Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup - Class 16 - Decoding Ourselves
He is an essay version of my class notes from Class 16 of CS183: Startup. Errors and omissions are mine. Thanks to @1wu for some supplementary notes!
Three guests joined the class for a conversation after Peter’s remarks:
- Brian Slingerland. Co-Founder, President & COO at Stem CentRx;
- Balaji S. Srinivasan, CTO of Counsyl; and
- Brian Frezza, Co-founder, Emerald Therapeutics
Credit for good stuff goes to them and Peter. I have tried to be accurate. But note that this is not a transcript of the conversation.
Class 16 Notes Essay—Decoding Ourselves
I. The Longevity Project
How much longer can people actually live? It’s a very open ended question. It may not be very easy to answer at all. But there is a sense that biotech may be well positioned to try. Biotech, on the wake of the computer revolution, seems quite exciting if we think that a whole series of problems—e.g. cancer, aging, dying—is close to being solved.
Even without the biotech revolution, life expectancy has been rising impressively. The rate has been something like 2.5% decade over decade. In the mid to late 19th century, expected lifespans were going up at a rate of 2.3 to 2.5 years with each passing decade. If you plot the data points corresponding to each country’s single demographic (typically women) with the longest life expectancy, you get a very straight line on a scattershot basis. This isn’t quite equivalent to Moore’s law, but it’s analogous. In 1840, life expectancy was just 45 or 46 years. For century and a half now, keeping people alive longer has been an exponentially harder problem.