It sounds bitterly ironic now, in the midst of a global pandemic, but not long ago some of the most forward-looking people in the world believed that humanity was close to abolishing death. “If you ask me today, is it possible to live to be 500? The answer is yes,” said Bill Maris, the founder of Google Ventures, in 2015. Three years later, biomedical researcher Aubrey de Grey estimated that “people in middle age now have a fair chance” of never dying.

Eternal life through advanced technology seems like a pipe dream for a…

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