Arthur Levinson Talks About Calico, Google’s New Death-Fighting Company

    September 19, 2013
    Chris Crum
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As you may have heard by now, Google has started a new company called Calico aimed at figuring out how to extend human life. In other words, fighting death.

The news broke in a Time Magazine cover story, which was quickly followed by a Google+ Post from Google CEO Larry Page and a press release about the initiative.

The company is to be run by Arthur Levinson, the former CEO and Chairman of Genentech and current Chairman of Apple. He has also taken to Google+ to talk about Calico (and clarify what the name is about):

A lot of people are obviously skeptical about Calico’s quest to “solve death”. The business editor at the MIT Technology Review had this to say:

Google didn’t disclose how much money the company had raised. But if it’s primarily an investment by its venture arm, the amount is likely to be vanishingly small compared to the $31 billion spent on biomedical research each year by the National Institutes of Health, and billions upon billions more spent by drug companies.

This isn’t the first time Google has ventured from its core businesses in computing with grandiose claims that it can fix some huge social problem. The search giant previously sought to produce zero-carbon energy at massive scales, but backed away from that research after it found that inventing new energy technology wasn’t so easy (see “Google’s Search for Clean Energy”.)

He then suggested that if Page is serious about medical research, he should start with his own search engine, noting that paid ads promoting what amount to “pure snake oil” still appear at the top of Google’s results for health-related queries.

To be fair, from what I’ve seen, Google hasn’t actually said that Calico is focused on solving death. In fact, none of the announcements specifically say anything about “death”. They just said Calico is focused on health and well-being, “in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases”.

So yeah, that still sounds like they have the goal of extending life, which is essentially solving death, but Google is not out there saying, “We’re going to solve death.”

It does make for an attention-grabbing headline though. And it still seems like a good place for wealthy tech giants to focus some time and money.

Image: Google+

  • valery chuprin

    There are two main ways in gerontology. First one, to save the lives of people still living. Second, to create human longevity. The second way I do not know. But the first one is simple: we should to revive the young function and structures the vital organ that to 70-90 years has worn down to a critical state, after which comes the death of the organism. It is our skin, the shell of the body, its lungs, kidneys and external brain, nervous, endocrine, circulatory system, etc. More Ashley Montagu pointed out the importance of this organ. For 70-90 years, it performs much wear and 15-20% of its functions. Hence, the diseases of internal organs, which strongly depend on it, hence the death of the organism.
    Is it possible to restore young structures and functions of old skin? It is. Skin as muscles, bones derived from stem cells, and can develop. But nobody does this. Or does wrong. It is matter of technique. Updated, hardened skin, this largest organ, will allow organism stay young and live without time constraints. There are no genes or programs of aging in the body. The human genome is transcribed. This can be done today. It is not expensive, but it will bring huge amount of money. Our aging and death is the result of misunderstanding the nature of this phenomenon by gerontologists. This error has already been fixed.
    Valery Chuprin, Mr.
    Valery Chuprin, William Mihajlovic, Three layer functional model and energy exchange concept of aging process, AGE Magazine, Springer 2006, 28:111–121 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2464718/pdf/11357_2005_Article_4258.pdf

  • valery chuprin

    Dear Arthur, Calico can easily solve this problem , if they refuse the idea of creating genetically engineered man of the future – Longevity man, but will rescue body of a man who lives, his crumbling independent largest organ of the body – integument, which is its lungs, external brain, kidneys, nervous system, circulatory, endocrine, immune, and more. This natural destruction, which is visible to the naked eye, can cause death of the body. People still die from diseases of internal organs, and also external – ruined skin. Even the ancient people, who did not want to grow old and die, tried to restore the crumbling skin. There are techniques. Valery Chuprin,62