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C'EST LA VIE

Bill Gates calls Silicon Valley’s pursuit of immortality “egocentric.” Maybe he’s right

Pieter Claesz/The Met
“Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill” (1628), Pieter Claesz

Life is short, the saying goes—and that was certainly true for the bulk of human history, during which global life expectancy hovered around 29 years. But over the past few centuries, the human lifespan has expanded by leaps and bounds. The life expectancy for a baby born in 2016 is 72 years, according to the World Health Organization.

For the Silicon Valley elite relentlessly seeking ways to combat death and aging, that’s nowhere near long enough. But even as the new immortalists set ambitious goals of extending the human lifespan to anywhere from 200 years to over 1,000, it’s worth considering that less than 60 years of life—much of which is spent in poor health—is still the norm in dozens of African countries. As the life-extension industry begins to boom in Western nations, we should be asking ourselves the question: Who gets to live long and well, much less forever?

By the numbers

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