By Daniel Taylor
Google is launching a health care company called Calico. In partnership with Arthur Levinson, former chief executive of Genentech – the first genetic engineering company founded in 1976 – Google will strive to “significantly expand the human life span.”
Are we headed to a Rollerball like future in which corporations have replaced countries and their governments? According to Parag and Ayesha Khanna we are indeed headed in that direction. In the Hybrid Age, mega coporations will provide advanced technology to their constituents and thus gain loyalty. As we stray away from broken governments to provide security and prosperity, these entities will fill the gap.
Up until now, radical life extension has been a subject discussed by niche groups, think tanks and tech executives far out of reach for the general public.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense published a 2006 report titled The DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme 2007-2036. The report outlined possible scenarios surrounding life extension. The report states, “The divide between those that could afford to ‘buy longevity’ and those that could not, could aggravate perceived global inequality. Dictatorial or despotic rulers could potentially also ‘buy longevity’, prolonging their regimes and international security risks.”
Calico, working with Genentech, will likely utilize genetic engineering and synthetic DNA in its quest to extend human life. The Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year ruled against the patenting of natural human genes. However, there was a vital part of the ruling that allows for the patenting of synthetically engineered DNA.
A Genetic Social Network
In 2005 it was revealed in a book called The Google Story that Dr. Craig Venter, known for his creation of synthetic lifeforms, was in discussions with Larry Page and Sergey Brin [founders of Google] to:
“…generate a gene catalogue to characterize all the genes on the planet and understand their evolutionary development. Geneticists have wanted to do this for generations… Google will build up a genetic database, analyze it, and find meaningful correlations for individuals and populations.”
Google has been funding a program to do just that called 23 and me. In 2006 the organization was co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. Personalized medicine, using patients genetic information, is the sweet spot for the organization. After submitting your genetic information, the 23 and me social network allows you to connect with other “genetic matches.” It will also provide information on risk factors of disease.
Will the general public be acclimated to share their genetic information online as they were with Facebook to share personal information? Recent NSA spying revelations make the prospect of supplying genetic information to a known NSA collaborator slightly unnerving.
A recent article from Discover magazine pointed out that:
“Many researchers believe that personal genomics will really not hit the biomedical sweet spot until you have on the order of a million people sequenced. But even then in the American system how to get a hold of all that information is going to be problematic, since it will likely be decentralized.”
The Yale Scientific Magazine announced that with the 23 and me genetic social network, “…it is easier than ever for people to find out their genetic risks for diseases, as well as connect with others who share parts of their genome.” It remains to be seen whether 23 and me will become a widespread success like Facebook, but it certainly has a powerful backing. As of last year, 23 and me reached 125,000 users who have submitted gene samples.
Google founder Larry Page met with Craig Venter in California at the Edge billionaires meeting in 2010. Also present were representatives from the State department, Bill Gates, Anne Wojcicki, Bill Joy and dozens of other tech company CEO’s and scientists.
The Edge billionaire meetings have discussed the future of genetic engineering, biocomputation and re-designing humanity in a Transhumanist era. Physicist Freeman Dyson described the individuals leading this group as having god-like power to create entirely new species on earth in a “New Age of Wonder”. He describes them as:
“…a new generation of artists, writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses, might create an abundance of new flowers and fruit and trees and birds to enrich the ecology of our planet.”
Will Google’s Calico be the first to implement brain chips on a mass scale?
Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, says that by 2030 Google Glass will be out-dated by devices “…the size of blood cells… we’ll be able to send them inside our brain through the capillaries, and basically connect up brain to the cloud.”
Google’s choice to hire Kurzweil, the figurehead of the Transhumanist movement, symbolizes the company’s anticipation that it will be the first to capitalize on “singularity” technologies. Google’s partner, Singularity University, is dedicated to producing students with knowledge about human augmentation, synthetic life, robotics and other technologies.