As if Google hasn’t done enough for society, they are now encroaching into medicine, with two large announcements this past year that are sure to be game changers: Calico and smart contact lenses.
Standing for “California Life Company”, Calico is taking on one of humanity’s most perplexing and universal phenomena: death. Expanding the lifespan has been a thing of science fiction for centuries, and Google believes they can execute. As described in the New York Times, Calico would be “more of an institute certainly than a pharmaceutical company,” focusing on basic research aimed at picking apart the biological mechanisms behind aging.
They’ve already made many big name hires, most notably David Botstein, a professor of at Princeton who ran the university’s Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics for 10 years, will be Calico’s chief scientific officer. They also hired futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil a few months ago who has very unique ideas about mortality.
When interviewed by Time Magazine, Larry Page explained why they want to take on extending life, instead of curing cancer for example. “One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you’d add about three years to people’s average life expectancy. We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world. But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.”
No one knows exactly what they will be doing and what timeline they envision. But being Google, we can expect something totally insane and mind-bogglingly awesome.
Smart Contact Lenses
More recently, Google announced that they are working on a prototype for a contact lens that can sense blood glucose. Monitoring blood glucose is a constant struggle for a diabetic with many dangerous consequences. Chronically elevated blood glucose can cause a wide range of problems, from nerve damage to vision loss. Low blood glucose can result in seizures or syncope. Google’s solution? To measure blood glucose once per second, from a person’s tears.
“At Google[x], we wondered if miniaturized electronics—think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair—might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy.
We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material…It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype. We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease.”
If thousands of diabetics were getting their blood glucose checked every second, the massive amount of data Google would collect and knowledge it would acquire could far surpass anything we currently know about blood glucose.
We are living in the future, thanks to Larry Page and Sergey Brin.