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Parabiosis, Transhumanism and a Cold, Red Stress-Ball

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Blood – let’s start with that. Blood is the very stuff of life after all. In order to live longer, would one need to transfer youthful blood into the body of an elder? “Does this qualify said elder as a vampire?” I hear you ask. Quite possibly. “Is this real?”. Most certainly.

Well, this scenario is a preferred method of well-being for Peter Thiel, a man who made his millions through venture capital, who co-founded PayPal and invested early in Facebook before going on to be a board member of the social media behemoth.

I guess we could make fun of Thiel, but then his wealth somehow makes him a person of influence who is not so easily taken down, let alone disparaged: the man has a fortune and influence of which many other humans only dream.

Although, let's also not forget that he donates money to some questionable people, supports causes that ultimately would do little to advance human knowledge through public education, writes dodgy books about race and elite American Ivy League universities, outlining some very, very deplorable thoughts on how the female vote and social assistance for poor people were leading to a demise of "capitalist democracy". Yup, women and poor people - ruining everyone else’s fun.

All that aside, Thiel is a keen proponent of parabiosis. Essentially, parabiosis is the mixing of another’s person’s blood with your own, which, if we’re frank about it, is a kind of vampirism. We are left with a clear image of an aging Thiel, strapped up to a catheter, draining the blood of some poor teenager. His eyes gleaming as he imagines his new found vigour coursing through his veins.

In a New Yorker profile from 2016, Thiel stated: "Probably the most extreme form of inequality is between people who are alive and people who are dead." This may be the case, but with 42 people holding the same wealth as the 3.7 billion poorest people on the planet, one could argue that the one most basic common trait we share is the certainty of death. It’s the myopic disdain for current, real-world inequality from Thiel that makes it hard to fully trust his ability to "save humanity".

No doubt the upwardly mobile middle classes would be the first ones to live forever, in Thiel's ideal world. It should be pointed out that vampires have always been seen as aristocratic and linked to capital, lest we forget. Conspiracy theorists love to bang on about royal families and their love of parabiosis, Vlad the Impaler, and the protection of bloodlines down through the ages. Voltaire, ever the competent satirist, had vampires in his Philosophical Dictionary as being "stockjobbers, bankers, men of business who sucked the blood of people in broad daylight; but they were not dead, though corrupted. These true suckers lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable palaces."

What would these palaces be exactly? For Thiel, they are palaces of freedom naturally, the classic manifest destiny of the American dream. "Because there are no truly free places left on our world, I suspect that the mode for escape involves some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country; and for this reason, I have focused my efforts on new technologies that may create a new space for freedom."

So those palaces would ideally – for Thiel – be located on a colony on Mars such as he has helped fund via SpaceX. Or more humbly on the Internet somewhere, a crypto-palace guarded by blockchain fences or on a remote man-made island, although last year Thiel pulled back from supporting ‘seasteading’ for being unfeasible, he has infamously aided pioneers of the downfall of contemporary life, not naming any names.

But why would a man so progressive as Thiel aid pioneers of the downfall of contemporary life, (not to name any names)? Is it so his data firm, Palantir, could gain bigger contracts, or so that SpaceX would get a leg up over Boeing? Many in the press have stated that perhaps it’s just his "disruptor instinct" that drew him like a moth to the flame. Who knows?

Thiel doesn’t just want to live forever, he wants to do so far away from anybody, agency or government that would worry about such things as environmental protection standards or the taxation of crude, 20th-century power industries.

As Gittlitz put it, “Mars is even more open to the whims of venture capitalists who talk about it as if it’s a cold, red stress-ball for the worst mistakes of humanity… With his control over big data, the economies of life and death, and his own sandbox planet to build as he sees fit, Thiel is positioning himself beyond critique or recall from the masses.”

However, let’s remember that he hasn’t managed to do any of this. He has neither recourse to extend his own life or play king of the castle on Mars...not yet at least. He is trying though, and to go back to life-extension: we are led to such outfits as SENS – Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (no less) a non-profit dedicated to life extension.

SENS is led by the British biomedical gerontologist, Aubrey de Grey. A star figure in the world of transhumanism and someone Thiel has donated large amounts of money to in the past. And, of course, the quest here is to beat death, or to solve it. To do what religion and the spiritual promise of transcendence have always offered as a unique reward for each of us, based on the conduct of our earthly selves.

We think it’s easy to see the contradictions in someone like Peter Thiel because of the inherent lopsidedness of the enterprise. Indeed of the society itself that produces such Silicon Valley projects as de Aubrey’s SENS and Laura Deming’s VC outfit, The Longevity Firm. The latter was the recipient of one of Thiel’s controversial Thiel Foundation Fellowship grants - an award for people under 20 that necessitates them to drop out of formal education and receive $100k in its place. And to what end? To be entrepreneurs of course!

- Adam, Seed Industries