Inspecting the Calico Tea Leaves

TechCrunch occasionally has its uses:

The sad truth is that, if everyone on the Forbes 400 list simultaneously (and tragically) got cancer, or Parkinson's (or any given disease for that matter), the world would probably be well on its way to finding a cure for these illnesses, thanks to the enormous wealth that would be incentivized to back those efforts. Finding a cure for an intractable disease requires time, enormous amounts of human and financial capital, cooperation and research - and at least a few public-private partnerships. It's costly, and it's messy. This is why Calico, Google's newest mad science project, is potentially so exciting.

Google CEO Larry Page implied that dramatically extending human life is one of Calico's main goals; not making people immortal per se, but, according to a source familiar with the project, increasing the lifespan of people born 20 years ago by as much as 100 years. Interestingly, Calico doesn't seem to be a Google company per se, more of an investment in a new company that will be affiliated with Google and become an extension of the company's mad science lab, Google X.

Sources tell us that us that Calico is still very much in the exploratory phases and is seeking neither near term profits nor have much of any idea about how to actually increase lifespans. So, there's that. It's one thing to say "we're going to increase the human lifespan by 20 years!" and another entirely to actually do that. For now, sources tell us that Calico will primarily function as an R&D group, exploring the latest in longevity science. However, it won't rule out the possibility of manufacturing their own products down the line. At some level, Larry Page, the company - someone in Mountain View - has become convinced that Google needs to help figure out the aging problem. As Bette Davis and most 90-year-olds will tell you, "old age is no place for sissies." It's tough. After all, longevity isn't any fun if one spends the last decade of life wheezing in a hospital bed.

I don't see how anyone familiar with the science can reasonably expect to manage radical life extension to the tune of doubling human life expectancy without backing SENS or SENS-like development programs that focus on periodic repair of cellular damage. But I have no insight into the thinking here, and TechCrunch is in a similar position, sources or no.



Yeah, I read this article earlier and thought that it was pretty silly. They quote someone as saying that Calico is going to make people who are 20 years old live to 100 ? Wow, that's a really ambitious goal. We don't need Google to do that. I think that would happen all on it's own. However, if you go to Google+ and read the comments on Larry Page's and Arthur Levinson's grand announcements, you will see that everyone really knows what we are talking about here.

Posted by: Nathan Voodoo at September 20th, 2013 11:51 AM

I think what they mean is that they want people to live 100 years longer than they normally would, so 180 years, or whatever the average lifespan + 100 years gives. I think it's only possible if we cure aging SENS-like, but that would give people the possibility to live not just 180 years, but indefinitely. We'll see how serious they are with their next steps. Hopefully they'll back up at least some of SENS strands.

Posted by: Musli at September 20th, 2013 3:05 PM

Thank you Nathan and Musli for your very important clarification.

Posted by: Peter Christiansen at September 20th, 2013 9:30 PM

There was a piece in this morning's San Francisco Chronicle dismissing Calico as "just another biotech company", even though it will be headed by the former CEO of Genentech AND Apple, and funded by Google where Ray Kurzweil is the Director of Engineering.

Posted by: Peter Christiansen at September 20th, 2013 9:36 PM

Google's share price shot up to over 900 after their Calico announcement.

Posted by: Carl at September 21st, 2013 11:43 AM
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