Google is starting a new company to monetize life extension and disrupt the death space

Now, governor, this app adds five years to your life, and it’s free.
Now, governor, this app adds five years to your life, and it’s free.
Image: AP Photo/LM Otero
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Time’s cover story on Google’s just-announced new firm, Calico, asks “Can Google Solve DEATH?” Ambitious though Google is, abolishing death is not in fact one of its goals, or at least not yet.

Rather, Calico is apparently looking to use tools like big data to determine what really extends lives. Google CEO Larry Page told Time magazine, for instance, that cancer is not worth working on, because it doesn’t make as big a difference as everyone seems to think. “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,” said Page.

Google has never started an entirely separate company to pursue a new line of business, but making you live longer is so important that it warrants it, apparently. “For me, it was always unsatisfying if you look at companies that get very big, and they’re just doing one thing,” Page told Time.  “Ideally, if you have more people and more resources, you can do more things, get more things solved. We’ve kind of always had that philosophy.”

Calico will be run by Arthur Levinson, former CEO of biotech and pharmaceuticals firm Genentech, and current chairman of the board at Apple. It looks like a long-term play for Google, considering the amount of time that it takes biotech research to come to fruition—10 to 20 years.