The ‘Black Mirror’ tech billionaires are investing in to try and live forever

The ‘Black Mirror’ tech billionaires are investing in to try and live forever

What would you buy if you were a billionaire? A sports car? A mansion? Maybe a private island. The possibilities, relatively speaking, are endless. However, one thing billionaires are now pumping their money into is immortality. The elixir of life, apparently, is out there. One just has to spread their bets… or know where to look.

Obviously, this sounds like something from a sci-fi movie or perhaps a news article from the future. But for those who have the money, there are a number of options out there for extending one's life or, indeed, living forever.

A woman undergoes a scan Credit: Getty

Digital Consciousness

Much like the Black Mirror episode San Junipero, top neurologists and programmers are looking into how one could live forever in a digital form. The most likely incarnation of immortality to hit the shelves, MIT is backing a research company called Nectomeresearch who are working in this area. The field of digital consciousness has received well over $1m in funding and well over $1m in the form of a federal grant from the US National Institute of Mental Health.

For a while now, it has been possible to store digital information on DNA. By switching the zeros and ones into As, Cs, Gs and Ts, it is possible to store something like a video file on DNA code. While there are currently acres of servers around the world, by harnessing nature’s technology, we could fit all the information on the internet into a single shoebox.

Uploading one’s consciousness to a computer is, admittedly, quite the opposite process. However, this merging of digital technology and natural phenomena is very promising. As futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil explains: “We're going to become increasingly non-biological to the point where the non-biological part dominates, and the biological part is not important any more." Kurzweil, who is also Google’s director of engineering, adds: "In fact, the non-biological part - the machine part - will be so powerful it can completely model and understand the biological part.”

'Digital Consciousness' infographic Credit: ABC Finance

Cryonics

As well as being the premise of Futurama, cryogenic freezing - or cryonics - provides elderly billionaires with a certain peace of mind. Cooling the body down to a temperature of -200 degrees Fahrenheit, the body is preserved indefinitely.

Canadian businessman Robert Miller has donated generously to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation and stated that he plans to undergo the process himself. Meanwhile, you can also freeze cats and dogs for around $5,000 or a budgie for just $600.

Sadly, the technology isn’t yet in place to reanimate frozen corpses, let alone retroactively cure deadly diseases. However, experts are hopeful that this is a very worthwhile insurance policy. In fact, speaking to VT, Dennis Kowalski of the Cryonics Institute described the process as an “ambulance ride to the future”.

'Cryonics' infographic Credit: ABC Finance

Colonising Space

If you’ve ever looked at the news one morning and thought “I want to get off this planet”, you’re not alone. A number of businesspeople including Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) and Elon Musk (SpaceX) are looking at making the idea of permanent communities outside our planet more tenable.

While NASA presumably already have secret colonies in all corners of the known universe, the “billionaire space race” sees behemoths of business trying to first make space travel more affordable. With space tourism already a reality, others are hopeful that their very own space colony is just around the corner.

Dr Igor Ashurbeyli, a Russian rocket scientist and billionaire, is currently developing a project called “Asgardia” which he believes will be “the first fully independent ‘nation’ in space, with its own government, virtual currency, justice system and calendar”.

'Colonising Space' infographic Credit: ABC Finance

"Young Blood" Transfusions

Other than sounding like the name of an up-and-coming rapper, “young blood” is the purportedly precious plasma procured from young and healthy individuals (specifically those between ages 16 and 25) which is then transfused into an older client. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who previously founded PayPay with Elon Musk, has created a company called Ambrosia for just this purpose.

However, this is just one of many life-extending projects which 51-year-old Thiel is currently running via his Breakout Labs fund. Other organisations involved in young blood transfusion include Alkahest and the Young Blood Institute. Experiments have shown that young blood invigorates older test subjects though these particular test subjects were mice.

Medical trials on humans have, so far, been unsuccessful. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that the process has no proven clinical benefits and is “potentially harmful”. Sadly, it seems like the very best this particular treatment may offer for now is a few extra months in the retirement home.

''Young Blood' Transfusions' infographic Credit: ABC Finance

Apocalypse Insurance

For anyone still wondering about the mansion or private island, apocalypse insurance provides something a bit more tangible. While technically, it won’t enable you to live forever, it does add a certain degree of futureproofing to the families of Silicon Valley billionaires.

With so much news of nuclear tensions and fractious political landscapes, it’s no wonder that various companies are offering to provide billionaires with the bomb shelter of their dreams (or nightmares?) and ensure that their surroundings are luxurious as well as safe. In fact, climate experts have warned that we may only have until 2050 before civilisation collapses. It should come as no surprise, then, that Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman has had corrective eye surgery and stockpiles weaponry, food and gold coins.

However, certain individuals have gone one further and bought properties - or indeed islands - specifically for apocalyptic scenarios. New Zealand, with its rugged terrain and relatively remote location, is a firm favourite for rapturous relocations. Meanwhile, Peter Thiel has purchased a 477-acre estate in New Zealand worth tens of millions, Mark Zuckerberg has a 700-acre plot in Hawaii “just in case” and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison has bought 98 per cent of the land on Hawaii’s sixth-largest island, Lanai, as well as his own airline.

'Apocalypse Insurance' infographic Credit: ABC Finance

With so much talk of “the singularity” and computer intelligence overtaking human intelligence, one does have to question why someone would want to live forever. That said, these tech billionaires didn’t get to the position they’re in by giving up easily.

By way of one last scary thought, digital consciousness experts Terasem Movement Foundation are currently looking at ways to create “mindware” which would be used as part of a "nanotechnological body" (read: robot). This would allow you to live without the human constraints of declining health or... death. Considering that scientists have already managed to digitally recreate the brain of a roundworm in a Lego robot, it might not be all that long before we’re performing similar experiments with humans.

That might seem like a bit of a jump. However, Ray Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns poses that technological progress allows technological progress itself to speed up. Whether exciting or concerning, this exponential curve we are therefore racing up could soon see us surrounded by cyborgs, robots and, of course, immortals.

H/T: ABC Finance