Google vs. the Grim Reaper in the fight for your life

Google takes on death itself with Calico, its new data-driven company on a mission to extend the human lifespan

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German journalist Eva de Valk puts it in competitive terms.

Last week Apple announced a gold iPhone. And Google? Oh, we founded a company that might one day defeat death itself.

And just when Apple was about to announce the Deathpad with the iFuneral app, too.

That's certainly one way to deflect attention from that scandal involving Sergey and the 26-year-old marketing babe for Google Glass. But the announcement was as short on specifics as it is long on ambition. How is Google going to turn us all into Methuselah, exactly? Via the magic of big data. In the Time magazine cover story, Harry McCracken and Lev Grossman note:

It's a lot easier to take Google's venture seriously if you live under the invisible dome over Silicon Valley, home to a worldview whereby, broadly speaking, there is no problem that can't be addressed by the application of liberal amounts of technology and everything is solvable if you reduce it to data and then throw enough processing power at it.

In other words, take two enormous Hadoop data sets and call me in the morning. Hell, if anyone can afford to throw money at a small problem like mortality, it's Google. I understand Robert Scoble has already written a ringing endorsement of the idea while in the shower.

The question of course remains: Will Calico be more like Google Search -- an indispensable part of the Internet for some 70 percent of U.S. netizens -- or more like Google Wave, a .... what was it again? Or Google Buzz. Or Google Knol. Or Google Video. You get the idea.

Maybe it will be like Orkut and be really successful, but only if you live in Brazil. I can see the ad campaign now: Come to Rio Carnival and party like you're 1999.

As Google has moved further and further away from its core competency -- finding brutally efficient ways to manipulate data in order to deliver ads -- its batting average has not been very impressive. It's less of a slugger, more of a banjo hitter.

Still, I'm rooting for Calico. Who doesn't want to live forever? Even if when we do eventually die, our souls will find their way to the Googleplex.

It seems a small price to pay for eternity.

Can Google patch death? Posit your theories below or email me:

This article, "Google vs. the Grim Reaper in the fight for your life," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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