With new health moonshot venture 'Calico,' it's 'Google vs. Death'

Anna Kuperberg / Google, via TIME.com

Today, Google announced the launch of Calico, a new company that will "focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases."

Former Genentech CEO Arthur D. Levinson, who is Chairman of the Board at both Genentech and Apple, is CEO and a founding investor of the new Google spinoff venture.

Noted Google+ user Larry Page posts this morning:

OK … so you’re probably thinking wow! That’s a lot different from what Google does today. And you’re right. But 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. And please remember that new investments like this are very small by comparison to our core business. Art and I are excited about tackling aging and illness. 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. And while this is clearly a longer-term bet, we believe we can make good progress within reasonable timescales with the right goals and the right people.
Hey, none of this health and wellness stuff should come as a surprise to internet old-timers who recall when the "web crawler" was named "BackRub."

Time has an exclusive, in this week's cover story at the magazine. The short version: "the company behind YouTube and Google+ is gearing up to seriously attempt to extend human lifespan."

It’s worth pointing out that there is no other company in Silicon Valley that could plausibly make such an announcement. Smaller outfits don’t have the money; larger ones don’t have the bones. Apple may have set the standard for surprise unveilings but, excepting a major new product every few years, these mostly qualify as short-term. Google’s modus operandi, in comparison, is gonzo airdrops into deep “Wait, really?” territory. Last week Apple announced a gold iPhone; what did you do this week, Google? Oh, we founded a company that might one day defeat death itself. The unavoidable question this raises is why a company built on finding information and serving ads next to it is spending untold amounts on a project that flies in the face of the basic fact of the human condition, the existential certainty of aging and death? To which the unavoidable answer is another question: Who the hell else is going to do it?

"Google vs. Death" [TIME.com]

[HT: Sam Gustin]

Notable Replies

  1. What's google?

  2. I'm just wondering how quickly (and frequently) they'll tack between 'fascinating' and 'totally fucking creepy'. Unless Google is bankrolling something conceptually unrelated to their core MO, which seems like a curious move, it'll be downright logical for them to drag truly epic volumes of lifestyle data (possibly some tidbits from Sergei's wife Ann over at 23 and me, depending on how their togetherness problems are these days) into the problem.

    This may well be a good idea, from the perspective of getting the right answer; but it screams 'What could possibly go wrong?'

  3. This sounds fantastic, and I hope they improve the lives of millions of people around the world.
    Another angle is that the USA government spending on Healthcare is 19% of total GDP, with compound growth about 7-8%, which is better than most banks offer presently. There's a lot of money to be made from healthcare, particularly as most of Google's users/customers/products can be considered the first world's "aging population".
    Ballsy move, and surprisingly long-term thinking.

  4. The longer we live, the longer they can sell us ads.

  5. I bet that improvements in actuarial data (ideally, and not implausibly, tied to consumer behavior that Google can observe; but which is not considered a 'medical record' for any legal purposes) would be worth more than the ads.

    If anybody is in a position to offer "Web browsing profiles of future sickies whose prolonged decline you should definitely avoid insuring" or 'Geolocation activity characteristics of low-average-cost-subgroups' data, it'd be a Google-backed medical research entity...

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

6 more replies