A modern Moscow mule

A Russian proposal to try to create artificial life receives Hollywood backing

The actor Steven Seagal once said “I have made a lot of mistakes. But I’ve worked hard. I have no fear of death. More important, I don’t fear life.” Lately he has become an enthusiastic supporter of a futuristic aim to secure exceptional advancements in human immortality. If it succeeds, he may not even have to face death, let alone fear it. Seagal is so taken with the plans that he recently wrote an open letter to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

‘Russia 2045’ is a movement established by a combination of fantasists and scientists with huge ambitions. They want to address what they see as an inexorable degradation of the concept of human life that we have at the moment. Amongst their proposals is the challenge of creating a ‘hologram body’.

Many scriptwriters and novelists have hypothesised over the possible ingredients of the ‘elixir of life’ and the notion of ‘living forever’ has simply been a romantic but unattainable projection of human achivement. Until now. Those believers gathering in Moscow are determined to produce an ‘immortal brain’, arguing that it is a natural course of research for progressive scientists of this day and age. They have set a deadline by which to create the make-up that a regular passer-by would need in order never to die. Some eager fans of the project are even predicting a competition similar to the ‘Space Race’ – but this time with Russia the undisputed champion.

Of course, the mission has its detractors and the scheme has come under fire from many in the Church. Alexey Osipov, a professor at the Moscow Spritual Schools announced that “[the human being is] a unity of body and soul, and separating one from the other is unthinkable from the point of view of Christianity and is vicious.” In response, the founder of the Russia 2045 movement, Dmitry Itskov, said that the ‘cyborg’ idea “[is not] running against anyone’s religious ideals or values.”

In his 2002 film, Half Past Dead, Seagal plays an undercover cop who gets shot and is declared ‘medically deceased’. If this scheme turns out to be a success, the idea that a person could ever have truly died might eventually become the stuff of legend.

Advertisements

Getting away from it all in Asia

At a time of problematic politics on both sides of the pond, what will the impact be of Obama’s visit to South Asia and David Cameron’s trip to the Far East?

The coalition government in the UK has spent much of the last few weeks swinging the cutting axe at nearly every government department and it appears that now Cameron and his Liberal Democrat allies are for now, at least, having a change of scene. The one facing them at home is hostile and on 10 November thousands of students demonstrated violently in central London against the proposed rise in university tuition fees. Public reaction has also been negative to funding slashing of child benefit, housing benefit and the defence budget. The Church of England has raised concern over the impact on the poor from the specific benefit reduction and reorganisation that has been planned.

But Cameron and his coalition colleagues have been sipping wine and trying to secure trade deals on the other side of the world. They are not running away directly but the change of scene at a time of political unrest may well allow them a period of reflection to consider their changes. They can also catch their breath; the Government’s reforms have been rolled out continuously since the general election.

A couple of countries to the south, this week Barack Obama has chosen to spend the aftermath of the Democrats’ painful losses at the mid-term elections on 2 November meeting his old school-teachers in Indonesia. As the Tea Party basks in the glow of election success, Obama has been wooing Indonesia in a similar way to the way he courted the Muslim world in 2009.

Indonesia stands at a crossroads, geopolitically: it is the largest Muslim majority nation in the world and a massive regional player for ASEAN. It has large sway in its region through its seat on the G20 and in that sense is similar to Brazil as the most important partner in a regional club. The administration in Jakarta needs to ensure that its leadership does not become confused or stall as other local players look up to the major power and faltering on its part could lead to introversion and a failure to keep up with the interchanging pace of foreign policy discussion.

This latest outreach to the Muslim world by the US President seems to be an attempt to move policy discussion into the international sphere after such devastation domestically. Cameron and Obama are now moving on to the G20 and with the Cancun climate change summit coming up next month, both leaders will probably be quietly hopeful that they can ride out the current waves of protest and election defeat overseas.