Mad scientists, profiteers, scammers and real geniuses - all these people gathered on the west coast of the US in response to a simple request from American billionaires: to create a "ticket to immortality." Billions of dollars are spent on the most fantastic and top secret experiments to extend life. What are the prospects of these studies?
"In our world, only two things are inevitable: death and taxes," said Benjamin Franklin, whose portrait adorns a bill in 100 US dollars for more than a century. IT moguls from the Silicon Valley have found many ways to avoid taxation. Now they are looking for an opportunity to deceive death itself.
In 2013, the creators of Google Sergey Brin and Larry Page invested a billion dollars in the company Calico. Its full name is "California company" Life ". At the opening, the then head of Google Ventures, Bill Maris, said that Calico will extend human life for at least 500 years. Newspapers came out with headlines like "Google will soon" kill "death." The promise turned out to be loud, but the noise around him instantly subsided.
There is nothing surprising: the company Calico exists until now, it has invested more than a half billion dollars, but its activities are classified. The research laboratory is hidden in an underground bunker somewhere on the outskirts of San Francisco. It does not allow the press, its employees do not publish scientific works, and each visitor is forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Neither the management nor the PR experts of Google have commented on this score.
"All this makes the rest of the scientists nervous," admitted the head of the department at the National Institute of Aging Felipe Sierra to the Technological Review of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "We want to know what they're doing there." Then we could develop other directions or cooperate with them on their topics. They're a research laboratory, so what are they researching there? "
In Calico there are well-known specialists in genetics, biology and artificial intelligence, but they are extremely vague about their work. The only thing that is known reliably is carrying out experiments on naked excavators - small rodents who do not feel pain, almost never get cancer and live ten times longer than any other rodents.
We must understand that these mysterious experiments are not just a special case of the whims of billionaires. Immortality is the most fashionable trend in the Silicon Valley. The owners of the largest companies invest in it. The theme of longevity and eternal health is being developed by numerous start-ups. And public IT oligarchs practice the most bizarre habits, sincerely believing that they will prolong their youth. A special "Palo Alto Longevity Prize" was even created. This is half a million dollars, intended for someone who can significantly extend the life of a mammal.
Despite the fact that the Silicon Valley invaders position themselves as modern intellectuals, at the heart of their pursuit of immortality lie banal, purely human emotions, with which religion used to be successfully controlled.
Sometimes it's sentimentality. So, the director of engineering in Google Ray Kurzweil in his 69 years can not at all resign himself to his father's death and keeps everything that is left of him - photographs, letters, bills, receipts, hoping someday to create a virtual avatar of Kurzweil senior. In his opinion, scientists will soon be able to transplant human intellect into a "non-biological" carrier. Thus, the body can disappear, and the personality will continue to exist in the computer. Then Kurzweil Jr. can live with his father forever in one information cloud.
The problem is that scientists even do not even know how the human intellect works in the interweaving of hundreds of billions of neurons and hundreds of trillions of brain synapses. Schemes to transfer this complex system to the computer does not exist yet, and the forecasts for its account are disappointing. But in case the case drags on, Kurzweil decides to bury himself in liquid nitrogen, and then, when the technology still defeats death, defrost and extract the brain.
Sadness over the close dictates the motives and one of the founders of Oracle Larry Alison. His adoptive mother died of cancer when he was still in college. Rich, he donated 335 million dollars to research the problems of aging.
In the case of the founder of Google Ventures, Bill Maris, a sentimental feeling is supplemented by one's own fear of an incurable disease. Maris was also traumatized by his father's loss - he died from a brain tumor when the future billionaire was 26 years old. Now Maris leads a healthy lifestyle, every day trains, does not eat meat, is regularly examined by doctors. "But when I'm alone, my thoughts are very grim," he confessed to the New Yorker.
It was Maris who persuaded Larry Page and Sergey Brin to launch Calico. According to him, not the least role in this decision was played by the fact that Brin had a gene responsible for predisposition to Parkinson's disease.
The interest of the super-rich IT specialists in the issue of life extension is enjoyed both by frank charlatans and by serious scientists. By itself, Calico has become an excellent opportunity for geneticists and biologists to focus on basic research under conditions where no one requires a quick return. The famous American biologist David Botstein, the head of the company, has already stated that his laboratory will not provide any results in less than 10 years.
It is in the Silicon Valley that they are trying to find 65 million dollars for their research and serious gerontologists from the University of Illinois in Chicago. During the six-year trials on volunteers, they want to find out whether metformin - a cure for diabetics - prolongs youth. Especially for investors from the IT industry, they composed a sonorous slogan for their application for a grant: "This is your ticket to immortality."
But no less effective on the emotions of wealthy investors are speculators of all stripes who understand that only in the Silicon Valley they will be able to get hundreds of millions of dollars for the most incredible start-ups. June Jun, who created a hedge fund that invests in health care, attracts tycoons with the help of their favorite jargon. "It seems to me that aging is coded in us," he announced at a party in honor of the awarding of another award for healthy longevity. - And if something is encoded, then there is a code to be unraveled. And having unraveled the code, it can be cracked! "The audience, which consisted of the bosses of the IT industry, burst into a standing ovation.
Often, IT-oligarchs, who have made huge fortunes overnight and are reveling in their own intellect, are bred for investment with the help of a handsome appearance and well-suspended language. In 2016, the creator of the biotechnological startup Unitu Biotechnology Nathaniel David successfully bored the progressive gay billionaire and creator of Pay Pal Peter Thiel. David's company offers drugs that slow cancer in mice and prolong their life span by 35%. But there is a subtlety: in public trials have not yet been conducted, this is not even the case. How did David manage to convince an experienced investor Till to pour a few tens of millions of dollars into such a startup?
In an interview with the journalist of the same "New Yorker" he told that he was helped by his appearance - the "Dorian Gray effect" worked. 49-year-old David "looks good on 30. He has thick dark hair and no wrinkles on his face, "- describes his" New Yorker. " "Some investors are worried about my young form," cute David says modestly. "But the guys from the Silicon Valley like Peter Thiel are disturbed by people who look older than forty."
Soon, Tile was joined by the richest man in the world - the creator of Amazon Jeff Bezos. And all the youthful David collected in Silicon Valley 116 million dollars.
While the drug is tested in mice, Thiel practices better known methods of rejuvenation. About him say that he regularly resorts to blood transfusions. For such as he, in the Silicon Valley, there was another special start-up called "Ambrosia", created by the physician Jesse Karmazin. His specialists are pouring blood from young people into the bodies of their aging patients. The medical effect of the procedures is not proven, but older people argue that transfusion really rejuvenates them.
According to unconfirmed rumors, Til spends 160 thousand dollars a year on the fact that he was poured the blood of 18-year-old patients. He himself refutes this, but Ambrosia does not complain about the lack of clients. And this despite the fact that Dr. Karmazin set the price for one transfusion of 8 thousand dollars, although there is no shortage of donors - in "Ambrosia" local young people like to give blood, this is a good job for students.
Together with biologists and pharmacists, the oligarchs are actively campaigning for immortality and frank humanities.
Sergei Brin, for example, was heavily influenced by the books of the Israeli philosopher Yuval Noah Harari, in which he announced that in the near future, super-rich people would successfully secure for themselves immortality and new intellectual abilities. Thus, they will create a race similar to the gods or superhumans, while the rest of the world's population will remain in a nonentity.
To date, the real results of this battle for immortality are not visible. Just like ordinary people, billionaires die of cancer and suffer from dementia. Holders of powerful intellects and billions of accounts look as naive oddballs as Chinese emperors who used to take a handful of tablets from mercury, believing that this would provide them with eternal life.
But all these whims have another side - the Silicon Valley oligarchs are changing the course of development of medicine as a science. Over the past two centuries, the latest achievements of medicine have quickly moved to the masses and improved the life of mankind as a whole. All the great discoveries that radically changed the lives of huge masses of people were cheap and generally available. Penicillin, discovered by Alexander Fleming, quickly spread throughout the world. Vaccination against dangerous diseases was literally imposed on the population and was, of course, free. Contraceptive pills could always buy any student.
Modern medicine goes the other way - its developments are pre-privatized by investors. And among the sponsors of the struggle for immortality, there are not only sentimental billionaires who do not know what to do with their money, but also calculating entrepreneurs who plan to profit from possible discoveries. So, if in the mysterious Calico and will be able to open the "cure for death", one can not doubt: its investors will do everything to consume it in proud solitude. For everyone else, the price of a "ticket to immortality" will be prohibitive.