Over the past year, the gap between the super-rich and the rest of us has grown wider than ever before.
But the difference between ordinary people and billionaires might be more than just money. Some high net worth individuals have been looking into extending their lives far beyond the 70 or 80 years most of us might hope for.
Peter Thiel, for example, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, has invested in a number medical research start-ups looking extending life expectancy though his Breakout Labs fund.
One of the companies longevity obsessive Thiel has bankrolled is Ambrosia.
Ambrosia is one of three outfits looking at experimental “vampire” blood transfusions that put the blood of young people into the lens of oldies.
According to commercial finance experts ABC Finance, the cost of the trials currently ranges from £6,000 to about £215,000.
The technique has worked well in mice, although as yet there are no positive results from human trials. The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a statement waning that the process “has no proven clinical benefits” and could be “potentially harmful.”
If warm blood can’t make you immortal, what about freezing it instead? The idea of chilling a body to postpone death until a future society has the technology to repair any injury or illness.
For years, the story circulated that Disney founder Walt Disney had been frozen shortly before his death from lung cancer in December 1966. There’s no evidence that there’s any truth in the rumour, but research into cryonics has been progressing since the early 60s.
The first living subject was frozen in 1967. No-one has yet been revived after cryonic freezing but several people have been frozen, or had their heads removed and frozen, over the years.
Thiel, his PayPal colleague Luke Nosek and US talk-show host Larry King are all known to have signed up for freezing at the point of death.
Based on figures from the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, one of the leading cryonics providers, it would set you back £152,000 to have your entire body frozen and preserved, or a more affordable £61,000 if you just wanted your head put on ice.
There’s also the option to take a beloved companion with you into the future. One cryonics provider also offers a range of options for pets – £4,000 for cats or dogs and even £760 for a pet bird.
But if cryonics and vampire transfusions are limited by the capabilities of the human body, why not get rid of the human body altogether?
The idea of recording a human personality into a computer and somehow turning that recording into a sentient living being has been the stuff of science fiction for decades. But it’s edging ever closer to science fact.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink device promises to monitor and record the entire output of a human brain. Two companies, Nectome and the Terasem Movement Foundation, are working on turning this recordings into fully-functional personalities.
It’s early days though. The process is described as “100% fatal” and we are a long way from turning ourselves into living computers.
Still, Sam Altman – the dot com billionaire who partnered with Musk to found artificial intelligence research company OpenAI – is reportedly one of 25 people who have paid Nectome a £7,600 deposit to have their thoughts uploaded into a mainframe.
All these advances in biotechnology and robotics will remain expensive for a long time to come, so only the super rich can afford them.
American futurologist Paul Saffo predicts that the multi-billionaire class could evolve into a separate species entirely. “I sometimes wonder if the very rich can live, on average, 20 years longer than the poor,” he says.
“That’s 20 more years of earning and saving. Think about wealth and power and the advantages that you pass on to your children.”
Access to the finest foods and exercise equipment money can buy will definitely make anyone live a little longer, but one of the bizarre ideas could just make a few eccentric billionaires effectively immortal.