Peter Thiel is the PayPal billionaire with a reputation for using his wealth to enact melodramatic schemes, like injecting the blood of young people in order to prolong his own youth, or shutting down Gawker Media by secretly funding wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against the gossip site for violating his privacy (the latter was a success, the former we'll have to wait and see about). He's devoted a lot of resources to what he's referred to as a "fight" against death itself, and a new book makes public a particularly outlandish investment he made to fight not his own mortality, but to resurrect an entire extinct species – the woolly mammoth.
The book is called Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures, by Ben Mezrich, and according to The Guardian it says Thiel gave $100,000 to Harvard University genomics professor, George Church, in 2015 for the wake-up-Woolly project. Thiel has declined to comment on the investment (no surprise given his secretive inclinations), but Church confirmed it, telling the paper that over a breakfast meeting Thiel told him he was interested in funding "the craziest thing" Church was working on. Church gave him three options: Research into gene therapy treatments to battle aging, an experiment to build an artificial intelligence system using human neurons, or bringing the woolly mammoth back to life using DNA extracted from frozen dead mammoths, and to genetically modify cells of a living elephant. For some reason, he chose the mammoth experiment, and wrote Church a check for $100,000.
If you follow Thiel's activities at all, the fact that he invested $100,000 to bring back an extinct animal isn't too shocking. That same year he told The Washington Post his general philosophy towards death:
"I've always had this really strong sense that death was a terrible, terrible thing. Most people end up compartmentalizing, and they are in some weird mode of denial and acceptance about death, but they both have the result of making you very passive. I prefer to fight it."
Bringing back the woolly mammoth would send a pretty strong signal to the world that death can be defeated, as long as one doesn't go on a Jurassic Park style rampage.