select all

Peter Thiel Apparently Wants to Bring Back the Woolly Mammoth

Visitors view a painting of woolly mammoths at Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Photo: Linda Davidson/The Washington Post

In addition to bringing down Gawker, somehow getting citizenship in New Zealand after spending less than two weeks in the country, and (possibly) buying up the blood of the young, tech billionaire Peter Thiel apparently has another iron in the fire: help bring back the woolly mammoth.

In 2015, Thiel donated $100,000 to Harvard genomics professor George Church, who is currently at work in the Woolly Mammoth Revival lab to try to resurrect the extinct megafauna, which died out about 4,000 years ago due to a mixture of climate change and hunting by humans. There have been several attempts to bring back the woolly mammoth — or, at least, an approximation of it — over several decades, but Church and his lab garnered press attention in February by saying it would take just two more years to revive the massive pachyderm. It’s a timeline that many others view with extreme skepticism.

But Thiel, who believes that the acceptance of death is a “microcosm of the whole complacency of the Western world,” has shown remarkable enthusiasm for projects with, perhaps, shaky foundations. He once supported “seasteading,” building libertarian “arcologies” that floated on the ocean seas, though he’s since lost enthusiasm for the project. He’s advocated a return to the gold standard. He’s questioned whether it was wise to give women the vote. And he supported the candidacy of Donald Trump. Thiel has also shown remarkable skepticism on subjects that are backed up with very solid empirical evidence, such as climate change.

As for why he’d want to see the woolly mammoth once again roam the Earth? Thiel has declined to comment. It could be part of his long chess match against death. It could be that he has an affinity for gee-whiz science projects, or that he’s a fan of hardcore old-school fantasy and sci-fi, where humans are able to engineer their way out of a world of scarcity. Or maybe he is curious to see what it’s like to shoot up woolly mammoth blood to see if it gives him the power of immortality.

Deciphering the intention of billionaires is tough; with no real material or monetary restraints, they can do whatever they want, whether that’s eradicating malaria, mismanaging basketball teams, or building the world’s biggest plane. Add in Thiel’s weird admixture of heartlessness and techno-utopianism, and it’s near impossible.

Peter Thiel Wants to Bring Back the Woolly Mammoth