Eternal Life through Data

Google’s newest venture Calico aims for nothing less than eternal life of humans. If you didn’t think the search giant had high ambitions before, now they are literally cosmic. I think the phrase “this and this is the new religion” is over-used, but in this case it’s le mot juste. With enough data and computing power, we can solve all man’s problems including mortality the thinking goes. It’s turning a matter of faith into engineering. And business.

If you follow Silicon Valley news, you could see this coming. Last December, Google hired Ray Kurzweil as its Head of Engineering. In case you are not familiar with Kurzweil, let me first say that he is no dummy. He received honors from three American presidents, written seven books and has several inventions to his name, including optical character recognition and flatbed scanners that are now common-place technologies. He is also the visionary behind the idea of the “singularity” – that point in time when we can live forever through machines. That is going to happen in 2045 according to Kurzweil’s calculations. Here’s the thinking: change happens more and more rapidly. Think of how long it took for the telephone from conception to global household penetration. Then think about mobile phones, smart phones and surf pads. Every new technology is developed faster, implemented faster and adopted faster. If that trend continues, there is a conflux point when all inventions happen at the same time: infinite innovation a k a the singularity. At that point, all information will be available and endless computing power too. We will live forever, maybe by uploading our minds on a computer so advanced as it can replace our brain. Or maybe by injecting cell-repairing nano-bots in our blood-stream so to stop our biological aging. Or maybe a combination of those, or maybe something else. But the limits of technology will exist no more when we reach the singularity. If Kurzweil is correct. So if you share this vision, as Google apparently does, it makes perfect sense to build a business on it and invest in the promise as an opportunity. Ergo Calico.

When Wired magazine ran a portrait story on Kurzweil a few years ago, one reader wrote a letter to the editor: “So Ray Kurzweil thinks that if a computer gets good enough, it can replace the human brain. Does he also believe that if a knitting machine makes enough mittens, it will become his grandmother?”