A Glance at Silicon Valley Longevity Initiatives

Here is a little more on some of the initiatives arising in the Bay Area venture and technology communities: the SENS Research Foundation, Calico Labs, and the Palo Alto Longevity Prize. As I pointed out a few days back, it's not just a matter of attracting money, however. The goal of bringing aging under medical control requires spending that money on the right research initiatives:

Some scientists in Palo Alto are offering a $1 million prize to anyone who can end aging. "Based on the rapid rate of biomedical breakthroughs, we believe the question is not if we can crack the aging code, but when will it happen." The Palo Alto Prize is also working with a number of angel investors, venture capital firms, corporate venture arms, institutions and private foundations within Silicon Valley to create health-related incentive prize competitions in the future.

It's a fantastical idea: curing the one thing we will all surely die of if nothing else gets us before that. I sat down with Aubrey de Grey, the chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation and co-author of "Ending Aging," to discuss this very topic a few days back. According to him, ending aging comes with the promise to not just stop the hands of time, but to actually reverse the clock. We could, according to him, actually choose the age we'd like to exist at for the rest of our (unnatural?) lives. But we are far off from possibly seeing this happen in our lifetime, says de Grey. "With sufficient funding we have a 50/50 chance to getting this all working within the next 25 years, but it could also happen in the next 100," he says.

If you ask Ray Kurzweil, life extension expert, futurist and part-time adviser to Google's somewhat stealth Calico project, we're actually tip-toeing upon the cusp of living forever. "We'll get to a point about 15 years from now where we're adding more than a year every year to your life expectancy," he told the New York Times in early 2013. He also wrote in the book he co-authored with Terry Grossman, M.D., that "Immortality is within our grasp." That's a bit optimistic to de Grey (the two are good friends), but he's not surprised this prize is coming out of Silicon Valley. "Things are changing here first. We have a high density of visionaries who like to think high."

And he believes much of what Kurzweil says is true with the right funding. "Give me large amounts of money to get the research to happen faster," says de Grey. He then points out that Google's Calico funds are virtually unlimited. "Kurzweil asked Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] how much he had to work with and they said to let him know when he runs out of money and they'll send more," de Grey tells me.

Link: http://techcrunch.com/2014/09/15/the-1-million-race-for-the-cure-to-end-aging/


It seems to me if Calico is communicating with Ray K. and de Grey, that they can clearly see what needs to be done to control ageing. I read recently that Ray is actually advising Calico although his main job at Google is on the Brain Initiative.

BTW, I would think that once we get AI moving, utilizing the Brain project at Google, it should help significately with research on aging research.

Posted by: Robert Church at September 16th, 2014 12:50 PM

@Robert Church: I agree, factor in AI (IBM's Watson being an early productive example) and quantum computing (on which Google is also working), and then aging research should be able to advance at a quite higher pace even with the same relative amount of funding.

Posted by: Nico at September 17th, 2014 1:52 PM

I think those life extension breakthroughs are directly proportional to the momentum atheism can gather. If we would live in a world where the majority would laugh at "believing in god" the same way the majority thinks that polytheism is crazy, that majority would be living well over 100 years old. Fortunately, the majority is rarely the cause of change. It takes people like Ray K. and de Grey to lead the way and the masses will follow.

Posted by: Chris Martin at September 25th, 2014 12:40 AM

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