Google has announced Calico, a new company that will focus on health and well-being. But its ultimate purpose is to radically extend the human lifespan. As TIME put it, "That would be crazy — if it weren't Google."
By launching Calico, Google CEO Larry Page hopes to tackle some of health care's most pressing problems. And by virtue of doing so, the company hopes to be a major player — if not the major player — in the burgeoning efforts to slow down, or even halt, the aging process in humans.
As many readers of io9 are well aware, the radical life extension movement is in full swing. A good example is Aubrey de Grey's SENS initiative. Investor Peter Thiel has put millions into rejuvenation biotechnology research. And of course, there are myriad studies looking to extend the lifespans of mice and other organisms.
And now Google is on board. Which is unbelieveable. Not only will this boost R&D into life extension research, it also legitimizes it.
“Illness and aging affect all our families," noted Page through an official release. "With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives."
Arthur D. Levinson, Chairman and former CEO of Genentech and Chairman of Apple, has been named Chief Executive Officer and a founding investor of Calico.
“I’ve devoted much of my life to science and technology, with the goal of improving human health," noted Levinson. "Larry’s focus on outsized improvements has inspired me, and I’m tremendously excited about what’s next.”
Outsized improvements is right; Google encourages employees to engage in what it calls "10x thinking" — a way of motivating them to create inventions which are better than anything that already exists by at least an order of magnitude.
The September 30 issue of TIME will profile Page and his decision to launch Calico. From the magazine's preview article:
Based in the Bay Area, not far from Google’s headquarters, Calico will be making longer-term bets than most health care firms. “In some industries, it takes ten or 20 years to go from an idea to something being real. Healthcare is certainly one of those areas,” said Page. “Maybe we should shoot for the things that are really, really important so ten or 20 years from now we have those things done.”
Google is keeping its exact plans close to the vest. But it is likely to use its data-processing might to shed new light on age-related maladies. Sources close to the project suggest Calico will start with a small number of employees and focus initially on researching new technology.
That approach may yield unlikely conclusions. “Are people really focused on the right things? One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you’d add about three years to people’s average life expectancy,” Page said. “We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world. But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.”
More at TIME.