It’s hard to find something that isn’t intriguing about Peter Thiel. He made his name as the co-founder of online payment system PayPal and is now one of the most successful and influential investors in Silicon Valley. He sits on the board at Facebook, Inc. and the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group, the elite band of the rich and powerful from politics, industry and business who meet annually in a secret off-the-record discussion.
Thiel now finds himself the human stepping stone between the Trump administration and Silicon Valley’s luminaries. It was Thiel who arranged the gathering of some of the top executives on the planet to Trump Tower; the likes of Elon Musk CEO of SpaceX and Telsa, Tim Cook CEO of Apple, Larry Page co-founder of Google and Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon to name a few.
During the presidential campaign it was well documented that the majority of leaders from Silicon Valley were for Clinton and heavily against Trump. When the milk was laid out by the newly elected president however, the cats came running and found themselves surrounding the president elect as he licked his fur and told the group: “You have to like me”. This was partly thanks to Thiel, who is one of the most respected entrepreneurs to come out of Silicon Valley.
An outspoken advocate for the strive for immortality, Thiel is a firm believer that death is a technical problem and like disease, can eventually be solved. He has used large funds from his 2.7 billion net worth to encourage startups working on anti-ageing medicine, spending a considerable amount of time and money researching therapies for his own personal use. He believes society ought to open its mind to life-extension methods and start viewing death as an obstacle that can be overcome as opposed to an inevitability.
A practice known as parabiosis is something Thiel talked about in a past interview with Inc.com, and subsequently received a lot of media attention for. The practice involves having a younger person’s blood transfused into one’s veins in order to prolong life as a means of improving health and potentially reverse ageing. “They [injected] the young blood into older mice and found that had a massive rejuvenating effect. … I think there are a lot of these things that have been strangely under-explored”.
This particular method may not be scientifically plausible, but the very fact that research into reverse ageing has grown exponentially in recent times demonstrates just how far we as humans have come. Although immortality might be far-fetched within our lifetimes, a significant increase in the average age of death is certainly not, given the amount of research and development currently taking place on the subject.
For most, it is agreeable that conquering ageing is an attractive goal, the question that arises from such innovation though is who will benefit from the developments? For Peter Thiel and his Silicon Valley friends it will be a no-brainer to extend their pampered lives indefinitely, and of course they will have the money to do so. But for those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves outside the inner circle of outrageous wealth, it’s most likely the developments will surpass them and in turn add to the increasing inequality between the mega-rich and the rest.
“The new flagship enterprise of modern science is to defeat death and grant humans eternal youth”, this is according to Ray Kurzweil, winner of the 1999 US national medal of technology and innovation. Kurzweil was appointed a Director of engineering at Google in 2012 and a year later Calico was launched.
Calico is the research and development subsidiary whose sole purpose is to cure death by combating ageing and associated disease. Larry Page, co-founder of Google and attendee at the Trump Tower meeting, shares similar ideas to that of Thiel for the fight for immortality and would have played a key role in founding Calico with a $750 million fund from Google.
In a question-and-answer session on Reddit, Bill Gates wrote, “It seems pretty egocentric while we still have malaria and TB for rich people to fund things so they can live longer”, and it’s difficult to dispute that. It’s as though the Silicon Valley bubble has evolved technology and innovation to the point where those in charge are able to play out their wildest fantasies with seemingly infinite financial backing.
Peter Thiel has already proved to be a key player on Trump’s transition team by arranging such a gathering of minds to Trump Tower. His experience and deep understanding of technology will be utilised if he is to stay a close associate during Trump’s time in office. Thiel will then look to enhance his influence as a man with a utopian belief in the power of technology and it’s potential to change the world and conquer death. And who knows, Trump himself might be encouraged by the idea of an extended life span.