How Humans Gained an ‘Extra Life’

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By Steven Pinker

A Short History of Living Longer
By Steven Johnson

As you read of the many contemporary threats to life and limb, from pollution to shooting rampages, you may long for a simpler and safer yesteryear. But if the conditions of the past prevailed today, you would probably be dead. The average age of a New York Times subscriber is around 55, and for most of human history, life expectancy was around 30. At least one of your children would probably be dead, too. Until a couple of centuries ago, more than a quarter of children died before their first birthday, around half before their fifth.

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