Images

In 2006, he donated $ 3.5 million to support anti-aging research through the non-profit Methuselah Mouse Prize foundation. “Rapid advances in biological science herald a treasure trove of discoveries during this century, including dramatically improved health and longevity for all,” he said at the time. Thiel had increased his investment in the Methuselah Mouse Prize foundation to $ 7 million by 2017, according to Time.

According to The New Yorker, both Thiel and Bezos have invested in Unity Biotechnology, a San Francisco-based company whose founder is said to have said he wants to “vaporize a third of human disease in the developed world.”

Life Extension Inventories?

Across the Atlantic, British billionaire Jim Mellon told CNBC last September that he plans to go public with Juvenescence, his own life extension company, within the next six to 12 months.

It hasn’t happened yet, but Juvenescence continues to invest in a wide range of anti-aging therapies that it believes have the potential to extend human life.

One of those investments is Insilico Medicine, which aims to use artificial intelligence for drug discovery. Juvenescence has also supported AgeX Therapeutics, a California-based company that tries to create stem cells capable of regenerating aging tissue, and LyGenesis, which wants to develop technology that uses lymph nodes as bioreactors to regrow replacement organs.

Other billionaires, including Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Australian software company Atlassian, and NEX group founder Michael Spencer, have invested in Juvenescence.

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