If Peter Thiel isn’t careful, he could end up being the Joe Firmage of Web 2.0. Firmage was a Web 1.0 superstar, founding USWeb in 1995 and taking it public two years later. Then he started talking publicly about his belief in extraterrestrials and became known as UFO Joe.
We’re not saying Thiel believes in UFOs, but his hefty donation to a foundation searching for a “cure” for human aging doesn’t exactly put him in the mainstream. Thiel, who made his fortune with PayPal and is an active angel investor through The Founders’ Fund, has pledged $3.5 million to the Methuselah Foundation, a charity co-founded by controversial scientist Dr. Aubrey de Grey.
Thiel’s money will be used to fund research projects aimed at validating Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), which de Grey describes as “a detailed plan for curing human aging. SENS is an engineering project, recognising that aging is a medical condition and that medicine is a branch of engineering.”
Among de Grey’s critics is Richard Miller, a University of Michigan professor on aging who wrote a letter to Grey in the Technology Review last year in which he suggested de Grey conduct research on another vexing problem: producing flying pigs.
Thiel could not be reached for comment. But he said in a prepared statement: “I’m backing Dr. de Grey, because I believe that his revolutionary approach to aging research will accelerate [advances in biological science], allowing many people alive today to enjoy radically longer and healthier lives for themselves and their loved ones.”
Hey, we hope Thiel’s right—for all our sakes—but we’re not counting on it.