If there’s anything that’s captivated mankind’s imagination more than new ways to kill one another, it’s how to beat the grim reaper. Just kidding, how to kill people still generates the most funding of all, but this article isn’t about that, it’s about immortality and the new age billionaires who are funding it.
Pipe dream you say? Well one may think it is, but if you ask the guys in the money, they aren’t sold on the idea of bowing out without a battle. Their mantra seems to be ‘If I can’t take it with me, I ain’t going!’
There are over a thousand billionaires in the world today, it takes dedication, hard work, grit and more than anything else a never-say-die attitude.
And as any self-made man will attest, you can’t just switch off and on that attitude on demand. The ones who break new barriers always find a new hill to climb, a new itch to scratch, a new goal to aim for.
For the new age billionaires one of these is the dream of immortality, of being able to live forever. In many cases these dreams are given voice in myths and legends. The legend that the man who finds the Holy Grail would be blessed with immortality by supping from the chalice, or the myth of the fountain of youth which would have the one who bathes in it become young again. These stories have stood the test of time and have tantalized imaginations seemingly forever; their latest Hollywood iteration had Tom Hanks play peekaboo with cultists, and Capt. Jack Sparrow wooing a murderous character played by Penelope Cruz. Those were worth billions at the box office.
Gerontology is nothing new, from ancient times when Chinese emperors were consuming mercury to lengthen their life spans, to Romans and Egyptians deifying themselves, to alchemists in the middle-ages peddling the philosopher’s stones to gullible nobles, mankind’s fascination with the idea of cheating death has stood the test of time.
Thanks to advances in medical science, the advent of DNA sequencing, and a slew of aging billionaires, we are getting ready to answer the question – How can man live forever?’ No we can’t’ is NOT an acceptable answer.
As modern science coupled with big data continues to unravel the mysteries behind human life. It is the billionaires and their private foundations which are funding the more esoteric studies hoping to answer the final question.
From manipulating DNA, to delaying the onset of puberty, to cryo-freezing the body, to uploading the consciousness to cloud, everything is being considered and given a second look. Any scientist with a modicum of a reasonable idea or even the kernel of one is getting audiences with the titans of modern commerce. All to conquer Man’s last great fear, and yes, for the trillions to be made by the first one past the post.
Who are these billionaires and what are they investing in?
The pride of place goes to Peter Thiel.
The co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook is a well-known investor in longevity sciences, from investing in studies into blood transfusions, to planning to cryo-freeze his body. The Thiel Foundation gives generously to anti-aging research
“The way people deal with aging is a combination of acceptance and denial," he told Technology Review in March. "They accept there is nothing they can do about it, and deny it's going to happen to them”
The founder of Oracle is famous for stating "Death has never made any sense to me. How can a person be there and then just vanish, just not be there?"
Over the last two decades he is rumoured to have given over $430million in grants to anti-aging research.
According to the Ellison Medical Foundation website, the foundation "supports basic biomedical research on aging relevant to understanding lifespan development processes and age-related diseases and disabilities.”
Ellison’s biographer Mark Wilson notes that Ellison sees death as “just another kind of corporate opponent he can outfox.”
The founder of Future Electronics believes in Cryonics and is known to have generously given to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
Proponents of Cryonics believe in placing their brains/heads/bodies in cryogenic stasis in the hope that in some not too distant future mankind will solve the final question and be able to revive them to live happily forever.
The co-founder of Google is another one who believes it isn’t necessary to leave it all behind.
He founded Calico – short for the California Life Company which focuses on longevity research. Today Calico is partnered with several companies that work along similar lines like the Buck Institute for the Research on Aging.
The group found some notoriety when they increased the life-span of earth worms by using genetic mutations.
Another of Google’s co-founders is rumoured to have donated in the hundreds of millions to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. This one hits close to home for him as in 2008 he disclosed that he carries a gene that makes him susceptible to the condition.
While leading the RnD team at Google X he pushed for medical research and helped found the company’s Life Sciences division.
Harnessing big data, according to him, could be the magic bullet for better understanding neurological diseases.
Yes, even Mark Zuckerberg is interested in figuring out the answer.
Way back when he was asked what big questions in science he would like to know the answer to?
He replied “I'm most interested in questions about people. What will enable us to live forever? How do we cure all diseases? How does the brain work? How does learning work and how we can empower humans to learn a million times more?"
Zuckerberg along with Brin is one of the founders of the Breakthrough prize which awards $3million to scientists researching longevity.
The founder of New Media Stars, a web based media company, billionaire Dmitry Istikov stole headlines with his 2045 initiative. In 2011 his foundation was launched with the goal for man to achieve cybernetic immortality by the year 2045.
The initiative envisions humans uploading their consciousness into an artificial host, and thereby having rid themselves of their mortal coils, would be able to live forever. The 2045 initiative aims to “to create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality”.
These are just a few of the billionaires who are putting their eggs in a variety of baskets to solve the ultimate question.
So good for them Greg, but what’s in it for me?
On reading about it for the first time, one may smile if not laugh outright at some of this research. However the laughter dries up pretty quickly when one sees the dollar amounts going into this research.
As for what’s in it for you?
If nothing else this should teach you about planning for the long-game, should any of these treatments work, your pension plan may require some serious tweaking.
Thank you for reading my post. I regularly write about private market opportunities and trends. If you would like to read my regular posts feel free to also connect on LinkedIn, Twitter or via Atlanta Capital Group Investment Management.
Greg Silberman is the Chief Investment Officer of ACG Investment Management LLC (“ACGIM”). ACGIM specializes in creating custom private market solutions for RIA/Family Office clients.
This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The views and strategies described may not be suitable for all investors. It is not possible to directly invest in an index. An index fund is a type of mutual fund with a portfolio constructed to match or track the components of an index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investments will fluctuate and when redeemed may be worth more or less than when originally invested. Advisory Services offered through ACG Investment Management, LLC. ACG Investment Management is an affiliate of ACG Wealth Inc.