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“You’ve been a bad boy,” Moses Znaimer, the bespectacled media mogul often referred to as Canada’s Ted Turner, said to the wheeled robot rolling stintingly toward him. “Please, explain yourself.”

It was 2015, and Znaimer was onstage at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto hosting Ideacity, a north-of-the-border gathering of big thinkers designed to rival TED. It was exactly the kind of place one might expect to find Aubrey de Grey, the famed gerontologist known for popularizing the hitherto heretical notion that aging was not inevitable but in fact a treatable disease. And indeed he should have been there, except de Grey had missed his red eye from San Francisco the night before. So here he was now, beamed in via Skype to the screen of a robotic surrogate making its way across the stage.


De Grey explained that he fell asleep at the airport gate, waking up only after the plane had taxied away. “On the bright side, I slept in my own bed, and I have a beer,” he said, taking a theatrical swig from a half-finished bottle to the laughter of some in the 1,000-person audience before launching into his talk.

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