Billionaires like Elon Musk want to save civilization by having tons of genetically superior kids. Inside the movement to take 'control of human evolution.'
Sitting in their toy-filled family room on a sunny September afternoon, Simone and Malcolm Collins were forced to compete with the wails of two toddlers as they mapped out their plans for humankind.
"I do not think humanity is in a great situation right now. And I think if somebody doesn't fix the problem, we could be gone," Malcolm half-shouted as he pushed his sniffling 18-month-old, Torsten, back and forth in a child-size Tonka truck.
Along with his 3-year-old brother, Octavian, and his newborn sister, Titan Invictus, Torsten has unwittingly joined an audacious experiment. According to his parents' calculations, as long as each of their descendants can commit to having at least eight children for just 11 generations, the Collins bloodline will eventually outnumber the current human population.
If they succeed, Malcolm continued, "we could set the future of our species."
Malcolm, 36, and his wife, Simone, 35, are "pronatalists," part of a quiet but growing movement taking hold in wealthy tech and venture-capitalist circles. People like the Collinses fear that falling birth rates in certain developed countries like the United States and most of Europe will lead to the extinction of cultures, the breakdown of economies, and, ultimately, the collapse of civilization. It's a theory that Elon Musk has championed on his Twitter feed, that Ross Douthat has defended in The New York Times' opinion pages, and that Joe Rogan and the billionaire venture capitalist Marc Andreessen bantered about on "The Joe Rogan Experience." It's also, alarmingly, been used by some to justify white supremacy around the world, from the tiki-torch-carrying marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting "You will not replace us" to the mosque shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, who opened his 2019 manifesto: "It's the birthrates. It's the birthrates. It's the birthrates."
Google searches for "population collapse" spiked this summer, after Musk continued to raise the issue in response to Insider's report that he'd fathered twins with one of his employees. According to the United Nations, more than a quarter of the world's countries now have pronatalist policies, including infertility-treatment benefits and "baby bonus" cash incentives. Meanwhile, a spate of new assisted reproductive technology startups are attracting big-name investors such as Peter Thiel and Steve Jurvetson, fueling a global fertility-services market that Research and Markets projects will reach $78.2 billion by 2025.
I reached out to the Collinses after I received a tip about a company called Genomic Prediction, where Musk's OpenAI cofounder Sam Altman was an early investor. (Altman, who is gay, also invests in a company called Conception. The startup plans to grow viable human eggs out of stem cells and could allow two biological males to reproduce. "I think having a lot of kids is great," Altman recently told an audience at Greylock's Intelligent Future event. "I want to do that now even more than I did when I was younger.")
Genomic Prediction is one of the first companies to offer PGT-P, a controversial new type of genetic testing that allows parents who are undergoing in vitro fertilization to select the "best" available embryos based on a variety of polygenic risk factors.
The Collinses became the public face of the technology after being featured in a May Bloomberg article, "The Pandora's Box of Embryo Testing Is Officially Open." After the piece went live, Malcolm said, they began hearing from wealthy pronatalists around the country.
"We are the Underground Railroad of 'Gattaca' babies and people who want to do genetic stuff with their kids," Malcolm told me.
The Collinses invited me to stay at their home in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, before we'd even spoken on the phone. (Following our first call, in which I disclosed that I was single but hoped to have children one day, Simone also emailed to invite me to join their matchmaking network for "high-achieving" individuals: "As you can probably tell, we're heavily invested in helping people have families, as the headwinds against having kids are strong these days!")
We are the Underground Railroad of 'Gattaca' babies and people who want to do genetic stuff with their kids.
While I didn't fill out the matchmaking form, which listed both "Four +" and "As many as possible" as options for how many children I wanted, I did take them up on a visit to their 18th-century farmhouse. Upon arrival, I was greeted at the gate by The Professor, a brown corgi with a slightly manic air, followed by Malcolm, cheerful and clean-cut in a black polo.
Inside, Simone, statuesque even one month shy of her delivery date, wore her pregnancy uniform of a crisp white oxford shirt, a long black skirt, Doc Martens, and red lipstick (ignoring, she would later tell me, her mother-in-law's plea not to "dress like a fucking pilgrim" in front of the press). Their wardrobes, Simone told me later, are meticulously curated to project the kind of gravitas their work requires. Beneath their thick, black-rimmed glasses — hers round, his rectangular — the couple look, as they would put it, "biologically young."
Together they write books and work in the VC and private-equity worlds. Simone has previously served as managing director for Dialog, the secretive retreat cofounded by Thiel. While they relate to the anti-institutional wing of the Republican Party, they're wary of affiliating with what they called the "crazy conservatives." Above all, they are focused on branding pronatalism as hip, socially acceptable, and welcoming — especially to certain people. Last year, they cofounded the nonprofit initiative Pronatalist.org.
An obsession with producing heirs is hardly a new phenomenon. Elites have used lineage to consolidate money and power for most of human history. But as couples in the developed world are increasingly putting off parenthood until later in life — or abandoning it altogether — people like the Collinses are looking for hacks to make large families feasible in a modern, secular society.
They both said they were warned by friends not to talk to me. After all, a political minefield awaits anyone who wanders into this space. The last major figure to be associated with pronatalism was Jeffrey Epstein, who schemed to impregnate 20 women at a time on his New Mexico ranch. Genetic screening, and the underlying assumption that some humans are born better than others, often invites comparisons to Nazi eugenic experiments. And then there's the fact that our primary cultural reference point for a pronatalist society is the brutally misogynist world of "The Handmaid's Tale."
The Collinses, who call themselves "ruthless pragmatists," consider the inevitable backlash a small price to pay.
"We're frustrated that one of the inherent points of this culture is that people are super private within it," Simone said. They not only hope that their transparency will encourage other members of the upper class to have more children; they want to build a culture and economy around the high-birth-rate lifestyle.
The payoff won't be immediate, Simone said, but she believes if that small circle puts the right plans into place, their successors will "become the new dominant leading classes in the world."
The tech industry's biggest players have been preoccupied with their legacies for years. In the 2010s, the longevity craze swept Silicon Valley and industry titans like Jeff Bezos, 58, Sergey Brin, 49, and Larry Ellison, 78, poured billions of dollars into biotech companies they thought could help them defy death. Jeffrey Epstein reached out to scientists about freezing his head and penis to be revitalized hundreds of years later, while Peter Thiel, 55, was said to have sought blood transfusions from the young. (In response to the rumor, Thiel stated: "On the record, I am not a vampire.")
Antiaging research has had some success in targeting specific diseases, but as the Ellisons and Bezoses of the world get older, the chance of radical life extension in their lifetime becomes more unlikely. So some are turning to the next best thing: their progeny. For people who believe deeply in the genetic heritability of traits, passing on what they see as their superior DNA can be the ultimate path to influence.
The Genomic Prediction cofounder Stephen Hsu told me he knew many ultrahigh-net-worth, high-birth-rate parents.
"With everything these guys do, whether it's their investments or even their social lives, they're applying a very analytic, quantitative way of thinking. And that goes for reproduction too," Hsu said.
In 2018, Brin and his then-wife, Nicole Shanahan, who faced fertility troubles of their own, founded the Buck Institute's Center for Female Reproductive Longevity. Thiel, who has at least one child with his partner, has invested in the egg-freezing startup TMRW and a new period-tracking app called 28, which has stirred controversy over its affiliation with an antiabortion publication. Ellison, meanwhile, who has two children in their 30s, has reportedly resumed having kids — with his 31-year-old girlfriend.
While pronatalism is often associated with religious extremism, the version now trending in this community has more in common with dystopian sci-fi. The Collinses, who identify as secular Calvinists, are particularly drawn to the tenet of predestination, which suggests that certain people are chosen to be superior on earth and that free will is an illusion. They believe pronatalism is a natural extension of the philosophical movements sweeping tech hubs like the Silicon Hills of Austin, Texas. Our conversations frequently return to transhumanism (efforts to merge human and machine capabilities to create superior beings), longtermism (a philosophy that argues the true cost of human extinction wouldn't be the death of billions today but the preemptive loss of trillions, or more, unborn future people), and effective altruism (or EA, a philanthropic system currently focused on preventing artificial intelligence from wiping out the human population).
What these movements all have in common is a fixation on the future. And as that future starts to look more and more apocalyptic to some of the world's wealthiest people, the idea of pronatalism starts to look more heroic. It's a proposition uniquely suited to Silicon Valley's brand of hubris: If humanity is on the brink, and they alone can save us, then they owe it to society to replicate themselves as many times as possible.
"The person of this subculture really sees the pathway to immortality as being through having children," Simone said.
According to tech-industry insiders, this type of rhetoric is spreading at intimate gatherings among some of the most powerful figures in America. It's "big here in Austin," the 23andMe cofounder Linda Avey told me. Raffi Grinberg, a pronatalist who is the executive director of Dialog, said population decline was a common topic among the CEOs, elected officials, and other powerful figures who attended the group's off-the-record retreats. In February, the PayPal cofounder Luke Nosek, a close Musk ally, hosted a gathering at his home on Austin's Lake Travis to discuss "The End of Western Civilization," another common catchphrase in the birth-rate discourse.
The person of this subculture really sees the pathway to immortality as being through having children.
Meanwhile, the Collinses said a mutual friend had been encouraging them to fly to Austin to meet with Claire Boucher, the musician known professionally as Grimes who is the mother of two of Musk's children. (Grimes, who follows about 1,470 people on Twitter, followed the Collinses while this piece was being reported.) It makes sense considering that Musk, who has fathered 10 known children with three women, is the tech world's highest-profile pronatalist, albeit unofficially. He has been open about his obsession with Genghis Khan, the 13th-century Mongol ruler whose DNA can still be traced to a significant portion of the human population. One person who has worked directly with Musk and who spoke on the condition of anonymity for this article recalled Musk expressing his interest as early as 2005 in "populating the world with his offspring."
Musk has increasingly used his public platform to advocate the cause, tweeting dozens of times in the past two years about the threat of population decline. "If the alarming collapse in birth rate continues, civilization will indeed die with a whimper in adult diapers," he tweeted in January.
These worries tend to focus on one class of people in particular, which pronatalists use various euphemisms to express. In August, Elon's father, Errol Musk, told me that he was worried about low birth rates in what he called "productive nations." The Collinses call it "cosmopolitan society." Elon Musk himself has tweeted about the movie "Idiocracy," in which the intelligent elite stop procreating, allowing the unintelligent to populate the earth.
"Contrary to what many think, the richer someone is, the fewer kids they have. I am a rare exception," he wrote in another tweet this past May. "Most people I know have zero or one kid."
Musk was echoing an argument made by Nick Bostrom, one of the founding fathers of longtermism, who wrote that he worried declining fertility among "intellectually talented individuals" could lead to the demise of "advanced civilized society." Émile P. Torres, a former longtermist philosopher who has become one of the movement's most outspoken critics, put it more bluntly: "The longtermist view itself implies that really, people in rich countries matter more."
A source who worked closely with Musk for several years described this thinking as core to the billionaire's pronatalist ideology. "He's very serious about the idea that your wealth is directly linked to your IQ," he said. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for this article, also said Musk urged "all the rich men he knew" to have as many children as possible.
Musk's ties to the EA and longtermist communities have been gradually revealed in recent months. In September, text logs released as part of Musk's legal battle with Twitter showed conversations between Musk and the prominent longtermist William MacAskill, who works at Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, where Musk is a major donor. In the messages, MacAskill offered to introduce Musk to Sam Bankman-Fried, a now-disgraced cryptocurrency entrepreneur who had donated millions of dollars to longtermist organizations.
MacAskill has never explicitly endorsed pronatalism, and he declined to be interviewed for this article. He did, however, devote a chapter of his best-selling book, "What We Owe the Future," to his fear that dwindling birth rates would lead to "technological stagnation," which would increase the likelihood of extinction or civilizational collapse. One solution he offered was cloning or genetically optimizing a small subset of the population to have "Einstein-level research abilities" to "compensate for having fewer people overall."
Malcolm said he was glad to see Musk bring these issues to the forefront. "He's not as afraid of being canceled as everyone else," Malcolm told me. "Any smart person with a certain cultural aesthetics of their life is looking at this world and saying, 'How do we create intergenerationally, durable cultures that will lead to our species being a diverse, thriving, innovative interplanetary empire one day that isn't at risk from, you know, a single asteroid strike or a single huge disease?'"
Sitting around the breakfast table after the 6 a.m. day-care drop-off and "morning strategy walk" the Collinses take every day, Malcolm read aloud a text message from his mother. She wanted to know how he and Simone planned to monetize their pronatalism "hobby." "Remember: Everything is transactional," she texted.
Born into a storied and monied family in Dallas, Malcolm said his ancestors included prominent members of the jayhawkers, antislavery activists who rebelled against the Confederate Army. Following his parents' divorce, Malcolm was shipped off to a "troubled teen" facility, an experience he compares to that depicted in the movie "Holes," in which children are sent to work at labor camps in the desert. Malcolm says his father managed to squander the family fortune throughout his five marriages. "He at one point had bought the most expensive thing at Christies," Malcolm said. "He has nothing now. No money."
Simone, meanwhile, came from polyamorous, tai-chi-practicing, hippie parents in Alameda, California. "I was kind of the black sheep of the family," she said. "Like, they would tell me to go out and drink and experiment, but I would rebel by staying home and doing my homework."
Before she met Malcolm, Simone was convinced she wanted to live her life single and child-free. But when she was 24, she decided to have her heart broken once just to say she'd done it. As she does with all her goals, she created a system: She made a profile on OKCupid, where a picture of her dressed as a Stormtrooper in a sultry pose was catnip for the nerds of Silicon Valley, and rated her dates out of 50. After a string of 16s, Malcolm scored a 42. She made him promise to break up with her after four months. "I resent being in love with him," she said. "I was so disturbed when I fell for him."
A year and a half later, Malcolm proposed to her via a viral campaign that landed on the front page of Reddit. Once they were married, Simone got a master's in technology policy at Cambridge, eager to keep pace with her husband's Stanford MBA.
During a stint at a venture-capital fund in South Korea, where the fertility rate has fallen to about 0.81, Malcolm became obsessed with the idea of what he calls "demographic catastrophe."
"He was astounded by people's fatalistic take on it," Simone said. So, following up on a conversation Malcolm had broached on their second date, the couple committed to having seven to 13 children. Because of their relatively late start and Simone's preexisting fertility issues, they knew they would have to freeze their embryos for later use. In 2018, which they now call "The Year of the Harvest," they devoted themselves to producing and freezing as many viable embryos as possible.
After five rounds of IVF, Simone heard Stephen Hsu talking about his company Genomic Prediction on a podcast. Preimplantation testing for chromosomal abnormalities like down syndrome and single-gene disorders like cystic fibrosis has become a relatively common step in the IVF process, but only recently have some practitioners begun to offer tests for more complex genetic traits. While full-blown genetic engineering through CRISPR or similar technology is banned in most countries, the field of preimplantation genetic screening is still unregulated by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The Collinses decided to embark on a sixth round of IVF to use the service. Though Genomic Prediction's "LifeView" test officially offers risk scores only for 11 polygenic disorders — including schizophrenia and five types of cancer — they allowed the Collinses to access the raw genetic data for their own analysis.
Simone and Malcolm then took their data export to a company called SelfDecode, which typically runs tests on adult DNA samples, to analyze what the Collinses called "the fun stuff."
Sitting on the couch, Simone pulled up a spreadsheet filled with red and green numbers. Each row represented one of their embryos from the sixth batch, and the columns a variety of relative risk factors, from obesity to heart disease to headaches. (The "relative" part means these scores can only compare each embryo's risk to that of other individuals with different genetic constitutions, as opposed to "absolute" risk scores.)
The Collinses' top priority was one of the most disputed categories: what they called "mental-performance-adjacent traits," including stress, chronically low mood, brain fog, mood swings, fatigue, anxiety, and ADHD.
The tests they performed also provided a risk score for autism, a diagnosis Simone herself has received, which they decided not to take into account. Simone compared her autism to a "fine-tuned race car": Even if she struggles with certain "real-world" situations, she said, "If I'm on the track and I have my pit crew and I have the perfect fuel—"
"—she can dramatically outcompete other people," Malcolm said, finishing her sentence.
"I'm also really hesitant to select against any type of extreme mental peculiarity in a person," he added. "Unless it has to do just with severe low function."
With a large number of green columns and a score of 1.9, Embryo No. 3 — aka Titan Invictus (an experiment in nominative determinism) — was selected to become the Collinses' third child.
Even with all that planning, the Collinses may not be striking genetic gold. The field of behavioral genetics, which assumes a connection between genes and character traits, is heavily contested — if not outright rejected for its dangerous societal implications. "It's not clear how much genetics contributes to many of the things that they're looking for," Hank Greely, a Stanford Law professor who wrote "The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction," told me.
Arguments that trace mental aptitude back to genetics are particularly controversial. Hsu, the Genomic Prediction cofounder, was forced to resign from his position at Michigan State University after the graduate-student union claimed Hsu believed "in innate biological differences between human populations, especially regarding intelligence." (Hsu responded to these allegations by saying: "If the GEU made the claim in your quote, they misrepresented my beliefs. I am quite explicit in my writing and in interviews that we do not know whether there are genetic group differences in intelligence between different ancestry groups.") Simone said two PGT-P startups planning to test for the "fun stuff" were fundraising in stealth mode because "they anticipate being essentially canceled as soon as they go public."
The Collinses themselves have been called "hipster eugenicists" online, something Simone called "amazing" when I brought it to her attention.
Malcolm's "going to want to make business cards that say 'Simone and Malcolm Collins: Hipster Eugenicists," she said with a laugh.
"It's funny that people are so afraid of being accused of Nazism," when they're just improving their own embryos, Simone added, after noting that her Jewish grandmother escaped Nazi-occupied France. "I'm not eliminating people. I mean, I'm eliminating from my own genetic pool, but these are all only Malcolm and me."
According to the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet, 183 of the world's 195 countries are forecast to drop below the replacement rate of roughly 2.1 children per woman by 2100. Even nations like China and India, which have previously struggled with overpopulation, are looking at a sharp turnaround in the coming years.
Demographers have pushed back on population anxiety like Musk's, pointing out that international migration from countries with growing populations will help stabilize global conditions. Others have argued that it is an actively harmful distraction from more pressing issues like the climate crisis and global inequality.
Still, governments that fear the economic impacts of a top-heavy population pyramid, in which the old dramatically outnumber the young, have begun taking extreme measures. "Some countries are becoming less ambitious in ensuring universal access to family planning; some are restricting the right to abortion; some are banning sex education from school curricula; and some are propagating gender stereotypes that run counter to the empowerment and equality of women," Michael Herrmann, a senior advisor on economics and demography at the United Nations Population Fund, wrote in the UN Chronicle on World Population Day.
And after decades of investors snubbing the so-called reproductive-health femtech market, the corporate world has taken note, too. Martín Varsavsky, a fertility entrepreneur who is a father of seven, told me that when he started in the space in 2016 after founding four unicorns in the telecom and renewable-energy industries, it was "very hard" to find investors. But now, as wealthy, career-oriented couples are waking up in their 30s and 40s and realizing it's too late to realize their reproductive goals, investors — many of whom are in the same boat — are throwing cash at everything from IVF to artificial wombs.
Varsavsky's latest venture, Gameto, which hopes to extend women's fertility windows, has raised $40 million from investors like the XPrize cofounder Peter Diamandis, the Future Ventures founder Steve Jurvetson, and the 23andMe cofounder Anne Wojcicki. Conception, the company that hopes to create viable human eggs out of stem cells, has attracted the attention of Altman as well as top EA donors like the Recursion Pharmaceuticals cofounder Blake Borgeson and the Skype cofounder Jaan Tallinn, a father of five.
"If our technology works," the Conception cofounder Matt Krisiloff said, "it really will open the door to women being able to have children into their 40s and 50s comfortably."
According to PitchBook data assembled for Insider, there were 138 VC deals in the US femtech space in 2021, up from 57 in 2016. This summer, rumors started to spread that Musk was looking at buying a large chain of fertility clinics, which he denied to the Financial Times.
The 20th century was about atoms and bits. The 21st century is about biology and babies.
Some investors see improved fertility technology as a key part of maintaining a competitive advantage in the global market. Delian Asparouhov, a principal at Founders Fund who has been an outspoken advocate of Genomic Prediction's competitor Orchid, told The Times of London that his interest in the technology came from a desire to "beat China," which he said was the biggest single threat to Western democracy.
"The 20th century was about atoms and bits," one Genomic Prediction investor said. "The 21st century is about biology and babies."
Simone and Malcolm weren't particularly surprised to learn that, at 31, I have only one close friend with a baby. The median age for women having their first child passed 30 for the first time in 2019, according to the US Census Bureau, up from 27 in 1990.
The Collinses aren't just worried that some people are waiting to have kids until later in life. They fear that cultural pressures, from the rise of dating apps and economic strains to the kind of nihilism embodied by China's "last generation" meme, are convincing people that having children is a bad idea, period.
In 2021, a survey of young people in 10 countries found that among 16- to 25-year-olds, four in 10 feared having children because of climate-change anxieties. (A 2017 study found that each additional child in developed countries accounted for 58.6 metric tons of carbon a year, though that number doesn't account for any future policy changes.) Pew Research conducted a 2021 survey that found that a growing share of adults were committing to remaining childless, citing reasons that include "the state of the world."
The Collinses worry that the overlap between the types of people deciding not to have children with the part of the population that values things like gay rights, education for women, and climate activism — traits they believe are genetically coded — is so great that these values could ultimately disappear.
A lot of people assume that pronatalists want to ban abortion, but nearly all of the pronatalist supporters interviewed for this article identified themselves as "pro-choice." In fact, IVF, which inevitably results in the destruction of fertilized embryos, could be under threat in a strict antiabortion society. The Collinses don't expect — or even want — everyone in low-birth-rate countries to suddenly start having seven or more children. Instead, they see themselves as part of an elite subset of people responsible for growing their broods to offset all the Americans who will choose not to.
I asked what set their vision apart from Gilead, the totalitarian regime depicted in "The Handmaid's Tale" that designates certain women as breeders.
"Gilead is what happens without a soft landing for demographic collapse!" Simone replied eagerly.
Still, many observers are troubled by the fact that pronatalists worry less about how many children people are having and more about who is having them.
"There is just kind of a whiff of eugenics in worrying about demographic shifts," Torres said.
"I find the whole thing elitist," Avey added.
Questions about class and bodily autonomy may be exacerbated by new fertility technologies. Demand for surrogate mothers, who are often low-income parents themselves, has skyrocketed in recent years, especially among the ultrawealthy. Last month, a company called Cofertility made headlines with its promises to make egg freezing accessible to those who can't afford it — as long as the customer agrees to donate half of the eggs retrieved to paying families.
"Is there fair access to fertility treatments today in the United States? My answer would be no," Varsavsky said. "But I would also say that there's not even fair access to medicine in the United States."
Gilead is what happens without a soft landing for demographic collapse!
Children from rich families have always enjoyed advantages, from high-quality healthcare and nutrition to expensive education and extracurricular activities. Now some worry that gatekeeping genetic-testing technologies will give the ultrawealthy yet another leg up before they've even left the womb.
"It's in some ways the most brutal form of inequality that this guy's going to be able to have 20 kids and actually 20 very, very healthy — as good as modern technology can make them — kids," Hsu said. "Whereas other people can't avail themselves of that."
During our initial tour of the farmhouse, Simone pointed out one of its many peculiarities: the toilet tucked away in the corner of her office, where she muted herself during virtual meetings to secretly throw up during bouts of morning sickness. The Collinses said that some potential investors backed out of their search fund when they learned about their plans to have children. Determined to prove them wrong, she said, she even took sales calls during labor.
"She hates when people say you can't have it all," Malcolm told me.
I asked the couple whether they really believed their seemingly boundless energy was feasible for high-birth-rate parents on a wide scale. "I think it's a mindset thing," answered Simone, who has no plans to stop working as she grows her family, though she does intend to outsource a significant amount of childcare to both paid professionals and communal child-rearing strategies.
Once pronatalists reach critical mass, the Collinses hope, they can begin to shape society around their needs.
"You have to create cultures that reward" and have structures for large families, Simone explained. Pronatalist pet issues include everything from increasing housing development to changing laws around car-seat regulation (one study found that people would stop having children when they couldn't fit any more car seats in their vehicle). During the coronavirus pandemic, the Collinses tried to raise money for a family-friendly "startup town" they called Project Eureka, where all community rules would be "ultimately set — all disputes resolved" by the Collinses.
When fundraising stalled, they redirected their focus to the Collins Institute for the Gifted, a specialized online lab school that is partnering with the Bari Weiss-cofounded University of Austin and the Thiel-backed 1517 Fund. (Musk similarly created a boutique education program, Ad Astra, for his family and employees' children that has since expanded into the online school Astra Nova.)
The logic behind the Collins Institute reflects their thinking at large: "If you want to make the future better for everyone and you could choose to dramatically increase the educational outcomes of the bottom 10% of people or the top 0.1% of people," the Collinses say to choose the 0.1%.
The Collinses also developed a system to track their family's future progress called The Index. "We record how your kids do emotionally, how your kids do in terms of their career, and do your kids stay within the culture they were raised with," Malcolm explained. He said he looked forward to watching his own children disagree with his parenting paradigm and expected them to be competitive enough to come up with their own. Then, 11 generations down the line, when the extended Collins family is the Earth's (or Mars') dominant culture, they'll have hundreds of years' worth of data to look back on and learn from.
A little over a month after my visit to Pennsylvania, Simone sent a series of updates on Titan's birth, including a selfie from her hospital bed, newborn baby in her arms, wearing her signature immaculate red lipstick. She resumed her normal work schedule on the Monday after her Friday C-section, and nine months down the line, it will be time to queue up the next embryo transfer.
She also weighed in on the stunning implosion of Sam Bankman-Fried's crypto exchange FTX, which represented one of the largest financial hubs for the effective-altruism movement. The Collinses, who never directly associated with the top Democratic donor Bankman-Fried, spied an opportunity in his demise.
"This means our faction (more conservative, pronatalist, long-termist-civilization-building-focused, likely to self fund) is now 100X more likely to become a real, dominant faction in the EA space," Simone wrote in a text message on November 12.
The Collinses hope that advances in technology will keep pace with their growing family. The reproductive entrepreneurs who spoke with me seemed confident that the science would progress quickly. "I think we are reaching a point in which we are reinventing reproduction," Varsavsky said.
If scientists at companies like Conception succeed in creating viable embryos out of stem cells, they could in theory produce a massive number of them. Combined with enhanced genetic screening, parents could pick the "optimal" baby from a much larger pool. "There's a seductiveness to these ideas, because it's very grand," Torres said. "It's about taking control of human evolution."
As for Simone and Malcolm Collins, Malcolm said, "We're trying to give our kids the best shot in life." They just happen to believe that their kids' best shot is also humanity's.
Additional reporting by Kali Hays.
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