Today, the company announced Calico, a new health-and-wellness initiative that aims to put the company's ingenuity into its biggest challenge yet: conquering cancer and, ultimately, death. Google CEO Larry Page said in a statement: "Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moon-shot thinking around health care and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives. It’s impossible to imagine anyone better than Art — one of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs, and CEOs of our generation — to take this new venture forward.” Apple chairman Arthur D. Levinson, who will head up the organization, added that he's devoted a lot of energy toward advancements in tech and science designed to make life better (and longer), and is excited about Calico's prospects.
A corresponding TIME Calico cover story goes much deeper, with Google CEO Larry Page explaining why he thinks his latest "moon shoot" is not such a crazy idea, given Google's determined unconventionality and resources. Just don't expect immediate impact.
"In some industries, it takes 10 or 20 years to go from an idea to something being real. Health care is certainly one of those areas," Clark told TIME. "We should shoot for the things that are really, really important, so 10 or 20 years from now we have those things done."
Does that mean a cancer cure is in the works? It's obviously on Calico's collective mind, but it's not necessarily the first priority. "One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you’d add about three years to people’s average life expectancy," Page says. "We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world. But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think." What Page really wants to focus on is researching how to eliminate a greater spectrum of aging problems and illnesses, and luckily, Google has a whole lot of funding ($54 billion, to be exact) to put toward that odyssey.
"Immortality" is the buzzword on everyone's lips, as well as Calico's assumed long-term goal, though Page hasn't officially confirmed this. If that all sounds a bit Neuromancer to you, take heart and remember that Google engineer (and renowned futurist) Ray Kurzweil has already made it clear that transcending biology — via upgrading the human body like software — is in his, and now his company's, very real career aims. So, strap in, this will be a long, possibly infinite ride. [TIME]