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Peter “Nosferatu” Thiel



Above: Peter Thiel

I finally watched The Social Network recently. Near the end, the movie talks about Peter Thiel investing in Facebook, making it a real company. I laughed because of course Peter Thiel wasn’t so famous then but now has crossed the line into comic supervillain with his attack on journalism. But now, Thiel is taking this supervillain thing just a bit too far one thinks.

In an unpublished interview with Bercovici last year, Thiel admitted that he was interested in adding young-to-old blood transfusions to his personal health regimen:

After briefly discussing the pros and cons of caloric restriction, human growth hormone and the diabetes drug metformin, Thiel said this:

I’m looking into parabiosis stuff … where they [injected] the young blood into older mice and they found that had a massive rejuvenating effect. … I think there are a lot of these things that have been strangely underexplored.

I followed up to ask if he meant parabiosis was “really interesting” as a business opportunity or a personal-health treatment. He made it clear he was talking about the latter. “That would be one where it’s more just, do we think the science works? Some of these it’s not clear there’s actually a great company to start around it. …”

Last month, Gawker noted that the logical endpoint of Thiel’s dystopian world vision could feature an economy in which the wealthy, who wished to live forever, subsist on the blood of the poor, who would die at a normal age.

The dudebros of Silicon Valley truly are our greatest citizens. And given his Randian beliefs, in his ideal world there should be millions of impoverished Americans he can harvest for his feast of blood!

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  • John Revolta

    Where “normal age”= “same as all the other poor fucks”.

  • Philip

    Where’s Buffy when you need her?

    • fearandloathing

      Maybe we can find a gypsy to curse Peter Thiel and restore his soul. That is, if he ever had one. And if he hasn’t went on Ebay and Amazon and bought up all the Orbs of Thessala to prevent just such a thing.

  • In its current incarnation, this parabiosis / blood-transfusion business is a load of junk science.
    Mind you, it was a load of pants every previous time the idea was tried, which doesn’t seem to have affected its regular re-invention.

    They bled an old dog dry yet the exchange rills
    Of young dog blood give but a month’s desires;
    The waste remains. the waste remains and kills.

    • Warren Terra

      It was a key part of Robert Heinlein’s least bad Lazarus Long book.

      • And James Gunn’s “The Immortals”.
        No-one could possibly have imagined that Thiel would be a credulous barmpot who’ll follow any magical-thinking scam as long as it’s dressed up in technobabble.

    • keta

      I recall reading Up and Down With the Rolling Stones dog’s years ago and if I remember correctly it was claimed that Keef went to Switzerland for a complete blood transfusion to kick his heroin addiction. More than once. Successfully.

      You’re only as good as the blood what’s in ya’.

      • to kick his heroin addiction. More than once. Successfully.

        The true test of an addiction cure is the number of times you have to repeat it.

        Swiss clinics have always been cheerful exponents of the most outrageous medical frauds imaginable. So long as they are only ripping off rich desperate foreigners, and not locals, they’re bringing money into the country so it’s all good.

        • keta

          This addict concurs.

          Still, Albert Hoffman remains the greatest Swiss chemist ever to ride a bicycle home.

          • ColBatGuano

            Hoffman was a brave soul. “Hmmm, this compound might have strong hallucinogenic properties. I think I’ll just take 100 micrograms to see.”

            • The Temporary Name

              It actually wasn’t his idea to take it that first time… THE DRUG FOUND HIM.

        • Porlock Junior

          Interesting. In Sherlock Holmes’s day, the capital of that sort of stuff was Prague. Only the details change.

      • they’d have to completely clean out his liver, brain, all organs…. in short “Detox” him, just like anyone quitting drugs. New blood may or may not help.

  • Gareth

    It’s just the biological equivalent of Social Security. It’s harmless for the young to donate blood, and they can all get young blood when they’re older.

  • keta

    I actually love this. Love love LOVE this.

    I love that this asswipe is so obsessed with death that he’ll chase any crackpot procedure, charging obscene amounts of money, to perhaps extend his corporeal self to…chase any crackpot procedure, charging obscene amounts of money to…

    Run, little gerbil, run.

    • The Invisible Hand

      Certainly one of the purest forms of Trickle Down you’ll ever see.

      Keep it real Petey Thiel!

    • Yes, if we must share the planet rapacious capitalist greed heads, I’ll take the ones who hang “Rook me” signs on their backs.

      • so-in-so

        Yeah, but now they have gone from taking all the money to literally bleeding the 99% dry…

      • LosGatosCA

        Pretty sure he’s selling, not buying.

    • It’s a great way to get exposure to bloodborne pathogens too new to be picked up on a blood test. So, have another few pints on me Petey.

  • Of course Gawker is not an entirely disinterested source on the topic of Thiel.

    • cpinva

      no, I suppose they aren’t. however, the guy blurts out enough stupid to other people to give Gawker at least a patina of authenticity on the subject.

    • witlesschum

      That particular battle sure is a wrestling match between ketchup and vodka, with Maureen Dowd as the referee.

  • I think there are a lot of these things that have been strangely underexplored.

    Only strange if you’re a sociopath.

  • twbb

    “You know, it’s funny. I tried every tincture, poultice, tonic and medicine there is. And all I really needed was the blood of a young boy.”

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Dammit, man! I know what hypoxemia is!

      Your Monty Burns quote is much better than what I was thinking, which was Smithers:

      “But when he planned to steal our sunlight, he crossed that line between everyday villainy and cartoonish supervillany.”

      • twbb

        That episode is a gold mine of quotes, though. “Since the beginning of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun!”

      • Epicurus

        “Smithers had thwarted my earlier attempt to take candy from a baby. But with him out of the picture, I was free to wallow in my own crapulence.”

        A great, great episode. I still watch the new episodes, and while there has been a downward drift, there is usually at least one line that makes me laugh out loud.

        De gustibus non est disputandum

  • rm

    Oh, Peter, the trick is bathing in it, not transfusing it.

    • postmodulator

      I’ve seen this movie and it ends with him being immured alive.

      In other words, please proceed.

    • rea

      Don’t they have to be virgins, for it to work?

      • Lost Left Coaster

        My first thought too was Elizabeth Bathory, the true life inspirational figure for so many great metal songs. Case in point is Ghost’s “Elizabeth.”

        Elizabeth, in the chasm where was my soul…
        Forever young, Elizabeth
        Bathory, in the castle of your death,
        you’re still alive, Elizabeth.

        • rm

          I recently binge-watched Penny Dreadful, which has a fun reference to this legend. And by “reference” I mean they show us a character bathing in blood.

      • fearandloathing

        He’s also investigating a process for restoring virginity as well. Great minds do not simply quit every time they hit a little stumbling block.

  • Gregor Sansa

    The mouse experiments are legit. They permanently connect the circulatory systems of young and old mice, and the young mice act older and the old mice act younger. The harm to the young mice is about twice as big as the benefit to the old mice. I haven’t looked into it deeply, but from what I have seen it doesn’t seem to me like statistical bullshit as with “power poses” and “priming” and the like.

    But consider what this would take to be therapeutically useful for humans. He’d need literally hundreds of donors, and he’d need to spend hours a day hooked to a dialysis-like machine. Also, it would need to be the case that humans who have evolved to live 80+ years have the same basic aging process as mice who live a year or two, which is quite a leap of faith.

    • Gregor Sansa

      Imagine that the studies in mice are valid evidence that this does work in humans. The implication is that there’s some “essence of age” in old mouse blood, or “essence of youth” in young mouse blood; and that there’s a reasonable analogue for these (collections of) substances for humans. If you believe that, you have to believe that there’s some chance that you could take blood from a two-year-old mouse, refine some substance out of it, and inject that into a 20-year-old human, and thus make the human biologically older. When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound so plausible.

      • JonH

        On the other hand, we know our bodies produce less of certain hormones and whatnot as we age. So presumably the blood of a younger individual would contain elevated levels of those.

        “If you believe that, you have to believe that there’s some chance that you could take blood from a two-year-old mouse, refine some substance out of it, and inject that into a 20-year-old human, and thus make the human biologically older.”

        On the other hand, companies do synthesize or otherwise manufacture testosterone, which is plentiful in young men, and sell it to older people, who have less.

        I suppose testosterone could be isolated from a lot of 2 year old mice, and administered to 8 year old boys, thus giving the boys certain aspects of being older.

    • witlesschum

      Granted I’m not a scientist, but following things like this through skeptical outlets, it appears to me that’s one of the main places things get crackpotty is the transition between basic science “There’s a physiological effect with this blood transfer thing” to actually creating something that does something appreciable to a human.

      It seems like a lot of science reporting seems to be premised on the second part being a lot easier and more straightforward than the first part, when it appears it is the opposite. Also, a lot of science reporting tends to involve reporting the idle speculation people who did some basic science throw into their press releases with a lot more seriousness than it deserves. People who do basic science know a lot about the research they’re doing, but they don’t necessarily know about the things one needs to do to take basic science discovery about mouse blood to way to keep horrible billionaires young.

      • Gregor Sansa

        I totally agree.

    • N__B

      The documentary Mad Max: Thunder Road included a segment on the therapeutic effects of permanently connecting the circulatory system of a donee and a Hardy young man.

      • ajay

        The documentary Mad Max: Thunder Road

        Well, that answers the question about who was actually playing the flamethrowing guitar.

        • N__B

          I believe the word I’m looking for here is “oops.”

    • JonH

      “He’d need literally hundreds of donors, and he’d need to spend hours a day hooked to a dialysis-like machine.”

      I doubt this would be an obstacle for him.

    • The mouse experiments are legit.

      But the researchers also made very specific claims about levels of GDF11, and how this was the protein keeping young mice young, and causing senescence in older mice as its level declined. They reported that injecting GDF11 had the desired mouse-rejuvenation effect on its own.

      And two years later, that turned out to be all crap.

      • And two years later, that turned out to be all crap.

        I hope they issued their IPO in time!!!

        • It has occurred to me that if GDF11 did work, the Illuminati who have been using it all this time would have a strong incentive to discredit the whole line of research.

    • it would need to be the case that humans who have evolved to live 80+ years have the same basic aging process as mice who live a year or two, which is quite a leap of faith.

      Mouse senescence is just weird.

    • twbb

      “The harm to the young mice is about twice as big as the benefit to the old mice”

      Now if you call the young mice freeloaders, and the old mice job creators, the moral issues kind of fade away…

    • epidemiologist

      I agree, I have heard a little about these experiments and they worked so far as they went… It’s quite a leap to say they would be applicable or even desirable in humans.

      Interestingly I learned about them in a talk by Jay Olshansky, an actual scientist who studies aging but whose work is beloved by rich crackpots. The upshot of his talk was not really that there are amazing promising new ways for humans to live longer, but that epidemiologists should rethink our outcome measures in light of the fact that not everyone can live much longer, and ultimately everyone will die.

      In order to be worthwhile, an intervention would need to not just keep you alive, but preserve or improve the function of every body system consistent with a level of quality of life that would make you want to do it. It’s a question we are already running up against in health sciences without nightmare transfusions: what is the utility of keeping your heart beating if you spend the extra years in pain or with dementia?

      • LosGatosCA

        If you start the transfusions, infusions, whatever, at a young enough age then your organs won’t start aging and then age less quickly and then you will accumulate knowledge over 150-200 years which will mean the government will build these huge capsule hotels to house the older folks that need to have their skeletal structure protected.

        It was all explained in a TED talk and the documentary ‘The Matrix.’ Just a few details to be worked out, then it’s all good. Thiel’s got the IPO planned for when the next Republican administration guts the SEC entirely.

        • epidemiologist

          I look forward to seeing the state of the art infusion rooms added to exclusive kindergartens and pre-Ks.

  • lizzie

    Last year I experienced for the first time in my life the death of someone who was one of the primary people in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time since then ruminating on mortality.

    I will never, ever, understand the desire some people have for immortality. I am not afraid of my own death. It’s the death of friends and loved ones that is devastating. The idea of being the last one left after losing everyone I’ve ever loved is horrifying.

    • JonH

      The loss of people is bad enough, but over the next 100-200 years you’d also see various extinctions, etc.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        That’s a good point. I do not want to be too grim here, but those of us alive today may not want to see what the planet looks like in 2100.

    • Karen24

      My best friend died in 2014 and my Dad in December. You are exactly correct; I’m not afraid of being dead — although I am certainly not in any hurry — I fear surviving all my loved ones. Thiel shows just what a sociopath he is with this. He only cares about extending his own physical existence.

      • LosGatosCA

        In his defense, I think his primary goal is likely to figure out how to make a ton more money from folks who would like to extend their economic raping and pillaging longevity, he just happens to fit the demographic.

        It will be a completely perfect world when you can use Bitcoins with an app to send a driverless car to pick up virginal Eloi males and females for life sapping extending procedures that generate all the soylent green necessary.

      • LosGatosCA

        Sorry about your dad and your friend.

        I also share your concern about outliving friends/relatives. Years ago I saw somewhere, in a documentary, in a movie, on tv, not sure where, a 90ish woman who had outlived a couple of husbands, all her siblings, and even her children. She may have been a holocaust survivor. In any case she was very matter of fact about her survival while it would seem to have to be psychologically devastating to be the last one standing.

        • Lurker

          My late granddad and I discussed this a few times. At 91, he understood that he was so old that in his home village in 1930’s Karelia, he would have been a wonder that school children would have come to see from neighboring municipalities.

          He was also the last one of his personal generation. He remarked that all his friends and relatives, with the exception of his own offspring, were already dead. He faced death in a steady belief in God though, and I hope to see him again.

          • LosGatosCA

            That’s a wonderful outlook. I hope you do, too.

    • Gregor Sansa

      If I got a non-transferrable chance to sip from the Immortality Grail, I’d absolutely do it. Losing everyone I loved over and over would be very very bad, but life has very very good things too, and I’m confident the balance is positive and could remain so. I understand how people could disagree with that, but if they’re happy now, I honestly think they’d tend to stay happy through time.

      If I had one immortality (with eternal youth) pill I could give to anyone… I honestly don’t know whom I’d give it to. Probably somebody old who’s had a hard life and kept a good sense of humor, but I’m not sure who that would be.

      • lizzie

        This is just so hard for me to relate to. Life is wonderful, but having experienced a primary loss I now feel so acutely aware of how much of the wonderfulness of life is connected to my relationships with other people. Things that I would not have consciously connected to my loved one now feel drained of color because of the ways in which my brain understood the world and my place in it, and somehow obscurely, in ways I can’t explain, my loved one’s presence was a part of that.

        Loss through death is like a surreal nuclear bomb. It is literally disorienting. Every single minute of every day there is at least some portion, however small, of my brain capacity trying to understand the incomprehensible, that I will never see or talk to my loved one again. It is exhausting. And this is more than a year after the loss.

        Yes, you can form new relationships, but it’s hard to imagine being able to sustain that forever, or even for much longer than the normal human lifespan. The thing about grief is that it does not go away. After my loved one died, many, many people told me this. You just get used to it. It becomes familiar. There is an empty space that you have to get around. Which is its own horror, in a way. The idea of experiencing that over and over, the accumulated scars that would cause, the knowledge that you will never again be able to talk to anyone who knew you as a child; who knew your parents; who remembers you as you were; who’s seen what you’ve seen; I can’t imagine wanting that.

        • N__B

          Yes, to all of this. I’m fifteen months from the death of my father and I’m still trying to navigate around that hole in my life.

        • Karen24

          This is such perfect description of grief. My best friend and I first bonded through sharing books; after his death I didn’t read anything that wasn’t required for my job for almost a year.

        • econoclast

          This hasn’t been my experience at all. Both my parents and many other close relatives are dead, but after enough years I completely moved on. I would say it took about five years, maybe less.

        • Gregor Sansa

          OK. I’m going to go into a self-centered TMI post here. Trigger warning, egotism.

          First off: though as you’ll see below I don’t seem to be put together as you are, I don’t think my way is more valid. I’m truly sorry to hear about your pain and your loss.

          So. My basic point is that I’m just a kind of a happy guy these days, and it seems to be something that is not based on my environment. To make that point, I’m going to tell you about my life for the past month or two. This is a life of incredible privilege, but despite that privilege I think most people sitting where I’m sitting would be upset.

          I am a graduate student in a STEM field at a top Ivy. (I’ve said which field and which ivy in past comments here, but from what follows I think it’s obvious why I don’t exactly want to say more in this comment). I’m in my 40s, married to a woman from Central America, and we have a daughter in middle school. I live in a nice town in a condo my parents paid for, and have a cute and good-natured puppy. I’m intellectually capable of keeping up with my peers in my program; while I’m far from the smartest, I do have my strengths, and those strengths cover for my weaknesses.

          And the last two months or so of my life are a fucking black hole. My wife and daughter are visiting her family, and I stayed behind to “work”. Which I’m not doing; I’m spending pretty much all day, every day, messing around on the internet, reading, or other unproductive activities. I have a housemate and various house guests have passed through, but if it weren’t for that, I would probably have seen almost nobody in weeks, and only gone outside to buy groceries or walk the dog.

          And in this near-complete isolation, I’m actually happy. I mean, right now, writing this, I can touch the desperation that a part of me feels. But give me 5 minutes, and I know without a doubt that I could probably be giggling, feeling personally clever, and/or feeling vicarious triumph. Or I could be happily playing with a cute puppy. This would all be fun! I’d be aware, just as I’m aware right now, that the activity of the moment was in some sense a cheap anaesthetic for the mess I’m making of my life, but it’s an anaesthetic that works.

          So yes, if somebody close to me died, I’d go through agony. I don’t even want to think about that, put names on it. But sooner or later, I know I’d pick myself up and find something to do and go back to being the basically happy-go-lucky person I am. I can live on almost nothing, and easily have the skills necessary to make what I need. The world is an awesome place, even if I’m not an awesome person. I even have eternally-springing hope that I’ll become the awesome person I could be. And given the choice, I wouldn’t hesitate: I’d choose to live forever (as long as it’s not a monkey’s paw situation of eternal aging or agony or something.)

          • twbb

            “Which I’m not doing; I’m spending pretty much all day, every day, messing around on the internet, reading, or other unproductive activities.”

            Yes, you already told us you were a PhD student.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Which I’m not doing; I’m spending pretty much all day, every day, messing around on the internet, reading, or other unproductive activities.

            You’ve come to the right place!

            I think you’re on to something (onto something? Firing an Ontos at something?) Some people are just happy. Some aren’t.

    • Brett

      It’s more the idea of being forced into death by inevitable body aging that drives the appeal of immortality for me. Being immortal wouldn’t actually mean you’d live forever in most cases – it would mean you’d live until either an accident or murder gets you, or you decided you’re tired of living and choose to stop prolonging your life.

      I’m in the same boat as Gregor Sansa on that. Give me a sip from the immortality grail, and I’d drink it.

      • N__B

        Neil Gaiman touched on this in the “Old Ones” part of The Sandman. But I have no interest in living my life in a flurry of raspberry cream and fear.

      • Rob in CT

        Right, it’s not so much death that worries me, it’s pain (and other indignities of aging, like my mind going).

        Tolkien’s elves lived until they were killed in battle or decided they didn’t want to live (in the mortal world) anymore and went into The West. They didn’t get sick. They didn’t age. But eventually they all left (and they were all bittersweet about the experience, because they all suffered losses).

        I’d really have to think about it, though, if it was a me-only offer. Not my wife? My kids? My small but tight group of friends? Ehhh, I might have to pass even though aging really sucks.

    • farin

      Fortunately for Thiel he doesn’t feel love, so there’s no downside.

  • JonH

    I figured this sort of thing would happen when I read about the mouse research.

  • Brett

    Christ, and I thought Ray Kurzweil’s “20 nutritional super-doses a day to keep me alive until the Singularity” was weird.

    Not that I’m objecting to immortality research, weird or not.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    Let me put on my $5 Future Predictin’ plastic trucker cap I got at Wal-Mart (I don’t need my fancy predictin’ cap for this one) and say that the glibertarians will be fondling themselves over this one, just as 30 years ago they were whining, “But why can’t rich people just buy kidneys from India? Don’t you care about the poor?”

    • Bill Murray

      surely Megan McArdle’s blogpost on this was less than 30 years ago

      • BiloSagdiyev

        That’s one mango patch I try to avoid.

  • Yankee

    It used to be you just had to sleep with virgins. Things were simpler then.

    • LosGatosCA

      Back when I was a Mayan god worshipper you had to climb over 3000 steps in sandals in the blazing hot sun, without sun screen, to reach the top of the temple before you could even think about sacrificing virgins. And we didn’t get to keep the blood. Or even drink it. Those were the days – men were men and virgins were happy to die.

      • It’s really a very tragic development, Excellency. In the old day’s we used to have quite a line-up — some really great talent, I’ll tell you! I’ll never forget Mopsy DeBeers, Class of ’62 — she did a triple gainer on the way down! What a gal! She really was a virgin’s virgin!
        But now you just can’t get the young girls to go into it. They think self-sacrifice is old-fashioned. They’re just out for a good time!

    • BiloSagdiyev
  • Rudolph Schnaubelt

    There is a certain irony in knowing Thiel is prohibited from donating his own blood in most states (as a gay man), but he is wealthy and so he can consider the prospect of obtaining the blood of others for his personal use.

    Screw this, eat the rich!

  • fearandloathing

    Someone should sick the fundamentalists on him. Godless homosexual Peter Thiel thinks that eternal life can come from sources other than the blood of Jesus. The only thing better would be if there is either government funding or fetal research involved at some level. Matter of fact everybody who ever converses with him should just tell him, “Peter, read John 3:16. That’s the only way you are going to live forever. That and you have to give up sodomy.”

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