Friday, September 20, 2013

Google's Next Moonshot: Cheating Death

Google has created Calico, a new company dedicated to finding solutions to combat aging and associated diseases, with biotech innovator and Apple chairman Art Levinson at its helm.
Google is a household name for its Internet businesses, but for years it has also been in the business of "moonshots"--the ideas you or I would consider crazy today, but which have the potential to change peoples' lives a few short decades from now. Today, Google CEO Larry Page unveiled the company's next moonshot idea: significantly extending human life. How? Introducing Calico, a new, independent company that will focus on creating solutions to aging and associated, often-terminal diseases.
"These issues affect us all--from the decreased mobility and mental agility that comes with age, to life-threatening diseases that exact a terrible physical and emotional toll on individuals and families," Page said in a statement on Google+.
Although the health industry may seem like something of an outlier for an Internet giant like Google, Page says in his Google+ post:
"As we explained in our first letter to shareholders, there’s tremendous potential for technology more generally to improve people’s lives. So don’t be surprised if we invest in projects that seem strange or speculative compared with our existing Internet businesses."
Page has named Art Levinson, the current chairman of both Apple and the biotech firm Genentech, the CEO of Calico, and Levinson will continue to carry out his duties at those companies. Few more public details about Calico currently exist, but Page implied the company will be focusing on long-term solutions we may not see come into effect for another 10 or 20 years.
Page isn't the only one at Google with his eyes on extending human life. The AI expert and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who has been working on machine learning and natural language processing at Google as director of engineering since 2012, told Fast Company in 2005:
"Our mortality is something that should be in our hands. It's something I want in my hands. I believe we'll demonstrate a mouse that doesn't age within about a decade. And we'll translate that into human therapies."
Calico is the cover subject of the Sept. 30 issue of Time.

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