Google Vs. Death
Google has recently announced its commitment to fighting against death itself.
Described as the brainchild of Google Ventures’ managing partner Bill Maris, Calico’s pitch to investors was to investigate the genetic causes of aging, Fortune reports, rather than targeting individual diseases like cancer.
According to insiders familiar with Calico’s formation, Maris was inspired by the work of the Human Genome Project, which had coded the entire DNA sequence. The combination of that, and an understanding of how Big Data crunching could be implemented, led to suggestions that Calico could compare the genome of healthy older people – such as those who had made it to their 90s without encountering any significant health issues – and see how, in aggregate, they differed from others.
The view of Calico is that it will be more about long-term research, at least initially, than directly getting involved in pharmacology and clinical trials. In fact, it arguably shares more in common with genome-database projects like 23andMe, which – as the Washington Post points out – was co-founded by Sergey Brin’s wife Anne Wojcicki. Similar data-first schemes include President Obama’s Brain Activity Map project, which is expected to spend billions on figuring out neurology and brain activity.
For the moment, Calico is still in its early recruitment stages. Art Levinson – Apple chairman and one of the industry experts Maris consulted for suggestions on who might want to lead the company, but who surprised him by putting himself forward – is said to be in the midst of the interview process with potential staff.
Take a look at this realistic view of the subject from Aubrey de Grey, one of the more determined advocates of solving the problem of death. He discusses Google's Calico project.
(Aubrey de Grey discusses Google vs. Death)
Of course, human beings have always longed to "put a stopper in death", but science fiction fans have been treated to elaborate faux-pharmacologies on this subject. For example, in his 1957 series Cities in Flight, James Blish describes anti-agathic, literally an "anti-death" drug.
Robert Heinlein was famous for his long-term project to defeat death based in the science of the day; see this article on the Howard Families, from his 1941 novel Methuselah's Children.
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