In 1999, the futurist Ray Kurzweil published a book entitled The Age of Spiritual Machines. He looked forward to a future in which the “human species, along with the computational technology it created, will be able to solve age-old problems . . . and will be in a position to change the nature of mortality.”
Mr Kurzweil is now an executive at Google, one of whose co-founders, Larry Page, launched a start-up, Calico, in 2013 with the aim of harnessing advanced technologies that will enable people to “lead longer and healthier lives”.
Others go even further. Aubrey de Grey, co-founder of Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, a research centre, believes that ageing is just an engineering problem. Technological progress, he maintains, will eventually enable human beings to achieve what he calls “life extension escape velocity”.
Mr Kurzweil has announced 2045 as the date for “the Singularity”.