On Peter Thiel, radical life extension, and the state

Jules Evans
13 min readApr 30, 2021

This week I was lucky enough to get a COVID vaccine. I was given it in the Science Museum, appropriately enough, about 20 metres from an exhibition showing the implements that Edward Jenner used to dispense the first ever vaccine in 1796. Nothing did more to radically extend human life expectancy in the 20th century than vaccines.

While recovering from the mild flu effects of the vaccine, I spent the day reading about perhaps the most famous advocate of radical life extension — Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.

He’s not the richest entrepreneur in Silicon Valley (he’s worth a mere $6.5 billion) but he’s one of the more interesting ones. He is famous as a contrarian, who hires contrarian thinkers like Eric Weinstein to join his court at Thiel Capital and think alternative thoughts. He also appoints ‘Thiel Fellows’ each year, who he pays to drop out of college and think alternative thoughts.

There’s actually a character in the HBO series Silicon Valley based on him — Peter Gregory. The heroes of the comedy get him to invest in their start-up by threatening to go to college.

I first heard of Thiel when I was at Burning Man in 2018, when I met various figures associated with him, including several who believed they would never die, thanks to scientific advances. I learned how Thiel invests in ‘radical life extension’ technologies through organisations like SENS Research, which is run by the longevity scientist Aubrey de Grey.

What’s surprising is Thiel is also a Christian. He grew up an evangelical, and still calls himself a Christian. In a fascinating conversation with leading theologian NT Wright, the two discussed the relationship between transhumanism and Christianity. Thiel said: ‘The thing that strikes me is how similar they are.’

He added: ‘The one part of the Christian view that I believe more strongly than anything is that death is evil, that it’s wrong and we should not accept it and fight it any way we can.’

Jules Evans