“I’m not afraid of dying”

Over the past decade, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Peter Thiel have all poured money into life-extending and anti-aging research. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk isn’t buying into it.

“I don’t think we should try to make people live really long,” Musk recently told Insider. “It would suffocate society because the truth is most people don’t change their minds. You just die. So if they don’t die, we will cling to old ideas and society would not advance.”

That’s a contrary view, at least among Silicon Valley’s billionaires — many of whom have a track record of investing in longevity research. To date, very few, perhaps none, of these investments have paid off.

In September 2021, MIT Technology Review reported that Bezos has invested an undisclosed amount of money in anti-aging startup Altos Labs, which officially launched earlier this year. According to its website, the San Francisco-based biotech is focused on “cellular rejuvenation programming,” a theorized method for reversing disease, injury, and disability.

Bezos and Thiel also both have investments in Unity Biotechnology, a South San Francisco-based company researching “senescent cells,” which stop dividing in humans as they age. According to the company’s website, the idea is to “develop transformative drugs to slow, halt, or prevent diseases of aging.”

Unity Biotechnology raised more than $300 million in funding before going public in 2018. As of Monday afternoon, it has a market cap of $73.06 million, down well from its September 2018 peak of nearly $972 million.

Thiel is perhaps one of Silicon Valley’s best-known proponents of anti-aging research. A start-up that Thiel helped fund, called Ambrosia, picked up a 1950s practice called parabiosis, which experimented with cutting open and sewing together circulatory systems in rats.

The studies didn’t come up with any concrete conclusions, but the Monterey, California-based company nonetheless began similar studies in humans – injecting blood from people under the age of 25 into participants as young as 35 – and claiming to have rejuvenating effects.

“It’s one of those very weird things where people did these studies in the 1950s and then they stopped altogether,” Thiel told Insider in 2015. “I think there are a lot of these things that have been oddly underexplored.”

In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a parabiosis warning. Ambrosia appears to be out of service today.

That hasn’t stopped other tech billionaires from pursuing similar end goals. Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are co-founders of The Breakthrough Prize, which awards $3 million annually to scientists making “transformative advances in understanding living systems and extending human life,” according to its website.

“I’m most interested in questions about people,” Zuckerberg said at a Facebook Q&A event in 2015. “What will enable us to live forever? How do we cure all diseases? How does the brain work? How does learning work and how can we empower people to learn a million times more?”

According to The New Yorker, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison has donated at least $370 million to anti-aging research. Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page helped found biotech startup Calico, an Alphabet subsidiary researching age-related diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

In other words, it appears that Musk — according to Forbes the richest person in the world with a net worth of $265.4 billion — is up against many of his Silicon Valley peers. “I would definitely like to stay healthy longer,” Musk told Insider. “But I’m not afraid of dying. I think it would be a relief.”

Bezos, Thiel, Musk, Zuckerberg, Ellison, Brin and Page did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.

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https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/11/elon-musk-on-avoiding-longevity-research-i-am-not-afraid-of-dying.html “I’m not afraid of dying”

Joshua Buckhalter

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