Billionaire Peter Thiel says he’s signed up to be cryogenically preserved when he dies so he can be revived in the future—but he’s ‘not convinced it works’

May 5, 2023, 12:03 AM UTC
Peter Thiel.
Peter Thiel says he'll be cryogenically preserved but has his doubts about future technology being able to revive him.
Marco Bello/Getty Images

Peter Thiel has long griped about America’s stagnation in science and technology, as he sees it. The billionaire tech investor has frequently complained about nuclear power falling out of favor and the fight to cure cancer taking too long, for example.

But he’s also upset about our attitude toward a more fundamental challenge: death. 

Asked if humanity can conquer death and whether we should want to, Thiel told the Honestly With Bari Weiss podcast this week, “We haven’t even tried. We should either conquer death or at least figure out why it’s impossible.” 

In the interview, published Wednesday, Thiel confirmed that he has signed up to be cryogenically preserved after he dies so that he might be brought back to life in the future. 

But, the early Facebook investor added, “I think of it more as an ideological statement. I don’t necessarily expect it to work, but I think it’s the sort of thing we’re supposed to try to do.” 

The Telegraph reported in 2014 that Thiel had signed on with Alcor for a cryogenic deep freeze after he dies. He explained his approach to the “problem of death” to the British publication: “You can accept it, you can deny it, or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are into denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it.”

Alcor describes cryonics as “the practice of preserving life by pausing the dying process using subfreezing temperatures with the intent of restoring good health with medical technology in the future.”

Of course, cryonics is far from a proven science and has plenty of skeptics. Last October, Clive Coen, a neuroscientist and professor at King’s College London, described it to MIT Technology Review as “a hopeless aspiration that reveals an appalling ignorance of biology.”

Thiel’s stance on mortality goes back a ways. In a 2009 piece for Cato Unbound entitled “The Education of a Libertarian,” he wrote: “I remain committed to the faith of my teenage years: to authentic human freedom as a precondition for the highest good. I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual.”

That was well before he backed Donald Trump onstage at the 2016 GOP convention, which is when many Americans first became aware of him. He later broke with Trump, and on the Honestly podcast he said he would “strongly support” a White House bid by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Thiel has taken aim at aging as well as death. In 2014, he told Bloomberg TV that he was taking human growth hormone pills as part of his quest to live until the age of 120. Founders Fund, the venture capital firm he started in 2005, made one of its earliest investments in Halcyon Molecular, which aimed to defeat aging through the development of genomic-sequencing technology. (It quietly went bankrupt in 2012.)

Thiel, who cofounded PayPal, is hardly alone in taking on aging. Fortune recently interviewed Bryan Johnson, a CEO in his mid-forties who is spending millions of dollars a year on a reverse-aging regimen that, according to his team of doctors, has given him the skin, lung capacity, and heart health of a younger man.

Sam Altman, the CEO of ChatGPT maker OpenAI, has invested $180 million in Retro Biosciences, a venture that aims to add 10 years to the “healthy human lifespan.” 

On the Honestly podcast, host Bari Weiss also asked Thiel of cryogenic freezing, “Have you signed up other people you love?”

He replied: “I’m not convinced it works. It’s more I think we need to be trying these things. It’s not there yet.”

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