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Google’s new incentive for top engineering recruits: Indefinite life extension?

When it comes to attracting its five to seven thousand annual new recruits, Google faces tough competition from other Silicon Valley giants. Google gets around 2 million job applications each year, and prides itself on human inspection of each one. Stock options and free lunches are always nice features to offer, but Google has an additional new perk package it is allegedly planning to offer – indefinite life extension.

Google Ventures, the investment arm of Google, was founded in 2009 with a $100 million (£66 million) capital commitment. Biotech and health care start-ups are a major focus of the funding. Since Ray Kurzweil has come on board, there has also been a lot of messianic discussion of technological singularities. These cataclysmic mergers between mind and machine would conspire to create post-human super-intelligences more nimble than either single force acting on their own. Ray’s well-received talk at the recent Global Futures 2045 conference in New York highlighted much of this new corporate philosophy which now seems to permeate Google.

The human resource department at Google does not usually take centre stage in the media highlights. However, an event hosted last Tuesday by the Commonwealth Club’s Inforum has revealed an interesting new shift of focus. Representatives at the meeting from companies like Cisco and Twitter noted that skyrocketing engineer salaries impose limits on the rate of corporate expansion, and that new incentives must be sought.

Medical care is still very much an HR staple in the States, despite many companies now outsourcing much of the gritty interaction required to administer it. Extending health care into the afterlife, or at least after the hypothesised singularity era, may be just what Google needs to reel in the right disciples.

Kurzweil has observed that the usefulness of new technology is often inversely related to its cost. New technology that would appear to be in a working state is frequently offered to the public (or at least the rich) at an initially exorbitant price despite the fact that it is not actually functional. By the time the commodity starts to perform well, it is practically free.

It has been observed that price is what you pay and value is what you get. The value of life extending technologies as they begin to emerge, particularly to younger recruits, will be difficult to put a price on.

At this point in time, as far as we are aware, Google does not possess any life extension technology. To the extent that culture begets technology, Google certainly fosters the image of being the place to be when things start to happen. It is not yet clear, however, that big companies, with their inherent big oversight, will be the place where the radical tests and transformations will occur.

Savvy recruits might balk at any tangible promise in terms of life extension, and what Google might actually be purveying here is, in effect, inside access to information relevant to life extension. At least for now, we might expect that the call to “show me the money” will still command the greatest respect in the HR marketplace.